Category: Curricula


Whew, we’ve embarked upon our 7th year here at Lamp Post Academy.  It’s crazy to think that it’s been this long. I never, in my wildest imaginings, saw myself as a homeschooler. I never would have thought that I would have the patience to not only parent my children, but teacher them, too. (Teacher can be a verb, right? heh) Yet, here I am, homeschooling my kids. I now have a 10th grader and 2 5/6 graders (I’ll get to the why’s of that in a my next post).

This year was even more complicated to plan than last year. Last year was the whole, CRAP CHI’S IN HIGH SCHOOL EVERYTHING COUNTS! And figuring out what all that entailed and how that was going to impact our days differently. It turns out, that after all the initial high school planning, 9th grade didn’t really change our daily work other than receiving grades. Which is funny, because the Littles saw me grading Chi’s work and decided they, too, wanted grades. So now it’s grades for everybody! You get a grade! You get a grade! And they love it. They love the process of grading and they love when they get a perfect score (which isn’t always) but it really makes them work harder, so I’ll take it.

Back to high school. This year is 10th grade and it sees us tackling harder and harder subjects; things I don’t feel comfortable teaching almost at all. Things like literature. (Which, yuck. I love to read. I’m a very prolific reader, but I never did find a love for literature class. I HATE, with extra tall capitals, diving deep into the who’s and what’s and why’s. I just want to read and enjoy. I like the way different authors put words together. Some are much better at it, where the words create a texture, than others, but I feel like that’s completely subjective.) Anyway, I set out to a) plan the literature works Chi will read this year, and b) find a resource (that’s secular) to teach it to him. THAT was an endeavor in and of itself.

Then there’s biology. Now, I feel pretty confident in my grasp of the subject because I rocked biology in high school and college, but you know, textbooks are still needed and then I had to find a resource for the labs that will be necessary.

Oh, and did I mention World History? Yes, I have found a really cool curriculum for that since it needs to be high school level and not the hodge podge stuff I’ve put together thus far. I love history and wanted to be a history teacher at one point, so I’ve got the history stuff down, but you know college pre-reqs need to be met.

After the end of year test, which Chi did exceptionally well on, I realized that not touching grammar at all in 9th grade, did him no favors. We focused on writing and he’s good, so I thought he had a handle on grammar, but apparently not. So I found a grammar curriculum that is designed for kids in his situation: lots of grammar exposure, no grammar mastery.

After those things were done, I then realized that Chi might be doing school work from sun up to sun down with all the extra reading and writing. So I decided to change the way his school day is going to look. That took a lot of deciding what could be truncated to two or three days a week and what should be every day. And realizing that some of the subjects will only run 3/4 of the weeks planned for the school year (full weeks of 4 or 5 days only) so that I can stagger some of the subjects over the course of the year.

Thus I came up with the following curriculum list, reading list, and course schedule for 10th grade. (I’m hoping all this work makes 11th and 12th easier to plan)

10th Grade Curriculum List

English 1 credit

  • Beyond the Book Report by Analytical Grammar (a paper writing boot camp)
  • Analytical Grammar by Analytical Grammar (a grammar boot camp)
  • Perrine’s Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry (poetry)
  • Vocabulit by Perfection Learning (vocab)
  • World Literature

Foreign Language 1 credit

  • Rosetta Stone Level 2

Math 1 credit

  • Math U See Pre-Algebra by Demme Learning (finishing up)
  • Math U See Algebra (should finish)
  • Math U See Geometry (finishing up)

Science 1 credit

Social Studies 1 credit

Electives 2 credits

Supplementals

  • Study Island
  • Spider Island Logic
  • Spider Island Riddles
  • Reflex Math
  • Editor-in-Chief by Critical Thinking Co. (grammar)
  • Language Mechanic by Critical Thinking Co. (more grammar)

Chi finished all of the puzzle books he’d been working on and is no longer taking spelling. I’m keeping the vocabulit because it has really increased his vocabulary. The supplementals will be for “short” school days (days when we have other things going on or school weeks that are only a couple of days long). It’s basically general practice and reinforcement.

In addition to the listed subjects, Chi is still taking Handwriting Without Tears. It’s just for a few minutes every day, but his handwriting is seriously terrible and I really worry about what would happen if anyone else had to try and read it.

10th Grade Reading List

Not all of these will be delved into deeper than a book report gets you, or a detailed conversation with some comprehension questions. I’ve linked the resource I’m going to use. I’ve tried to leave some of the more difficult texts until 12th grade when we’ve had more experience with this sort of thing and I’ve put some of the more difficult books for this year near the end of this list so that Chi has more experience with this whole process before we tackle Shakespeare, say.

 

Chi’s Course Schedule

We will still be using the workboxes, but things will work a little differently this year. Firstly, not every subject will happen every day, and not all of them will happen at the same time (during the same weeks). For example: Poetry will take 16 weeks and Beyond the Book Report will take 21 so we’re going to do one and then the other rather than do them simultaneously.  Similarly, World History won’t take up all the weeks and will leave enough time to finish the second half of Geometry.

5 days a week (label on his workboxes will be MTWTF)

  • Vocabulit
  • Analytical Grammar
  • Math U See Pre-Algebra/Algebra
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • Spanish
  • Programming
  • Beyond the Book Report/Poetry

3 days a week (label on his workboxes will be MWF)

  • World History/Geometry
  • Literature (most likely this will be one or two longer lessons with one just touching base. He will be required to read every day, in order to keep up with his reading.)

2 days a week (label on his workbox will be TT)

  • Music
  • Biology

1 Day a week (label on his workbox will be F)

  • Biology lab

And that about covers it. I’m pretty confident that this will stand for the rest of the year. However, if I don’t like a resource for one of the literary works, then I will have no problem switching. Except for the books that include the work and the study work, everything is free so I can easily pick and choose what I like as we go along.

Advertisements

Again, time flies. We’ve been really buckling down with school these past few months after the craziness of the summer break and travels. My kids were gone most of July and part of August, so I spent it all planning the next school year. I didn’t change up much in the way of the curricula used, although a few things have been added or removed, as the case may be. I mainly worked on aligning the reading and spelling curricula to the extra work we’re doing with Pynni to address her learning disabilities in those areas. Plus, I dug through all the science curricula I’ve accumulated over the years and aligned all of that so that all the lessons and information and labs line up. I feel like this concentrated approach to the information both with Pynni’s school work and Science will solidify the information in their brains.

With the addition of the Brave Writer collection of curricula to our day, I’ve expanded the copywork the kids do every day and added free writing. Some of the things that we used as supplements during our workbox work has been moved to “on your own time” supplemental work that is aimed at fostering independence and self responsibility in regards to assignments and projects.

With everything that I’ve dealt with in regards to Pynni, I’ve dropped grade levels with my kids as far as my yearly planning is concerned. I have goals set for all of them for the year and with a four year plan for Chi, since he’s that close to graduating.**gulp**  But for the sake of all the people who don’t homeschool, or who still care about grade level: Chi is in 8th grade, Pynni is in 5th grade, and Pieces is in 3rd grade.

 

********************************************************************

Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

More information from Bravewriter.com:

“It is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context, using copywork and dictation. It is a language arts resource that equips you, the homeschooling parent, to fulfill your best intentions related to:

  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Grammar
  • Literary elements
  • Quality living literature
  • Literary analysis

The practices of copywork and dictation teach your children the fundamentals of written communication. These practices naturally facilitate the development of accurate mechanics in the context of quality literature (the best words, in the best style, accurately edited).”

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Youth Digital: Mod 1 : an online programming class teaching programming with Java through Modding Minecraft, Chi
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Science Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Young Scientists Cluball three kids. This is a lab mailed to your house once or twice a month.
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids
  • Rosetta Stone: Spanish Level 1
  • Keyboarding Without Tears by Handwriting Without Tears: Pynni and Pieces

Joint Reading:

  • FINSIHED Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)
  • FINISHED The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (We finished the Harry Potter Series and started with the Maze Runner series. The books aren’t nearly the tomes of Harry Potter and makes for fast reading.)
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee (This is just with Pieces right now. It’s for The Arrow. We take turns reading out loud. Chi will read this on his own and then he will read the passages used in the curriculum out loud to me. He’s read this book before about 4 years ago.)

********************************************************************

Last time I was here, I wrote my school year 2014-2015 roundup. Some things have changed since then, and although it’s the end of the year (and we’ve officially started our next school year), I wanted to put my thoughts on some changes I’ve made, and changes to come, here for any who are interested.

Chi is in what would otherwise be his 7th grade year. He completed the writing curriculum Writing with Ease by Peace Hill Press (which I cannot praise enough for the changes it has wrought in my so-reluctant-to-write-Aspie-that-he-had-less-writing-in-his-504-plan) early in the year and, of course, we moved on to the next phase of that series: Writing with Skill. We worked and worked through it and his writing became more and more reluctant. It felt like we weren’t getting anywhere no matter how much we did and Chi increasingly hated the lessons. So much so that he began having meltdowns.

Meltdowns are uncommon for him these days, and that made me realize this curriculum was no longer for us. And so began the months’ long search to find a writing curriculum that both of us liked.

The problem with most of the curricula I liked was that they were part of broader language arts programs and entirely too comprehensive, and thus more expensive, as a result. Also, integrated writing curricula tend to be extensions of other subjects: spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension and therefore more difficult and often confusing to use outside the whole.

I very much like the curricula we use for those other language arts subjects and don’t need more overlapping in those areas. So the search continued until I stumbled upon Brave Writer by Julia Bogart.

Brave Writer is a more comprehensive writing curriculum than Writing with Skill but only because it includes a nice reading comprehension component that pairs nicely with what we already do in that area. It also expands the concepts I was introduced to through Writing with Ease: daily copywork and dictation exercises as a bridge between reading and writing.

Originally, I wanted to buy the language arts bundle but  Chi’s level wasn’t yet released. So, after waiting for a couple of months and continuing my search elsewhere, I decided to buy the available components: The Writer’s Jungle.

I really like it. It’s not a scripted curriculum like we’re used to using, but more of a class for me to learn why these concepts, why they work, and how to implement them in my homeschool. So far it’s been great, and I liked it so much that I started using it with Pieces and Pynni.

The first thing I brought to our day was free writing. For Chi, this means writing a short story or part of one, making brainstorming lists about anything and everything that interests him (Minecraft), elaborating on the lists, or writing a journal type entry. For The Littles, that means drawing a picture (elaborateness is a personal choice) and writing about the picture in some way. There is no minimum number of words or lines or pages. There is no grammar or spelling checks. It is just a means to get them writing in a completely stress-free, non-judgmental environment. It has been completely freeing for them and Pynni has really taken to the task and run with it.

The grammar and spelling and sentence structure is being covered elsewhere. This isn’t about that.

The next two things are stuff we already do in First Language Lessons (our grammar curriculum), Writing with Ease, and All About Spelling: copywork and dictation. Right now, I haven’t expanded copywork and dictation outside of those subjects. Eventually, I will have expanded both within those subjects and without, but that’s another post.

Everything is trucking along now. The other components of Brave Writer were released since I began putting this post together. I’ll acquire that and integrate it this summer.

Summer is the time of year when I do a big reassessment of our goals and how to meet them. This summer has me doing a lot of research and learning, and this fall should bring some pretty big changes in how we go about our school day. Chi is in his 8th grade year and is still behind in math, but not by too much, so we need to push that along a little faster. It’s also time to start having him write some formal research papers. It will be his first. I’m not looking forward to it, but hopefully my work this summer will help me feel more up to the challenge of getting this reluctant writer of mine to write something not about Minecraft (although I’m thinking a history of Minecraft might be a good jumping off point).  Pynni is in her 5th grade year and is way, way behind. In fact, she tests at barely a third grade level. I have more information on that, but it won’t be delved into here. Suffice it to say that most of my work this summer will be integrating a bunch of resources into our school day to help her cope and advance. Pieces is starting his 3rd grade year and he is beyond that already according to his end of year test. He blows me away with how quickly he assimilates knowledge.

Whoo. It’s a crazy ride. I don’t always feel equal to the challenge, but giving up isn’t an option. So onward!

 

********************************************************************

Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Kano by KANO Computing LTD.: initially for Chi, but will expand to the other two as I see how it works with him. (It’s a computer you build yourself. It uses Linux and Raspberry Pi and teaches the basics of programming)
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Supercharged Science  by Aurora Lipper: all three kids
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids

Joint Reading:

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)
  • The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (We finished the Harry Potter Series and started with the Maze Runner series. The books aren’t nearly the tomes of Harry Potter and makes for fast reading.)

********************************************************************

 

Whew, it’s been a while, I know. I could go into all the why’s, but it’s a long, very unhappy, story, but a) talking about it anymore might make me scream, b) it’s really not relevant to this blog other than the lack of blogging, and c) talking about it now feels like whining and very self-indulgent. But, now I’ve made you curious and that’s rude so I will say two things: 1)Depression and 2)Writer’s Block.

Ok, now that the obligatory “I’m sorry I wasn’t blogging and I’m going to write again, now, but I can’t promise this will be with any regularity” is out of the way, onward with the Curriculum Roundup for this school year 2014-2015.

Chi is in “7th” grade this year, Pynni is in “4th” grade this year, and Pieces is in “2nd” grade this year. Not a whole lot has changed about our curriculum except that Chi moved from Writing with Ease to Writing with Skill and we BOTH hated every second of it. So for now, until a)I find a writing curriculum that I like and b)Chi finishes his other language arts curricula except spelling, he is taking “Mom’s Writing 101” and learning some general things about essays and research and expositions, etc.

********************************************************************

Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

  • All About Spelling by All About Learning Press: all three kids
  • All About Reading by All About Learning Press: Level 2 for both Pynni and Pieces (Pieces has caught up with Pynni and will pass her soon. They’ll both move on to Level 3 this year).
  • Explode the Code by Nancy Hall: Level 3.5 for Pynni and Level 3.5 for Pieces (they will be moving up to Level 4 in the near future)
  • Guinness Book of World Records Reading (comprehension): Chi (He is almost finished with the last book of this.)
  • Reading Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: Chi
  • Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer: Pynni Level 2 and Pieces Level 1 (Chi finished WWE and moved on to Writing With Skill: commented on above)
  • First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise: all three kids although Chi is on the last level and will be finished with it shortly.
  • Vocabulit by Perfection Learning: all three kids

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

  • Math U See by Demme Learning: all three kids
  • Mathematical Reasoning by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Building Thinking Skills by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Kumon Publishing North America, Inc.: My Book of Easy Telling Time; My Book of Telling Time; My First Book of Money:Counting Coins; My Book of Money: Dollars and Cents: Pynni and Pieces (They hated the time telling and money counting apps. I don’t know why because they seemed fun and well done to me, but these books have been very helpful and not so fraught with drama. They’ve both completed the time telling ones and can both tell time accurately on analog clocks. There are length, weight, and volume books that I will be using once the money counting books are done. Math U See covers time telling and money counting, but there wasn’t enough repetition, or hasn’t been yet, to really engrain the concepts).
  • Balance Benders:Logic and Algebraic Reasoning Puzzles by Critical Thinking Co.: Chi

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Kano by KANO Computing LTD.: initially for Chi, but will expand to the other two as I see how it works with him. (It’s a computer you build yourself. It uses Linux and Raspberry Pi and teaches the basics of programming)
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Supercharged Science  by Aurora Lipper: all three kids
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids

Joint Reading:

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)

********************************************************************

I’m really happy with Math U See still and all of All About Learning Press’s stuff (All about Reading and All about Spelling). I really like Writing with Ease and First Language Lessons, but Writing with Skill (the next set of books after Writing with Ease) was just not something that was working for Chi. I felt like it shoved him into the deep end of writing without a flotation device when I’d just been teaching him to tread water.

So I’m looking long and hard at Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Curriculum. It’s a comprehensive curriculum that includes vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension, and writing. My biggest hesitation with this curriculum is that it IS comprehensive. What if one part of it doesn’t work for us? Also, we like Vocabulit very much, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have a little overlap in curricula. My second biggest hesitation is the cost, but then I spend quite a bit on Peace Hill Press books so that will cover some of the expense. I’m also a little hesitant because it is SO intensive, but I know I can pull back and slow down as needed.

In order to give MCT a shot, though, Chi has to complete First Language Lessons (grammar), Guiness World Records Reading (comprehension), and Reading Detective (comprehension). I have until then to decide. I see a trip to  the Homeschool Gathering Place (our local homeschool store) for knowledgeable input into this decision.

So, hello? How’ve you been? For me? It feels good to be back.

 

Prepping for School

Prepping for School

We’ve officially started our school year. We’re actually about six weeks into it now. The last two years have seen a lot of fluctuation in our curricula for various reasons. So the following is where we are now, and will hopefully be for some time to come.

Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

  • All About Spelling by All About Learning Press: all three kids
  • All About Reading by All About Learning Press: Level 1 for Pieces and Level 2 for Pynni
  • Explode the Code by Nancy Hall: Level 2.5 for Pynni and Level 1.5 for Pieces (they will be moving up to 3 and 2 respectively in the near future)
  • Guinness Book of World Records Reading (comprehension): Chi
  • Reading Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: Chi
  • Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer: Pynni and Chi. Pieces will start when Pynni moves on to the next level.
  • First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise: all three kids
  • Vocabulit by Perfection Learning: Chi

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

  • Math U See by Demme Learning: all three kids
  • Splash Math App by Study Pad Inc.: all three kids
  • Mathematical Reasoning by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Time App by Study Pad Inc.: Pynni and Pieces
  • Money App by Study Pad Inc: all three kids
  • Building Thinking Skills by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids

Extras: 

  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum: Pynni and Pieces (Chi has done all of Type to Learn 4 and Typing Instructor. He is at a point now where he just needs practice for typing fluency and speed. I have him type three or so sentences about his daily reading. This correlates well with his work in Writing with Ease.)
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Supercharged Science  by Aurora Lipper: all three kids
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids

And that about does it for this school year so far. I’m pretty happy with how comprehensive our school day is and that it isn’t frustratingly long for all that. We do 12 workboxes four days a week and on the fifth day we do a math box, a reading box, history, science, and piano lessons.

We aren’t joining two of the homeschool groups we were a part of last school year at this time. One of them took up a big chunk of one day a week and I felt like we didn’t get as much covered as we otherwise would have had we been at home during those hours. It’s a great co-op type group, but it really meshes better with unschooling and not our super structured school days. The other group is good for finding out about all of the things going on in the area that might be relevant to homeschoolers, but it requires a small amount of time commitment dedicated to the group. That bit of time really hung heavy over my head last year and I want to try going without this time around. We may rejoin mid-year, but for now we only have the group we go to the park with on Fridays. If we get more covered, we may join the group that has Wednesday park days as well just for the break those days afford and the society they provide.

I should have a better handle on my Pynni update after today’s visit with the language specialist. For now, we’ve started therapy, but I do not have the official diagnoses just yet.

All About Reading Success!

All About Reading Success!

Sometimes, I feel that I jump around too much. Change my mind too much about what the right curriculum is for, well, Pynni mostly. Then, I started using Workboxes to organize our school day and help my kids be a little more independent in their learning and eventually take ownership of their learning. The workboxes work great because you can learn new things and review previous things all in one school day. They are also great because I don’t have to spend all day teaching each child individually, and instead, we can all have school simultaneously.

But filling those boxes takes some creativity, and I’ve been perfecting the right combination of topics all year. I’m feeling pretty confident with where we are at this current moment.

Firstly, I’ve decided to stick with All About Learning Press’s All About Reading. It has really helped Pynni work to build her confidence and overcome her block where reading is concerned. Pieces is really flying with it, also. I think those two things are worth the expense. AAR teaches the rules to reading so there is little memorization of sight words. Be still my heart.

So I’m using the Phonics stuff as a supplement until the kids finish it. I will continue to use Explode the Code because the curriculum is all workbook pages and the kids enjoy working on them. That along with AAR gives us plenty of  activities to fill in any empty spots in our workboxes. For Chi I use Critical Thinking Co’s, Reading Detective. It teaches how to read critically while teaching the various parts of stories both fiction and non-fiction. I also use Guiness Book of World Records Reading for reading comprehension with Chi. He reads a lot, but I like to keep an eye on it to make sure he is still progressing.

As for math, I switched Chi to and started Pieces on Math-U-See. We are all really liking it. I switched Pynni from Life of Fred to Singapore Math this year. It was okay. Pynni liked it a lot, but it was a lot of extra work for me and I do a lot of prep for school as it is. I felt that it wasn’t helping me teach her in a manner she was grasping. She would do the work, but I don’t think she was understanding why she was doing things the way the curriculum asked.

When we reached the end of the book it was a no brainer to switch. So I ordered her the correct level of Math-U-See instead of the next level of Singapore Math. I think it will be less stress for me and more straight forward for her. We start that this week.

I’ve been supplementing math with apps on the iPad. I use Splash Math by Study Pad for the various grade levels to great effect. It is a really great resource for practicing concepts in a non-traditional manner. I’ve also been using Study Pad’s Time app and Splash Money app to reinforce counting money and telling time with the two Littles. I’ve also incorporated Critical Thinking Co’s Mathematical Reasoning at the appropriate knowledge levels for each kid. It is another supplement that can be a stand alone curriculum. I’m all about the reinforcement.

I’m still using All About Learning Press’s All About Spelling for spelling. Pieces recently started that because I think it helps with being a better reader. I love this curriculum because it teaches spelling in a way that explains the rules and exceptions in a logical, progressive manner.

I use Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing with Ease for both Chi and Pynni. Pieces will start next school year. It teaches writing in a non-threatening way. I can not express enough how amazing this curriculum has been for Chi. I know there are many other factors at work here with the ease in his being and manner these days, but I can hold this particular curriculum up as a huge factor in that. Chi was almost completely against any form of writing. He hated it. He just flat wouldn’t do it, and Writing with Ease completely set all the stuff I knew about learning to write on its ear. Chi will write now, without any complaining. It’s still not his favorite, but he will do what is required when asked. It makes me so happy!

For grammar I use First Language Lessons. All three of the kids use the curriculum. I really like it. It’s very scripted, but it teaches in little bits that grow and repeat until the child gets it. All three of my kids are really thriving grammatically speaking.

For vocabulary, I use WordlyWise. I’ve tried doing other things for vocal, but this seems to be the best. It’s a little advanced for Pynni’s reading level so I haven’t started using it for her. Chi hates it, so we do it in small bites and I’ve added Spellingcity.com as a supplement to help reinforce the words he’s learning and to break up the amount of workbook work he has to do day after day.

I have all of the kids doing some logic type stuff; problem solving and the like. They all do Critical Thinking Co’s Building Thinking Skillsword ladders, and logic links.

For history, I use Susan Wise Bauer’s A Story of the World, and Joy Hakim’s A History of US  (world and US history respectively). Iuse Highlights Top Secret Adventures and Which Way USA for geography and social studies. I use SuperCharged Science for science along with Usborne Books about science.

For piano I use Piano Adventures by Nancy and Randall Faber both primer level and level 1. For foreign language I use Rosetta Stone: Spanish. For typing, I use Type to Learn 4. For handwriting, I use Handwriting Without Tears which teaches print and cursive. For computer science, I use Scratch by MIT and Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0.

That’s pretty much it.

note: I do not work for any of the above mentioned companies and no one from any of the above mentioned companies as given me anything for mentioning them. Everything is my own opinion based upon experience with curricula I have purchased with my own money after my own research.

The thing about homeschooling is there are so MANY choices. I could choose to go any direction in any subject I want. I new from the beginning that Unschooling would not work for us. It is too unstructured. I seek structure and life with Chi requires structure. I, originally, wanted to do Classical Education with my kids and read the book The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer and Jessie Bauer. It was very informative and helpful in choosing what curricula I started out using with my kids.

Well, as it turns out, Classical Education is FINE in THEORY, but not so much in implementation in my household. Memorizing everything under the sun works for Chi and Pieces (Pieces is practically a memorization prodigy, and I thought Chi was amazing at memorization), but Pynni HATE-HATE-HATE-HATES it. So it’s not working for her. As you know, if you’ve read anything of my blog in the past, not much I started out using worked for Pynni at all. I’ve changed things around for Chi, too, but not as much as I have for Pynni.

Now we’d started out using Saxon Math, Pynni and I. It is very dense, very comprehensive, very expensive, VERY BORING. At least if one is Pynni Pi, which she is. I realized a few months in to school last year, that even I dreaded the opening of that tome of mathematics. So I went to the Homeschool Gathering Place to research and ask questions. I came away with Life of Fred: Apples. I was excited. Literary math! Who knew?

Pynni has loved it. Me? Not so much. I remain unconvinced that she is getting everything out of the reading that is expected of her. There are many large concepts she just isn’t getting. I keep having to break out other mathematics resources to fill in, what feels like, giant gaps in her knowledge and understanding. That isn’t working for me. If we switch away from Fred, Pynni will be very upset with me.

For now, I’m working with Critical Thinking math workbooks and using the Math-U-See curriculum (which is what I’m using with the boys) to fill in the blanks, but it feels like a lot of extra work, when just switching to Math-U-See would work just as well all on it’s own. Or maybe I should switch to a whole other math curriculum? Singapore Math has all the pictures and color that Pynni could want, like the Critical Thinking books, but it comes with instructional material. ugh.

So the evolution of my homeschool continues.

I’ve occasionally looked around to find a “schooling” philosophy to follow, but I’ve decided to have my own philosophy and teach my kids the way that works. I’ve met many families who homeschool through various functions and get-togethers and I’ve discovered that really, no two home schools are alike. Which is fitting, really, when you consider how different each individual child is and how amazing home school can be at catering to the individual. I know it’s why we chose to homeschool, and why we will continue to do so.

Even cousins and neighborhood friends joined in.

This has been the summer of science. Summer is now done and we didn’t get to do nearly as much as I’d wanted. That’s mostly due to me. My back. Hi, Internet, have you met my back? It is the ruiner of fun, the pooper of the party.

I take copious notes for each lab. I know how to take notes because I had Mrs. Loyless in 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grades.

I’ve been laid up with back suckage most of the summer, but the few days that I’ve been able to DO things, we’ve done science labs. These labs have been ROCKIN’! I signed up for this deal for a summer science camp from Supercharged Science for an e-class type summer camp. It’s run by me and I’ve probably spent more time getting ready for the classes than the website suggests that I do, but I like to be prepared.

We learned about air pressure. We learned about Bernoulli’s Law. We learned about flight. We did experiments dealing with air pressure using water. We made a Cartesian Diver which demonstrates air pressure. We explored Bernoulli’s Law by playing around with a windbag made from Diaper Genie bags. We built a variety of paper airplanes and birch wood airplanes. Mainly, we had fun while the kids (and the adults, too) learned new things. (I failed to document these experiments photographically)

Using a battery pack, alligator clip wire leads, and LED’s, we learned about the flow of electricity and that diodes are “one way streets” for electricity.

We did get to go to my parents’ house toward the end of summer to see DJ and Mae and their dad. Abshie and Timmus came with us. I brought along the necessary lab supplies.

The first thing we did was learn about molecules and their parts. We learned about electrons and ions and electricity. We learned some basics through some static electricity experiments, during which we made our hair stand on end with a balloon, picked up styrofoam peanuts and bits of confetti, spun a meter stick around as it balanced on a spoon, and bent a stream of water. All with a balloon!

Motor and a rheostat

Then we broke out the electrical components and built simple circuits. First we lit up LED’s. We learned about making a series with the LED’s. Then we learned about conductivity. I gave the kids a list of things and asked them if they thought those things would conduct electricity. We tested their answers with our simple circuits. We learned about amps vs volts to find out why our little circuits weren’t a danger to us.

Simple switches made with index cards, brass fasteners, and paperclips.

We modified this simple circuit in a few ways. First we put buzzers in place of the LED’s. Then we added a push-button type switch so we could control the buzzer sound. Then we learned the concept of the switch by making one out of an index card, brass fasteners and paperclips. We learned that switches are like stoplights for electrons.

Adding switches.

We added motors that turn clockwise or counterclockwise based on the polarity. I couldn’t find propellers that fit these motors anywhere so we improvised with tags made of duct tape (this was the kids’ favorite part, I think). This helped to reinforce the idea of positive and negative. We replaced the switches with rheostats and potentiometers. We learned that these devices can control the speed of the motors by limiting the electrical current passing through them. We learned that rheostats were the best at motor speed control as they seemed to be more sensitive and able to run the motor at very low speeds.

DPDT switch made from an index card, brass fasteners and paper clips.

Then we upped the difficulty level and made double pole double throw (DPDT) switches. It’s a concept used in “4-way” switches which allow you to turn one light off and on from multiple locations.

Motor and potentiometer

We took these circuits and applied them to “robots” a few days later. But that’s a whole other post.

Some more pics from our circuits lab.

We almost couldn’t move on from this because they liked it SO much!

****NOTE***** “Droppin’ Science Like Galileo Dropped the Orange” is original to the Beastie Boys. It is from the song Sounds of Science from their Paul’s Boutique album.

Even The Littles got in on the circuit action.

Everyone was very proud of the circuits they made that worked.

**Update** Please see comments where I talk about my experience with this curricula.

Original Post, April 2, 2012:

I’m preparing to teach a Kindergartener. I was completely freaked about it. Teach my kids about molecules? No problem. I’d rather dive headfirst into teaching them Calculus than be responsible for teaching them the foundation on which all their subsequent learning will be based. YIKES!

So like any good completely freaked out nerd, I did research. I bought books and read stuff on the internet and I went to my local homeschool store and talked to the professionals (Have I mentioned that I LOVE that place? The Homeschool Gathering Place is the best. They sell new and used (on consignment) curricula and the people who work there are knowledgable homeschoolers or previous homeschoolers. I LOVE THEM!). *ahem* Through various tips and suggestions, I decided to try out a new spelling curriculum, a new reading curriculum, and a new math curriculum. I’m sticking with the grammar, handwriting, history, and science curricula that I’m already using with the older kids.

Beginning with Reading/Spelling (I’ll talk about the new math curriculum another time)–

While the two are not the same, they are related. As you probably are already aware, reading has been something of a problem with Pynni since Kindergarten and we had to backtrack and start all the way over earlier in the year. It has taken me a while to get passed her aversion to even try to read and get her on to the learning part. I don’t want to unintentionally visit any of those issues on Pieces, so I decided that I needed a more comprehensive solution to teaching reading/spelling than what I’ve been doing with Pynni (and, yes, I’m going to use the new curriculum with her).

All About Spelling

Meet All About Learning Press. They make All About Spelling and All About Reading. Their motto is “programs that teach thoroughly so your child can succeed amazingly”. It is a lightly scripted curriculum, which we’ve had success with so far in our schooling endeavors, and is intended to be used in 15 minute increments in the beginning so that the child does not lose focus or get frustrated. It uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching in order to teach children the way they learn most naturally: using sight, sound, and touch. The program uses memorization and repetition in an engaging way in order to permanently create those pathways in the brain that will help your child be a lifelong reader and an excellent speller.

I decided to use the All About Spelling with Chi. He’s a very advanced reader, but spelling is not one of his strong suits. So I’m starting him at the beginning, and since this curriculum is designed to be taught in whatever size chunks your child needs, Chi will speed through the early stuff while still learning the things he needs to know in the more advanced levels. Chi was insulted when we started the first lesson and it was just flashcards and phonograms, but he didn’t know all the sounds vowels can make and learned something new. Pynni was, also, insulted with the content of the first lessons (she’s doing both reading and spelling) and that made her mulish. We persevered, but the fact that she didn’t know all of the phonograms was hard to take. I told her that Chi missed the same ones she did and that it wasn’t bad to not know something because that gives us new things to learn, and learn them we shall. She perked up at that. Pieces took to the lessons right away and enjoyed himself.

Huh, I guess I started teaching Kindergarten today. Not so scary after all.

Cheeeeese!

Teaching Pynni has been hard. She balks, fights, pouts, whines, sulks, mumbles, cries. In essence, she acts completely unlike her usual, giggly, smiling, easy-going, happy self. It has been baffling and frustrating and stressful to say the very least. I’ve wondered if I’ve done the right thing for her. Kindergarten may have been its own special kind of hell and may have damaged her self-esteem, but at least she was happy (except for that pesky crying during homework, OH, and when she begged to stay home because school made her cry).

Right, so I would get to a point during school days that I would begin rethinking this homeschooling thing for her, but then I would begin the litany of reasons that I started homeschooling. That very list of reasons that pushed me into the deep end of childhood education in the first place. Then, I would see that I just had to figure out what is up with her attitude about school.

Reading was difficult, and can still be so. I’d decided that her issue was either physiological or sensory in nature relating to her vision and have set the wheels in motion to get her tested or assessed or whatever is needed.

Then in a flash of brilliance I realized something. I, the teacher, was struggling teaching her the math curriculum we’ve been plodding through. I chose Saxon Math, and it is wonderful. For Chi. Mister Cut-and-Dried, Mister Point-a-to-Point-b, Mister Get-in, Get-done and Get-out. Why did I think Pynni was doing fine with this boring, dry curriculum when I was dreading teaching her math every day? And why did I think that she would be looking forward to much of anything when that core subject, that makes up half of her school time, was so stinking boring?

Pynni is NOTHING like her brother. Pynni needs colors and pictures and glitter! Pynni needs arts and crafts and projects! Pynni needs stories and crayons and PAINTS!

So I returned to the Homeschool store and asked those wonderfully informative, approachable people if there were some workbooks I could use to supplement Saxon Math 1. It was very pricey and I’m not willing to dump it until after the school year. HA! RIGHT!

“Of course, there are workbooks!” they said. “BUT, you should look at this,” handing me The Life of Fred. “And maybe you should look at this,” handing me Mathematical Reasoning. Mathematical Reasoning is a full curriculum in and of itself, but it is presented in bold, colorful, and fun workbook pages. “This,” I thought to myself, “screams Pynni.” But it’s a $40 book and I’ve already spent so much on the Saxon Math course.

Fred

So I check out The Life of Fred. It, too, is a complete curriculum, but it’s sub $20 for one year of study. It is, now see if you can wrap your brain around this, literary math. It takes a literary approach to teaching math. It tells the story of Fred, a five year old college calculus professor. He encounters math in everyday life.

The author, Dr. Stanley F. Schmidt, writes, “When I taught at the high school and college levels, the most frequent question that other math teachers and I got was, “Why are we studying this stuff?” In this series, every piece of mathematics first happens in Fred’s everyday life, he needs it, and then we do it. Everything is motivated–everything from introducing the number zero in this book (as the number of elephants that Fred owns) to hyperbolic trigonometric functions were we find three uses for them on page 250 of Life of Fred: Calculus when Fred and the 8’2″ lion enter an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

The first lesson, in this book they are called chapters, introduces you to Fred, his home (his office at his place of employment), and his best friend (a “happy meal” toy named Kingie). He wakes up at 5am and wants to go for a run but it’s too dark, and in February it won’t get light until 7am. TWO WHOLE HOURS! He proceeds to have a conversation about this fact with his friend and through this teaches the first lesson in addition (5+2=7). The chapter ends in a “Now it’s your turn” sort of way and asks 4 questions that require Pynni to think about that equation in a few different ways and then to notice that both 5+2 and 2+5 are equal to 7.

Pynni and Fred: Fast Friends

It was brilliant. It is funny, concise, and entertaining. Pynni laughed all the way through and answered all the questions. The following day we did the Mathematical reasoning pages that most resembled this lesson. She did all her work in marker and used a separate marker for each different worksheet. She completed 8 of them. She spent over half an hour doing math, two days in a row, and complained not one single time. She was smiling when it was done and completed the rest of her school day in record time with minimal whining about reading (although still periodically complaining about her eyes).

I feel like I’ve won something HUGE with this change-up. I can’t stop smiling about it. I’m excited for school on Monday with Pynni!

Anybody want to buy Saxon Math 1 plus manipulatives? I know where you can get one for cheap.