I wasn’t going to write this post. Really, I wasn’t. I mean, curriculum is such an individual thing. But to be honest, I’ve had a little bit of writer’s block, so I thought maybe writing this would get those more creative juices flowing. And maybe it will help someone else find some inspiration for their curriculum. So, without further ado… Paterson Academy Curriculum Round Up 2018-2019.
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As you hopefully already know I have 3 kiddos in about the equivalent of grades 6, 1, and K. My personal attitude toward education is to cover the basic R’s (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic) through curriculum. Other subjects like history, science, art, etc. we get through a variety of ways including some curriculum, our daily basket, and outside classes. I will lay out our 3 R’s for the Princess and a combined for the Littles and then lay out our extra subjects by subject.
The Princess – 6th Grade:
Reading: If you follow my blog at all, then you know I am a very big fan of Sonlight reading lists. For the Princess we are reading our way through American History. You can find this program here: American History Sonlight 100. As a secular homeschooler, I follow the History & Geography books as well as the Readers/Literature. If you are secular I recommend that you preview the books. While most are secular, there are always a few that are Christian.
I like these books because they are almost always quality reading material, they are often books she would not necessarily choose, and they give her a lot of historical information. I honestly don’t do a lot more than assign her to read the books. I like for her to read an average of 1 book a week, but some of the books (especially the history books) can be long and not as much fun for her. And you know how it goes… when it’s not as much fun she reads slower
Writing: I have a three-pronged plan for writing. First I piecked up a copy of Teaching the Classics on a whim when I went by the local homeschool book store. Wow. Good choice for me. Not only is this a great resource for teaching literature, but also for encouraging writing about literature.
My second plan is to do essay writing. And what better way to do essay writing than to enter essay contests. I will first have her read through the winning essays from past contests to get a feel for what is a quality essay. I don’t care if she wins, but I do think that it’s a good start to studying essays and writing in general.
Last, but not least, I picked up a copy of Can-Do Cursive, Handwriting Without Tears Student Workbook for Older Students Learning Or Mastering Cursive just to beef up her cursive writing. We did cursive a while back, but I thought she could use some practice. Her handwriting isn’t atrocious, but it could definitely be improved. Plus, she kept claiming she couldn’t read my notes because I write in cursive so I wanted to make sure she could read my notes.
Arithmetic: The online program we’ve been using stopped being available as of June 30th which left me scrambling to decide on what next to use. I had picked up a copy of Math Detective and a copy of 6th Grade Math both by Creative Thinking Company last year and they were both pretty good so I decided to give their Algebra a shot. I picked up a copy of Understanding Algebra I to use for the Princess. I am not sure if it’s a good fit or not. We shall see.
The Littles – 1st Grade and Kindergarten:
Reading: So, Little Man is a fluent reader, but the Baby is not, which makes this section a little complicated. Like the Princess I am doing Sonlight readers with the Littles. The difference is that I am reading the books to them. I chose to do Intro to World History for them. Some of the book list is a little simple for Little Man and he could read the books himself, but I decided that we would just fit these into our bedtime reading list. Again, I like that this list is almost always good quality reading and it gives the kids some living history learning opportunities.
For independent reading, Little Man is reading an assigned 20 minutes of various chapter books. Unlike the Princess, he’s not a voracious reader… yet. In hopes of encouraging him to enjoy reading, I first looked up a reading list for 2nd grade boys, then I talked to my local librarian. I was looking for something that was challenging, but would also retain his interest. I picked up some books for him like Nate the Great, Geronimo Stilton Spacemice books, and Star Wars Jedi Academy books. I wanted to try a variety of different books to see what he would enjoy. So far, to hear him tell it, he doesn’t enjoy any of them, but he’s reading them and retelling them so I guess that’s a start.
The Baby is still learning to read so I’m back to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I have found that people either love or hate this book. For us, it works so I love it. It has been more challenging with the Baby than for Little Man, but we’re muddling through and she *is* learning to read.
Writing: Both kiddos are doing Handwriting Without Tears to learn to write. We are currently only doing the basic letter formation books, but HWOT has more books that go into language arts and sentence structure so I think as we move forward we will pick up some of those books. I only assign 1-2 pages per day which is more than enough for their shortened attention spans although some days they both want to do more.
I also picked up 2 copies of Explode the Code 1 to work on phonics, writing, and reading. I didn’t realize that the book was broken into “Lessons” so I was only assigning a couple pages a day, but my friend Sandi showed me how it was broken up and now I’m trying to make sure we do 1 lesson a week. In terms of the reading/phonics this book is way too easy for the Little Man, but he needs the handwriting help and I like that the Littles can do it together.
Arithmetic: Again, I was scrambling for a math program for the Littles since our online program ended. With Little Man not writing, I was really flummoxed on what to use. Ultimately, I decided to go with an old faithful that I used with the Princess. I picked up copies of Abeka Arithmetic 1 and 2 for the Littles. Abeka is NOT secular, but as I’ve said in the past- adding Jesus’ disciples and adding Joe’s friends is the same to me. For the record, Abeka is not filled with religious things. We are not adding Jesus’ disciples. It’s very sweet and colorful with jungle animals and farm animals.
Arithmetic 1 has practice writing the numbers and the Baby enjoys writing so I just let her work through a lesson a day on her own. I do read her the directions, but she can do the work once she knows what to do. Little Man works through Arithmetic 2, reading the directions and doing the math but I am writing the answers. I write what he says even if the answer is wrong, but make him rework the wrong ones. He does all of the simple writing things like circling things or drawing connection lines.
I think a lot of times we, as homeschoolers, can get hung up on these “extra” subjects. I find that unless your child is really interested in a subject, putting a lot of emphasis on trying to get everything in can just be stressful and counterproductive to fostering a love of learning. I think ultimately when we are trying to fit these extra subjects in for the sake of covering them we have in mind these worldly and knowledgeable children. Honestly though, I think that we all gain worldliness and culture through experience much more than drilling historical dates or art genres into our minds.
But anyway, I do try to expose the kids to these extra subjects as much as possible. One way we get a lot of these topics is through our homeschool group’s fall and spring 5 week co-op. There are almost always classes offered on the extra subjects that my kids LOVE.
Beyond that, here is what I do:
Science: I am fortunate to live in an area surrounded by a lot of opportunities for learning. One of our favorite ways to get science is through our local parks system. We joined the Junior Naturalist program through one of our county parks system that requires us to take 2 classes at each of the parks in the system. There are also city parks and several other counties with park systems around us so for our science we are doing a lot of classes. What I really love about these classes is they are usually only a few dollars and they are very interactive learning. We are also doing science classes at the local museums. These can be more expensive, but if you can get a group together the museums will often set classes up for a group at one price that can be split between people to be more reasonable.
We will participate in our homeschool group’s annual science fair this year as well.
History: Of course we learn some history through our Sonlight reading lists, we also enjoy history classes through the local history museum and homeschool days that are sponsored through several of the local historical landmarks/homesteads. We love watching Netflix’s “Who Was” series and Hulu has “Horrible Histories” which is like Monty Python for kids. These shows are entertaining and filled with historical information- some of which is really useless, but great conversation starters.
The Princess is reading her way through A History of Us which coincides with her Sonlight Readers and seems to be a relatively thorough U.S. history program. The Littles are starting Story of the World so this will be my 2nd round of SOTW, but it’s such a good little introduction to history with a lot of great activities if you pick up the activity book. I’ve seen debates on whether or not SOTW is truly secular and honestly, I can’t say. I think it depends on your view of historical truth as it relates to the Biblical stories since Susan Wise Bauer does refer to some Biblical stories as history. Geography is covered in both of these books (A History of Us and Story of the World) so we get some geography there as well as we will participate in our homeschool group’s annual Geography Fair for the 4th year.
Art: I host a monthly Art in the Park for my homeschool group and have been using the Art Explorers book series by Joyce Raimondo which I really like because I think that by studying the techniques and styles of famous artists you can learn to experiment with your own techniques and styles. These books are by artistic genre like Impressionism, Expressionism, Pop Art, etc. and cover a lot of different artists with some great activities to go right along. Younger kids can easily do the artwork at their level and you can add some more instruction for older students.
We also study one artist a month in our daily basket. I was doing one artist a week, but I thought we should spend more time covering the artist so we could get in a little more depth.
Music: The Princess is taking piano lessons from a dear sweet friend and I try to make sure she practices once a day in addition to her weekly piano lessons. Eventually the Littles will do piano as well, but right now they are still too young. We also study one musician a month in our daily basket and I have tried to group musicians into genres per quarter. We’ve already covered classical music and Rock and Roll. The Princess was really interested in Jazz so we started with Jazz and John Coltrane. There is surprisingly few books on teaching Jazz music, the history of Jazz or many of the Jazz musicians for kids so we’re piecing things together from the internet and wherever we can find it. Fortunately, our Amazon dot has access to so much music that we never have trouble listening to the music of our chosen musician.
Any Other Subjects: If any of the kids show a particular interest in a subject I try to set up some kind of learning opportunity for them. The Princess has wanted to learn French for so long and we’ve done it off and on, but I’m always looking for classes and this year I’m looking at online classes through Outschool or Funcation Academy. The kids get plenty of Physical Education with playing at the park and stuff, but the girls are both taking dance classes and the boy wants to do parkour classes.
Between classes and activities we will be staying as busy as always, but hopefully by the end of the school year we will all be smarter. Oh, and I forgot to mention about my curriculum choices that I really love that it’s all portable. The last couple of years with our online programs we’ve been kind of tethered so it will be nice that the kids (especially the Princess) can do school work in the car on the way to classes and activities.
Have you used any of this curriculum? Any words of advice or ideas to make it more fun? What are you using this year? Drop me a line and let me know!