While the kids are working on cleaning their rooms, I thought I would take some time to share what the overall plan for our 2013-2014 school year.
Yesterday morning we had a family meeting over breakfast to discuss the ins and outs of the upcoming year, goals, expectations, etc. I think it was productive and the kids seem happy about everything.
The biggest change (other than our curriculum) is the kids' request to have their schedule stretched across seven days. I was a bit shocked by the news but once I planned the schedule out, I think it will work brilliantly. It will also allow Eric to have a more active role in their education. The final schedule looks like this:
Monday - Math, Spelling, Language Art, U.S. Studies, Science, Typing, Required Reading
Tuesday - Math, Spelling, Language Arts, U.S. Studies, Science, Computer Programming (Bryce), Required Reading
Wednesday - Math, Spelling, Language Arts, U.S. Studies, Science, Art, Required Reading
Thursday - Math, Spelling, Language Arts, U.S. Studies, Science, Music, Required Reading
Friday - Math, Spelling, Language Arts, U.S. Studies, Science, Required Reading
Saturday - Typing, Computer Programming (Bryce), Art, Music, Required Reading
Sunday - Typing, Computer Programming (Bryce), Art, Music, Required Reading
Now, some of you may be cringing at the thought of how many hours my poor children will be sitting at a table. FEAR NOT, it isn't as bad as it looks and there will be plenty time that they won't be putting "pen to paper". Instead they will be cooking, playing games, working on the computer, creating works of art, watching videos, making lapbooks, etc. Eric and I sat down and estimated that there will be about 3 hours of actual instructional time on the heavy days.
The spine of our curriculum this year includes:
Math in Focus - This is a Singapore style math curriculum. It has been getting rave reviews from users and is said to be ahead of many other curricula. I've chosen it because I like the success that people are having with it, I like how items are explained to the kids, the books are colorful and the workbook pages are not overwhelming. I am also hoping that because it is more advanced that it will place the kids in the position to take college course math during their high school years.
We switched from M.E.P. (Mathematics Enhancement Programme). Honestly, I have no major complaints about M.E.P. Abbie flew through the Kindergarten curriculum as well as part of the first grade curriculum. Bryce did well with it at the start but has become bored with it over the years. We also found that we had to do some supplementing where Geometry and measurements were concerned but that really wasn't a problem for me as we often supplement. It was not a successful match for Noah. He found the pages very overwhelming....not only because there were many problems on a single page but because many topics were covered on a single page. It was to the point that I would have to keep the worksheets, hand him a separate piece of paper, tell him the problem and then write his answer after he worked them out. Much of the math section of his end of the year portfolio said, "work completed on a separate piece of paper".
Sequential Spelling - Previously, I had been using spelling worksheets from superteacherworksheets.com for spelling. The kids found the boring and tedious so I ventured out to find something better. Several people have suggested Sequential Spelling. This program teachings spelling by fact families rather than rules. Bryce has had no success learning how to spell by rules. I decided on the DVD version so that Bryce can work independently while I work with Abbie and Noah. Sequential Spelling does not offer a program for their age so I am planning on taking age appropriate word families and teaching them in the style of sequential spelling so that when they move on to it, they will already be aware of the process. I found a great word family book on teacherspayteachers.com that I plan on using so I have one less thing to type out on my own.
R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey - I have to say, I thought I was going to end up in the nuthouse over choosing a science curriculum for the kids. I never thought it would be so difficult to find a secular science curriculum. Previously, we were using Elemental Science. I don't want to say there is something wrong with the program but I will say that I felt like there was something we weren't getting from it and I've never been able to put my finger on what it is. The program seems "meatier" than Elemental which is something I'm looking for, especially when I have more than one child who for this week want to be in science related fields. The best part about RSO, they have a try it before you buy it program! I wish more curriculum companies did this.
Scott Foreman Grammar and Writing - This is a free online program. They also have a reading program. I've heard good things about this program and decided to give it a go because out previous program (First Language Lessons) doesn't offer curriculum beyond 4th grade and it is way too worksheet intensive for Noah. I will say that I am also looking at the Brave Writer and Michael Clay Thompson curriculum but I want to do more investigating before I commit as they are not cheap. As a side note, I do realize that this program is linked to Pearson and I also realize the dirty deeds that they've been up to but I have no problem using this curriculum because they aren't profiting from it.
U.S. Studies - I am teaching this using unit studies that I am writing. It will start with basic map work over view and for Bryce, working with longitude and latitude. Then we will do an overview of the United States as a whole....what Continent we are on, what counties border us, who found us, when we became a country and how, etc. We will also go into the history of the flag, pledge, the national anthem, the seal, odd facts and so on. I will follow the same basic pattern for each of the states. There will be lots of activities involved in this process, along with videos and cooking. To kick off the unit study we will be reading, How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the United States and we will make a cherry pie. What goes better with the first day of school than pie? After we finish each of the individual states, we will be cooking recipes from them. Eric and I are also hoping to take the kids to the state capitals that are within driving distance. This is a big change from our previous curriculum, that I love! We were learning chronologically with Story of the World but the kids seem to be more into learning about their countries history so I want to switch it up while the interest is there. We will come back to World History later.
Art and Music - I am pairing these together because I wasn't formally teaching either. Previously, I would just make a point to expose and teach the kids about artist and musicians as I could. These are both being taught as unit studies and they came from www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com. These unit studies were written to correspond with Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artist and Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers.
Typing - This will be our first year "teaching" typing. I put it in quotations as I will not be teaching anything. We are using this program: www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing. Eric and I both have previewed this site and it is engaging and fun....much better than how we learned to type!
Computer Programming - Something else we've never taught before and I will not be teaching as I know NOTHING about computer programming. This is another reason our seven day schedule will be helpful, Eric will be home to help Bryce if he needs it. The program is www.codecademy.com. It is completely free and the user can move at their own pace.
So there you have it, our schedule and curriculum for 2013-2014.
Some other things we are doing this year is asking the kids to be more vocal about their needs and wants in regards to their curriculum and a "Scientist of the Month" board. We explained to them that even though we are their parents and we know them better than most people, we will never know they as well as they know themselves. To aid in this process, we will be having monthly family meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page and to deal with any problems before they become major issues.
The scientist of the month is just that. Each month, I will create a board about a particular scientist....a timeline of their life, their contributions and achievements, etc. My hope is to pair this with books, videos and activities about said scientist. The kids picked Da Vinci for September. Of course, while discussing this with Eric last night he's suggested changing the name to "Brain of the Month" because there are a few Mathematicians he would like to add to the list. :-)
That's it for today as this took WAY longer to type out than I imagined it would. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them and I will get to them as soon as I can. Have a wonderful day.