Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2015-2016 Curriculum

I think one of the most fun parts about homeschooling is picking out the curriculum. It can be overwhelming! But once those books that you've carefully selected begin to pour in, you just get a little giddy inside. Even the kids can't wait to dive in!

So here's a breakdown of what each of my school-aged kids will be doing and what grade they'll be going into. Judah won't be 4 until the end of September but he may do some "work" to keep busy and to be like his big sisters.

Some are websites and are hyperlinked if you want to check them out (they are not affiliate links).
BEWARE: This is super, super, super long!!!

Elaina - Grade 5
  • English/Grammar = 'English 5' by Bob Jones University (BJU)
                  We used BJU English in the past and I really, really like it. It's done very well and I don't feel like it is "dumbed down" like some other books I've seen where they won't even refer to the grammatical rules by their proper name.
  • Spelling =
                   I don't necessarily want to do all of our subjects online but I haven't really found a spelling program that was fun, interactive and independent. When I found this website I decided we should give it a try! You can make your own spelling lists or use theirs. When I find a website like this I always test it out myself. Also, look into getting AdBlocker Plus on your browser! A lot of these sites have tons of distracting ads for other learning sites and games.

  • Cursive
                   I have some workbooks for cursive. I really like how the Kumon books look. This is one of those things that comes with just practice, practice, practice. Most of the workbooks are pretty boring and just copying. The brunt of it will be to just use it in daily work (Elaina has already learned cursive lettering, now it's just refining it and focusing on neatness).
  • Reading/Literature = Understood Betsy, Little Princess, etc.
                 We have a huge list of age appropriate literature for Elaina to work through. This child is a bookworm. We will be doing literature the "Charlotte Mason way" by reading it s-l-o-w-l-y and soaking it in. One chapter a week, most likely, depending on the book. Elaina will also have free reads that she can read faster. She usually spends the weekend absorbed in books.
  • Science = 'Exploring Creation with Astronomy' by Apologia and Nature Study
                 I have five Apologia textbooks. We used the Zoology 2 books (sea creatures) our first year of homeschooling and it was such a huge hit. We learned a lot. One thing I wished I had gotten was the accompanying journal. So this year we'll have the journal as we learn about Astronomy.

                Another important part of science is 'nature study'. You may have noticed this trend recently. Get into nature, observe and explore, then journal it. It might be a watercolor, it might just be field notes with a picture, etc. This is NOT just for children. We do it together. We have wonderful books like "Nature Anatomy" and "Handbook of Nature Study" as well as a ton of science books I've found at thrift stores on various topics to help us learn more about our observations.
  • Math = Khan Academy
               If you like free and you aren't a proficient mathematician then look no further than Khan Academy. It's calculates how well your student is doing, teachers new concepts through video, lots of practice. Check it out! It is free. I have all three girls on my account so you can add as many students as you need.  
  • History/Geography = 'America the Beautiful' by Notgrass
                This is one subject that I was adamant on needing to be thorough and done really well. I happened to stumble upon this curriculum by Notgrass and became obsessed with getting it. I found it gently used on homeschoolclassifieds from someone so we're all set for learning our American History and Geography!
  • Computer/Keyboarding - Fun to Type and
                  Elaina has been practicing keyboarding (typing) for the last couple of years. Obviously that has to be done online and there are plenty of free games and lessons online. These are just two that we use.
  • Guitar = online guitar course
                   My husband plays guitar but that doesn't mean he can teach it. He has showed Elaina a few things but we decided finding an online course might be best, from someone who knows how to teach it to children. I haven't found what I'm looking for yet.
  • Ballet = ?
    We took Elaina out of her ballet school due to some negligence on her teacher's part, the resulting dishonesty of the teacher about her negligence and the overall disorganization of the school.  It was a tough, yet easy, decision to make but we're left trying to figure out what we will do this upcoming season. I found another school that I think she'd really like that is modest and teaches classical ballet and also costs less. We shall see! Nothing is set in stone on that yet as we have to also fit it in our budget with me not working. Eek!
Abigail - Grade 3
  • English/Grammar = 'English 3' by BJU
                   Same as Elaina, but for grade 3.
  • Spelling =
                   Same as Elaina but grade 3.
  • Cursive = Skill Builders and Kumon
                   Miss Abbie hasn't learned cursive yet. So she will be using Skill Builders first, just a regular old cursive workbook, to learn the lettering. And then I found this really cool book by Kumon about writing cursive words. So once she's gotten the lettering down we'll focus on the Kumon book.
  • Reading/Literature = Reading Eggs; Charlotte's Web, Little House on the Prairie                              
                    Abbie is my struggling reader. She refuses to read chapter books. I am not entirely sure how this is going to work this year. During summer we're still focusing heavily on reading. She has a subscription to Reading Eggs that helps but I need her to actually READ BOOKS as well. So our summer focus is getting her ready for these age-appropriate chapter books.
  • Science = Astronomy by Apologia and Nature Study               
                   We combine our science. The great thing about this subject is that we can learn the same material. Apologia even has each chapter end with questions and projects for younger students and then something different for older students, making it very easy to use their curriculum over a multitude of ages.
  • Math = Khan Academy                
                  Abbie will also use the free math course online. We've already begun actually. The kids beg to play it. The kids earn points when they complete videos, practice and master skills. If they don't know something they can watch a video to learn the concept or click the button "I haven't learned this yet" so the program can adjust itself to fit each student's needs. No two kids will have the exact same course. It is all customized based on how your child works and progresses. You also receive emails or can login to view their progress.
  • History = 'Our American History Grade 3' by A Beka                  
                    Abigail is still finishing up this history textbook because we started it the last quarter of this past year. She may end up just doing the Notgrass books (same as Elaina) if we find it'll work for her age/grade. I really like A Beka's science and history books in grade 3 so I do recommend them. But for ease with schooling three different grades with a newborn, toddler and preschooler in tow... we may combine as many subjects as possible lol!
  • Computer/Keyboarding = Fun to Type and Typing Web                
                  Third grade is when I start teaching keyboarding (typing) so this will be Abigail's first time learning how to type. I am actually curious to see if learning to type will actually boost her ability to read because this child can read sheet music better than the written word! I wonder if it will all line up and be that missing piece to the puzzle. We may have to start this now to find out!
  • Piano = private lessons
    Eight months ago Abigail started taking private piano lessons from a woman in the area. In fact we just had her end-of-year recital. Abigail has blown through all of the beginner piano books and has even made her own songs. She has played Ode to Joy by Beethoven in church. She has a natural ear and talent for piano. I'm convinced her teacher has an amazing gift because it seems all of her students do really, really well. Proud of them all!
Zoe - Grade K
  • Poetry = A Child's Book of Poetry                
                    Oh poetry! We are actually doing poetry with ALL the girls. This is the most precious poetry book. We have a lot of others, including Shel Silverstein and more classics. Kids love poetry. If you don't have it included in your course definitely do it! We do ours after Bible.
  • Phonics/Reading = Reading Eggs, '100 Words Book' and Modern Curriculum Press Phonics
    Zoe is already reading and even writing several words. I get 50% off for the second child on Reading Eggs but she isn't subscribed yet. She did amazing on her free two-week trial so I'm definitely considering signing her up. For now she is definitely using Modern Curriculum Press and this great book I found on Amazon called '100 Words Book' that teaches sight words.
  • Science = Nature Study
    My main focus in Kindergarten isn't necessarily teaching science vocab. It is exploration, discovery and from there we go through our nature books and learn more about what interests her. She will also listen in and do the astronomy work with us because she's just one smart cookie and enjoys being included. So even if she doesn't "get it" she'll be with us and absorbing some things with regard to astronomy.
  • Math = Khan Academy               
                     Yes, there is even Kindergarten on Khan Academy (at least in math; not in other subjects as of this date). Zoe has already begun. My only beef with it is that I wish the area on the screen with her math problems was bigger and easier for her to answer (in other words, more age appropriate visually). As it is I have to sit with her and help her a LOT because the buttons where she selects her answer are SO tiny. She can move a mouse and play kid games but she has a tough time with the really fine motor skills needed for such small buttons. I still have her try but help her before she gets too frustrated and gives up entirely.
  • Art = a compilation of free lessons I've found online
    This is another one for ALL the kids, including the boys if they want to participate. Art is very important to me. There is so so so much you can do in art. But a lot of it is technique that I do not know how to teach. I took art and drawing and clay and all sorts of creative classes in school. I can teach some but not all. So my quest to find online lessons began just a few weeks ago and I'm compiling them into my own handmade book (see my last post). From watercolors to shading to stills to clay and everything in between, at several grade levels. We are going to focus a lot of creativity this next year because it has gotten pushed to the backburner way too much the last two years.

So there you have it! It is eclectic. I love the idea of an all-in-one curriculum. But I also love piecing ours together. You can't go wrong. I'd love to hear what everyone is doing or thinking about doing! If you're not homeschooling but interested in starting CLICK HERE and use the tabs at the top of that page to explore getting started.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Make Your Own Books

I feel so premature posting about NEXT school year but just had to share what I've been working on. We are going into year 3 of homeschooling, each year different from the last. I feel each year gets better and better.

Our first year we had way too much and not enough structure to hold it all. It was "fly by the seat of our pants" which does work for some. I found out it doesn't work for us.

So this past year, year 2, we used AmblesideOnline, a free Charlotte Mason curriculum. We like Charlotte Mason and really enjoyed AO. However it is very, very literary heavy which wasn't so great for my struggling reader. Unlike our first year we had a strict schedule. I found we stayed on track much better when I knew what was on the itinerary for each day, so that was a plus!

As we embark on year 3 we will combine the aspects we liked from each of our first two years of school: a  solid but flexible schedule and an eclectic mix of curriculum rather than one exclusive philosophy.

And so I have made my own schedule/outline for each of my girls in book form! Yes, I made our own books. I can already tell you that I'm obsessed and plan on making many more books. It's so so so easy and fun.

What started as just a stack of printed paper was then spiral-bound with a clear cover and clear backside at OfficeMax for about $4 a book.. Everyone asked if I drew the cover page but I didn't. It's a cool font called Fredericka the Great.

The clear cover and clear backside offer the book some stability so it's firmer and not so floppy. I specifically wanted clear and thus requested it but they may have other colors.

Each girl has her own schedule (Abbie's schedule is on the left; click to enlarge) and each girl has their own All About Me page to start off the year. At the end of each book is an End of Year page about what they learned, liked, didn't like, etc. I printed the cover, the All About Me, and End of Year pages on cardstock; the rest on regular printer paper.

The meat of each book is this: checklist for credits earned on a day (left) and the actual schedule/chores (right). There are 36 weeks worth of these pages, one for each week of school. I poured over so many other blogs and printables but in the end I made my own template on GoogleDocs because no one is going to be exactly like me and I won't be like them. I put exactly what I wanted on each. The only thing I didn't make were the All About Me and End of Year pages; I found those as free printables.

The reason I chose to make spiral-bound books was because binders weren't working. Binders were taking up a lot of space when stored on the shelf and when in use. With a spiral we can open up to the desired page and fold the rest back under it. So while I do own a three-hole punch and could have easily just used binders it wasn't preferable.

NEXT POST: I'll breakdown the grades that the girls are in with what curriculum books and websites we will be using.

1). Make/print all your pages and put them in the order desired.
2). Take to your local office store and ask them to spiral bind them ($2.99 each book, at OfficeMax, as of this date). Adding plastic covers and backsides will cost at least a couple quarters or more each, if you want them.
3). Pickup and pay for your finished books!

You could also buy your own machine if you plan on making a ton.

Happy book making!