La Paloma in the City

A JOURNEY FROM ROOTS THROUGH WINGS

What does "paloma" mean? It is the Spanish word for dove, and is fitting for our homeschool in many ways. First, it fits with our main principles of immersion with nature. The dove is a universal symbol of peace and love, and is depicted as a messenger in many religious and secular forms dating back to antiquity.

Our one and only star student, Isabella, has a mixed heritage from around the world, primarily focused on Spanish and Native American ancestry. Like magic, the puzzle pieces fit together: La Paloma ended up being a feminine word for an animal of flight in the language of her roots. ¡perfeccíon!

We are a tiny trio based in Seattle– carving our own small slice of the world one day at a time. Matt owns and operates a recording studio,

Maggie keeps the homefires burning, and Isabella is a sponge. Deals, promo codes, coupons, and giveaways are our best friends.

My daughter began life as a "normal" kid in a "normal" school and was promptly miserable. Kindergarten, first, and then second grades went by, and we finally decided to switch to an online school. 

 

Third grade was the beginning of our journey with K12, which was referred to as the Washington Virtual Academy, or WAVA for short. By the time fourth grade rolled around, we knew it was time to throw in the towel and go for broke on our own. Those five years of schooling taught us quite a lot about the difference between "school" and "education."

 

Our first official year of homeschooling, 4th grade, began in the only way I knew how– traditional schooling. Several subjects in a row, separated by some arbitrary length of time, repeated each day. You'd think after five years of this I would have known better, but fear and anxiety got the best of me and I truly thought this was the way it had to be done.

 

Eventually I started to learn there are different types of homeschooling, and in one way or another each one made sense to me. Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Classical.... what were we supposed to do? I found a great online quiz which helped me understand some of the different approaches and where I fit in on the scale (spoiler alert: I was pretty equally across the board!). The bottom line became more clear– it didn't matter what we did, as long as we did something. It didn't matter how qualified I was or wasn't, it only mattered that I cared and wanted what was best for my daughter.

 

After a few months, I felt comfortable letting go of the "everything everyday" method. I was having trouble keeping up with the daily toil and my daughter wasn't any better off than before. I decided to try a new method I referred to as "focused learning" where we'd tackle a new subject each day (seven subjects, seven days a week). I felt like this would allow us to really hone in on something without switching gears several times each day, and it seemed like the days would be relatively short if we only needed 2-4 hours. 

 

But soon we started to miss a day here and there and I'd be totally out of whack... doctor's appointment on Monday? But it's Math Monday! Now what do we do on Tuesday– the missed math or the assigned ELA? It wasn't long before the whole train derailed and I was pulling my hair out.

 

Finally, it dawned on me. My daughter needed to focus, and I needed to sit the eff down. I started to understand the simple harmony of "unschooling", but my "traditional" brain wasn't having it. I knew there was no chance my daughter would ever naturally want to learn fractions, no matter how many cakes we baked. I was (and am) convinced something would get left behind and I'd smack my forehead in 20 years and say "Dammit! I forgot all about prepositions!!"

 

So what's a girl to do? How could we be left-brained and right-brained at the same time? How could I give the complete freedom of unschooling and maintain the composition of a balanced schedule? My answer developed itself after several false starts and many long nights of researching curriculums and state standards. In the end, this is what we decided to do:

 

• Six core subjects: ELA, Literature, Writing, Math, Science, and History.

• Literature and Writing have ten master topics assigned which repeat yearly.

• ELA, Math, Science and History have approximately twenty master topics which run on a two-year cycle.

• The entire subject list is printed at the start of the school year and each week my daughter has the freedom to select which topic she wants to do. In the end we both know they will all get done, but it's her choice when, where, and how. (ELA and Literature tag-team on the same weeks).

• We focus on the chosen topic the entire week. Some days it's several hours, sometimes it's just a few minutes.

• After schoolwork has been completed, the remainder of the day is fully unstructured.

• Social Studies, Art, and Music is our sole focus on the weekends, so we incorporate a lot of cooking, baking, sewing, etc on those days.

• Each morning starts with about an hour of: breakfast, journal writing, book reading, and piano lesson (online at Hoffman Academy).

• We take a week off in the summer and again in winter to round out the year.

• If we're vacationing, we'll choose a topic which will travel well (writing for example), or perhaps link a science or history topic to our destination.

We do not use any pre-packaged curriculums. I've pieced together my favorite random workbooks, websites, and resources over the past few years and we rely on our own intellect, common sense, and curiosity to find what we need along the way, which is the entire point of unschooling. We take A LOT of field trips (anywhere from 10-20 days "out" each month) so we rely on museums, libraries, and nature to be co-teachers. We often can't find exactly what we're looking for, so we create it ourselves. Click above on Recommendations to see some of our favorite stuff, follow the Blog to read about our trips, and visit the Store to see what we've designed. 

So how does it all break down in the end? Well for our 5th and 6th grade years, this is our current strategy. Next time around for 7th and 8th grade we'll fine-tune and level-up many of these topics as needed.

Literature (1 yr):

Ancient Myths

Mystery / Drama

Science Fiction

Folk Tales / Fables

Legends

Historical Fiction

Modern Fiction

Misc Fiction

News Articles

Poetry

Writing (1 yr):

Narrative Storywriting x3

Research / Biography x3

Persuasive Review

Instructional How-to

Choose Your Own Adventure

Auto-Biography

English Language Arts (2 yrs):

Subjects, Predicates, Plurals

Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives

Verbs, Adverbs

Commas, Quotations

Apostrophes, Possessives

Prepositions, Synonyms, Antonyms

Abbreviations, Letter Writing

Prefixes, Suffixes

Figurative Language

Analogies, Idioms, Proverbs

Root Words, Homophones

Shade, Tone, Allusion

Summarizing

Compare vs Contrast

Fact vs Fiction

References, Citations

Note Taking

Math (2 yrs):

Place Value, Adding, Subtracting

Rounding, Estimating

Multiplication, Order of Operations

Fractions: Improper, Simplifying

Fractions: Adding, Subtracting

Fractions: Multiplying

Decimals

Percentages

Roman Numerals

Exponents, Square Root

Division

Ratios, Graphs

Distance, Weight, Volume

Money

Time

Perimeter, Area

Triangles, Angles

Probability

Science (2 yrs):

Humans: Reproduction, Disease

Humans: Organs, Senses

Animals: Food Web, Evolution

Animals: Kingdoms

Biomes, Ecosystems

Rocks, Minerals, Fossils

Volcanos, Earthquakes, Erosion

Oceans, Climate Change

Weather, Water Cycle

Atmosphere

Space

Aviation

Gravity, Motion

Magnetism, Electricity

Types of Energy

Matter, Temp, Pressure

Solutions, Density, Viscosity

Velocity, Mass, Acceleration

History (2 yrs):

Ancient Civilizations x2

Middle Ages

New World

Renaissance

World Leaders

Asian Cultures

African Cultures

American Colonies

Revolution

The World in the 1700s

Civil War

The World in the 1800s

Industrial Revolution x2

The World in the 1900s

World War I

World War II

Technology