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
- 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
- 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
- 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.)