Monday, September 16, 2013

Our 2013-2014 Curriculum Line-Up

Mikko (23 Months)
  • Kumon My Book of Easy Mazes
  • Kumon My Book of Coloring 2-3
  • A Spiral Notebook to practice connecting dots, counting, coloring in, drawing shapes, etc.
  • DK My First Numbers and Counting Touch and Feel Number Flash Cards
  • Counting/sorting manipulatives and pattern blocks
  • Homemade Alphabet Flash Cards
  • Lots of books!
  • World World on DVD
  • Preschool workbooks from the dollar store (these are GREAT once they're ready to start tracing letters!  Who cares what it looks like... and they feel so grown up!)
Oli (4)

Elon (5)

Aram (8)
Read Aloud List for the Littles (ages 8 and under)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Little House in the Big Woods
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Ramona the Pest
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends

Breton (14)

Gabe (19)
ALEKS Intro to Statistics (final course for Bachelor's Degree!)
Federal Income Taxation (Thomas Edison State College), credit towards CPA requirements
Ancient Hebrew

Now... my notes:

I do NOT recommend ALEKS for high school or collegemath courses. Gabe, unfortunately, was our trailblazer, and  we learned the hard way (CollegePlus chose this for his degree plan).  In the future, we will do the college math courses through the local college, as a CLEP, or through a different resource. ALEKS is a royal pain.

I am also doing the Ancient Hebrew course with my two older kids and LOVING it.  It turns out I have quite a bit to say about our experience learning Hebrew, so I'll put that in another post later.

To some, on "paper," our curriculum list looks like a LOT, but somehow it is a perfect amount of school work and we're almost always done with school by lunch time!   The 2yo takes, most days, just 10 to 15 minutes to go through flash cards once, practice colors and coloring, etc.. The three boys (4, 5, 8) always do their Bible together, and do their penmanship and art journals independently.  Aram (8) can do his math and phonics, and a lot of his other lessons mostly independently, but he is at that fun age where I like to be involved with him as he learns.  Elon and Oli do their classes together, and they don't take long at all (math 10 min, science 10 min, A Beka and Phonics 10 min).  Breton teaches herself. I check her work/papers and help her if she has a question on math. I spend an extra hour or so with Aram each day, one day science, one day geography, one day social studies, one day health. I also work with him a bit more on his writing, grammar, and other English. 

My secret:  Choose the best curriculum, keep it simple, and ad lib some things as we go. We integrate a lot of art, and use the internet to find relevant coloring pages, photos, diagrams, facts, and activity pages. How do I keep it simple?  For example, I use A Beka to teach phonics and reading. But I don't buy the whole progam with all the different workbooks, readers, the teacher's guide, or any of the accessories.  I use the Letters and Sounds book only for K4-Grade 1, then add the Language Book for Grade 2. I don't use the teacher's guide. The only accessory I have is the "Handbook for Reading" so we can practice the phonics as they are taught. We simply do one page in the workbook per day. Many days, they enjoy it so much, or have looked ahead to a page they are excited to get to, so they will do even 2-3 pages extra.  But most days it takes no more than 10 minutes.  If I get to a page that  says "Write the Blend your teacher says," I don't need the teacher's guide. I just choose what to dictate. This way, the kids aren't bored, overwhelmed, or get that feeling that school is "tedious."  I use wisdom to discern what is enough, and what is simply too much. What I have whittled down to using is completely effective. My children's standardized test scores are evidence enough--always in the high 80s or 90s for their composite scores.
I think a lot of workbooks or programs are too "heavy." Don't be afraid to cut back to just enough to be effective and to not frustrate and bore your children with tedious busy work! Don't be afraid to assign every other math problem... if they get them all correct, move on.  Don't hesitate to skip a page of problems if you know your child already has the skill mastered! Take a big red marker, draw a big slash across the page, and write "SKIP!" in large letters!

Spectrum Phonics is an excellent little book that we use Grade K-6. One page per day. Just takes minutes. Very effective lesson.

I don't teach spelling as a separate subject.  Silly waste of time to me. We pay attention to spelling as we do everything else.Aram's current Language Arts program has spelling lists. We're not using them.

I don't teach history before high school, other than Bible history (the most important), and then we just READ history stories for reading time.  Why teach U.S. history more than once?  Why? WHY? Teach it once. Teach it well and simply with good curriculum. Get high school credit AND college credit. And be done. At grade 4, though, we do start a beautiful scrapbook-style timeline notebook for all our Bible History, and add in anything else we come across in our daily reading. For that I use this unbelievably awesome timeline as well as Ussher's Annals of the World . These two, plus a few other resources, help us put what I believe are fairly accurate dates on our Bible history. In Jr. High, I do a one-year "framework" of history to give a foundation for the high school history.  My daughter, for junior high, simply plotted in her timeline all the important wars, world leaders, inventions, writers, scientists, artists, musicians, important men, women, U.S. Presidents, and 100 most important events.  Just plotted--reading a short summary of each event as she plotted it (and filling out a one-page summary worksheet of major wars).  There. Fun project and groundwork laid for high school history.

 Enough history, unless, of course, your child lives and dies by history... then of course, you should be rolling in it. I've heard there are some of you like that!

Years ago, after realizing Saxon math was just too tedious for us all, I went to a homeschool convention and researched all the new math programs I could find.  I discovered the amazing and brilliant VideoText Interactive program, and the author of that curriculum recommended that I try "Making Math Meaningful" for our elementary math.  I switched. I have never looked back. I will never look for anything else. It is beyond effective, easy to teach, NOT tedious, and just brilliant! In my opinion, of course.

It All Begins with Genesis is a great prerequisite to high school science (Creation Science to help give solid footing in the Biblical worldview before having to answer questions "appropriately" to pass HS college science that is evolutionary based), so with that 1-year course, and my chosen 2-year science program, my child does get three full years of high school science, and learns every bit as much as those kids struggling through 30-pound textbooks and $2,000 lab kits. The Rainbow is brilliantly written and effective, and has the same learning objectives/results as any other high school science I looked at.

Starting in 4th grade, my children put together a HUGE World Geography binder, with dividers for each continent, and we fill it with the My Father's World geography worksheets and such.  My kids take about 3 years to work through it, using two awesome wall maps,a globe,  two giant World Atlases, and the internet as their reference materials, diving in deeper here and there whenever they get interested (cooking, doing art projects, taking field trips--like to a German restaurant or something, or even a trip to Mexico!), and then when they're done studying all seven continents, I give them the A Beka 9th Grade World Map Studies workbook to complete. Then Geography is done forever. Amen.

Garfield'sTyping Pal was the first and last typing software I bought. My kids love it. Both my older kids type at least 45 wpm now, and the program is just so darn FUN! I even went through the course (twice, ahem).  My kids learned to type 45 wpm by age 12 or 13... and yes, I did put a semester each of Typing 1 and Typing 2 on their high school transcript! They learned it and earned it! I don't think it is sold anymore except for used!

And last but not least, I made a "pact" with my boys that we always do Bible first. Always. How can I tell them God is most important, but not put that lesson first each day.  STUDYING GOD'S WORD GOES FIRST EVERY DAY.

As usual, I gave too much information and made my post way too long for any normal human to read.  I think everything else is self-explanatory, but please comment or email me if you have any questions!

But before I sign off, some show and tell photos:

The  shelf of Gabe's College Textbooks used to study for CLEP and DANTES exams for college credit:  This shelf is two layers deep... you're only seeing the outside--there's another row of books behind this. Notice the two "Dummies" series books (there are several more). These worked well for him, obviously.  Breton was 10 or 11 when his "U.S. Government for Dummies" book arrived in the mail.  With a worried look on her face, she asked me, "Is Gabe a dummy?"  Priceless!  Breton won't need his Business books, of course... the other Gen Ed credit books are buried behind this lot, and the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature study books are on her desk now!

Breton's completed World Geography binder, stuffed full!

A page of notes in Bret's geography binder... love her flag drawing and her pink ink!

One of the art projects stuck in a sleeve protector in her geography binder.

Aram's brand new Geography binder... here are the workbooks all ready to disassemble, punch, and place inside!

The beautiful timeline notebook we use for Bible history and recording our history "framework."

Some of Breton's pages in her timeline notebook... on this page, note the Bible history as well as important inventions.

Love her drawing of the ark, here.

The plagues, some important pharaohs, the invention of glass...

The judges of Israel... love the drawing of Samson and her add-in of "The Trogen Horse."

The pretty way she plotted wars.

Inventions got a yellow frame.

U.S. Presidents got a blue frame.

Aram's (8) art journal from yesterday... I love it!

Aram's art journal

Aram's "The Real Mother Goose" reading book with the matching Dover coloring book... see how he tried to copy the colors, blending with his colored pencils? 

Elon's (5) Penmanship from this week... just had to show you the beautiful penmanship pages from LightHome Publications. My favorite penmanship resources by FAR.

Oli's (4) Art journal:  Peacock.

Oli's art journal:  From a "how to draw" book. Great job, huh?

More of Oli's art journal using the "how-to-draw" books. See... even a 4yo can be encouraged to use these!

A sketch we added to Aram's science notebook, practicing with his oil pastels. This is an "Etruscan Shrew" FYI.

Aram's awesome colored pencil sketch of a jellyfish done for his science notebook.

God bless your school year, all!

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