Our Curriculum Choices for 2010/2011
Ch- 9 years old (JUST turned)
A & B- 7 years old
Spelling- We are using Modern Curriculum Press' Spelling Workout. In the past, I have used McGuffey's Spelling Lists and created a schedule of my own. I have also used Natural Speller. Both of these are great programs for spelling. I wanted to simplify our Spelling. I wanted to spend less time than the children on their Spelling assignments!
I read about MCP's Spelling Workout in "The Well Trained Mind" and it fit the bill. It is a workbook, however, there isn't TOO much writing involved and it requires less than a page a day. I do not use the writing suggestions as they do not fit my taste or philosophy so we skip over that. My 8 year old son (9 years old in 3 days!) is finishing Level D from last year and will move on to Level E in a few weeks. My 7 year old daughters are using Level B and are beginning on the 4th lesson as we completed a few lessons sporadically over the summer.
A & B - 7 years old- First Language Lessons of the Well Trained Mind - Level 2
Ch- 9 years old - First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind - finishing up Level 3 and then beginning Level 4
This was one of my more difficult decisions this year. I was back and forth between programs for Grammar and Writing. My children have not had much formal Grammar up until this point because we were adhering closer to the Charlotte Mason philosophy which does not recommend early formal grammar. Due to this, I was hesitant and unsure about which program to use.
My son is not as strong in auditory learning as he is in visual and kinesthetic. This caused concerns about First Language Lessons for me as it is primarily oral for Level 1 & 2. After hesitantly trying Level 2 with him last year and seeing his eyes glaze over everytime I tried to repeat things three times, I decided to move him into Level 3. Level 3 does have worksheets for each lesson which he appreciates. I appreciate that it is not TOO much writing which seems to make him frustrated.
I worry still that he is not "getting" enough out of the program. It is not that the curriculum does not CONTAIN enough grammar information, it does. My concern is if MY SON is absorbing enough of the material based on his own learning style and personality. He doesn't seem to mind the curriculum anymore. He rather enjoys circling and underlining in his copy of the program. He even tolerates the "say it three times" now that we have laughed about it and talked about it helping him to memorize the information. He usually chimes in, however, while I'm reading my section 3 times rather than waiting for me to read it three times and then us reading it three times together. If it is not the first day of memorizing and repeating a rule than we don't always repeat it as often as the book recommends. He just doesn't seem to respond to saying it 9 times. I believe all programs - even the best of them - have to be tweaked for the child.
I purchased Shurley English and have spent quite a bit of time looking through it and considering it, I just think it is A LOT for what they are getting. My son is very bright but his attention span is not terribly long. He's not "unusual" according to my pediatrician for an 8 (almost 9 year old) boy - just a typical boy of his age. I'm afraid the SE will make him bonkers (and possibly me!) He did ask me one day if I had any songs to help him remember the parts of speech. My friend taught IEW at our Co-op and taught the kids some jingles for simple parts of speech that he enjoyed. He does NOT enjoy the long, drawn out songs such as the ones in SE. As a matter of fact, the Veritas Press songs I was so excited to purchase him just made him laugh at me! :) It needs to be fairly short and to the point.
My friend taught him "Verb, verb - action word!" I guess he's looking for quick memory rhymes versus songs. I'm considering looking at some of the Grammar Songs CDs.
We are going to move forward for now with the First Language Lessons Level 3 and probably move quickly so as not to bore him.
A & B- Both of my girls are proficient readers. I am still determined to read through The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Reading with them. Practice makes perfect, and certainly won't hurt anything. They find it easy but don't complain, partly because it is private, one on one time with mom where they can show off thier "skills". I am considering taking 5 minutes a day to briefly review it with my son as well. I am not using it to replace anything and adding 5 minutes of reading practice to our day will not seriously throw off our schedule.
The other nice thing is I purchased the .pdf version and placed it in a 3 ring binder. Not only was it a bit cheaper, I can also just take the page or two out that I want to practice with them for that day and lay it in my planner. This allows me to take it with us without the bulk of a reading curriculum or heavy textbook. I did not purchase the .pdf version for this reason. I actually purchased the .pdf (admittedly!) for the instant gratification of having the program THEN and THERE! :) This explains my love for Currclick!
This past week, for our first "week of school" I took it with us to music lessons and quietly went through it with the girls while their brother was in guitar lessons. It was perfect! It was casual and fast but I felt good that we had that few minutes for practice.
My children also are required to read daily. I assign different books for the girls and Chance sometimes but with thier reading ability I am finding that I can probably assign them the same book more often. I set a longer time for reading for my son than my daughters but they will often ask if they can read another chapter or "just a few more pages" so they exceed him.
I believe my daughters caught the "book bug" from me. I could read for hours on end. My son did not. I have taken a lot of advice from other homeschoolers on types of books to provide him. I take him to the library with me and allow him to choose books. I check out and purchase books for him more often than my daughters because I am trying to find that ONE that will call to him. I believe the Lord makes us all unique, however, and for good reason. My son is just an active boy. He will grow to be a strong and active man. He will be an amazing provider for his family and his wife will love it! He just may never choose a book over football or martial arts or a book over building something. He would rather RAISE the ferrets and bearded dragons than to read about them! The trick for me is to find that interest in his sports or nature studies and grab books for that and continue to assign his reading. School is not always going to be what they WANT to do over all else. I can't blame him, I would rather be painting or reading than washing dishes :)! My goal is to continue with his assigned times and stick to it. He is an obedient child, thank the Lord so it's not a problem. I may find him one day sitting and reading a book without having it assigned to him but for now I am blessed by him and WHO he is! He will grab "how-to" books and care guides when he needs them, the literature will come from his education. That's a part of it, isn't it?
A & B- 30 minutes
Ch- 30-45 minutes.
I am not STRICTLY adhering to this. If they finish a history biography in 20 minutes, we will discuss and make a notebook page on the book, I will not go hunting down another book to "fill up" the missing 10 minutes! These guidelines I set to help me choose how much reading to assign the kids. I am tweaking it as I go, assigning chapters or pages based on how long I think it will take them and we'll move from there. I will watch for frustration levels AND enjoyment levels.
My son enjoys biographies and Usborne books with a lot of great history illustrations and building information. He loves battles and heroes. He might not want to read as much of "Tara" as he does the others. He may take longer to get through that book due to lack of interest and I will adjust for that. The same goes for my daughters. They might find the chapters on war boring and emerse themselves in the romance and family sections. Again, it is going to be a constant change.
I will be posting a list of the books I'm assigning them very soon. I will also be posting books from thier fun reading time.
Fun Reading- I am asking them to read on their own, an approved book of thier choice daily:
Our goal is for:
A & B- 30-60 minutes
Ch- 60 minutes.
All of my notes above from assigned reading on this time limit is the same.
I thought that I would allow them to "blog" about their fun reading books. I am going to try to start a page for each of them to do this. A book review/report is a great way to keep them motivated. They love to share with other children and maybe once we are organized and consistent about it, I'll be able to post it on our blog and other children can chime in with thier own book likes and dislikes! :) hint! hint! Moms!
A & B- Finish Explode the Code Book 4 and move into MCP Level C
Ch- Finish MCP Word Study D & possibly move into E - only 1x per week now on day he does not have a spelling page to complete.
A & B -
Letter Writing- 2 x month
We are going to start the year strong with writing letters. It was a "side note" in our writing last year. We wrote get well cards for sick friends which were more illustrations and crafts than writing. I am striving for 2 letters per month from the girls.
Writing with Ease & The Complete Writer - Level 2
We discovered and began using WWE and TCW last year towards the end of the year. We were only able to get about 4 weeks done before our year completed. I did enjoy it for them because I was already doing a lot of oral narration and copywork from our Charlotte Mason roots. I contribute my daughters' ability to pen well to this as well as their ability to narrate well for thier age. They still have certain material that is more difficult than others simply because they have a harder time paying attention if it doesn't intrigue them. I've read this is normal.
It's so interesting to compare their level with my son's. He is just as bright as his sisters but with very different strengths. Much of it is the Lord's design of him for his path in life compared to my daughters. However, I find that it is also due to his almost two years in public school - 2 of the most crucial early years- Kindergarten and much of 1st grade when we began homeschooling. I continually remind myself of this when I become nervous or concerned about my ability to home educate them. When I'm floudering between this curriculum and that I remember that the girls are doing great and I didn't use any SET curriculum per say but an old fashion philosophy. It always brings me back to reality!W
We are going to skip the rest of WWE Level 1 because they already are so proficient at copywork. There will be days when they do more copywork than narration but I'd like to follow the WWE 2 - I think it corresponds well with FLL Level 2 that way and I think my daughters are capable of handling it.
One thing I've found that I want to attempt to change this year, however, is how much of the WWE workbook we use. I purchased it (again in .pdf so I can print it out for BOTH girls -I have twins) for those weeks that are busy (most weeks lol but busiser than others) and days that I get caught working with them on something longer than expected or the regular life things come up. It's great to have when I need it. It's an excellent source for the material in TCW. I, personally, am going to try very hard to find material from our history, science, and literature to use instead of the material from the workbook. This is just a personal choice. I believe in falls in line more with Susan Wise Bauer's writing philosophy. I listened to my MP3 of her writing workshop/seminar again yesterday and I think her plan was to incorporate writing into other subjects and not make it, its own "beast". I do understand and appreciate the reason for the workbook as well. I suspect I will use it more than I would like to but I know that when we do they are still getting the same material and writing skills they would otherwise. It's my back up plan!
I also will try to post how that works for me as we go throughout our year and any great narration and dictation ideas I find from our literature as they could help others!
Ch- The Complete Writer- Level 4 section as spine-text for narrations and dictations - 2-3 x per week
(using History, Science, & Literature as mentioned above for my daughters but using Level 4 activities)
Writing Strands 3 - 2x per week- we have not used this before so we are giving it a try. He enjoys being creative so we will see how it goes and tweak the program and time spent on it as we go.
Penmanship- A & B- 5 minutes per day -
until they master cursive and then it will be included in daily writing versus being a seperate "subject" to cover.
I want to begin cursive writing with the girls right away. They both mastered penmanship well which I attribute to their home school only educations. They were never in public school as thier brother was. I have also learned that I made a mistake by not teaching my son cursive sooner. His Spelling book transitioned into cursive before he was ready which gave him some trouble. I ended up writing the words in manuscript beside those in cursive until he was comfortable with it. I have also learned since that it would be easier on a child whose fine motor skills are not completely developed for writing to write in cursive rather than in manuscript. Live and learn I suppose, my poor first born!
That sums up our Language Arts Plan beginning this school year for 2010-2011. I hope it has helped someone to decide for or against an idea or program. I will be posting our book lists and plans for the remaining subjects very soon! Thanks for spending some time reading!
Many Blessings to you All!