Our Homeschool's Learning Goals, 2017-2018

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I’m a little late to the game here—after all, late summer is really the season for posts about curriculum choices—but in the interest of giving you a peek into our daily life here, I thought that I would share our “homeschool” learning goals for 2017-2018 and what tools we’re using along the way.

Before I do that, however, I do have one important disclaimer:

I am mostly homeschooling my three-year-old, so at this point, our “homeschool" is really more of a lifestyle than anything else. We are doing some formal learning this year, but are not using any particular curriculum, and we mostly follow my son's interests within a loose framework. My preschool philosophy is basically summed up by what Lisa Healy wrote here—we rely on “natural learning.”

At this point, my primary objective is to build a culture of learning for my boys that centers around our family values. To do that, I try to structure our daily rhythms around activities that support that goal.

So instead of offering you a rundown of curriculum choices, I’d like to share with you our homeschool’s learning goals for this year. They are roughly separated into three categories:

Goal #1: Learning to Love God (Religious Study)

We are a Christian family, so prioritizing religious study is important to us. Our two daily practices that support this right now are: memorizing Bible verses and having family devotions at bedtime.

For our verse memorization, we tackle a new (short) verse every week. As I was not raised in a Christian home, nor has my education included much memory work, this is actually a wonderful challenge for me! I write our weekly verse out on our contact paper blackboard, which sits opposite our dining room table, so that we can review our verse at every meal and snack. Usually, the verses are related to character issues that we are working on (mine and his!) and I use Parenting With Scripture as a reference to find them.

At this point, I am trying to help my older son memorize each verse in English and Spanish (look for a future post explaining why), so the verse is written in both languages. So far this year, we have memorized Romans 12:10b, 1 Thess 5:11a, Psalm 37:8 and Psalm 56:3.

In terms of family devotions, we do them at bedtime with Scholastic’s Lee-Aprende Bible.

We have a number of Spanish language Bibles (some better than others), but this one is just at the right level of sophistication for my older son. When he was younger, we used the Big Picture Story Bible, even though it is not currently available in Spanish. We read one story from the Bible and pray—it’s pretty much as simple as can be.

We also frequently listen to these dramatized Bible stories (recorded in Spanish) over breakfast. They are rather long, clocking in at about 45 minutes each, so we usually only get through one half during a meal. However, they have been great at making familiar Bible stories—especially Old Testament ones—“come alive” for my older son.

Goal #2: Learning to Love His World (Nature Study)

We spend as much time outdoors as possible, for a number of reasons—some of which are more noble than others. Yes, I want my sons to appreciate God’s creation and the creativity that He displays through it. I also don’t want to lose my mind living in a 900 square ft. apartment with two active boys. Moreover, I find myself bored when I’m cooped up indoors for too long indoors. Finally, I love that being out of the house seems to magically reduce sibling rivalry so...we are outdoors a lot.

We live in a very urban area, but have easy access to hiking trails. We go for short hikes (1-1.5 hours) about every other week, and also visit nature centers about once a month.

Pants totally optional for nature babies (note big brother's amusement)

Pants totally optional for nature babies (note big brother's amusement)

In addition, I’ve planned some formal nature learning for this year. This fall, we plan to: 

  • Attend a campfire to learn about nocturnal animals (as my son adores bats, in particular) 
  • Participate in a class about river animals at our nature center 
  • Go on a bilingual nature walk at our local nature center
  • Go apple picking and make applesauce 

We have also been encouraging my son’s burgeoning interest in scientific topics, so this year, we are doing some (very) loose unit studies on:

  • Anatomy and the human body 
  • The water cycle 
  • The seasons

Once I’ve assembled our materials for those unit studies, I look forward to providing a resource post.

Goal #3: Learning to Love His People (Language Arts + Cultural Education)

Here are some of the daily and weekly practices that we have adopted to support our sons’ language development in Spanish:

  • We practice (as consistently as possible) the One Parent One Language model; I speak Spanish to the boys and my husband speaks English. I communicate with the boys in Spanish probably about 80 percent of the time. I do need to personally be more committed to speaking Spanish to them in public—it’s so easy to slide into English to avoid social awkwardness, but really, there’s no reason that I can’t translate for non-Spanish speakers.  
  • Xavi attends bilingual preschool twice a week; we signed him up for this specifically so that he would have other people holding him accountable for speaking Spanish and so that he could get a sense of the utility of the language outside of our family.  His preschool is a bilingual, Christian, Reggio-inspired school whose educational philosophy really supports the work that we are doing at home, and I am so grateful for that. Even though he’s only been going for a few weeks, he is already much more confident in his Spanish speaking abilities—I am blown away by the positive impact it’s had so far!
  • We read aloud in Spanish for at least 30 minutes daily, usually in the morning and at bedtime. We just started on chapter books (he loves the Magic Treehouse series, which are available in Spanish) and we have many picture books that we enjoy in rotation. 
  • We memorize one poem every other week(ish) in Spanish. These are short—usually only four verses or so—yet it is truly amazing to see how easy this is for him to do. I think it helps that I reward him with an m&m (yes, a single m&m) if he recites it correctly each morning. 
  • We try to do as much of “daily life” in Spanish as possible—we listen to the news in Spanish, listen to music in Spanish with our Amazon Unlimited account, and look at the Spanish language newspapers that are available for free at the Metro. When in public, we also speak Spanish to other Hispanophones as much as possible. 
Important cultural tip: if the piñata malfunctions, you can just tear it open and throw the candy (see my example).

Important cultural tip: if the piñata malfunctions, you can just tear it open and throw the candy (see my example).

In terms of cultural learning, well—we’re doing it all the time! Much of our cultural learning comes through our read-alouds, but we also have a big adventure planned: next summer, we are planning a month-long trip to Latin America (exact location TBD). This will provide the boys with lots of Spanish language exposure, plenty of cultural learning opportunities, and give me a chance to collect materials for future home education endeavors. I really can’t wait!

So that’s it—whew! Thanks for sticking with me this whole time. Later this week, I’ll be providing a chart of our daily routine so that you can have a more visual sense of how it all works out.