Sunday, June 29, 2014

Homeschool Plans 2014-2015

Yay! It's one of my favorite times of the year. Curriculum planning! This year my planning is somewhat more stressful, because my husband just began a new job and our cash flow is a little slow. Molasses slow.
So I'm a little crazier than usual. I had a dream in which a big box was delivered to our house and when I opened it, instead of books, it was full of pickles. Bess turned to me with a sad expression and said,"How will I get into college if I only learn about pickles?"
We have been making pickles this week, so it's not all curriculum anxiety, but I am a little worried I'll make the wrong choices on a budget that doesn't leave much room for mistakes.
However, I made pretty good decisions last year, so I should be pretty confident about this year's choices.

So here's the plan:

Bess is 7 and will be in second grade. She will be learning:

For History:
The second half of BookShark 1 History. We will order BookShark 2 History and Science in January.

For Reading:
We will continue using BookShark 2 Intermediate Readers, ordering the advanced readers later.

For Math:
Horizons Math 2
Mathtacular 2
Math in a Flash
Math Analogies Beginning

For Language Arts:
Evan-Moore Daily 6-Trait Writing, Grade 2
Critical Thinking Company's Editor in Chief

For Geography(besides what we learn with BookShark):
Evan-Moore Daily Geography Practice, Grade 2

For Handwriting:
Zaner-Bloser Handwriting, Grade 2

For Spelling:
Zaner-Bloser Spelling, Grade 2

For Typing:
Typing Instructor for Kids

For Art:
Discovering Great Artists
Great American Artists for Kids
Various Artist Biographies
Child Size Masterpieces
Art Projects

For Foreign Language:
Yes, You Can Speak Korean 1
All About Korea:Stories, Songs, Crafts, and More 
Dino Lingo-Korean 

Bess will also be receiving German instruction from her grandmother(a retired German Professor). We haven't made a decision on curriculum yet.

For Music(with lessons from our son, Ethan):
Piano Adventures Lesson Book, Primer Level
Piano Adventures Performance Book, Primer Level

Max is 6, and will be doing mostly kindergarten work, but is technically in 1st grade. He has some learning challenges from autism. He will be learning:

For Math:

Horizons Math K
Addition Songs

For Reading:
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons(we're part way through this book)
Developing the Early Learner, Books 1-4

For Handwriting:
Zaner-Bloser Handwriting K

For Science:
Let's Read and Find Out Science Books(various titles)
Magic School Bus Science Kits

Max will also be listening in on any BookShark titles which interest him, and doing any art projects I plan for Bess.
We'll supplement with lots of read-alouds for both of them.


If you've read this far(without dying of boredom),it might seem that I've over-scheduled Bess, and under-scheduled Max. However, I'm pretty sure I've planned out the right amount for each of them. Bess loves to learn, unless it's math, and is always asking for more to do. Learning Korean was her idea, probably inspired by my love of K-dramas. If we don't rush it, I'm sure learning two languages won't be too difficult for her. As for Max, he spends so much time having me read to him, I feel he's soaking up a lot of information. If I push school too much, he shuts down and refuses to do anything.

I'm excited about our curriculum selections, and as long as we don't receive a box of pickles, we should have a very fun and productive homeschool year.

Until Next Time!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

BookShark: First Impressions

BookShark Gr.1 History and Read-Alouds
I'll probably be writing a more detailed post later about our new BookShark materials, but I thought I would give my first impressions now.
The reason we ordered BookShark in the first place is because we've used Sonlight for the past few years, and have really loved it. BookShark is Sonlight, but secular. Book-based learning is definitely our family's favorite way to learn, and Sonlight does an excellent job of combining literature, history, and geography. I'm still convinced it can easily be used by a secular family. I wrote a post about that before.
So why bother to order a secular version at all?

1. I didn't particularly like paying for the few books I didn't use. If I bought a full core I was always left with a few titles I didn't want. With BookShark, we'll use every title.

2. I didn't enjoy sifting through the Christian content in the Instructor's Guide. After receiving my BookShark IG, which isn't cluttered with religious subject matter, I realized how much it really bothered me. It's refreshing not to have to begin our school day filtering the unnecessary content(and rolling my eyes).

3. Sonlight's timeline figures were overwhelmingly about missionaries and Christian figures. Bookshark's are full of history, actual history. I'm not saying there aren't important Christian dates and historical figures. Of course, there are. But it gives kids a false sense of the importance of those dates and people if the majority of the timeline is filled with them.

4. I want to send a message that catering to secular homeschoolers is a good thing. Too often, we resort to using Christian materials because they are the best available for a subject. Sonlight, in my opinion, is the best book-based curriculum on the market. However, now I can get those materials without voting with my dollars for evangelical curriculum.
A peek at our new timeline figures

So here are are a few of my first impressions of BookShark Grade 1 History, and 2nd Grade Intermediate Readers.

1. More relevant timeline figures.

2. Easier to use IG(if you don't want the Christian content).

3. They've shifted a few of the readers around to different ages, and placed them in more accurate levels, and eliminated the Christian readers.

4.The IG is still "open and go", just as easy to implement, and it still includes helpful extras such as the additional schedule pages.

5.Brighter, less old-fashioned covers to the IGs. Okay, it's a small thing. But I always found the Sonlight covers kind of ugly.

BookShark Gr.2 Intermediate Readers

Most of the books we already owned(purchased from Sonlight). I've replaced our IG mid-year. I only had to add Marco Polo, Encyclopedia Brown, and Lumber Camp Library to our Readers.
We are using this core for second grade even though it says first grade. If you are a Sonlight veteran, you know the cores cover at least three ages. I always find the middle age range to be the correct one for us. First grade is intended for ages 6-8, and since Bess is 7, we're using it for half a year of second grade. For now, it doesn't really matter where she's placed, but the later grades have heavier material and I don't want to rush into them until she's mature enough to handle it.

That's about all I have to say about BookShark until we've used it for a while, but so far I'm really pleased. I'm planning out our other subjects for the fall, and I'm pretty sure BookShark's Science will be part of those plans.

For more details than I have here about BookShark, I recommend this blog post from Our Enchanted Place.

I'll give a BookShark update as we get further into the year.

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Laundry on the line, our favorite history link, and the end of the gluten-free diet

Our dryer, Admiral Crappy, finally decided it was time to shuffle off this mortal coil, so we're hanging laundry until we can afford a new admiral. Here's the timeline so far on that:
First day-"Doesn't laundry from the line smell fresh and lovely? It's heaven!"
Day two: "Can I help?It's fun! We're like pioneers!"
Day three:"Why are my t-shirts so stiff?"
Day four: "My pants aren't dry? I have to leave for work!"
Day five: "Uh, Mom? Isn't the laundry outside? Because it's raining..."
Day six:"What?!Again?! But we helped hang laundry yesterday!"

But my husband has graduated, and is starting his new job in a couple of weeks, so hopefully our remaining line drying days are few. RIP Admiral Crappy. I never realized how much I loved you.

Another change for us is the end of our gluten-free "adventure". Max is seeing a GI specialist, and we've found his problem doesn't have anything to do with gluten. What exactly the problem is we don't know yet. But I'm relieved to be able to use flour once more. However, we will not be going completely vegan again. Max gained weight while he was eating cheese and eggs, so we're going to remain vegetarian for now. Max and Bess found they love Greek yogurt, real cheese, and scrambled eggs, and for Max to like anything is a big deal.

Bess has been enjoying this BBC Primary History site. She loves the archaeology games, the Greek Hero game, and the WWII time capsule game. Great for elementary kids, but I've learned a few thing, too. It's worth a look.

We're waiting on our BookShark order so we're on a mini-vacation from school. I'm spring cleaning, catching up on reading, watching Korean dramas, and of course.....hanging laundry.

Until next time!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Our Year in Review

We homeschool year round, but even though we began in September, our curriculum for the year is pretty much finished. So I thought I'd give a review of what worked, and what didn't. I apologize for the length of the post.

Sonlight Core A History with Grade 2 readers: We loved this core, and zipped through it. With all the times my kids begged me to read "just one more chapter", we were completely finished by February. However, I won't do that again. In order for the material to match their emotional maturity level, I'll have to be careful not to go too fast through the cores. Plus I can't afford two cores a year!
I took out the religious materials, and I immediately sold the Language Arts portion and just used the reader's schedule. I'm not a fan of Sonlight's LA.

What we loved : There were too many great books to list them all. My daughter loved the Usborne Internet Linked Children's Encyclopedia(she still uses the history links daily), Living Long Ago became her bedtime read of choice, The Llama Who Had No Pajama convinced Bess and Max that poetry could be enjoyable(now they happily choose poetry selections from the library), the two Dolphin books and the James Herriot book became Max's favorites, and we all loved No Children No Pets. There were so many good titles! The markable map added to Bess' geography knowledge to a great extent. Labeling every place we read about, and occasionally reviewing, was all it took to make her an avid map lover. She labels countries now for fun. Yeah, I know. Weird kid!

What we didn't like : Besides the religious stuff, we didn't care for the following titles- The Story About Ping, Mary on Horseback, and Johnny Appleseed:Story of a Legend(how can you make Johnny Appleseed boring? This book manages it.). I also found the Core A Tips CD next to useless. You can do a google or pinterest search and find way more interesting crafts and activities.
The majority of the timeline stickers were for the religious readers, so I wish there had been more historical figures instead of missionaries and such.

But overall, I'm really pleased with this purchase. I've heard people say Sonlight costs too much. Yes, it is expensive, but not overpriced. For a huge box of books, plus curriculum with a high resale value, the price seems reasonable to me.

Horizons Math 1: Well, Bess and I would probably write opposing views about this one as she's not a math fan, but even she would admit this is way better than what we were using(Saxon). I'm not slamming Saxon. I used it K-12 with my older two, but it wasn't working for Bess. She hated the boring black and white graphics and constant repetition. Horizons has plenty of practice built in, but it's colorful and seems more fun somehow. I like that it moves much faster than Saxon which I think is pretty slow in the elementary years. It isn't secular, which is odd. It's math! But the Christian stuff was pretty minor. I think there might have been a cross on one page, the three wise men, and a handful of other things, but not much. The teacher's guide has inspirational quotations at the bottom of the page. It's pretty trivial, and the program more than makes up for it in quality, in my opinion.  I will definitely be buying Horizons 2.

Mathtacular DVD: I'm not sure how much of the actual math my kids are soaking up, but they love this. They watch it for fun. I'll be purchasing Mathtacular 2.

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting K & 1, and Spelling 1: These are colorful, not too expensive, and functional. I will be buying the next levels.

Noeo Biology 1: This was the big let down of the year. It's the kind where I wish I could build a time machine and warn myself not to waste the money. A few of the books were good, but some seemed dry and textbooky. The experiments didn't always work, but that might have been our fault. What really disappointed me was the Instructor's Guide. It just divided up the reading and experiments into a schedule for each week, which I could have done on my own. It didn't offer any extra information or suggestions on what to discuss or teach. Noeo uses a Charlotte Mason approach and expects kids to draw, write, or talk about what they've learned. I'm fine with that for other subjects, but wanted more guidelines for science. Oh well, live and learn. I won't be buying Noeo again. We'll try BookShark's Science next.

Evan-Moore 6- trait writing 1: Easy to do, quick writing assignments. Bess liked it. I feel sort of indifferent about it. We probably will try the next level. I'm still debating with myself about it. It's difficult to gauge how much she learned from it.

Language Smarts B: Bess really liked this. I felt it didn't have enough practice. I prefer Rod and Staff, but know she will hate it. I'm currently searching for a middle ground, something colorful and fun, but thorough. I will not be buying Language Smarts C.

Building Thinking Skills Primary: This was okay. But I bought the wrong level for Bess. It was way too easy, and we gave up after a month. I don't think I'll buy a higher level, though. I'm not sure it's worth the cost.

Artistic Pursuits Book 1: I had fully intended to read and do projects from this once a week, but we didn't. It was probably wishful thinking that with a new baby in the house we'd have enough free time to be artsy. Hopefully, we'll get some use out of it this year.

Mathematical Reasoning A: This was a nice introduction to math for Max, who has autism. The concepts were easy enough without a lot of repetition. I will say, I don't believe this is a complete math program. It was for Max, but not for kids who don't have learning challenges. There just isn't enough skills practice. I'm not sure if I'll be buying the next level or not. I'm still thinking about it. I am happy he seemed to enjoy this. He even asked to do math occasionally.

Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons: Our copy, bought years ago, is looking worse for wear. I taught Peter and Ethan to read from this, and now Max is a third of the way through it. Best $20 I ever spent. I'll continue to use it with Max. We're moving slowly, and I'm bribing him with TV time to get him to sit still for the lessons, but it's working! There are times when Max is sounding out words that I start to tear up a bit. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to teach him at all, and now I can actually visualize a day when my son will be reading books on his own.

Evan-Moore Everyday Literacy Science K: This would probably be too easy for most kindergarten students, and I think it's too easy for Max, but he loves it. Sometimes with kids with learning challenges, it's a good idea to let them succeed at something rather than learn something. Max feels proud of himself when he works on this book, and he's learning that school can be fun. That's good enough for now. I will be buying him the next level.

And that's it. We supplemented with loads of library books, and titles from our own bulging bookshelves. We managed a few crafts. We cooked together. Took nature walks(Max's are more like nature runs). Bess took ballet this year and loved it. We went to many, many library programs. We played with friends. We played with our hilarious and animated baby, Rose. It's been a fun year. One of my favorites. I hope your school year was a happy one, too!

Until next time!