I read recently on a homeschool blog that some veteran homeschool moms cringe at the question, “What curriculum do you use?” Since I’m still the one asking that question, I suppose that shows my homeschool age (2 years and counting). The blog writer went on to say she cringes because, over the years, homeschool moms tend to be so eclectic and independent in what they use that it is complicated to answer that question, as well as difficult not to overwhelm the newbie homeschool mom asking the question.
Since I enjoy hearing what curricula other families are using, here are my 2017-2018 curriculum picks. We started our school year in July 2017, and we are approximately half way through the year. So, these choices are not only my picks, but my actually-stuck-with-it ones!
Bible/Science/History – Our core curriculum is My Father’s World (MFW). I did Kindergarten last year with AJ and CJ. This year, we are doing Learning God’s Story, which is MFW’s complete first grade program (see my last year's picks here). I continue to be drawn to MFW for their focus on Bible, goal to have the whole family learning together, inclusion of Charlotte Mason style lessons, list of living books, and engaging hands-on activities.
In Learning God’s Story, the Bible and history are taught together using a time line and chronological Bible stories from Genesis to Revelation. A typical lesson involves me reading the Bible story followed by AJ and CJ notebooking about the story and reading a simplified version in the MFW Bible reader. There are other fun activities planned along the way, such as making a Bible times costume and creating a salt dough map of Israel.
Science is a collection of three Usbourne books – Science with Water, Science with Plants, and Things Outdoors. Every week, we read the pages in the book about a topic, enjoy books from the book list in the back of the teacher’s manual, and do 1-2 activities with the lessons. Some of the activities are in the Usborune books and some are in the teacher’s manual. For example, our weekly topic last week (scheduled along with Noah in the Bible/history) was rainbows. We read about rainbows in the Usbourne book, checked out several suggested library books on rainbows, and made a liquid rainbow in a quart jar from various colored liquids with different densities and properties.
Just a technical note for those who may be interested in using MFW – AJ is in 2nd grade and CJ is in 1st grade, which means I should be doing Adventures in US History with AJ and Learning God’s Story with CJ. However, because they are only 14 months apart in age, I decided to keep them together for all subjects (except reading and math) using the first grade program as my base. We will use Adventures in US History next year.
Oh, may I just gush for a moment about my language “curriculum”? I mean, honestly, who gets excited about punctuation, noun usage, and grammar? Though I am the one silently (and sometimes not so silently) correcting people’s grammar, I do not get all that thrilled about explaining the difference between an adverb and verb to a 7-year-old. However, MFW recommends this nice, skinny little book called Primary Language Lessons for Today. (This book was originally published by Emma Serl in 1911; MFW updated it and published their version in 2014.) The book includes picture study (paintings included in book), copywork, poem memorization, oral narration & composition, and dictation. The lessons are delightfully bite-sized and easily adaptable if you have one that isn’t writing well. The approach feels very gentle, but it works!
Learning God’s Story does include phonics and reading, but I did not prefer their approach. It is a very fast-paced phonics approach. While I like the phonetic approach, the MFW first grade did not work for us. We are using Christian Light Education’s (CLE) Learning to Read program. Both AJ and CJ are using this, but at different levels. (CJ actually began with CLE Kindergarten II program, which only takes 30 days.) I like the way Learning to Read balances phonics and sight words. The readers that go with the books are excellent.
Learning God’s Story also includes math, but again, I did not choose to do their math program. We are also doing CLE math. I like their short lessons with a focus on completing the bulk of it independently.
Since I chose to buy the deluxe package of Learning God’s Story, I use the art and music they suggest. We did lessons from Drawing with Children. We learned an “art alphabet” and few simple drawing techniques. We are now working through a pack of paintings discussing the artists, history, and techniques through the guides from MFW.
For music, we listened to Peter and the Wolf and learned the instruments that portray the characters. We are now learning the 4 families of the orchestra through the same CD. We will end the year with a study of the Carnival of the Animals.
One of my goals this year was to add in some Spanish. I purchased Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids at our state homeschool convention last spring. I only purchased the DVDs, which use an immersion approach. My kids enjoy the DVDs; they do need to be watched over and over to learn the vocabulary. I aim to add a few more structured activities this spring to nail down some basic vocabulary. I’ve heard my 2-year-old, MJ, walking around the house saying “Uno, dos, tres….” so I know learning is taking place!
(Note: The above link has only volume 1. There are 8 volumes total.)
We are using the free version of Spelling City. I download the lists they provide and use their free games, which the boys love. I have them copy the words and alphabetize them sometime during the week and do a weekly spelling test. It’s simple, but effective (and free!)
This semester that one was easy because a PE class was offered at my homeschool co-op. That class ended this month, and now I need to think about PE activities for the spring.
I am not a fan of structured preschool with young children, but my “littles” (ages 1, 2, and 4) enjoy some mommy-time. I do not use a curriculum for them, but I use the Five in a Row (FIAR) idea. (If you aren’t familiar with FIAR the premise is that you choose a book and read it every day for 5 days. The FIAR manuals include suggested enrichment activities.) I simply choose one of our books from science topic for the week and read it once a day during that week. For example, in the above photo, JJ is illustrating the moon phases with Do-A-Dot markers while we read a fabulous old book called Look at the Moon by May Garelick. We read that book for a week and did this activity as well another simple art project. On days I do not have any activities planned to go with the story, we do a few pages in their "school books" - simple preschool books from Christian Light Education.
That gives you a little peek into what we are doing here during our homeschool hours. I would love to hear your favorite curriculum whether you are a newbie or a veteran at this crazy journey called homeschooling!
Thanks for stopping by my little blog!
We've thought about, dreamed about it, and talked about it for many years. But this year it became a reality - we took a family vacation to Florida! Not to see Disney World, but to see the Gulf of Mexico, alligators, seashells, & lots of other wonders in the Sunshine State.
We left our home state of Pennsylvania on a Friday morning, drove all day, and stayed with family overnight in North Carolina. We traveled all day Saturday and arrived to our destination in Florida on Saturday evening. After a good night's sleep, we were ready to see Florida! We stayed in a vacation house that belongs to some of our family. Nearby, there was a swimming pool we could use for free. On Sunday, we unpacked and spent some time at the pool.
We spent Sunday evening fishing at the beach and splashing in the water. We didn't do a whole lot of swimming at this beach due to the large numbers of jellyfish in the water. On one short walk along the surf, I counted over 30. The boys (with a lot of help from Daddy) did manage to land a few fish, all of which were thrown back into the Gulf. We also found a nice-sized hermit crab in the water.
On Monday, we headed to Myakka State Park - a large state park known for alligators. We saw two alligators from a bridge soon after we drove into the park. We walked a short nature trail, which included a swinging bridge and tower about 80 feet tall. We ended our time there with an airboat ride, which included 27 more alligator sightings & a fascinating tour guide.
The highlight on Tuesday was spending more time fishing at the beach and watching a gorgeous sunset there. We ate a picnic supper on the beach as well.
On Wednesday, Corby took AJ & CJ out fishing early in the morning. JJ, MJ, & EJ and I took a walk and stopped by a nearby fenced lake to look for alligators. We saw a pelican & lots of birds, but no alligators. In the evening, we hiked a nature trail and went out for ice cream.
Thursday was a full day - beginning with an early breakfast & watching the sun rise on the beach. We walked in the surf and collected shells. Some of the best finds were a horseshoe crab (dead & dried by the sun) and a whole sand dollar (that remained whole for approximately 15 minutes after we found it). In the afternoon, I took AJ & CJ to a small zoo while the others napped. We watched a reptile show and bird show. We got to hold a King snake, an alligator, a bearded dragon, and a parrot. We got to pet a skunk, as well as goats and pigs. (Yeah, petting goats was a REAL thrill for us :) We fed turtles, koi, and hand-fed a flamingo! It was quite an exciting afternoon!
On Friday, Corby took AJ, CJ, & JJ out fishing early in the morning. They caught lots of fish and had a fabulous time. We wrapped up our week in Florida with a visit to the #1 beach in the USA - Siesta Keys Beach. The sand was amazing! I'm not actually a beach person at all - I don't care for the gritty sand and squiggly creatures lingering beneath the water's surface (the infestation of jelly fish on the other beach we went to confirmed this fear!) However, the sand at Siesta Keys beach was very different - it was soft and powdery white. The kids played and played in the sand making train tracks, burying each other, and chasing EJ as he crawled around. Then we watched yet another gorgeous sunset - the perfect way to end our Florida trip. On Saturday, we packed up & headed home.
Many people have asked me how I occupied our troop - ages 7, 6, 4, 2, and 1 - on the 18+ hour drive to Florida. What worked for us was a small pouch of wrapped gifts for each child, except the 1-year-old. Half of the gifts were individually wrapped pieces of candy that I stashed away after our local parade. The other half of the gifts were sticker books, silly puddy, pencils, tablets, and coloring books. I also had the oldest three follow a map and color in states as we traveled. We opened these gifts every few hours or when we entered a new state. We also listened to lots of music and audio books. Overall, traveling went very well.
The best part of the trip was the feeling at the end - rested and ready to come home! I wasn't sure how relaxing driving and vacationing with our crew would be, but the Lord blessed us with safe travels and blissfully relaxing time there.
Now it's back to real life again! I realize I've been neglecting my little blog here, and I'm aiming to do a bit better. I do have some homeschool and animal updates from the homestead, so stay tuned!
Our house is a bit quieter these days without 6 puppies reminding us around 6AM that it's breakfast time and PLAY time! For this litter, we decided to do something new and do a "going home" post. For anyone who wanted to participate, we took a picture as they ended their time here at Russell Homestead and began their new journey with their own family. Here are the pictures in no particular order. We say a big "thank-you" to all the families who have welcomed one of our puppies into their home! We wish you many happy, healthy years!
Vanessa from Russell Homestead. Follower of the Lord Jesus, wife of my knight in shining armor, mother of 5 wonderful children, and joint-keeper of the Russell homestead. Thanks for stopping by!
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