A Week With Layers of Learning

Have you wondered what a week with Layers of Learning looks like?  Join us for a springtime week in our homeschool.  And if you aren’t familiar with the Layers of Learning curriculum, you might want to take a quick peek at our of Layers of Learning Curriculum Guide to learn more about the program.

Layers of Learning is flexible; it can be used any way that suits your family, but we use a Subject-of-the-Day schedule.

Besides our weekly subject rotation, we do daily work.  We do math, writing, and reading each day.  Some of my kids are also doing foreign languages, music lessons, and other elective classes.  You can read more about what resources we use in our homeschool and a more detailed view of a daily schedule in our homeschool here: A Day In Our Homeschool.  But for now, we’ll just look at what the Layers of Learning portion of our week is like.


On Mondays we do history.  This week we’re learning about the Exploration of the South Seas.

First, I look through the current unit and choose books.  I put these on hold at the library a week in advance or pull them off my shelf and put them in our book basket.

Then I choose the specific activities from Layers of Learning I want to do with my kids.  Today I decide we’re going to do a timeline and a narration of Exploring the South Seas.  I print the timeline squares and bring my iPad to the table.

My iPad with the Open Office App allows me to view Layers of Learning units. I can print the printables from the end of the unit and easily click on web links to view.

Introduction and Timeline

We start off by just reading the introduction to the unit out loud together.

Then we’re ready to do our timeline.  We have a long paper timeline on the wall in our schoolroom.  I used a roll of freezer paper, drew a straight thick black line the long way down the center and then divided it into time increments.  This year we’re studying the colonial period and we’re covering from roughly 1400 to 1800.

There is some overlap between periods because Layers of Learning covers history chronologically, but also topically.  For example the unit on Russia in Year Three discusses Russian history all the way from Peter the Great to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas in 1917.  But then we back up again and talk about other nations in the colonial period as well.  This is part of the reason why a timeline is so essential.

As the kids add things to the timeline we discuss them.  I act a little silly sometimes and do a bit of drama for them.  Today I tell them stories I know, like the time Captain Cook was shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef or the time our family went to the site where Captain Cook was killed in the Hawaiian Islands.  And then I ask them questions and let them talk about what they know.

Reading & Narration

Next I send my two high schoolers off to read more in History from DK, my fifth grader to read more in Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, and I read from Usborne Encyclopedia of World History with my 3rd grader, 1st grader, and preschooler.

Each of the kids then writes about what they read.  The older kids write at least one summary sentence for each paragraph from the topic in the Encyclopedia.  The younger kids draw a picture and then write about what they learned.  The youngest ones draw a picture, tell me what they learned, and I write down what they say.

Here is Isaac’s narration:

This week that was it for history.  Next week we’ll continue to learn about the South Seas.  We’re going to explore several websites about Captain Cook, which are linked to from the sidebars, draw our own map of a mysterious Southern Continent, use Captain Cook’s actual chart to follow his journeys across the South Seas, pasting on images from his voyages.  All through the two weeks the kids will also be reading library books on the topic during their reading time.  We also found a movie about Captain Cook from the library to view as a family.


Now it’s Tuesday – geography day.  We are studying Australia and New Zealand.

First, I looked through the unit and decided to do a map of each country and look at a few links that lead us to aboriginal art and a link or two to listen to the didgeridoo, a native Australian instrument, being played.  So I print a map for each kid from the printables at the end of the Layers unit.

We looked at our globe and our wall map of the world and found Australia and New Zealand.  Then I told the kids to use their atlases and color and add details to their maps.

Often we have a specific, directed map work, but this time I just wanted them pouring over the atlases while I led them in a discussion about Australia and then New Zealand since this is their first day learning about them.  I used lots of information from the unit sidebars and introduction and we all talked about what Australia and New Zealand are like while they colored.  All the while, the kids recalled facts about the countries that they already knew, not the least of which was that Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand.

As in history, I have three different levels of atlases for my kids.  The youngest kids use My First Atlas from Hammond and the middle grades kids use Student Atlas from DK.  Meanwhile my high schoolers use the World Atlas from DK.

Later this week (on Friday, our flex day) we’re planning to do an exploration on Aboriginal art, and next week we’re going to play a matching game with Australian animals and then each choose one to research and make a poster about.


We are just finishing up our study of rocks, and fossils are the last topic.  I started by looking over the Layers Curriculum and picking out an experiment on permineralization.

We read the fossil introduction from Layers of Learning and then made “sponge fossils.”

We don’t need to have our experimenting cover every fossil concept.  The rest of the things we need to learn about fossils will be covered in the various library books we picked out to read.

This experiment shows how once living material, like an animal bone, becomes filled with minerals.  In fact, the minerals replace the bone.  This is called permineralization.

Our sponges were soaked in Epsom Salt water.  The excess water was poured off, and then the sponges were left to dry for several days.  They became hard as a rock.  Real fossils also become rock as minerals replace the organic material.

The chemical name of Epsom Salts is Magnesium Sulfate (MgSO4).  We like to use the chemical names.    During the experiments I try to remember to say “Magnesium Sulfate” instead of just Epsom Salts.

We’ll read some books about fossils from the library this week.  My high school boys also read the “Geology: A Self Teaching Guide” this year for a full high school credit course.

We recently went on a field trip to Stonerose, a place in Washington State where you can search for your own fossils.  We also did a field trip to Emerald Creek National Park in Idaho where you can search for star garnets.

No, I don’t know why a place riddled with garnets is called “Emerald Creek.”  There are no emeralds as far as I know.

We came loaded up with gems and the boys decided mining is hard work.


Field trip ideas like these, which we call “expeditions” are in the Layers units as well, though often we do our field trips when they fit in our life and not when they fit in our curriculum.


Thursday is art day!  This week we’re learning about principles of art, including things like balance and proportion.  After we learn about the principles we practice with our own drawings.  Each of my kids, kindergarten through high school have the same assignment.  Today they are to focus on balance in their pictures as they draw a sketch of their choice in their sketchbooks.

Harrison is using a how to draw a picture of Captain Cook on the deck of his ship with an island in the background. This ties back in with what we are learning about in history this week.

We pull out the how-to-draw books, the colored pencils, crayons, sharpeners, and paints for the two youngest who insisted that they wanted paints.  They’re really into painting.

We don’t have a book from the library specifically about balance within art, so instead I pulled out several other library books from our history and science units and read them aloud to the kids while they drew, colored, and painted.  


Friday is our flex day.   The Layers of Learning Homeschool Curriculum includes four major subjects: History, Geography, Science, and Arts.  That means that if you do one subject a day through your week, you’ll have a flex day.   You might think it’s a do-nothing day, but in fact, it is the most important day in our homeschool.  It’s our day for field trips, homeschool friends, and catch up work.  But it is also an extra day for us to review what we’ve learned in our unit and throw in an extra exploration or two from a subject we enjoyed this week.

This Friday I decided to do an Aboriginal art project from the geography unit we did on Tuesday.  By the time we had finished with the maps on Tuesday our time for geography was up, but this project looked like fun.

A link from the sidebar of the unit led us to some real Aboriginal art.  We noticed how they use dots to make the shapes in the art.  They also used a lot of geometric patterns.  Then I gave each of the kids the printable kangaroo outline from the unit and they filled it in with dots. And even after our math, reading, and writing, we still had a whole glorious afternoon for reading books from our library basket.

And that’s it for our week using the Layers of Learning program.

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2 thoughts on “A Week With Layers of Learning”

  1. I just found you blog. I love how organised you are. I am new to homeschooling this year and you are a great inspiration. Thank you!

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