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!


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