Saturday, January 19, 2013

Our Blended Social Studies

Social Studies.  There are so many methods and curriculum to study history and social studies.  How do we chose one, or two? Do we need curriculum at all? 

When we suddenly began homeschooling last year, mid school year, my initial plan was to continue the curriculum from Amber's parochial school. However, it was immediately apparent that their social studies curriculum was not viable. That left me in a panic since I really wasn't prepared to select curriculum, I barely felt ready to homeschool. 

After several attempts to find a social studies curriculum that is interesting, at Amber's level, and not the same few topics that she has covered year after year in parochial school, we have come to realize such a curriculum doesn't exist. Honestly, we find many that have pieces we like, but nothing to satisfy all requirements. 

Eventually, out of desperation to just choose something, I purchased Alpha Omega's Lifepac for 5th grade so that we could try to get a head start on a very long list of topics Amber's schools had yet to cover.  The Lifepac is simply factual and gave us a good start to homeschooling. We needed to supplement quite a bit, but it was an appropriate choice for the situation.
Historical field trips are the bright spot of our Social Studies
This year for 5th grade I went with BJU Heritage Studies supplemented by the unfinished Lifepac. BJU has activities and is more of a social studies curriculum than the straight history Lifepac, but BJU lacks in specifics that I think are important.  We've done merely alright this year with the combination. Amber still prefers the Lifepac and is not at all enamored with the BJU workbook. It's a theme for this year. She is moving away from workbooks and would rather discuss her lesson. 

Amber has read quite a few historical fiction books this year and they peaked her interest in history more than either curriculum.   The Royal Diaries series, fictional diary books of royal women / girls in history, have often been part of Amber's personal reading. They are quick one hour reads that Amber enjoys immensely, often asking me to tell her about that time in history.  Thankfully, she's always asked about periods I'm well versed in.  When we were studying WWI and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Amber remembered seeing a Royal Diary on Anastasia at the library. She had originally passed up the book because she "didn't know that person". It turned out to be one of her favorite Royal Diaries.

We added timeline work to her daily Social Studies assignments
We have found, through it all, that Amber actually learns more from living books and even encyclopedias than from textbooks. Someday, I'll learn to actually go with my gut feeling instead of buying expensive curriculum. While we are going to use a different and more classical route for the 6th grade study of ancient times, the pairing this year seems to have been a good solution that allowed Amber to catch up on history periods that her previous schools missed.  It's not a pairing that will be for everyone, or anyone else, but it is getting us through a hole in Amber's historical education.
Homeschooling Hearts & Minds Virtual Curriculum Fair Button

This post is part of the January 2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair.  Please visit the other participants to see all of their Social Studies related curriculum plans and ideas.

Exploring Eastern Cultures with Sonlight by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Cell Unit Study - Mitochondria and Energy by Julie @ Highhill Education
Our Blended Social Studies by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair-Exploring Our World: Social Studies and more Science by Leah C @ As We Walk Along the Road
Exploring Canada by Annette @ A Net In Time
Project Passport: The Middle Ages by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings
Virtual Curriculum Fair- Exploring Our World by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me
Our Absolutely Positively Favorite History Curriculum Ever by Wendy @ Homeschooling Blessings
Science: learning to use what you are given by Piwi Mama @ Learning & Growing the Piwi Way
Historical Significance by Kristi @ The Potter’s Hand Academy
How We Are Exploring Our World as Homechoolers by Laura O in AK @ Day by Day in Our World
VCF:  Week 3 The Social Sciences by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
A Trip Around the World:  Homeschool-Style by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun
Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Exploring Our World: Biology by Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool Virtual Curriculum Fair: Learning about our World  by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Science is Cool by TechWife @ Playground of Words


  1. I just found the Royal Diaries at our local used bookstore! Although my daughter is slightly older than Amber, I thought they'd be good, quick, easy reads for her to get an idea about the people behind the facts. I'm so glad Amber enjoys them!

    If you're looking for a good living books classical history curriculum, and you haven't gotten one picked out yet, definitely check out Tapestry of Grace. We had to take a break from it this year, and everyone is chomping at the bit to get back to it next year!

    1. The Royal Diaries are really beneath Amber's reading level as well, but she finds them interesting and enjoys them anyway. It's like an adult reading Harry Potter. I hope your daughter enjoys them too.

      Thanks for the TOG recommendation. I think we are actually going to use a do-it-yourself method for next year, but it's good to have recommendations of other ideas too.

  2. The do-it-yourself method can be a great way to come up with a custom tailored education. I think part of what you are experiencing with Amber is that right around the 5ht-6th grade kids make a cognitive leap, they leave the "grammar" stage and start making more connections on their own. My son went through this same thing right around the middle of 5th grade. It's not at all surprising that she wants to discuss more rather than fill out workbooks---she's a sharp cookie! I hope you enjoy the journey!

    Thank you for joining the Virtual Curriculum Fair!

  3. I enjoyed reading about Amber - I homeschool an "only" as well!