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When You Want to Teach Them Everything


As homeschool mamas, we have a deep desire to do this education thing right by our littles.  We look around at the ever-growing homeschooling world and we see all these choices–curriculum sales, free downloads, dozens of teaching methods–and we want to make them all.  At every turn, we question ourselves:  Should we be using that method or this curriculum??  We look at blogs and tweets and pins and Instagram photos and wonder why our homeschool doesn’t look like another family’s.  And, if you’re anything like me, you want to teach your littles Everything There Is To Know, so they will be fully prepared for the life coming to them.

fill in the blanks 1

The question becomes this.  How do we decide what to teach each year?  You know what a big fan I am of Hirsch’s What Your __ Grader Needs to Know series.  Though I rarely use them these days, I own all of them from kindergarten through 6th grade.  They helped me tremendously when I was starting out, especially when it came to ensuring my Littles were keeping up with their grade level in public school.  That was a thing for me at first.  I knew a family who had lost their kids for six months over a lackadaisical homeschool education, and I would never risk losing my kids for any reason.  However, my Littles surpassed their public school grade levels years ago, and over time I have loosened up.  I’m sure they appreciate it.

Even so, those books are a great place to start figuring out what you’re going to teach for the year.  They can be gotten on the cheap on Amazon, too, so if you feel like you need the help, look into them.

Nowadays, I go about things a little differently.  One of the very first things I do when I start thinking about a new year is create a book list.  Not a text-type list, but a Read-Aloud List.  I try to match a couple up to things we will be learning in other subjects, but mostly I just try to narrow down our options to a doable list.  Because it’s always longer than the school year has days.  Here’s what this year’s looks like so far:

  • Tom Sawyer
  • Huck Fin
  • Animal Farm
  • Ruby Holler
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Number the Stars
  • Holes
  • David Copperfield
  • Great Expectations
  • The Jungle Book
  • Treasure Island
  • Moon Over Manifest
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • The Halloween Tree
  • Brave New World

I am not done making this list.  As you can see, we couldn’t possibly fit all of these into one school year of reading a chapter aloud a day.  But I will keep adding to it until about mid-June, then I will sit down with it and figure out which we’ll read during summer session, and how many we can fit in during September through May.  Then I’ll change my mind.  Then I’ll start making novel studies.  I’ll be slightly mad and extremely busy during that phase.  Think the Mad Hatter on speed.  Yup.

mad hatter

Next, I’ll look over my notes, like I mentioned yesterday.  See, throughout each school year some rabbit trail that they show keen interest in  will make me think, “We should study this in-depth.”  So I’ll write up a new schedule for the next year.  A couple weeks later, the same thing will happen, and I’ll either add to the schedule or change it entirely.  Then I’ll read a blog post that inspires me and think, “No, we should do That.”  And more notes will be made.  Once we’ve completed a school year, I have to wade through all of that and make a concrete plan.

Here are the subjects I would like to cover next year.  In a perfect world, I would be able to fit them all in.

  • Reading (i.e. reading aloud and studying the book together)
  • Africa Unit Study (just like this past year, with the history, science, art, etc., of each country)
  • American history: WWI through Civil Rights Movement
  • The Industrial Revolution
  • Spanish (we’ve had several years of Spanish, but I like them to have at least a little every year)
  • Biology (I have a brilliant college text that has language simple enough for them to grasp and I Really, Really want to read that thing.  We had a Science Question of the Day every day this year, and we cracked that book open often to get a little more in-depth answers.  We loved it.)
  • Long essay/research writing (I would like very much to continue our summer studies throughout the year)
  • Romantic Poetry
  • Shakespeare
  • Art history
  • Learn an instrument
  • Math (of course)

Kind of looks like an AP high school schedule, doesn’t it?


Now, I know from this year that the Africa unit will take a lot of our time.  But I fully believe that learning all about a country makes its location stick firmly in their heads, and I have seen the proof of that this year.  Also, I really want to continue this line of geography, because we’re on a roll now and I think it would be cool for them to have that info to build on when we pick an historical period to study later on.  For instance, studying India and surrounding countries set us up for the Industrial Revolution and colonization studies.  Which is why I’m burning to study that in detail.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to study two or three different historical periods in one year–that could get confusing.  So if we’re doing Africa, the IR and American history will probably have to wait.  But I have all these super cool books on that period of American history and I Really want to use them.  It’s a quandary.

Also, if we’re studying Shakespeare, studying another era of poetry is a bit of overkill, no?  So maybe I should drop that until next year.  And art history would be included in the Africa study, so I can drop that from the list, too.  So I narrow it down some.

  • Africa unit (including history, science, art, garden, and government)
  • Reading
  • Spanish
  • Biology
  • Essay/Research writing
  • Shakespeare
  • Instrument
  • Math

Looks more doable, doesn’t it?  But reading Shakespeare And reading a chapter book?  Is that feasible?  And studying geology and animal science for Africa and Then studying biology?  Is it too much?

Looks like I have some more thinking to do.

At least you can see my thought process.  When you homeschool without a curriculum, you might have more options, but you also have more responsibility.  When you want to teach them Everything, you can make the mistake of over-planning.  Having too much on their plates can kill a school year quicker than anything.

So make a list of all the things you want to teach them.  Then decide which are most important to you, most interesting to them, and if any are similar enough that you can choose one and still be covering the subject.  Before you ever take out your planner, narrow the list down 2 or 3 times.  Then, once you start filling that planner out and realize you’re going to be in school for 12 hours a day, narrow it down again.  Get your littles’ input.  It helps me to find out which of the chosen subjects the Littles would like to study most.  Because you want them to learn Everything, but this is supposed to be fun, right?  Because it’s easier to learn when the learning is fun.

If this didn’t help you at all, I hope that entering the chaos of my mind at least entertained you for a few minutes.  Lord knows it amuses the hell out of me.

And keep in mind, I always end up chucking at least one thing once the school year is in full swing.  I already told you–I’m a plan-a-holic.

Love wins,



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KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys.Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.
KT Brison
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About KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.
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  1. I’m totally going through this process right now, and I think I need to tattoo your statement on my arm, “Having too much on their plates can kill a school year quicker than anything” because I need to see it repeatedly through this process.

    For your science question of the day, do you come up with the questions or did you get them from somewhere? And I’d love to know the name of the Biology book you’re hoping to share with them.

    Thanks so much for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday this week!
    Tina at Mommynificent recently posted…A Winner at Booknificent Thursday Link Up Party #147My Profile

    • ktbrison@gmail.com

      I actually got the Science Question of the Day packet from Scholastic as an ebook. But making up my own sounds fun! Don’t give me more to do, Tina! lol The bio book is called Essentials of Biology (third edition) by Sylvia Mader and Michael Windelspecht. It’s published by McGraw Hill. And it really is awesome. Full of pics and diagrams. My oldest used it during his freshman year of college; he always passes his college books to us to use. 🙂

      Also, tats are totally in right now. I don’t think anyone would question it too much. Maybe we should get matchies, since sometimes I obviously forget, too. lol

  2. I am definitely like this also where I want to teach my sons everything! I love the Hirsch series and those are helpful in giving a direction for the year. It sounds like you have chosen amazing subjects and books! Thanks so much for sharing with #SocialButterflySunday! Hope to see you link up again this week 🙂
    Kelly @RaisingSamuels recently posted…ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review: Early Elementary K-3 Book OneMy Profile

    • ktbrison@gmail.com

      I’m trying, Kelly! It’s a struggle every year to cut some of those amazing subjects and books out. 🙂

  3. I like your list. However I have no idea how much of shakespeare can I teach, since I memorized everything when I was in school! #practicalmondays
    swapna recently posted…Art Studio Diaries: 10 Chapters (Practical Mondays #12)My Profile

    • ktbrison@gmail.com

      I started them out on Shakespeare-for-kids books. I think they’re totally ready. But I could end up being wrong and chucking it for another year!

  4. I love how you combine the disciplines. That’s really super smart.

    Thanks for this!

  5. Haha! Sounds just like me. I am always trying to cram way to much into our day and into our school year. There are so many wonderful things out there to learn about! I finally decided after years of driving myself nuts that we only HAVE to cover math, reading and some form form of language arts everyday; the rest we get to sprinkle in as we find something that excites us. That way I am free to plan out all those rabbit holes and not keep crossing out my plan book.
    Mother of 3 recently posted…Art Project #7: Jellyfish Scratch ArtMy Profile

    • ktbrison@gmail.com

      Much smarter approach. I would, however, get nothing done that way (that whole chaos thing). We would spend all day reading. Good fiction, but still… lol

  6. Sounds like good advice for homeschoolers.
    Thanks for sharing with #LetKidsbeKids
    Let kids be kids recently posted…Twin independenceMy Profile

  7. Great advice. I don’t homeschool myself so can only imagine how difficult it is! Sounds like you have a great plan in place 🙂

  8. This is such a great post, KT! It provides some perspective on what it takes to plan homeschooling. I love that you focus the material on what you want to teach as well as what your children are interested in. That’s such an important factor to remember! Thanks so much for sharing this with us on #shinebloghop

  9. Thank you for sharing your planning process! This is interesting to many on many fronts: I am a public school English teacher, so I can relate to having to plan a year of instruction. However, I’m newly married, and though we aren’t planning on children for a while, we’ve discussed homeschooling, so these very issues are things I’ve thought about. Plus, I MAY be teaching a couple different subjects at a homeschool co-op next year, so I’ve been thinking about the planning involved for that.

    And by the way, from an English teacher, your book list is fantastic!! 🙂

    • ktbrison@gmail.com

      Planning is a process not matter what type of educator has to do it, huh, Whitney? 🙂 I wish you luck with all you have going on. If you do decide to homeschool when the time comes, don’t forget there are a lot of bloggers out here willing to help you start your journey. I fully intend to still be around, so please stop by whenever you like. And thanks for the compliment on my reading list!

  10. Your method sounds fun, but a lot of work in planning, too! I know your children love the units you put together for them 🙂 Thanks for sharing your post at Together on Tuesdays!

    • ktbrison@gmail.com

      Thanks, Lisa. (Should I admit it is actually tons more work than I make it sound? lol Nah, don’t tell anybody I said that. Besides, you’re right, it is super fun!)

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