Back to School #3: Planning and Resources without Curriculum

Welcome Back!


Nature Study in the Rain

It’s my Back to School roundup and so far we have gone through What I’ve Learned about Homeschooling so far and How we use the Charlotte Mason and Unschooling philosophies in our house.

I did not go into any detail behind the two philosophies because honestly there is already so much out there on those subjects that I felt no need to repeat it. Also, while I honestly believe that everything we do can be repeated in any household, please recognize that my children are gifted and therefore tend to do things differently than others their age.  NOT BETTER, just different. They are crazy, wild and all over the place…and I have four of them. Each one dealing with their own asynchronous learning and over excitabilities which can be a handful to begin with. That being said lets get on to todays topics, Planning and Resources!

First off is how we plan when we don’t really know what we are going to learn.

1) Quarters not Semesters or Years.

We break our year up into quarters, two quarters before December and two quarters after January. This is strictly for state purposes. Well, not strictly. Here is the thing, my little guy knows that he has to do certain things in order to place them into our portfolio for the state. We try our best to get as much of that as we can organically but they tend to be sticklers in the writing and math areas (at least the last two reviewers were) and so we (my son, husband and I) have come to the decision together to have a few pages in a composition book a week dedicated to writing and math. However, the little guy also knows that school is not all year long and will read my calendar in order to find out when our “off” time is and refuse to do any “work” during that time…such as his writings or math. Im completely fine with that.

The real reason that we use quarters is that it is much more conducive to unschooling. It’s easier to plan if we are reevaluating our topics every three months or so. So at the end of June, September, January and March we have a planning tea. I make a quiche, scones, cakes, sandwiches and tea (or we go out for one at a local Tea Shop) and we have a high tea together. I have with me a little notebook, a pen and the calendar on my phone to jot everything down. During our tea we discuss what we learned over the last year and talk about the subjects that interest us now and would like to explore more. Each child adds their interests to the list and we figure out on quarters worth of materials at a time.

2) What our Lists looks like this year

Little Man (2nd Grade):

Geology*, World War I, Fractions, Multiplication, How to write a research paper, How to write a Lab Report, Nutrition and Running a mile.

Little Miss (Kindergarten):

How to read, Addition to 50, Double digit subtraction, Telling time, Tying her Shoes (she wants to beat her big brother to it), Mammals, Birds, Write a story

Curly Que (PreK-4):

How to Read, Addition, Subtraction, Write her Name, Insects, Water Mammals

Itty Bitty (PreK-2.5):

Bugs, Fish, Farm, ABC’s

*my children chose these subjects, I have changed the wording from Rocks, minerals and land masses to geology , or subtraction with 10’s and so forth.

* The amount of input I gave to these lists is: “what would you like to study?” “Is there a time period you are interested in?” …thats about it.

3) Look up the topics together.


Learn how to read.

Little Miss is a Right Brained, hands on learner. We have been working on reading since she was 3, at her request! I keep telling her that it is ok if she is not ready to learn yet and she pushes the subject. She knows that there are phonemes. She can make all of their sounds. She knows her ABC’s and can make all of their sounds. She can recognize any letter when standing alone and name it. She can sound out and separate sounds in CVC words verbally. She cannot put any of these things together when trying to read it off of a page. When asked what she sees she describes, in her words, that “the letters are wiggly and really messy”, every single time. For the past year I have been fighting with pediatricians trying to get referrals and trying to get those referrals taken to find out why this is so difficult. The response is the same everywhere, “she’s too young to diagnose as having a problem” or “she’s too young to test” This year we are trying again but most of them have told us that they will not look at a child younger than 2nd grade. So this year after doing some more research we decided to toss the curriculums and go after this fully through living resources and everyday experiences.

Curly que is left brained and active. She began speaking in complete sentences before her 1st birthday, so it came as no surprise when she declared that she wanted to read too. She will be 4 in October and honestly I think she already knows how at a basic level but hides it from her big sis. This is her chance to pretend she is learning while at least progressing, and I have no qualms about giving this to her.

Charlotte Mason recommends a combination of sight words and phonics taught through play, both hands on and verbally. I plan on using this method. I have done the research and it is completely compatible with the organic, everyday learning that is recommended with unschooling. However, as long as the child is helping with the choosing, there is nothing wrong with choosing a curriculum for your unschooled child, even if some radical unschoolers will tell you so. The point is that you are listening to the requests and needs (including learning styles) of your child.



We will be simultaneously covering Geology and Biology because that is what is interesting to my children. My youngest three are all interested in animals, in a way that their brother never was. Maybe that has something to do with the amount of time spent on Nature study over the past year and a half with the girls at a much younger age or maybe its just that he has a space obsession. I do not know.

Either way this is how we get into Biology:

  • Visits to the National Aquarium in Baltimore (memberships), The National Zoo in DC, The Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, Kinder Farm, Local Lakes, State Parks, National Parks, Nature Centers.
  • Checking out every book we can find that has to do with any of these animals and read them together. We try to find stories that are written by experts, as stories that realistically show the animal and otherwise living books.
  • Watch documentaries such as but not limited to: PBS, Nova, Nature, BBC, Disney (they have some wonderful documentaries with amazing cinematography), Animal Planet or any others we can find via Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon.
  • Youtube videos, Online Scientific photos/stories
  • Cartoons or TV shows: Go Diego Go, Wild Kratts, Big World, Steve Erwin and others
  • Roadkill and grocery stores: My children know what they eat, they are not shielded from death and while it may seem morbid often these two options open up a slew of discussion topics regarding biology.


I know my son well enough to know that when he mentions any science outside of Astronomy it is because he wants to know more about that subject only so he that he can understand it in terms of Astronomy. When we studied Chemistry it was purely for the periodic elements, atom make up and reactions. Why? because he wanted to know how the stars were made. When that wasn’t enough information he studied Physics and gravity. Now he wants to know what planets, comets and asteroids are made of and so he chose geology. I won’t kid myself into thinking that I finally got him to broaden his horizons, but I will take advantage of this subject and strew the living daylights out of it! so in the mean time we will study it through…

  • Visits to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, The Children’s Museum in Baltimore, The Science Center in Baltimore, National and State parks (and any ranger talks we can get into), Nature Centers, Home Depot/Lowes, The Dinosaur Park in Connecticut (which has a great geology walk), quarries, coal mines turned museums (there is one in Jim Thorpe, PA that we may visit again).
  • Every Living Book, Usborne/Kingfisher/DK/Eyewitness/Field Guide we can get our hands on for free or cheap. (Thrift shops and Libraries are the best resource for this!)
  • Documentaries or Cartoons: PBS, NOVA, BBC, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, Magic school bus…I’m still searching
  • Youtube, BrainPop, Science based websites found through Google or Pinterest
  • Rock Collecting on Nature Walks
  • Ipad and online game options: Alchemy, Elements
  • Science Course for Little Man through a Local Organization and if we are lucky and they reopen, through SERC. For the Girls through the Baltimore Aquarium.


Non-Learning how to Read Language Arts

We follow some ideas from the Brave Writer Blog because their ideas and products are amazing! We don’t use the products as of now but I’m not opposed to them. Instead we approach language arts as a fun past time.

  • Movies, Games and Cartoons: We approach visual media in much the same way that we do books. We analyze them as we watch or play them. Right now my children are in love with all things Pokemon. We find books about pokemon, we categorize the Pokemon, we talk about the story lines. Who are the main characters, who is the protagonist (we do use this word followed by good guy/main person just to get them used to the terminology) or antagonist. What is going to happen next? Did this episode relate to the last episode? How?…we also use more traditional options for the integration into the subject. We watch movies or shows based on books and then discuss the similarities and differences. They watch shows specifically meant to teach a language skill, like: WordWorld, Wordgirl, Martha Speaks, Pinky Dinky Doo.
  • We read books. Go figure! We actually read a lot of books…usually mom reading out loud but that gets tiresome so sometimes we have quiet book time, the ones that can’t read LOVE to pretend that they are reading and often make up stories based on the pictures. There are favorites that we read repeatedly, classics that we try out, chapter books occasionally…they take a while and my guys are wiggle worms!
  • I strew books like Basher’s Grammar or Super Grammar and the little guy reads them, repeatedly.
  • I pad and online options: bookworm, Storybird, Bookworm heroes, PBS Kids, ABCYA, Turtle Diary
  • Writing projects that we use to meet his goals: Free Write, Copy Work (he started copying one sentence, than one complex sentence, followed by one paragraph and eventually a short paragraph…this may take all year or until next year, I’m fine with that), one or two research papers and a handful of Lab Reports (probably as a part of a science course). Little Man absolutely hates writing but he knows that it is necessary and so we try to minimize how much we have to do for now. The girls on the other hand love it and want to do Copy work or Free write almost everyday.


Social Studies

The girls get their social studies interests as we read books and usually will ask for more after we have read a particularly interesting subject. Or they will focus on a single subject and want to know everything about it: like pirates or ninjas. At least thats what happened last year and so the best thing to do is be prepared for anything. Which is where google and pinterest come in handy.

Little Man is a different story. He watches documentaries with us or reads encyclopedias for fun and decided what he wants to learn so:

  • he finds books
  • we watch documentaries or cartoons
  • he navigates through sites like Brainpop, Mr. Nessbaum, youtube, and any others we can find
  • we go to museums and memorials



This is the subject that we do the least “work” with but practice most often.

  • We play games like :Dominoes, card games, dice games, Battleship, Yahtzee
  • We cook together: measurements, fractions, counting, adding, subtraction, time is all a natural part of cooking
  • We grocery shop together. Little Miss looks for the best price and Little Man adds it all up after I round it (out loud) to the nearest half dollar.
  • We have math games galore on the iPad and computer that they have free reign to play. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, time, measurement, patterns, greater than and less then.
  • We do math problems written on a piece of paper for the journal three times a week.
  • khan academy is available to them to use at their leisure. Last year they used it regularly but the mastery challenges were not quick enough for them and they were frustrated with not seeing their progress fast enough.


Health and PE

  • Wii sports, Wii fit,
  • Running at the track, Rock Climbing (at the playgrounds)
  • Nutrition: talking about healthy foods, reading books, talking to doctors, cooking, cartoons like magic school bus
  • Hygiene: brushing teeth thoroughly and twice daily, cleaning your body, washing hands, covering mouth, germs, bacteria


The Arts

  • Children’s theater or concerts at local colleges and community centers
  • Art museums in DC and Philadelphia
  • Street Artists
  • Online music (pandora, spotify, etc)
  • Videos of Operas, symphonies or theater performances online or through PBS Masterpiece Theater
  • Creating art projects
  • Piano Lessons



  • Weekly Sunday School
  • Weekly AWANA
  • Memorization for AWANA
  • daily Bible readings
  • VeggieTales, VHS bible stories, 3-2-1 Penguins!


I hope this can be of use to someone who is trying to plan without always knowing exactly what will happen next!

Good Luck and Happy Hunting!


3 comments on “Back to School #3: Planning and Resources without Curriculum

  1. […] Charlotte Mason philosophies or more specifically, how we utilize the philosophies in our own home. Post #3 will look at how we plan for our year and how we find resources that will help us on our journey. […]


  2. […] Post 3 (Planning and Resources without Curriculum) […]


  3. […] can also go back to to Post 3, Post 2 or Post 1 by clicking on the […]


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