Thursday, August 25, 2016

Homeschool Curriculum Picks

It is already THAT time of year again – back to school!  Last year was our first “official” homeschool year for Liam for Kindergarten, and overall I think it went pretty well.  It was definitely a year of trial and error to see a) what works and what doesn’t, b) more about his natural learning style and tendencies and c) a LOT about my teaching style and habits, which, ahem, which were NOT pretty at times.  Last year, I tried to keep the curriculum challenging, affordable and simple, which led me to “piece” together some free curriculum and do a lot on my own, to save money and create custom learning.  I did buy a couple curriculum sets, like Math and History, but overall I left a lot of subjects to creating my own studies.  While I have the best intentions and get excited about custom tailoring curriculum to exactly what I want each day, it left me quickly burnt out, overwhelmed and behind all. the. time.  With a new baby on the way at the end of this year, I knew I needed to change gears and have more complete “pull-of-the-shelf” type curriculum so we could stay on track and minimize prep time each day.  Because let’s face it, I will have about 0 minutes of extra time to do much come December!

Our first FULL week of schooling will be next week, but we have started back with a routine, and adding a couple new subjects and workbooks in each day so Liam can get a feel for the layout and structure of the curriculum.  I have also started using the spiral notebook method of scheduling so Liam knows what he is to get done each day, and it is working wonderfully!  I have even adapted it for myself, so I can prioritize tasks that I need to accomplish each day, for work and home.  You can read more about the spiral notebook method here
So, for FIRST GRADE, here are my curriculum choices for Liam this year:

Bible: This year, I chose to work through a couple of the P31 Ministry First 5 Bible Studies as our bible lessons.  Each study is about 8 weeks long, so I plan on studying Matthew during the fall semester, along with a short study on Major and Minor Prophets (looking at some of her ideas for this) and then Acts and Romans/Corinthians during the spring.  We used  a couple of The First 5 Studies this past year, and I found them to be wonderful resource for studying the Word by chapter, complete with a study/discussion guide (for purchase) that is fairly simple.  They also have a daily app that has a short devotional that I absolutely love.  I will be doing these studies alongside Liam, which is great accountability to stay in God's Word!

Math:  We will continue where we stopped last year in Level 2 of Making Math Meaningful.  I really love this curriculum, not many people have heard of it, but the author and homeschool family live locally to us.  It really worked well for us and Liam enjoyed it.  Math is his favorite subject (as is mine to teach), and I feel like the foundations in this book are very solid and logical.  It is NOT the way I learned math, but definitely a more useful way to learn it.  I often joke that I’ve become faster doing math in my head just from teaching this method, but it’s true! 

Reading: Liam is already reading very well, and I’d even say well above average for his age.  My focus this year will be on comprehension, since he seems to struggle with that more so than actually reading the words.  He will do daily lessons from this Reading Comprehension Notebook for Second Grade, that I downloaded from TpT {sorry not pictured above, I have not printed and bound it yet!}. We used her First Grade edition last year, and it was a great daily comprehension lesson.  And of course, lots of reading time with books from the local library.

Handwriting:  I chose the A Reason for Handwriting curriculum because it is very similar to how I incorporated handwriting into our schooling last year, by having scripture as copywork, but it’s already done for me.  I like that Liam will be learning a memory verse each week in addition to just practicing handwriting. 

Grammar:  We used a free online grammar website last year which was a great introduction, but again, took some prep to print and organize the lessons (but if you like a free, workbook style grammar curriculum, this one is great!).  This year I decided to do the First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind, Level 1 because after researching numerous grammar curriculum, this one seemed to come highly recommended and was relatively inexpensive.  We have not started this yet, but will add to the rotation next week as we gear up to full school days.

Science and Geography:  I picked up DK workbooks for Geography: First Grade and Science: First Grade to supplement a plan to *hopefully* do some hands on learning, as well as reading books on different topics for these subjects.

Spelling/Phonics:  Liam is on par with knowing all his letter sounds and can sound out words to figure out spelling pretty well at this point.  Our main focus will be to firm up some of the phonics based methods this year, so he has a solid foundation.  I chose All About Spelling I  and Explode the Code, Book 2 to help in these areas.  Last year, again, I used a free online spelling curriculum, which ended up being too much work on my end.  He’s already made a comment the “Explode the Code” is “too easy”, but hopefully it progresses to a more challenging level as we dig more into the spelling lessons.

History:  We struggled with the Mystery of History curriculum last year, but I am going to give it a try again.  I really like the chronological and biblical worldview this curriculum offers, I just have to commit to the time to read the lessons and have time for discussion.

Art and Music:  I plan on incorporating both art and music each once a week during breakfast or lunch in the form of videos.  I found the cutest art videos on YouTube called Art With Mati & Dada, that are perfect for introducing major artists.  Music will be a general study of major composers this year, and I am still working out a few sources to get a plan going on this.  We also will hopefully continue having bi-monthly art lessons with another homeschool family like we did last year.  Since my mom is an elementary art teacher, I have plenty of curriculum to pull from!

There are a few things I also want to work harder at incorporating that we explored last year but gave up on because our life got a little chaotic with the new house, travel, and pregnancy in the spring semester last year.  One of those things is actually having a “Morning Time”.  I decided to keep things very simple and focus those few moments right after breakfast on encouraging and teaching to the heart of my kids.  I am very committed to having the bible as the foundation for my children’s schooling and simply want to start the school day with scripture and prayer EVERY DAY.  Liam and I got into a great habit last fall, reading our bibles each and every morning and I really would love to foster that habit again, selfishly too for myself!  My goal with morning time is to get in the routine of having a short devotional and a character lesson after breakfast.  I will be sharing my Morning Basket book picks soon!

I am also continuing on a “block” type schedule which works well for us.  My youngest, Noah, will be in a 2 day per week Mother’s Day Out starting in September, so I focused more independent work for Liam for those 2 days.  I know that seems like a counter-intuitive choice, but I have trouble getting work done with my youngest at home (because he is my curious adventurer who loves to get into everything!), so this will allow me 2 days a week to get good chunks of work done (I do bookkeeping for a couple clients from home, and it has been a challenge to carve out enough consistent work time to keep up lately).  That being said, the other 3 days of the week will be more hands on with “teaching”, which I think will be fine given Noah is STILL taking 2 naps a day, and loves to listen to me read, lol.  But as usual, we hold our plans very loosely and really just plan on being flexible at all times!

So that pretty much sums up what we will be doing all year!  I have a refreshed vision for homeschool this year and am excited to embark on the journey again!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Back to Blogging - Catch up post!

So recently I have been feeling those little nudges on my heart to return to blogging.  For awhile, things were going smooth with Liam's health and just having a new baby made finding time to blog difficult impossible!  With a year and a half gone by with no news from us, I will try to keep this update post brief!

To sum it up God has been so so good to us and extremely gracious.  Our life looks almost completely different for us than it was 1.5 years back!  Since then, we are currently PREGO with baby #3 (due in December!), celebrated Liam's 6th birthday, Noah's 1st birthday, rented out our old house, moved in with my parents for 3 months, purchased a major fixxer-upper, renovated completely gutted and revived said fixxer-upper, homeschooled, lost a dear kitty pet =( and the saddest news just recently said goodbye to our family Matriarch, my sweet grandma of 93 years.  Numerous other little hiccups, challenges and changes have occurred, but we are trying to move forward with hope and perseverance, completely depending on God each day!

I've been praying a lot about our recent challenges and frankly, I am feeling exhausted.  It has been hard for me to grasp live in complete abundance of God's goodness to us - with the new house I just can't believe we own, and our new little blessing miracle on the way, with also living with extremely challenging times of change, loss and overwhelming obstacles (a.k.a new house renovations and some work issues thrown on top!).  I know this is a refining time for me and an unusual time of contrasting circumstances.  I feel like my blog and writing in general has always had purpose in my life for contemplating, sharing struggles, being real and providing HOPE to others who may be walking a similar path.

I'm praying God will continue to use this blog to share what He is up to in our life....the good and challenging parts, to encourage, inspire and motivate....even if it's just to do those things for me and have a record of His goodness and love for us!

It's so so good to be back to writing.