09 October 2012

What we Homeschool: Curriculum

This post is later than I had hoped. I have always managed to post this before the school year begins, and here I am posting it in the second week of October. Oh well! The demands of life have taken precedence over blogging, though I am dedicated to a blogging comeback. Would you believe I actually began writing this post over a month ago?

So here is what we are learning together this year, subject by subject.

Bible: Our kids very much enjoy reading from a book called Victor Journey Through the Bible. We have used it off and on for a couple years. We're studying the book of Acts along with it right now, and we'll continue through the New Testament after that. It provides simple commentary or explanations to go along with what you're reading in scripture as well as diagrams, maps and actual photographs of the Holy Land. We're also using THIS SCRIPTURE MEMORY SYSTEM which we've used for over a year now and absolutely love. It works. It is simple. I highly recommend giving it a try. In the evenings, we have recently been reading through Hero Tales 2 and enjoying keeping up to speed with various missionaries around the world, some near (5 doors down) and some far (India is the farthest, I believe).

Language Arts: We take a Charlotte Mason approach to learning in our house. My sixth grader can spell, speak with excellent vocabulary, think abstractly, narrate almost anything, and write in several genres. I don't say this to brag to you. I say this to tell you that even I wasn't sure that this approach to learning would work for language arts, but it most certainly has.

We began language arts when Lukas was in grade two taking two years to work through Primary Language Lessons. When we finished that, we moved onto Intermediate Language Lessons, and Lukas will complete the third year of that book this year. This program was written in the early 1900s, and I haven't found anything that beats it. It uses a lot of copywork, dictation, narration, picture study, conversation study, and writing in the first book. The second book gradually adds more and more writing and begins to explore parts of speech, verb tense, noun/verb agreement, etc...while not officially giving the parts of speech names until this coming year. Charlotte believed that formal grammar study should be left until the child is capable of understanding the mechanics of grammar rather than simply expecting them to do it because we said so. By copying, dictating, and narrating what others have written, our children learn to communicate well through writing and speech.

Five in a Row also serves us well in language arts by providing us with great books to read. Mostly, at this point, we utilize the language arts study from FIAR rather than doing the entire study on each book. I teach the literary techniques used by the author, we study the artwork, and we learn life lessons. This year, we will re-visit books from Volumes 1-3 and study from Volume 4.
I also include penmanship for Ava in this category. She uses Memoria Press Copybooks for her handwriting practice.

Reading: Lukas has just begun to love reading this summer. His current choice in reading may be considered to be twaddle by Charlotte, but I am okay with that. He is learning a little history and geography as he works his way through the 39 Clues series. I don't want to stunt his new found enjoyment of reading, so I am treading softly as we choose books together. He will read books that I choose for him and that we choose together, often a living book that coordinates with our history study, but I want to leave time for him to keep reading through 39 Clues, especially since my husband is reading them with him. There's more to reading than formal education, yes? Currently, Lukas is reading Turn Homeward, Hannalee, which coordinates with our Civil War study.

Ava is reading from the Sonlight list of readers for 2nd grade. She is working her way through The Beginner's Bible right now, and she will continue through the list until she completes it.

Spelling/Phonics/Vocab: Lukas will study spelling through other subjects as needed. Basically, if he misspells a word, then we study the word, and rarely does he miss it again. That's the way he ticks. His vocabulary study comes from his science and history studies. Right now, we're focusing on science vocab, but, once we move onto a different history unit, I plan to do some historical vocab also.

We just started a new spelling curriculum with Ava. We are in our second week of using A Reason for Spelling. It seems like it will be a good fit for her. She really needs spelling reinforcement, which is why we have broken away from the Charlotte Mason method for her. What I like about this program is that it incorporates other aspects of language arts including poetry, copywork, dictation, and more, and it utilizes techniques that serve every learning style. Ava is excited about it, which makes it even better. If you are looking for a new spelling curriculum, their website actually allows you to download an entire week's lesson and lesson plans. Level B, which is what we're using, begins with a 30 day phonics review, which we're going to complete in about half that time since Ava isn't needing it as much as I anticipated.

History: We're beginning the year by finishing a study of the Civil War by Homeschool in the Woods. I love this curriculum. It is phenomenal. I honestly can't say enough good things about it. It is a unit study, and there is so much to do that it is hard to race through it. I could have blown through it in the spring and finished it, but we would have had to skip so much that I chose to take our time and pick it up this fall. Later in the school year, we will jump back and begin a more chronological approach to American history by using Homeschool in the Woods' New World Explorers and Colonial America unit studies. We are studying the Civil War at my 6th grader's request, and, since we had previously had a less than stellar experience with history, I chose to go against my usual bent toward doing everything in order.

Civics: We are loosely studying the electoral process. I hope to get more in depth into this study over the next few weeks, but I have not found a curriculum that seems well-suited for it. If you are a homeschooler who has a good idea, please leave a comment!

Science/Health: We will continue studying life science this year using Answers in Genesis' The Human Body and The World of Plants. We began the year with The World of Plants, and the kids are having a blast with it. I had planned to study it over the summer, but this particular summer just wasn't the time for it in our lives. Fall is working out fine. We will be growing some things in our dining room, and we'll continue to learn about plants at least through the month of November, possibly December depending on interest levels.

Math: Lukas is using Teaching Textbooks 6, which is a computerized curriculum that we began using last year. It utilizes spiral review, which works very well for him. Ava will continue working through the Math-U-See program wrapping up Beta and working through Gamma. We fell behind in math by no fault of Ava's since this is her strongest subject, but we will eventually catch up. Math-U-See works well for Ava because she loves the hands-on approach to math. It is a mastery program, and I like this approach for the early elementary grades.

Physical Education: Both kids are taking a homeschool phys ed class this year at a local place called Kids America that is the closest thing to a Y that our community has. Lukas is also playing soccer and will play basketball later this winter. Ava continues to study ballet and tap dancing and has added lyrical dance to her studies this year.

Art: A lot of homeschooling families choose not to devote much time to art, but we love it, so we are always doing crafts and art projects. We loosely use Artistic Pursuits, which I highly recommend and love, but I often add so many crafts and projects of my own that we end up setting it aside for much of the time. It explores various artistic media and includes art appreciation also. 

Music: Our kids are taking piano lessons from my husband this year. They're also actively involved in both Christmas and spring musicals at our church. In addition to this, I choose an era of music history to study each year. This year we are studying the classical era (1750-1828). Right now, we are listening to Mozart. Typically, I also check-out books from the library on whatever composer we choose to study, but I have been slacking in that area so far this year.  Later this year, we will, of course, study Beethoven and several other classical era composers that I haven't yet chosen. We usually spend 4-6 weeks on each composer.

In summary...

I know this seems like quite a lot of information to cover, but keep in mind that we don't cover all of these subjects every single day. Reading, language arts, and math are daily tasks. History and science are taught 3-4 days each week. Art and Music will only require one or two days each. I'm still working on tweaking our schedule, but it all works out somehow. Certain times of the school year allow us to focus heavily on certain subjects. This fall, we've been blowing through a lot of science and nature study. The winter months typically allow time for a lot of arts and crafts. In the end, we get done whatever it is God planned for our school year in spite of what we planned! I have learned that this philosophy works best for us. As long as we're following God's plan, our children will learn what He has for them!

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