Monday, September 22, 2014

2014-2015 Curriculum Choices and Schedule

I was asked to share our curriculum, why I chose it and schedule for this school year.  So, without further ado....

Math - Math in Focus (Singapore-style Math) Where to Buy
History - History Odyssey (The Ancients 1 for Abbie and Noah, The Ancients 2 for Bryce) Where to Buy  Try Before You Buy
US Studies - 50 States and Where to Find Them Where to Buy
Handwriting - Cursive Copy Work, Nature Quotes Where to Buy
Science - R.E.A.L Science Odyssey Where to Buy Try Before You Buy
Spelling - All About Spelling Where to Buy
Grammar/Writing - Igniting Your Writing (Start-up for Abbie and Noah, Intermediate for Bryce) Where to Buy
Reading - Explode the Code and book of choice (Abbie and Noah), Book of choice (Bryce) Where to Buy
Spanish - Mango Languages (Bryce only) Where to Buy

This is our second year using Math in Focus and we couldn't be happier with it.  Singapore math has worked well with all three kids, regardless of their varying learning styles.  The kids actually look forward to math everyday which says a lot to me.

I decided to try History Odyssey after hearing people rave about it online.  So far, we are loving it.  It is a great mix of reading, writing and hands on activities.  It is still early but I have a feeling we will be staying with History Odyssey for years to come.

I got my hands on 50 States and Where to Find Them last year during a promo the blogger who created the curriculum was having.  Due to poor planning on my part, we didn't get through as much of it as I would have like and in a way I would have preferred so we are restarting it this year.  This is also a great combination of reading as well as hands on activities and it is easy to add to it with videos such as Liberty Kids and How the States Got Their Shapes.

Handwriting or rather setting aside time specifically for the sole purpose of practicing handwriting seems to divide the homeschool community equally into two groups.....those who do and those who do not.  I was previously a do not as I felt like the kids received plenty of practice through other subjects.  I was also wary about setting aside time for additional practice because when I had done so previously, it was a huge source of anxiety and frustration for Noah and that was not something I was in a hurry to experience again.  However, when the kids began showing interest in cursive I decided it was time to add handwriting to our curriculum.  I am so glad I did.  Bryce writes so much better in cursive than he ever did in print.  He also writes faster.  The Nature Quotes are great because we love nature and because it introduces the kids to famous writers, poets, screenwriters, painters, etc. that they have not been previously exposed to.  Handwriting still isn't Noah's favorite subject and I except it never will be but he is not anxious or frustrated with it anymore.

This is also our second year with R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey.  We love it!  Pandia Press has really done a great job with balancing reading and hands on activities with all of their curriculum options.  The lessons are simple enough that the kids don't get bogged down with details but fact based enough that the kids are genuinely learning scientific terminology and processes.  It is also very easy to add on to with additional experiments, documentaries, Magic School Bus, lapbooks, etc.

This year is our first with All About Spelling.  All About Spelling is based on teaching spelling rules rather than learning by memorization or word families/associations.  We've attempted to teach the kids by memorization, word families/associations with no avail.  When using All About Spelling, regardless of your child's reading ability, you must start at the very beginning to ensure they have a solid foundation and that they do not miss any rules that are taught in the earlier levels.  We are currently more than half way done the first book.  The kids are enjoying it and learning a lot.  The curriculum works for all learning types which is great for us.

I chose Igniting Your Writing after it was recommended by several moms.  I was looking for a way to make grammar and writing more fun as none of the kids really enjoyed the process of writing and grammar can often be very dull.  Each level of Igniting Your Writing offers three levels of course load based on your child's level (Start-up, Intermediate and Advanced).  We initially set out to have Bryce to do the Advanced level which entailed completely the Start-up and Intermediate activities and then an Advanced activities but at this time we are finding it to be too much.  Not because he doesn't understand the work but because it requires so much time to complete the work so for now he is doing the Start-up and Intermediate levels.  

Explode the Code is a favorite in our house.  This is our second year and we will continue with until completion.  Prior to Explode the Code I worried constantly that Noah would never become a reader.  This is not something I worry about any longer.  We use the online version of the curriculum as I thought Noah would be more receptive to it if I wasn't adding one more book to his curriculum and it seems to have worked.  Last year I created a reading list for Bryce because I thought it would be helpful to encourage him to expand his taste in literature but I ended up dealing with a fair bit of resistance on his part.  For this year, we have agreed that he can choose the books he wants to read as long as he is not reading books he has previously read.  So far this seems to be working.  We are about a month into the school year and he has read more than a dozen books.

Since Bryce is officially a middle schooler this year I decided it was time for him to begin a foreign language.  We attempted to introduce foreign language earlier but he wasn't interested and it became more of a frustration than anything so we stopped.  I came across Mango when looking for alternatives to Rosetta Stone and couldn't help but give it a try when I learned they offered a free, 14 day trial period.  I like Mango because the languages are taught in a conversational manner which makes practice in the real world much easier.  They also offer a wide variety of languages.  The cost provides access to all languages, rather than purchasing one which is great for kids who aren't sure what they want to learn or want to learn a wide variety of languages.  Mango is not very expensive and in fact, many libraries offer free usage to their card holders.  So far Bryce seems to be enjoying to program and looks forward to his Spanish lessons.

Our school schedule is pretty straight forward, all subject are done 5 days a week with the exception of history and US Studies.  They have history on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and US Studies on Tuesday and Thursday.  We usually schedule one activity during the week with friends, often on a Tuesday or Thursday.  On those days, we still have handwriting, reading and spelling and we will move US Studies to Saturday (per the kids' choice) as we are trying to complete it by spring.

We have found that the kids function a lot better when they get up early so their day begins at 6:30am.  After they wake up it is chores, breakfast and then school.  Between each subject they have a 5 min. break with the exception of lunch which is an hour break.  After their school work is completed, they clean up and then their time is their own.  Our schedule is more formal than many homeschoolers but I've found that this works best for us because the kids like the predictability of it.  It also helps to reduce my stress level because I am not flying by the seat of my pants.  ;-)

What curriculum choices did you make this year?  What does your schedule look like? What do you do to fit in everything that is important to you?

Have a great day!!  

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