Friday, June 3, 2011

Curriculum Fair and Organizing Our Year

Simple Homeschool has spent the last few weeks in an online curriculum fair sharing plans for a variety of grades. This week they've invited us to share our plans for next year. Make sure to add your plans to the curriculum fair!

I was asked how we're staying organized this year and I wanted to share the little form I made.

Our schedule is divided into daily work and subject work.

Daily work includes:

:: Either First Language Lessons or Victory Drill Book (FLL Monday/Wednesday/Friday and VDB on Tuesday/Thursday)

:: Math

:: Handwriting Without Tears

:: Bible

:: Violin practice

:: Our current read aloud (Stuart Little on these pages)

The second column on the daily spaces is for Ezra in case there is something certain I'd like to designate to each day. Most likely though I'll just be setting things up for him Montessori style each week and letting him get to work as he sees fit.

Subject Work includes three days worth of work in three areas: History, Science and Fine Arts. These are choices Ender can make throughout the week and as long as all the work is complete he can choose them in any order. So he can choose to do all three days worth of a subject in one day, one day of each subject, or any other combination he'd like.

In the picture I shared above it shows nothing for Science or Fine Arts, which isn't accurate- I'm just still designating science plans to the correct weeks and the same for our art projects. I know the overall scope of the plans but I'm still breaking them into weekly chunks.

I also made a checklist for Ender to keep inside his notebook so that he can check off each day's work as he works through it. He really does well with a checklist like this because he can't stand to leave something unchecked even if it's for a good reason.

How are you staying organized for next year?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Less Giant Curriculum Post

I wrote earlier this week about our first grade plans, but I have another little guy included in our homeschool so today is his post.

Ezra turns four this summer and desperately wants to be in kindergarten. I think I told him "Three-year-olds have the important job to play a lot" about 50 gazillion times last year. We've always supplied art materials and had a few little workbook type things on hand for when he wanted to have something to do at the table with us, but mostly he worked with our Montessori materials or played while Ender and I worked with math manipulatives or on phonics.

Ender's K4 year was full of Montessori materials and projects inspired by random reads we picked up at the library. There was very little "worksheet" type work involved, but that's one of the things Ezra has asked for- "a writing book for me!" he says. So, after a loooooooot of talk with my husband we've decided to have a few K4 workbook type materials available for him but not required of him. Ezra really likes to write and draw so a workbook or two for him may be something he really enjoys. I wonder too if it makes a difference that he is a second child and sees his older brother working in a book for some of his schooling.

The books we've selected include:

:: Handwriting Without Tears Pre-K. If we're going to learn to write he's going to learn to do it correctly. If he isn't interested we'll easily put it aside.

:: A few preschool workbooks that have pages including mazes, dot-to-dot, tracing, shapes, same and different, matching rhyming words, etc. I like School Zone and Kumon for this type of casual work because it's easy to stay away from the more formal workbooks for letters and numbers.

Otherwise, K4 looks like this:

:: Lots and lots of art supplies: Our favorite place to order from is Dick Blick. I put in a big order 2-3 times a year and stock us with crayons, paints, paper and a new thing or two each time to try.

:: Montessori work for math. He already uses several of these materials, but I'll keep him progressing forward through the 3-6 albums.

::Phonics. My goal by the end of the year is that he knows all of the basic letter sounds. If we go beyond that that will be fabulous, and if not he'll be perfectly ready to start kindergarten the next year. He knows many of the sounds already, but I want to be continue what he has already started to learn on his own. We play a lot of games, read a lot, and use some montessori work.

Everything else grows out of our everyday things- working on our garden, canning food, baking together, reading whatever library books catch our interests, painting, drawing and playing games... some of it will turn into a big project at Ezra's request and some will just be "the thing we did that day."

How does preschool look at your house?

Do you think it makes a difference if your preschooler is a second (or third, fourth, etc.) child?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yarn Along

Sharing my current read and current knit together with Ginny...

I apologize for the flash picture, but it was about 8:30 at night in the car as I was working on that second bootie, and the light was not very forgiving...

In my mind I had made those Eco Booties [Rav link] already, but then I found myself the day of our trip to see the new little nephew without a gift in hand and these quick little things came to be in the 3 hour drive to see him for the first time. They truly were quick- about 2 hours and 15 minutes from first cast-on to the last seaming on bootie #2. I used a size 8 needle with worsted weight for something a little bigger than newborn so that they will be ready to wear around October.

They were so simple and lovely to knit that I read John Adams at the same time; another chapter down!

It was very rewarding though to run so quickly through a project, even if it was something so tiny. Makes one a little smug I think... but then I temper that quickness with longer work like the Omelet shawl, so it all evens out...

Do you prefer shorter projects or longer ones? Maybe different kinds for different seasons?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Giant Curriculum Post: First Grade

So I think I'm done working on First Grade.

At least mentally.

I know what our plans are, what I'm willing to toss if it doesn't work, and what I'm not willing to give up on. I have a clear picture in my head of how our homeschool days worked last year and how I'd like them to work this year, and what kind of time it will take to make those plans reality.

The truth for our family is that I don't really care what we're learning in certain subject areas so long as we are always learning and growing. However, we need a little more structure than just hopping down whatever rabbit trails float our way, especially Ender. He does very well under a highly-structured set-up and I'm trying to provide some of that for him.


We're going to use Singapore 1 this year. I've been really happy with Ender's progress using Montessori materials, but I love the way Singapore presents mental math and has some writing. Ender is definitely ready to write a bit more for math. I also think he will enjoy seeing progress through the workbook since he's a "check it off" kind of kid. We're still incorporating plenty of Montessori and hands-on work for math, but it's time to start putting pencil to paper a bit.

Language Arts

Lots of read alouds (Charlotte's Web is at the front of the list right now), lots of readers to keep working on fluency, and  First Language Lessons. FLL is on my list to hit about three times a week. If Ender proves unready for the curriculum we'll set it aside til next year. This is one of the books that I think he is ready for but won't be disappointed if he's not.

I also have Writing With Ease and like the look of it, but I'm really applying its principles of narration and copywork (especially using his own narrations as copywork on another day) to other subjects. FLL covers narration, poem memorization, and copywork as well, and I don't want to overwhelm.

For phonics we're sticking with what Ender asked for: Victory Drill Book. We've tried a few other things in the name of finding more fun with phonics, but my straight-forward kid really likes the lists. We do read through the columns as they are intended, but we spend the bulk of our phonics time playing games with the words in the columns, practicing them as spelling words verbally and with the moveable alphabet, putting 4 or 5 words in alphabetical order, etc.

And because handwriting falls under language arts in my brain, we are using Handwriting Without Tears this year. I haven't really pushed a lot of writing with the boys, but Ender did learn to form his letters correctly last year. The physical act of writing is *not* his favorite though, so we're going to go through the Kindergarten HWT book first and then maybe see about heading into the first grade book later in the year.


We're going with a little Classical Ed/ Charlotte Mason combo here. We have three days a week of science planned- one day similar to what is described in the Well-Trained Mind, spending 20 weeks on animals, 10-ish weeks on the human body and 10-ish weeks on plant life reading and narrating each week on those topics. Our other two days are planned for exploration around a theme.

Our topics for this year are:

First quarter: Creeks and Ponds
Second Quarter: Night Sky
Third Quarter: Water Cycle and Weather
Fourth Quarter: One Small Square: Backyard

Some of our inspiration will come from the Handbook of Nature Study blog, but mostly we're just planning on getting out there and giving plenty of time to spend exploring, collecting, and observing before returning home to read up on our discoveries. I'm hoping for a first try at a nature journal as well. I'm leaving plenty of room to explore more specifically within our quarterly topic or explore something completely unrelated if we find an interest.

We also have Christian Liberty Nature Readers for K and 1st grade that we will read from together at first , and then later on in the year Ender may be able to read from some on his own.


I am planning a light journey through the Story of the World vol. 1. We may or may not make it all the way through this year. I'm not terribly concerned with speed, but we are planning to:

  • Read in order
  • Narrate 1 section per chapter
  • Do the mapwork included
  • Complete one project with each chapter

We might do more than one project and knowing us we will likely get more information from the library on whichever chapter we're reading, but this is our basic set up. I have no big plans for timing (as in 1 chapter per week or anything like that) because I want to leave room to stay on a topic for a few weeks if Ender is really interested in it.

Fine Arts

Ender started to play the violin last spring so he will continue this next year. I suppose that's one of the hazards of your mother being a violinist... I truly did start him with piano first, but he has wanted to play the violin for a long time, and when I finally let him it was love at first note.

We are also planning a composer study and artist study for this year, one composer and one artist for each quarter. I'm still finalizing exactly which artists I will include, but my composer list includes Bach, Handel, Beethoven and Brahms. I know, no 20th century guys on there, but I'm not a huge fan of that musical time period. It can wait another year or two.

For our art plans we are going to do what we've always done- a little bit of directed work (many awesome suggestions from Deep Space Sparkle and new to us: Draw, Write, Now book 1) but mostly giving access to the materials needed to create.


For Bible this year Ender is going to continue with the Awana program at our church and all the memorizing they do, but we will be focusing on the religious seasons as home- Advent, Lent, etc. Our reading will focus on a Psalm of praise each month as well as following our church's schedule of readings for the K-3 students.

Do you homeschool? What are your plans for next year?

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