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School Without Subjects

Math, Reading, Writing, Spelling, Grammar, History, Geography, Science…have you identified all of the curriculum you will need for the coming school year?

@selftaughtkids @hsbapost

Thinking about how to cover each subject can be exhausting, time consuming, confusing, and expensive! Because most of us have been traditionally educated in the modern school system, we bite our nails down to the quick wondering if we are giving proper treatment to all the facts and information our children will need to know to get into college, or just generally lead well-informed, successful lives.

Boxed curricula can fill that need, of course, but if you’ve been homeschooling awhile, or are a newbie interested in not simply re-creating a traditional school day for your child, you may be open to a cross-curricular approach which can cut down on the number of individual subjects you need to find curriculum for.

So, what do we mean by cross-curricular? In our house it means that everything connects. We don’t study anything in a vacuum – segmented and compartmentalized into 45- or 50- minute blocks of time. History crosses over into science, and vise versa. Literature prompts writing, as can history. History and literature become geography. Science and math go together – they don’t always have to be studied individually. Instead of choosing different subjects to cover, we may choose one or two areas to focus on and then let learning bubble up from there.

To give you a real-life example, I’ll give you a rough sketch of what my two (ages 10 and 13) will be doing this school year:


Life of Fred. I love Fred. Life of Fred isn’t just math, it’s a life education. He even covers grammar…really. His pre-algebra course contains math coupled with biology and economics. He also has an elementary physics book. My oldest completed those last year and learned more about science from Life of Fred math than from any other science book or course we have used before. I don’t know of another math curriculum that discusses the cause of the civil war while teaching pre-algebra. Life of Fred critics worry that the books don’t offer enough practice problems. Hang in there. Once you arrive at the high school program, you can purchase Life of Fred: Zillions of Practice Problems for Beginning Algebra. Zillions of problems sound like a lot of practice.

Joy Hakim’s The Story of Science: Newton at the Center. Last year the oldest read the first book in the series: The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way and really enjoyed it. It can simply be read for fun, or you can purchase the companion student and teacher Quest Guides published by the John Hopkins University Talent Development Program. We love this timeline approach to science which blends in loads and loads of history. We’ll supplement our at-home science reading with hands-on classes offered for homeschoolers at a local science museum.


Last year we studied the ancients in both history and science, starting with Sumeria and ending with Rome. For history, we used the Beautiful Feet Ancient History Intermediate Pack and this year we’ll move on to Medieval History, utilizing the Advanced Intermediate and Junior High Pack. I love the idea of using the same student guide and reading lists for both age levels – the program is customizable to grade levels 5 – 8 and includes reading, mapping, research, discussion and hands-on activities though 35 weekly lessons. Again, we’ll feel free to supplement with additional reading selections that we will probably treat as read-alouds, and where possible, perform at-home science experiments that relate to Medieval times. Grammar and spelling will be reinforced through the weekly writing assignments tied to the time period. Additionally, both kids will participate in a 16-week creative writing workshop held at a local library.

For foreign languages, music and art, there are a variety of ways to add these to your schedule. We prefer on-line foreign language courses and out-source anything like art or music.

By focusing on all things Medieval this year, I hope to bring a certain level of cohesiveness to our school year, making the planning easy for me and fun for the kids!

It’s really not necessary to purchase a stack of workbooks covering every topic you can think of. With a little creativity and some smart choices, you can narrow your focus to three or four areas and expand from there. There are so many free resources out there, you can easily keep your expenses down, too. Since many of the books on our reading list are available at the library, I would be surprised if we spent more than $200 this year on curricula.

I love to think of our approach as subject-less, even though we certainly cover all of the most important areas such as math, science, literature and history. Allowing yourself more freedom in how these are presented is going to make for a more enjoyable homeschool experience for both you and your children.

None of the above links are affiliate links – we just believe in these resources. What are some of your favorite cross-curricular materials and books? I’m always looking for more great ideas!

Angela (30 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .

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Top Ten Favorite Educational Shows on Netflix: The Older Crowd

Last week we shared with you our favorite Netflix shows for the younger set. This week, we bring you our Top Ten Favorite Educational Shows on Netflix. for the older crowd.


Every family is different, so please review any show before letting your kids watch it to ensure it fits your family.

Ten Favorite Educational Shows on Netflix for the Older Crowd


  1. MythBusters- Do not try this at home folks! Adam and Jamie, with their team, examine common myths and legends to see if they could have actually happened. Be sure to check out their Big Blasts Collection too!
  2. Drive Thru History-Dave Stotts takes you on the most entertaining trek through Ancient Greece and Rome in Season 1 of Drive Thru History. This history documentary emphasizes Christianity’s positive role in Western civilization. The humor may be lost on the younger kids, but parents will enjoy!
  3. Modern Marvels- From the Brooklyn Bridge to Extreme Gadgets, Modern Marvels digs deep to explain the history behind some of our greatest achievements.
  4. Electric Company- This modern take on the 70’s classic teaches new words using Hip Hop and R&B.
  5. How It’s Made- Take a tour through factories and see how everything from band aids to contact lenses are made.
  6. National Geographic- National Parks- National Geographic has a wide variety of topics available on Netflix. National Parks might be our favorite, but they also include episodes on the FBI and Tornadoes.
  7. Man vs. Wild- Follow ex-special forces soldier Bear Grylls and he tries to find somewhere on Earth he can’t survive. So far, he can survive anywhere.
  8. Beakman’s World- Do miss the big hair and wacky antics of the early 90’s? Nah, me either. But watching someone else act goofy while educating my kids- bring it on! Prof. Beakman uses some crazy antics, quick costume changes and a giant rat (okay, man in a rat suit) to demonstrate even complicated scientific principles.
  9. TED Talks-This is another collection of short videos, on a variety of subjects. From the TED Conferences, TEDTalks videos include reputable current scientists and professors (and more) sharing ideas and explaining new things. Also check out their Education Site with more videos:
  10. Destination Truth- Do you have a monster lover? Host Josh Gates goes to remote places, learns about geography and culture, and then investigates the myths and monsters of the world. From Loch Ness to haunted Mosques to Icelandic Elves, Destination Truth is there. Note: Some episodes may be a bit scary for more sensitive kids.

Do you have a favorite Netflix show?

Have you checked out the Homeschooling with Netflix Facebook Group?

Join us next week for a new Top Ten List from our team!

Lisa Baldwin (61 Posts)

Disciple of Christ, Wife, Mother of Four, Homeschooler, Crafter, Designer (Graphics and CSS/HTML), Blogger. I share too much, laugh at the wrong things, and fall on my backside regularly. Thank goodness Jesus ignores all of that and loves me anyway.

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Rainy Days are a Perfect Time for a Weather Study

weather unit study, @destinyblogger, @hsbapost

Did March come in like a lion and go out like a lamb or vice versa in your neck of the woods?  Is April starting off with those familiar showers that bring May flowers?  Obviously, spring is a notorious time for unpredictable weather.  Why not make the best of it and take the opportunity to study the weather?

In our homeschool, we love to do unit studies.  What that really boils down to in practical terms is choosing a topic, like the weather, and trying to incorporate elements of that topic into every subject we study.

Weather and History:

Study extreme weather from the past.  This can include hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and floods.  Unfortunately, there is no shortage to study on this aspect of weather.  How did these things affect the economy of the time?  Did extreme weather alter the course of history by causing many people to move to other areas that weren’t affected by the weather incident?  Books like The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Stormy, Misty’s Foal from the Misty of Chincoteague series by Marguerite Henry are two examples of historical fiction featuring real incidents of extreme weather.

Weather and Math:

Purchase a large thermometer and/or barometer that can be mounted outside your house.  Check the temperature and barometric pressure at different times throughout the day for a week and record the results on your own homemade weather chart or graph.  If you don’t have a thermometer/barometer, use a weather website like NOAA and chart the daily high and low temperatures for your area.  You can use your results at the end of the week to figure out the average temperature.

Weather and Bible study:

The most famous incident of extreme weather in the Bible is about Noah and the worldwide flood (Genesis 6).  Read this story again, then read a book about floods.  You can also study how rainbows form and the significance of the rainbow as a sign from God to Noah.

Weather and Geography:

Why is it cooler in the mountains or near the coast?  Why is the Equator so hot?  What is the climate like in different regions in the United States?  What is the Snow Belt?  It’s easy to find many different geography and weather connections!

Weather Reading:

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is a great family read-aloud that includes extreme weather.  The tornado that transports Dorothy to Oz qualifies as a weather event, right?

Hands-on Weather projects:

If your kids like hands-on activities or arts and crafts, try the following —

  • A weather-related lapbook (Snowflake Bentley is a free example from Homeschool Share).
  • Draw or paint scenes from all four seasons.
  • A weather field trip to visit a local news meteorologist (be sure to plan ahead!) or weather station (often found at small local airports).
  • Pinterest is an excellent source for finding weather-related crafts and printables to use.

If you’d like to try a weather unit study, but don’t have the time to plan it out yourself I highly recommend Amanda Bennett’s unit studies.  You can choose one on Twisting Tornadoes or Spring to get you started with a one-week unit study with companion lapbook components.  It’s a quick and easy introduction to unit studies if you’ve never tried them before.

Although we generally think of weather as a science topic, you can see that it can be included in every subject you study and tweaked for every age range in your homeschool.  Have fun learning as you “weather” the weather changes this spring!


Sara (54 Posts)

I'm a reader, writer, dreamer, wife, and homeschooling mom of 3 girls. We take a relaxed, eclectic, Charlotte Mason-leaning, Montessori-ish, literature-rich, delight-directed, almost unschooling-at-times approach to learning. Lots of unit studies, field trips, and lapbooks, too. I like to blog about our learning adventures (plus faith and encouragement) at Embracing Destiny.

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