Well, we’ve kicked off another homeschool year. And, I’ve been promising this post to so many people…sorry, I’m slow. So far, every year I am adjusting to this homeschool-thing, learning more about what works for us, and it’s getting eaiser! I was a little nervous about adding a third child to the mix (Audrey joined us this year), but it’s not as tricky as I thought it would be. Relief!
The question I keep getting asked is what are we doing different this year and what curricula are we using? Well, my friends…let’s get to it.
History – This is where I made the biggest change. Previous years I was following an pre-organized curriculum, usually Story of the World or Sonlight’s history package. What I found is that I felt rushed. I wanted to spend a little more time of some of the chapters, but I didn’t want to feel behind, so I would move ahead with the manual. I also wanted to have time to throw in a related documentary or read them a related historical fiction book. This year I decided I had enough of the whole rushing thing. I would rather take things slower and really help the kids develop lasting knowledge and maybe even a passion for what we were learning. So, I grabbed a favorite, simple history book, A Child’s History of the World, and made an outline. I decided this year we would do the handful of chapters in the book that focus on the late Renaissance and Elizabethan age. It’s nice to have the book to follow to be able to keep a focus on what they’ve learned, and what they haven’t. After I decided what chapters I wanted to do, I wrote down some of the main subjects with each one, and then the fun started. I went on Amazon and found supplemental products that would help teach the chapters. For example, I found a picture book on Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, a historical fiction novel on Bloody Mary, a DVD on The Inquisition, paper dolls of ladies from The Elizabethan Age, etc. So now, I’ll read a chapter and for the following history days, we will focus on some of our supplemental material. We’ll watch our video on John Wycliffe and eat popcorn, or we’ll cuddle up on the couch and read ‘Who Was Queen Elizabeth‘. Basically, we’re taking things slower and I’m finding that we’re learning more, enjoying it more, and it’s less stressful. Next year we’ll move on to the pilgrims coming to America and early American history. Oh, we do history every Monday and Tuesday.
Handwriting – This is another thing where I found the need to design my own curriculum, at least half of it. The kids do handwriting every day. Twice a week they do their cursive books, Handwriting Without Tears. I’m not a big believer in my kids having to write cursive, but I would like them to learn to write quicker, connect their letters, and just practice writing overall, so cursive, it is. One day a week, they write in their personal journals for handwriting. The other two days, they do a writing assignment from Mom…which is what I put together this year, and I’m loving it! I love the idea of copy-work, having kids copy paragraphs that are already grammatically correct. Last year I ordered this book that was a bunch of paragraphs, quotes, that children are to copy. But, I wasn’t impressed with the quotes in this book, at all. I figure, if my kids are going to take the time to copy something, I would rather have it be something meaningful, something we can discuss and they are better for it. It’s all about multi-tasking! So, I went to work and found 180 quotes (one for every school day…even though we do this twice a week.) Each quote is one that I feel is worthy of discussing and easy enough for kids to analyze. What we do is, I have them copy the quote exactly (some are long, some are short) and then underneath they have to write a few sentences about what they think it means. Afterwards, we talk about what it means, and usually a little ‘life lesson’ comes of it. Because my first grader has a harder time interpreting and understanding the quotes, I usually have her write a letter to someone, copy pages from her reading book, or I’ll give her a little ‘story starter’ that she’ll finish. But, she’ll usually stick around for the family discussion. Anyway, I recently shared last weeks quote on Facebook, because I loved it so much!
“For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are you’re not going to be very happy. If someone based his happiness on major events like a great job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.”
Anyway, I would be happy to share with you the collection of quotes that I put together. Just click on the picture below. I thought about charging for this, like an e-book sort of thing, since it took me 4 million years to find JUST the right quotes…but, eh. You can have it…for FREE. And, if you like it, please share it.
Math - Math-U-See is a great program, but I got a little tired of all the blocks. I don’t know. I think I get bored easily. So this year we decided to try Horizons Math, and so far, so good. I love the colorful workbook pages…not that it matters, but it seems to make math a little less stinky. Also, I’ve found the pace right-on and overall, I’m happy. We do math three times a week.
Science – I’m having a hard time finding the right science curriculum for me. But, I decided to go with Apologia again. I feel like it’s a little more advanced than I would like, a little T.M.I. The other programs I’ve found are more just science experiment kits, and such. Needless to say, we chose Apologia, the one all about oceans. So, twice a week we do science, Thursday and Friday. We’ll read the chapters together, discuss, and I also picked up some supplemental things, like a coloring book of ocean animals, and the Blue Planet DVD‘s. I’m thinking we’ll do a field trip to the aquarium this year too, which the kids will love.
Reading – We read, read, read. Again, I agree with the concept that the more good books that kids read, the less time they have to spend studying spelling and grammar. Plus, it’s way more enjoyable. The kids read on their own every day, and then I read something to them. I usually alternate a fun novel with a historical fiction novel. We just finished Hatchet together, and right now we’re reading Mary, Bloody Mary. Because my first grader has a harder time understanding the novel we’re currently reading, I read a separate book to her. For the books the kids read on their own, they get to pick a novel they want to read, but when they finish, I get to pick the next one. So, we take turns. My first grader obviously isn’t ready for novels, so we’re working our way through Bob Books, and then will be moving on to the Step Into Reading books.
English – Because we do so much reading, we focus less on spelling and English. However, I do have a workbook that we use randomly to teach verbs, nouns, comma usage, and so on. When they are older, I will spend more time on this.
Scripture Study – Every morning we meet on the family room couch and start the day with scripture study. We alternate between the Book of Mormon and the Bible. This year we’re on the Book of Mormon, so we read a chapter, discuss, say a family prayer, then raid the kitchen for breakfast. Every Wednesday is Memorization Day where we all memorize an important scripture together. I did a post on memorization previously, if you’re interested. I think it’s great for exercising the brain and plus it’s nice to have these little scriptures engrained in the mind to pull up during those tricky times in life. It’s something I did when I was younger and have found it to help me several times throughout my life.
Exercise – Every day the kids have to get their little butts moving. Lately, their big thing has been the trampoline, which keeps them bouncing and playing together. Sometimes they like to work out in the home gym, go for a walk, bike ride, or we have stair-running contests…which we’re always trying to beat our old record of how many times we can run up and down the stairs. Let me just say, this pregnant girl stinks at running stairs. Ugh. If they’ve been particularly well-behaved, I’ll let them play the different exercise games on the Wii or Xbox Kinect.
Chores – I just add chores into their school day, makes things easy. Every day they have to do two chores or my choice before they can play with friends. TV, video games, and iPods can only be used for educational things until 4:00.
So, if you’re wondering…an average day looks like this…
I get up, do a little blog work, read my scriptures, exercise and then call the kids up for school. We read our scriptures together and then eat breakfast. After breakfast is reading time, followed by me reading to them. Then they take a break, usually doing their ‘exercise’ outside. Meanwhile, I straighten up the kitchen. They come back, we’ll do a couple subjects and we take another little break. Come back for lunch, do another subject and we’re usually done. They’ll play, I’ll rest, then I’ll summon my energy, turn commando and get them to do their chores, while I clean up, as well. Meanwhile, friends are calling and they’re off to play. The end. At least, the end of THEIR day.
Well, there you have it! I hope that gives you a little insight of the goings-on in our little homeschool. I’m sure I’ll have some little homeschool posts to share throughout the year, and I will happily update again next year.
Do we still love homeschool?? We all say ‘yes.’ And, I’m not speaking for them. I love spending time with them. I love learning right along with them. I love teaching them in ways that they respond to. I love seeing them play together more. I love all the cool books we’ve read. I love lots of things! I could go on for a while. If you ask the kids if they like homeschool, they’ll say things like, ‘I hate math!’ And, then they remember there’s math at public school and they’re quick to back down. They would rather be home.
Tips for the Homeschooling Rookie
Homeschooling with the iPad (Educational Apps for Kids)
Are you on Pinterest?? You can also follow my Homeschool Board for more fun ideas from across the web. Or, I suppose you can follow any board you want.