We school year-round — with a focus on reading, math and science during the summer — so the timing for finishing one level and beginning another is a bit fluid for us; however, I know I love getting a peek inside other people’s curriculum choices, so I wanted to share our plans for the upcoming school year as well. I’ll share more about how we actually do school — something that has changed fairly dramatically in the last couple of months — next week!
You may remember that I’ve said our educational philosophy is a mix of classical and unschooling, a funny combination, but one that works for us! We also blend resources from Classical Conversations, Sonlight, Peace Hill Press and Apologia, as you’ll see below.
But first, an important note for new homeschoolers. I never would have thought to give this advice on my own, but when we were chatting with Susan Wise Bauer a couple of weeks ago, she said this:
“If you’re pulling your kids out of school for the first time and you’ve got more than one, I always tell parents the best thing to do is to get a curriculum-in-a-box for the first year…The first year needs to be about pulling the kid out of school…The focus has to be on being at home…But you forget that having them at home, that’s your biggest learning curve your first year. So get a curriculum-in-a-box.
When you’re just moving into homeschooling, even if they haven’t been in school, you start with your grammar and your math. And that’s all you do, until you figure that out. Then you add another subject, and then you add another subject.”
I left a ton out, so be sure to click over to see the full transcript here.
This is so very true, and I can see it now, in hindsight, for our family. It’s only now, as we head into our fourth official year of homeschooling (we do two years of kindergarten with our fall babies) that I feel like I truly have a good enough grasp on the pros and cons of various curricula for our family. I’ve been customizing since the beginning, but I wish I’d focused more on establishing rhythms and routines and less on the actual curricula in the beginning. I actually did scale back at the end of this year to really focus on creating those rhythms and routines, and I was able to really evaluate everything more clearly once I did that.
With that said, here’s what we’ll be doing this coming year: (I’ve described what we’ll be doing in each subject and also included a list of all of the resources mentioned to make it easier for those of you who are skimmers, like myself.)
Classical Conversations is both a model and method that focuses on the three stages of the trivium. At the Foundations level (elementary age), we focus on memory work in 7 subjects (timeline, history, math, science, English grammar, Latin and geography) as well as fine arts.
What I love most about this program is that our family will continue to study the same information in a three-year cycle. This means that our kids will be studying the same topics as each other at an age-appropriate level, which makes the idea of homeschooling all four of them in just a few short years a lot less stressful.
We will be attending our CC campus weekly to learn the new memory work as a group, and then we’ll also be drilling that memory work at home and using these Cycle 1 Memory Work Lapbooks from Wisdom and Righteousness as a way to review and organize what we learn. I’ve decided that the three big girls (our third daughter will be joining us at CC this year!) and I will work together on one lapbook rather than creating multiple copies since activities aren’t really my strength and I don’t want cutting out three copies of everything to be the stumbling block that keeps us from doing it consistently.
Twice now Peyton has wanted to do Memory Masters — a program in which a student demonstrates mastery of the memory work by reciting all 24 weeks in all 7 subjects from memory — and we’ve been unprepared for it at the end of the year, so we will be focusing more on week-to-week mastery for both of the big girls so that she (and Dylan, if she chooses) can work toward this again this year.
- Classical Conversations Foundation Guide
- Classical Acts & Facts Timeline Cards
- Memory Work Lapbooks
- Cycle 1 Geography Trivium Table
- Cycle 1 Resources CD
- Cycle 1 Memory Master Flashcards
Reading is an area we’ve struggled with. It hasn’t come easily for our oldest daughter, and we’ve taken a lot of breaks over the years to avoid frustrating her as she learns to read (although looking back, I’m not sure that’s always been the best approach).
However, we are very happy with the Explode the Code program, so we’ll be sticking with that throughout the summer and next year. We also use the I Can Read It books from Sonlight and BOB Books, which I love because they’re really short stories so that beginning readers don’t get overwhelmed. Peyton is now reading through classic I Can Read books like Amelia Bedelia, Frog and Toad and Little Bear as well.
We typically do 2-3 pages of Explode the Code per day, plus 15-ish pages in an I Can Read book (Peyton) or one story in the I Can Read It series (Dylan), and we’ll be continuing those throughout the summer. My four-year-old will start with the Get Ready for the Code book in the fall.
- Get Ready, Get Set, Go for the Code
- Explode the Code
- I Can Read It Series
- BOB Books
- I Can Read Books
- Sonlight Readers (Grade 1 and Grade 2)
I was not a fan of Singapore when we first started using the Singapore Earlybird program, but I stuck with it because the idea of choosing from among all of the other choices was just as daunting as continuing with the one we had.
I’ve come to appreciate the program, and so we’ll be using it next year as well — the Singapore Earlybird program for our new kindergartener, although I expect that it will take us two years to get through that since we’re pretty laid back about it at the beginning, Singapore 1B & 2A with our soon-to-be 1st grader and Singapore 2A & 2B with our oldest.
This summer, we’ll be reviewing basic math concepts with the Life of Fred books, which I first read about on Simple Homeschool. I think these books will really resonate with our oldest, who much prefers stories and ideas to workbooks.
Confession: I hadn’t even thought about language arts until last year. In my defense, we started out with Sonlight’s Language Arts program, which marries reading and language arts, and when we dropped that, I just kind of missed the part about adding another language arts program in.
Fortunately, I realized it before my kids were totally ruined (wink!), and we quickly got back on track, especially since Peace Hill Press, who makes our current language arts curriculum, doesn’t even have a kindergarten program. Whew.
I asked on Facebook last year about language arts, and I received a lot of responses recommending First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise. I originally purchased the PDF copy of both First Language Lessons 1 and Writing with Ease, but I do not like working with a PDF at all. However, I picked up a review copy of First Language Lessons 1 and 2 — the real thing — when I was visiting Peace Hill Press, and I much, much prefer the actual book. I just find it easier to work with than loose pages in a binder.
There are a few things I love about this program: 1) It’s sweet. With classic rhymes and poems sprinkled throughout, as well as beautiful paintings, it’s just a really quaint, almost old-fashioned program, and I love that. 2) The lessons truly are bite size. The kids aren’t expected to memorize the definition of a dozen parts of speech the first week; instead, we circle back to previous lessons again and again, drilling the memory work and seeing what it looks like in real life. 3) While it may be quaint and easy to digest, it still places a very strong emphasis on the importance of the various parts of language arts — grammar, punctuation, word usage, capitalization, etc., which makes me confident that it’s laying a strong foundation for my girls.
In addition to First Language Lessons, we use the model outlined in Writing with Ease for our narration, copywork and dictation. Rather than purchasing the separate activity books, we simply follow the program for whatever we’re reading at the time, throwing in a generous amount of “art journaling”, where the girls draw as I read, as well.
For now, after using various handwriting programs inconsistently, we’re also using that copywork as our handwriting practice.
- First Language Lessons 2
- The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease Instructor Text
Last year I planned to use CC history alone and supplement it with outside resources, but I struggled to find enough to supplement each week. (This is a reflection of our tiny town library and my inability to get there weekly and not the availability of such resources in general.) This year I’ll be taking a slightly different approach, using Story of the World Volume 1 and supplementing both history programs with books from our personal home library and the county library as I’m able.
Classical Conversations includes both weekly history sentences set to song (for example, our favorite last year was, “Between the 1920s and 1930s more than 37 million immigrants came to America seeking freedom and the possibility — cha ching — to increase their personal wealth.”) and a 161-event timeline spanning the world and the ages.
Story of the World is an engaging history narrative, and our oldest daughter has listened to the MP3 versions of all four volumes so often that she can recite them from memory. This year, we’ll be reading them together and doing some (but not all) of the activities outlined in The Well-Trained Mind as well as in the Story of the World Volume 1 Activity Book to really dig deeper. We may also add in this Story of the World Volume 1 lapbook, but I haven’t decided if I want to take that on or not yet!
When I was in Williamsburg touring Peace Hill Press and meeting Susan Wise Bauer with a group of bloggers, we also discovered a very cool resource, Famous Figures of Ancient Times, which allows you to actually cut out and create movable figures for reenacting events from history and more. Susan was gracious enough to let us all have a copy of that as well, and I can’t wait to pull it out to show the girls (I’ve been holding off because I know they’ll want to do them all right away!).
- Story of the World Volume 1
- Story of the World Volume 1 Activity Book
- Story of the World Volume 1 Lapbook
- Famous Figures of Ancient Times
- Suggested Cycle 1 Resources
- Sonlight History/Geography Read-Alouds (Core A and Core B)
- **There are also suggested resources at the back of the SOTW Activity Book
Science is the subject that comes easiest for our family — we love to explore nature, talk about what makes things grow, conduct experiments and more. In fact, I recently reorganized our home library after I purchased some new books for the year, and science books are by far the most prevalent. The science included in the CC program, including a weekly science experiment when we meet as a group, could easily stand on its own, and since we do have so many science books (which are a favorite among the girls anyway) and spend so much time talking about science topics normally, I don’t worry too much about formal science during the school year.
However, we’re trying something new this summer, and we’re working our way through Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy. We use the accompanying Junior Notebooking Journal for the activities and schedule, but the girls actually write the activities in their science notebooks instead so that we can keep the Notebooking Journal to be used with the younger girls too. I actually really like the way this is working because we don’t feel as rushed each day to get it done and move on to something else, and it also gives us a fun topic to study for summer, so our plan — for now — is to stick with the “summer of science” format, really focusing on science when CC takes a break for the year.
- Robert E. Wells Science Series
- Let’s Read and Find Out Science
- Usborne Beginners
- Sonlight Science Read-Alouds (Core A and Core B)
We have not, regrettably, found a great rhythm for Bible work, although I think we may be getting there with some recent changes we’ve made. We use Telling God’s Story from Peace Hill Press, occasionally adding in the activities from the Activity Book and more often reading the same story from various Bibles and Bible storybooks in our home.
We’re also reading through God’s Names by Sally Michael, which is really a great Bible study book!
- Telling God’s Story
- Telling God’s Story Activity Book
- God’s Names
- The Jesus Storybook Bible
- The Children’s Illustrated Bible
- 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible
We don’t ever read all of the read-alouds that come with a single Sonlight core, and that’s not really my goal anyway. The girls have plenty of time to read those books on their own (the picture books and easy readers now and the other books as they become stronger readers), so my goal is really to fill our home with great books and choose our read-alouds from that collection.
My main goal with read-alouds this year is to not neglect some of our favorite stories from years past, which the little girls haven’t ever heard, in favor of the new read alouds. I need to find a balance between chapter books and younger story books, because I want to cultivate a love of reading in my younger two as well.
- Sonlight Read-Alouds (Core P3/4, Core P4/5, Core A and Core B)
That looks like a lot, but I’ll share more about how this actually looks in practice (or how I envision it looking!) next week, because we’re actually fairly laid back homeschoolers.
Have you posted about your curriculum choices for the coming year? Feel free to leave the link in the comments!