September Lesson Plans

September: Pixar in a Box, Anasazi Indians, Garden Lessons, Field Trips, Core Subjects, and Piano.

Computer Animation: Pixar in a Box

For beginning our year, I enjoyed starting with the Khan Academy’s Pixar in a Box collection because it was fun, technical, and the structure was already there. The familiar characters and the interactive lesson designs created a routine that the student was comfortable with and excited for.

One of the best aspects of homeschooling is the constant opportunity to reframe learning and studying as something fun.

Below are the lessons we covered during September 2016 of our school year, but this content is regularly updated with new videos and exercises.

Animation – Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.11.36 AM

Introduction to Particle Systems – Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.11.47 AM

Patterns – Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.11.58 AM

Building Crowds –

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.12.07 AM

Rigging – Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.12.16 AM

Virtual Cameras – Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.12.24 AM

We got super lucky, because the California Museum of Science happened to be exhibiting the Pixar in a Box.  A great aspect of homeschooling is getting to go out and have a tactile experience with the lessons that were just learned!

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.12.34 AM
When we finished our “Pixar in a Box” unit where Tegan (and I) learned about creating realistic water with particle systems, the math of generating crowds (combinatorics) and tons more, we celebrated with a visit to the current “Science Behind Pixar” exhibit at the California Science Center!


Pre-Columbian Societies: The Anasazi

Corresponding with the Social Sciences timeline for the state of California, we began our history lessons studying the Pre-Columbian Societies of the Southwest.


Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.12.43 AM

While I had initially borrowed a book from the children’s section of the library “Indians of the Southwest” the information in it was so general, that we really just used it as a reference guide for images.

  • The struggle and sheer accomplishment of surviving and thriving in the harsh landscape of the Southwest.
  • The advancements of the Anasazi society: irrigation, basket-making, solar calendar, tools, buildings, roads, and trade.
  • Types of housing
  • Religious ceremonies and importance of religion
  • Daily life
  • Time-span of society.


Instead we used The Anasazi: Riddles in Ruins article from National Geographic Vol. 162 No. 5 November 1982

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.13.05 AM

This PDF of the article is online here, but for access to the full article with photos you can subscribe to the National Geographic Archive here.

Her final project was a list of the distinct characteristics of each epoch to accompany an illustrated timeline.

Reading comprehension was a large part of this unit. This is what the reading ended up looking like after many hours of re-reading for comprehension.

(We went to the Anasazi Cultural Museum in November.)

We took a field trip to see The Lion King

This was awesome.  I paid for the balcony seats to save some bucks, and Tegan thinks those are the fanciest seats.  I tried to see Beauty and The Beast once in Orlando and it was so cheesy I had to leave before I threw up.  But this was spectacular, the puppetry, stage design, and costumes were great. I don’t understand the low-standard the US has now established for child actors, but Simba and Nala were grown before long.


Survival Skills: Tracking

Friends of mine have a beautiful piece of property up in the hills of Fallbrook, and they host events for the children – St. Martinmas Lantern Festival, May Day celebrations, and this month a Survival Skills course on tracking.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.39.01 AM
Tracked a young chicken. lol

The most lasting impressions from this excursion for Tegan was the ability to tell the difference between a track made by a dog-animal or a cat-animal.  Cats can retract their claws, so if you can see claw imprints above the pads of the toes, that’s a strong indication of it being made by a dog. You should have seen my face as I recoiled in horror when the tracker, Andrew, an extraordinarily talented fellow, picked up a piece of feces, smelled it, and declared “coyote with diarrhea.”

We brought home a chipmunk hide, with my original intention being to give it to my friend’s kid who has expressed interest in taxidermy, but Tegan fell in love with it, stuffed it with cotton, and named it Jimmy.


Piano Lessons: 

Using the Primer A and Primer B books from Bastien Piano Basics



Math: Khan Academy

Khan Academy is awesome for Math! It tracks each “skill” within the specified grade curriculum, and includes question problems and instructional videos for each topic. We at first my student would ONLY focus on the math if I was sitting right there with her, but eventually she got the hang of doing the work by herself and we attached goal incentives at the different percentages (ex: 85% complete) that kept her moving along.


Gardening: I thought gardening would be a really awesome experience for a child, to get used to working with soil and watching the results of tending to plants as they grew from seed to harvest.  It is really hot and inhospitable when you’re living in the desert regions of Southern California, so I wasn’t able to keep anything alive.  I’ve recently tried again with some major adjustments, but we did keep up the garden curriculum for a month during this school year.

We primarily worked with a journal/sketchbook style of note taking, and PBS offers a spectacular THINKGARDEN video library of gardening related topics.




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