Curriculum Planning Feed

Welcome Spring Week!

(A peek at how I plan my seasonal homeschooling!)

IMG_7283

A few days ago I shared a picture on Instagram which shows the primary picture books I'll be using with Little Bear this week. Our seasonal homeschooling theme is "Welcome, Spring!" (in honor of the Vernal Equinox this Wednesday) and so I chose five favorite books that highlight the spirit (and science) of the new season ahead. I also promised to follow up with a breakdown of how I used these books to create an easy and enjoyable lesson plan for the week. So today I'm here to describe my proposed plans for the week, and chat a bit about our style of homeschooling in general.

Now, the heart of our seasonal homeschooling is really found in embracing annual traditions, observing subtle changes in our habitat, acquainting ourselves with local flora and fauna, and enjoying our large collection of seasonal picture books. Reading the same stories at the same time of year, year after year, reinforces family memories while connecting us with the cycle of seasons.

So the books I chose for this first week of spring are:

Monday: And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano

Tuesday: When the Earth Wakes by Ani Rucki

Wednesday: The Spring Equinox: Celebrating the Greening of the Earth by Ellen Jackson

Thursday: The Seasons: Spring by Nuria Roca

Friday: A New Beginning: Celebrating the Spring Equinox by Wendy Pfeiffer

I keep the current season's books in a special basket, but I like displaying the "books of the week" on a separate shelf ...

IMG_E7290

When I started formulating my seasonal lessons - and this all goes back MANY years seeing as how my oldest is now 23 years old! - one of the first things I did was to begin collecting high quality books that reflect the seasons and natural phenomena. I buy as many books as I can, but I also make note of titles we can reliably borrow from our local library. All these books (divided by season into bins) provide a wonderful base for our seasonal homeschooling. These days we have a rather large collection,  but I am always happy to add a new book if it has a meaningful message and lovely illustrations. For instance, I just purchased this book because we so enjoyed the winter tale by this same author!

Equally important to my planning is our established weekly rhythm and pre-selected weekly seasonal themes. With all of this in place I am able to organize my ideas more efficiently and realistically.

You can find a list of my 52 weekly seasonal themes in this post from 2016, and below is the weekly rhythm I pin our home lessons around:

  • Monday: Nature Walk
  • Tuesday: Crafting
  • Wednesday: Storytelling
  • Thursday: Cleaning
  • Friday: Tea
  • Weekend: Family Time

Once I've chosen the stories for the week's theme, I flip through each book to get ideas for follow-up activities. I write things down on sticky notes and then arrange those notes in my planner (see photos below). Here's what I jotted down for each book this week:

And Then It's Spring - observing the brown all around, planting seeds

When the Earth Wakes -  wooden bear mama & cub, drawing of four seasons

The Spring EquinoxAnglo-Saxon legend of Ostara, goddess of spring and dawn

The Seasons: Spring - making a weather chart

A New Beginning - special food celebrations including eggs

Next I expand on each day's activities, giving thought to our schedule, as well as the holidays and events that will shape our week.

🌱Take pictures of backyard; repeat each Monday throughout spring. (Mon)

🌱Bake donuts for St. Joseph's Day, an annual tradition. (Tues)

🌱Sing a sweet "Winter Goodbye" song (found in this book) on the last day of Winter. (Tues)

🌱Carefully pack away our winter books. Bring out the Spring Book Basket. (Tues)

🌱Make a pretty spring wreath for the front door. (Wed)

🌱Sweep and clean up our front entryway, in anticipation of spring visitors. (Wed)

🌱Tidy the nature table - make room for spring treasures. (Wed)

🌱Prep vegetables for Pasta Primavera (our traditional spring equinox dinner). (Wed)

🌱Use my story apron and wooden animals to retell the story of "The Rabbit and the Carrot" (as found in this book). (Wed)

🌱Create a paper chain countdown - just one month to Easter! (Note: I keep a list of daily activities in my planner for this countdown.)

🌱Paper chain day 1: Make birdseed eggs to hang in our garden (Thurs)

🌱Begin spring cleaning! Start by organizing our natural cleaning supplies. (Thurs)

🌱Paper chain day 2: Let's have an Early Spring Tea. Perhaps invite nana and papa? (Fri)

🌱Bake seed bread/cake and mix up honey butter. (Fri)

🌱Slice boiled eggs. (Fri)

🌱Brew Spring Tea with Mama. (Fri)

🌱Listen to Vivaldi's "Spring" during teatime. (Fri)

🌱Paper chain day 3: Set up greenhouses in sunroom with Daddy (Sat)

🌱Paper chain day 4: Do yard work with Daddy; rake the yard clean! (Sun)

If you notice, many of these ideas involve the whole family or parent and child working together. I feel these kinds of learning/living activities are every bit of important as more "child-centered" things they might do on their own. This instills a sense of how important the season is to the household at large and the family's sense of togetherness and well being.

Here are some pictures of my planner page showing how I organize my week:

IMG_E7406 (1)

Left side of the weekly spread shown above - where I make note of weekly events, theme, dinner menus, homekeeping, crafty/comforting ideas and to-dos.

And then on the right-hand side ...

IMG_E7406 (1)

I have the week's agenda in a vertical column and next to that, a lined note-space. I added a bit of washi tape just for fun. :-)

Now, this week I am using my homemade planner for lesson plans. Recently I've shown you how I use the Erin Condren teacher's planner as well as my bullet journal for lesson planning. The EC planner is very specific to academics while my bujo is a rather free-form kind of planner/journal. The planner shown above falls somewhere in between. It's less structured than the EC planner, but it also has more writing space than my bujo. Needless to say I'm still trying to figure out which platform works best for my planning!

Well my friends, I hope you've enjoyed a peek into our "Welcome Spring" week, as well as a breakdown of how I work out our seasonal homeschooling. Let me know if you have any questions! Drop a note here or email me at drhanigan AT gmail DOT com. And if you are interested in my homemade seasonal planner, check out this post for my 2019 printable planning sheets. 

As always I thank you all for stopping by! I hope to see you here again very soon ...

HAPPY SPRING!


Blending Curriculum + Seasonal Lesson Plans

IMG_6073

As I mentioned in my last post, I have not been using my Erin Condren teacher's planner on a regular basis this year. It is a beautiful planner to be sure, but sometimes it's just a little TOO much planning for me, if you know what I mean! Some weeks I appreciate the freedom of working off a big "brainstorm" list - no plans set in stone, just working within our own happy weekly rhythm. And honestly, some weeks I just don't have enough time to fill in yet one more planner!

All that said though, I feel like our homeschooling has been off-track since the holidays - those big lists aren't translating into productive days - so I thought perhaps I'd return to a more structured planning format and see if that gets our weeks running a little more smoothly.

So since it was a very pretty, sunny weekend, I took pictures of my lesson planner as I worked, and popped over here to share! I also am including pictures from my seasonal bullet journal where I began our weekly planning with a little seasonal brainstorming!

(Reminder - we are doing kindergarten this year with our youngest (5yo Little Bear), while our 17yo Earlybird (who has autism) joins in (with support from his ABA therapist) as he can. Big news on the EB front however, there are some very big changes for our boy coming up in a few weeks and I will share more on that very soon!)

Ok, here is my planner spread, alongside our battered and beloved Oak Meadow Kindergarten syllabus. (I think it's about 15 years old!) As you can see in the top picture, as I worked here at the kitchen table I was joined by the ever-helpful (yet, napping) Archibald Fred.😸

IMG_6073

Left-hand side of the spread ...

IMG_6073

I love how this planner shades its pages in correspondence with the month - eg., blue for January, pink for February and then green for March, etc.

Right-hand side of the spread which I "gussied up" a bit with some stickers. I don't usually do this but since I knew I was going to post my spread this week I was inspired!

IMG_6073

I do love seeing all those plans all neat and tidy. The lined boxes and smooth paper make for a very nice writing experience. As the week goes along I will check off lessons as we complete them, ✅ cross things off that we skip ❎ and put an arrow next to those items we'll push forward.➡️

Close up of how nice the blocks look all filled in!

IMG_6073

As you can see, I also like to incorporate seasonal homeschooling activities into our weekly plan. This week's theme is "winter citrus," and I hope to balance our Oak Meadow lessons with some activities that let us explore this particular theme.

Here are some pics to show you how I organized those ideas late last week ...

IMG_E6016

1. Gather resources: storybooks, recipes, verses, playthings, craft materials, snack ingredients and instructions.

IMG_E6016

2. Make and organize photocopies for activities.

IMG_E6016

3. File photocopies into weekly lesson plan folder.

IMG_E6016

4. Write out seasonal ideas in my "Deep Winter" bullet journal.

IMG_E6016

5. Request books we'll need from the library. (I did this late last week. Orange in January is "in transit" as I type!)

Once I had my seasonal homeschooling ideas in order, I checked our schedule for the coming week and any "events of note." Then I
looked through our current Oak Meadow lesson, identified individual actions and jotted them down on small sticky notes. 

(I know this seems like maybe a bit of extra work and even a waste of paper, but it really helps me fill in my planner when all I have to do is sort those sticky notes!)

Referencing both the citrus ideas and OM lessons I then filled out the EC teacher planner.

And then I took pictures, natch, and threw everything in my teacher tote. Next week I will launch into our plans and do my very best to keep up with them!

🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃🍃🍊❄️🍊🍃

Well my friends, as always I thank you for stopping by and hope you are all doing well! I have a tour of my "planning spaces" coming up ... as well as a peek at some of my plans for our early spring living and learning, so for now I will say goodbye ...

... but hope to see you here again very soon!


Seasonal Homeschooling: Using a Lesson Planner

IMG_6720

Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! 

Today I'd like to talk a little more about my seasonal homeschooling routine, specifically - how I plan out an individual week. addressed this issue to a degree during last Friday's Inspire webinar (the replay of which you can watch here), and the short answer is: there are lots of layers to seasonal planning! But since I'm not known for my short answers, here is the long answer ... :)

I start with the big picture, dividing a year into thoughtful segments. And by thoughtful I mean ... well, they make sense to me! So for this New England girl there are not four, but six seasons in a year, and two months per season. (September and October are "early autumn," for example.)

Next I brainstorm ideas to capture all the nuances and blessings that return to us again and again. This takes some thinking and imagining and reviewing of nature notes, retired calendars and favorite seasonal resources. (I made up printables for doing this, and they can be found here.)

Finally, I assign the most interesting ideas, or themes, to the weeks themselves and then I work said themes into the individual days of the week! All according to our weekly homeschooling rhythm ...

Phew, right? Lol. Well, it sounds more complicated than it really is and I will talk more about it in future posts, but for today I'm showing you how today I planned ONE week of seasonal activities, revolving around an assigned theme, and using a (really cool) lesson planner to do it!

Best of all - and the point of this post! - I found this particular planner spread allowed me to easily merge our Oak Meadow Kindergarten curriculum with my own seasonal homeschooling plans! So without further ado, here's a look at week one:

IMG_E6711

This was the first time I put paper to pen! It's such a big lovely planner, I was a little intimidated to start writing in it to be perfectly honest. I am using my preferred Frixion Erasable Pen here in bright blue ink. Plus some Frixion pastel highlighters (also erasable!).

I sat down with my OM Kindergarten syllabus, open to Lesson One, and my seasonal planner (the one I'm GIVING AWAY tomorrow, as you might remember!) open to my "corn and crows" notes.

Then I set about filling this baby in!

IMG_E6711

True confession: I wrote all of this information out on sticky notes first - moved those around where they belonged - and then wrote on the paper itself. I don't think I'll do that each week - 😜 - but it gave me a little flexibility while I figured out where I wanted certain information to "live."

First thing I did was write our weekly homeschooling rhythm along the left hand side of the planner:

  • Monday: Nature Walk
  • Tuesday: Crafting
  • Wednesday: Storytelling
  • Thursday: Out & About
  • Friday: Home & Garden

Then I wrote in our activities for each day in the first column:
IMG_E6711

I used a highlighter to designate the type of activity, something I do in all my planners. So here, yellow means a special activity at home, blue is for EB's therapy, and green means we are going somewhere. 

The planner spread features six columns for planning subjects. Our homeschool subjects this year are as follows:

  • Language Arts
  • Math
  • Social Studies
  • Nature/Science
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Other

IMG_E6711

These pertain to our OM curriculum as well as our seasonal living/learning, and I utilized the far right column for specifically seasonal notes!

IMG_E6711

I listed notes here for ...

  • Circle Time
  • Book Basket
  • Home & Family

Circle Time will be done each morning and this is influenced by our Oak Meadow curriculum, with a little music and movement, a fingerplay to learn and some calendar and weather discussion. We will also begin our day with a short blessing, not listed here.

Reading from our seasonal Book Basket can happen anytime, but I like to have a designated reading time in the afternoon, after lunch. It tends to happen when Mama gets her first cup of tea made! The titles listed here are ones we own (√), ones we can get at the library (L) and ones I plan to purchase (+).

A lot of people ask me how to involve older students in seasonal learning/living and one way to do this is to plan activities that the whole family can do together. (That's not to say seasonally-inspired academics can't be done at a higher level, but obviously there is just so much more that can be done with younger children in the family!) Celebrating the seasons as a family can be such a meaningful and rewarding lifestyle - making memories and encouraging our kids to slow down and savor the simple things in life. To look for the little gifts that return to us every year, while keeping our eyes open for new discoveries! These kinds of activities bring a family together, and fill a home with a touch of comfort and joy ...

So under Home & Family I included things like - foods we can enjoy, places we can go, seasonal decorations to put up, fun activities we can all do together:

fresh corn from the farm stand • popcorn balls  • corn muffins at Sunday breakfast • the cornfield or corn maze • tying up cornstalks at the front door • how about a taste test! which tastes better: boiled or grilled? • watching a favorite movie with a batch of freshly popped popcorn

Honestly, I think too many families stop doing things together as the kids get older and busy with their friends. But to my mind, our older kids should always feel welcome to join in - but not pressured. It might not be easy to get an older kid to come along on an outing, but they will probably enjoy sharing a special meal or snack, or seeing favorite decorations go up around the house. It's important to keep these kids in the loop in even the smallest ways. 
IMG_E6711

Shown beneath the planner here is a folder for my weekly seasonal materials, mostly things I've printed out: directions for making a corn husk doll, a corn maze printable, library request sheets, etc.
IMG_E6711

Here's a close up of one square (Language arts on Wednesday, our storytelling day):
IMG_E6711

Our morning circle time will include oral exercises and a little nature writing (on the chalkboard). I then chose one suggested OM language arts activity as well as a seasonal/rhythm activity of my own.

OM offers several language-related activities to spread throughout the week and many are wonderful examples of creative, active, outdoor learning. I figure the boys can work on their stick/yarn letter As while a crow finger puppet shares some news from our woods. This story will be part of an ongoing nature tale, taking cues from our backyard critters and the current weather. I enjoy using my storytelling apron for this activity as well as the lovely nature mailbox my mother painted for our learning room.

I added afternoon and bedtime reading selections to my language box - some are filled in, for example, we'll be reading The Popcorn Book on this particular afternoon because on this day we are also doing "popcorn math" and making popcorn balls for a family snack. :)

By the way, if you are not familiar with the Oak Meadow School (located in Vermont), it is a wonderful, Waldorf-inspired curriculum - one we've used for many years, at all grade levels, and this is my fourth time cracking open this Kindergarten syllabus! OM really works well with the addition of my seasonal homeschooling plans - the trick will be trying to have realistic expectations!

This spread here is for one week - and as most of us know, five days fly by very quickly! During this first week of September, if all (or most) goes to plan, we will be reading the Tale of Peter Rabbit and learning to recognize and write the letter A. We'll be remembering Summer and setting up a Nature Corner with which we can welcome upcoming seasons. We'll learn a body-parts song and a sweet finger play and set up a Science Scrapbook. As a family we'll discuss chore division and allowance, an annual Labor Day tradition! We'll learn the difference between crows and ravens, and listen to Native American lullabies. We'll brave a corn maze and soak in the particular allure of a whispering cornfield in late summer. There will be reading and playing and baking and plenty of time spent in nature ... 

All in all, a great start to a brand new homeschooling year!

(And it might sound/look like a lot, but when you view my lesson planner spread, you can see that most days have a pretty good balance of activities. This is not to say that each and every day will go smoothly or to plan! But this is what I have prepared, and will have ready for my Earlybird and Little Bear, and hopefully we will not only learn a lot of interesting things together - but also have LOTS of fun!)

Now, don't forget! This Friday I'll be announcing the winner of my Seasonal Planner! I will be posting sometime later in the day - roundabouts teatime - so there's still plenty of time to leave me a comment and throw your hat in the ring. (Please see this post for all the details!)

Enjoy the rest of your evening, my friends - and as always, thanks so much for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!