Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Curriculum Fair Plans - Part Two

I got started yesterday by reviewing what Spencer has worked on this school year and what we plan on doing next year.  These are the things we've used this year for Landon and Kennady:

Alpha Omega Lifepacs Language Arts (Grade 6 for Landon, Grade 4 for Kennady) - It looks as though we are going to stick with the Lifepacs for all our Language Arts/English until these kids graduate, doesn't it? And why not - as the saying goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" ;-) We have been successful with the Lifepacs thus far and since we're familiar with them (and own all the teachers manuals!) I think it's likely we'll stay with it. I like that they are "all-in-one" courses - at these grades they include spelling, handwriting, grammar and punctuation, literature, poetry, creative writing, and research writing - so it's not necessary to supplement with anything else. (which doesn't mean we don't, just means I wouldn't have to!) Both kids can manage their own time with the Lifepacs, and the self-tests help them do their own review and preparation for the tests. Of course there are units they like and some they are less fond of, but overall I hear very few complaints and see good grades, and I am confident they are covering everything they need at their grade level. I purchased Grade 7 and Grade 5 Lifepacs MONTHS ago and they are all ready to go for next year.


Caution: Writing in This Book Might Be Fun! (boys edition for Landon, girls edition for Kennady) from Schoolhouse Publishing - I found these creative writing prompt books last year at the curriculum fair and thought they would be fun, just as the title suggests! We haven't used them much at all to this point - they are one of the "supplements" mentioned above! - but my plan is to have Landon go through the boys edition as soon as he is finished his Language Arts units, which will happen in the next week or so; and to have Kennady work through the girls edition in the next school year.

Research in Increments from Schoolhouse Publishing - this is another find from last year's curriculum fair, and I have used it as a research paper guide for both Spencer and Landon this year. They haven't worked through the book from cover to cover, but instead I've referred them to the steps and instructions on certain pages as they've needed to write papers assigned in other subjects. When Kennady did her first "real" research paper on snow leopards awhile ago (see my how-to post here) we used the guidelines and instructions from this book. This is very versatile book, since just in our family it's been used for a fourth grader, sixth grader and high school student. It will be staying on the shelf of current schoolbooks to be used whenever needed until all my students have graduated. It's gems like this one (and the creative writing books) that keep attracting me back to curriculum fairs even though I supposedly know what I'm using for the next school year!

Modern Curriculum Press Math - We have been using MCP's math workbooks from first through sixth grade since Harrison started school, and this is another area where I'm probably going to stick with what I know at this point. Landon finished the Grade 6 book (Mathematics F) in less than a semester, and had only one chapter in it that was a bit rough, so he has already moved on the Saxon Math 8/7 and is about a quarter of the way through that. Obviously that's what he'll be working on next school year. Kennady struggled with Math the last couple of years and so we really took our time with it. She started this school year a grade "behind" in math - so we cruised through the Grade 3 Mathematics C book in the first semester, and she is now a bit more than halfway through the Grade 4 Mathematics D book. I was hoping that since the proverbial lights were coming on for her that we would get through all of the Grade 4 book by the end of the school year, but I guess it's a bit ambitious to do two grades in one year, even if it's catch-up! I think she will probably keep working on this book through the summer, so she can start Grade 5 math in September, but that's not written in stone. After all, one important benefit of homeschooling is the ability to work at the pace that's best for each child in each subject. Kennady is doing a great job and getting "caught up" but I'm perfectly okay with setting aside the workbook in favor of getting those math facts really solid for her so she can rattle off times tables without getting stuck and confused, if that's what she needs. And I think maybe it will be, because division is still somewhat of a mystery to her. Then if we need to review and finish a couple chapters of the Grade 4 Math before going on to Grade 5 in September... so be it. I'm cool with that.  And we'll watch Multiplication Rock over and over...

God's Design for Chemistry and Ecology - I have become a real fan of the "God's Design" science series since I first started using them. We've previously used these versatile texts for studying zoology, botany, geology, meteorology, and physics - wow! This year I had acquired the three-book subject set for chemistry and ecology, and we've worked through two of them. (well, we have about 4 lessons left in the second book...) In first semester, we studied Properties of Atoms and Molecules, and we are now finishing up the study of Properties of Matter. The books are so easy to use and teach from, great for teaching more than one grade at a time, and very adaptable. We don't do every experiment and activity in the books, but we do most of them, and I really appreciate that the activities are usually not overly time-consuming, and they use easily obtainable materials - almost always things that I already have in my home. It's all presented from a Biblical worldview, and there's lots of practical and everyday applications as well. My plan for next year's science is to do the third book in the set, Properties of Ecosystems, and then do a further study on ecology and biomes from a MasterBooks text I already own, titled Exploring the World Around You. I have several of the Master Books titles that I've used over the past years for sciences and unit studies, and my kids have really enjoyed them.

Around the World in 180 Days - This year is the second time I've worked through ATW, though this time I am doing it with only Landon and Kennady. We spent the last two years doing American history, so this year I wanted to stay out of North America for awhile! ;-) I divided the ATW study guide into two parts and this year we studied Africa, Australia and Oceania, and Asia. Next year we will study Europe and the Americas. By spreading out the course over two years, we are able to take more time wherever we would like and we don't feel rushed. We concentrated on the geography and history aspects of the study and I didn't do much with the current events section at all. We used plenty of books along the way, did some read-alouds, did some research, and I also referred often to my copy of Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students, and we tried to choose a few representative recipes to try for most of the world regions we studied. (I posted a full review of our History/Social Studies resources on January 28) We also did related art projects from....

Geography Through Art - I tied in the art lessons in this book to our ATW social studies, and was very pleased with the art Landon and Kennady turned out. Kennady is definitely more interested in drawing and painting than Landon is, but he was a pretty good sport. Most of the art projects suggested in this book are very accessible, we had success with almost everything we tried, even though I am not an artist myself. We even used this book for most of our ideas for the Art & Geography class I taught with a friend at the spring co-op this year. This book will be coming back next year as well, so we can try the art projects for Europe and the Americas.

Route 66, Bible curriculum from PositiveAction (Landon, Grade 6) - I loved the look and feel of this 'travel guide' through the Bible that I found at last year's curriculum fair and have been quite pleased with it. It's an overview of the Bible, going through the sixty-six books and hitting the highlights of each, exploring the authors and the history and background of each book, as well as the main lessons and key ideas of each. The drawback has been that I opted not to get the Teachers Edition, and there were many times when it would have been a great help to have it. I didn't buy it for a number of reasons. It was expensive. It contained a large amount of teaching helps designed for classrooms (reproducibles and presentations). And I figured - it's a Bible curriculum, so we should be able to find the answers in the BIBLE. For the most part, yes we could. But there were a few places where the student book said to get the information from what the teacher would present, which was apparently in the teachers edition, or where the specific words and phrases that would fill in the blanks correctly would have been in the teachers edition and we had to just take our best guess. All the materials that PositiveAction produces are so visually appealing and in my opinion, very high quality, but they really are designed for classroom use - Sunday Schools or Christian schools, or maybe for a co-op class setting. My advice to PositiveAction would be to produce a paperback pared-down version of the Teachers Edition that would give the answer key and the required background information referred to in the student books, but leave out the classroom materials. I believe a lot of homeschoolers would love these materials if they could get a teachers edition that was smaller, more affordable, and didn't have all those extras designed for a class of 20 students. I know I would. (and I did pass on the product catalog to our youth pastor, so these products could be considered for our Sunday School and youth departments at church). But for our home use, I have the Lifepac Bible 7 for Landon to use next year.

Lessons in Responsibilities for Girls - Home Ec for Kennady - Kennady really wanted to learn cooking and sewing, so I hunted long and hard for a HomeEc course designed for homeschool use. I found plenty for high school level students, and found some sewing project books for younger girls, but this book from Pearables was one of only a tiny number of Home Ec type books that I found that was designed for young girls. We have had lots of fun with this book. My mother was here visiting in the fall, and she taught Kennady the sewing units, which was a special time for both of them, and Kennady went above and beyond the things taught in the book. She designed and sewed her own hand-quilted wall-hanging (see it in my October 23 post) and I think she's caught the quilting bug. ;-) We spread the cooking projects out over the school year and had great success with most of the recipes in the book. There are still several lessons remaining on general housekeeping and cleaning topics, so maybe I will learn something new - or at least be motivated to do better as a Suzy Homemaker - as we finish out the year with those lessons.  This was the Level Two book, and there is one for Level Three, so I may pick that up for use next year. Since Landon and Kennady both took a cooking class at co-op this spring, we just started something new at home - having each of them take a turn one night a week being "in charge" of dinner. We have to be flexible because of schedules, but so far it's been working out okay, and may just work me out of a job, which would suit me FINE. 8-)

What's new for next year - I have my eye on an Art book that I'd like, and I already own a Music History book that we may use next year. Kennady and I are trying to be more disciplined about piano lessons, so I'll take that into consideration as well. We have Switched-On-Schoolhouse Spanish at all levels, so there's that possibility also. Thankfully though, I don't NEED to buy anything for these two for next school year other than Kennady's math workbook! One thing I've learned over the years is not to be too ambitious in what I think we will do when I start lesson planning. On paper it's easy to fit in Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies every day plus Spanish and Bible and Fine Arts, and maybe some piano lessons, and after all gym class is just once a week.... but in the real world, my kids don't get up at the crack of dawn and I don't run a tight enough ship that we're REALLY going to get through all that stuff every day. Since my Social Studies curriculum already incorporates Art, I really don't need to do another Art class, for example. So while there are so many things I'd love to do, I also do a reality check and try to stick to the basics and add only a manageable amount of extras that we will get some enjoyment from.

Wow, that was really long!!


Giggly Girls said...

I love buying curriculum!! The wallet not so much...sigh. lol

This Blog Needs A Title… » Blog Archive » Weekly Wrap-Up: In Which I Am Somewhat Convention-al said...

[...] about the chemistry of flavors - yummy lesson! I reviewed all our current curriculum (Part One and Part Two) and made my decisions about what I’d be searching for at CHAP. I attended on Friday, which [...]

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