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:

 

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!

Curriculum 2011-2012

One of the most fun, confusing, and interesting things about homeschooling to me is choosing curriculum.  There are many general styles of homeschoolsuch as school-at-home, classical, unschooled, relaxed/eclectic, and lots more.  I’m somewhere in between a classical and relaxed/eclectic homeschooler so far.  I’m a relaxed/eclectic personality type but my logical brain likes classical so I have fallen somewhere in between.  The kids seem agreeable. I’m currently using the same curriculum, at different levels, for both of my kids.  That could certainly change, and I expect it will.  I plan to write reviews of each of these curriculums in the future.

General for Fall 2011, Kindergarten (Bear) and 2nd Grade (Fuzzy):
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent in structured time doing core subjects (math, language arts, literature, history, Bible).  I hadn’t planned for Bear to spend this long for Kinder, but he wants to so I try to accommodate him.
  • 3 hours per day, 4 days per week is spent loosely pursuing everything else (PE, music, art, science, hobbies, academic-related computer time, and other stuff as it strikes us).
  • 1 day per week is usually dedicated to some type of field trip, park playdate, a large project we’re interested in, staying in our PJs until noon as we move slowly through a lingering breakfast after spending way too long playing games upstairs (oh dear, I’ve admitted it)
Language Arts (penmanship, grammar, writing, spelling):
– This has been a tricky subject for me.  We’re not doing this in the classical school format.
Reading Instruction:
Literature:
Math:
  • Singapore Math (Bear-1, Fuzzy-2/3)
  • Math is also a subject with many teachable moments in everyday life and my kids love to talk about it!
Bible:
Science:
World History:
American History:
Geography:
  • Tracing Maps as described in “The Core” by Leigh Bortins (Bear, Fuzzy)
  • GeoToys (yep, I’m using a category of toys!) (Bear, Fuzzy)
  • Beginning Geography (Bear, Fuzzy)
Art:
Music:
PE:
Drama:
Future Plans:
  • Spanish
  • Latin
  • Logic

Homeschool Start Review

When we made the decision last March to homeschool, I began the process of figuring out how to go about it.  I had about 5 months before we’d begin around the same time when public school would begin.  I knew that I was destined to be clearly wrong in many choices I would make, but we all have to start somewhere.  It’s interesting now to look back and see how the first 4ish months went!

There are several areas to look back on:  Academics, Day-to-day Life, Family Impact.  This post is about the academics. One of the earliest things I decided was my general approach to homeschooling.  I originally decided on classical homeschooling.  However, the language arts approach that classical education uses just won’t work with my boys.  They both have issues with writing that really need to be worked on in a very individualized manner that just isn’t consistent with what classical education calls for.  However – I do still value many of the tenets of classical education such as a heavy emphasis on history, literature, and “living books” rather than textbooks. As far as specific subjects go, that has been quite interesting!  The “original plan” is in red.

Science –  Just get books from the library as interests come up, discuss things at home about science all the time like we always do.  This plan made me feel uneasy with “keeping up”.  I know it probably would work out just fine, but it’s just not my style.  We did get an actual science curriculum and DH agreed to teach it!  He follows it very loosely of course, certainly not “cover to cover”, and we still throw in lots of our own science conversations.  They both highly enjoy it.

Literature –  Get some good reading lists and start working through them.  Include historical literature from the historical period we’re learning about.  This is still basically what we’re doing!  I’ve added in some American historical literature and biographies.  Fuzzy plows through books about twice as fast as I thought he would!  I did get a book for myself to help me have a conversation with Fuzzy about what he read that extends beyond either a verbatim re-telling of the book or a “it was good” statement!

ReadingFuzzy doesn’t need formal reading instruction anymore.  Use a good phonics-based program for Bear with lots of practice.  I still feel this way for Fuzzy, he reads a TON of literature.  However, for Bear this has been a bit of a struggle.  In retrospect he learned to read quite easily.  It took a long time for ME to learn that he will learn to read when left on his own with minimal input from me.  Our phonics work is actually behind his reading level now pretty much just to put my own mind at ease, but he really enjoys it and gets irritated when I skip it!

History –  Use the classical approach of starting at the “beginning of time” and working our way forward.  Yep, that’s what we’re doing and it’s working quite nicely!  I did change one big thing.  At first, I integrated our Bible study with history.  Well, I came to realize I don’t actually believe the Bible quite that literally (this is a whole different conversation).  So, I separated out the religion from the history and we’ve been happily studying ancient history ever since.  We’re up to about 440 BC to the Ancient Greeks.

Math Horizons Kinder Math for Bear (transitioning to Singapore Math in 1st) and 2nd grade Singapore Math for Fuzzy.  Bear already knew all of Horizons Kinder Math before school ever started it turned out.  Fuzzy blew through 2nd grade Singapore Math in about 2 months – I think he actually already knew it all in retrospect.  Bear is having struggles with the abstraction needed for 1st grade and I see no need to rush him, so we are playing math games.  Fuzzy is sailing through 3rd grade math so quickly that I’m looking into other resources to complement our math program that will deepen his understanding.  Perhaps strategy/logic games or Math Pentathlon resources will work.

American History / Social StudiesNo plan, didn’t think we’d need these in year one!  After a while of doing World History, I started to feel a bit strange that we weren’t discussing American History at all.  I also realized that when social studies issues came along (say Columbus Day or Thanksgiving) – there was absolutely no part in our week specifically devoted to any kind of study of these things – other than literature.  So I added a bit in!

ArtClueless!  Let them play around?  Find a class?  They absolutely love studying different famous artists.  It really surprised me.  We’ve studied Picasso and Pollock so far.  They are fascinated.  They love trying to copy a painting and they are quite the little art critics as well.  By the way – they both think Jackson Pollock was a terrible artist!  🙂

PEUse family time fitness to incorporate daily active time.  Ha ha ha ha – that plan bombed.  This has morphed into our home therapy program.  They also take a once a week PE class now.  At first I thought I could successfully do a real PE class at home.  I actually possibly could, but frankly I just don’t feel like it.  It’s also nice having them off at a class for 3 hours once a week, I won’t lie!  🙂

Drama – this was a total whim and not planned at all.  It was cheap and close to the house.  Well, they LOVE it.  We definitely plan to keep it.