Sunday, April 15, 2007

Next Year's Curriculum

'Tis the season for homeschooling mothers everywhere to start planning for the fall. Yes, it is barely spring but many are already looking at what to get for next year - including me. My mom even had to remind me that it's only April! HAH! I know, but I'm starting to doubt if we'll make it to June around here. So, in hopes that searching out the next better thing for the coming year will get me through this year, I'm making my plans. I did assure her that I was not alone & that we all (as in all of us stir crazy homeschooling mamas) are doing the same thing - in order not to strangle our little ones out of frustration & to try to gather our enthusiasm for our task once again.

This year I find myself teaching a 10 year old, 4th gradish (is that a word??) boy along with a newly 6 year old Kindergartner (how about that one?). I also have a 3 year old active little boy running around trying to make himself known daily.

I must admit to not making the middle son do a whole bunch of school this year. We did not do school every day with him, but he has still made an amazing amount of progress this year. We just started reading lessons using Alpha-Phonics & he is doing fabulous with it so far. It's great to watch him gaining confidence in this.

I've really struggled this year with finding a routine & making sure we're covering all the bases. I'm hoping that my plan for fall will do this - along with some major planning this summer on my part. At this point, here is what I'm planning to use.

Language Arts
Character Quality Language Arts
What I like about the looks of this (and from the samples I checked out) is that ALL of necessary language art components are in one solid curriculum. It covers dictation, spelling, writing, grammar, & more. It appears to be very advanced & I'm only planning on using this for my 10 year old. He is sorely lacking in all things language arts related with the exception of his reading. His reading skills are actually very advanced. I have not been making him do a lot of writing up to this point & it is starting to show. We attempted to do Spell to Write & Read this year. While I am continuing to use The W.I.S.E. Guide with him for his spelling, I am not doing any other part of the program. I have found that anything that is VERY teacher intensive is just way too much to me at this point. While I really like the concept of SWR, I found it too difficult to teach it as it was to be taught. I did, however, drill both boys in the phonics sounds of the letters & blends & found that to be extremely helpful to both.

I keep coming back to this curriculum. When I went to my very first homeschooling convention back in 2002, this was the curriculum I wanted to use with my then five year old oldest son. However, the cost made me a bit hesitant so I decided instead to just use some workbooks. In fact, I never used a formal anything with him until second grade. We did a lot of different workbooks that I found at Wal-Mart & other things I put together. Anyway, I looked at this year after year. Well, my now 10 year old is still struggling with basic addition and subtraction. This year we tried Developmental Math. While that seemed to work, I wanted math to be fun for him as it is for his dad. I'm a hopeless "math-o-phobic" so I want something that will make it easy for me to teach him & his brothers how to like, enjoy and, most importantly, understand this subject. So I am making the plunge this year. So far I have been able to buy the Primer, Alpha, & Beta teacher packs (two with DVD's even) used & for good prices. My best find was two sets of starter blocks for the price of one new set. Yippee for me! Now the only thing left is to get the student books. Even though I think my 6 year old could possibly handle Alpha, I think I'm going to start him in Primer for confidence building. I'll let him move at his own pace & we may complete it sooner than a year, but I think it will be good for him. And also, I'm starting my 10 year old in Beta - which is only two levels up. I don't want to totally destroy his confidence with him knowing that his six year old brother is only one level behind if I were to start N in Alpha. I'm praying that this is the answer for this subject.

Diana Waring's Ancient Civilizations and the Bible
History has been a bit tougher than I had originally thought. We started out using Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. We did the Ancients & had a really good time with this. I thought it was a keeper. Then I was a bit discouraged about the lack of Bible history taught. So I made the switch to Mystery of History last year. That was rough on us. While it did have a lot more Bible history integrated, I found it a difficult book to teach from. I think it may be that it wasn't as user friendly as Story of the World. We were very hit or miss & only managed to do half the book. At about that same time I discovered that the author has only completed & published the first two volumes of the series - we were doing Volume 2. After that you have to switch to something else. That was frustrating to me. So at the start of this year, we again went back to Story of the World. Although, it wasn't perfect it was working okay. I started researching for next year & thought of doing Heart of Wisdom as it was decidedly biblical based. Then a friend pointed out that that series wasn't finished either. But then she shared about Diana Waring. I had heard of it but for some reason didn't realize how biblically based it was. After checking out the samples, I decided that it would be a good fit for my boys. I'm not planning on getting the elementary book for my six year old, but just having him follow as best he can. I think my 10 year old will really like the stories on CD. I think he's currently listening to the Focus on the Family's Radio Theater version of The Chronicles of Narnia for about the fifth time. He loves books on tape.

I like that there is a student book, teacher book & the CD's. I've listened to Ms. Waring's "What in the World is Going On?" tapes before since we actually own those. I bought them for a fraction of the cost at last year's homeschooling convention. I found her engaging & really enjoyed listening. I also know that the Ancient pack has been redone.

So since my 10 year old will be "5th" grade in the fall, we are going to start our history rotation over again. This has me a bit concerned since we still haven't managed to do any American history. My plan is to have him do a bunch of reading this summer from a list of my choosing. I have the book All Through the Ages and plan to use that to put together a reading list.

Jeannie Fulbright's Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day
I simply cannot say enough good things about this science curriculum. It is Charlotte Mason is style. It is easy to implement. There are free notebooking pages on Ms. Fulbright's web page to help with the book. We started four years ago with Astronomy (which we ended up doing twice). Then we moved on to Botany & this year we are finishing up Zoology 1: Birds, Bats, & Insects (or Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day). My oldest son says science (and to be fair - history) is his favorite subject. We were doing this every day but, for the sake of getting the basics done, have gone to 2-3 times a week. I, myself, have learned so much with these books that I look forward to doing science almost as much as my son. Confession: I do NOT do all or even half of the experiments listed in the books. My son has not seemed to suffer for it. :-)

Herein Is Love: A Commentary Series for Children
Wow - what can I say about this book. We started using the one about Genesis a few months ago. I really, really, really like it. I heard about it on one of my many Yahoo groups & decided to take the plunge & get it. Why do I like it? There are short readings about the Bible - generally about 1-1/2 pages. It was written by a pastor's wife based on her Sunday School lessons. While it is written for children, it's not dumbed down at all. It showcases God's love in every lesson. At the end of the book is another entire section that has lesson "plans" if you will. There are craft ideas, memory verses, Psalms to sing, field trip ideas, & review questions. I'm finding that even my six year old is enjoying it & doing well. I'm making up notebooking pages for them based on the craft ideas. So far this is working well. The author has so far written books on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers with books still planned for Deuteronomy & Joshua.

A Child's Geography 2: Explore the Holy Lands
Okay, I can't even begin to share my enthusiasm for this curriculum either. It's amazing & will completely change your look on the world. We began last year (still working through it too) A Child's Geography 1: Explore His Earth. I don't remember where I heard about it, but I ended up buying the eBook (which was the only way you could buy it at the time). I began printing chapters & going through it with my oldest son. He was eating it up. If you enjoy the Jeannie Fulbright science series, I can almost guarantee that you will like this one as well. It's written in a similar style. There are narration prompts throughout. At then end of each chapter are a short list of books for further study, a "postcard home" notebook prompt, experiments to cement the learning, & a way to bring it home with a "Reaching Out To His World" section which helps with expanding your child's worldview.

While it has taken us a bit to get through the first book, I have to admit it is my fault. We have not been diligent in getting to this curriculum - sometimes months at a time. I miss it each time though. I'm looking forward to getting the second edition - in print!!! - and starting that in the fall. My goal is to get the first volume finished by then.

Speedy Spanish
Why is that we live in Maine, that I took four years of FRENCH instruction in high school, and my children want to learn Spanish?!?!? For anyone wondering about the Maine thing...we have a large French population from French Canada &, well, we live within about a three hour drive of Quebec. Oh well - Spanish it is.

I've been struggling with teaching a foreign language - just finding the time for it. I tried a computer program this year which B seemed to enjoy but I don't think he was making any progress at all. In fact, I think my children have made more progress watching Dora The Explorer than anything else. Someone somewhere (probably the SHS list) shared this program & it looked good & relatively inexpensive. While Rosetta Stone might be my first choice, not at this age. I'm probably going to use the Primer level - even though B is ten - with both boys. Something we'll be able to do together.

Rod & Staff workbooks, Hymns, & Composer study
I think I'm finding the lack of music instruction the most frustrating this year. I am musically inclined as they say. In high school I was very active. I used to take piano lessons, but stopped playing when I went to college (a big regret of mine!). I also played the clarinet from fifth grade to my senior year (first chair that year too). I even managed the trombone for a season when we did not have any & needed some for our basketball game pep band. I sang in the choir from fifth to my senior year as well. I love music. It calms me. I enjoy listening to it. I want to pass that love on to my children. I now have only a keyboard - no room for a piano yet. I did buy B a recorder for our first year - have barely played it. I'm praying that in the fall we can get a better routine going on this instruction area.

How Great Thou Art
Barry Stebbing, the author of this program, was one of the keynote speakers at our state homeschooling convention last year. He made quite an impression on me. I know that my oldest has expressed an interest in learning how to draw so I'm really trying to fit this in the budget. I have a friend who bought the video program for I Can Do All Things (I think) so I'm hoping to borrow that. I really think this would be a nice round out to our year.

So the only thing the boys will be separated for will be Language Arts. N will be working on penmanship & learning to read with possibly a bit of spelling thrown in & some phonics review. Basically, something put together of my own design. B will be doing CQLA. Other than that my hope is to do the rest of the subjects together.


  1. This all looks great, Lisa. I've been pouring over catalogs and websites myself. I just order MUS material for Gabe and Bess. I'll need to get some for Rachel and Hannah, but will wait until later for that.

    I'm going to check out some of the material you have listed. I just today put CQLA on my "look at" list for Gabe.

  2. Lisa, I think your curriculum plan looks wonderful. ENJOY it and don't try to do it all. I find, too, that it works best for me when I can combine both my 12yodd and 8yods. I think it's good for them too, to have the extra input and person in the dicussion.

  3. Lisa, I appreciate your sharing your curriculum with us. It is great to be able to see what others are using. I'm off to check out some of your web links. Have a great day!

  4. LOVE YOUR LIST! I just realized when I read your list that I'm not pouring over the catalogs this year.. no need to, I guess. With co-op taking care of so many subjects it only leaves me math and few other small things to plan and I already have all of that! Hmmmm..... maybe I should still look at a few catalogs just in case!


Oh thank goodness! I'm not here all alone. Thanks for leaving me a comment. It helps that I'm not always talking to myself. Right? Hello?