Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our 2014-2015 Home School Curriculum

   As I placed together this curriculum, I went through pages upon pages of home school Mommy blogs, finding something that I thought would best fit my children's needs.
  This year is a bit different than any other year we have home schooled.  This is the first year I'm home schooling more than one child, and now I'm home schooling three!  I have Big sis, who is in 7th grade, Little sister who is in 2nd, as well as Big brother, who is my kindergartner.  Mix that up with a wild one year old running around and you have a lot going on in the daily goings of the Duncan household!  It will be a busy year indeed!
   This year is also different because I tossed out my whole idea of one curriculum for all children.  My kids aren't a package deal.. so its difficult to choose one curriculum that fits each of them.  They are stronger in some areas and weaker in others.  They certainly aren't cookie cutters...  so I have went through several curriculum choices and chosen what I believe best fits their current needs.  Since I got all of these through different home schooling bloggers, I wanted to share with the home schooling world, and perhaps even encourage another home school Mommy!
  I wrote a blog entry on my former blog about our curriculum choice this year at the beginning of the year, but since then we have changed a few things!  So I decided to post another blog about this to update my new readers, as well as to let you guys know what was working best for us!  We've been in school for about four months now, so we are pretty well into these, and even in the second books in some of them!  So here you go!

Big sis- 7th Grade

 English/Grammar


I personally LOVE this book.  It may seem a little repetitive, but its been amazing.  Its easy to follow, and I purchased this book on the home school classifieds site..  this book is all in one, it comes with tests and worksheets.  Its not really a self-working type of book, or at least it isn't for her.  Its easy to go by though, it gives through instructions for mastery before you move on to the next level.  
The first part of the book that requires mastery before you move along to other levels is all about prepositions.  We have drilled that.  I've also found lots of helpful worksheets on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Also, This youtube video song was the only reason we could ever remember them.  LOL. 



I've always been a fan of Abeka. I used it to preschool Little Sister way back when we began home schooling.  I really enjoy this literature program.  Big Sis seems to enjoy it as well.  A lot of the short stories inside are faith based stories.  We are also reading a LOT of novels during this year, most of them are historical novels based on the time periods we are studying, but this works great as a daily reading with comprehension questions.  



I can't even begin to say enough good about this program!  I love these books, they really do mirror well the type of questions found on the SAT.  The vocabulary used is practical and not outlandish, its words that would be found in everyday vocabulary but she has learned so much from this.  Its also far from easy, but not overbearing.  I really enjoy this as a daily work lesson, its something good that she can do on her own well.  It also has a booklet that comes with tests for each chapter, a midterm and a final exam, so that I really like!  

Math

  So far this year Big sis has been working through Life of Fred: Fractions  I wasn't certain if that was enough, so I supplemented with Mastering Essential Math Skills: Fractions by Richard Fisher  I'm a little torn.  She likes Fred a lot, but I'm not sure its working.  I think it may be more confusing than working for her..  so we may give Teaching Textbooks a try.  It was my first choice for curriculum when I began.  Fred is entertaining and easy to get hooked on, and we do have the Decimals version ready for her when she finishes...  but I'm just not entirely sure its working for her, and its difficult for me to help her when working through Fred because my math skills are.... eh....  well.  You get it.  LOL.  I can't say enough wonderful things about Richard Fishers book however.  I do intend to purchase more after Fractions.  It works GREAT for daily use, and its repetitive, and I LOVE that.  Its daily drills, basically, which my kids don't mind, and I really enjoy.  We're working on Math, its our soft spot at the moment...

Computer time:
Big sister enjoys spending her computer time on Pinterest mainly lol..  but when she does want to play a game, she enjoys Mission US Thirteen and its fabulous.  I think our fun history lessons have created a history buff out of her, so she enjoys learning about history a LOT.  Which excites me, because that's my favorite subject!

Little sis- 2nd Grade

Handwriting



I can't say enough wonderful things about this handwriting program!  It is copywork using scripture!  I absolutely loved it and she did wonderful with it!  We just finished her last page today and she will be working on the next one as soon as we begin school back after Christmas!  Today's page was a Christmas scripture also..  how perfect is that!  Its beautifully made.  I didn't want to overwhelm the kids when we began school so I didn't have a spelling curriculum for Little sis, but they are getting faster at their work as the year goes by, so I am probably going to purchase the A Reason for Spelling book for our next year.  I really love this series!  

Phonics/Writing
  Little sister has some great reading skills, so I didn't really want to go with a reading curriculum this year.  I believe that was a good decision.  We settled on Explode the Code.




 I absolutely think it was a great decision!  We did purchase the teacher books, as well as the 3, 3.5 and 4 books.  I think it will probably take us the entire year to get through all of these, we may make it to 5.  I don't believe it would be a complete stand alone curriculum with just the books, I highly recommend getting the teachers guide as well if you decide to do this program, just to get the entire phonics program.  Little sis formerly did My Father's World as a reading program as well as letterland when she was in school for a few months, so there is some repetitive things, but for the most part its really good, and she really enjoys the workbook.  The pictures are funny (I cracked up at the Tiger..  Not a tiger...  the entire series has this dry sense of humor..  and that's SO our sense of humor...) and doesn't get bored with it.  She loves it, its a wonderful series...  and the price??  Haha..  I'm a BIG fan of the Rainbow Resource Center and these are listed between $5 and $7 on there.  WELL worth the price!
  Also from the same series, we purchased Beyond the Code for our literature/reading comprehension work.  We LOVE this as well!  Its short, cute stories, with easy to understand questions following.  Its been great, and Little sis really looks forward to it everyday!  We are on book 2 now, and she was honestly sad when book 1 was over (Its mostly about a dog named Red!  Haha that fueled her inner Once Upon a time Fanatic lol!)  we have really enjoyed doing this together!



Math




Now I mentioned we were thinking of canning Life of Fred for big sis.  but I have to say that its PERFECT for Little sister.  She loves reading about Fred, and she's learning about so much more than basic math skills. She's mastered sets, learned about Archimedes, knows how to tell time on a clock (will that come in handy in the days of smartphones?  Who knows...) but she's absolutely loving it and booking through it.  We are almost finished with the second book in the elementary series and we aren't even halfway through the school year.  Which is good because I intended for her to go fast, We should be finishing up Butterflies shortly after Christmas.  We have had so much fun with this, so many smiles and giggles.  For now, this is the right math choice for Little sis!  I've also printed out several worksheets almost daily from one of my new favorite sites, Worksheet Works.  I am loving this site!  You can put in the stats that you hope for..  like numbers up to 10, up to 15... etc..  and it generates a printable worksheet!  So far we've only used time, fractions (for big sis) and basic math, but there are tons and tons of worksheets.  I told you we were fond of drills, so this works perfect for us!  She's doing great in math, which makes me proud..  she's quicker at addition than me lol.


Big brother- Kindergarten

  I had not intended to begin Big brother in kindergarten this year when the children were attending private school.  I just did not believe he was ready for structured schooling yet.  I still believe that he isn't, so we are kind of just going with the flow with him.  I intend to make him a kinder again next year, and to purchase a curriculum for him.  This year, we are just learning and having fun while doing it, but I wanted to share some of the wonderful things we have found to those who have a prek/early k student like I consider Big brother!

Phonics/reading/writing



We are beginning this after Christmas and I am super excited!  I told you how much I enjoyed Explode the Code with Little Sis.  I decided to purchase the 3.5 book halfway through last semester because I wanted to strengthen the skills she learned in book 3, so when I did I ordered this for big brother!  Its the beginner series of the books, and for the low price..  (It was $7.00!) I grabbed this up as well.  Just looking through it it looks awesome, and I'll do a better review once we work our way through it!
We have also just bought some inexpensive dollar store workbooks for him to learn to write letters.  When I order Little sister's new handwriting book through A Reason for Home I intend to order him one as well, as he is getting really good at his handwriting, I think he's ready for some more constructed practice.  I'm excited about teaching him, and he's super excited about learning!  He has a love for books that seems rare in the little boy world, and I love feeding that love!  He doesn't know it yet, but he's getting a box full of Bernstein bears books from me for Christmas, as well as some Pete the Cat books from family members!  He's going to be so excited!!!

Big brother also learns well online!  We were given a free trail of Time 4 Learning which I will be writing a review for!  He really enjoyed that, and we may go through the kindergarten curriculum with it after Christmas...  I don't enjoy doing all of their work online, but its an excellent tool, and may give him the jump start that he needs to begin his Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book that I bought for him to use next year.  I've also thought about Letterland.. Little sister LOVED that part of school, it was her favorite..  I'll keep you updated, and write a formal review on Time4Learning..  stay tuned :)  

Our other favorite websites for Big brother's computer time are... (These are free!)

We also enjoyed 
Reading Eggs - which you begin with a free trial..  we are still deciding between this and Time4Learning..  both are around $15-$20 per month
ABC Mouse -much cheaper at $7 a month, but doesn't seem as effective as the other two

And ALL of the kiddos love playing around on
Its' free and a place where kids can create their own books!  They all three enjoy this a LOT!

Math




He has been working his way through this workbook for his numbers, and I am absolutely loving it!  It surprises me how quickly he learned to write all of his numbers, and how he's slowly picking up on addition, even though its not an addition intensive book.  Its a lot of copywork, counting, and color by numbers which he REALLY likes a lot.  Its been working great! 


 I LOVE the "Complete Book of..." series.  You can find most of these on Amazon and I've bought a ton of them over the years.  This is the one big brother is currently using alongside his Abeka book.  He enjoys it a LOT!

Then there are the subjects we are all enjoying doing together...

Science


It took me awhile to decide on a science curriculum.  It was a toss up between Answers in Genesis and Apolgia...  and AIG won.  So we went with Gods Design for Heaven and Earth.  This was one of the sets that works well with older students with younger siblings in the class.  This series as well as Gods design for Life works well with both.  I believe that if we did this together for the first two years, and then branch off and Little sister and Big sis do their own independent Science classes afterward that would work out well, since AIG is an elementary curriculum.  I'll be honest, we haven't done great keeping up with this, we get really caught up in our history lessons that we LOVE, and sometimes Science gets swept under the rug...  but we do LOVE this series.  It comes with a CD that has printable worksheets which I love..  it keeps us on task.  Hopefully we can make our way through this faster at the second half of the school year, since we are in a better home schooling groove than we were at the beginning, and we are getting our basic work done faster, hopefully we can fit in history and science both in one day, because the kids don't like missing out on their history lessons at all!  It's their favorite part!

Geography

  Since our history curriculum this year will focus on United States history, naturally, we decided on United States Geography.  I remember when I was younger my grandfather bought me a US puzzle, and I still think about the little puzzle and how it fit together when I think of a map in my mind!  I picked this up from the Rainbow Resource Center and the kiddos LOVE it


We also have this game, which the kiddos have yet to play... but it seems like a lot of fun!  I thought this would be interesting when we have a few states studying under our belts!


Something I have recently discovered and am SUPER excited about checking out is Little Passports !  This looks SO much fun!  I think the kiddos will really enjoy getting this in the mail, and we are starting this as soon as Christmas is over!

We also enjoy using the free State coloring pages at Crayola and making lap books for each state!  The kids really enjoy this.  They enjoy learning about different places.  At the end of the year it is my intention for them to do a project about one state, pretending that it is the state they are moving too, and tell us why they are moving there.  I'm pretty excited to see what they come up with!  So far Little sis really likes Texas!  I'm not sure what big sister's favorite is yet!

Lastly, we do history together..  and this is a BIG one.  I'm going to make another blog post about our United States History lessons, and hopefully chronicle the studies that we make throughout our trip through US History.  We are using American girl, as well as several other books and resources, far too many to name here!  So check back and I'll link up to it here, and follow along with our journey!  I'm super excited!  The girls are also taking music lessons, Big sis is learning guitar by someone in her family, and Little sis is taking piano lessons once a week.  They love this extracurricular, and are pretty good at it if I do say so myself!  There's lots of other things I would love to explore, such as foreign languages, I've found lots of resources on this!  Art is a big thing we would like to learn more about, we have joined an art class taught in a local town by a homeschool group in the next county, and the girls LOVED it.  Hopefully I can find more opportunities as our home school year moves along.
  For now, I wanted to share my curriculum and how it was going, for those who are looking for something that fits their kids.  Thanks for reading!  I'll keep you updated!