I know I’m not blogging much these days (really enjoying the time with our sweet little Clara, who is almost 4 months old already), but I wanted to at least share what we’re using for school this year. (We’ve been back to school for almost seven weeks now). As my kids get older I feel like I’m “fine-tuning” our curricular choices to fit them better, so I wanted to share a little about why we’ve ended up with various items this year in hopes it might be helpful to others. (I’ve read through tons of reviews and blogs to help me come up with things to fit our needs, so I’m guessing others do that too!)
Let me start with Arianna, who is beginning Kindergarten. Being the third child, she has it a lot easier than poor Ian did back when I planned (and revised) his Kindergarten year. She does daily computer lessons on Reading Eggs and Math Seeds, goes through a page in A Reason For Handwriting – A, and then is working through Outdoors and In, the second book in the old Harper & Row Basic Reading Program. (Seriously old school–from the ’60s. I learned to read on these and my mom used them in her Kindergarten classroom for 30 years!) She also tags along for some parts of Bible, literature, and art with the older boys, but other than that, she just plays and learns as she goes about normal life.
4th (and 2nd) Grade
As far as the boys, they are doing almost all their schoolwork together, mostly at the 4th grade level. Ian is “officially” 4th grade this year, and since Elijah (technically in 2nd age-wise) can keep up with him academically on pretty much everything, it’s easiest to just teach them together. Here’s what we are doing:
Bible Road Trip – Year Three and complementary videos
We are reading through the entire New Testament, following the schedule from Bible Road Trip, as well as some of its suggestions for additional study. I printed out all the notebooking pages and had them spiral-bound, but I wouldn’t do that again because we’re not using every page, and we can’t add in maps and such. Still, I really like what notebooking is doing for the boys as far as helping them process and absorb what we have read. Ian is also reading the Upper Grammar literature suggestions, all set during the time of Jesus and the early church.
The curriculum suggests using the videos from the What’s in the Bible? With Buck Denver series, which we love. Additionally, because we have all the Animated Stories from the New Testament videos from Nest Entertainment, I went through and jotted down which weeks they correspond with, and we are watching those during lunch time so our younger kids can enjoy them as well.
Veritas Press Self-Paced Online Courses
The boys are finishing up the Veritas Press Self-Paced Online Course on the Explorers through 1815, which they wanted to do as a supplement to our family study last year. Then in September they will start the final course from 1815 to Modern Times. History is one of my favorite subjects, but since I am trying to be more hands-off this year, I am doing my best to let go and just let these courses be enough. (Well, kind of. See Literature below.)
Teaching Textbooks – Math 5
This will be Ian’s third year and Elijah’s second using Teaching Textbooks. I can’t say enough about this program. The boys enjoy their lessons, they learn well and get lots of review, and all the grading is done for me. I’d say they are about 95% independent in completing their math, just needing me occasionally to help explain something they don’t understand. This was one subject I didn’t have to think about at all when choosing what to do this year.
Student Writing Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing
Two years ago, my boys were a part of a class that went through IEW’s Fable, Myths, and Fairy Tales writing lessons. Then last year at home we went through All Things Fun & Fascinating, and I saw them continue to grow as writers. I hated to see them lose ground this year, but I wasn’t really up to leading them through another book on my own while adjusting to another baby at home. Then I realized I had the materials for the Student Writing Intensive – Level A, which is essentially a writing class on DVD. We are really enjoying watching the lessons taught by Andrew Pudewa, and it is great review of the concepts the boys of already learned in their previous IEW lessons. I am having them write the papers that are outlined or discussed on the DVD, but we are not doing any of the extra writing assignments (at least not at this point) because so far the boys are doing a great job of applying the concepts and my goal is to keep this year as light as possible.
Fix-it! Grammar Book 2 (Robin Hood) from IEW
I really was trying to plan a minimal workload for school this year, but the boys learned so much from their Fix-it! book last year with just a short amount of time each day (done almost completely independently) that I decided to continue with the second book in the series. We don’t do the grammar cards or the vocabulary list, which maybe I’ll regret at some point, but I mainly want them to keep the grammar concepts they learned last year fresh in their minds, so this is an easy way to accomplish that (while adding to it, of course).
Little House series, Chronicles of Narnia, and historical fiction selections
We are about halfway through the second book in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I hope to get through as much of the series as we can complete by Christmas. When we come back after New Years I want to start going through the Chronicles of Narnia.
I also have several of the suggested literature suggestions for their Veritas Press history course (and a few historical selections of my own), which I may have the boys read independently, or else we’ll use them to break up our read-alouds when we need some variety.
I wasn’t really planning to do much with science this year until we planned a trip to the Grand Canyon for this fall. There is so much to learn about the Flood and how it impacted the earth, and the canyon is a fabulous place to observe some of those effects. I have planned our year around various geology videos, particularly the Awesome Science DVD series that takes a look at several National Parks, hosted by a teenager, Noah Justice. The first six episodes have study guides which I have printed out (available as downloads from Answers in Genesis–I got them free on sale), though I’m not sure how much of them I will end up using.
We are also working through some of the Classical Conversations Cycle 1 science sentences (since we’ve never done Cycle 1 and they apply to what we’re studying) and will probably do most of Cycle 3 as well, since that’s what CC communities around the world are working through this year.
Art Class DVDs
Arianna LOVES art, and I had all three older kids take free trial lesson at a local art school to see if lessons might be a good idea. However, the lessons were really expensive, and Arianna didn’t quite have the attention span to sit through a 90-minute lesson. Still, I wanted to give her some sort of instruction to help her develop her gifts, so I looked into a few options. When I came across the Art Class lessons from See the Light, I knew I had found what I was looking for. All the instruction is on DVD. (Do you see a theme this year? I am so thankful for all the video resources out there!) The kids are REALLY enjoying the lessons. We do art once a week, and they look forward to it and beg to do the next lesson out the week in between. (Sometimes we even do two in one session because they want to keep going.)
Ian started making some progress last year using Sequential Spelling, but he was still behind in spelling and I felt he really needed a little bit more instruction than that program offered. He is extremely auditory, and I wanted to find something specifically geared toward auditory learners. After watching Andrew Pudewa’s seminar on Spelling and the Brain for the second time (I watched it last year when I first started getting concerned about Ian’s spelling struggle), I decided to take a break from Sequential Spelling and try IEW’s Phonetic Zoo. We’ve only been using it for three weeks, so I can’t say much about it yet, but I am hopeful about how it might help Ian.
Elijah is blessed with a natural gift for spelling, so I am not having him do any structured program at all. Instead, I am working with him on reading with expression (something Ian does very naturally but Elijah does not). We are going through Shel Silverstein’s poetry in Where the Sidewalk Ends, taking turns reading the poems as expressively as possible. He is also having fun getting back into Spanish on Duolingo.
So that’s what our year looks like! Hope it gives you some ideas if you’re still trying to figure out what to do for your family this year. Blessings.