Our Curriculum 2010-2011

Our Curriculum PLAN for 2010-2011

I emphasize the word "plan", as it may change.  It really doesn't bother me if the plan changes, so long as I have a plan.  So here it is.  Next school year, I will have a 4th grader, a 3rd/2nd grader, a 2nd grader and two 1st graders.  I am very excited about next school year.  Here is what we will be doing.  FYI - we won't be doing everything listed here everyday - we will do half the material 3-4 times per week and the core items five days a week.  The following is what we did - click on the words in Bold for more information.

Bible - Community Bible Study - So we are going to try two new things this year.  The first is a Community Bible Study - CBS.  I have heard great things about this from people in both Oregon and Tennessee - so we are going to give it a shot.  It meets once a week and each age group has its own class.  The great thing is all the kids and I will all be studying the same thing, just on our own levels.  I do not know what kind of homework is required (hopefully not too much).  Oh - and it is very affordable.

Beautiful Feet - The other thing we are doing different this year is we are taking a break from the Explorer's Bible study.  I will pick it up again when all of my kids can do it independently.  So this year we are doing Teaching Character Through Literature for our Bible at home.  I did not purchase it with this intention.  However, as I looked through it I realized that it had many, nearly daily, some kind of Bible reference.  What I really like about this curriculum is first the book is meant for multiple age groups.  Not only does it have a full primary section, it also has a full intermediate section.  I can use this now for all my kids (picking and choosing from the intermediate for my oldest), and I can keep this and do it again when all the kids are of the intermediate age - if I want to. The next thing I love is the daily lesson break down and the premise behind the curriculum.  You read children's stories - such as Time of Wonder, The Runaway Bunny, When I was Young in the Mountains, and many more.  The idea is to study the character of the main characters in the story.  Then there are Biblical references that mimic that character trait.  I love that it takes a story of interest to the child and relates it directly to the Bible.  The next thing I like about this curriculum is that it lists many extra readings for both primary and  intermediate.  Lastly, I love the price - VERY affordable.

Language Arts -  Explode the Code and Beyond the Code - These are great - the kids all enjoy them. We use them for the four younger kids.  Once they complete the third book in Explode the Code, I start them on Beyond the code and then alternate books between the two programs as they complete them.  This keeps it more interesting and gives them help and challenge in some areas, while giving them confidence and mastery in others. I have found that they coordinate really well with Hooked on Phonics -which we also use.  

Hooked on Phonics - I have to put in a testimonial for Hooked on Phonics.  Maraya and Carter had only been in the country for a year and a half - thanks to Hooked on Phonics, they were able to start reading within six months of being with us.  Keep in mind that when they came they were four and six years old and only knew five English words.  Now each of my five children are either at or well exceeding what their reading level should be according to their age.  Jackson will be using their Master Reader Program - very exciting for him, as this incorporates computer reading games that require mastery before moving on, as well as reading interesting and educational stories on his own and then to me.  All of my kids should be in the Master Reader Program by the end of the school year 2011.

Wordly Wise - All the kids will be trying Wordly Wise this year.  It is filled with great activities to help them learn their vocabulary. My oldest particularly enjoyed the stories at the end of each lesson last year.  We go through one lesson a week and test at the end of the week. It is easy to go through at least one book, if not more in a year.

Building Spelling Skills - We are going to try with with all of the kids this year.  The words start out pretty easy - but do get progressively harder.  Again - we do one lesson a week and test at the end.  I do something though that I enjoyed as a child.  I do a "pretest" at the beginning of each lesson - if the child gets all the words correct, we skip that lesson, otherwise, they will do the practice activities in the lesson, but only test on the words they missed at the end of the week.  Anything they still missed will get added to their spelling pretest on the next week's lesson.

Easy Grammar - I really like this program.  I like that the older children can do it independently, and that it does not take long at all.  I think the repetition of the concepts are helpful in planting the rules in their mind and is therefore helpful in other subjects.  We will try it with all the kids and see what happens.

First Language Lessons - My oldest did level three of this curriculum last year.  I like it - it spells everything out for me, the teacher, and makes it very simple to teach.  It does not take long to do and it works well for my oldest daughter.  I am still on the fence about which level to do for one of my children - likely I will start in the middle of the first book and do all the younger four kids at the 2nd grade level.  I may try the 3rd grade level on my in-between kid - we will see how it goes.

Write Shop Primary - I am very excited about this.  I have read in many places that homeschool kids struggle with writing skills when they get into high school programs or college.  This program has lots of hands on activities - that will be great for my four younger kids.  It also has three levels. Each of the three books have a one, two or three year lesson plan (allowing you to complete all three books in one, two or three years) as well as tips for teaching slightly  younger or slightly more advanced kids.  This will make it very easy for me to teach the four children from the same book through the next two -  three years.  This teaches the very basic concepts of writing in fun, interesting and non threatening ways.  The activities do not appear as though they will take long to do either.  There is some prep time required by the parent - but that is it.

Word Smith Apprentice - I am also very excited about this book.  This teaches writing skills to a more mature, but still primary audience (4th-6th grade).  Our fourth grader will start doing this program.  The book looks somewhat small - not sure how long it will take to get through.  It is meant to be quite independent.  I like the idea that the child is a reporter for a newspaper - allowing them to pretend and take on that important writing role.  Much of the information is done in a fun comic book style - making it more appealing as well.  

Math - Teaching Textbooks 5 - I told my oldest that if she could get her fractions and decimals down, and most of her multiplication tables, then she could do computer math in the 4th grade.  So that is what she is going to do - and she is excited about it - which is huge for her when it comes to math.   This will be our first experience with it, I hope we like it as much as we think we will.

Horizon's Math - I have used this with all of my kids.  It is a little more advanced than some curriculums, but we really like it.  The first few pages of the books are always review to a certain degree - so don't think that it won't be challenging.  I like that it is so independent, but also so easy to help them through a problem if they need the help. My expectation is to do Horizon's through third grade and then to switch to Teaching Textbooks in fourth grade - will see how that goes.

Key To - My oldest did the Key to Fractions and Key to Decimals last year, along with the Horizon's, for a little more practice in these areas.  I am hoping to do these with some of the other kids as they seem ready. These are easy, cheap, written in an appealing way and have information re math history or the use for math in the beginning of each book - which was interesting.

Hooked on Math - We will do this occasionally with all the children on an as needed basis to help supplement and give extra practice where it is needed.  The activities are very appealing to kids - but it is not, in my opinion, a stand alone curriculum for math.

Science - Apologia -Exploring Creation through Botany. We will continue our study of Botany this year.    It has been fun so far.  We were able to dissect a flower and look at the eggs of the flower under a microscope - something that I, myself, had not seen before - Fun learning for everyone!  We are using the lapbook cd along with it, the kids love the hands on project that this provides.  I have been throwing in some Real Science 4 Kids where it is applicable.  You can download the e-version by chapter of their texts, teacher guides and labs for a very affordable price.  The second semester, we will begin Zoology 1 - Flying Animals.  Instead of doing lapbooks with that - I will have my oldest do the journal that goes with the curriculum and have the others keep a different science log with the facts that they learn, along with drawings of animals.

History - Beautiful Feet - Early American History.  This is a wonderful curriculum, we started it last year, and will finish it the first semester.  It really engages the children with the story books.  Some of the suggested readings are a bit much for my children's ages, so I picked through a little bit.  I really like how it uses the Bible as an actual text book and refers to the character of the people you are reading about and compares it to good Christian character.  Certainly the kinds of values I want to instill in our children. We will be kicking off our school year with a trip to Williamsburg, VA to see living museums of the pilgrims, Jamestown and the Mayflower.  So excited!

Story of the World - Volume 2 - We did the first book in the series last year. The kids really enjoyed the stories.  They were informative, exciting, entertaining, and not too lengthy (although my children always wanted me to read more).  We enjoyed the activity book very much - we didn't do every activity, but we did enjoy the ones we did.  I also used the tests on my two oldest.  My kids are very excited to do this again, we begin this the second semester of the year.

Geography - Galloping the Globe - Ok - I honestly can't decide what I am most excited about for next year - but this would certainly be a contender.  I am not really one for unit studies - I just can't do it.  Something in me feels like they just don't cover all that I want to cover. (that is likely just a hang up that I have, I am sure they cover all that one would need to).  Now regarding Galloping the Globe.  In this curriculum, you study different countries one at a time.  It is meant for Kindergarten through 4th grade.  I truly wish I had found out about it last year - but that is ok - we will do it this year and enjoy.  We are going to do this strictly for geography, although you could do it for Bible, History, Science, Literature, Vocab, and spelling.  Having the need to really only add a grammar and math. Certainly if you did cover all of those subjects, you could be on one country for 2-4 weeks.  We will be spending four school days on each country.  My breakdown is this:

Day 1 - Introduce the country -
  • Locate on map/globe, color and label map with capital.
  • Notebook page
  • Country Flag
  • 1-2 books about the country
Day 2 - People
  • Famous people from the country - explorers, scientists, artists, etc.
  • Children Just Like Me and Notebooking page
  • Missionary from that country or who worked in that country
  • 1-2 books of the country

Day 3 - Additional labeling of map and other interesting facts
  • Important cities, famous landmarks, things the country is known for
  • Geography features - mountains, climate, rivers, etc
  • Animals and/or indigenous plant life
  • 1-2 books
Day 4 - Wrap it up
  • Finish up Notebooking pages
  • Video of the country
  • Stamp kids' passports
  • Art or projects 
  • make meal from that country
  • 1-2 books
Doesn't all of that sound like fun!

Typing - Type to Learn - Maddy is very excited to learn how to type.  She does it any chance she can.  So now is the time to really teach her - before she develops bad habits.  We have not used it yet - hope we love it.  Will let you know.

Piano - This is the last thing to add.  We intend to purchase Lean and Master Piano.  I am yet to find an honest, non money making review of this item.  We will see  how it goes.