a new school year

Aug 26, 2011

I am gearing up for our next year of learning together as a family. I have the school room rearranged to take advantage of the sunshine in front of our basement doors, the bookshelves dejunked, and the closet is ready for me to fill it with magic. Our local homeschooling organization, iFamily Leadership Academy, is organized and ready to start holding classes in September. I am getting excited for our journey together. I’m also wondering how I’ll be able to accomplish what I have set out to do!

This year I am teaching a Project Scholar class called Worldviews and YOU!. It is going to be intense for me as mentor and quite challenging for the youth who are participating. Here is a taste of what we are going to endeavor to accomplish:

Competing worldviews are everywhere. They are propagated on the newsstands, played out at the United Nations, in the halls of Congress, and throughout our university system. When we consider the tug-of-war between and among worldviews that rages in America and around the world, we tend to think of the battle mostly in terms of political and ethical issues, but this battle for the minds and hearts of people encompasses much more than politics and ethics. It determines the way we think and act about theology, philosophy, ethics, biology, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics, and history. This collection of convictions is what we call a worldview. It is the arena of worldviews that one of the greatest battles of our time is now being waged. Come and join us for an in-depth study of seven different worldviews: Secular Humanism, Marxism/Leninism, Cosmic Humanism, Postmodernism, Islamic, Biblical Christianity, and YOURS! We will be reading Understanding the Times, 2006 edition, studying current news articles, participating in frequent simulations, writing papers, learning to write a solid essay, and most importantly, helping each student discover what their own worldview is based on their Core Book(s) in each of those ten areas. This class will enable students to better understand the world around them and how they can find common ground with people of differing worldviews, which will greatly increase their ability to be effective and impact the world for good.

Quite the task I have set for myself, wouldn’t you agree?

On top of my studies, I will be teaching six gymnastics classes each Friday to about 75 homeschooling children. I am out of shape at the moment and have two weeks from today to be able to lift, spot, run, jump, cartwheel, and handstand. It is time to start building my lung capacity and my strength back up (who am I kidding? It is WAY past time!).

My children have big plans for the year. They will all be busy with their classes at iFamily and then we will have our studies at home as well. We start out our learning time with lots of singing, prayer, the pledge, scriptures, our poem of the week, finding places and things on our maps, and whatever else I want to share with them all together. Then, Blythe leaves to do her scholar studies for the day and I continue reading and playing with the younger three. The four of us hang out in our learning room all morning long doing math, science, reading, writing, etc. I never know for sure where our daily adventure will take us…I usually start reading to them and then play some math or reading games with them, but then our interests take over and we may spend hours drawing, painting, finding bugs, or researching birds. I think this year things are going to look quite a bit different because of Keziah’s plans (see below). I may end up spending the majority of my time with Fisher and Annesley…I will just have to see how things play out. One thing I know for sure, I am determined to rein in my computer and phone usage and give them solid blocks of time where I am completely available to them.

Blythe will have her hands full with my Worldviews class, along with a Chemistry class, and Advanced Theater. She will be putting on a play for our local schools in February, is participating in a vocal choir and is begging to start a martial arts class. She is also searching for a violin teacher who will focus on her strengths of auditory learning and trying to find a full-size violin so she can continue her music education. When she isn’t studying for her classes, she spends hours writing novels and drawing. She is currently writing a seven-book series on the loss of freedom in America and a revision of Robin Hood. She does all her own illustrations for her books and has piles of notebooks full of her writing.

I have never been a huge fan of curriculum sets and don’t feel they are necessary at all. I believe anyone with zest for living can create their own learning adventures with their children. However, this year, we have decided to take advantage of some prepackaged products to guide us. Keziah loves checking things off and I think she has been longing for some more structure in her life, so I am hoping these guides will fulfill that need for her. Keziah is determined to do the Beautiful Feet Early American History program and we have a lot of fun ideas to make history come alive. I want to reenact an Underground Railroad, build a Viking ship, create a market with high inflation (like the time of the Continental Congress), pretend to arrive in a new world and have to build our own house, and set up a government. If you have more living history ideas for the time period of Vikings – Civil War send them my way! Keziah also decided she wanted to do a grammar and language program, so we are adding in Language Lessons for the Elementary Child to our weekly routine. I am really drawn to this book and can’t wait to explore the artwork with her. It is very Charlotte Mason-y, which I have always loved. She is hoping to start Life of Fred for math this fall, but she still is finishing up her Miquon books, so we will see how that plays out. At iFamily she is taking a science class on Galileo and the scientific method, taking a Narnia class where they will read, discuss, and write about all seven books in the next 12 weeks and end with a Narnian feast, a sewing class with the lovely Miss Kat, and teaching her own class, Creative Corner for 3 – 6 year olds. She is a little driven…if you couldn’t tell.

Fisher and I are going to experience the magic of Five In A Row and you will be able to read about our experiences with it by clicking on that FIAR category over there on the right. We started back in June, but haven’t continued through July and August. Both of us are excited to start having our mommy-son reading time again. At iFamily, Fisher is taking Keziah’s craft class, two music classes, and a Nature Studies class. His excitement to have an actual bug studying class is so high, he can hardly sleep at night. He has his magnifying glass, binoculars, nature notebook, colored pencils, tape, and glue all ready in his backpack and talks about it all day…every day. Right now he has about 30 bugs housed in a giant plastic bin and he carries it with him all over the place taking about each bug as if they were his best buddies. Just this morning he has been studying a spider and a fly with his new magnifying glass.

Little Miss Annes has the same classes as Fisher at iFamily and will spend the majority of her time here with us listening to our reading, counting, figuring, discussing, finding, discovering, etc. She wants to do everything Fisher is doing and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if all the phonics lessons I am doing with him will implant in her brain and start the reading process. She spends hours each day playing house, cooking us food from her kitchen, and singing at the top of her lungs. Homeschooling older children with a toddler in the house is certainly an adventure, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Another change for this year is our closet. For years I have had a ginormous black armoire stuffed to the brim with every learning device known to man. I decided to change that around and make it a magic closet. I have emptied it out (though I haven’t figured out where to put the stuff that was in it!) and now the stuff in it will not only be easy to find (no more stacks of stuff), it will also be changed up regularly. Whatever I want to expose my children too, I will put in there and it will only be available during our learning time. If I want us to study rocks, I will pull our rock collection out of its box and put them in a basket along with various books about rocks, geology, layers of earth, etc. If I want us to study Rembrandt, I will put some of his paintings, a story of his life, and some supplies for us to paint with that day. I know myself well enough to know I won’t be changing things every day, but I am determined to keep it fresh and alive so it is a source of excitement and a springboard for learning about stuff that often gets left by the wayside in our busy days. I know the closet can be a powerful tool in inspiring children to learn and I can’t wait to fully implement my ideas and see where it takes us.

Big plans, eh? I figure even if we fall way short of our goals, we will still have accomplished much and we are going to have our minds full to the brim with new ideas. With all of these plans, we can’t help but have a great year learning together!

I am needing to spend some time making me new planner pages for the year so I have a hope of staying relatively on track, but I haven’t figured out how to find the time to even make the pages, much less fill them in! Anyone have some extra hours of the day they could loan me?

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  1. Tasha

    Wow, that makes me excited for school also! I’ve been working on our school room, planning to spend less computer time, and gathering supplies for our school too. We’re getting so excited! I think I need to write a similar post on our blog soon. I’m so glad Fisher is excited for the nature study class! It is going to be so neat!

  2. tracy

    Annesley is super excited about Nature Studies also…she just isn’t quite as obsessed with the whole thing as Fisher is.

    Any thoughts on doing the history program with us?

  3. ok Tracy, I’ve been inspired for a while on the whole “home schooling”, but completely overwhelmed, scared, insecure at the thought of even trying to attempt in fear that I would fail my kids. Hannah is my oldest and she starts traditional kindergarten next week. She’s bright, eager, and so excited for school.

    How did you start this whole process? Were you homeschooled? I LOVED the TJED book and am determined to apply it to my children’s education, but would love any more tips you could give me on how you’ve done this. I know you are a busy mom and I am new to your blog, so maybe you’ve posted things on how you’ve done this on there. I will keep looking. If not, and you have some tips you could share, my email is mjlombardo143@gmail.com or facebook page is melissa eyre lombardo. Thanks for inspiring me Tracy!

    • tracy


      I am struggling to clean my room today and can’t write much, but I wanted to reach out and give you a hug across the internet! Homeschooling is a big decision, but one I would make again in a heartbeat. Have you read other books on educational philosophy? Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, and The Well-Trained Mind are all great places to start. I LOVE the book Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning.

      I will write more later, but for now, you may find my friend’s six part series of posts about her decision to homeschool helpful. Here is the link to the first one:


      Then, you can just follow the links on the bottom of each page to get to parts 2 – 6.

      Back to cleaning!

  4. LaPriel


    I found a book at the DI today called Fever 1793. It is historical fiction that takes place in Philadelphia. It is about Yellow Fever. Do you think Keziah would like it?

    Also, do you have Rascal by Serling North? It is a true story about a boy who has a raccoon for a pet. I think Fisher would LOVE it.

    And do you have The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald? Great book. The book is based on stories of when he grew up in Utah. It takes place in 1896. Funny!
    John D. Fitzgerald also wrote a true story about his family called Papa Married a Mormon. Wonderful read for the whole family.

    Anyway, let me know if you want or have any of these books. I can drop them off.

    • tracy

      Great minds think alike! We own all of those books and LOVE them! Rascal has been one of Keziah’s favorites for years. It is probably time for me to read it to Fisher! If you ever see the other books in The Great Brain series, please buy them and I will buy them from you. We want them all!

      How are you and yours doing? Are you doing the school in Sun Valley again?

  5. LaPriel

    Oh good! If I see any of the others, I will snatch them up. Has Fisher read Owls in the family? I hope am not repeating myself! We just love these books. I had a great 5th grade teacher read out loud to us after lunch. She read some great books!

    We are doing great. Bret just took the first part of the GED today and will do the other next week. He is applying to BYU-I for winter. He took the ACT in Feb.

    Breanna is going to Sugar City this year. My husband has been helping her with her homework and is appalled at how spoon fed the info is. It is actually comical to watch him as he thinks through this. :) He is scheming about how to do school better next year. :) As for me, I know it is not the best but feel prompted that she needs to experience this for a while. This is her first public school experience.

    I love to read your blog and see how everyone is growing! Keep up the good work.

    • tracy

      Thanks LaPriel!

      I haven’t even heard of Owls In The Family. I’ll have to look that one up!

      Tell Breanna hello from me and that I hope her school year goes fabulously well for her!