Saturday, July 19, 2014

Our 2013-2014 Curriculum Wrap-Up

At the beginning of the year everyone is soo excited to share what they plan to use. We are excited about new possibilities, new pencils, exciting topics... I love a new start as well.

As I begin to get all the "new school year" curriculum together this year I am finding that I keep going back to what we used last year to get an idea of what we can do to make this year "fit us" even better! What worked last year? What didn't!? What did we have to tweak and can it be tweaked again or should it just be set aside?

Instead of doing this in my own wee little brain and I being the only one to benefit from this exercise; I thought I'd just share it and maybe, just maybe, our experience can help someone else deciding on some of the things we used and challenges we faced.

We have loved, loved, loved Old Story New as a devotional. It's not an in-depth Bible study but we've looked up the verses, read the short stories that really connect the kids to the biblical teaching and have had some really cool application-based discussions!! It's definitely my favorite part of the day:)

We also started to memorize the verses that follow the "Roman Road". The kids were given a hand-out of how to share their faith using their hands. So we began memorizing the verses that corresponded to each verse. At the end of the year Chris volunteered to say all the books of the Bible at the RA Ceremony (in front of the church members gathered), so we spent some time being sure he was ready:)

If you have read about our home schooling you know we are BIG Saxon fans! It works for us and has continued to work well for the kids (they all tested above their grade level in math this year on two different tests)! Anna and Chris were both doing lessons on CD from Saxon 6/5 and 5/4 respectively. For the most part they are independent workers. Anna does a complete lesson a day except on assessment days where she only does the assessment and her math facts.

 I divided Chris' lessons (Saxon 5/4) into 2 day pieces... on day #1 he does the warm-up (including part of the math facts), the lesson on CD and the lesson practice. The following day he works on the mixed practice, checks his work and corrects any mistakes.

 I am available for both of them to ask questions. And I definitely go over any problems and re-teach when they just don't "get it":)


Lydia finished up Saxon 3 in Lydia-style! She finished weeks before the end of the semester and spent her "extra" time working on and other online math games. She'll be starting Saxon 5/4 in August!

We LOVED using Apologia's Chemistry and Physics!! We had done Chemistry and Physics in previous years using little science experiments, reading books and writing little reports but we still learned soo much from Apologia's book. They each had the notebook which they liked but I added some outlines that I either made myself or found on a group FB page. The fill-in outlines helped keep their focus while we read through the chapter and really narrow in on the key terms and concepts because there was soo much good and unique information in each section!

And anytime we could stop reading and do anything hands-on was always fun! And that Apologia textbook was LOADED with hands-on experiments, like this one:

**BTW... the whimpering is from a concerned sister. She was concerned her brother, who has an egg-allergy, might touch the egg in the experiment. A little drama in the Science class:)

In planning for next year, I am VERY bummed that there isn't a simple one-year textbook that fits us from Apologia. We think we have something that will fit us until we can do  Apologia Astronomy the following year:)

Chris and Lydia finished First Language Lesson #3! Oh, how we all  LOVE this series! They will definitely continue FLL#4 :)

Anna and I used Shurley English 5 and Daily Grams (2x a week) this year. And for most of the year we floundered... Shurley just wasn't a good fit for us. Each day, Shurley was loaded with an hour or more of Grammar lessons and practice with a lot of the time spent with an instructor. I did like breaking down the sentences and the vocabulary words for her to look up weekly. I just felt like the actual teaching of Grammar in Shurley got lost during our Grammar time together because of all the other daily activities in the guide. We ended up dividing each chapter into two weeks and spreading out the work/lessons a bit. It helped us feel like we were actually getting a little more out of it. But I'm already looking into something else for us in the Fall :/

We did a lot of reading aloud last year. And daily the kids would grab a book or two to read during their independent work times. I then realized one of my children was not reading but still at the "looking at pictures" then flipping the pages. So I buckled down and read individually with that one child... and  I can already see a huge improvement since January! I am also working with that child through Alphaphonics which is a "learning to read" program but it's painless and they're zipping through it as I really get a picture of where they are struggling so I can help (or get help).

While I knew what they were reading and often it was related to our history, I want to be more intentional with their reading this year by planning, using many graded reading lists to come up with level-appropriate books that tie into our historical topics.

We began the year using IEW's All Things Fun and Fascinating. It started so simply with key word outlines, then forming those into paragraphs. And then we went into summarizing and collecting information to build reports.

But then a friend offered to let us borrow the IEW Style and Structure B DVD lessons. It's such an amazing resource that we dropped the ATFF (for a bit) and then did a lesson a week using the DVDs. It was really cool seeing the overlap and it really cemented the teachings of ATFF for the kids (no, it wasn't Mom just making something up).

At the end of the year, we did go back to ATFF for a bit to cover some of the things that I didn't want to miss... some poems, writing from a picture and writing from a prompt (easier topics in the ATFF).

IE Ancients for next year???

For the last 5 years we worked through Story of the World, all 4 volumes... yes, it took us a little longer, but we enjoyed the story part of history. We all just loved reading, completing maps, doing activities, discussing topics we ran into together and often seeing where our history topics connected with current world events ( we were studying Russia post WWII when Russia invaded Ukraine.... my kids knew some of the history and their eyes were huge!) . Often we got our hands on some living books from the same time periods that I read aloud while the kids played "quietly" with Legos (yes, they do actually listen and get a LOT from those readings).

Just a note... get the activity guide! Between the ideas of additional books to explore deeper, the review questions and maps... that guide is worth it's weight in gold! Then add that many chapters contain "do-able" activities! It really does add a lot to just reading the book.

We are going into a new stage though:/  I have a new challenge! Anna can't do through SOTW again the same way we did when she was in 1st grade.... so how do I "beef up" a curriculum we have enjoyed and that has worked well for us?

Preschool with Nate
Last year I began working with Nate...

 only 20+ minutes a day (based on what he wanted to do). We worked through books from Before Five in a Row! Using the book's ideas and free printables from other home schooling moms, we row-ed each book in about 2 weeks a piece. Lots of fun, lots of hands-on stuff and he still loves those books!! So that was a good fit for us:) YAY!

We also began adding in letters!!! One of the biggest ways is LeapFrog's Letter Factory (love.this.DVD!) and studied one letter that matched one of the major themes of the book. Like while we read Corduroy we spent time learning "C". 

Onto a new year....

even though this summer has felt like my 1st year home schooling and trying to figure out what to use! I am just thankful that I have had 5 years of experience now! It does help to ease some of the "craziness" of having to pick out "new stuff"!

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