The “Not” Back-to-School Blog Hop {Curriculum Week}

"Not" Back to School Blog Hop at iHomeschool Network

It’s here!  The crazy weekly blog hop that will make us all feel wonderfully inspired and a teeny bit inadequate all at the same time!  Woohoo!

Hey, just keepin’ it real folks…

But seriously, as we all are getting started with our schooling, wading gently into the water after a low-key summer, the iHomeschool Network blog hop is the place to be.  Let’s get motivated!

Homeschool Planning 2012-2013

Speaking of motivated, have I mentioned lately that I’m up to my ears in planning?  Well, actually now it’s only up to my belly button, so I’m making progress.  Last week the living room looked like this:

Homeschool Planning

And now my supplies and materials are organized into nice neat piles on the floor instead and it looks like this:

Homeschool Planning

Progress, people!  That’s what I’m talking about!  (Don’t you dare say you don’t see a difference!)

So for those of you who don’t know much about me, here’s the scoop in a nutshell: I have four children whom I’ve been homeschooling for seven years (this year will be my eighth).  My oldest son is 12 and will be in 7th grade; my only daughter is 9 and will be in 4th grade; my two younger boys are 6 and 5 and will be in 1st and K respectively, though they are learning almost as if they were twins.  My youngest won’t be left behind.  He’s very stubborn and precocious.

We started out classically, but have moved into more of an eclectic homeschool, mostly due to the fact that I want to give the best, individualized education to each child, and each of my children is unique.  So we now base our structure loosely on the Well-Trained Mind skeleton and resources, but add a lot of Charlotte Mason methods, and whatever else I feel will work in our home.

This year is the first time I will be intentionally including the younger two in the bulk of our subjects.  For things like history, science, geography, and art, we will all learn together, get further into the adventure of notebooking (all together- fabulous!) and then my older two will have some independent work to take away as well.

7th grade curricula and resources

  • Teaching Textbooks Algebra I – We moved into TT last year for Pre-Algebra on the recommendation of our assessor (in Ohio we have to get yearly portfolio assessments if we choose not to do standardized tests) and we like it very much.  Before TT we used Saxon for Colin and it worked very well, but TT can be done independently which helps with Mom-time management.
  • Rod and Staff Grammar 7 – We’ve been using R & S since 4th grade and are very happy with the thoroughness and rigor of the program.  I’m a grammar nerd and get all giddy about diagramming, word roots, and stuff like that.
  • Thames and Cosmos Chem C2000 Chemistry Set and Mastering the Periodic Table – Our chemistry this year is going to be out of my comfort zone.  There will be a lot of experiments, some of which will include the younger ones, and I have a lot of peripheral resources.  (We’ve never used textbooks, and I hope to avoid them until highschool.)  Unlike history, which is chronological, all of our resources choose to go through the periodic table differently.  I’ll keep you posted on how things work out, but since I’m a non-science mom, this is the subject I’m least excited about.
  • History – We have always used the Well-Trained Mind resource suggestions and this is our second time going through the Story of the World series.  We are studying the Middle Ages this year (with activity book) and Colin will supplement with outlining and timeline work through the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and other living books.  One exciting new-to-us resource is Heritage History** CD sets of public domain books.  We have the Christian Europe and Spanish Empire libraries as well as the British Middle Ages curriculum (which includes supplemental resources in addition to the books) and there are great books for family read-alouds and independent reading for Colin.  We will be primarily using notebooking as a way to document all we are learning.  Notebooking Pages has a wonderful set of Middle Ages resources, including basic pages, and specific pages for people and events of the time.
  • Rosetta Stone German 3 – Colin is probably halfway finished with this program and we’re considering finding him an online highschool German course when he completes it.  Rosetta Stone has been great for our children’s pronunciation, understanding and vocabulary, but the grammar is all by immersion so there are no rules taught.  I’m looking forward to getting him the nuts and bolts to round out his German skills.
  • US Geography – We will be notebooking through the 50 states as a family.  This is something the kids enjoy immensely, and we try to take trips, watch documentaries, and cook fun cuisine from some of the states as well.  This year we’re planning a weekend trip to Tennessee.  (You can get a free sample of a state notebooking page set here!)
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing Student Intensive – We haven’t focused a lot on writing in the past in terms of curriculum simply because I didn’t think it was all that necessary yet.  I think good writing is incredibly important, don’t get me wrong; I just think that the way it is taught is counter-productive.  I think kids who read great literature, and a lot of it, will have a natural bent toward writing as they get older.  So now that Colin is in middle school we are focusing a bit more on it so we can build skills for high school.

4th grade curricula and resources

  • Math on the Level – Our sweet Maddy is not a math person.  We have tried a handful of different math curricula over the years and all have frustrated her until I finally stepped outside of the textbook box.  It was a scary transition, but looking back I see a lot of progress and a lot less angst.  Math on the Level is a non-traditional program that includes all concepts required to learn from PreK to Pre-Algebra organized in books that give tips and tricks for teaching each of the concepts.  It is teacher intensive and requires a lot of assessment on my part, but it has been worth it.  The company also has a very active yahoo email group that supports each other and answers questions.
  • Rod and Staff Grammar 4
  • Sequential Spelling – We took off of formal spelling last year.  I have never liked the traditional spelling curricula with the words per week that you have to write and rewrite until you memorize them.  I trust my children’s reading to give them good skills in spelling, and for the most part it has.  I am going to lightly work through Sequential Spelling lessons with Maddy just to add to her knowledge of spelling patterns.  SS is a program not based around levels of words for each grade, but instead on patterns and was originally created for dyslexic children.  One word list, for example, includes the words: all, stall, install, recall, and installment.
  • HistoryStory of the World, Volume 2 (Middle Ages), beginner level ebooks from Heritage History**, and notebooking.
  • Chemistry for the Grammar Stage – This classical-based curriculum was affordable, lays out all readings and includes all worksheets and notebooking pages.  Again, I’m a bit uncomfortable with the way our different chemistry resources each choose to go through the material differently, but it will simply take a bit more intentionality in my planning to make it work.
  • Rosetta Stone German 1 & 2 – Maddy’s just about done with German 1 and will be moving up this fall.  She sounds so cute speaking German!
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing Student Intensive – We’re doing the middle school level; I’m including her along with my oldest because Maddy loves to write and she can handle the activities.
  • US Geography – Notebooking all the way!  Here’s a free North American bird example for you to try out from Notebooking Pages.

1st grade curricula and resources

Kindergarten curricula and resources

Together we will cover art, music, health, nutrition, and life skills just through life and occasional notebooking.  My husband and I are classical musicians so our home is filled with the music of Bach and Mozart and Stravinsky and we “talk shop” often.  I also am an art junkie, and love to test myself and the kids on their knowledge of famous styles and techniques of the great master artists.  These kinds of things just happen in our home and I’ve learned that it is enough, that I don’t need to make sure I get a composer study in each week.  It’s just another way to embrace the actual reality of our life and not get overwhelmed with expectations that are inappropriate for our family or too high.

 

Whew!!  So there you have it.  Our plan for the year!  Link up with the “Not” Back-to-School Hop with your own curriculum plans!

**To get a free Spanish Empire CD library, purchase any other library or curriculum at Heritage History and enter code CHRISglo at checkout!  You must add the Spanish Empire CD as well and the amount will come off when you add the code.**

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Shakespeare {for the first time}

Peter Paul Rubens- Julius Caesar

Shakespeare with my twelve-year-old

I admit it.  I was a bit apprehensive about choosing and reading our first Shakespeare play.

I knew my son was ready this year.  His love for books and language is well-established and his reading level is excellent.  This past year has seen him read many more classics than years past, and retain and enjoy them all.  He read (and we discussed) Treasure Island, Sherlock Holmes, and the Tripod Trilogy, just to name a few.  We’ve been studying ancient history, and when we came upon the wonder, power, and subsequent demise of ancient Rome, I knew we had to read Julius Caesar.

So we jumped in with both feet.

I wasn’t sure how it would work, but I planned on having him notebook through it a bit, read it aloud with me, study the characters and history.  Mostly, however, my goal was for him to enjoy it.  And now that we’re well into the third act, I am thrilled to say that our experience has been wonderful and that the drama has captured us both.

How I introduced Shakespeare to my middle schooler

  • We reviewed the history– we’d already been going through the Story of the World, complete with my son writing outlines and filling in his timeline, so we discussed what he’d learned so far.
  • We researched Shakespeare’s life- I used this flip book as an easy introduction, and looked up a bit more online.
  • We read a brief synopsis– We used Pink Monkey Notes (free online notes similar to Cliff’s) and read about the characters as well.  I learned about this website from Susan Wise Bauer this year at our homeschool convention and it has been an awesome resource!
  • I assigned a notebooking page on vocabulary, and also a compare/contrast paper- The vocabulary assignment was with words such as plot, protagonist, antagonist, climax, and theme, basics about a play’s structure.  The compare/contrast paper was between two characters of my son’s choice.  He settled on Brutus and Cassius and came up with some great thoughts, including quotes that supported his ideas.
  • We started reading– We each had a character or two per scene and read as dramatically as we could.  I often would stop and ask what Colin thought of the passage, or a specific line, to see how he was responding.  I think we did a good job in the drama department.  At one point my 5-year-old looked up with a frightened look on his face and said we should be reading something about people who are nice to each other.
  • We supplemented with notes about each scene- Pink Monkey Notes again.  There is a detailed synopsis with cultural and literary notes on every scene.
  • I kept it simple- What I did not want to do is overwhelm.  I wanted us to experience the text, the rich language, and the story together without weighing ourselves down with lots of busy work.

Shakespeare resources for children

  • I gained a lot of confidence and suggestions from this lens on Squidoo by Jimmie; it is chock full of great ideas and links.
  • I also have loved using my Notebooking Pages membership to supplement the play itself.  This site has thousands of pages available to meet any need you may have.  It would be a fabulous addition to any type of curriculum this year!
    Basic lined notebooking pages
  • This post from Lauren has some printables about Julius Caesar for younger children, in case you want to include them in your reading.
  • Before we ever read a real Shakespeare play, we had read aloud a couple of the stories from Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb.  It is very well-written and retains a lot of the integrity of the language while making sure it’s accessible for children.
  • This Shakespeare Can Be Fun series is also a great way to introduce the stories of Shakespeare’s plays with fun drawings by children.

 When do you plan on introducing the Bard to your children?  Or have you already?  Do tell!  I’d love to hear your experience!

 

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5 Days of Great Family Games {Blog Hop Day 2}

5 Days of Family Games www.fruitinseasonblog.com/

In our homeschool we play a lot of games.  Games have the unique ability to make learning both fun and painless.  If you ever need instruction on a particukar game, you can find detailed videos on the Movie Box App. There are so many math and language games to choose from that we could easily play games all day to learn the basics!  Here are some of our favorites:

 Great math games for the whole family

  1. Dino Dice- This game was purchased on a whim from Rainbow Resource one Christmas for a stocking stuffer.  I believe it was only five dollars and easily snags the “best-bang-for-your-buck” title.  The objective is simple: you want to roll “herds” of herbivores to earn points, and need to avoid rolling the T-rex so it doesn’t eat any of the more docile dinosaurs, thus eating your points as well.  We have used this game to help with mental math, and it’s so fun and quick the kids don’t even notice I’m using it to sneak some serious math skills in there.  I also love that it doesn’t have a maximum number of players, something that is hard to find with all of the games out there that require “2-4 players”.
    Dino Dice math game
  2. Battleship- A classic game that is a winner in our house of boys (and even my daughter likes it).  Anytime the kids can sink, kill, maim, destroy or otherwise pulverize their opponents, I’m guaranteed a game that will last.  Battleship is the perfect, easy way to teach basic Cartesian graphing.
  3. Blokus This game is in my top three, and perhaps is in my favorites list because I always win.  Each player has a set of tetris-like pieces that must be fit onto the game board, and must simultaneously block opponents and spread her own influence across the board [insert evil laugh here].  The only drawback to this awesome game of spatial skills, is that our family of six can’t all play together.
  4. Farkle Party- Another fun dice game, Farkle Party has six sets of dice, making it a great game for our family to play all together.  Simply put, players roll the dice to earn points and win the game.  The basics give way to a bit of strategy and a fair amount of luck, as you learn the more intricate rules of the game.  This is one we play often!
    Farkle Party Dice Game
  5. Trifecta This little free app is a great way to have the kids practice facts to 12 when you’re out and about and they are getting on your nerves you need to kill a few minutes.  My friend Mary introduced me to this game, and I even enjoy playing it on occasion.  To play, you roll virtual dice and then tap on tiles (numbered 1-9) that add up to what you rolled in order to make them disappear.  There are 27 tiles in all and your goal is to get to zero (something I finally accomplished last week for the first time!)  While you can’t play together, the game is quick enough to take turns and get a competition going.

Great language games for the whole family

  1. Green Alligator This little gem has been a great way to include little ones in our games, and is excellent for working on skills of description, and verbal processing.  Each card has a picture of an everyday object or action.  The player looks at the card and describes the object or action without using the word itself so that the other player can guess it.  Whoever has the most cards at the end wins, but we usually do not play with a winner, choosing to play cooperatively instead.
  2. Apples to Apples I love this game!  We have the kids and junior versions, and will probably invest in the regular edition at some point as well.  It can be played with the whole family (and there are not many games out there for more than 4 players) as soon as the youngest can read a bit.  There are two types of cards- adjective cards, and noun cards.  The “judge” chooses an adjective card to share with the group, and each other player then has to give the card in his hand that he feels matches the adjective.  The judge reads the cards aloud and chooses the one he likes best.  Laughter is sure to ensue, especially when you have a preteen whose only goal as judge is to choose the card that doesn’t fit in the slightest.
  3. Bananagrams- This little game has pleasing scrabble-like tiles that go “chinkchinkchink” in the bag (am I weird that I like that so much??)  But I even like it apart from the happy noise it makes.  Your goal in this game is to build an independent crossword puzzle structure (unlike Scrabble where you add to a joint structure) and use up your tiles first to win.  It is a great game for younger players and early readers, since they can use simple words and not worry about what words others are using.
    Bananagrams

Do you use games in your homeschool?  What are some favorites for math and language?

5 Days of... {Summer Series www.ihomeschoolnetwork.com/}

{Click on the picture and visit the rest of the crew!  They all have wonderful encouragement and information to share for this summer series!!}