I’ve had a lot of requests for a homeschooling update lately. Since the school year is wrapping up, it seems like the perfect time for one.
2017-2018 has been an exciting year watching the kids grow and learn. It’s also been a challenge because from November through March I was mostly out of of commission due to hyperemesis gravidarum during this pregnancy (it’s another little girl due this summer and we’ve already picked out a name!).
So my illness meant four months of the school year that anything that required energy from mom just didn’t happen. I was concerned that everyone would fall behind but miraculously, it turned out just fine. And we already do school in the summer because it’s so hot outside that I figure why not do some math catchup between trips to the pool? Otherwise we’d just be sitting around in the house staring at each other!
Our Original Curriculum Plans for 2017-2018
-3rd grade boy
-1st grade girl
Our homeschooling method is VERY laid back. We’re of the opinion that young children naturally love to learn and our job is to nurture and guide their God-given curiosity and thirst for knowledge. So we don’t push the structured school time for very little ones because “school” is woven into the rest of our lives.
With each passing year, we have to add a little bit more structured school time as the kids get older, but we really do this gradually. Before first grade all we do is read alouds. In first grade we add math (and handwriting if there seems to be readiness). In second grade we add geography and history. The 3rd grader added Latin this year. And everybody participates in art, music, and poetry.
I thought I’d just share an update of our plans and then what actually happened by subject. Ok, here we go!
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I like starting out with Singapore Math (1A and 1B) in 1st grade so that’s what we’re doing with (almost) six-year-old Lucy.
Our oldest was not a fan of Singapore in 1st grade and due to his strong choleric temperament, getting him to sit down with a workbook was like pulling teeth so we switched to Life of Fred which he loves.
It’s written as a narrative and Benjamin really enjoys reading each chapter. Then we do the short practice section together so I know he understood the content. But since Benjamin raced through a ton of Life of Fred books last year, I could tell he needed a little more practice than LoF offers to really nail division and some other skills so we completed the 3rd grade Singapore workbook this year and that did the trick.
So to sum up:
3rd grader: Singapore (He’s all done! We’re going to pick back up with Life of Fred for the summer and see if we need the 4th grade Singapore book or if LoF will suffice since he likes it better.)
1st grader: Singapore (Lucy isn’t done with her math this year, mostly because we lost the book when I was too sick to deal with finding it but she’s back in a groove again and is about 70% done and will finish over the summer. While the math concepts have been smooth sailing for her, she’s not as confident a reader as Benjamin was in 1st grade and has needed more help reading the instructions than he did. Every kid is different!)
Preschooler: no math this year, but I think she’ll be ready for 1A/1B next year. She’s so determined to keep up with her older siblings that I might just have her skip Kindergarten. Not that the labels really matter because we’re homeschooling!
Because my 3rd grader is super internally motivated and already loves to read for pleasure, I don’t make reading part of our “schooling.” It it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! I do enjoy reading aloud to all three kids so we make that part of our days.
For preschoolers, I really love the Catholic preschool curriculum Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven by Sarah Park because the picture book lists in it are worth the price of purchase. I go to this book first when I’m ordering books from the library.
I don’t think anyone’s ever too old for GOOD picture books, but a couple of years ago we added chapter books to the mix, particularly for bedtime reads. I did not write down all the books we read together or listened to as audiobooks this year because my brain has been scrambled eggs this pregnancy. But here’s a few I can remember:
- the Molly American Girl books with the girls at bedtime
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater with the girls at bedtime
- The Green Ember by S.D. Smith with Benjamin
- Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl with Benjamin.
- Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne with everyone
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame with everyone
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott with everyone as an audiobook
- Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (haven’t finished this one yet, but about halfway through and it’s very summery so now is the perfect time to pick it back up!)
- Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder with everyone as an audiobook
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
- Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George
On his own the 3rd grader read or listened to and really enjoyed:
- At the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
- North or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
- A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
- ANYTHING Roald Dahl. He just devoured his books this year.
He also really likes reading books on Greek and Norse mythology (more classic re-tellings or modernized series like the Percy Jackson books), lots of non-fiction books about animals and farming, and OF COURSE, Calvin & Hobbes.
Here’s a few we haven’t gotten to yet that I want to read aloud or listen to with the kids over the summer:
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Read Alouds/audiobooks from other years:
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
- Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
- Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls by Caryll Houselander
- The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- The Felicity books
- The Kirsten books
- The Addy books
- The Samantha books
- The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
- The Trumpet of the Swam by E.B. White
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
- Secret of the Shamrock (Chime Travelers) by Lisa Hendey
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
If you’re interested, you can read about our favorite authors and favorite picture books. We’re also very into audiobooks. I came up with a big list of audiobooks we especially love and where to find good audiobooks (and free ones!)
We use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann to teach our kids to read. Highly, highly recommend.
Now that the first grader is able to read on her own, we got some Bob books for her to practice with and she loves them.
So to sum up:
3rd grader: Read alouds, reading chapter books on his own
1st grader: Read alouds, 100 Easy Lessons (finished it this year!), Bob books
Preschooler: Read alouds, 100 Easy Lessons (60% done and will finish this summer!)
Two years ago we added handwriting to our curriculum. Benjamin had been resistant to practicing handwriting to we put it off for an extra year and I’m glad we did. We started out with Handwriting Without Tears, the first grade level even though he was in second grade. He whizzed through it and we did second grade, too and started on third grade (cursive) this past summer. It was definitely worth it to wait an extra year until he seemed ready and he caught up just fine.
3rd grader: Handwriting Without Tears (cursive) He’s all done!
1st grader: Handwriting Without Tears (printing) Done!
Preschooler: Handwriting Without Tears (preschool) Done!
Story of the World audiobooks — We loved Ancient World and we started Medieval last year, but skipped some of the anti-Catholic sections that gave very biased accounts of the Reformation. We started Early Modern and were almost done when it was due back at the library. Will finish it this summer because it was fascinating! You can also get Story of the World as a print book but I prefer the audiobooks.
For American history we watched Liberty’s Kids.
To sum up:
–All three kids: Story of the World and Liberty’s Kids (almost done with Early Modern SOTW and finishing this summer)
We planned to start doing formal science this year by adding Astronomy (from Memoria Press) and supplementing with D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. Benjamin loves the Myths book and we read aloud from it as well, but we haven’t even cracked open the Astronomy so that will be a summer project. But I’ll explain later why I’m not too concerned and why science actually did happen this year.
To sum up:
3rd grader: Astronomy, Greek Myths (Mom totally failed in even starting Astronomy–bumping it to a summer project or to next school year)
1st grader: Greek Myths read alouds
Preschooler: Greek Myths read alouds
We participate in a Catholic homeschool co-op that offers Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for the girls and some enrichment classes for Benjamin’s grade. This year he did P.E., geography, and nature drawing.
To sum up:
3rd grader: P.E., Nature Drawing, Geography, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd II (for ages 6-9)
1st grader: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Preschooler: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
The kids do some faith formation with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, but a lot of our “domestic church” instruction goes along with reading the daily Mass readings together around the breakfast table and discussing as a family (especially with Daniel’s knowledge since he studied so much about Biblical languages and religion in college). We also read picture books about the saints and as a family we’re currently reading Saints and Social Justice by Brandon Vogt.
I’ll do a full post on this another time, but Benjamin (age 9) really wanted to dive in to some apologetics–he is SUPER analytical and giving him the right resources has been essential for his faith life. So on nights when Daniel works evening shifts, Benjamin and I snuggle up and read apologetics on the coach after the girls fall asleep. I was pointed in the right direction by my friend Brandon Vogt as to what books would he helpful for Benjamin after Christy interviewed Brandon about apologetics on this episode of the Fountains of Carrots podcast. Not every 9yo needs to dive into extensive apologetics, of course, but apparently my precocious little guy really needed that foundation for his faith life!
This probably Benjamin’s least favorite subject, and we didn’t push it much this year. But now that he’s tackled a lot of handwriting skills, it’s a bit easier for him than in the past. But it’s like pulling teeth.
The girls on the other hand would sit next to me ALL DAY asking me how to spell things and writing notes and stories. I ordered some IEW writing curriculum that I’m going to try out with Benjamin this summer. Thankfully, I feel like our Latin that I’ll discuss below has helped SO much with understanding English composition. It taught him all the parts of speech and made structuring sentences make a lot more sense. He’s a naturally good speller (I honestly think spelling is one of those either you’re good at it or you’re not things) so we haven’t bothered to do any spelling curriculum.
To sum up:
3rd grader: some composition, emailing grandparents
1st grader: none
All the kids love learning poetry! Last year we memorized some Robert Louis Stevenson and Hillaire Belloc poems.
This year trusted friends recommended The Harp and Laurel Wreath by Laura Berquist which is a collection of TONS of poems for the early years through high school. It will last us forever! We didn’t get to do as much of this as I’d hoped this year, to be honest.
All three kids: Harp and Laurel Wreath
This year I added Simply Charlotte Mason picture portfolios. I got three of these beauties (Fra Angelico, Giotto, and Botticelli). And I do these together with all three kids.
This was really a highlight for me, SO FUN to do together. We completed our Giotto study and are partway through Fra Angelico. Botticelli (my favorite!) will have to wait for this summer.
This was our first year adding Latin to our curriculum (also from Memoria Press) for our 3rd grader.
I got the workbook that came with the instructional video and REALLY liked it. I took Latin in college but didn’t have the energy (or memory) to feel confident teaching it. So the video was DREAMY. Benjamin is almost done with the curriculum and we will definitely use Memoria again for Latin next year. He didn’t love doing the workbook but he has learned a LOT.
I didn’t plan to do anything structured for music this year but I found this awesome Memoria book that comes along with a Spotify playlist of important compositions. We just listen to a song or two a week along with the short informational section in the book about the piece and the composer.
I discovered a few important things like my kids had never heard of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Oops. The girls have also joined in with the children’s choir that rehearses after the Latin Mass when it works for our schedule to attend (we always go on Saturday nights and sometimes TLM is on Sundays and not a Vigil Mass).
With Daniel’s new schedule that is just SO GOOD for our homeschooling work-from-home family, there’s been plenty of time during the day to work with the kids in the garden.
From choosing seeds, planting and growing seedlings in the greenhouse, to making garden beds and planting the seedlings in the rows, watering, weeding, harvesting, and cooking them the kids have learned a TON this year. In fact, I’m sure they know more about the whole process than I do because I usually do writing projects when the rest of the fam is happily busy in the garden.
Here’s a tour of the whole backyard farm they have going on in case you missed it earlier this week!
Apparently, Benjamin dived into a book I gave him (The Way Things Work) when I was incapacitated with HG and taught himself some basic physics. I discovered this when he gave me a detailed explanation of the different classes of levers and how they all work. Pretty sure he knows more physics than I do now. So I’m not too worried about our failure to fill out science workbooks this year. I think what ended up happening was much better!
Gwen joined in with the big kids at Jiu Jitsu this year. We go 4 days a week (it’s offered 5 days but usually we miss for some reason or other once a week) and they’re getting great instruction, gaining some “classroom” skills, improving their focus and attention, and getting a lot of energy out. I am not a fan of overscheduling young kids or being in the car all afternoon so everybody going ONE place with back-to-back classes is really working for us. Also, I’m really enjoying the thought of how equipped my kids will be in self-defense by the time they leave for college (if they continue training, of course). I love that Jiu Jitsu focuses on “smart” moves rather than just strength/size so that even my elven child, Gwen who is basically Thumbelina, could take down a much bigger person if she ever needed to.
The Year in Review:
So it wasn’t perfect. We didn’t do “school” every day. For a few weeks when I really couldn’t get out of bed due to the HG pregnancy sickness the kids watched way too much Netflix. But all-in-all, I would call it a successful year!
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