Sassy got a little worried when we picked up two packages of curriculum at the post office and I told her that we’d be starting work the next day. I raise gullible kids.
There’s so much to do before we are ready to start school again! I picked up paint for the girls’ room yesterday, and they helped me move everything out so we can cover up the grape Hubba Bubba shade with a fresh apple green. We desperately need bookshelves in the school room and summer has barely started, now that it’s stopped downpouring (knock on wood). But I am excited about the changes we are making in our school planning and I thought I’d share with you what we’ll be using for homeschooling curriculum this year.
We love Sonlight and I initially used it exclusively, which makes it super easy to plan the year. Sonlight’s best feature, to me, is how literature-rich their program is. In addition to providing great readers for Language Arts, they use a lot of great books for History and Science, and while I am using a different Science program this year, I am still ordering the Sonlight books for the girls’ level. Which brings me to the second thing I love about Sonlight – they allow you to combine a number of subjects to teach to kids within three years’ age difference. So Sassy and Scooter, who are apart by one grade, take the same History, Science and Readers. I’ve also combined Language Arts for them, but for that I use:
2. First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
While I love the readers, and the way Sonlight teaches reading, Sonlight’s Language Arts program was not a good fit for us. It seemed a little too ambitious, that is, the examples they would give for writing assignments sounded more like something I would write than what I would expect from a first-grader. It was hard to get past that expectation, and for my oldest, who is a reluctant writer, I needed something that didn’t push her too hard. (I’ve since found that Sassy writes eagerly when I ask her to write a letter to someone, but she’ll cry if you try to get her to write a story or a poem. Scooter, on the other hand, loves writing stories.) Last year I did First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise with both girls and we’ll do level two this year. I like it because it takes virtually no prep for me, I just read the lesson with the girls and do the assignment, and we’re done. While I wouldn’t like reading all lessons by rote, in this case it works for us.
For three years I’ve used Singapore Math via Sonlight, and I like it a lot. I like the emphasis on teaching mental math, and the way they combine the different math actions (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and how the kids get a basic introduction into these in first grade, adding more each year. But as much as I liked it, Sassy wasn’t enjoying it. She frequently got overwhelmed and shut down before even starting her assigned pages. So I’m taking the homeschool prerogative and changing to Math-U-See to see a different program helps. I’ve heard good things about Math-U-See and I like that new concepts are presented by DVD since maybe Sassy will be more receptive to a teacher who’s not me. I’m less certain about the way the program seems to compartmentalize – the level I’ve chosen focuses on addition and subtraction – but maybe that is what Sassy needs. After looking over the placement tests, I’ve decided that both girls will take the Beta level, which is about a second grade level. Means Sassy is basically repeating what she learned in math last year, but I think she needs it. And I can’t let my pride push her forward when it would only overwhelm her again.
I’ve already raved about great literature so you know I’m an English geek, right? Science has never been a priority in our homeschool agenda. I don’t do experiments, and we usually settle for reading the books that come with our Sonlight core and skipping the worksheets and any hands-on assignments. While I believe that elementary science is lived more than anything else – the kids learn from exploring the world and talking about what they find – the education system tends to look for something a little more tangible as proof of their learning. So I’ve ordered ACE’s Science workbooks for my girls. They are what I used when I was a girl, and they are ideal for a non-motivated homeschooling mom since the work is mostly independent – they read the assignment and answer the questions. And there are some experiments, and I will try to help them do them for a change.
I was quite impressed to see Scooter’s spelling quite improved on the last birthday card she wrote in, and I think that all the reading the girls have been doing has helped their spelling without my involvement. But I do love Sequential Spelling and we’ll be going through book 1 this year. I love the way the lessons start with a small root word and then build upon it, showing connections between words that teaches a logical approach to spelling.
We are continuing with Getty-Dubay italic handwriting. I like the look of it, though handwriting is not a high priority. If the girls are anything like me, they will practice their handwriting for sheer prettiness’ sake. I order the curriculum from Sonlight.
I almost forgot! While we order the History readers from Sonlight, we are reading Story of the World Vol. 2 for our actual curriculum. Volume 1 seemed quite similar to the program provided by Sonlight, but I liked the writing better than A Child’s History of the World. I ordered the worksheets this year as well to help the girls retain what is read.
My boy is a kindergartner this year and he tells me he’s excited to start school. We’ll see. For him, the year will be all about learning to read and write his letter sounds, and he’ll be doing Singapore Math K. For helping him to form his letters, I’ve ordered Handwriting Without Tears. It comes with wooden letter shape blocks that add a kinesthetic approach to making letter shapes, which I think is great for hands-on little guys. He will be sitting in on much of the reading aloud I’ll be doing, so he’s taking grade three history (wink!) and will also continue his apprenticeship in School of Lego. I’ve read Better Late Than Early and I agree with much of Dr. Moore’s points on not pushing a five-year-old into too much sit-down work. I want Wecco to love learning, not to see it as an obstacle to being able to play and work with his hands.
I should have known this would be a long post! I laugh when I read my list because I had always intended to pick one curriculum and stick with it, and here I am, mixing and matching more every year. I am thankful for the homeschooling moms that have helped me make decisions about what to teach (changing math was a difficult decision) and even when we don’t agree, it’s neat to see how we are all able to find something that works for us.