Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Help for the Homeschooler: The Fun Part

You can begin this series here.

******Edited at end of post!!!*****

OK--up until now with all the talk about schedules and textbooks and school calendars and holidays and teacher inservice days you are probably getting the impression that I am one of those people who try to replicate school at home.

You might be partly right, but not totally. The truth is, my girls and I love school. We love having a room to have school in. They beg me to put up classroom decorations. They want to say the pledge (we do sometimes--Little Bit needs to learn it).

But we also do school all over the house. We go outside a lot. We take advantage of every field trip we can afford. We cuddle up on the couch to read. Even though there is a lot of "schooly" things about our homeschool room.....this is a home, not a school. And here is where you start to see that play out in the planning.

I cannot teach without themes. I tried it last year. I tried the year before that. I try to just stick to the curriculum but eventually I find myself thinking about sticking myself in the eye with a sharp instrument. The curriculum, by itself, is just so......bleh. I. Must. Have. Themes.

This is easy to understand in Kindergarten and the younger grades because even in public school they teach by themes in these grades. As you get higher up in the elementary grades, themes begin to disappear. When I taught 4th grade a hundred years ago, we used themes. The kids LOVED it. The other 4th grade teachers weren't so sure at first but they caught on. It just ignites their interest to walk up to the classroom and see big dragon footprints in the hallway and a castle made out of butcher paper surrounding the door. (fairy tale unit). I stayed myself at school past 5:00 hanging blue saran wrap from the ceiling and we studied the layers of the ocean and suspended fish from all around. The classroom floor was the ocean floor so there was seaweed all around the walls. The kids swam to the pencil sharpener every day. It was awesome.

Well, there is no need to decorate my house in this way (nor do I believe husband would appreciate it), but the point is: themes make life more interesting. For the past 2 years I have just chosen themes when we got bored with the curriculum and the planning was very haphazard.

But THIS YEAR, it will be grand.

We are not limited to the four walls of a classroom. We can go on field trips, outside, to the kitchen to cook, to the living room to watch a movie, whatever goes with the theme we are studying!

I have made separate lists of themes for the girls. Sweetheart is in 4th grade this year and she's DONE the Johnny Appleseed unit and she's DONE the turkeys, etc. I think it's time to move on to "more mature" themes for her. OF COURSE we will be up in each other's theme business. There is no way they won't want to participate in each other's activities. So, I may change my mind later, but here are their themes for the year, planned with the calendar in mind.

Kindergarten: Back to School, Nursery Rhymes, Mrs. Wishy-Washy, Grandparent's Day, Dinosaurs, Fire Safety, Apples and Pumpkins, Scarecrows, Pilgrims and Indians, Corn/Popcorn, Turkeys, Christmas/Nativity, 100th Day of School, Quilts, Texas/Rodeo, Presidents, Dental Health, Dr. Seuss, Kites, Ladybugs, Zoo, Rain/Weather, Circus, Camping.

(Some of those are 1 day units, others last for 1-2 weeks.)

Fourth Grade: Back to School, American Girl--Kirsten, Pioneers, Explorers, Grandparent's Day, Castles, Acorns and Squirrels, American Indians, Corn/Popcorn, Christmas/Nativity, 100th Day of School, Quilts, Frogs, Rodeo/Western, Presidents, Dental Health, Dr. Seuss, Hawaii, Ladybugs, Inventors, Pigs, Cicus, Camping.

Whew! You can see there is a lot of overlap. That will make it easier on me. So now I am in the process of bookmarking helpful sites for these units. When planning during the year, I will open the folder for that theme, and make my plans.

This is the part that gets me really excited about school. I can plan cooking projects, art projects, field trips, movies, books, everything to along with our themes.

Do you teach this way? How do you plan your themes for homeschool?

Next up: The Little Things

*****Ooooooh!!! Happy! Happy! Happy! Look what I just found to help with planning your themes throughout the year!!!


  1. THANK YOU BRENDA,now I have a place to start.I have two kindergardners this year,a 6th grader and a 8th grader.I LOVE YOUR THEMES.I steal them every time.

  2. You are so welcome! You just made my day. :) Want the links I've collected?

  3. Wow! You make me feel like a lazy homeschool mom, lol! I haven't really done themes, except in Kindergarten. But I also use a "box" (My Father's World)... so they kind of include themes, just not quite on the same level as you've described. We do read lots of books about our "themes"... I suppose I could do it up more with some extra effort! Thanks for the inspiration!!

  4. Erin, I like MFW themes. I have a friend that uses it. But you are right--they can always be pumped up a bit! :)

  5. I did themes with mine last year and they loved it! It's fun for me too, we add in lots of cooking themes as well. Like themes on fruits/vegetables that are in season !

  6. I love the "ruled calendar" to list the topics of the week (from DY). We do topics based from Mystery of History (that you shared earlier in the year) while the younger kids participate in doing a wall mural to go along w/ the topic... I suppose that is thematic, eh? We do grades 11, 7, 3, pre-K, & TOT school, so we HAVE to blend the hands on activities!

  7. Wow! You are ambitious. Will you be taking a Hawaiian vacation as part of your Hawaii theme?

  8. Wow, thanks for the calendar link! Our school year is going to start in September and go year-round, so I'm going to print off twelve blank calendar pages and make a "calendar" that runs accordingly.

  9. Oh boy---that would be great Kathy. I would really like to put that in my plans. Sigh.

    Sheri--yes. Oh my. I don't know how you do that many grades. I would be combining everything I could!

  10. I have so enjoyed reading your posts on planning for HSing. I assist my daughter by teaching history, geography & then whatever else I want (missions, piano, music, composers, etc.) I have questions for you. How do you work your Themes in? And do you have a post where you show some things you do or ideas you have for those themes? I am very un-creative! ~smile~ Keep up the good work w/your children!

  11. Yes, I agree, I have to add in the fun stuff, the themes to make it fun. :) But not only is it fun, it gives you a warm feeling to make the ordinary special! :)

    I often see my homeschooling friends try to make things simple and streamlined because they feel there is too much fluff in schools. But I homeschool because I can take the part from the schools that I LOVE and think they have right and add it to the homeschooling part that I thought my children would be missing.

    I am loving all of your posts! I think you rock out, mama!


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)