New School Year

Hello everybody, another September is upon us!

I figure many of you are getting into the swing of the new school year about now, so I thought it would be fun to check in and get some updates about how things are going and what you are excited about this year.

Anyone have something you’d like to share about classes you are taking or teaching, new books/resources/curricula you are trying out, new co-op or church situations you are navigating?

My youngest and I are doing Sonlight Core D which is mostly life science to begin with. She likes songs, so she enjoys the Lyrical Life component.

My older two (5th and 7th grade) are doing Hewitt Conceptual Physical Science Explorations. This is a little more of a challenge for me, since I’ve never actually taken a physics class. It wasn’t required at my high school (I took two years of chemistry instead) and in college I took two biology courses to meet my gen eds. For the first time, I paid for them to have access to on-line instruction, though in this case, it is just videos and reading quizzes, not anything interactive with a teacher. But it is nice to have someone who knows what they are talking about doing demonstrations and explaining things in addition to me reading the text book with them and muddling through the activities and questions.

I got a bunch of supplies while we were in the States over the summer so we can do the labs, so I’m looking forward to that. It is the first year we are moving beyond the kind of labs that basically only use things you find in your kitchen/junk drawer or buy at a hardware store. I have an adventure scheduled for a couple weeks from now where I will attempt to procure lab chemicals here in Mexico. (At least the ones that I could not bring back on a plane because they are caustic or flammable.) Supposedly you can get many of them at a medical supply store where med students have to go to purchase their own lab supplies. We have been there once before to get borax and boric acid to deal with fleas and cockroaches. However, getting straight what I want in Spanish and the quantities I want them in will be a cultural adventure, especially considering I don’t really know what I’m doing or why I want which things, I’m just following a list made for teachers who are supposed to have some sense of what things are. Oh, the things we do for our kids’ education!


Wow, that does sound like quite an adventure! I would imagine the language difference does add an extra bit of confusion there. Hope you are able to find everything you need. :relaxed:

I’m still very much at the beginning of the journey – today was our first “real” day of “real” school since my almost-5-year-old is starting kindergarten. Preschool was very relaxed, so now we’re actually going to be doing it more regularly and going by a basic schedule (that’s the plan anyway!). I think it went well. No one melted down, and I think he was able to focus well. I want to minimize “desk time” at this age, but he did well with things like handwriting and math that required oversight on my part. So that was the first day. Here’s hoping the second goes well too. :smiley:

I’m actually pretty excited about the kindergarten curriculum (Sonlight), because there are still quite a few “fun” elements like simple science demonstrations, reading fun poetry together, and some great read-alouds. The key will be to make sure that my enthusiasm/zeal does not translate into inflexibility about things (that can happen).


Do they still have Here’s a Penny? I think we ended up reading about eight Carolyn Haywood books that year because my kids loved Penny and Betsy.

School has begun in our house too and we’ve started another year of Classical Conversations. Our oldest is in Chall A and the other two are continuing with Foundations and Essentials. For a variety of reasons, this will likely be our only year doing Chall before we move on to something else. I’m curious about the other families here who have Chall kids…are you doing CC this year or, if not, what direction are you going?

For science, Chall A has three 9-week units. During the first 9 weeks, they have a different area of science each week in which they choose a topic to research and write a 5 paragraph report. To me, this is more of a writing/research skills assignment than actual science. The second unit is doing a science fair project. The third unit is anatomy - they learn to draw & label various body systems as well as learning definitions of each part.

We are supplementing with Prentice Hall Science Explorers which is a great middle school level science program. There are a total of 16 books (slim textbooks…you would typically cover ~5 books/year for a middle schooler). My son started these part way through 4th grade and has 3 more books to complete. Our middle child is now in 4th grade, so she’ll do the same 3 books along with him (I just won’t have the same expectations of her). This will beef up our 7th graders Chall A science to something more adequate. Then he’ll probably do biology next year. So I’d love tips on high school bio!


We will start in a couple weeks. We bought a house this summer, a “fixer-upper,” that has competed agressivly for my time.
I think I have made and am comfortable with my final decisions on curriculum and how I intend to approach each subject. There’s so much to do with my 2nd grader! Reading and writing, when broken down into specific parts are so much more than just reading-and-writing! Fortunately, I feel like science is covered, we are sticking with Real Science-4-kids and starting the year with a few weeks of geology followed by astronomy! That will be a fun time where we can reflect on the eclipse.
I have been realy struggling with and have been very anxious concerning the new Sunday school year. New teacher and new curriculum with a heavy emphasis toward “humans can’t come from monkeys.” I admit that is better left for another discussion, I’m just so anxious, it makes me want to leave church early and not do Sunday school. I include this because it is part of the “big picture” of my everyday concerns while I prepare for our school year.


How old are your kids in these classes? Praying for grace and wisdom for you and the family as you decide how to handle it.

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Thanks you for asking and for prayers. They are 5y and 7y.

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Sorry. :-/ Does your church use Answers in Genesis curriculum? That’s what mine uses… I don’t think it’s been an issue for the pre-K/K level, but in the next level (next year for us) I’m a bit nervous about what direction it will take and also about the attitude of the teacher. So I totally understand why you’d feel that way. Have you tried to talk to your kids beforehand to give them a head’s up about conflicting views, or are you just going to take it as it comes? That can be hard for kids that age to navigate, even if they’re told it’s coming.

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Yes. :slight_smile: I’m using a “used” package from a few years ago, but that one is included. I didn’t realize she’d written that many others! I really like the simplicity and fun of those stories. Although I know I’ll have to have a conversation about adoption when we read it (the way it’s described in those times is very “closed,” and different than it’s typically done now), so I’m not sure whether my almost-5-year-old will be ready for that this year or not.

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Thank you for asking. I made up a couple of “lessons” for science last year about our view and acknowledged the opposing views after my oldest was affected by the YEC teachings in Awanas. I have been plotting out in my mind how to bring it up again this week before Sunday school. I talked to the teacher and he offered the book to me to look at and read for myself, which was quite nice. It is part of a curriculum on the whole Bible used by the John McArthur church in California where the teacher attended in previous years (if I remember correctly). I accepted the offer, and thus, know what this week’s lesson is. I have been thinking that I could tell my kids ahead of time what they’ll be told. Not just tell them that it is coming, but sort of pre-teach the lesson, and then maybe they’ll be impress that Mom knew what was coming and I’d gain credibility, lol. I just don’t quite know how heavily the teacher intends to emphasize things, and if they are going to go the familiar route of getting the kids to believe the exaggeration that if a person believes in evolution, they are and evil atheist,
Our church is tiny, there are only 4 kids in the whole church old enough for Sunday school (welcome to Utah), so my youngest is in the class with the rest. The teacher’s attitude seems to be- this is what we believe and, uncompromisingly, even unaccommodating, this is what we will teach. Sigh That’s to be expected, It’s not that I want a compromise, I tried to tell the teacher my concern without asking him to compromise teaching “what the Bible says.” The best I could come up with is: “I don’t like it when the other views are vilified.” Since then, I’ve thought I am bothered when teaching goes extra Biblical. Teach what the Bible says, but to me it’s out of bounds when they teach conclusions based on philosophies. Those conclusions are taught as fact while excluding actual facts, and tangible, real-life evidences.
Good topic, huh? One that comes up regularly. I don’t want to distract from the original topic for too long, so, how is everyone else’s planning going? I hope others find time to share.


I hope you’ll forgive my intrusion as a teacher who didn’t homeschool my own kids (though they went K-12 at the school where I teach --does that count for anything?)

In any case, your comment about your child’s small Sunday School caught my attention. At the private Christian school where I teach we have two imperatives for our mission statement: To educate in truth and righteousness … and to do so as an extension of the Christian home. I.e. our school is very deliberate about recognizing the preeminent authority and responsibility that parents retain regarding their own children even as they enlist our help to educate them.

It occurs to me that such a philosophy could be a breath of fresh air if it were adopted by some Sunday school teachers such as the one you mention. I doubt you are really ceding complete authority to that teacher to put anything they want in front of your child in total disregard of your own wishes. I know with a small church and maybe not many other choices around, you might feel like you need to make it work. But I would say there is some onus on that teacher too to “make it work” regarding what you want for your child. They no doubt feel that what they have to teach is true and vitally important -there is something to be said for that. I’ve been on both sides of this. I hope all this amounts to a gentle way to suggest that you are right to assert yourself regarding your own.


I have not had the experience of dealing with people that are really militant, but my kids have been in classrooms where young earth Bible curriculum was taught. As respectfully as I could I told the teachers that it was not what we taught them at home, and I would appreciate it if they would present the science part as what they believed and avoid saying things like “everyone who doesn’t believe this is an atheist/unbeliever/compromised Christian/person who rejects the authority of the Bible/etc.” because when they say things like that, they are effectively telling my kids their parents aren’t Christians, and that is confusing to a child. I felt like most people were genuinely surprised to find out that what they were teaching was not a universal Christian position.

Maybe there is not much doctrinal diversity in your church, but if you can think of some issue where people in your church agree to disagree (whether it’s re-marriage after divorce, or Christians in the military, or whether prophesies have ceased) and point out that if a Sunday School teacher decided to make a big issue out of remarried people being adulterers if some of the kids in the class had step-parents, that would be out of line. And making a big deal about people who accept evolution or ancient earth being heretics when kids in the class have parents who do, pretty much feels the same way. I have found that if you can frame things not in terms of who is ultimately right or wrong, but in terms of protecting young kids who are very black and white thinkers from hearing that their parents are evil, people are receptive. No one wants to traumatize a child, you would hope.


Well said! Thank you! I will practice that in my mind and hope to be ready to say that in my own words- if the Lord provides opportunity, Sunday.

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We have started school, but I haven’t purchased a science curriculum yet… :sweat: We do take monthly science classes at both the botanical gardens and the children’s museum, and they’ve had the first class of the year for both of those. I’m thinking of going with Sonlight. I was thinking about cobbling a curriculum together by myself but that seems like, well, a lot of work, especially with rehabbing a house for which 'fixer-upper" is a kind euphemism :slight_smile: To be honest, I am not really a “science” person, which is funny, considering I’m here. It was never my favorite subject in school, and though I’ve enjoyed reading about “big picture” science as an adult, and since I became a Christian, reading about and pondering how God created and the wonder of creation, I’m still a writer and artist at heart. But now, reading back over that, I guess I am kind of a science person, in as far as it relates to God and the beauty of creation… I just get bored with the nuts and bolts stuff, and I absolutely loathed subjects such as chemistry (reflected in my barely passing grades). Sooo… all that’s to say I get much more excited about choosing the read-alouds we’re doing for the year than I do picking a science curriculum. BUT my oldest often says he wants to be a veterinarian, zoologist or biologist of some kind, so I know I’ve gotta get in the game! He’s in 2nd grade this year, and years past we’ve read a lot of science books and done some experiments, and last year we used “Science Notebooks”, but I feel we need something a bit more intensive this year.

Charlene, try not to be too apprehensive about the Sunday school situation! As Christy said, some people are just genuinely surprised that YEC is not a universal Christian perspective and will be accommodating once you speak with them. We do house church with a couple whom we adore and who are very adamantly YEC. When we first revealed we were open to evolution and didn’t find it incongruous with regarding the Bible as the inspired and holy word of God (well, actually, I’m open to evolution… my husband is less so, but still believes in at least an old earth), we had a pretty heated debate. But we have become even closer friends with them since then. As long as the focus is on our love of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, a lot can be overcome. Satan delights in dividing people. We and our friends both learned a lot from our “debate” and our friendship in general - they don’t automatically think people who accept evolution are heretics or atheists, and my own prejudices have faded as well. I used to think it was really important that people did not interpret Genesis literally and accepted scientific proof for evolution, but that has dimmed in importance for me. If it does get contentious, you might reassure her that you believe the same things in essential matters like the lordship of Jesus :slight_smile:

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Well, big changes are ahead for my family this year. After a very rocky past several years (it’s a long, convoluted story that I won’t elaborate on here, but I was unemployed for almost all of 2013, and we’ve been slowly getting “back on our feet” since then), I was recently offered a sort of dream job. I’ll be working as a cartographer in Wiesbaden, Germany. We expect to be moving there in the coming weeks.

My son is now in eighth grade, and I went through the summer expecting that we would not be doing Classical Conversations Challenge B this year. I told my wife we didn’t have the money for it, I tried to steer us to at least considering joining a Schole Group, and I geared up for a year of catching up on some things that I felt fell by the wayside as Soren was doing Challenge A last year.

When the opportunity to go to Germany first came up in August, I quickly learned that there is a CC group based in Wiesbaden with an open spot in Challenge B. I was actually really excited about this, as I figured that the benefits of my wife and son being able to rapidly connect with a group of like-minded friends would more than offset the few concerns I have about CC’s curriculum. And it will be much less expensive, because the German government doesn’t allow the tutors to take the payment they receive in the U.S. So we are planning to join the group when we arrive.

In the meantime, my wife and son have been attending a local CC group (she obtained funding through outside sources). I wasn’t in favor of this, as I thought it would be better to focus on preparing for our move, catching up on the “by the wayside” activities, and having Soren work a lot on learning German, which he had dabbled with several years ago. But my wife was concerned about him falling behind with the CC curriculum if he wasn’t in it from the start.

Regarding science in Challenge B, he has been learning about a famous scientist each week (Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, and Banneker so far). As Lisa commented regarding Challenge A, this is really not in-depth science study, though I think there is still value in it. I believe that later in the year he is supposed to participate in a Science Fair, but I don’t know the details of that. I’m still trying to push for him to work through the Earth Science textbook he has, but there’s only so much I can do with that in the limited time I have available.

In one of the strands, the kids will be assigned to read and discuss Phillip Johnson’s Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. I haven’t read it yet, but Lisa previously wrote this regarding the book:

I’ll likely try to read through it before Soren does and then decide how I want to deal with it when it comes up this year. I’ve thought about agreeing only to have him read the book if we agree to also read and discuss the Haarsma’s Origins. And I’ve also thought of “putting down my foot” (not really my style) and saying, “he is not going to read that.” What I don’t want is a replay of last year, when I was so exasperated by It Couldn’t Just Happen but didn’t have the time and energy to address all the insidious nonsense it was conveying, and so ended up mostly just stewing about it.

I’ve considered contacting the Challenge B tutor in Wiesbaden and gently trying to let her know that I’m not on board with the anti-evolution ideology in CC and feel out her perspective on in, but I’m concerned that if she is adamantly anti-evolution, this may set the relationship off on a bad note for the whole family. Does anyone have any thoughts on that?

So, this is shaping up to be a very interesting year for us. In the vein of things to be excited about, Soren’s top interest is military history, and we should have ample opportunity for field trips this year.


Cartography, wow! I’m very curious about what this entails as in CC, we parents often lament our kids map drawing skills but remind ourselves, “he’s not going to be a cartographer anyway!” But now that I think of it, I did briefly dabble in some modern day cartography back when I was a programmer (using some tools from Esri), although it’s probably even changed a lot since then (15+ years ago).

With regards to your new Chall B group, maybe you could contact the tutor and just ask if they have a variety of views on origins in their group or if it’s fairly uniform. You could mention that your view is somewhat different than what you encountered in the Chall A books. I always hear that Europe tends not to be as steeped in YEC as the US but this obviously depends on who is in the CC group. Defeating Darwinism doesn’t focus on YEC, it’s more about ID but it’s still completely anti-evolutionary. If you read the first chapter (or maybe its the introduction), he tells a little story about a Christian who thinks he can combine evolution with the Scriptures…that will give you an idea of what to expect.

For us, I’ve been really happy with how our tutor handled It Couldn’t Just Happen. She’s allowing parents to pick an alternate resource to read/summarize and then they share what they learned in class and work on the catechism (which I don’t like, but it’s easy to address the few questions/answers that I disagree with). I was really concerned about how I was going to find time to undo what he was reading in ICJH, so this really was an answer to prayer. We still do talk about the issues but it doesn’t have to be an every week debrief.

I feel like my son has gotten into a groove and is able to complete all (or most) of the Chall A work in addition to the other work I’m supplementing with. I just don’t know that he and I could make it work in the future, as each Chall level becomes more intense and the work I’d be adding in would be full high school courses. I want him to still have some free time!