Curriculum recomendations

I’ve included websites for these companies below.

SCIENCE: Apologia science is good for high school. They offer several different subjects like biology, general science, and chemistry. I’ve also used science books in the God’s Design series. You can get both online from Rainbow Resource.

If you want to do physics, Exploration Education is fun. They do a lesson the computer then a hands-on activity and answer a few questions. There are 3 levels, but level 2 and 3 are similar but with more in-depth questions for level 3. This year my son is doing a science program from Sonlight (Core F science) focusing on anatomy and nutrition.

WRITING: For writing, the Institute for Excellence in Writing is very good. They offer many different programs for several different levels from elementary through high school.

For handwriting, Christian Light Education offers supplementary workbooks that are good (I Can Write Manuscript and I Can Write Cursive) that can be used independently. They take students from the basic stroke formation to writing letters, sentences, and finally short paragraphs or poems. We like them much better than the Abeka writing workbooks.

MATH: Math-U-See is good for hands-on learners. Each workbook has 30 lessons. Each lesson has 3 practice pages and 3 mixed review. You do as many pages as needed. The books are topical (single digit add/subtract, multi digit add/subtract, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, etc) rather than spiral. They go up through high school calculus. There is a video the student watches before doing the lesson. There is a manipulative system for all books to help understanding. They use the same system for all books, so they don’t have to keep switching once they are used to it. There is a test book with lesson tests and unit tests as needed. Some people find it useful to do a page a day. My son does math only 2-3 times/week and is doing great.

My daughter does math using Christian Light Education. It is a spiral approach so you cover a broader range of topics in each year, but not as in depth. There are 10 workbooks per grade. Each lesson has an explanation at the start, then practice and mixed review. It is designed to do a lesson each day. There are also daily timed drills. Each workbook has 2 quizzes and a unit exam. Christian Light Education also offers a full range of other subjects for all grades.

READING: A good list of age appropriate literature books for each grade can be found on Ambleside Online. It’s a good resource but can be adjusted as needed. We also use Christian Light Education for reading. There are readers and workbook questions to improve reading skills and comprehension. The stories are old fashioned, but keep my kids interest.

HISTORY: For history, I use programs from WinterPromise. They are rather expensive, but include lots of quality literature and activities instead of textbooks and workbooks.

 

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Plans for 2012-2013 school year

Where has the school year gone? Between Richard being sick and our vacation this spring, we have fallen rather behind. That means we will be doing summer school to finish up. If everything goes well, we will be living on our boat which means fewer distractions demanding our attention. Hopefully that will allow us the time needed to get everything done.

Even if we don’t quite manage to finish up, I still need to decide what they will be doing for next year. They will be in 3rd and 6th grade. Hard to believe Richard will be half done with school.

They will continue with Christian Light Education for reading, language arts, and Bible. Karen will probably also use them for math since she is doing better since I switched her into it. Richard will do Math-U-See level Zeta which covers decimals and percents. I always struggled with that so it will be good for me to review it with him.

They will be doing health for science. As part of that, we need to do a physical fitness test. Karen will use Health, Safety, & Manners 3 from Abeka which is a basic introduction to good health. Richard enjoyed going through it and I think she will too. This is only one semester so I’m not sure what else to do the rest of the year.

I will order Science F from Sonlight which covers health, medicine, and human anatomy for Richard. He’s already done the Abeka Health 3, so this will cover many of those topics in more detail as well as others. I can’t decide if I want to get the 4 or 5 day package. The 5 day has four more books than the 4 day. I just don’t want to get overwhelmed. On the other hand, those 4 books seem like things he is interested in like DNA and fossils. I’ve given up trying to do my own unit studies or cobble together related books. I’m just not organized enough to get through a full year like that.

I just added it all up. Richard’s will be $335 or $375 depending which science package we get (4 or 5 day). His is more expensive because of the Sonlight science. Karen’s will be less because we can use Richard’s old reader and teacher guides. It will be $145. That’s a total of about $500 for both of them.

Ordering 2010-2011 homeschool stuff

I am working on ordering homeschool curriculum for this school year. I’m almost finished. Right now I’m still picking out what literature (free reading) books I want them to read this year. Since we have 2 kids eligible for the full allotment, we can get a lot of things. I don’t see how we can spend it all! Even if you include the items from Christian Light that aren’t re-reimbursable, I still haven’t spent even one child’s full allotment. It’s mind boggling how much money is spent (wasted) per child average for public schools, especially considering the poor outcomes that are more and more common.

I have  another busy year planned. We’re going to be doing math, language arts, reading, art, science, and history. As usual, I’m ordering from several different companies. They’re both doing physics from Exploration Education. Bible, reading, and language arts are from Christian Light Education. Math is from Math-U-See. Richard needs both the instructor and teacher kits but since Karen can use his old instructor kits, I just need new workbooks for her which will save me about $40.

Karen’s literature will be First Favorites from Veritas Press after she finishes Learning to Read from CLE. We have it already from when Richard did first grade. He really enjoyed it. She will be learning about communities, ways of communicating, and map skills for social studies.

Richard will be doing a writing skills workbook from Institute for Excellence in Writing. It’s a basic writing skills program which introduces many forms of creative and structured writing including reports, summaries, outlines, and poetry. Now that he has good grammar skills, it’s time he learned to apply them to actual writing.

WinterPromise has something they call Adventures in Sea and Sky which is a combined history and science program themed around travel by ocean and air. I will be getting that and the young learner guide so Karen can do it too. We hope to go see the space shuttle launch this spring which will be a great lesson cap.  I am not ordering the readers for it but am ordering some books from Sonlight that fit the theme instead.

Art this year will be from Safeway, of all places. This spring I found 2 art activity books that teach about different artists then students make something in that style. I found one for collages and one for painting. I may need to go to the craft store and get more materials since both of them will be doing the projects but there’s one set of books.

My husband and I had a good discussion today at lunch about scheduling school and work. We decided to get up this year 630 or 7. Then school would be at least until 10, perhaps even noon a few days since we hired the new secretary. This would hopefully keep work from interfering with school. Also both my husband and I want to take classes so if the entire family did school during the mornings it should work well. He even said we could put on our answering machine that phones won’t be answered until 10am.

Last year we tried just answering the phone during the morning and even that was too much of a disturbance, causing school to be disrupted, delayed, or even abandoned for the day depending upon what the callers wanted. I tried to resume school in the afternoons on days that were delayed, but the quality and quantity of work was much lower. It just wasn’t a good idea. School is best for us in the morning.

I’m starting to get excited about this upcoming school year. My son is out of town visiting his aunts this week. While he is gone, my daughter and I are organizing and cleaning the house, getting ready for school. Hopefully we’ll start mid-August. I don’t expect all of the orders to be here by then, but we have enough stuff to keep us busy. Plus, it is easier to start slow rather than delving into everything at once.

Finishing up the school year

We are winding down our school year. In some ways that’s too bad because they’ve really been interested and doing well in the lessons recently. Richard has 6 lessons then his final test in reading and language arts. Once we finish them, I can focus more on finishing other subjects. Hopefully we’ll be finished with everything by the end of June.

His math has 7 lessons left. He’s doing well so I may skip some of the review. However, today he said he was having so much fun with a lesson on double digit multiplication that he wanted to do all the pages in the lesson by doing some each day. That’s fine as long as he gets the regularly scheduled work done too.

I’ve not been following the history schedule very well so I’m not sure what’s left. He’s up to early 20th century. We’re behind because I spent the first part of the year finishing up last year’s program. After he finishes the language arts and reading, we can spend more time with history. I don’t want to continue it until the fall again.

Both Richard and Karen have mild colds this week. Yesterday I got Richard to do work by giving him 15 minutes computer time for each lesson he completed. He actually got all 3 subjects done. Today we did math, health, and and are now working on an art lesson.

We haven’t done art in a long time. It’s one of those things that keep getting pushed aside. It will be nice to do more of it in the next few weeks. We’ll probably work on it through the summer. He said he wants to continue with this art series (Art With a Purpose, aka Art Pack) next year.

Karen’s right where I was hoping she’d be in reading and language arts. She did 2 math lessons today. She enjoys Math-U-See. However, her brother keeps confusing her by trying to link her lessons to what happens in higher grades.  She is only about halfway through her math book. Since she’s starting to understand it better, we may move a bit faster. I’d like to finish Primer before she starts Alpha in the fall.

We’re excited to be finishing the year. It’s been a great year. They have both learned so much, not only academically, but spiritually and physically as well. Karen is gaining confidence and budding out of her shy shell. Richard is exploring everything around him. I can’t believe he’s finished with the primary grades and will start upper elementary. We’ll take it easy this summer. They have nature and Bible camps planned (including an overnight camp-out for Richard), but that’s all. We’ll start school again sometime in August.

I’ve finished my curriculum plans for next year and can’t wait for ordering. Allotments are available starting July. We’ll get a lot more money next year because Karen will officially be in kindergarten. I just hope the science program I want to use (Exploration Education) is approved so we don’t have to spend our own money. Monday is the used curriculum swap. Usually the Christian Light Education representative is there. I missed the Abeka ordering last week due to car trouble. The next one is in July.

Hands-on learners (revised)

First, what is a hands-on learner? A hands-on learner is someone who learns best by touching and doing things. They like manipulatives and projects where they can do things rather than just reading textbooks and writing. Often they doodle, fidget and have trouble sitting still. For this reason, many hands-on learners are mislabeled as ADD or ADHD by schools, especially boys.

2 years ago, I wrote a post about hands-on (kinesthetic) learners. Since then, I’ve found more ideas and curriculum suggestions, so I thought I’d revisit the subject. Most of this is geared toward elementary students, but parts of it can be used for all levels. Some of this is copied from my earlier post. I’ve arranged my comments by category to make it easy to find suggestions. If you have an area of concern that I don’t cover or you have something else which you find useful for hands-on learners, please feel free to let me know.

GENERAL TIPS:

I’m finding the biggest thing is to have a variety of activities and allow lots of wiggle time instead of insisting he sit doing writing based activities all day, although we will still do those too. He also needs consistency in routines. For instance, we do reading every day. He will have to do the workbook lesson, but the lessons themselves may contain different activities. Part of learning for kinesthetic kids is learning when you really need to just sit still and get the work done. That’s hard, especially for younger students. We try to limit sitting time and have movement breaks or hands-on activities between them.

One thing that has helped greatly in all subjects is using a kitchen timer. I give him a set amount of time to do the work. If it is done before the timer goes off he may get a reward. If not then he has some sort of punishment unless he has tried but truly doesn’t understand the work. Rewards can be extra time the next day, going to the park, extra free time, or occasionally a small treat. Often I’ll let him use any time remaining as a break. Punishment is usually loss of a privilege or time-out and depends upon how much extra time he takes to complete the work. This helps keep him on task.

I used to insist he do his workbook lessons at a desk. This year, I bought him a clip board so he can do his lessons elsewhere as long as he is working. Often I’ll do this as a reward for getting work done on time the day before. Sometimes though, there are days he just can’t get comfortable at a desk and having the clipboard to choose his work area helps get him on task.

MATH:

There are a few companies now that use manipulatives beyond just the first few grades.

We love Math-u-See for math so he can fiddle with the blocks to find the answers after watching a brief video introduction to the lesson. As Mr. Demme always says, “Build it, Write it, Say it.” Using multiple senses makes memorizing anything easier. I’ve tried to apply this to other areas of his learning. I like this company because they use the same blocks all the way from kindergarten through calculus. So once they learn and get used to the blocks, students aren’t constantly switching manipulatives like some programs. Since the blocks compliment the lessons and workbook, instead of being the main focus, students don’t become dependent upon the manipulatives. Nor do parents have to purchase and keep track of many separate manipulative systems.

There is a math program called Right Start Math which uses a lot of manipulatives including an abacus, shapes, number balance scale, blocks, and more to teach basic math. I’ve seen this program and it seems good if you don’t mind keeping track of many separate manipulatives. I know a few homeschool families who have had good outcomes with this program.

LANGUAGE ARTS and READING SKILLS:

I switched from Abeka to Christian Light Education after first grade. While Abeka was thorough, it wasn’t very engaging. The work in Abeka was very repetitive and he was getting burned out by the end of the year. While still a workbook based curriculum, CLE is more engaging because they have more variety of activities in their workbooks even though they are plainer (less color and illustrations). This helped him focus on the work instead of the illustrations.

There are a few other reasons CLE is better than Abeka for hands-on learners. Abeka reading only had very basic comprehension questions whereas CLE has a full range of reading and comprehension skills. CLE also has study skills lessons which Abeka didn’t. I think these are important to learn (especially for kinesthetic learners) and not all parents know them or how to teach them. Having them built into the curriculum is great.

The goal of any reading program is ultimately to get students reading real books. The best was to do this is to expose them to quality literature as soon as possible. Readers and levelized stories have their place, but quality literature for children should not be left out.

HISTORY:

For history we use literature and activities based programs from WinterPromise instead of a history text. This is more of a Charlotte Mason approach. He’s doing well and really enjoying the reading selections. Most are historical fiction or single topic books. There are a variety of hands-on activities to reinforce the topics each week, instead of the usual narrative or fill-in-the-blank style worksheet.

SCIENCE:

My son is gifted in science besides being a hands-on learner, so finding a science program has always been a challenge. He enjoys reading about science, but finds traditional elementary texts too dull and easy. However, he’s enjoyed many of the books in the God’s Design series. There are activities that go along with many of the lessons, but often there is a lot of parent prep and help needed for them.

He’s also done the Real Science 4 Kids series the last 2 years. These have a separate lab book for write-ups of the activities. While he really enjoyed the readings, we both found the labs, and especially the lab book, tedious. The instructor guide didn’t help much either. As a result, my son was understanding the science theory from the books this year, but I didn’t do many activities to reinforce and apply the concepts.

There is a company called Exploration Education that is a project-based curriculum for physical science. I want to use them next year.  I had a hard time keeping my kids away from their booth at the homeschool curriculum fair. Every time they wandered off, I found them at their booth playing with, and asking questions about, the projects on display.

Their lessons are multi-sensory. First, they each watch a cd video-text about the lesson. There are graphics and animation to help show the concepts. Then, they do the project or experiment. Finally, they do an activity/write up about the project. The second and third levels also have assessments. The first level has narration of the reading (which can be turned off for older kids using the level) so I don’t have to read everything to her. She can be listening while I’m helping her brother with his project.

The curriculum has 3 levels. Actually the third level includes all of the second and just adds on extra lessons for each unit. Anyway, the levels cover the same topics so both my kids could learn about similar concepts at the same time. There are 4 units. The first activity in each unit is a project. This project will then be used for all the other activities in that unit. They are pretty basic but seem to show very well the concepts.

Both kids would be doing separate activities, but about similar topics at the same time. I really liked this aspect of their programs. I wouldn’t need to keep up with totally separate science topics and figure out activities to go along with both of them. Also, it didn’t look like a lot of parent prep for the lessons.

2009-2010 homeschool Feb update

We’re about two-thirds of the way through our school year. It’s been a good year. Both Richard and Karen have learned a lot.

They each do language arts, reading, and math at their own level. I try to have them both working on the same subject at the same time. This keeps things easier. My new weekly schedule has been working great. This month they started swim lessons twice a week. That made for some disruption to the schedule, but are now getting used to the new routine.

Karen is where I remember Richard being at this stage of kindergarten. She’s reading three and some four letter words. We haven’t finished the alphabet yet, but she’s gaining confidence. She misplaced her workbook last week and we haven’t found it yet so I’m going to skip to the next one. I’ve been having her read short books instead but she’s ready to get back to the workbooks and learn more sounds.

I like the Christian Light Learning to Read program much better than Abeka K4-K5. Handwriting in incorporated in the same workbook. There aren’t a bunch of different workbooks to do each day. Instead she just does several pages in one workbook that covers phonics and handwriting. Soon we’ll add language arts. Then she’ll continue separate language arts and reading workbooks.

She’s learning place value to 100’s in math. Using the blocks for Math-U-See is making it easy.

We’ve been doing science on Wednesdays. Richard reads about it then we all do a project. He’s doing solutions today and we’re making homemade cola. We’re also looking at separation of juice so show liquids can have different layers. I don’t want to have two unrelated science programs. I can have them both study the same thing, but him do more details than Karen. He can read independently and I’ll read a simpler book to her about the same subject.

Richard just started the eighth out of ten workbooks for reading and language arts this week. He’s done a lot of grammar including adjectives, homophones, synonyms, and sentence diagramming. In reading, he’s learned to skim for details in a story.

Richard’s history hasn’t had many projects, but he’s enjoyed the reading. We finally finished the civil war and western expansion. It was rather odd to teach homesteading as history since we do many of those activities. It was almost like reverse teaching since I had to explain why most of them aren’t commonly done today (most people have running water, electricity, small hobby gardens instead of large subsistence ones, etc). WinterPromise also had a section about the Klondike gold rush which I added onto for a little Alaska state history. He was supposed to do a gold panning kit, but my husband wanted him to wait until summer when we can do it for real at a nearby creek that still gives gold. Now he’s studying early industrial revolution.

He’s really picked up on multiplication for math. He’s not using the blocks. He likes to find patterns. One of the boys in his swim lessons asked to learn the multiplication table after Richard told him that he knows it. This week he learned greater than, less than, and equal signs. They have finished the multiplication table and are moving into multiple digit multiplication problems. I really like how Math-U-See integrates word problems rather than just problem sets. They also have things like measurement equivalents (pints and quarts in a gallon, feet in a yard, etc) in the proper lesson instead of separately.

Last week I did evaluations for Richard’s progress report. He was ready to advance in 4 subjects: math, technology, social studies, and career development. I haven’t been having him do math tests until this year so I had him take the district exam. It was over 100 questions! There were only a few questions for each aspect (addition, subtraction, geometry, statistics, etc) but together they added up. I broke it into 2 days with lots of breaks so he wouldn’t have to sit doing math all day. The assessments for the other subjects were descriptions of projects he’s done.

I’m starting to plan for next school year. Richard will be in fourth grade and Karen will do first grade. He’s going to continue with Christian Light Education for Bible, reading, and language arts. She will be finishing the second half of their first grade reading and language arts program (reading 100 and language arts 100). That should take half the year. Then we’ll do First Favorites collection from Veritas Press the second part of the year. They will both continue with Math-U-See. She’ll do Alpha (single digit addition/subtraction) and he will be in Delta (division). I’m not sure about science. I have a basic science program from WinterPromise that I’ll probably do with her. I’ll wait and see what he’s interested in this summer before deciding science for him.

2009 Dec. homeschool update

Hard to believe 2009 is almost gone. It’s been a good year for our homeschool. Unlike public schools, we haven’t taken a lot of days off other than sick days so Richard is halfway through third grade. Karen is slowly working her way through Learning to Read.

While I won’t say Richard’s favorite subjects are reading and language arts, he isn’t fighting them either. Some lessons he does actually enjoy. If fact, a few times he’s worked ahead without realizing it because he was enjoying them. I don’t make him do that subject again until the others are on the same lesson when he does that. He lost his reading workbook for a week so we only did language arts. Then when he found it over the weekend, the next week we just did reading to even them back out again.

They’ve been sick the last week so it’s been about 10 days since we did school last. He has trouble getting back to the books after a break so today is a bit of a challenge. I debated just waiting until next week since Christmas is this week, but my husband said back to school today.

Math is going well for both of them. This year Richard is learning multiplication. I found Schoolhouse Rock on Youtube. They had some fun multiplication/skip counting songs which is helping make it stick. There was Sesame Street “ladybug picnic” about counting to 12, which helped Karen. She’s starting to use the colored joined blocks rather than individual units to represent numbers.

It was a trip down memory lane for me. There’s also language arts and history songs. Remember “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here” and “Conjunction Junction”?

History doesn’t seem as fun as last year (to me anyway). There aren’t as many interesting activities and more reading. Perhaps that’s because since we’re studying westward expansion now, most of the activities are homestead chores which we normally do everyday. Still, he’s enjoying it. Today was about the invention of barbed wire and he got to draw his own picture. While he was sick last week, he dug through the box and read Cricket in Times Square. I’m not sure when he was supposed to read this, but oh well.

Karen is slowly working her way through Learning to Read. I have given up on the primer. It was way too hard and didn’t relate to the lessons very well. It only made her frustrated instead of confident when reading. Hopefully the new Sunrise edition fixed this, but I haven’t seen it yet. I’m using Bob Books instead, which actually go with it surprisingly well.

We haven’t managed to do lessons with her very consistently. This is working out pretty good though because she gets overloaded if we do too much at once. Then after taking a few days break, the old material has sunk in and she’s ready to move on.

It will definately take a year to work through Learning to Read at the pace we’re going. Today she finished lesson 21 out of 90 and the first 4 Bob Books by herself. We also read the fifth book together. I may start to do lessons with her more often, but don’t want her to get overloaded again. This is just kindergarten after all. I want her to enjoy it, not have school seem like work.

She still sounds out several of the words, but the number of words she can read has greatly increased. Today’s lesson had 31 words to read in a minute. I don’t time her, but we do read the lists. She got through the entire list and read most of them without sounding them out today! Last time we tried this same list she could only get through half of it, even sounding them out.

She’s generally enjoying the lessons. I don’t always do every page in a lesson since there are often several pages of the same kind of thing (again, the Sunrise Edition has fixed this). If I know she understands, I’ll move on. If she’s having trouble, we’ll spend 2 days on the same lesson and do all of it. The schedule has us starting language arts in 2 weeks. Hopefully, that won’t give her too much work.

Since we took the past 10 days off, we won’t take much off for Christmas except Thursday and Friday. After regular school work is done this week, we’re learning traditional, spiritual carols and reading of the birth of Jesus. He’s the reason for the season after all. I feel in the rush of modern consumerist Christmas, we sometimes forget the real reason for celebrating and get caught up in the how. That’s why it’s important to sing songs like Silent Night, Joy to the World, and Oh Come all Ye Faithful instead of just Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman.