Sunday, January 9, 2011

How We Homeschool- Complying with 11 Subjects

Here in Washington we have to teach our children 11 subjects: reading, writing, spelling, language, math science, social studies, history, health, occupational education, and art and music appreciation. But before you freak out, the Legislature realizes that homeschooling is less structured and more experiential in nature (their words) and therefore the subjects can be taught how ever the parent choses- it's written into the law this way. Several years ago I sat down with several other moms and we created this list explaining how teaching the 11 subjects isn't a daunting task, most of it is taught by doing what you're doing every day. Now that my kids are older we do rely more on workbooks and traditional teaching and less on hands on and experiential learning.

Reading = reading but can also include books on tape, being read to, learning to follow directions (recipes, projects, etc.). Take advantage of the library’s summer reading program and Book-It for reading incentives. And don’t forget to read “real” books, not just reading curriculum- fairy tales, mysteries, poetry, biographies, books about places, cookbooks, magazines, etc. Field Trip ideas: library, Barnes & Noble (don’t forget to get your Teacher’s Discount Card), Scholastic Book Sale (a mom field trip)

Participating in a Redwall Feast- there was food, fellowship, music, Redwall trivia (Reading, Social Studies, Health, Art & Music Appreciation)

Writing = writing (fiction, non-fiction, poems, letters, reports, Bible verses, grocery lists, etc.) You do not need a specific curriculum to teach writing- have them copy or dictate to you until they have the skills to complete sentences and paragraphs. We use the book “Write, Now” for fun writing ideas. Field trips: Newspaper, radio station, Toastmasters

Language = grammar (nouns, verbs, punctuation, adjectives, prepositions, complete sentences, paragraphs, learning the parts of a letter, etc.) Schoolhouse Rock is awesome for teaching the parts of grammar. “Writer’s Inc.” is good resource for specifics on how to use them and for reference. Field Trips: See Writing

Spelling = spelling all those nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. correctly You don't have to use a separate spelling curriculum, but incorporate it into anything written at all (thank you notes, reports, displays, etc.) Field Trips: See Writing

Math = math. There are a lot of fun math resources out there, we’ve gotten books on counting Cheerios, M & M's, and jelly beans. There are books on learning fractions with pizzas and chocolate bars, the books about Sideways School are good math puzzles for your random thinkers (concrete children don’t get it). Learn fractions through cooking (and take care of occupational education and health at the same time). Find a copy of Family Math for fun activities for all math skills. Field trips: Bakery, any manufacturer who uses CAD, engineering firms, surveyors

Social studies = any study of cultures other than history (current events, learning about where your church's missionaries live, geography, etc.) Passport Club, Scouts, 4-H, Awana, etc. all expand your child’s horizons and count as Social Studies. Reading biographies & fiction about children in other places and times, missionary stories, etc. Field Trips: Cultural events (Seattle has a lot, also local colleges and universities), Fairs, International Fair, Hands On Museum, Children’s Museums, working farms, Westport Maritime Museum, Pikes Place Market, Olympia Farmers Market

Isaac wanted to bake Na'an, an Indian bread cooked over an open fire (Social Studies, Math, Health)

Packing Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child (Social Studies, Health, Math)

History = study of times past. All you need is a time line and books. Pick a period of history and go to the library to get books about people and places and events during that time, don’t forget fiction written during or about that time period. For fun you can place your ancestors in their time period and see what was going on around them, after all, genealogy is the study of your family’s history. For more formal study we have used Story of the World and A Child's History of the World to provide a backbone to our learning.
Field Trips: Museums (Lewis County Historical Museum, Veteran’s Museum, Vintage Motorcycle Museum, State History Museum), Living History (Pioneer Farm, Ft. Nisqually, Ft. Vancouver)

Museum of History and Industry, Seattle (History, Social Studies, Art & Music Appreciation). The same day we went to the Burke Museum on the University of Washington Campus and saw fossils, gemstones, animals, and photos of an Anarctic expedition

Science = learning about the world around you. This can be as formal or informal as you like. For years we didn't officially study science, but we watched lots of videos about animals and the planet and anything that caught our fancy at the library, we also picked up lots of books with pictures that caught our eye, my kids have always done exceptionally well on the science portion of the CAT test and I'm convinced its just because they were interested in lots of things. The past few years we have done some formal studies with Answers in Genesis' books and Boy Scout merit badges. Field Trips: Mt. St. Helens, Creation Museum, Wastewater Treatment Plant, Zoo, NW Trek, Science Museums, working farms, DeGoede’s Bulb Farm, Seminary Hill Nature Preserve, Ape Caves & Lava Canyon, Mima Mounds, aquarium

Staying up late to see the Lunar Eclipse

Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium- the shark tank is always a favorite stop

Building a worm bin- actually we built 2 and found that the one in the cardboard box did better than the wooden box.

Isaac likes to grow hot peppers (and yes, he does eat them).

Health = Learning good hygiene, nutrition, P.E, exercise, anything to do with taking care of yourself. Playing sports, Gym Time, playing in the backyard, meeting friends at the park, doctor and dentist appointments. Field Trips: Dairy Days, bakery, Fair, Doctor/ Dentist, Hospital, Seminary Hill hikes, farmers markets, dairies
Backpacking trip with the Troop

Archery with Grandpa

Homeschool soccer co-op

Occupational education = Any life skills that they learn (dusting, vacuuming, doing the dishes, cooking, booting up and playing games on the computer, typing, raking, baby or child care, building things at Home Depot or with Daddy, etc.) One day I was cutting quesadillas with scissors and one of the boys told me that I was doing it just like the ladies at Costco, that was occupational education in action! Any activities you do that introduce them to what they may want to be when they grow up. Field Trips: Any of the above

Fire Truck at Home Depot: Occupational Education twice- we met the firemen and built a project

Cooking Man Cakes after watching Man vs. Food (Math, Health, Occupational education)

Art & Music appreciation = This is not necessarily learning to read music or play music, but can include: listening to musical selections by different composers, learning about the lives of different composers, learning to distinguish the sounds of different instruments, writing music, singing in kids' choir, etc. Listen to the radio in the car and see how many instruments you can pick out...that's music appreciation! Visit a music store sometime and look at the different instruments. Better yet, ask for a demonstration! Art appreciation is the same idea as above but related to works of art. Field Trips: Rays Violin Shop (he not just sells stringed instruments but also manufactures violins and bows), ArtTrails, Art Jamboree, Glass blower (there are 2 in downtown Centralia now). Community theatre: Centralia College, Evergreen Playhouse, Tenino Young-At-Heart Theatre, W.F. West HS, Centralia HS, Adna HS all offer inexpensive tickets to family-friendly productions. Tuesday nights are free music at McMenamin’s for all ages, we’ve heard music of every variety there. If your child wants to participate, both Evergreen Playhouse and Tenino’s Young-At-Heart Theatre have annual productions for children to act in. Free concerts and art events abound in Lewis County (watch the loop or local bulletin boards for upcoming events)

Drive Thru Christmas Pageant

Hope this helps clear things up for you. No more stressing out over nothing, OK? :-)


  1. Ha, wish I could have read this 18 months ago when I first moved to washington; back when I panicked at "11 subjects" before realizing many subjects blend quite nicely together. =) love the pics too!

  2. Remember when you guys gave me a copy of this? Ha, ha. I still get stressed out...although not as often! BTW, what is project 365?