A Fresh Start – Our School Curriculum 2015/2016

KyriEnder2015schoolWe’ve had a hectic year with selling our house and living somewhat as transients in Georgia while we figure our where our next home is going to be. We haven’t always gotten all of what I had planned (for school) done, but I think we’ve had a productive year.

 
I shared this past fall our plans for the 2014/2015 school year, how I prepared for the entire school year to help keep us on track during the upheaval. I just posted how I’ve revised my 36-week folder system to instead use an Arc Notebook. But I’d like to share the specifics of our academic plan for the upcoming year.
 

Fourth Grade

Math

 
Saxon 5/4 – we started this curriculum in 2nd grade and have been slowly working through it. We are on “schedule” to finish the book this school year.
 
Usborne Dictionary of Math (3 book series)  not a curriculum but a great resource. Colorful and engaging, these are fun to read and glean knowledge. Click here to check them out.
 
Living Books – We have been investing in Greg Tang books this summer and will include them for use during Kidschool as a way to get our “Math” brains working. Kyri also loves reading these on her own.
 

Language Arts

 
First Language Lessons – Level 4 Teacher’s Guide and Student Workbook.
Evan-Moor Daily Reading Comprehension Grade 4 – daily reading selections that include several questions that reinforce understanding, finding the main idea and supporting facts. 
Evan-Moor Nonfiction Writing Grade 4 weely lessons that introduce nofiction writing and puttig together topic sentences, supporting facts, writing, and the various types of writing
Evan-Moor Building Spelling Skills Grade 4 (continuing) – weekly spelling lists and activities to reinforce spelling, phonics and                   other areas such as synonyms/antonyms and homophones.
 

History

 
Story of the World 4 – We stepped back from SOTW this past year to focus on American History, but we are picking up with SOTW 4, which also includes later events in US History.
Story of the World Activity Book – We will mostly be working on the outlines and mapwork for each chapter.
 
Beautiful Feet History of the Horse – Kyri is OBSESSED with horses and when I came across this literature-based study guide, I knew she would love it. The curriculum pulls from a large selection of both fiction and nonfiction books about horses, so I won’t list them all out here. I will be putting together a separate post as I get all the texts together and organized.
 

Science

 
Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding  – We started using this curriculum last year. Volume I is geared toward K-2, and we have been moving through these topics fairly quickly since we have seen much of the material in previous years (though not always in as much depth). Volume II is geared toward Grades 3-5 and we will be moving back and forth between the four “threads”, including topics from Volume I as prerequisites as needed. 
 
Carson-Dellosa Just the Facts:
     Earth and Space Science (4-6 grades)
     Life Science (4-6 grade)
     Physical Science (4-6 grade)
 
This is a great series that provides in-depth activities and puzzles. I will be pulling from all three volumes to go along with our BFSU lessons.
Evan-Moor Daily Science Grade 4 – This is a great resource for exploring concepts in earth science, life science and physical science. Each week has a Big Idea and daily readings and activities introduce and reinforce each concept. I am planning on using these as a supplemental science reading for Kyri’s independent study time. While our main focus will be on our topics in BFSU, these daily readings should be interesting without going into too much depth.
 
Geography
 
Evan-Moor Daily Geography Grade 4 – we started using Evan-Moor Daily Geography for 3rd grade and Kyri just loves it, so we will be continuing the series.
 
Bible
 
AWANA – Kyri finished her third year in Sparks this Spring, so she will be moving to TNT in the Fall, and is very excited!
Bible Road Trip – This has been a great study this past year. We typically do the daily reading and discussion in the morning during our Kidschool. This year I would like to put a little more emphasis on Notebooking for each week’s reading.
 
Additional Resources:
 
 
Health and Wellness
 
The Care and Keeping of You Book 1: Book and Journal (American Girl) – discusses body changes and emotional changes, and geared toward girls ages 8-10.
The Feelings Book – Book and Journal (American Girl) – deals with feelings, emotions and communicating about feelings through journaling and talking to others.
Vintage Remedies for Tweens (continuing) – covers a variety of topics from food, natural health
Raising Vegetarian Children   more of a guide for me, but we will be pulling recipes and discussing healthy habits.
Laying Down the Rails Book and Workbook.
 
Hebrew
For writing practice and mastering the Alef Bet we are using a couple of different resources:
 
 
For reading and speaking we are using:
 
Mango Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew
 
Character Development
 
This may go along with Health and Wellness, but I will list separately for organization.
 
Beautiful Feet Teaching Character Through Literature – this includes a wonderful reading list appropriate for both Primary and Intermediate Readers, as well as Study Guide lessons geared toward Primary and Intermediate Reading Selections.
 
Laying Down The Rails – this is a compilation of Charlotte Mason’s writings, organized to cover wellness topics (such as Cleanliness) as well as Character topics such as courtesy. There is a book for parents/educators along with a student book that includes discussion topics.
 
Art and Music Appreciation
 
While we pull projects from our DK Book of Art, I have been keeping Art and Music as an area of interest-led study. Kyri loves being creative and doing crafts and I try to provide outlets for this – with craft supplies and ample opportunity to check out art books at the library. As far as music, she was gifted an acoustic guitar which she loves, and she is slowly becoming more comfortable with holding it properly and using her hands correctly. Once we relocate she will have more time and space to spend working on learning chords.
 
Classics Reading
 
One of the shifts we have made in our homeschool approach is to spend a lot more time just reading together. I am always looking for excellent book suggestions to work into our reading schedule, and we usually have two or three titles we are working on at any one time. Over the summer we have been working on the Little House series, and I have a list I’m putting together for this school year. With the Beautiful Feel study guides, I have even more books to include. I will be putting together another post with our reading list later in the fall.
 

Preschool/ PreK 

 
We started off slow last fall, mainly just to get Ender interested in learning and working on “school” work together. This year, he is ready to go! He is always asking me to do school work or to read to him. I am looking forward to an exciting year with him! His younger brother Julian is only 2 1/2 but I am expecting him to tag along a bit and participate a little. Julian is already able to count to 15, so he may end up being fairly interested in some of our school work.
 

Math

 
Saxon Kindergarten  As with Kyri, I am starting out early with the Saxon curriculum to allow us work at a slower pace if needed. Saxon K covers a lot of basics like patterns, shapes, and counting, as well as Calendar basics.
 
Confessions of a Homeschooler – Letter of the Week. I use several of the resources from this curriculum for teaching number recognition and basic counting skills. I have laminated flash cards and put onto rings for easy review.
 

Language Arts

 
Confessions of a Homeschooler – Letter of the Week for letter recognition and basic writing skills
 
Starfall  this is a wonderful resource for teaching the ABCs and phonics. Ender, like his sister, really loves the interactive games that introduce phonics and simple words.
 

Science 

 
While I expect Ender (and possibly Julian) to tag along with Kyri’s science lessons, I want to have some simpler activies planned as well.
 
More Mudpies to Magnets – a great book with age-appropriate experiments for ages 2 through 6.
 
Evan-Moor Learning About Animals (Science Works for Kids Series) Grade K-1 – A great introduction to animal basics. Includes simple worksheets and coloring and gluing pages.
 
 
Miscellaneous Resources
 
For practice, we use a variety of flashcards – these are a fun way to practice letters, numbers, colors and shapes!
 
For handwriting practice (numbers and letters) I love to pick up little workbooks from Target – Busytown workbooks are our current favorite around here.
 
Notebooking Pages
 
This spring I took the plunge and purchased a lifetime membership to Notebookingpages.com. This is a wonderful resource for notebooking pages on a wide variety of subjects. I have been incorporating notebooking pages into our history and science reading, as well as character and nature study. The site membership also includes a web app that allows members to create their own notebooking pages, from start to finish, or simply including their own clip art or images in preexisting pages. While I enjoy making my own notebooking pages, it is great to have so many pages available ready to go.
 
Starfall
 
While Kyri is growing out of Starfall‘s content, she still loves to explore the site with her younger siblings. They continue to add new content, and they do have multiplication and division activities, as well as basic geometry and probability activities to explore.
 
Nature Study
 
We don’t follow any schedule or planned curriculum for Nature Study. Instead, I make sure we have a wealth of resources available that encourage exploration and discovery, along with sufficient identification guides. Local park and rec programs are a great way to round out our home nature study program. I will be putting together a separate post where I share the variety of resources I have put together over the past couple of years for the children.
 

 

Commonplace Books

I do a lot of highlighting and jotting notes as I read, and while I would love to flip through them regularly to see some of the more important things I have noted, realistically I can’t see that happening with any regularity.

I have tried a few different methods to record notes. While I use Evernote for a lot of record keeping and writing, I am still very much a paper-and-pencil type of person when it comes to jotting down notes. I have always found the physical act of writing things down the best way to retain information. So when I decided I needed to not only highly and take notes in the margins, but to also transcribe significant points, I needed to set up a commonplace book.

A Google search for “commonplace book” will result in a slew of examples. It can almost seem overwhelming how to get started.

While I considered using a 3-ring binder or an Arc notebook so I could keep notes from the same books together, I ultimately decided I wanted a hard cover bound book. I set up my notebook the same way my lab notebooks were set up when I was still working as a scientist. After picking a journal (I opted for a jumbo journal that cost $5…), I made sure to set it up completely before recording my first entry.

I set up a Table of Contents section at the front, with each line already labeled with page numbers. Following the Table of Contents, I numbered 300 pages, making sure however to leave pages in the back out of my numbered count to serve as an Index. Each page in the Index is labeled with a letter – while entries on each Index pages will not be in alphabetical order, at least each page will be organized by letter.

IMG_1011

Here are a couple of things I am doing to make sure my commonplace book serves its purpose as a repository for quotes, inspirations, contemplations and questions:

I have worked out a “system” for my highlighting and note taking so that I can skim through after I finish a chapter and transcribe the important points. I keep a pencil pouch on hand when I am reading, with a full set of highlighters. Each color represents something – a point that I want to put into action in my own life, a word or term that I need to look up to further understand, an author or book reference to follow up on, and one color is used to highlight points that are especially significant or important in some way and that I want to transcribe to my commonplace book.

I have made sure to have my book organized and set up for optimal use before I put any writings into it. My Table of Contents, page numbers, and Index pages are all ready to go.

For each page’s entry, I put the title of the book and a short description of what that page’s particular notes are about at the top of each page. This also is written in the Table of Contents.

I don’t wait too long to transcribe! It’s too easy to lose track of what I intended to record in my notebook. A short session a couple times a week is sufficient to keep on top of my note taking.

These are some commonplace book resources that I have read and found interesting.

Self Made Scholar

Thought Catalog

The Atlantic

I hope this encourages others to consider keeping a commonplace book as well!

Arc Notebooks for Homeschool

At the beginning of the school year, I knew we would be having a challenging year, with back and forth trips to Atlanta while we were in the process of selling our house, and being in a state of flux. In what can only be described as a Herculean effort (for me at least…), I spent a couple of days getting the ENTIRE school year planned out, printables prepared and organized into folders for 36 weeks. Each week all I had to do was reach for that particular week and distribute any printables between our daily folders. 

This has worked well for the most part. The one drawback I have had, though, is not being “with it” on a Sunday to fill the upcoming daily folders. Some weeks I have scrambled on Monday to get our week started out right.
 

I had a friend recommend the Arc Notebook system from Staples recently, and seeing how I am always looking for ways to be more efficient and productive, I decided to try it out and see if it meets our needs. The Arc system uses a special punch and the pages slip onto a series of discs via openings along the edge, rather than closed holes that are bound by rings. This system allows for easy removal and placement of papers and notebook components. 

Ready-made notebooks can be purchased in letter and junior sizes, and individual components are available separately.
 
arcnotebook001
(left) the press and various components for making Arc Notebooks. (center) discs are available in two sizes. (right) We’ve made several notebooks recently, for school, personal bible study and weekly planners. They work great!
 
I have prepared arc notebooks for Kyri, my rising fourth grader, and now for Ender, my 4-year-old starting pre-K. 
 
For Kyri, I have made sections for each of our subjects.  Rather than our weekly folders, all of our printables are now contained in a single notebook, organized by subject. A full year of spelling printables, spelling test pages, math printables and facts practice sheets, geography printables, etc. Now I don’t have to worry about filling daily folders on a Sunday to prepare for the upcoming week because everything is already organized in our notebook. 
 
arcnotebook002
(left) We used the larger discs for Kyri’s school notebook. (right, all panels) Kyri’s notebook contains all printables and consumables for her math, spelling, history, geography, bible, and science.
At the beginning of Kyri’s notebook I have included blank checklists, where I list daily tasks I would like her to complete. While most of our morning is spent reading together during Kidschool, she does have independent work as well as some guided work she does in the afternoon (and this material makes up the brunt of her notebook). 
 
arcnotebook004
(top, left) We have made junior notebooks for general note taking. (top, right) Weekly planning pages for Kyri’s notebook. (bottom, left) One section of Ender’s notebook contains several Arc zipper pouches. (bottom, right) One section of Ender’s notebook contains letter and number cards for daily practice.
For Ender, his notebook is more for organizing laminated activity packs in zipper pouches. I have letter cards, and matching games, puzzles and sorting activities, all printed and laminated. I have one section for many laminated letter and counting cards, followed by a section of zipper pouches that contain printed and laminated preschool activities. Lined paper and printouts are in another section. I’ll go into specific resources for each grade in separate posts.