Sunday, May 17, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up....Selecting New Curriculum Materials

This is the wonderful time of year when most families are wrapping up their school years...but we tend to go year-round. Since our homeschooling is student-led, we don't have a good reason to stop, unless Eli decides he needs a break.  Eli actually loves to do schoolwork (?!) and he really enjoys the Montessori-style activities that we offer. However, as the year is coming to an end, it's time to take stock of where we are and make some curriculum decisions. Some of our choices are still working well for us and just need a little tweak, but we are definitely ordering some new materials, too.

For reading, we are going to continue as we are. We don't really use a specific curriculum (though Grandpa occasionally uses Horizons FastTrack C/D with Eli), and I think I'm going to stick with the trade book route we're on. Our public library offers a summer reading program and prize, and I think that will be the bulk of Eli's reading instruction this summer.  The library also rewards kids for keeping a journal of the books the kids have read, so he will get some writing in, too!  I'm actually going to encourage him to keep his journal as a MS Word document, like we did last summer.

However, I'm also looking beyond summer. Since he's now completely finished with the first grade ELA workbook we were using (Disney School Skills), it is definitely time to find something new. We have a first grade SchoolZone book, but he outgrew it before we really got a chance to use many of the activities...most of the material it covers is now too easy for Eli. Since he's now confidently reading at an early second grade level, is able to write his own sentences, and can write words neatly, we decided that a spelling program might be the most beneficial way to continue to build his reading/writing fluency. After researching and looking at reviews for a variety of programs, we decided that Bob Jones University Press's Spelling 2 looks like a fantastic fit for Eli's learning style and ability.  We also love that Bible verses are included as copy work.

Thankfully, we are pretty set for math. We've been using (and love-love-loving) the Life of Fred series. We are still reading through the 'Butterflies' book, and it's working extraordinarily well for us. I will order the next book, 'Cats', soon, as we are quickly moving through this one. I'm still using a couple of supplemental materials (Star Wars Workbooks and Montessori activities/apps) for the concepts that Eli needs to practice (or to give him something to do in the car), but there aren't any major changes that need to happen with our math curriculum.

In social studies, though, even though we are going to continue with 50 States Friday, P and I both think we're ready for a change and that Eli is ready for a little more geography and history than we've been giving him. Especially since we've skimped on social studies so often with our blended approach - we definitely need something a little more structured.  We ended up deciding to use two different resources, one of which is Bob Jones University Press's Heritage Studies 2.  The preview of the book seems to give a nice, simple overview of geography (with beautiful illustrations) and a simple introduction to US History. After reading the sample, I do have some reservations about this selection, but we'll give it a try. The other resource we are going to check out is "History Pockets."  I noticed these little books on someone's blog during the weekly apologies that I don't remember whose it was!  We decided to start with History Pockets:Native Americans, since it aligns well with two other "History Pockets" topics we think Eli would enjoy later (US History and Ancient Civilizations).

Science is another area we feel like we need a change. Eli LOVES science and soaks up information like a sponge.  He has completed almost all of the experiments that came with his SNAP kit, and has been really wanting to do more. He received a general science experiment kit for his birthday that we've used a couple of times, and that we definitely need to use more often. He LOVES Montessori science apps, and they that teach so much: dinosaurs, planets, parts/types of animals/insects, parts/types of flowers, etc. At this point, though, he's showing clear readiness for something a little more structured than we've given him so far. Recently, I stumbled across some science resources on Hoagie's Gifted Page that we found really intriguing. Dr. Rebecca Keller wrote a series of science books to give kids background information and vocabulary in biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and astronomy. After LOTS of discussion, we decided to start with Chemistry Pre-Level 1 and Biology Pre-Level 1.  We were originally going to start with Dr. Keller's books on physics and astronomy, but we think Eli's interest levels and background knowledge are slightly higher for biology/chemistry - not to mention that having basic chemistry knowledge would help him understand topics in physics - like chemical energy. I also have a small microscope that I've been wanting to get out and show Eli...and what a great excuse!

Art and music still tend to be rather laissez-faire around our house, but I'm actually okay with that - partly because we tend to do a lot of it anyway, and partly because I feel like Eli is very much in an exploration phase and I want him to enjoy what he's doing.  We have begun to use Art For Kids Hub as a starting point for many projects, and Eli is a big fan of painting and clay-sculpting. I've started teaching Eli piano a few times, and although this often gets placed on the back burner, Eli learns quickly and doesn't forget much between lessons. He also loves to sing in church choir and to play the hand bells (the church has color-coded ones for kids). The biggest change we might make has to do with the fact that Eli really, really, really wants to play violin...and we have one for him...but I have yet to even attempt to find an instructor in our area.  Is it not ironic that he picked the one instrument that nobody in the family plays?? The summer would be a great time for him to start, I think we're going to try, especially since church choir is on break until fall.

Weekly Wrap-Up

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