Showing posts with label Homeschooling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homeschooling. Show all posts

My Homeschool Curriculum Picks (2nd Grade And Kindergarten)


(Donut picture because that's how we started off our school year - with donuts!  Also note that there are some affiliate links in this post.)


Well, this has definitely been my most requested post as of late, so I thought I better get a move on and share our 2018-2019 curriculum picks!  If you would like to see our first grade curriculum picks, check out this post.  If you would like to see how that went, read this.  If you want a little more about my homeschool philosophy (and homeschool philosophies in general, which I'll be referencing), click here.

All my friends who have considered jumping into homeschooling in recent years have mentioned to me how overwhelming it is to choose curriculum, so I think people are naturally curious about what other people are using.  I love reading curriculum posts!  My love of talking curriculum has more to do with being a nerd about this sort of thing.  I haven't found myself too overwhelmed because I have my vision for homeschooling and my educational philosophy figured out pretty well at this point (I credit being a homeschool student and reading way too many books about homeschooling).  The trick for me is just learning how to pick things that fit with my homeschooling philosophy, but that also fit with my kids' learning styles.  I think we've hit on some good ones for our family (for the most part - there are still kinks to be ironed out, as you'll see below)!  Here is what we are using this year.

First, who is in school?

This year Wyatt will be entering the second grade, and Gwen will be entering kindergarten.

Wyatt has to meet our umbrella school's requirements for days and subjects, so I have curricula picked for these different subjects and we will work through it all together and include the little ones where possible.

In our family we're more casual about kindergarten, so Gwen will start reading and math instruction, and join in other subjects wherever she wants.  We do not technically even have to start doing school instruction, or keep records, or have her registered anywhere until next year.  So we'll just make it fun, because my main goal for teaching younger elementary kids is that they are enjoying what we are learning!

We do not do formal preschool at all, so if Clyde or Clarice want to join in with a subject, I have workbook pages and a few crafts at the ready, but nothing planned out.  I personally think preschool-age kids should mostly learn through play and just join in when they're interested.



Reading

What We're Using:  All About Reading
How I'm Teaching It: Separate levels for Wyatt and Gwen.

Halfway through our last school year we switched reading programs.  We started with Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, which I think was excellent for teaching blending - however, the end of that book gets a little redundant, and Wyatt and I were both hating it by Christmas break.  So I ordered All About Reading to continue on from there, and we are definitely sticking with it this year! I have both of my kids on it now.  I am a little torn with how to start off with Gwen though - the thing is, Wyatt had a really solid start with 100 Easy Lessons, and honestly a lot of the All About Reading curriculum is really easy for him because he had a whole different reading curriculum under his belt already.  I'm curious to see how we like All About Reading when we start with it from the very beginning.

Writing

What We're Using: Institute For Excellence In Writing
How I'm Teaching It: We're doing this subject for the older two together.

Last year was mostly handwriting practice and copywork for us - this year I wanted to start getting into different writing concepts with Wyatt, but also to fit in some handwriting and copywork with Gwen.  Enter IEW!  I looked up their K-2 curriculum online and was so impressed.  I really like Andrew Pudawa and his approach for teaching writing, and this curriculum is going to work really well for us this year.  It starts with the basics, like learning to properly form letters, and moves into writing short paragraphs by the end of the year.  The first part of the year is going to be brand-new for Gwen and review for Wyatt, and then the second part of the year will be more stretching for Wyatt and maybe just a preview for Gwen.

Math

What We're Using: Rightstart Math
How I'm Teaching It: Separate levels for Wyatt and Gwen.

I completely loved Rightstart last year, and we are continuing with it this year!  It is a math curriculum that uses manipulatives, but also has a heavy emphasis on learning to do math problems in your head, and learning through games.  I think to teach math, it is important for you to find a curriculum that approaches numbers in a way that feels natural to you, and that's how I feel about Rightstart - it teaches math the way I already think about math.  I also love that it's a spiral curriculum, meaning it circles back to concepts throughout the curriculum and approaches them in different ways.

History

What We're Using: Beautiful Feet Books - Early American History
How I'm Teaching It:  All together, including little kids.

We used Beautiful Feet Books for history last year, and I love it.  To me it is the perfect curriculum for elementary history for several reasons - first, it teaches through real books ("living" books, which is a Charlotte Mason concept), and many of the books for this grade are colorful picture books, which even the little ones enjoy.  It's important to me to let my kids learn history through reading actual books, instead of slogging through dry textbooks.

Second, I love how flexible this curriculum is - it comes with the books and a study guide.  Last year we needed school to be really gentle (hello, I had a baby in the middle of the year!), and BFB was perfect for that.  We went through half the curriculum last year, and will finish the other half this year (this particular level can be used over one year or two).  Since I don't expect to be having a baby this year (ha!), I'm excited to put a little more effort into history and find more supplementary resources, maybe even squeeze in a couple for-fun projects.  This curriculum is totally conducive to that - you can do as much as you want, or the bare minimum, and your kids are still going to learn something!

On the side, we'll be reading/listening to Story of The World: Middle Ages, because that is what our co-op is covering this year.  We will just listen to this in the car or read it in the margins to keep up with co-op, at least until we figure out if we should be doing more co-op prep work.  We may be picking up more living books from the library that coordinate with this time period to read during morning time as well.



Science

What We're Using: Who The Heck Knows! (not a real curriculum)
How I'm Teaching It:  It will be all together, when I choose which of the four (yes, FOUR) curricula will take priority.

Guys, I am hanging my head in shame right now for how overboard I go on science.  There are so many good curricula out there!  I love all science topics and don't know how to choose! Part of the problem is that I have a hard time picking because I love it all, and part of the problem is that we joined a homeschool co-op this year (more about that later), and the co-op is doing two, count 'em, TWO science curricula in one year.  What is going on???

Okay, sorry for my little freakout; this is what I'm working with.  Get ready for a long section.

Our co-op usually uses Apologia elementary science books, which I am all for because I absolutely love Apologia for science.  Apologia approaches each scientific subject from a young earth, biblical perspective, the books are written with a Charlotte Mason style, they are fun to read, and they emphasize giving kids practice in the scientific method.  I love them.  What I don't love is that the co-op is doing Apologia Physics and Chemistry and Apologia Human Anatomy for science this year.

Now, the reason for this is that they like to pick the same science subjects for all the grade levels in the co-op, so people with large families can work on science together.  Which is great.  Just maybe not so great when your oldest is only in second grade, because I think Chemistry and Physics and Human Anatomy are pretty intense subjects for a kindergartener and a second grader.  Especially with Chemistry and Physics, it requires a level of abstract thinking that kids at this age literally do not have the mental capacity to understand yet.  The author of these two books even said in a Instagram TV video recently that these two subjects are not going to be geared toward the younger elementary ages as much, and we'll have to take these courses slower.  Except that the co-op decided to do both in one year.

I have no idea how in-depth our co-op is going to go on these subjects (it's our first year), but I decided myself that we are not going to go that in depth.  We're going to pick up some fun books at the library related to Chemistry/Physics/Human Anatomy, touch on some of the topics so we sort of keep up, and then just have fun with whatever they do at co-op.  Then we'll do our own science curriculum at home.

For our science at home, as of right now I have a multitude of curricula and resources to choose from, so we may be switching it up mid-year if what we are doing isn't working.  But I decided to go with Building Foundations Of Scientific Understanding. This isn't so much a curriculum as a guide book for teachers and parents on teaching different science subjects to K-2 grade.  I really love how the method in this book emphasizes teaching kids to observe and ask questions, and for this year, I like that it covers a variety of subjects.  I wanted to cast a little wider science net for my kids this year to see where their interests lie, and to give them some foundational knowledge in different scientific fields, before we go back to a more focused subject with Apologia next year (but not Chemistry And Physics).

The only thing I don't love about this science guide is that it's not written from a Christian perspective.  From what I've read, any problematic lessons about evolution/Big Bang theory don't come into play in this particular volume, but the author certainly is coming from a secular humanist worldview.  I feel fairly comfortable with using it for this year because as I said, this book isn't a curriculum so much as a guide book for teaching science concepts to young children.  All the information is filtered through me,  so I will certainly be pointing my kids back to their Creator through every subject we touch on.

We also picked up Exploring Nature With Children, which is our fourth science curriculum.  This is a nature study guide.  I struggle with knowing what to look for on our nature walks, and I love how this guide lays out everything for you - we just grab the pages for that day's lesson, and off we go.  This will be more of an enrichment subject, so we'll do it only once per week.  We did the first week's lesson already, and it only took about 15 minutes in the outdoors, so it's completely doable, and it was so fun!

Bible

What We're Using: Community Bible Study (group meetings once per week) and daily Bible time.
How I'll Teach It: Only Wyatt will have homework this year from our Bible study meetings.  The little kids just love learning while we're there!  We're doing a short daily study each day during morning time all together.

Last year we joined the CBS I went to as a child, and we loved it.  It was really refreshing to me to get together with women my age as well as women who are older and wiser than me and really dig into different books of the Bible.  I was also really impressed with how much even my little, tiny kids picked up from their classes, and we all love the time to get out and fellowship with other believers mid-week!  Our CBS has a homeschool program, so the older kids do the same study as the adults.  Wyatt and I will be studying the same books this year, which is really cool.  I love it.

Geography/Social Studies

What We're Using: My Story (Master Books)
How I'm Teaching It: Only Wyatt will go through the workbook this year.

This is a miscellaneous subject I threw in here.  I flipped through this book at a homeschool conference and decided I liked it for an intro to different cultures around the world.  The lessons are really short, it's written from a Christian perspective, and I just wanted to cover our bases since Geography is not my strongest subject.  I am hoping to add in the Beautiful Feet Books Geography study when I have enough money saved for it!



I'm going to write another post about the resources I'm planning on using for our Loop Schedule and Morning Time, which is a catch-all for all the things that I want to do but that we can't fit in every day.  Stay tuned for that!  But the curriculum above is our core, and overall (with the exception of science) I'm feeling really settled and happy about it!  If you have any other questions about anything I mentioned, or you want a more in-depth look at something, speak up and I'll add it to the queue of posts to write!










Current Homeschool Loves



I used to be of the school-should-not-start-until-after-labor-day-what-is-wrong-with-you-people persuasion, but this year, we are starting school on August 20th.  I just wanted to give us a little more wiggle room.  That means our first day of school is a mere three weeks away, as of the typing of this post.  While I'm intending on doing a post about my curriculum picks for 2nd grade, right now I have my hands full trying to find pockets of time to get everything organized and finalized for the year!

So, I thought I'd just share a few of the resources for homeschool planning that I've been loving lately.

The Lovely Homeschool Course - I snagged this homeschool planning course earlier this year for a great deal, and it has been 100% worth the money.  The course comes with editable PDF files to help you plan out your year.  Last year, with having a baby in the middle of the year, we mostly kept things flexible, which was what we needed then.  But this school year, I was hoping to develop more of a routine.  This course is letting me plan things out while still letting me leave room to be flexible, so it's just what I needed.

Better Together - This is a book written by Pam Barnhill, all about "Morning Time".  If you haven't heard of Morning Time, it's something many homeschool families incorporate into their day.  If you have a homeschool friend, ask them if they do Morning Time, and you'll sound like you know what you're talking about.  Basically it's a time to gather together for Bible reading, singing hymns, memorizing Bible verses, reading books together, or whatever else we want to do.

Morning Time is something I really want to incorporate into our daily routine this year - what I love is that this would be a time for all of my kids to learn something together, even the littlest ones.  As they grow, I think it will be a wonderful tool to connect as a family, even as I have a large range of ages.  This book gives some practical tips for morning time, as well as addressing the "why" of it all, and it's making me excited to get started in a few weeks.

Simply Charlotte Mason - Stay tuned, because a post about my curriculum picks for 2nd grade is coming, but this year we decided to try out a local co-op.  We will meet with other homeschool families once a week, and the little kids will do some activities related to the subjects of literature, history, and science.  It'll be fun social time for all of us.  The downside is that we have to at least kind-of-sort-of keep up with the curriculum they pick.  I have my own curriculum I'll be working through with my kids this year, but we'll also have to go over what we're learning at co-op.

They picked the Middle Ages to study for history this year.  Now, you have to understand that the Middle Ages has never been my personal favorite period of time to learn about, and the curriculum they picked is okay but...well, a little dry.  I'm actually not looking forward to it, and that's a problem for me.  My whole philosophy for elementary-level History education is that if we aren't enjoying it, we aren't doing it right.

Enter Simply Charlotte Mason.  I remembered that they have recommended book lists for every historical era, for every age group, so I checked out their list for 2nd grade level Middle ages, and I am relieved to find some fun supplementary books to add in to our read-aloud rotation that look more interesting to me! If I'm more interested, my kids will be more interested, and we'll all be happy.  Basically, Simply Charlotte Mason is my new go-to for books to make boring subjects interesting.

The Read-Aloud Family - Speaking of booklists, I'm relying pretty heavily on this book when picking read-aloud books for our morning time.  And if you haven't listened to the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast, get yourself over to iTunes and get inspired!

This article about Loop Scheduling - Sometimes I have too many ideas and not enough time.  There are all kinds of books and resources I want to use, but if we tried to use each of these every day, we'd be doing school until dinner time (or later), and that's not reasonable.  When I read about loop scheduling last year, it made so much sense.  I have a whole list of "extras" worked out, things I want to loop through every couple weeks, and I'm really looking forward to incorporating subjects and activities we wouldn't be able to get to otherwise!

This post from my blog friend Elisha about her homeschooling method - Read through the article - basically that peaceful, joyful tone that Elisha is hitting is my goal for our homeschool, no matter what method/curriculum we are using!

That's all I have for now, stay tuned for a curriculum post coming up...sometime soon!


What I Learned In Our First (Real) Year Of Homeschooling




This past week we finished up our homeschool year.  I have to say, I was a homeschooled student, but coming from the mom side is a whole different thing.  There are a lot of advantages I have as a homeschool mom from being a homeschool student myself, but there are also a lot of things that you can't learn until you are on the teaching side of it.  I thought I'd take a little time today to reflect on what I've learned over this first year of homeschooling (first real year anyway - in my book, kindergarten doesn't count).


Homeschooling Is Great For Developing Patience

I would in no way consider myself a patient person.  Patience is something that I've struggled with over the years - I get impatient when things don't go smoothly, when I have to repeat myself, when things don't go my way.  Getting married cured me of some of that.  Having kids has grown me even more.  But having my kids with me 24/7 and teaching them myself at home is a whole other ball game when it comes to patience.

When I mention that I am homeschooling my kids, I've had lots of moms say to me "Oh, I wouldn't have the patience for that."  This year I learned that I don't have the patience for homeschooling either.  The secret is, a lot of moms who choose to homeschool don't have the patience for it.  But homeschooling is an excellent facilitator for sanctification.

I know you've heard it said that if you ask God for more patience, He'll give you opportunities to practice it, and that's exactly what homeschooling has done for me.  It hasn't always been pretty, and my deep-seated impatience has never been more obvious to me, but I can honestly say that at the end of this year that I am more patient then I was at the beginning of the year.  And that's purely through God enabling me and giving me practice at developing patience through this thing called homeschooling.  It's hard, but I know this is exactly why I should be doing it.

It's Okay To Change Curricula In The Middle Of The Year

I mentioned in a recent post that we ended up changing curricula in the middle of the year.  A lot of homeschool posts will advise you against switching your curriculum, will tell you to give it a really good chance before you drop it.  And there's some wisdom in that.  You obviously can't be switching curricula constantly - it would waste a lot of money and stunt your child's learning.  But this year I learned that when something just isn't working, you should find something else that will.  I'm so glad we didn't muddle through the whole year with the curriculum I had originally bought for reading - finding a curriculum that fit was so life-giving to our homeschool days!  Switching curricula mid-year does not mean you are a failure for starting with the wrong one.  When you are in the early homeschooling years with any kid, it's going to take a little trial and error to figure out what will work best with your unique blend of personalities.  I imagine we might have to switch curricula mid-year again at some point since I have five different kids with unique learning needs, and that's okay!

You Will Be Miserable If You Don't Learn To Stop Comparing

I remember seven years ago, as a brand-new mom, I struggled constantly with comparing my baby to all my friends' babies.  I doubted myself whenever another child started rolling over, walking, talking before my own baby.  Every new mom has to learn not to compare her baby to others, because every child learns and develops at their own pace.  I eventually became secure as a mom as I learned those things.  What I didn't expect was for all those insecurities to come roaring back as soon as my oldest hit school age.  This year I had to re-learn all over again that kids' learn and grow at their own pace, and that this will necessarily affect the way we homeschool.  While kids' need to be challenged to grow, there are also times when they are just not ready for a certain academic skill and you have to sit back and wait until they are.  Learning when to challenge your child with a new skill and when to wait a bit - and learning to stop comparing your child to other children - is part of becoming a good homeschool teacher.  



You Actually Can Have A Baby In The Middle Of A Homeschool Year

I have to admit, I was nervous about how having a new baby in the house would affect our homeschool year.  This is the first year we have had a legal requirement on the amount of days we needed to do school, and I was really worried that having a baby would make it hard to hit our target. But I learned that having a baby in the middle of a school year is not really a big deal.  The great part of homeschooling is that it is so flexible!

I tried to get ahead a bit by schooling a few days here and there over last summer, but we only accumulated 20 extra days.  When Georgie was born at the end of October, I took the entire months of November and December off, and we didn't do a single thing (aside from some field trips).  But we still finished up our school year before June!  Our school days after Georgie arrived were laid-back and simple - we did practically no school work in the mornings.  When the little ones were down for a nap in the afternoon, then we would work on our reading, language arts, and math.  When the younger ones got up, we'd read our history and science books together.

I was surprised and encouraged to see that homeschooling fit easily into our new life stage - and the key was letting our days be flexible.  I'm actually glad I didn't have to deal with getting my kids out the door in the morning and picking them up by a certain time every day, not to mention all the extra preparation for lunches and school events - it might actually be easier to have a baby without sending my kids' to a school building!

Learn To Love What Must Be Done

I am admittedly an academia-loving person.  I get excited by school supplies.  I love studying and learning new things myself.  I actually love the idea of teaching my kids history and science!  But there are some areas of being a homeschool teacher that I was not as excited about.  I've had multiple friends make comments to me too about not looking forward to homeschooling, not feeling excited or passionate about it.  However, through this first year of homeschooling I've learned that it is possible to learn to love what must be done.

I can't remember where I first heard this phrase, but it has become a constant refrain for me this year, as we pushed through our lessons on days when I was just not feeling it.  It's impossible to be passionate and excited about something all the time, and I think to be successful at homeschooling you have to realize that. You can push through and learn to love what you are doing anyway.

It's the difference between the newly-married, heart-pounding love, and the steady deeper love that you have when you've been married for years.  As the fresh excitement of the school year faded, and the seeming drudgery of daily work took over, I learned that there is a deeper satisfaction and passion that develops when you push through, as you find the meaningful in the midst of the everyday, as you learn to shake things up and give yourself a fresh perspective throughout the journey.

That's how you learn to love what must be done, by sticking with a commitment even when you don't feel a superficial excitement about it - there's a deeper accomplishment, and yes, even a love, that comes with the commitment.

Next year is my first year homeschooling two kids in two different grades, so the learning has just begun!  Stay tuned.

Homeschool friends, what was the biggest thing you learned in your first year of homeschooling?


Homeschool Curriculum: First Grade In Review

(Note: Some affiliate links below.)

I sat down and counted up our school days the other day and realized we have less than 20 days left before we hit our required number of homeschool days.  That means I'm less than a month away from having my first true year of homeschooling under my belt! (I am not counting kindergarten.)

Last year before we started I shared all about my curricula picks for first grade.  So how did all that work out for me?  Here's the breakdown:

Math

What We Started With: Rightstart Math

What We Ended With: Rightstart Math

I have zero complaints about this curriculum!  Rightstart has an unusual method and order for teaching math, but I was really impressed it.  I love how it teaches underlying math concepts, instead of just rote memorization!  This curriculum was such a good fit for my teaching style and Wyatt's learning style! We love all the manipulatives, the way it reinforces concepts through games, and the focus on teaching kids to visualize numbers in their heads.  It is so much more enjoyable for Wyatt and myself than doing endless math problems and worksheets.  I am really happy with it, and will use it with all my kids as long as it fits their learning styles!

What We'll Use Next Year: Rightstart




Reading

What We Started With: 100 Easy Lessons and Rod And Staff

What We Ended With: All About Reading

As we were entering the school year last fall, I knew we were going to be finishing up 100 Easy Lessons before the year was out...so I knew I'd have to shift to something else.  We limped along with 100 Easy Lessons until I had Georgie, and to be honest, by the end we were kind of hating it.  I really love the first half of that book, which takes your child from knowing nothing to reading sentences.  However, by the time we got about 75% of the way through the book we were really bored and frustrated.  I was also a little irritated because that book took forever to introduce all the letters/sounds, and didn't go over all the rules I wanted to teach Wyatt.  It got him reading, but by the time Georgie was born we were fighting through the lessons and I was ready for something different.

We were loving our math curriculum so much because it had different activities and manipulative to go with each lesson, so I was wanting something more like that for reading.  I did a little research and decided to give All About Reading a try.  I've heard so many good things about it (and it was recommended by a great blog friend too!), so I ordered our level and got started.  Wyatt flew through that whole curriculum in a few months and we both stopped dreading reading so much!  It gave him so much confidence, so it was definitely the right call!

In the end, I don't regret starting with 100 Easy Lessons, because I still think that book has the best method for teaching blending that I have come across.  Blending is only covered in one lesson in All About Reading, and if your kid doesn't naturally get it, 100 Easy Lessons would be a great resource.  I think the reason we got through AAR so quickly was because we started with 100 Easy Lessons.  For my other kids, I will probably start them on 100 Easy Lessons and then switch halfway through the book instead of suffering through the last half.

What We'll Use Next Year: All About Reading





Writing/LA

What We Started With: First Language Lessons, 100 Bible Verses To Read And Write
What We Ended With: 100 Bible Verses To Read And Write

I took a more casual approach to writing and language arts this year, since the language arts priority was solidifying reading skills.  We did copy work (mostly with the 100 Bible Verses book) and wrote notes to family members for writing.  For language arts concepts, we had plans to use First Language Lessons - but if I'm honest, we hardly used it at all.  We talked about some LA concepts as we were doing All About Reading, and I'll review a few things over the summer with Wyatt before we start a more structured writing program this fall.

What We'll Use Next Year: TBD



Science


What We Ended With: Apologia Flying Creatures, BFSU, and random library books

I'm going to be honest and tell you that science kind of took a backseat with the whole having-a-baby thing this year.  I had so many grand plans to do all the experiments in our Apologia science book, the science activities in BFSU.  I was going to be a science-super-mom!

However, after Georgie was born I just was not organized enough to plan a bunch of experiments and do a really organized study - so we ended up going through a few random sections of Apologia and BFSU (according to whatever looked interesting), and grabbing coordinating books from the library.  We did a couple field trips, and a couple science experiments - all interest led though, not really what was in the books.   We kind of just went flying by the seat of our pants!  I'm actually quite happy with how this turned out.  Science at this level is mostly to get kids interested anyway, and I'm fine with that!  My plan is to do a few more science activities this summer to introduce different concepts that I really wanted to cover this year, and then start fresh in the fall.

What We'll Do Next Year: Stay Tuned, I'm figuring that out now.



History

What We Started With: Beautiful Feet Books

What We Ended With: Beautiful Feet Books

I love this curriculum!  For history I knew I wanted a literature-based approach to American History, so we chose the Early American History set from Beautiful Feet Books.  There are all kinds of suggested activities in the study guide, but we have really just read the books and done coordinating field trips this year.  We are stretching this curriculum out for two years instead of just one, so we are finishing up half the curriculum this year, and we'll finish it next year.  We haven't covered a huge range of historical events, but what we have covered I feel that we've covered well - my kids have retained a lot of what we've read this year.  It makes my heart happy every time they see a historical reference somewhere else and exclaim "It's just like in our book!"

What We'll Use Next Year: We are continuing with Beautiful Feet Books Early American History for sure, and may throw in another set (possibly the World History set from BFB or Story Of The World).

Bible

What We Started With: ?

What We Ended With: CBS

If you remember, I was a little unsure of what we would use for a Bible curriculum.  I had a really hard time finding something I was satisfied with, and I honestly just gave up searching as I approached my due date.  Then after Christmas we attended a visitor day at our local Community Bible Study, and I loved it! I did CBS growing up, and I forgot how thorough and deep the lesson books are.  This will basically be our Bible curriculum from here on out.  Once the kids reach grade school, they get their own lesson book that coordinates with the adult lesson books, which I love!  We work through the passage together and then attend our CBS meeting each week to discuss with others, so it's a social opportunity and Bible curriculum all in one!

What We'll Do Next Year:  CBS

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I'll do a more in-depth post soon about what we will be doing next year for 2nd grade and kindergarten!  But in the meantime, I've been searching for books to read for me over this summer.  I like to read a few homeschool-related books in the summer to keep my motivation up and give me ideas.  If I get a good list going I'll write another post, but I'm excited about this one:



My blog friend Elizabeth is also one of my favorite homeschool bloggers - she gives so much inspiration, ideas, and encouragement on her site.  Well, she wrote a new ebook called Lifestyle Homechooling, and it's launching today!  I'm really excited to pick this one up, because I'd say "lifestyle homeschooling" is a perfect term for what I'm going for in our homeschool.  This past year I have been loving how flexible homeschooling is, how I'm able to work it into our family life and fit it into the life stage we are in right now with a baby.  I'm looking forward to getting some ideas from Lifestyle Homeschooling - definitely check it out!

(Note: I am part of the launch team for Lifestyle Homeschooling, and will be receiving a free copy of the book in exchange.  Follow me on Goodreads to see my eventual review!)


Thoughts On Homeschool Rooms



Each year in the spring, I start to think in the direction of all things homeschooling (at least ever since my kids have been old enough for me to think about school).  I start planning next year's curriculum, I break out all my books about homeschooling, and I watch a bunch of videos on Youtube.  I happen to follow several homeschooling moms on Youtube (one of these days I'll put a list together for you), and I've come across quite a few "homeschool room tour" videos.

Now, most of you know that I was homeschooled growing up, and this homeschool room idea honestly surprised me.  I had never even heard of having a "homeschool room" until the last couple years.  

We do not have a homeschool room.  You can watch this little video to see our current homeschool setup:





We do most of our schoolwork together right now, and it happens most often at the kitchen table. 
The kids seem a little less wiggly when I have them sit at a table (which is probably also why most homeschool rooms feature a table).  Occasionally we do work on the couch, but that's always a little more chaotic.  Since the only table we have is in the kitchen, that's where we work.  This works out really well for us, and I'll often have Wyatt read to me while I fix dinner or whatever.  Having him at the kitchen table allows me to multitask part of the time (and he actually seems to read better when I'm not sitting right next to him looking over his shoulder).

When I was growing up, we did not have a homeschool room.  School was a more casual affair, and my mom gave us a lot of freedom as long as the work got done.  As a child, I would grab my schoolbooks in the morning, and take them wherever I felt like doing school that day.  My typical routine was to fix a big glass of ice water and lay down on my stomach in the morning sunlight that came through our living room window.  In the afternoon when the sun shifted, I often put on my swimsuit, gathered up my books, and did school in the hot tub (in retrospect, kudos to my mom for not worrying about me dropping my textbooks into the water).  Doing school wherever I wanted weirdly made the whole thing feel less like work and more like fun.

So honestly, even if I had an unused room, I'm not really sure if I would designate it as a homeschool room.  I don't want to restrict my kids to doing their schoolwork in just one area of the house.  As a former homeschool student, I know how much I enjoyed shifting to different areas throughout the day, and as the kids become more independent with their schoolwork I want them to have the freedom to go wherever is easiest and most fun for them too.

Though I tell you, if I had an extra room, I would definitely consider a homeschool library room...

Do you have a room designated for homeschooling?  Or do you just do schoolwork wherever, like me?


Homeschool Curriculum Picks For First Grade



I’ve been gearing up for this year of homeschooling for months now, and I’m happy to report that I finally have all my curriculum choices ironed out!  

I wrote last year about different homeschooling styles, and if you are familiar with homeschooling philosophies you’ll probably guess that my style (so far anyway) is an eclectic Charlotte Mason.  I like learning through real books, but I do use some workbooks and texts too, which is where the eclectic side of it comes in.

Without further ado, here are my choices for the first grade!  I have high hopes for this school year and am curious to see how all these choices work out for us!

(Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links.)

Science

For science this year we are working through Apologia Zoology 1: Flying Creatures Of The Fifth Day.  I did Apologia science in high school when I was homeschooled and I LOVED it. I read through my science book just for fun sometimes - it was that good.  I was really excited to see that Apologia had a science curriculum for elementary school as well!  I love how it not only teaches solid science, but is written from a biblical worldview.  It points out where science and the Bible intersect, and I love that!  Wyatt is also very interested in “flying things”, particularly birds, so I think he’ll soak this science book up.

Some of the assignments/concepts are probably a bit much for a first grader, so we are just going to work through as much of it as we can, and I plan on keeping the book to repeat in a few years.  This science curriculum is really rich, so I think he’ll get a ton out of it even if we do it in a future year.

Since we will be doing a lighter version of Apologia to fit our level, I am also planning on alternating and incorporating some lessons from Building Foundations Of Scientific Understanding.  I’d say this book is more of a guide for teaching science, but I really like how the lessons are laid out to build on each concept and teach the scientific method.  I think this will be a great guide to use especially in the middle of the winter when birds and insects become a little more scarce.

Math

For math, I decided to go with Rightstart this year.  Over the last year I’ve started to figure out Wyatt’s learning style a bit, and I think he will do well with the manipulative and games that are used in the Rightstart curriculum.  A lot of friends use Math-U-See because of the manipulatives, and I was considering that one because I really like Steve Demme - but I’ll be honest, sometimes the way he visualizes the math in that curriculum confuses ME (and I already know how to multiply/divide, etc).  I went with Rightstart because it looked a little more doable for ME as the teacher, and because I think Wyatt will really enjoy the games that reinforce the concepts. I also like that Rightstart is a bit of a “spiral” math curriculum (as opposed to a “linear” curriculum like Math-U-See) in that it circles back to concepts, because I think we will all need the review to really tie everything together.  

If you know anything about Rightstart though, you know that it is NOT cheap.  I would have paid the full price because I am really thinking this will work for Wyatt, but I was so blessed to find it used at a used curriculum sale for about a quarter of the price!  

I also got a math workbook, called Math Lessons For A Living Education, because I think in those couple months after the baby comes this will be a great fill-in.  It’s a book that introduces math concepts through stories, and will be an easy thing to do with Wyatt sitting next to me on the couch while nursing Baby or whatever.  I wanted to get this just to make things a little simpler on myself until I can get back into a regular routine again after the baby.  This book can be a full curriculum itself, but I think we’ll be using it as a fill-in/review this year since it’s an odd school year for our family - and I’ll hang on to it for Gwen, because she is definitely a workbook girl!

History

I am probably most excited about teaching history to Wyatt this year, because I decided to go with Beautiful Feet Books!  I got a big box of beautiful REAL books to read to the kids, with all kinds of wonderful stories about people and events from history.  Beautiful Feet Books sends all the books I need along with a study guide with a schedule, questions and assignments for the students, etc.  This curriculum can be done in one year or two, and we will definitely be stretching it out for two years.  We’re doing the Early American History 1 course, and I’ll do another vlog soon to show you all the books.



Reading/Writing

For reading and writing we are continuing on with Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons until we finish it  - though we’ll see how it goes.  I loved the first part of this book, but I find myself getting annoyed the further into it we get, because a lot of it is really repetitive, and my Type-A side is irritated that we’re already moving on to two-syllable words and consonant blends before we even cover all the basic consonant sounds.  It makes it tricky to incorporate most early reader books using this curriculum because a lot of basic sounds/rules aren’t covered until later.  I’m adding in phonics rules and sounds as I deem appropriate.  We are also working in some Bob Books for days when Wyatt (and I) get sick of using the same old reading book.

Either way, we will finish this book before the end of this semester, so we’ll roll into Rod and Staff’s first grade reading curriculum after that.  Rod and Staff incorporates workbooks and readers, but what I really love about Rod and Staff is how Bible-focused the curriculum is. Wyatt has also enjoyed their preschool and kindergarten workbooks in the past year, so I think he’ll like that aspect.

For writing practice I ordered Teach Your Child To Read, Write, And Spell 100 Easy Bible Verses to use as a companion to the Teach Your Child To Read Book, because I love how the whole point of it is to get your kids memorizing and writing Bible verses.

Language Arts

I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do for Language Arts, because a lot of grammar can’t really be covered until a kid can, you know, READ (and write).  However, I found First Language Lessons For The Well-Trained Mind at the homeschool conference with basic language arts concepts that I can start to introduce now, even before the kids are independently reading and writing.  These lessons are simple and quick, and I think it looks really doable.

Bible

I agonized a bit over what to do for Bible this year, because in a way Bible is incorporated into every subject.  Everything can be related back to Scripture and our faith in Jesus, and I intend to teach that way.  However, I did want something more specific particularly for myself, to make sure I won’t start to neglect spiritual instruction in the midst of the busyness of all the day-to-day subjects.  

I went to Cathy Duffy’s site and started looking through Bible curricula, and I landed was interested in Bible Treasures, which covers Genesis to Ruth in the first grade year, but after ordering it and looking through it, I decided against it.  I didn’t like how it explained salvation (it almost made it sound works-based).  I could have worked with it and explained things better to the kids as we worked through it, but I have a tendency to get irritated when books geared toward children don’t explain these concepts well.  So I sent it back and now I have no Bible curriculum to work with after all.  

We are currently reading through some of our Bible storybooks, reading from scripture, and learning catechism questions, which is great, but not exactly the well-organized plan I was hoping for.  If anyone has any suggestions for a Bible curriculum, I’m all ears!



Extras

I'm planning our Fridays to be the day for extras - including poetry, cooking lessons (with Usborne's Start To Cook), crafts and art lessons, and maybe some music/composer exposure (using Spotify and My First Classical Music Book).  I'm planning to loop schedule all these different things, so we won't be doing each thing every week.


So there you go!  Our curriculum list.  you may have noticed that for several of the subjects I bought two resources instead of just picking one - which, I’m going to be honest, may be a mistake.  I’ve heard it said that you should specifically NOT buy extras, because it is likely that you will never use them.  However, for the subjects that I bought two curricula it was either because one of the curricula will only take us through half the year, or because I needed something less fussy to use in the couple months after the baby is born.  The exception is science, but we’re just going to play that one by ear and see which curricula sticks (if our jump-start this summer is any indication, it will be Apologia).  I do think that between this year and next year we will end up using all this curricula though, and I’m excited about our choices!

Homeschool moms - what curriculum are you using this year?


Solar Eclipses & Personality Types




Confession: I was this close to not doing anything for the solar eclipse this week.

My thought process was that solar eclipses are cool and all, but do I really want to spend $10 a piece on glasses?  And how many stops will I have to make with my FOUR kids to find these stupid things? And will it really be worth it since it's only a partial eclipse where I am anyway?

I think I've reached that point in pregnancy where anything that requires too much effort and isn't absolutely necessary just isn't really worth it to me.  Plus, I was a little paranoid about the kids hurting their eyesight.

So I really had no plans for anything, until I was laying in bed last Saturday night with sudden anxiety when I realized that I might be depriving my children of something. What kind of homeschool mom skips a solar eclipse?  On the first day of school, no less?  What was I thinking? How could I have even considered stealing this experience from my kids?!

In my sleep-deprived haze, I settled on cereal box projectors, which I was more comfortable with anyway because of the whole eyesight thing.  We had a grand ole time decorating them and checking the eclipse on Monday.  The kids did try to glance at the sky a couple times, but I scolded them enough to put the fear of retinal scarring into their little hearts.  I'm glad I actually did something with them after all!  We had 93% totality, and it did start to feel like evening there for a bit, which was cool.  Complete totality would have been better, but in 28 years another eclipse is coming through that puts us right in the path of totality, so I'm just going to wait until then.

 (That's glitter on my nose, from our decorated boxes.)



(I didn't realize I needed to make the hole so tiny for the box to work, so that's why there are several holes.)

On Monday evening after that eventful day, I went to work out and I tried out a new podcast.  Despite it being a fun day, I was having a particularly anxious/getting-down-on-myself type of day at the same time, and I needed a distraction.  I listened to Personality Hacker, and I came home feeling like I understood myself better and determined to find out Derek's Myers-Briggs type so I could understand him better.  He took the test, and I thought I'd take it again too just to see if any of my percentages changed.  I was confident I would still be an ENFJ, and I like that type.

Imagine my surprise when the test tells me I'm now an ESFJ!  What?! No!  I knew my type!  I have a type!  You can't just change it on me!  I retook the test.  Same result.  I read the description.  It didn't sound like me. I retook the test on a different website.  Now I'm ISTJ.  Huh?  I read the description.  Nope.  

At this point it's 11:00 PM, and I'm exhausted, so I put the computer away and decided to figure it out later.  It took me at least a half hour to fall asleep, because this was all just so upsetting.

I woke up in the morning and pulled out my laptop again (I get a little obsessive about things when I'm pregnant - yes, I'm blaming pregnancy).  I retook the test again and adjusted some answers - it said ENFJ, but now I felt like I cheated.  So read an article about cognitive functions (which is what this whole crazy test is based on), and it seemed to me I'm an Introverted Intuitive, Extroverted Feeling.  Which would make me an INFP.  I read the description.  It sort of sounded like me, but not really, because I'm just not a dreamer.  I don't think of myself as a dreamer, I don't daydream about things or invent fictional characters.  I call myself an optimistic realist.  

I went back and read the ENFP, INFP, ENFJ, INFJ, ISFJ, and ESFJ descriptions, and then all the descriptions of their cognitive functions, and I finally decided that I'm...wait for it...an ENFJ.

So that was a lot of effort to tell me something I thought I already knew!  Ugh.  I'm just going to own that type now though and not retake the stupid test.  I read somewhere in the midst of all this that it can be hard to type a person if their personalities are really underdeveloped, or if their personalities are very developed.  I'm going to say I'm just a very developed person.  Because very developed people clearly spend 3+ hours scouring the internet with anxiety, trying to figure out their type.

Now I'm completely exhausted and have been dragging myself through the day.  I had things to do this week, Personality Hacker!  Sheesh.

So out of curiosity, what Myers-Briggs personality type are YOU?  
You can start with this test here.  And I'm sorry in advance if this leads you on a wild goose chase that keeps you up half the night.  


Homeschooling With Toddlers Underfoot - What We Actually Do





Last fall, after years of mentally planning, we started homeschooling Wyatt for Kindergarten.  I've had a lot of interest, not only in blogland but from my real-life friends, on all the workings of our homeschool, and a frequently question is: "What you do with the baby and toddler happy while you're working with Wyatt on his school?"

My first thought on that question is that if you have a younger child that's not that much younger, you probably don't have to do anything.  The only thing I'd suggest buying extra workbooks for them if they decide to participate.  That is what we are doing with Gwen, who was three years old when we started the school year. She often wants to follow along and do her own schoolwork, so I help her with the activities she's interested in - and if she's not interested, she can go and play or do whatever else she wants.  I believe in letting kids be kids before the school years, free from unnecessary obligations, so I really don't put any pressure on her.

The youngest two are another story.  Clyde was two years old, and Clarice was one last fall, and they do require more attention.  Since I was asked so often about how I was going to handle schoolwork with the little two running around, I thought I should probably have some sort of plan.  After I attended the homeschool conference and got all my curriculum choices together, I went on a mission to find activities for the younger kids while I was working with the older two.



I came up with a few activities via Pinterest, and I was really excited about giving them a try (activities listed below).  I also pulled aside a few of their educational toys and put them in a special box.  I figured I could pull all these things out whenever we started on schoolwork, and keep them occupied with their special "school toys".

These are the activities I found:

1. Nuts And Bolts Matching Activity.  Buy nuts and bolts of different sizes from the hardware store, and paint the outside of the coordinating hardware the same color.  

2. Clothespins and Paint Swatches.  I picked up some paint cards from Home Depot - two of each color.  The idea is to cut up one of the paint cards and glue a piece onto the back of a clothespin.  Then the kids can pin the clothespin onto the matching color on the cards.  

3. Felt Activity Books.  A lot of people make their own, but I just buy the $3 ready-made version at Target.

4. Lacing Cards.   Lacing shoelaces through colorful character cardboard cutouts (how's that for alliteration?).  I'm sure you've seen these.

I have a few more ideas in this blog I made for this post a while back too:





All these activit├ęs are great for color matching and fine motor skills, and I patted myself on the back for being so prepared.

But here's my little secret.

We haven't used a single one of these activities.




Do you know what Clyde (and even Clarice) like best?  A notebook and a pencil.

When I am working on writing or number practice with the big kids, Clyde likes to feel like he is doing the same sort of thing.  He wants to do "school" too.  He doesn't want to be left out, or relegated to a separate activity - he wants to be part of the action.

So I sit him down with his "school" notebook and a fat pencil, and he scribbles in it until we are done.

I think in the midst of all those inquiries about how to keep the little kids happy while we did our schoolwork, I forgot three things.  

1. My kids like to do things together as much as possible.  Clyde and Clarice both want to feel like "big kids".  They are always so proud of themselves when they accomplish something that they've only seen their brother and sister do up to that point.  It was silly of me to think I needed to entertain them separately from what everyone else is doing.

2. All my kids have always been independent players.  Most of the time while we are working on reading or anything else, the little kids just go off and play by themselves.  I've never been one of those mothers who structures her preschoolers' schedule.  We don't do a lot of organized projects or educational projects.  I just let them play, because that is my preschool philosophy - and my kids are great at independent play.  This is a big advantage in homeschooling, and I should appreciate it.  Some moms might need to plan a lot of activities to keep their younger children entertained - but I don't!  My kids have always entertained themselves.  I should just enjoy that!

3. Each round of work in kindergarten takes 15-20 minutes, and we take breaks in between.  Fifteen minutes is not a big enough amount of time to have to fill it up with baby and toddler activities.  Homeschool kindergarten is not a whole-day endeavor, like public or private school counterparts, because a lot of kindergarten actives are regular life activities.  Kids have free play time.  They color and paint.  They eat snacks.  They take a nap or "quiet time".  None of which actually feels like school.  The part that does feel more school-like is the bookwork, and that's the part that literally takes 15 minutes.  It's really not intimidating at all, and I was making it way too complicated.

So this summer, when I'm planning for next year, I'm going to try to remember what happened this last year and restrain myself from buying a lot of fancy extras for our homeschool - because it is likely that they will go unused.  I'd much rather take the kids outside and let them get dirty (or wet and cold) in the winter than spend all my time and money planning activities for them.  I'd much rather do "school" all together as much as possible and continue to encourage those sibling relationships.  I'd much rather just keep the whole thing simple and easy on myself, instead of overcomplicating things and adding more work to my plate.  I'd rather be not-Pinterest-worthy and happy, than Pinterest-worthy and stressed.

But I will probably keep my box of extras handy...just in case the littles are being extra needy one day and I need a backup plan!  I went to all that work, after all.

If you are a homeschool mom, especially if you have young children in the house, I'd love to hear your thoughts!  How do you make homeschooling work with babies and toddlers underfoot?









A Homeschool Usborne Book Wishlist (First Grade)



One of the most fun things about homeschooling so far has been researching and trying to decide on different curricula.  For Kindergarten we haven't really done a curriculum per se, we've just been working our way through a bunch of different books, doing crafts, and working on reading and math skills.  I haven't quite made up my mind what curriculum we will use for first grade this next year, but I've been searching through different options, and I've come to a conclusion - whatever we pick, I want to use (or build) a curriculum that uses real books.



We got Wyatt the Usborne Children's Encyclopedia for Christmas, and he poured over it for two days.  He asked me questions about all the pictures, and I told him what the words on the page said, and he was just fascinated.  It was so fun to watch him learning just for the joy of it.  While I think we will follow some sort of curriculum, I want to make sure we have plenty of interesting books around that fit in with what we are learning, to make the whole year more fun.

I've been making book lists galore, but today I wanted to focus on Usborne books!  A friend of mine, Brittney, asked me if I would host an Usborne Facebook party, and it sounded like a lot of fun - so I've been going through their thousands of books and making a list of the ones I'd like to get for school next year.  I'll share the ones I'm thinking about getting, but first, let's talk quickly about the ones I have, shall we?

Usborne Books We Already Have




The Children's Encyclopedia - Like I said above, this one has been a hit.  I think it's the full-page gorgeous illustrations that have really sucked Wyatt in.  I'm not going to lie, there were a few pages I felt the required more explanation (like the world religions or aliens pages), but they are easy enough to skip if you don't agree with or your child isn't ready for some of it.







How Things Work - This book is just so cool.  It's a flap book, and under each flap it gives pictures and descriptions about how the different things in this book work. 






Horses & Ponies and Weather - I bunch these together because they are the same type of book.  These books have fun illustrations and less text because they are meant for younger readers - but I love it because the few words are used really well, and these books get a lot deeper into the topics than you would expect them to.  They have a bunch of these on different topics, and I'm hoping to get more!




Birds Pocket Book - Have I mentioned that our family is really into birds?  We don't know a lot about distinguishing birds, but we would like to learn more.  All of my kids love flipping through the Audubon bird app on my phone, and this is like the book form!

Starting Chess (not pictured) - I forgot I had this one until I sat down to start typing!  Derek is very good at chess, and I picked this up as a supplement for when Wyatt is ready to start learning (which probably is sooner than I think).

So those are the books I have, now on to the books I want.

Usborne Books On My Homeschool To-Buy List

These are the books that I would love to have as we introduce different subjects over the next few years, in addition to the ones I already have.


Science And Nature

The Outdoor Book - I think we would love this for ideas of activities to do outside and nature study!

Human Body Reference Book and Shine-A-Light Human Body Book - This is my area of interest (biology), so I think this looks fun.  And the shine-a-light book adds an interesting element!

Poisonous Animals (etc.) - This is one of those great books for young readers!

How Things Grow - I think I need this book to help my black thumb.

Astronomy And Space Reference Book - I don't know if I even need to explain this. Yay for space!

100 Science Experiments - Someone told me I need this, and I think I do!

History

Big Picture Atlas - I think this will be good for context with different historical events.

Living Long Ago - I'm still not sure my kids grasp how different life was 200 years ago, so this looks great!

Christopher Columbus - One of the few American history books.  Usborne, I know you are British, but more on the American History front please!

See Inside Exploration And Discovery and The Story Of Inventions - These looked really interesting to me.


Reading and Writing

Illustrated Grammar And Punctuation - We are a way off from needing this yet, but my grammar nerd is coming out!  I love this idea!


Illustrated Classics: Huckleberry Finn And Other Stories - This is one of a few classics collections that are condensed and rewritten for young readers, and I am really curious about them.


Miscellaneous (aka. Just For Fun)

Over 50 Secret Codes - I would have loved this as a kid.

Fingerprint Activities: Animals - This just looks adorable, and would be so fun for everyone, including the little two!

First Book About The Orchestra - The kids love Maestro Classics (#affiliate), and I think this book would be a great visual to understand the different instruments.

Big Keyboard Book - We are still hoping to teach our kids how to play the piano, and this looks useful!



I could go on, but you get the idea! There are just a lot of really fun books.  Clearly it's probably going to take me longer than the next year to collect all these!  Maybe I should retitle this post "Usborne Books For Early Elementary", because I think all of these will last well beyond first grade!

Now for a little plug - the Facebook party is tomorrow night at 8 PM EST, and Brittney has a bunch of fun things planned - including a drawing for a book prize!  So if you want to check Usborne out, this is a good chance! If you comment below saying you want to join, I'll send you an email to add you to the party!  Or if you have your eye on something and want to buy without attending the party...can you purchase through any of these links and select my eShow on the left before checkout? Because then I can earn discounts on books! (Shameless plug, I know.)  Party is open until next Monday!

Do any of you have some Usborne books?  What would you recommend to me for the elementary school years?  

I'd love to hear!




P.S. Brittany also made me this handy graphic for Usborne books that go with different curricula!  Pin this!






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