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Thursday, July 23, 2009

School in the Fishbowl- What we're studying this year....

This post (now slightly edited) was originally posted for Kris over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers as part of a special weekly wrap-up. I enjoyed viewing everyone's curriculum choices so much, that I'm going to join in with Darcy of My Three Boybarians and the Curriculum Hop she is having this week. :-)

So, before I go into what curriculum we're planning on using this year, let me share a little background on how we got here in the first place. Here, as in homeschooling. I have three boys as you can see on the side bar. Tiger Shark - 11, Jabber Jaw -9 and Small Fry - 2 years old. (He's the wild card in my upcoming year). Six years ago my two oldest children attended a Christian preschool,which I loved. Tiger Shark, my oldest, was headed to Kindergarten the following year, and I had no idea where we were going to send him. Christian school was way to expensive for the two of us, on a single salary. The more I prayed the more I felt the Lord directing me to homeschool.

You have to know I thought I had it made at the time. Two little ones in preschool 3 days a week, free time for mommy to grab a coffee with friends. I could get errands done.... my hair done.... attend bible studies, etc etc. My friends questioned why in the world I would want to homeschool. What could I say? I mean it wasn't like I had this passion to do so..... Oh no, I was absolutely terrified to homeschool! I remember crying to my sister on the phone and telling her "I cannot even speak the words *homeschool* to her, because I just know God is gonna have me actually do it." Really the fact that I knew God was calling me to do so was outside of enough.... I never ever in a million years thought I would be homeschooling. Ever.

But God in his wisdom had a plan, and I got on board. Maybe not exactly enthusiastically at first, but willingly. Even though I was terrified I knew that God would give me everything I needed each day to teach our children. And he has.... and I need to keep remembering that. Because back then with one child, and a new journey everything seemed simpler. Yes, the earlier years were certainly easier to teach, but when I say simple, I'm referring to my faith. I had a simpler faith, and I need to remember that God is still leading me and he is still supplying me with all I need to teach these children of mine. (Can you tell I needed to hear that? It's where I'm at I guess....)

So,now that you know how we got here, I'll share what we are planning to use this year.... but I'll also apologize in advance for my lack of brevity and bullet points.

I generally really like to use bullet points.

As in: Random thoughts, 10 things about me, places I've lived, my grocery list, my To Do list, yada yada....

But I just can't be brief when talking about curriculum. It's like meeting a fellow homeschooler for the first time and having them ask me what math curriculum I use, and answering... "Math U See." (And that's all.)

It would never happen. I like to be wordy when I'm talking about curriculum. So, feel free to skip to whatever section is of interest to you. This post is long.... and wordy... even for me.

Here's what I'm planning on using to teach our boys (in no particular order):

Language Arts- Abeka - Easy Grammar and Sequential Spelling
I used to be a complete Language Arts Abeka user. (We have not used their Math, or Science or History programs) In the first year or two of homeschooling, I needed everything spelled out for me. I also loved their phonics program and more importantly so did the boys. However, as the kids got past the K-2nd grade phonics program, I became less enchanted with different parts of Abeka. So this year I am using a very limited Abeka curriculum. Grammar, and Spelling. That's about it. I was almost tempted to switch out of those and use Easy Grammar and Sequential Spelling. Update: I did switch to these two, which I am excited about... but which caused some rearranging and a little stress in others areas of my homeschool schedule. You can read about that thought process here, here, and here.

If you are considering beginning homeschooling, you might like to take a look at Abeka. It's really nice and spelled out for a first timer who needs that direction. Their website is here Abeka, and you can find an upcoming local materials display HERE. (A materials display is typically held in a hotel conference room, and the Abeka representative sets out all the curriculum by grade, so homeschooling parents can look at it first hand).

Math -- Math U See
It's a no brainer really. We absolutely love this program! Math has been the easiest subject for us and I credit the teaching of Mr. Demme at Math U See. We've used it from the beginning. I was at a curriculum fair with my sister 5 years ago, and we were trying to figure out the best curriculum for Tiger Shark. She mentioned Math U See as being very "hands on" working with manipulatives. When I looked at it, I thought this might just be the program that works for us. It really has! It has a teaching video which my boys can watch over and over until they understand a concept. I have found the Teacher's Manual helpful as well for additional teaching tips. The manipulatives are great for teaching early addition and subtraction and place value. The site has online drills to work for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. It is definitely fun for the kids. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of a video game... but my kids enjoy it's simplicity. The website also has a worksheet generator so if a child needs more practice on a particular concept you can generate additional worksheets if you need them. We've found both of these online tools to be an asset. You can find out more about this curriculum by clicking on Math U See.

Handwriting - A Reason for Handwriting - Cursive
This is a new handwriting curriculum for us. I used to use ABeka's handwriting program but for the last two years I was not very impressed with how it was set up. In 4th and 5th grade, Abeka uses single lined notebook paper and if my kids are practicing handwriting I want them to practice it in a way that they can actually do well. There is plenty of time to write on single lined paper in the upcoming years. Plus I noticed a definite drop in the quality of how my oldest son wrote cursive, and I really attribute it to the narrow lines. He used to write cursive beautifully, and I have the papers to prove it. I know it sounds silly to choose a writing curriculum on the paper and lines, but that's kind of what I did. Really, I'm not so concerned about cursive writing at all, in our computer run world. I just want them to be able to have handwriting a person can read. And at this age, they can practice with the wider lines. A Reason For Handwriting is a short and sweet one page and has them writing Scripture verses, and that certainly can't hurt either! I think we are all gonna love it!

Vocabulary - Wordly Wise
We like this vocabulary for both the boys. It has helped them in several areas. Not only has their vocabulary improved, but so has their reading comprehension. I noted an improvement in both of these on their standardized testing. That was definitely a bonus!

Latin -- Latina Christiana I
We did the first level called Prima Latina last year and it was very good for the boys. The latin words helped the boys figure out a word's meaning from it's derivative. Prima Latina was fun and easy, but I don't know what a jump the next level Latina Christiana I will be... I guess we'll see. I just found this statement in a review of this Latin curriculum. Recommendation: Latina Christiana I covers less grammar than some of its competitors, but it covers the material in greater depth and in a clear, easy-to-remember way thus forming a rock-solid foundation in Latin. (Pretty cool huh?- Okay, well I'm glad I found it.....) Here is a link to the entire review. Click Here.

Science -- Apologia- Exploring Creation with Zoology.
This one I take no credit for... it's with our local co-op. I'm just happy that someone else will be teaching science, and that my kids will get a science lab once a week. (And I don't have to clean it up). It's on flying creatures of the fifth day. My kids love birds, are interested in birds, and want to learn so much about birds that I think they are gonna love this science class!

History -- Sonlight American History
Whew this one is the one I dread the most! Really... I am horrible at history. I originally started with Sonlight, and found online that in place of using a Child's History of the World, I could use Story of the World (for the supplemental reading). So we began using both. We learned a lot in Ancient History in that first year. Last year we stuck with Story of the World mostly, but it was a tough year as we transitioned from our trip to Russia to adopt Small Fry and the adjustments at home the first several months.

This past June, at the end of a curriculum fair with my sister, feeling completely fried and glazed over...... I bought everything to continue with Story of the World 3. When I got home and looked at everything... I realized it wasn't the material I was hoping to cover this year. What??? Talk about an expensive mistake! So, all that being said, I have opted to go back to Sonlight and continue with their American History. It's one of the hardest subjects for me... but the kids enjoy it, so we are tackling it first thing in the morning to ensure that it gets done and gets done well.

Supplemental Reading -- Sonlight Readers and Read Alouds
I also love Sonlight for it's Classical readers and Read Alouds! My kids read many of these for summer reading, and we will all take turns reading them aloud during the upcoming school year. Classic children's literature is tough to find these days. I'm glad I can locate many of the readers at our local used bookstore!

One more thing I will note about Sonlight, is that it's an expensive curriculum. I try to cut the cost by finding many of the readers at Used Curriculum sales and like I mentioned above, at our local used bookstore. They have a section on their website with "27 Reasons Families Love Sonlight" and another titled "27 Reasons Not To Buy Sonlight." You can find their website HERE.

Typing- Mavis Beacon or a kid friendly program we own
I really would like the boys to learn to type. I never did, and it is such a pain! They really enjoy practicing....(especially on the kid friendly one, which is upstairs and out of reach right now). It has something to do with an island. Anyway, they enjoy it.... so I want to schedule time for them to actually practice it! Plus anything schoolwise that is fun is such a bonus!

We are all involved in the Awana ministry at our church in some way or another. We use the Awana program for Scripture memorization. Small Fry will be in Puggles this year, and I am so excited for him. I have heard it is a wonderful program for the 2 year olds. This year is Tiger Sharks last year with Awana. When he completes this 4th book, he will have memorized 438 bible verses over the past four years! Amazing really! As I get older I struggle with memorization and wish I hadn't consumed all that diet soda and it's aspartame, causing short term memory loss! (Okay, I do wish that, but really I wish I wasn't getting older. It's harder to memorize stuff when you aren't a kid.)

The boys will also be taking Creative Writing and Art at our co-op. I won't really comment on the books that they'll be using, mainly because I know nothing about them. Maybe midway through the year I'll post an update on that.... and how co-op is going in general.

Extracurricularly rounding out our already busy packed days will be a continuation of their piano lessons. They'll also be playing several sports throughout the year, starting with the ever popular football. (That's not flag football, but the one that tackles with full pads.... it's popular with everyone but mom.... )

So there's a sneak peek into our curriculum world. If you are still with me and haven't completely snoozed yet... then here's to you! You have earned the award for endurance! You get my sincere thanks and appreciation. I can't wait to hop around and read what everyone else is doing!


Anonymous said...

We like the Reason for Handwriting books. I hope y'all enjoy them as much as we have.

I love those little Puggles classes. They're so cute!

Carolynn and Steve said...

Holey moley, you are busy! I'm just teaching two history classes (World Civ II and Russian history) and I feel overwhelmed keeping just that much separated and organized. Good for you, sweetie, and hang in there! It will be a great year for your fishes!

Joelle said...

Thanks for stopping by. I will try and post something on my binder progress next week. See you around.

homeschool101 said...

Hey sounds like you have a great schedule planned. Talk all you want. That is great you give alot of detail. I do the same thing sometimes. Sounds great. Thank again for dropping in. I also wanted to let you know I have a program giveaway starting monday if you would like to spread the word or take part. For the Spellquizzer.com. For all schoolers. You can win a lifetime access to help improve vocab. Details are on my blog. Thanks again friend for stopping by. God bless your school year.


Dan and Alicia Marlowe said...

We have so much in common. I too do not relish homeschooling but feel like it is a calling from God and so I do my best to do my best (in His power). It definitely keeps me more connected to my kids; I think if they were at school my heart would wander to putting other things into the priority slot that should be theres jsut out of shere boredom. Although it would be awful nice to b more 'bored' sometimes. :) I feel like it is a year by year decision. I never present us as 'lifers' with the homeschool thing. I would take another option if there was one that my budget and heart could be at peace with but there isn't so we carry on. However, I think we've created a monster. When we even discuss other schooling options they freak out, "NOOO MOM! We want YOU to be our teacher!" Sweet but I don't necessarily want to fill every role in their lives for all 18 years! :) I also have a phobia of jean jumpers and being frumpy. I see too many homeschool moms with out of fashion, out of touch, kids and they themselves would be hard pressed to turn their own husband's heads in the get ups they come to the group activities in. I just don't want to be that woman! :) Anyway, I plan on keeping in close contact with you this year. I was very encouraged by your post. I love your obedient heart and understand what that obedience costs. It reminds me of the verse from 2 Samuel 24:24 But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." What can we offer to God that is pleasing to Him unless it requires faith and sacrifice (Heb. 11:16)? So, homeschooling our kids is a 2 for 1 really! What woman doesn't love a 2 for 1?! :)So, I'm sending love and support your way. Fight the good fight! :)

Becky and Keith said...

Wow! You certainly will be a busy be! It will be interesting to see how Small Fry does with the start of the school year. I loved your comment about football - been there before! What a stressful sport for a mom! :-)

Cheryl Pitt said...

LOL, that's hilarious! I think it was a great suggestion, I've been looking forward to this WWU.

I love Wordly Wise, Math-U-See and Sonlight!


Jolanthe said...

We're thinking of doing Awana this year too. :)

If you like stuff spelled out for you (and seriously, who doesn't??) All About Spelling is great for that and First Language Lessons too - we switched from ABeka this year to those along with Writing with Ease. :)

I give Kris grief all the time too - she's great and takes it well, doesn't she? :)

Flamingo said...

ok....so i was not wanting to read a post like this tonight. i keep praying about the homeschooling thing. part of me wants to and part of me wants to run for the hills fast! i don't know if i can do it with a healthy attitude with my kids.

i have lots of worries...some do include denim jumpers. perhaps someday i will ask you about the stuff on my mind:)

Nekey said...

I have been thinking about the Reason for Handwriting books too.

Great post! Thanks for sharing all that you are using.

Tracy said...

We have used MUS and WW! Have a great year!

Anonymous said...

We are sonlight users and I am teaching the Apologia Science class at my co-op... how funny!

Robin E. said...

I love reading your thought processes as you chose each item. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing on the Blog Hop.

Darcy @ m3b said...

I am thinking of adding WW in 5th grade, too. Good to read about the test scores!

Thanks so much for participating in the NBTS Blog Hop. Hope you'll join us in the weeks to come!


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