Sister Sword of Desirable Mindfulness (fiberaddict) wrote,
Sister Sword of Desirable Mindfulness

Homeschooling Year 1 in Review

Today, I want to go over our curriculum, not only for me, but for anyone who might be thinking about taking the plunge/who is using/thinking about using what we use. Usual disclaimer applies: what I use works for us, and we like it. While I don’t believe what some homeschoolers do (that some curriculum won’t work with some kids; I feel that you can tweak it to make it work for any kid), I do believe that everyone won’t like the same things. Choice is good! :lol: And – I don’t believe in curriculum-hopping. What I have is what we will use, so if I have to tweak it, I will. Thanks to spending HOURS online researching stuff before I bought it (mostly on the Well Trained Mind forums), I feel pretty good about our curriculum. Oh – I do believe in using textbooks. I know a lot of homeschoolers don’t, because they are “too dry” and “too school-like”…but I prefer them. I don’t have to try and find books on every little subject-within-a-subject; I KNOW what they are learning, and I know that they aren’t going to have gaps. I also know not everyone agrees with this – and I am OK with it. It works for us, and, ultimately, that’s what counts.

I wanted to add pictures…but it’s hard to make any of them “fit”…sorry. I might do a picture-post one of these days showing our school day. Maybe. :grin: I did try to link all the books - hope that helps!

So…this is gonna be long; let me put it behind the cut

I’m going to do this subject by subject; I have my weekly plans beside me to make sure I cover everything.

Bible: We follow the weekly Torah portions – I found a site that had them all broken out for daily reading (I didn't bookmark it, and now I can't find it again. Figures). MTW is Torah, Th is Prophets, and Fri is NT. It works well – when we listen to the weekly reading at our Shabbat meal, the kids are familiar with the portion and can discuss it with us. I just added in a Psalm a day; I realized we hadn’t read any of them to this point. I need to figure out how to add the other books; the hard part is not over-loading the kids each day. I’m working on that…

Back in Oct., I purchased Torah Class’s Genesis for Homeschoolers . We…haven’t started it yet. :sigh: The husband wants to participate, but he’s never ready to sit down and DO it. We need to get with that…..I want my kids to have a good grounding in Torah, and Torah Class is FANTASTIC.

Art Appreciation: We use The Annotated Mona Lisa. A lot of colleges use it for their Art Appreciation courses, so it was easy to find a cheap used copy. I couldn’t find a reading schedule, so we do 1 section per week. It’s fascinating – especially when we can get to the Museum to actually LOOK at some of the paintings we’ve covered. I read aloud while the kids look at the paintings on the iPad, and we talk about what we like/don’t like about them. (We just did Rococo – that was a hoot. NONE of us like the overblown curlies and gaudiness. :lol: )

Art: We use ARTistic Pursuits. I like it – it’s not a how-to book so much as it is an introduction to all types of art. It shows you an example of the day’s lesson, talks about it, then turns the student loose to experiment with the style/technique on their own. An example of an assignment: Himself learned about landscapes and perspective, and was told to draw 2 landscapes; 1 what he saw out the window, and 1 from his imagination. I let him skip the “out your window” part, because he’d done that the week before; his imaginary one was a view from space. Herself is working on textures right now – she’s drawn fur, feathers, and other textures. I like it, because you’re not trying to imitate someone else’s work. We’ve just instituted watercolor “lessons” in place of Music on Tuesdays– so we’ll see how that goes.

Music Appreciation: We’ve been using The Young Person’s Guide to Music . It’s OK – it has a CD that has the same piece of music on every track; the first is the full orchestra, then each succeeding one is 1 instrument /section. We’ve enjoyed it, and we’re almost done with it. Up next is Pathways in Harmony(or something like that) – Music Theory. It was a freebie, and it looks really good. I also just found a copy of The Enjoyment of Music” at Half Price WITH the 2 CD sets – it’s Music Appreciation for real. We’re going to start that when we start our “new” year.

Music: We started out doing lessons – Violin and Piano. I gave up; the kids would NOT practice, and it wasn’t a battle I felt like doing. The instruments are there, should they want to pick them up again, and Music Theory will teach them to read music – which was my main point. This is the only thing we’ve dropped completely…but I am OK with that.

History: We use Streams of Civilization Definite Christian worldview, which I like, but mentions other views as well. Starts with Creation and goes from there; each chapter covers a different area…which makes for tough going sometimes – some of the chapters cram a whole lot of time in them. It IS a textbook, which some people don’t like. The tests are multiple-choice…..I did use them at first, but now I do oral exams – because I can ask weird questions to make sure the kids are actually reading the chapter and not skimming it. We were doing notebooks….but both kids rebelled when we hit Medieval England – I think the 67 pages of mini-books, biography pages, foldables, and such kinda blew their brains (what? There was a LOT of info I wanted to reinforce; it doesn’t help that I LOVE that time period. SCA, anyone? :wink: I take full responsibility for the rebellion – it WAS a bit much..but still. I stand by my creation – I can’t help it that I had SO MUCH info on Knights, and Chivalry, and Courtly Love and and and…:lol: ) I now make them Outline the Chapter on day 1, then write me a minimum of 5 essays a week on topics I choose, then the oral questions at the end of the Chapter. It seems to be working – so far. We’re just started the next-to-last chapter, and will move right on into Vol. II when we finish. (Maybe – as I said yesterday, we may take a break to dig deeper into some of the eras we’ve already studied.) I found my lesson plans on Donna Young’s site; she broke out each chapter in a day-to-day reading format, which made scheduling a snap. She didn’t do Vol II, though, so I bought one from Hewitt Homeschool – not only does it have the daily readings, but it has projects to do, as well as books to read. I think we’ll be doing some of those when we get to Vol. II – to “punch up” stuff a bit. I’ve looked over the list of books they recommend as added reading – we already have some of them, so we’re off to a good start. And – since I can’t find some of them, I’m going to substitute books I do have for thiers; the point is to get the kids reading about the era, not necessarily THE books they recommend.

I have a bunch of paper models saved to my hard drive that I try to pull out when they match what we’re studying. I also have Knowledge Quest’s blackline maps that we use to cement the locations we study in our heads. I have all the HistoryScribe sets, and that’s where I get most of our Essay pages/Biography pages – they’re already set up, so I don’t have to take the time to put them together. They’re not perfect, but they work – and the time savings is worth it to me. I print out the ones that fit the current chapter when we start it, then hand the kids the stack as they read. That way, I don’t have to tell them what to write about – it’s right there. In Vol. II, they’ll start writing “free” Essays – on topics THEY choose, but for now this is working. (And Westvon Publishing, who does the HistoryScribe packages, runs sales on Currclick quite a bit. They just recently put EVERYTHING they have on for $0.75 each. HUGE bargain!)

Language Arts: Lots here. Let’s break it down:

Grammar: We started with a lapbook from Hands of a Child- “Operation Grammar”. It…well, they did it, but they found it too juvenile. It was – it was billed as an inclusive Grammar study…in fact, not so much. Cute….but…..I’m glad both kids had already had Grammar, because I don’t think this is enough. We’re now diagramming sentences; soon as we finish that we’ll move into Excavating English from Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop. It looks fantastic, and was written by a linguist, so I’m excited about it. (We’re also eventually going to get a video from The Teaching Company about the roots of language – SG thought it looked good. So do I! :lol:)

Hebrew: We’re doing Rosetta Stone 1 day a week, for learning grammar/speaking. We’ve done a bunch of things for reading/writing – RS has a section for reading, but it’s light. We tried Hebrew in 10 Minutes a Day - we stopped because it got WAY too intense for my kids. (6 pages of words a day? Seriously? In 10 minutes? Not even!). We’re doing Sarah and David and You Read Hebrew- the lessons short, it’s easy, and they have free mp3 files on their website. So far, it’s been a hit.

We’re also doing Shalom Sesame - 1 video a day (well….that’s the goal. I’ve let that slip since the last break.), and we’ve just added Twebrew School. I have eTeacher Hebrew on the iPad, iPhone, and YouTube – we’ll see how that works (Twebrew School is 2 minutes; eTeacher is 6. So far, we like Twebrew School best.)

Spelling: I found a book on words High School students needed to be able to spell (online pdf for FREE – free is good!); we do 10 words per week. Yes, my kids could handle more – but why? 10 is a good number, and makes it not such a big deal. Latin has helped their spelling, too.

Latin: We use Getting Started with Latin by William Linney. 1 lesson per day; I use his free mp3s for the actual lesson. I like it – 1 word per day isn’t hard, and the sentences he has for translation practice have been fun. I write the new word and the 10 sentences on the white board, then we listen to the mp3 for the actual lesson. We’re almost done (there’s only 130 lessons), and we’ll be moving into Minimus next. I figure, that and it’s sequel will be a good transition into Wheelock’s Latin, which was written for college but is used in AP Latin classes in some High Schools. We’ll take it slow – but I do want my kids to be familiar with Latin; it’ll help them on their SATs and in life. (Minimus is a mouse that lives in Vindolandia – Roman occupied Britain. It’s written in comic-book form, and looks like fun. We’ll see. It’s “Latin Lite”, so I don’t expect a LOT of learning, but it’ll be fun.)

We started with Christiana Latina or something like that. It was the ONLY MISS of the year – it’s based on the Catholic Mass. Nope – not gonna work here; I ended up donating it to the local Women’s Shelter.

Writing: We started out with Writing Strands . I LOVE it, but Himself…’s too “open” for him right now. A typical assignment is so……undefined, he can’t handle it (ex: write a paragraph including dialogue). I put it aside and started using The Five-Finger Paragraph, which is FANTASTIC for reluctant writers. I just purchased The Writer’s Jungle from BraveWriter, so I can get a handle on how to better teach writing – it’s FANTASTIC (buy it from Home-School Buyer’s Co-op – it’s on for half-price right now). They have their History essays each week, which is helping, and I toss in some biography pages as well.

Poetry: We’re going thru F*E*G - I like it, because the poems are silly, and the author puts notes at the bottom of each one. We’re almost done with it…I have a few other kids poetry books, but they’re not the same. Still – 1 poem a week. If I get some of BraveWriter’s Literary Analysis packages, we’ll have “real” Poetry analysis to do..we’ll see.

Penmanship: Both kids have HORRIBLE handwriting. I have an italics book that we’re doing copywork from – Himself’s has improved, but Herself’s…..hasn’t. She doesn’t want to take the time to work on it, while he does. :sigh: I scored all of History Scribe’s sets (they cover EVERYTHING – history, geography, science, famous people, etc) for cheap when they had an emergency sale– one of them is a set of nothing but QUOTES. We’re using them for penmanship – keeps things interesting.

Math: Singapore. Singapore all the way – Math was the 1 subject I was worried about. Singapore has the highest rating, and the most Mathlete winners, so I went with it. It’s more mastery-based than spiral (most public schools use Saxon, which is spiral – you learn something today, then ignore it until next month, then ignore it until the following month, etc.), which I prefer. It was a bit of a shock for Himself to change – and because I refused to hold him back, he galloped thru 5th and 6th grade math in 9 months. He’s now doing Discovering Mathematics which is Singapore’s integrated series for 7th-10th grades (some use it for High School only) – it covers Algebra I/II, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus (I think it includes Analytical Geometry and Trigonometry, since those are Pre-Calc, but I’m not sure. No biggie, if not – there’s 2 more Singapore books after this series.) He’s sailing thru 1A; Herself finally finished 1A and has started on 1B (which is right on schedule – it’s “mid-year”, so she’s doing OK. He’s still sailing thru it.) He’s only 1 chapter behind her – which is helping HER, because she doesn’t want him getting ahead of her. :heh:
I purchased some of the Life of Fred “living math” books – and both kids HATE them. Refuse to read them. I’m going to try reading them aloud….I really want them to work. I think they’re cute, and they explain math in a real-world way. (And even used, they were at the top of my price limit, so I need to do something so that they get used.) We’ll see…

Science: We use Apologia, and will thru all of High School. I was given the first one, General Science, and I just LOVE it. The author is an unabashed Christian, and he’s a Nuclear Chemist. The books (I have ALL of them, except the one on Human Anatomy…I haven’t decided if we need that one) are written on the student’s level, without being written down to them. He explains things clearly, keeping God in the equation. Some people have a problem with his views on the Earth’s age – he’s a die-hard Young Earth creationist, but – since I believe the Bible is Truth, and the Bible says the world is only 6,000 years old,…well, I fall into the Young Earth Creationist category as well. Not that it matters – I don’t see what difference it makes if the Earth is 6,000, 60,000, or 600,000 years old, to be honest. It doesn’t change things….so…..:shrug:

Each book has REAL experiments that use mostly stuff you have around the house. I’ve kinda dropped them…..I DON’T have a lot of the “common” stuff they call for. For Physical Science, I broke down and bought the kit from Home Science Tools. I now have almost everything we need (only the most common common stuff wasn’t included. I can handle that – it was having to scrounge around for a shoebox, a cork, and a 2 Liter bottle that stalled me. We don’t drink soft drinks, I don’t buy shoes often, and a cork? They’re either in the Shabbat wine bottles or lost. :lol: ) The chapter reviews are deep, and the tests really do cover everything in the chapter.

As I said, I have all of them – General Science, Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Advanced Chemistry, Physics and Advanced Physics. I got lucky on eBay – I think the most expensive one was $15. AND I scored the Test/Answer booklets for each one, too – so we are SET. :happy dance: Basic Science doesn’t go out of date – so these will work to get Himself ready for MIT. (I hope I can teach him well enough to get into MIT…that’s what the goal is.)

I started out with Creation Sciences….Creation Astromy, Creation..something; I got 3 at Half-Price for $3 each. I didn’t even try to use them – they were Unit Studies (where EVERYTHING revolves around the main subject; Math is counting stars, for example, and Sciene is Astronomy, and LA all deal with Astronomy, etc. Ummm….nope. ) That format didn’t appeal to me when I tried to set it up. They ended up at the Women’s shelter, too.

I also purchased 2 of their “Young Explorers” books – Astronomy and Botany. Different author than the Middle/High School books…and she’s…..very in-your-face about her beliefs. It got to the point in Botany that I had to put the book down….I’m sorry, but saying that photosynthesis is proof that God exists, and that He created the Earth in 6, 24-hour days…..she put Him in a box. (Something about how plants NEED a 24 hour day to exist, therefore Creation had to be done in 6 24-hour days. Um. God can do ANYTHING, so no, that doesn’t prove the 24 hour theory. :sigh: ) She keeps pushing…I don’t mind it, sometime, but when half the page is gushing over how good God is (He is, He is – but I don’t need to hear it in the middle of a discussion of space dust!)…well, it gets to be annoying. To me, anyway – someone else may not mind it.

Social Skills: I bought Navigating the Social World from Half-Price. It was at the high end of my limit (my limit is $20 from them – if I can’t get it for less there, I will hunt for it online.), but was written to help Aspie’s function in society. I was excited…but it’s going to take a LOT of tweaking to make it work in a Home environment (no matter what it says about being written to help parents….it’s not. Not really). Right now, it’s on the bottom shelf….I need to take some time and see what I can do to make it work.

Logic: I scored a copy of Zen in the Art of Rhetoric on a recent visit to Half-Price. Haven’t added it in yet – we’re still working out a few kinks between the 2 kids. (Adding Herself caused a LOT of issues…but we are working on them. An Aspie + total change in routine + competing with her brother =/= easy transition. It’s been over 6 months, and it’s STILL rocky. :sigh: ) I also have an e-copy of Aristotle’s book on Rhetoric..but neither kid is ready for that yet.

Extra-curriculars: I downloaded Scratch from MIT back when we started. Both kids jumped on it at first, but have dropped it for “Gary’s Mod”, something from …someone somehow related to Valve/Steam (the creators of Portal and Portal 2). Himself has been working on programming his own “maps” (basically storylines for Portal/2) – and he’s learned a LOT. I don’t know if it’s applicable to anything else, but still – it’s programming.

We’ve just started doing Snap Circuits every day – 1 project (sometimes 2) per day. Herself is participating, too, which is GREAT! I didn’t expect that at all! They both beg to do more – but I want this to last, so it’s “school”.

We’re doing a sort-of college schedule. MWF has History/Math/Art Appreciation; T/TH has Science/Music Appreciation/Art. Bible, Latin, Hebrew, and Language Arts are everyday, but LA is only 1 subject/day (so, Spelling is M, T is RS Hebrew, W is Writing, Th is Poetry, and F is Penmanship). It’s working – and, when we still went to the Psychologist, he said it was a good idea – after all, you don’t do the same things everyday at a job. (Herself is struggling a bit in Math , so she has Math everyday. So far, Himself is doing OK – but I’ll up him to every day, too, if he starts struggling.)

I try to arrange all tests on Friday – that way, it’s easy on me recording-wise. The kids don’t seem to care; they are only tested on Math (end of chapter Revision Exercises), Spelling, History and Science. We do reviews on Latin occasionally – I found free flashcards for ALL the Latin curriculum we have (on Quizlet – they’re FREE!!), which makes review easy. I also have Hebrew flashcards, but I can’t remember where I found them. Some came from Akhlah, but the rest – I have the AlephBet – I just don’t remember. :sigh:

Overall, I’m pleased with what we’ve accomplished. The kids are carrying As and Bs in everything – which is GREAT (and it’s not “mommy-grades”, either – I don’t give them anything. They either know it, or they don’t and have to do it again.) They will insert something they’ve learned into conversations, and it’s funny to see people’s reactions (I…guess homeschoolers aren’t supposed to know about the Egyptian gods, or be able to discuss computer programming?)

It looks like a lot of stuff, and I guess it is, but it’s not overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. We spend 2+ hours per day at the table on school stuff – I’m not rushing them, and I’m not holding them back….sometimes I wonder if it’s enough, but it takes however long it takes. Some people on the forum claim that you need to spend 1 hour per grade on school….I can’t see that. 9 hours for Herself???? She’d kill me. 6 hours for Himself? Or would it be 7? He’s doing 7th grade Math and Science… would I even start to figure that?? Some days we get done even quicker. (This doesn’t include the free reading time – they each have a required 1 hour per day. Some days, they read longer…:lol: Here lately it’s gotten lost, but I just added a box in PlanBook to make sure it gets done.) Math is the sticker – some days they “get” it, and we blow thru it; other days neither one understands and we spend an hour or more PER KID to work thru the assignment. It’ll probably start taking longer as I add “extras”…..I’ll sneak ‘em in. Both of them know we’re going to add more as we go…so at least it won’t be a surprise. (I read something recently that did some math – seems that public school kids only get the equivalent of 1.5 hours per day of actual instruction; the rest is busy-work, switching classes, settling down, etc. I can believe it! We get SO much accomplished in 30 minutes, it’s not even funny!)

I hope this helps someone - I wish I could have found something similar when I was just getting started. Most of the HS'ers online seem to have young kids.....and I don't. I can't use Preschool or early elementary stuff; both my kids are beyond that. There doesn't seem to be a lot of folks blogging about their HS'd High Schoolers...which is a pity. I don't WANT my kids to go back to I have to re-create the wheel, it seems. :sigh:

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