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!
Perhaps you are wondering if we’re still homeschooling here at Russell Homestead. It has been awhile since I’ve rambled about what’s going on with the homeschool books. Yes, we’ve been diligently working our way through My Father’s World kindergarten (with only a few days off when the goat kids arrived!) We are hoping to wrap things up before Jolly’s puppies arrive in late April/early May.
So, what have we been up to? Here’s a brief overview.
We learned about frogs while learning about the letter f. Our highlights from that unit were learning the life cycle of a frog, playing leap frog, and making a play dough model of a frog’s life. The lesson for the frog, quite fitting and applicable, was “I use my tongue wisely.” A few photos from our frog unit….
Next, we learned about foxes while learning about the letter x. We learned many, many facts about foxes while reading all about the four kinds of foxes. We compared foxes with dogs since foxes are members of the dog family. We discussed animal habitats and classifying animals. (We used a great free classification resource from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Find it here.)
We just wrapped up a unit on vegetables and the letter v. We read many books all about vegetables and learned the main parts of a plant. We discussed the term “vegetable” and what it really is. I remember learning in one of my college science classes that vegetable is a grocery store term. All vegetables are some part of the plant – the fruit, the stem, the leaves, or the roots. We did do a vegetable & fruit sort using cards from Homeschool Creations because the classification (even if it is just a grocery store term) is important to understand.
The highlight of the vegetable unit for sure was potato stamping. I took sweet potatoes and shaped the ends into a triangle, square, & a flower-like shape. I also left several in circles. Then I turned AJ & CJ loose with the potatoes and plates of paint. Their creations turned out lovely, and they thought it was just the most fun thing ever!
We did lots of other lessons with homeschooling, but between getting back into our goat milking routine & bottle feeding Abe, I didn’t take time to document them all! We are hoping to wrap up school in about 3 weeks.
I’ll close the post with a picture of EJ from yesterday – hard to believe our baby is half a year old already! He was all smiles for me, but wouldn't look at the camera.
From playing the hungry caterpillar to playing migrating to Mexico, there's been a lot of butterfly talk around the house. We studied the letter B and butterflies this past week.
We began the week by mailing our voucher that came with our My Father's World curriculum to Insect Lore for our cup of Painted Lady caterpillars. They are growing so rapidly, but none of them have entered into the chrysalis stage yet. If you are not familiar with Insect Lore, check them out. These caterpillars came in a cup with food already in it. We do not have to do anything until they are in their chrysali. Then we remove the lid (to which they should attach) and put it in the butterfly house to await the miracle of a new butterfly.
We read many, many books about butterflies and learned all about their life cycle. Our favorite craft was painting butterflies on brown paper shopping bags. The instructions in my manual said to cut the bottom off a brown paper shopping bag to get a large rectangle of brown paper to paint a butterfly on. As I was doing it, I almost chopped off the handles, but decided to leave them on. Well, they made such great handles to hold onto while we flew our butterflies all over the backyard & the house this week! I had the boys choose a particular butterfly to paint. AJ chose an Anise Swallowtail, CJ chose a Zebra Swallowtail, and JJ did a Painted Lady. MJ just played with paint & enjoyed being part of the mess!
In math, we talked about symmetry and made symmetrical butterflies out of play dough.
One day we pretended we were butterflies from hatching from the egg, to eating & eating as a caterpillar, to making a chrysalis, & hatching as a butterfly.
All throughout the week, we talked about how God can make us new. Just like the amazing transformation that takes place from a caterpillar to a butterfly, Jesus can doing a transforming work in our lives. We talked about the "old man" and the "new man" as we read 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Thanks for stopping by!
This post is linked to the weekly wrap-up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
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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