Not a Secular Curriculum: Bookshark

“Bookshark literature-based homeschool curriculum provides parents with engaging full-grade learning programs that offer unrivaled educational outcomes”

Source: Bookshark is Literature-Based Homeschool Curriculum | BookShark

I was a bit bummed this past weekend. I happened upon Bookshark, and thought, “Wow! This looks great – it’s Sonlight without the religion.” Then, I took a closer look.

Unfortunately, Bookshark’s history and science curriculum choices still present a problem. The science curriculum is “neutral” meaning they don’t touch upon evolution, climate change, the big bang theory, and other important scientific concepts that should be part of a comprehensive science curriculum.

The history choices contain strong Christian biases.

This means I’m still intent on creating my own history and science curricula for my kids, and I’m still toying with the idea of making this available to others, considering I’m putting it together anyway.

The difficulty in finding truly secular science and history resources – with ready-made lesson plans – is one I’m sure many secular homeschoolers face. Sure, I can put my own plan together, and that is pretty fun, but it’s also a lot of work.

So let me pose this question to you: If there were a secular equivalent of Bookshark/Sonlight/Timberdoodle, would you use it and prefer it to what’s already out there?


End of the Week Traditions in Homeschooling

Another week is done. What do you do to make it special? Do you think it’s important to mark the end of the week?

Most of our Fridays end with Princess Boogie’s violin lesson. A few others end with a class at our local zoo. We’ve started to add in a special treat each week: Taking the kids out for ice cream. Not only does it make a nice incentive for Miss 4 to be on task during her lesson, but it also marks a nice transition into our weekend time.

During the weekend, we don’t do lessons.

We still read books, head out for various enrichment activities, violin practice, and play to learn.

I’ve tried to be good about not working on the weekend. That’s easier said than done.

Instead, I try to save the weekends for family time. My husband does the same.

Ideas for making end of the weeks special

Wellness Mama, in her post “Reasons to Create Family Time Traditions (+Ideas)” points out that building a strong family culture is important. She gives a great list of ideas for family time – having a family game night, reading together, and art time are all great ideas for marking the end of the week.

A special dinner that focuses on kid-favorites might also be a nice marker for the end of the week.  In “Make the Most of Your Weekend” by Charlotte Latvala, she even suggests involving kids in meal preparation efforts on the weekend.

We also take advantage of free and low-cost family activities around town on the weekends. In fact, we’re lucky enough to have lots of family-friendly events going on in our city every weekend. I follow the local “On The Cheap” blog and check Facebook’s events for things we might be interested in.

Sunday mornings are for pancakes and sausage and sometimes bacon in our home. When my husband and I were first dating, this was something he did for himself, and I liked the tradition. I remember thinking “I want to have pancakes on Sunday!” So, he’s continued to make that breakfast for our Sunday mornings. Christie at Raising Whasians has some more fun tips for making family weekend breakfasts special.

The weekend doesn’t have to be the weekend

One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that it affords families the ability to be more flexible than they otherwise would be. Don’t be afraid to shift your family’s weekend to other days. It’s not so important the days we take off (in fact, many of your city’s local attractions will be less busy and possibly offer special deals during weekdays), as it is important that we take some time off each week.

How do you mark the weekend?

What sorts of things does your family do to make the weekend special? Do you have a special breakfast or dinner you like to have together? Do you have a diy or special art project you work on during the weekend? Do you break out the movies and junk food? Share your family’s traditions in the comments!

Penmanship Practice

How strict are you when it comes to sitting properly for penmanship practice? Princess Boogie, 4, is just learning how to write, so I haven’t been a stickler about having to be 100% about her posture (In fact, I’m not sure I was strict about it with College Boy, 19, either). Right now, it’s student-initiated. She wants to learn to write, but she’s also a wiggle worm. (The book is Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Level K – I’ll write more of a review of their products soon). So: Sit down feet firmly on the floor or kneel at the coffee table/wherever else she happens to be when working on her letters?

What Life Skills Are You Teaching Your Children?

My small ones love helping around the house with various tasks. Here they are, using the stud finder and measuring tape to “help” mount the television set in our master bedroom. What sorts of chores/tasks do you let children help with? Do you have a list of skills you’d like them to learn by the time they graduate and leave home?

Hello From a Secular Homeschooler in Wichita!

I figured that before I start writing about all sorts of homeschooling topics – finding secular curriculum, educational philosophy, etc. It would be best to start the journey here by introducing myself and talking a bit about my own personal homeschooling journey. First of all, I live in Kansas (I actually come from California), and I have 4 children – a 19 year old boy – “College Boy,” a 4 year old girl – “Princess Boogie,” a 2 year old boy – “Bubster 5000,” and an almost 1 year old girl – “Princess Ladybug.”

I never planned on being a homeschooling mom. I was homeschooled for part of my education and my younger brother was also homeschooled. Let’s just say that I knew very well what the pitfalls of homeschooling – even secular homeschooling – could be. So when I had my oldest, I had all kinds of visions for him of studying and first-day-of-school pictures, and birthday parties.

Then things changed.

Pretty quickly, it was clear that the public school environment wasn’t going to work. My breaking point was being told my kid was making himself a target for bullying. He didn’t return after that. I didn’t care that i was a grad student and I didn’t care that I was a single mom. I was going to make homeschooling work. Coincidentally, I’d also recently happened across The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. I did what any parent would do – I read every book about homeschooling I could get my hands on, but I kept coming back to the outline in The Well Trained Mind and the classical method.

When we started out, College Boy was barely reading – he was at a kindergarten level. By the time 3 months had passed, he was reading at an 8th grade level, and no longer was he sullen. He’d returned to his normal happy-go-lucky self and had an insatiable zest for learning.

Homeschooling Works; Secular Materials are Hard to Find

I taught College Boy at home from 2nd-7th grades. Then, I got sick. So, back to public school he went. Whereas he was “at risk” and behind when I pulled him out, he went back in and tested ahead. He went into the honors program, and kicked butt and took names and awards throughout the rest of his schooling career. He is now finishing his freshman year at his dream college.

The frustrating part of homeschooling for me wasn’t getting him to do his work. It was trying to find secular materials and/or materials that were easy to adapt to a secular context while still being academically rigorous. This was particularly the case with science and history materials. I will admit, though, that I did use Story of the World for our history curriculum, and I prefaced parts that were Christian mythology being treated as historical fact with that disclosure.

Latin presented another challenge, but we worked through it.

There were a few other places where I had a hard time – I bought an English curriculum once that made me really raise my eyebrows at it – even though the quality was great, the content was less than stellar.

The Younger Set

Now that College Boy is off at college, my husband and I have decided that the younger three kids will be homeschooled through high school. While College Boy did great when he went back, there were many things – academic and social – that we were not thrilled with about his experiences. For one, because he was in advanced classes, he had no time for socialization outside of class. For another, education in Kansas leaves a lot to be desired.

The other consideration has to do with the fact that before they turned 2, both Princess Boogie and Bubster 5000 had picked up their alphabet, counting to 10, and shapes, and for both counting to 20 and colors came shortly after their 2nd birthdays. In addition, Princess Boogie seems to have some neuro-differences that just would not be accommodated well in a traditional classroom environment. Princess Ladybug was born on the earlier side of things, and she’s hit developmental milestones a little later than the others.

Why I Started This Blog

As I move into more academics with Princess Boogie and try to find activities to occupy Bubster 5000 while she’s learning, I’m running into some walls where many things – from lesson planning spreadsheet templates to early childhood activity ideas are colored with Christianity, Christian themes, and suggestions for bible study. I wanted to create a place where parents from all backgrounds can find resources for educating their children – free from religious bias.

A Little Bit About Me

I’ve been working as an editorial consultant for 10 years. Prior to that, I was studying to get a Ph.D. in philosophy (I decided not to finish that degree for a variety of reasons). I am married to a librarian, and we’re quite the bibliophiles. I am a progressive Methodist and he is agnostic. I spent most of my adult life and all of my teen years as an agnostic person while exploring a variety of religions – paganism, Judaism, Buddhism, and settling on Christianity. I believe that children should be allowed the freedom to explore their own spiritual path, and that ethics are independent of religion.

Hello! Welcome! Stay a While. If you’re so inclined, please introduce yourself in the comments and say “hi” and what challenges you’ve faced.