It’s a New Year! Curriculum for 2018/2019

It’s that time of year! Even though we school over the summer, we do start our new year in September.

I’ve got four school years I am planning for this year – Year 6, Year 2 and Kindergarten  and Pre-K (Pre-K is mostly follow-along with Kindergarten).

We are heavily literature-based, so our curriculum is A LOT of good, quality books. Much of our reading is done as group read-alouds with an expectation of discussion and narration. A significant portion of our school day is spent reading together, rotating through reading selections for the three age groups. I look at Ambleside Online, Build Your Library, Beautiful Feet for reading selection and scheduling ideas.

We spend approximately an hour and a half per person (for Year 6 and Year 2) working on individual subjects – Math, Language Arts, Latin and some Science. This is a mixture of guided lessons and independent work that is done.

Year 6 (6th Grade, age 11/12)

Math

Singapore – we use the student textbook, workbook, intensive practice, as well as t he Home Instructor’s Guide (I definitely recommend this!)

Level 5B, Level 6A and Level 6B

Language Arts

Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind – Book 1 – I teach from the Core Instructor Text and Student Guide Key and student works from the Student (Purple) Workbook

Evan Moor – Reading Comprehension Fundamentals Grade 6

Evan Moor Building Spelling Skills Grade 6+

Vocabulary From Classical Roots – Level B

Science

* Chemistry is our focus this year. While our Year 2 will be participating in read alouds and demos, subject matter level is aimed at our Year 6 student.

DK The Way Science Works (spine text)

The Wonder Book of Chemistry  by Henri Fabri

The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker

Usborne’s Dictionary of Chemistry

Evan Moor Daily Science Grade 5 for supplemental reading and practice

History

* Renaissance/Early Modern and US (mid-1400s to early 1800s)

*We will be spreading the reading of our spine texts over the entire year. In addition, we have an extensive historical fiction read-aloud list that will be included

The Age of Empires

The Age of Voyages

The Age of Science and Revolutions

The World of Christopher Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster

The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster

George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster

Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genvieve Foster

Historical Fiction read-alouds:

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern

Midnight Magic by Avi

The Ghost of the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

The Ravenmaster’s Secret: Escape from the Tower of London

The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds

Poor Richard by James Daugherty

A Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Statham

The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Out of Many Waters by Jacqueline Greene

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

Calico Bush by Rachel Field

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Indian Captive: The Mary Jamison Story by Lois Lenski

Literature

Bulfinch’s Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable – started this past year, will be completing this year

Plutarch’s Lives – using the Ambleside Online Study Guides

Demosthenes

Cicero

Demetrius

Shakespeare -I use Folger Library editions. Books with annotations (links below) with printable versions for student (no annotations) through the Folger Library (tons of resources here so check it out!).

Julius Caesar

Richard III

Henry VIII

Geography

Carpenter’s North America Reader

DK Geography: A Visual Dictionary – select physical geography topics

Latin

Latin for Children Primer B

Bible/Theology

AWANA – continuing with AWANA program

The Shorter Westminster Catechism – typically we work to memorize one Question/Answer every week or so, and review what we have covered

Parables from Nature – we enjoy short faith based stories during our morning read aloud time.

Scriptures – following the Ambleside Online reading schedule, we will cover Genesis and Matthew over the course of the year

Nature Study

Experiencing Nature with Children – loosely following for seasonal suggestions

Handbook of Nature Study – an excellent parent/teacher resource

Cornell Lab of Ornithology – we will participate in Project Feederwatch again this year and use resources throughout the year, such as Bird Academy and eBird.

Critical Thinking

Building Critical Thinking Skills Level 2 – a great resource for verbal and figural critical thinking skills

Year 2 (2nd Grade, Age 7)

Math

Singapore – we use the student textbook, workbook, intensive practice, as well as the Home Instructor’s Guide

Level 1B, Level 2A, Level 2B

Language Arts

First Language Lessons Level 1

Evan Moor Building Spelling Skills Daily Practice Grade 2

Evan Moor Reading Comprehension Fundamentals Grade 2

Evan Moor Basic Phonics Skills Level C

History

Story of the World – Book 2 The Middle Ages – book and activity guide (for map work and suggested supplemental reading)

Science

Burgess Animal Book by Thorton Burgess

Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature

Childcraft Annual (1995) – Our Amazing Bodies

Evan Moor Daily Science Grade 2

Geography

Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling

Seabird by Holling C. Holling

DK Geography: A Visual Dictionary – select physical geography topics

Latin

Song School Latin 1

Literature

Aesop’s Fables – completing this fall

Tales from Shakespeare (Lamb)

The Wind in the Willows (Graham)

Bible/Theology

AWANA – continuing with AWANA program

The Shorter Westminster Catechism – typically we work to memorize one Question/Answer every week or so, and review what we have covered

Parables from Nature – we enjoy short faith based stories during our morning read aloud time.

Scriptures – following the Ambleside Online reading schedule, we will cover Genesis and Matthew over the course of the year

Nature Study

Experiencing Nature with Children – loosely following for seasonal suggestions

Handbook of Nature Study – an excellent parent/teacher resource

Cornell Lab of Ornithology – we will participate in Project Feederwatch again this year and use resources throughout the year, such as Bird Academy and eBird.

Kindergarten (Year 0) – Age 5/6

Math

Family Math – games and hands-on activities

Spectrum Math Kindergarten

Starfall – online as well as printables

Language Arts

Evan Moor Phonics Level A

Spectrum Phonics Kindergarten

Starfall – online and printables

Literature

Five in a Row (FIAR) Volume 1 and 2 – literature selections and discussion prompts

Bible/Theology

AWANA – continuing with AWANA program

The Shorter Westminster Catechism – reading and review during morning reading time but no memorization expected at this age

Parables from Nature – we enjoy short faith based stories during our morning read aloud time.

Scriptures – following the Ambleside Online reading schedule, we will cover Genesis and Matthew over the course of the year

Critical Thinking

Building Critical Thinking Skills Beginnning Level – a great resource for verbal and figural critical thinking skills *I will say that this Beginner level has some content that is “too easy” for my Kindergartner. But I decided to start him at this level because the next level up has a lot of writing, and he is no where near ready for that yet.

*** Science and Nature Study are “tag -along” at this level

Pre-Kindergarten – Age 4

Math

Family Math – games and hands-on activities

Starfall – online as well as printables

Language Arts

Evan Moor Phonics Level A

Starfall – online and printables

Literature

Five in a Row (FIAR) Volume 1 and 2 – literature selections and discussion prompts

Bible/Theology

AWANA – continuing with AWANA program

The Shorter Westminster Catechism – reading and review during morning reading time but no memorization expected at this age

Parables from Nature – we enjoy short faith based stories during our morning read aloud time.

Scriptures – following the Ambleside Online reading schedule, we will cover Genesis and Matthew over the course of the year

*** Science and Nature Study are “tag-along” at this point

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It seems like a lot once it’s all on paper, but it really is mostly a ton of good books! My oldest LOVES workbooks, so I tend to load her up at her request, and I use multiple resources spread across the week for them all – it helps break up tasks too – I can do “table” work with some while others are doing independent reading. It works for us.

Note – I’ve loved Evan Moor workbooks for years, and usually bought the teacher’s guide and photocopied them as needed. This year I have started buying the e-books directly from Evan Moor and it is a life saver! Printing from my computer instead of photocoping is definitely the way to go!

 

Curriculum 2016/2017 – Fifth Grade and Kindergarten

We have officially started our new school year around here – lots of new books on the shelves, and new binders are set up and ready to go! Kyri is now working on Fifth grade, and Ender is Kindergarten.

We have started using a few new programs, so look for some detailed reviews on those soon. But this is a good overview of our resources for the year.

Fifth Grade

Math

Singapore Math 3B/4A/4B – We decided to change direction in Math and work on Mastery of concepts rather than the Spiral approach used by Saxon. Kyri has responded well to the change in pace and approach and we will continue with Singapore through the remainder of summer and into the new school year.

Additional Resources:

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.

Family Math (series) – this is a wonderful resource, with games and activities that teach and reinforce math concepts. the series is being used over a range of ages, down to preschool.

Mathmania – this is a subscription magazine through Highlights. Two issues each month arrive, full of math-based puzzles and activities.

Language Arts

Vocabulary from Classical Roots – Grade 4 and Grade 5 This series presents new words that are grouped according to Greek or Latin roots. Covers root words, spelling, meaning and usage.

Writing and Rhetoric: Book 1 Fables and Writing and Rhetoric: Book 2: Narration 1 We are working on writing skills through reading good examples and modeling.

Well-Ordered Language 1A and  Well-ordered language 1B This is an depth study of grammar skills. Each chapter focuses on one part of speech and has extensive practice. Sentence analysis, a precursor to sentence diagramming, is introduced.

Junior Great Books Series 5 – We will be reading short stories and working through the Interactive Activity book for reading comprehension and in-depth analysis.

History

Beautiful Feet – Ancient History this is a literature based curriculum, with Streams of Civilization as the spine, and including a large selection of books, through the Ancient Roman Empire. Each lesson includes several reading selections and discussions.

Beautiful Feet History of the Horse – This study goes through the physical characteristics of horses, specifics of the various breeds, as well as cultural significance of the horse.

Science

Beautiful Feet History of Science – this is a lesson guide that goes through major scientific discoveries and inventions, starting from ancient times up through modern times. This is literature based, with in depth reading on the discoveries as well as the people involved. The two spines (along with various living books) are:

The Picture History of Great Inventors

DK’s The Way Science Works

Experiments are included in the lesson plans and will be extended as interests, time and resources allow.

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding  – This isn’t our spine this year, but Volume I  and Volume II are excellent resources for planning lessons as well as having a flow chart of topics in an intuitive order to be studied. I will be using this as a reference and support.

Additional Resources:

Carson-Dellosa Just the Facts: These provide excellent supplemental exercises to enhance and expand lessons.

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.

Real Science 4 Kids – We are using the Elementary level books (Biology, Earth Science, and Chemistry) as supplemental reading this year. These are written for children to be able to read independently, so they serve as a gentle introduction for many of the topics we are covering this year.

Nature Study

Handbook of Nature Study – an extensive resource for implementing nature study time. Incorporates nature notebooking and various nature guides, including as a main resource:

Nature of Handbook Study by Anna Botsford Comstock . This is a must have for a personal library. It is packed full of information about the nuts and bolts of nature study, details on pretty much anything you could want to find during nature study, as well as lessons to carry out during nature study.

Geography

Beautiful Feet – Teaching Geography Through Literature This is a literature based lesson plan. Four spines are read, and detailed discussion and mapwork are used to develop key geography concepts throughout the year.

Bible

AWANA – Kyri is going into her second year of TnT (Truth in Training) this 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:

How to Study Your Bible – For Kids by Kay Arthur

What the Bible is All About: Bible Handbook for Kids

Reproducible Maps, Charts, Timelines and Illustrations

Health and Wellness

The Care and Keeping of You 2: For Older Girls (book and journal) an excellent resource for learning about body issues, changing bodies, peer pressure, emotions, etc. We have used The Care and Keeping of You 1 extensively and love the series.

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.

Hebrew

For writing practice and mastering the Alef Bet we are using a couple of different resources:

Sarah and David (Read Hebrew Now)

Hebrew for Christians

Torah Tots

For reading and speaking we are using:

Mango Biblical Hebrew

Latin

Song School Latin – this is a wonderful resource aimed at a younger audience. It teaches vocabular and simple sentences. It also teaches about the many words that are Latin derivatives. We are using the workbook, DVD, CD and flash cards.

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.

4-H Kyri has participated in our county 4H program since the beginning of 2016. She is active in the Horsemasters Club as well as the Green Thumbs Gardening Club. This year she will continue. In addition, she is working independently on 4H projects, including Cooking 101 and Entomology.

Kindergarten

While more formal education is taking place, a lot of focus this year is still on free play, exploring, read alouds, interactive games.

Math

Singapore Early Bird Kindergarten. A gentle and colorful approach to early math concepts. Counting, sorting, weigh and capacity, etc. are covered.

Starfall – we are a Starfall family. we have subscribed for years. Starfall has continued to add activities to their online lineup, and their Teacher’s Lounge has also expanded. Starfall Math reinforces counting, place value, geometry, addition and subtraction, weight and capacity.

Language Arts

In general, lots and lots of reading together is our focus for the year. But we are tackling some specifics.

Starfall – For language arts we are using Starfall to reinforce letter recognition, phonics and CVC words. There are also rhymes and songs, and talking books to enjoy. From the Teacher’s lounge, I am printing handwriting pages that cover upper- and lower-case letters as well as simple words.

Science

We are not using a formal curriculum for Science. We are pulling activities from a variety of sources, including:

More Mudpies to Magnets – simple experiments for preschool and kindergarten ages to explore basic science concepts

Evan Moor Learning About Animals – reproducibles for teaching about animals.

Handbook of Nature Study – while Ender won’t be expected to keep formal notebooking pages, he will participate in nature outings and will be encouraged to record observations in his own binder.

Bible

AWANA – Ender is officially a Spark this year! He will be working on memoring key biblical concepts and verses throughout the year.

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Review: Teaching Character Through Literature

One way we cultivate character in our children is to expose them to beautiful, quality literature.

Well-written stories allows our children to experience things, good and bad, in a safe environment. We may find literary mentors that guide us in our personal development, and characters may embody personality traits or behaviors that we want to incorporate into our lives.

While there are wonderful reading lists available elsewhere, I wanted to share one particular resource that I am excited about.

teachingcharacter1This past year we have been exploring the study guides from Beautiful Feet.

Can I just say how impressed I am with these study guides?!

This particular one, Teaching Character Through Literature, is such an incredible resource.

The study guide would be worth the cost of purchasing just for the wonderful leveled book lists. These are quality works of literature with characters to relate to and lessons to learn.

There are two levels of reading lists – Primary and Intermediate. Within each level, there is a list of favorite authors (along with some of their more notable titles), as well as a list of favorite titles.

But the “meat” of the study guides are the lesson plans (entitled Study Notes in the guide) that are included. There are two sets of lesson plans – one for Primary (PreK through grade 3) and one for Intermediate (grades 4-6), each with age appropriate books selected.

teachingcharacter2

Each lesson includes a reading selection (either some number of pages, or chapters) followed by a couple of questions. These aren’t simple comprehension questions, they are designed to promote thinking and reflecting. Several lessons include a suggested scripture passage that can be included and ties directly into the reading.

You can view sample pages of the study guide here at the Beautiful Feet website to see how the lessons are laid out.

Even though the lessons are ordered and numbered, the lessons for one book do not necessarily build on a previous book. So in our case, we have actually jumped around in the study guide as we have obtained the books. And because I have a 4th grader along with three younger children, I am  selecting books from both the Primary and Intermediate book lists.

I typically use the questions from each lesson to guide discussion during and after our reading. The questions also work well as essay or journal prompts, and in fact I have asked for written responses on occasion from my 9-year-old.

This study guide is versatile – use it as merely a book list, use the lesson questions to direct discussion, or for more formal written assignments.

After using this guide, I have been so impressed that we are switching to the History Study Guide for Ancient History in the fall. I’ll put together more details as my fall planning comes together.

We are also starting our History of the Horse study this summer. Look for a full review of this study guide soon.

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.
 

 

Curriculum Review: Intellego Unit Studies

We will be schooling year around here, but with Spring in full swing there is a certain feeling that we are approaching the end of the school year. Our social studies/science co-op will wrap up at the end of May and I’ll use that as an opportunity to switch over to our summer school schedule. I’ll also use the schedule change as an opportunity to evaluate what has worked (or not worked) for us this first year, so I can plan accordingly. This week’s writing prompt over at The Homeschool Classroom  – what resources have not worked for your homeschool – got me thinking ahead a little bit on what hasn’t worked for us (so far), so I wanted to evaluate one of our resources that we started off the school year with, but have not continued using at this point.

We started our Fall with a full schedule of material to cover – Math, Reading (with Five in a Row), Language Arts, Story of the World and Elemental Science (both in our co-op), and I had ordered three unit studies from IntellegoGeography:Maps for K-2, Civics:Symbols of America for K-2, and Science:Astronomy for K-2. After our first 6 weeks of class, we did not continue to use our Intellego unit studies. Our reasons for not continuing with the unit studies were more for scheduling and not reflective of the quality of the materials.

The main reason we did not continue with the unit studies had to do with our schedule. I think our school was a bit overloaded for Kyri’s age – there is a limit to how much you should schedule for a young kindergartener (she turned 5 in November), and I honestly put too much on our schedule. Can you tell I’m a first year homeschool mom and just want to do it ALL (smile)? On paper, it looks like it will all fit, but realistically, two hours of schoolwork a day is MAX before whining sets in. This gives us time to do our core subjects – Math and Language Arts are a must. We do our Five in a Row reading two or three days a week, and Mondays and Tuesdays we do our Story of the World (SOTW) chapter reading, additional selected readings that go along with SOTW, and Elemental Science book readings. Additional selected readings for SOTW and Science are spread out through the week, and Wednesdays are light days because we spend the morning at co-op. After a couple of weeks of trying to cover our Intellego unit study topics at the end of the week, and feeling stressed that the work was not getting done, I didn’t even both to put them on the schedule.

There are some pros and cons that I have come up with while mentally evaluating the Intellego unit studies – these are subjective so what I find doesn’t work for us may be right up someone’s else’s alley.

Pros:

– The unit studies are well organized. I found the outline of materials (organized into chapters and subchapters) and the progression of lessons, very well done. For example, for the Geography:Maps study, the lessons start with maps and the many different types available, and goes through cardinal directions, hemispheres and the poles.

– The table of contents allow you to navigate to each lesson with ease. This is not just one very long pdf – it is designed to be easily navigated through the chapters and subchapters.

– The unit studies are interactive web-linked pdfs, meaning they are filled with links to external websites which contain videos, activities, reading, etc. Had I put together my own unit study, I would have had to go in search of all these sites and would most likely not have found half of them. Some of the links are expired or may have moved, but Intellego is very good about keeping them up to date, and make it easy to report if one is found.

– There are suggestions for fun activities (example- I had never even heard about Letterboxing until reading in the Geography:Maps unit study).

Cons:

– Like I mentioned above, the unit studies are interactive pdfs, so most of the material is online material. We don’t do a lot of online schooling, with the exception of Starfall, so being online can be more of a distraction. It is also easy to lose Kyri’s attention if I am fiddling with a website trying to get something to load or trying to show her how to play an online game. More than once, she has wandered off while I was getting something set up online for her.

– Because it is primarily an online unit study, there are no book lists to go along with the units. We do A LOT of reading here for school, and honestly, I think we get a lot more out of our reading than we do from online activities.

– The KWL (Know, Want to know, Learned) worksheets did not really work for us. At the kindergarten level, a lot of what we are doing is new, so I did not include in the lessons we did cover. These might be helpful for older students, however.

I think when I was first planning out our school year, I had intended the Intellego unit studies to be supplemental material. The unit studies cover a lot of material, and to be fair, should not be relegated to a 20 minute session one day a week. I really do like the unit studies, and want to make them work for us. In order for that to happen though, I need to give them the space on our weekly schedule that they require. Because our summer school schedule does not include a social studies or science lesson plan (our co-op is following a traditional 36 week school schedule) my plan at this point is to use the three Intellego unit studies we have purchased as our Social Studies and Science material over the summer. I am going to use them knowing their pros and cons (from our point of view). What this means is that I will need to plan ahead a little better each week.

Some modifications we will make:

– We love reading actual books, so I will follow the topic outline in the units studies and request books from the library that cover these topics. We can do our reading through the week and plan to use the online activites included in the unit studies for reinforcement and fun.

– I will go through the online links BEFORE our lesson time, and have the ones we will be using opened up and ready to go on the laptop, so there is no lag time. This should prevent me from losing Kyri’s attention.

I think the Intellego unit studies are well designed, and I do want to make them work. They did not work for us during the school year with everything else I had on our schedule, but I am going to try them again this summer. With the modifications I mentioned above, they will hopefully be a great resource for us to use.

Starfall – Our favorite homeschool resource

I have written a review in the past about Starfall, but I wanted to revisit this resource in response to The Homeschool Classroom’s writing prompt for this week. We love Starfall around here. In our homeschool, I consider reading, language arts and math as our foundation for the school day. Some days we need a bare bones day out of necessity – whether it is errands that need to be run, pressing household needs, or unexpected visitors. If I have to rearrange our school plans for the day, I make an effort to get our foundation work done, and then I can shuffle whatever else I had on the schedule over the rest of the week. I cover our foundation work briefly and then I let Kyri get on the computer and do Starfall. This is a great tool to introduce new material and reinforce reading and math skills.

Starfall is a wonderful resource for teaching phonics, early reading, counting, place value, and early math. It is very interactive – flash generated graphics are used for animated stories, CVC word machines, counting, addition/subtraction machines, geometry and measurement. There is a large selection of stories, books, activities, and songs to engage younger children. Starfall is very engaging so I don’t worry about Kyri “vegging” out in front of the computer screen – she is animated, giggling, reading and singing along. She loves to play on Starfall, and to her it doesn’t feel like she is doing schoolwork. But in the year that we have been using Starfall, I have seen such positive results. We first got a full subscription to the online content this past Spring, at the end of her preschool year (as we were transitioning to homeschool). Starfall does have a lot of free content, but I recommend paying the year subscription cost. It is not expensive at all, and allows full access to all of the web content (and there is A LOT!) as well as the teacher resources, such as worksheet generators, many more early reader selections, and the Kindergarten curriculum. I have seen Kyri’s reading skills blossom over the past year, and I really credit Starfall for engaging her in fun activities online to reinforce basic phonics and early reading.

Homeschool Begins

We are officially homeschooling. Okay, since Kyri has a November birthday and isn’t eligible to start Kindergarten until next fall, I guess its not “official.” But I think she is ready so we are moving ahead. We started the week of August 22, and as we are wrapping up our Week 3, I can say that it is going well so far, even as we are working out some of the expected kinks. Here’s a breakdown of what we are covering this year:

1. Math – I will spare you the details, but overall, Kyri will be proficient with counting, patterns/sequences, addition and subtraction, fractions, geometric shapes, time and money. We aren’t using a specific curriculum for this – so far workbooks are more than enough. Starfall also has math and counting content for supplemental work.

2. Language Arts – This covers reading and phonics, and handwriting. We are doing A LOT of reading. I am realizing that the library is the homeschooler’s best friend! We get leisure books, books on topics of interest, and books that correspond to topics we are learning about in our other subjects. I really like the idea of learning from living books, and so we typically have a large collection at any given time. For Phonics and beginning reading we use Starfall. Kyri has been using Starfall.com since April and is able to read a fair amount. She is not limite to sight words that she has memorized – she is comfortable reading words by sounding out and using the Phonics she has learned. I am really impressed with her progress already. I also give her copy work to practice writing letters, words and sentences. We are working on improving her handwriting and correct formation of the letters.

3. Five in a Row (FIAR) – this is an interesting curriculum. You read aloud a classical story five days in a row, and each day you use the story to lead into a different lesson. The curriculum guide lists several learning topics, covering Social Studies, Language Arts, Art, even Math and Science. Some use FIAR as their core, but I am really using it as a supplement.

4. Social Studies – We are involved in a co-op this year covering Social Studies and Science. For Social Studies, we are using Story of the World (SOTW) Volume 1. Each week we cover (typically) one chapter, and our children read living books, do map work, and some relevant arts/crafts. This week, we learned about Nomads and made cave paintings and bead necklaces. SOTW follows the Classical education approach outlined in the Well Trained Mind. One thing that I really like abou the Classical approach is its focus on living books. Especially at this young age, this is the way to engage them, not being limited by a stuffy textbook.

5. Science – the second topic we cover as part of our co-op is Science. Again coming from a Classical approach, we are using Elemental Science . This is a great introduction to scientific concepts for young children. Covering topics such as Dilutions and Solutions, and Density, it introduces concepts in a simple and fun way. Kyri has been having a blast!

6. Geography – I wanted to go beyond our basic topics and chose three extras to cover this year in addition to our “core” Social Studies and Science topics. I found Intellego unit Studies , which contains a large variety of curriculum choices in both Social Studies and Science topics. The Geography unit study that we are doing introduces maps, and for the next several weeks, we will be learning about what they are used for, and the different types available. Last week we even made a treasure map! We will also be covering cardinal directions and hemispheres. We have also covered our school room walls with various maps.

7. Civics – in the state of Texas, Civics is expected to be taught in schools, including homeschools. I am using a Civics unit study from Intellego.This particular Civics course introduces Symbols. We have started learning about the American flag, and we will cover topics such as the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Star Spangled Banner.

8. Astronomy – By far my favorite of our extra topics, our Astronomy unit study from Intellego has been a lot of fun so far. We have been learning about our solar system. We will cover galaxies, the moon and the planets during this topic. While I don’t expect my child to retain everything from the course, I think a broad understanding of the topic is really my goal here. Already Kyri has shown an interest in stargazing. Just this evening we all spent some time out back looking at the stars. I think a telescope is in our near future, as well as a study in Constellations.

These are our “official” subjects. We are still exploring options for Art/Music. She has shown interest in Ballet in the past and we are considering putting her in a class. I am hoping that sometime this fall we will have some sort of musical or artistic activity planned for her. We are also considering what to do for physical activity. We asked her if she was interested in Soccer and she wasn’t. Martial Arts are another option we have been considering. Like the Art/Music, we hope to have something in place later in the fall for her Physical Activity.

As far as the “kinks” go, we are still trying to find our groove. What I mean is, we need to find what type of daily schedule works best, how to best schedule our topics, how long should we work before taking a break. While I have our first six weeks planned out, I am waiting to see how it goes to see if I have been too ambitious in what I expect to cover in that time period. One of the wonderful things about homeschooling is working at the pace of your child. There is no reason to “move on” from a subject because that is how it is scheduled. If more time is needed for a subject, than that’s what we are doing. I accept that this year is going to be a learning experience for the both both us. I am learning what works best for us. I love reading blogs to see how other moms organize their days, as well as deal with the frustrations that occur.

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At San Antonio Children’s Museum

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Bubble Ranch at San Antonio Children’s Museum

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Working on worksheets at co-op

Curriculum Review: Starfall online

As we ease into a homeschool routine for our preschooler daughter, we are really trying to focus on basic math and counting skills, and basic phonics and reading skills. I came across Starfall a couple of months ago after hearing about them on the Secular Homeschool website. While they have a packaged curriculum, one which is adaptable for either classroom or homeschool use, they also have a web portion that is really great.

We opted to purchase a year’s subscription to Starfall.com. This gives us full access to all of the web content, which includes a very nice collection of flash-driven activities. Word generators introduce simple three-letter words, “books” are read-along by clicking on individual words or having the entire sentence read aloud. There is also active content within books, which makes it even more exciting for the child. A wonderful collection of animated songs, and nursery rhymes introduce various subjects, like time, money, months and days of the year, body parts, etc. We love the emphasis on phonics – in just two months of using Starfall, our four-year-old has really made significant progress in learning to sound out words, and I often hear her imitating the starfall website in making the sounds that each letter makes. The content is enjoyable for her, and so it doesn’t seem like “school work” and she is really benefiting from the material and its approach.

One thing I love about the Starfall online membership is the Teacher Lounge. Here I am able to generate worksheets for our daughter to practice writing her letters, words, and numbers. I can also generate word finds and letter search worksheets. While there are defaults that follow the “weekly” schedule of the Starfall curriculum, it also allows for custom input. Included in the Teacher Lounge are additional resources, such as a Blank Writing Page, perfect for early writers, as well as Vocabulary list generators, Word and Number Card generators, and a large collection of the Starfall Books available for on-screen reading. Finally, the Starfall Kindergarten Curriculum guide is available, broken into “weeks.”

As we transition from a more formal preschool to educating at home, we are taking a relaxed approach out of necessity this summer. While we will be incorporating more structured material in the fall as we move into Kingergarten, Starfall is providing a nice foundation for our daughter to get more comfortable with reading and early math. The material available with Starfall ranges from early readers in preschool to new readers in Kindergarten (and beyond), and the Math content ranges from early counting, addition and subtraction, and goes into simple multiplication and division. There is a whole series of songs for learning the multiplication tables which our daughter loves, even if it is a little advanced for her!

Overall, we have been extremely pleased with the Starfall content. Our daughter loves to do Starfall and really seems to be getting a lot out of it. We have even bought three Starfall apps for my Iphone, which she absolutely loves. I think the reasonable price ($35 for home membership) makes this an excellent investment, even if not homeschooling.