Curriculum 2016-2017

Here’s the plan for 2016-2017!

General for 2016-2017, 5th and 7th grades:
  • This is the first year we’re using a detailed student planner with specific assignments to be completed for the week.  In the past, it’s been a bit more fluid.
  • About 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent in structured time doing core subjects (math, language arts, literature, alternating some other subjects)
  • The rest of the time is spent loosely pursuing everything else.  This varies but usually includes fine arts, history, science, co-ops, friend time, field trips, etc.
Language Arts:
Literature:
  • Reading lists are developed collaboratively with the boys.  I pull a bunch of ideas (from Google searches, friends, etc.) and they select their top choices (I probably insist on a few!)
  • 7th grader’s reading list:  Leviathan; Dragon’s Blood: The Pit Dragon Chronicles; The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm; The Giver (with lit guide); Jacob Have I Loved; From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiller; The Dark is Rising; Holes (lit guide); Sounder; Julie of the Wolves; The Book Thief; Inkheart; The Graveyard Book
  • 5th grader’s reading list: My Side of the Mountain, On the Far Side of the Mountain, Nim’s Island, The Twenty-One Balloons (lit guide), The Indian in the Cupboard; Cricket in Times Square (lit guide); The Phantom Tollbooth; Kit’s Wilderness; Peak; Hatchet (lit guide); The Secret Garden; The Island of the Blue Dolphins; From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil; Time Stops for No Mouse; The Pepins and Their Problems; Ranger’s Apprentice
  • For literature study:  Literature guides as noted from Progeny Press or Teachers Pay Teachers , keeping lists of words to be looked up, discussion, and/or BookAdventure.com quizzes.
Math:
  • Both are doing Teaching Textbooks this year for the first time.  I have no plans to keep my 7th grader (doing Pre-Algebra currently) in it, but I’m keeping it as a holding pattern for one year until he’s in 8th grade for Algebra.  My 5th grader is a bit math phobic, so we’re trying it out to see what he thinks.
  • Times Tales (5th)
  • Monster Math Flash Cards App (5th)
Science:
This subject is a bit hodge podge for us, though we do spend a lot of time on it!

World History / Geography:
Fine Arts / Electives:
PE / Health:
  • 7th grader is learning to cook, signed up for a YMCA FAST class, and wants a FitBit
  • 5th grader does a lot of dancing with his theater group, is thinking about taking a separate dancing class, plays Pokemon Go and wants a FitBit
  • As a family, we’re hoping to get out kayaking more this year!

If only we had more time, I’d love to include the following as well.  I tend to pick a focus area for each year or semester (this year’s is literature), so perhaps these can be included someday!

  • Journaling
  • Something better for a PE type of experience
  • Prodigy Math for math review and reinforcement
  • Band or orchestra for my non-theater kid
  • Foreign language
  • Texas history
  • Critical thinking skills

 

Curriculum 2015-2016

Here’s the plan for 2015-2016!

General for 2015-2016, 4th grade and 6th Grade:
  • The boys use a very simple spiral system for their assignment list, tracking, planning, book list, etc.
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent in structured time doing core subjects (math, language arts, literature, alternating some other subjects)
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent loosely pursuing everything else (fine arts, history, science, critical thinking, playgroups, co-ops, etc.).
  • The rest of the time we play with friends, catch up, go on field trips, and have fun!
Language Arts:
Literature:
Math:
Science:

World History / Geography:
Fine Arts / Electives:
PE / Health:
  • 6th grader is learning to cook and designed his own workout program including treadmill and weights
  • 4th grader is considering trying out gymnastics

Curriculum 2013-2014

Here’s the plan for 2013-2014!

General for Fall 2012, 2nd Grade (Bear) and 4th Grade (Fuzzy):
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent in structured time doing core subjects (math, reading, writing)
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent loosely pursuing everything else (fine arts, history, science, critical thinking, playgroups, co-ops, etc.).
  • The rest of the time we go to therapy, catch up, go on field trips, and have fun!
Language Arts:
Literature:
Math:
Bible:
Science:
World History / Geography:
Fine Arts:
PE:
  • Co-op classes
  • Lots of outdoor play
Other:

 

Why We’re Moving

"Priorities" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

UPDATE 9/2016:  My faith life has changed drastically since I wrote this post!  I’m leaving it here for posterity’s sake.  As far as what the changes are, I’m not ready to write about that yet!

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I have been really hesitant to write this post because I feel it could come across “holier than thou”.  I really only mean the things in this post as it pertains to me.  All sorts of people are called to all sorts of places in their lives and it’s certainly not up to me to judge whether they’re “right” or not.

A few years ago in my small Christian group we read a book called Crazy Love.  It inspired me in a lot of ways to reevaluate my priorities (my husband is obviously going along with all this too, but I’ll let him speak for himself if he wishes).  I realized I had gotten caught up in a “more is better” mentality somewhat.  A bigger house, nicer stuff, better vacations, etc etc etc.

If I may say so myself, I definitely wasn’t extreme about it.  I set a budget, I tithed like I’m “supposed” to, I was still a budget conscious person of course, and I lived within my means.  However, as my means grew, so did my wants.

Crazy Love called all that into question for me.  It made me think about how much God really does love me and absolutely loves everybody else too.  It made me think about how little value our things on Earth have and how important people are.  It also made me realize how incredibly much I have been blessed with and that perhaps I’m not using it all to the full advantage of helping other people as I could.

So I took a look around my life and really thought about what I needed.  I decided that I could easily live in a smaller home and with less stuff.

This is a process that’s still evolving in my life.  I certainly have no plans like the author to sell everything and take off to India.  It is hard to know “where to draw the line”.  All I can do is pray about it and try to listen for the answer.

 

Save

Liberal Faith

UPDATE 9/2016:  My faith life has changed drastically since I wrote this post!  I’m leaving it here for posterity’s sake.  As far as what the changes are, I’m not ready to write about that yet!

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Warning, this post is about religion and politics!  Feel free to leave now.  :)   My “About Me” page has this statement:  “I’m a Christian but my politics decidedly lean to the left.  I am opposed to theocratic laws.”

I haven’t written much about my faith up until this point.  First, yes, I really am a Christian despite what many fellow Christians may think after reading this entry.  To me, being a Christian means believing this core belief:  Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He died on a cross for our sins, rose from the dead, and through this belief we can be reconciled to God and go to Heaven one day.  (As far as how on Earth I can believe this crazy sounding thing, well, that’s a different entry for another day!)

My faith life tends to get controversial to many people through things outside of this core belief.  I honestly don’t know why people get SO upset over things outside of this core belief.  Almost every Christian I know considers this core belief the most important thing, really the only thing that matters most of them will say.  So why are there such great arguments over all these “other” things?  Anyway, here are my other beliefs.

I don’t believe you have to accept Christ into your life before you die here on Earth.  Many Christians believe our life here is the start of our eternal life – well, so do I, so why can’t that acceptance of Christ come at any point, including after we die on Earth?  God is the creator of the Universe and He is also said to love each and every one of us more than we love our own children.  Well, be assured there is nothing my kids could ever do such that I would condone eternal torture for them.  And God’s love is far more perfect than my own, so I don’t believe anybody goes to hell.

I also don’t believe the Bible literally.  The majority of the Old Testament is pretty unbelievable to me to be honest if I had to take it literally.  I believe in evolution.  I don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve, the story of Exodus as written, King David if he existed at all was probably a tribal leader, not a grand King as portrayed in the Bible.  I do believe these Old Testament stories are there for a reason and we need to put them in the historical context in which they were written to get meaning from them for our lives today.

The New Testament I take somewhat more literally, but since the Old Testament isn’t literal, then I don’t automatically believe everything in the New Testament is literal.

Here’s the thing about taking the Bible literally:  I’m not so sure how important it is to debate this to death.  It is quite interesting to ponder and if it’s the type of thing that will be meaningful to me in Heaven, then it will be great to find out.  I think it’s more important to understand the message being conveyed rather than how literally true the story is or not.

I don’t believe in theocratic laws.  So this means a whole slew of things that Christians typically support I don’t support.  I do not support prayer in public schools.  I support same sex marriage.  I think the word “God” should be removed from our money, court houses, pledge of allegiance, and any public place that taxpayers paid for.

The reason I am so against theocratic laws is because I believe the freedom of religion is extremely important.  Right now in the USA Christians are the majority religion.  That may not be true someday.  Let’s pretend a religion that worships the Cylons (Battlestar Galactica fans anyone?) becomes the majority religion one day.  Do you really want a Cylon in the pledge of allegiance, on all the money, in a school prayer every day, etc etc?  Do you want only human-Cylon marriage legal?  I know this is a ridiculous example, but just think about it.  Freedom of religion is precious.

I’m also against theocratic laws because I believe they backfire.  We want people to know about the love of Christ.  We cannot legislate them into it.  I was an agnostic for many years, all attempts to “force” or scare me into converting completely backfired on me.  It was only once I met Christians that walked the walk and did NOT talk the talk at all that I started to become interested.

I do love to discuss my faith life, but let’s keep it civil ok?  I have not had great reactions to my personal faith beliefs in the past.  I agree it’s the most important question we will face in our lifetimes.  So I get the intensity of feelings faith elicits.  Let’s just stay calm about it ok? :)

Curriculum Update

I’ve made some tweaks to this year’s curriculum from the original plan.  Here’s what we’re up to these days!

General for Fall 2012, 1st Grade (Bear) and 3rd Grade (Fuzzy):
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent in structured time doing core subjects (math, reading, writing)
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent loosely pursuing everything else (fine arts, history, science, critical thinking, playgroups, co-ops, etc.).
  • The rest of the time we go to therapy, catch up, go on field trips, and have fun!
Language Arts (penmanship, grammar, writing, spelling, phonics):
Literature:
Math:
  • Math Mammoth (Bear-1, Fuzzy-3)
  • Math facts drill practice on the computer (Bear, Fuzzy)
Bible:
Science:
World History / Geography:
Fine Arts:
PE:
  • Co-op classes
  • Lots of outdoor play
Other:

 

Homeschool Reflection

mirrorWe’re a year and a half into our homeschool journey and (likely also due to the new year) I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on what I’ve learned.  I’ve learned a lot about my kids obviously.  However, I’ve learned a lot about myself too.

  • One of the first things I’ve learned is I have to have things organized.  There is a popular stream of thought in homeschooling that too much planning and organizing is bad.  I’ve gotten the impression (and I really can’t convey this correctly for others), that some people find having a plan, curriculum, approach, schedule, etc. just really kills their school life – makes it “public school at home” which is a big no no.I think without a plan our school life would be way more boring.  I’d reach for the same old workbook each day to make sure we got something done and call it good.  With a plan, I know when it’s ok to take off for a field trip for the day instead of staying home.  A plan allows me to be flexible.  Maybe this will evolve more over time.
  • Fuzzy and Bear are, like all kids, extremely different from each other.  For a while I seriously wondered if this meant I needed to do completely different curriculums and approaches with them.  I’ve decided it’s not really necessary (so far!), and I probably couldn’t make it work anyway.  Public schools certainly don’t do that after all!What I have done is pick curriculum that appeals to ME and how I think about teaching them, and then apply it to them in different ways.  Even though they are at different grade levels and have such different learning styles, so far using curriculum as a “guide” and meeting them with it where they are appears to be working!
  • The homeschooling community is really diverse, just like the world.  I admit it, I wondered if I was going to meet some crazy folks, and maybe I have, I don’t know, but certainly none more so than I met in our 2 years of public school!!  I think it’s been vitally important for me to join a community.  I’m still working on it, it’s such a hard thing for me to really connect.As far as other people go, it’s been about what you would expect.  Some people started off very enthusiastic for our choice and that has waned.  Most people are pretty curious about it.  Some people are extremely skeptical of it.  That hasn’t changed!
  • As for me personally, it’s probably one of the hardest yet best areas of growth.  I admit to thinking about what life would be like with my 2 kids both off at school every day (ok, super stressful, but it would be quiet!).  Even though it would have a lot of stress (there are reasons we’re not there after all), I can’t deny it would give me more personal time.
    However, I’ve learned how to manage my time more, keep going when I’m tired, teach my children when to persevere and when to snuggle in a blanket.  I’ve also learned quite a bit about world history that I never knew!

So I’m excited to keep going, I’m actually looking really forward to starting back up school in the new year.  I’ve made a few more tweaks to my plan (!) that I think can get us a bit more mileage out of our days.  I’m excited about restarting the two coops we’re in and teaching in them.  I’m excited to see my boys really click on their reading and spelling (they’ve made leaps and bounds in the past few months there!).

Bring on the new year!

Curriculum 2012-2013

It’s that time of year again!  Time to plan out the curriculum.  It’s a fun and daunting task.  It’s our second year of homeschool so I’ve learned some valuable lessons from the first year that heavily influenced me.  I still think we’re classical and eclectic homeschoolers as far as style goes.

General for Fall 2012, 1st Grade (Bear) and 3rd Grade (Fuzzy):
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent in structured time doing core subjects (math, reading, writing)
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent loosely pursuing everything else (fine arts, history, science, critical thinking, playgroups, etc.).
  • 1 day per week is half drama class and half fun or catch-up time
Language Arts (penmanship, grammar, writing, spelling, phonics):
- This has been a tricky subject for me!
  • Phonics Road (Bear-1, Fuzzy-1,2,3)
  • 3Rs Plus READ Beginner Reading Instruction (Bear-1,2,3)
  • IKnowThat.com for extra LA practice (Bear)
  • Fine motor development activities to strengthen writing muscles (Bear)
Literature:
Math:
Bible:
Science:
  • Dad teaches this!  He doesn’t know yet.  :)
World History / Geography:
Fine Arts:
PE:
  • Gymnastics Class (Fuzzy)
  • Outside Play (Bear, Fuzzy)
Other:

 

The 5 year old’s pros and cons of homeschooling

Bear, who is 5, recently proclaimed that he wants to go to public school.  I’m not surprised by this at all, in fact I expected it to happen.  His best friends went to Kindergarten this year and his older brother went when he was his age.  Of course he’d want to know what it’s like! I’m definitely not opposed to the idea.  We really are trying to constantly keep an open mind and do what we feel is best for each child individually.  On the other hand, I can’t leave such an important decision strictly up to a 5 year old! I helped Bear make a pros and cons list from his point of view for both public school and homeschool.  I honestly did my best not to influence him, but there’s probably no way this list can be totally free of my influence.  I always feel obligated to say, this is for OUR family, it’s no commentary on yours.  :)   All the ideas are totally his, though I did help him clarify some!

Public School Pros:
  • Around lots of kids his age
  • Meeting new friends
  • Having recess on the playground
Public School Cons:
  • All the instruments in music class (not sure why he included this)
  • Not having enough time for lunch (he could never finish lunch while he was in preschool)
  • Waking up early
  • Homework during his free time in the evenings
  • No mid-day “token” (this is our system for video games or TV)
  • No Reading Eggs (online reading program he loves)
  • Not with Mommy and Fuzzy (awwww)
  • No stick figure Bible (our Bible curriculum uses stick figures for teaching)
  • No big ride on tractor (I pointed out we don’t have this!)
  • Won’t do history (I’m not totally sure about this, but it would certainly be much different)
Homeschool Pros (these two lists about invert the other two):
  • Get to stay home
  • Wake up when you want to (he’s always the first one up)
  • No after school homework / more free time
  • Get to do stick figure Bible curriculum
  • Can eat what he wants for lunch with plenty of time
  • Reading Eggs
  • Lunch time token
Homeschool Cons:
  • Not around as many other kids
  • Two of his best friends to to public school
  • Fuzzy, his brother, interferes with his playtime
After making this list, he proclaimed he had changed his mind and wanted to stay in homeschool.  So, we discussed ways to solve the cons of homeschool:
  • Could enroll him in more part time school classes to be with other kids (he’s already in group classes for PE and history)
  • Invite his public school friends over to our house more
  • Let Mommy know when he wants to play on his own without Fuzzy interfering
  • Get a big ride on car (ha ha, sneaky boy getting this one in there)

It was a really interesting discussion!  His cons are actually pretty easily solved.  Fuzzy, on the other hand, is totally happy being homeschooled and loves it – but he would never consider being around a ton of other kids an advantage in any circumstance.  :) This got me thinking about my own pros/cons list.  I won’t write the entire thing but my main pro for homeschool would be the flexibility of it and my main con would be my own lack of free time!  The adventure continues!