Why I Love Family-Style Education
When homeschooling multiple children, juggling a variety of grades comes with a unique set of challenges. While certain subjects, like math, need to be completed according to grade level, there are many subjects that can successfully be completed as a family. Although we are in the early years of homeschooling (my girls are in kindergarten and preschool), I find myself gravitating toward family-style education for most subjects. We have enjoyed doing science, history, geography, social studies, and a wide range of unit studies together.
Last year, we used the Treehouse Schoolhouse nature study program and absolutely loved it. The curriculum is designed for preschool through upper middle school, and takes students through a year of seasonally-based nature study. For older students, it makes a great morning time or nature study. For preschoolers and kindergartners, it makes a fantastic core curriculum, which is how we used it.
How We Used Treehouse Schoolhouse
The curriculum is split into weekly units that cover a variety of seasonal topics. For example, the fall curriculum’s 13-week program includes apples, arachnids, the autumn equinox, pumpkins and corn, and changing leaves. Each unit incorporates a weekly poem, hand rhyme, folk song, book list (applicable for all ages), copywork, art study, worksheets, and experiments.p>
The science experiments are hands-on activities that are easy to do across a broad range of ages. In the apple unit, for example, students make an apple pie and taste a variety of apples, comparing flavors, textures, and colors. These activities are easy for older students to complete with light supervision and for younger students to do with the help of an adult. My girls particularly enjoyed the apple dissection activity. We cut open apples and separated and labeled the parts using the curriculum’s “Anatomy of an Apple Display Sheet.” We then dipped our dissected apples in ink and stamped them on paper to make fun designs.
Because my daughters were so young, we skipped the copywork sections and only used the parts of the curriculum that worked for their ages. I love that this curriculum will grow with us and we will be able to incorporate different elements as they grow older. My daughters particularly loved the poetry and hand rhymes. My older daughter began making up her own nature poems about whatever we were observing. We read so many poems last year that she began to understand the structure of a poem. The poems she made up were truly beautiful and even rhymed!
Treehouse Schoolhouse for Young Kids
When we started doing Treehouse Schoolhouse last year, my youngest was only one year old. However, she absolutely loved participating in the curriculum with her big sister. For her, the units served as an introduction to the various topics. When we completed the “Tracks and Scat” unit, she learned what animal tracks were. Ever since doing that unit nearly a year ago, she has become quick to notice any tracks we may pass, wanting to figure out which animal may have made them. The folk song that accompanied that unit is one she still sings regularly!
We did refer to some books from the non-fiction book list, but primarily focused on the fiction book list for each unit. The fiction books are educational in their own way, while telling beautiful stories—many of which my girls still talk about, even though we read them last year.
To make things even more fun for my young kids, I tried to add themed snacks for the various units. We didn’t do this for every unit, but I tried to do it as often as I could. For the apple unit, I made apple cinnamon rolls and frosted them to look like apples. During the birds of prey unit, I made owl snacks using crackers, cream cheese, and nuts. For the worms unit, I made dirt pudding with gummy worms. My girls loved eating the themed snacks that accompanied each lesson. A quick Pinterest search generates lots of themed snack ideas.
Incorporating Additional Subjects
Each week, I downloaded printables from Etsy or Teachers Pay Teachers to correspond with our Treehouse Schoolhouse unit. My daughters are starting to learn phonics, so I chose a letter of the week for each unit. For example, during the “winter birds” unit, I chose “C is for Cardinal” and printed a cardinal coloring sheet (hand-eye coordination), letter “C” traceable letters (handwriting and phonics), a cardinal playdough mat (art), anatomy of a cardinal sheet (science), and other bird worksheets. I was able to find themed math worksheets online (math is always more fun when there’s a cute themed worksheet!). I also looked up additional themed activities for preschool and kindergarten on Pinterest. I was able to find many free coloring sheets online that corresponded with our lesson. My older daughter completed the worksheets, while my youngest enjoyed the coloring sheets.
I also frequently found themed craft kits at my Hobby Lobby that corresponded with our lessons. All school year, I watched for activities to pair with our units. It was fun to gradually find activities and printables that fit perfectly with our learning objectives
Learning That Engages All The Senses
For most units, I added a field trip to make learning come alive for my young kids. When we learned about apples, we took a trip to a local apple orchard, picked apples, and drank apple cider. During our “birds of prey” unit, we joined a local homeschool class for an owl pellet dissection. When we learned about maple syrup, we visited a maple syrup farm to learn more about the syrup-making process. Other weeks, we took nature walks to hunt for nature treasures or animal tracks.
I firmly believe that field trips bring education to life. For my girls, learning about maple syrup wasn’t something to read about in a book, but became a means of engaging all their senses during the syrup-making process. It was something they could watch, hear the farmer talk about, touch (the maple trees), taste (we brought home some bottles of maple syrup to enjoy over pancakes), and even smell (the smell of the syrup, the smell of the woods on a chilly winter morning as we hiked up to the maple trees). I have found that my children remember things better when all their senses are engaged, as opposed to just reading books and doing worksheets at home.
Utilizing Hands-On Learning Activities
We loved the science experiments in each unit. We planted seeds in the spring, made moon dough for a “crater” experiment, did a “walking water” rainbow experiment to identify primary versus secondary colors, made our own bird nest, and so many other fun activities.
One of my daughters’ favorite activities was the pumpkin investigation last fall. We cut open a few pumpkins, separated and labeled the parts, and played with the fibrous strands, seeds, and flesh. I pulled out bowls and kitchen tools and let them “bake” little cakes using the inside of the pumpkins. They topped it off by decorating them with colorful sprinkles. It gave them a couple hours of imaginative, sensory play.
A Curriculum That Grows With Your Children
Last year, our education revolved around the Treehouse Schoolhouse nature study. It gave us a weekly theme for our education, guiding me towards activities, classes, printables, and field trips that corresponded with our learning objectives. My girls are young, but this curriculum is so rich and something I look forward to repeating with them for years to come, adding deeper layers as they grow.
Follow me on Instagram @chelsearmoore to follow along with our educational journey!
Photo credit: Images courtesy of author.
Chelsea is raising two little women in the Shenandoah Valley. She has a passion for health and wellness, writes about the importance of local food, and loves being a preschool mom.