Friday, March 9, 2012

Curriculum Review

We are starting to finish up some subjects for our school year and I'm starting to buy the books we need for next year. That means it's time for another curriculum review!

To back track a little bit: Sierra is 7 and in 2nd grade, she does a mix of 2nd and 3rd grade workbooks with mostly 4th and 5th grade reading. Sedona is 4 and in pre-K, she has a completely child-led day.

I definitely had a better understanding of what I was doing this year. Unlike last year, there is nothing we used this year that I want to ditch completely. Here is a run down of what we used and what I liked or didn't

Evan Moor Spelling: These spelling lists and daily activities are still working pretty well for Sierra. I added in some extra hands on activities to help her practice her words each week and it's a little hit and miss on whether she wants to do those or not. She is a competent speller for her age, but it definitely does not come easy for her. This is one area that frustrates both of us. Her, because she has to work at it, and me because she often deliberately chooses NOT to work at it. When I average our her scores on the tests all year, she ends up with an 84 overall. Frankly, that's good enough. I struggled with spelling when I was her age and I'm trusting it will come with time. I've been encouraging her to write stories to help that along.

Handwriting: I have been using this free handwriting worksheet generator for both girls. For Sierra, I use character building quotes and make them 3/8 inch. I have her trace and then also write them again on her own. For Sedona, I make up sentences that she can read and make them 3/4 inch. After I started running out of ideas for quotes to use I realized I am not going to want to redo this for each kid, so I started saving the original in a 3 ring binder and making a copy for them to use. This way I already have them made up for little sisters down the road. Sometimes we do handwriting every day and sometimes we only do it 2 or 3 times a week, it depends on what else is going on that week.

Evan Moor Geography: Sierra does these once a week (covers the whole week at one time). She LOVES them. At some point I may branch out and specifically focusing on teaching her capitals and things like that, but she already knows all the states, can label them all on a map, knows all the continents, and can find quite a few countries on a globe, so I'm not too worried. I may let her work through the next book over the summer and do more social studies activities next year, I'm not sure yet.

Evan Moor Grammar and Punctuation: Sierra also does these once a week by covering the whole week at one time. She does really well with these worksheets. She picks up most of the concepts quickly on her own. Every once in a while I have to sit down and really explain something to her because it's not clear from the explanations in the book.

Teacher Created Resources Editing Practice: This is a small book I picked up at a local teacher supply store. I have Sierra do these once a week and I call it "Fix It Friday". It's just a little extra practice on the grammar rules she's learning. As she gets through learning the basic grammar we'll transition away from the learning worksheets and incorporate more editing.

Right Start Math: We stuck with Right Start this year and it has been great. Sierra had a lot of frustration last year because she had learned to really rely on counting in her kindergarten class. She was really resistant to getting away from that. This year she is a whole different kid. There are still some skills that are frustrating for her, but overall it has come so much easier for her this year and she even says math is one of her favorite subjects sometimes. She is doing Level C (2nd grade) this year and it's much more time intensive for her than last year's math. We do lessons 5 days a week and there is a review worksheet (kind of like a short quiz) every 6-7 days. I love these reviews because it makes it easy for me to see where she needs a little more practice. She has nearly learned her multiplication tables by "stealth" (every day there is practice counting by some number. She can rattle them off and then also go back and tell you the equation, such as 7x3=21, but there has yet to be a formal "time to learn multiplication facts" lesson). We are also mentally subtracting 2 digit numbers and subtracting 4 digit numbers with borrowing. If you tell her something costs $6.27 and the customer pays $10, she can count back change. She's completely mastered telling time. She's also learned basic skills using a drawing board, t-square and triangles to draw correct geometric shapes. I've been happy and we'll definitely be moving on to Level D. Sedona has started Level A (Kindergarten) and done pretty well with it. She has to move slower than I thought because her attention span just can't handle an entire lesson at once. She loves to do them, but we have to split each lesson into two parts and she only does math about twice a week, so we've only covered about 20 lessons so far.

R.E.A.L Science Odyssesy Life Science: I have been so much happier with this than what we were using last year. The information is at the perfect level for Sierra and the labs really cement the ideas for her. My only complaint with it is that some things have come up at unreasonable times. Finding earthworms in December? Not gonna happen. So look ahead and switch up the units a bit to be sure you can get everything you need. I'm excited Pandia Press is starting to release some middle school level science as well. AND during March, their e-books (which is what we have) are 25% off! I'll definitely be ordering Earth and Space before the end of the month.

My Own History Curriculum: We're doing the Middle Ages this year and I couldn't find anything I liked for that. Rather than settle, I made my own curriculum and offered it up on the blog for free to anyone else who is interested. It's worked out well and I can't find anything that's quite what I want for next year (Early Modern History: 1600-1850), so I will probably start working on making my own for that soon.

Rosetta Stone Spanish:I have been so much more impressed with this than I thought I would be. We have the homeschool version and it's been nice to have a separate account going for each of us and then be able to pull up the reports of what lessons each person has done and what grades they got. I can easily see if Sierra skips over lessons (which she only did once, unintentionally). It was hard for me at first to keep my mouth shut and not correct Sierra. I'm glad I managed though because she's developed an amazing accent. It's impressive (and a bit embarrassing) that a few months of Rosetta Stone have totally surpassed my 3 years of high school Spanish. She has no preconceived notion at all of what the words should sound like, she just follows the pronunciation lessons. I still struggle with trying to force the accent while she's got the perfect Castilian lisp going on. I'm looking forward to watching her progress through the higher levels (we went ahead and bought levels 1-5). I have heard that kids need to be about 9 before they can handle Rosetta Stone on their own, but she has done fine with it.

Reading and Writing: We have done lots of child-led writing and reading. For writing, I either let Sierra pick a topic or give her a prompt and have her write and also draw a picture to go along with it. For reading, I have assigned a few books (Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, How to Eat Fried Worms), but she has thrown in plenty of her own during her free time (the Addy American Girl books, Ramona books, Sarah Plain and Tall, and plenty of science and history books as certain topics came along that interested her). Sometimes, I give her worksheets for what she's reading or I might have her write a summary and sometimes, we just talk about the book. She is participating on Book Adventure and really enjoying earning points there to trade in for prizes. Sedona is still reading BOB books and doing well with that. We'll be getting more serious with her reading next year.

John W. Schaum Piano Course: For music, I've been teaching Sierra "piano". It's really keyboard because pianos are expensive, and take up a lot of space and are a hassle to move. While keyboards are taboo with piano teachers and I understand that you can't learn on a keyboard and then move right over to a piano and play, I think it's unfairly elitist to vilify the keyboard. She is learning to read music and keep tempo and I think that's as good as she needs for right now. She has been able to take some of songs she taught herself on the recorder last year and transfer them to the piano as well as learning all the songs in this book. She will likely move on to Book A before the end of the year. I supplement by giving her theory quizzes that I make up on my own or get from the Texas Music Teachers Association. I'm confident she's picked it all up well enough to have a good start should she decide she wants to take lessons or teach herself another instrument.

Success Stickers! What? Stickers totally count as curriculum. I bought this book of 1200 stickers on clearance right after school started. I just picked it up because it was cheap, didn't think much of it. Oh my goodness have they been useful. Sedona absolutely LOVES to pick out a sticker when she's done with a lesson. When she's particularly antsy, it's often sufficient to remind her there's a sticker coming and she will sit a little more still with a finger on her ear to show me she's listening. Sierra is much more interested than I expected too. She likes to pick out a sticker to put on her papers when does a good job. I will definitely be keeping stickers around next year!

Whew!!! I think that's it. I've probably forgotten some of the smaller things. There are games and websites we have found useful throughout the year, but I'm pretty sure I covered the regular subjects.

What about you? Is there anything you used this year that you absolutely loved or absolutely hated? Something wonderful I'm missing out on that I just must check into?

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Tamara said...

Loved your thoughts on the piano. This is something I want Allison to learn. Did you know the piano well before starting this?

The Hills said...

I can play basic things on the keyboard and read music, but that's because I taught myself using these same books when I was about Sierra's age. It would be very easy to go through the book with Allison and learn along with her wherever there might be things you don't already know. I help explain concepts to Sierra when they're first introduced (just reading the information with her and then demonstrating b/c she needs to see and hear it not just read it), but because she needs practice time we only cover one or two new pages every week.

Rachel said...

This is great! I am going to try your handwriting printouts, as we need something to spice up handwriting. It is a chore! I have been looking into different spelling curriculum to start this summer, and I appreciate your suggestion. I also keep putting off piano until we have a piano someday, but I need to get over my piano snobbery and get busy teaching!


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