When I say curriculum, I guess I don't really mean the boxed up, premade, store-bought stuff. Although, I do, of course, have items that I've purchased at the homeschool conventions and at the local homeschool supply store. Curriculum is what I choose to call our every day academics.
As I mentioned in Part One, I have been working for weeks to prep for this school year. We've already begun slowly dipping our toes into learning in more of a rigorous way...we never really stop learning, but the girls do get used to not doing any sit down work, or playing the day away. Two weeks ago they were looking bored and I just happened to mention that I had some fun stuff we could do together, and that was the beginning of our school year.
Starting school earlier allows you some extra goof-off time and you won't be feeling guilty about it. Believe me...
My oldest daughter (23), came for a 10 day visit from San Diego, so we had plenty of opportunities to go places, learn things, yet have fun at the same time...plus, she is a senior at San Diego State, studying Speech Pathology and has tons of interesting ways to talk to kids. She even helped me gain some insight into teaching kids with problems (in a classroom setting at co-op).
So here's the plan for the next few months of learning at our house:
The Girls Together
Literature - Because we love to read I think it's a very good idea to read classic books together and create unit studies...or use the premade ones available online and in books. Last year we chose the stories of Beatrix Potter to study...these were wonderful because of the beautiful art and could be included in science also.
This year I have a longer list to share with the girls which include: Little Women, The Little House series, The Narnia Chronicles, The Little Princess and The Secret Garden, and other classics like Peter Pan, Oliver Twist, and others for younger readers like Frog and Toad and The Wind in the Willows.
Don't forget that many good children's books have been made into movies...read, watch, discuss. Books on audio are great for long car journeys or when mom is too tired to read aloud...believe me.
Here are some books I'm using to create my own curriculum:
Science - I have put together unit studies that I really want to them to learn about. These include a month long (or more) study of OUTER SPACE, study of ANIMAL HABITATS/BIOMES and ANIMAL CLASSIFICATION, BIOLOGY - the human body etc., a long list of science experiments from books (Kitchen Science experiments that you can eat!) and online that I've collected (which I will add a link for you soon), study of ELECTRICITY and MAGNETISM, and how things work. We will be hands-on in as many of these projects as possible. I've started an Amazon Wish List of items that I think will enhance these studies...books, games, and learning sets/tools (which I will also share soon).
To make it more hands-on I've purchased animals that match the Biomes and the girls are creating dioramas of each place...they love learning about the animals too! You can find the Toob brand almost anywhere.
Filling in a few gaps with Apologia...a bit dry, but sometimes has extra info.
I also purchased a membership at exploringnature.org - has a great curriculum/printables list.
Bible/Character Building - Last year I got a Veggie Tales Values to Grow By book which outlined many of the dvds and included a coloring page and bible memory verse...we watch the dvd and follow along with the book and discuss. (I think this is out of print now...but they have a series that is sold separately).
I've also got a three book set of Uncle Arthur's which has moral tales for children. It's rather dated/vintage, but I enjoy the stories and so do the kids...the moral value is still extremely high.
We read from other books and Bible stories also.
Confessions of a Homeschooler. Holland really enjoys it and I've learned a lot myself, considering I spent my formative years in England and didn't learn US stuff. I highly recommend Road Trip, and it's affordable. You don't have to print out everything if you are concerned about printing the 200+ page books. I know Darcy will enjoy it too.
To add to this I also print out state booklets I found on edhelper.org, maps and atlases from yard sales, all the states have great resources on their websites, including videos on YouTube about features from each state.
Reading Buddies - Holland is an excellent reader and I've seen her skills improve over the summer extensively, so I am trying a little reading program where she helps and encourages her little sister with her reading too.
When perusing PBS.org I discovered a short series of lessons that uses Martha Speaks and includes some awesome printables, games, and worksheets that correlate with 8 episodes of Martha Speaks. I printed out the free pages, placed them in a binder and once a week the girls gather around our new Samsung Tablet to watch an episode (or two), read a book suggested by the guide, and write some sentences about the show. Then there is a game or craft that goes with it...the girls love it and Darcy enjoys listening for the special words from each show to mark off the list with her new highlighter...so cute!
Math - we will play math games with dice, money, manipulatives, bean bags etc. I am hoping to teach them together and reinforce what each has already learned. Plus, I'm starting a list of online math games and apps that I want to try to use for fun too. We tried IXL for a while, but boredom set in.
Spanish/French - the girls are not really interested in other languages...but I am, and I want them to learn about what is out there. When we lived in California Holland already knew a lot of Spanish and had a wonderful accent. Here in Missouri, there is less need to know Spanish, but having the foundation of language is important. We will learn the Spanish and French verbs and basic words and sentences using books I purchased on Amazon, YouTube videos, library dvds/audio books and printables found online. I also highly suggest Speekee online...it's a great immersive video-style class that my kids enjoyed a lot...it is around $54 per year. Which reminds me, I think we are going to sign up again!
I also like this site for inspiration: http://spanishplayground.net/
Darcy's Curriculum (1st grade)
Every Day Folder - what is that you say? Well, it's something fun and simple she can do on her own each day. A little like calendar time if she was in a classroom setting. I printed out pages that I found online that I thought she would enjoy, and then laminated them. Her binder contains these pages, a zippered pencil pouch with dry erase markers and a little eraser and a manipulative clock I found at a yard sale for a quarter. She can pretty much spend 10 minutes or 30 minutes working on these...just depends how she feels at the moment.
Here's a list of the sites where I found pages:
Confessions of a Homeschooler
Our Aussie Homeschool
Reading - every day all the time right? I try to remember to give her a chance to read before I tell her what a word is...here are some examples: road signs, food labels at the grocery store, ads on tv or along the highway as we drive, signs for businesses and stores, chooses 10 or more books at the library each week, and allowing her to read her own words aloud.
Bob Books - when I'm feeling lazy I pull out a Bob Book and have her read to me...there are also some printables you can find online to help reinforce the words etc.
Daddy reads at least one book every night aloud to her (lucky girls), and we do read aloud time every morning with our Uncle Arthurs or bible stories.
Writing/Phonics/Spelling - the great thing about Unit Studies, is that many aspects of what we consider learning are covered in the study...but we do have pages that she does only those things. I am also implementing a spelling "test" every Friday...on Mondays I give out the word list of 5-10 words. Some are from grade level words lists and some are from other subjects we are studying (like BIOME and DECIDUOUS).
Journaling - she loves writing time in her journal. Like mother like daughter.
Writing Letters - at least once or twice a month she writes a letter to her sister and brother-in-law (who is in the Navy), and spends hours deciding what she wants to put in the letter and re-writing to make it pretty.
Math - Mental Math for Primary Grades - this is
turning out to be a great resource...it's from the 1980s and makes so
much sense. I can incorporate both ages in my math time.
Lots of printables that are fun to do, workbook pages, and oral questions that we discuss together - all to reinforce what she learned in Kindergarten. During the math time we spend together with Holland she will begin to learn new concepts. I've also been searching for some math game apps on the new Tablet, so I will add that link when I finish my list. We will also incorporate some map and directions, measurement, time and money every day.
Holland's Curriculum - 4th Grade
Everyday Folder - in Holland's folder it's a bit different...she hates repetition so I am adding things she can do on her own. These include COPYWORK pages, such as quotes from George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Bible verses. Will also start adding simple math sheets with adding and subtracting.
Reading - she reads all day long, books, texts, magazines etc., plus she is read to every night, and we read aloud together every morning. Holland also helps her little sister with Reading Buddies and other projects.
Writing & Spelling - Handwriting Without Tears is what we've been using since Kindergarten. I have not purchased the 4th grade book, however...since she has learned cursive on her own with the help of the 3rd grade book. I do recommend this method, it is affordable, you can reuse the books for each child and the teacher instruction book is awesome!
Other writing includes copywork, journal time, book reports, character analysis, and creating her own stories/books. Spelling comes from our unit studies and a 4th grade word list, with a spelling test at the end of the week. I recently discovered a fun tic-tac-toe spelling sheet that gives a different way to reinforce the spelling words each day by writing or drawing with the words in fun ways.
Here's the link to that -
Math - so not a fun subject for Holland. I don't know why she has a mental block about it, but she just doesn't want to do it. That makes it a little bit harder for mom to bring the subject up...so I have been trying to get creative. Sadly, we slacked off in 3rd grade so have some catching up to do with multiplication and division. The plan is play lots of games like bingo and physical/hands-on activities with dice and manipulatives. I also got her a calculator at the dollar store that she can "check" her work on her own.
We have a friend who has all the Saxon books/manips and Holland will be going to her house once a week for a "lesson". This allows Holland to be the big kid and help the 2nd grader with her reading as they learn math together.
Mental Math for Middle Grades - this is turning out to be a great resource...it's from the 1980s and makes so much sense. I can incorporate both ages in my math time.
Kitchen math is also a great way to learn...measuring and mixing, reading recipes etc. We intend to use this medium in full force!
Computer - my kids love the computer or any kind of screen. Me, not so much. I hate the idea of them staring at a screen for long periods of time. But, and that's a big but. But, the computer is our frenemy, and it can teach as well as numb the mind.
Computer time is privilege at our house, it has to be earned. That being said, I do allow use of the computer for extra math games, looking up words, watching educational/instructional YouTube videos (when I am present, not by themselves), and phonics programs.
Typing is also something I hope to introduce this year...we shall see.
Lapbooks - the girls love hands-on activities, so creating a lapbook allows for lots of cutting, coloring, gluing etc...plus they learn about the subject while we're doing it. You just have to remember to have conversations during everything.
Draw. Write. Now. - this a great boxed set that is organized in subjects such as farm animals, animal habitats, native americans etc., and gives guidelines on how to draw the subjects, then write sentences about them. We use this as supplemental to our unit studies.
Workbooks - my kids are not fans of workbooks. When I was a kid I adored them for some strange reason. I do have them on the shelf and I go through them now and then looking for pages that correlate with a subject we are studying. I've noticed Holland does better with less gaudy pages, ones that don't have tons of cartoons or colors. She gets distracted by the images and wants to draw them instead. The one I've found that works best is Daily Learning Drills from Brighter Child.
Darcy, on the other hand enjoys pretty much any kind of workbook as long as I sit with her to help her read the instructions and encourage her. But leave her alone with it and she comes to a standstill.
One that I have found very good is School Zone's Giant Science workbook that I picked up at Sam's Club. It has real information the child can read/learn and then colorful pictures and games. It covers weather, insects & spiders, seeds & plants, ocean life, reptiles, mammals, and birds. This one makes a great supplement to any unit study.
Library - I've always known I can get books at the library, but the task of finding those books has always put me off. Want to know my new secret? Finding Books At The Library Without Really Trying.
Typically, I've gotten in the habit of buying books used and new, on Amazon. This is a bad habit, because I've upped my credit card there, and will have to cut back this year...so now I will be using the library a lot more to find my unit studies books. Click the link above to read about my little secret...
The library is a great resource...books everywhere, audio books, magazines, dvds...programs at the library...all free or super low cost.
Co-op - I'm adding this as additional curriculum because that is how I use our co-op. Some families use a co-op for their main study, but I've chosen it to be almost and extra curricular activity. This is once a week for four hours and includes PE, History, Art, and Science. This year in 4th grade they will be studying the State of Missouri in history (which will supplement what we are doing), and I think science will be physical science from Apologia.
Co-op adds some elements that many of us had to deal with growing up...standing in line, sitting at a desk, waiting to be called upon by raising your hand, learning to avoid being hit by paper wads and paper airplanes...what we call the classroom setting. I have helped in these classrooms and taught them and I know all kids are different...sometimes our children have to learn this also...some kids can't sit still or be quiet, some kids are annoying or loud or obnoxious...but some are also nice and friendly and my kids make friends and it all evens out. Co-op is a learning experience outside the realm of our home school.
Extra Curricular Activities
Swimming class - once a week they take lessons for 2 hours. It's a lot of fun and their swimming has improved so much!
Choir - we have just signed up at a local music co-op for Holland to take Choir and Music Theory. Darcy is too young to join this year, but will next year.
Horseback Riding - just ordered cowboy boots so the girls can continue some riding as weather allows.
Sewing classes - they each got their own machines so they are now learning to sew!
Field Trips - I will post about field trips as they happen...coming up is a Laura Ingalls Wilder play, Fall activities in the local area, visiting the little theater for local productions, and lots of gardening.