Monday, August 11, 2014

School Days

Not Back to School Blog Hop It's time to be thinking about another school year! We actually inadvertently did year round school this year. It just worked out that after holidays, vacations, house floods and me working a little bit more than I have in recent years, we didn't finish at the end of the school year. Surprise, surprise, the world did not end when June, and then July, and then August rolled around and we still hadn't reached the end of the math book. Actually, this worked out rather nicely because the parts that ended up stretching on the longest were Sedona's math and reading. Two subjects that really don't lend themselves well to a 3 month break anyway. A leisurely "a couple lessons a week" pace through the summer has still gotten us through the material in time to start a new year and she won't be losing any ground from a summer gap.

I am now setting up for our official 2014-2015 school year though and I'm getting pretty excited about it.  We have decided to move our school room and to change the way we organize our day, which is both scary and inspiring.  

Last week was curriculum week at the Not Back-to-School Blog Hop.  As usual, I'm late getting started on this.  Curriculum week is a pretty easy post for me to write up though.  We're entering our fifth year of homeschooling and I feel like I've got my feet solidly under me now.  No more wasting money on curriculum we'll never use or scouring the internet for resources that don't exist.  We've dialed in on what's right for us.  For elementary school, anyway.  Sierra is starting to delve into some middle school course work and I can see I'm going to be doing this curriculum hunt all over again in the very near future.  I've got about 6 months of peace ahead of me before I need to start scrambling again!

For THIS year though, we're set.  Here's the line-up (disclosure, some of the following links are affiliate links):

Sedona.  2nd grade.  Struggling reader and writer, dyslexia assessment was a bit inconclusive (one person told me one interpretation of the results and someone else had a different interpretation).  Naturally talented in math.  A sensory-seeker who prefers movement and games to seat work. 
Math: RightStart Level C.  We've been using this program since 2010 and have no plans to stop.  We've seen first hand how the girls' understanding of math compares to the school norms in our area and their standardized test scores have been phenomenal.

Reading: All About Reading Level 3.  I am sooooooo glad I found this program.  My only regret is that I put off buying it for a year because of cost.  It is worth every penny and if you're even remotely considering it, you should take the leap.  I believe Sedona's dyslexia assessment was inconclusive precisely because of this program.  Basically, I've already intervened by teaching her with AAR and it's working. I think that was the reason some of the scores on her assessment that showed achievement were high even though some dyslexia markers showed clear problems.

Spelling: All About Spelling Level 1 and 2.  She just wasn't ready to tackle Level 1 full force last year, so she completed about half of it.  We'll work on finishing that and then start Level 2.  I'm just as happy with this spelling program as I am with the reading program.

Science: RSO Life Level 1.  We used this with Sierra when she was in 2nd grade.  It's a tad easy just because we're a science family and have already taught the girls quite a bit that most kids aren't exposed to.  The process of doing experiments and filling out lab sheets will be just as valuable as the information she learns though.  I am going to rearrange the schedule on this course to better match Sierra's science course.

History: My own Middle Ages curriculum (which you can download for free).   She had a hard time making it through Ancient History once we passed pyramids and mummies.  My plans for Ancient History are much too light on hands on activities for a kid like Sedona.  Middle Ages has more for her to do and will hopefully hold her interest more.

Spanish: I'm just not sure about this.  Sierra started Rosetta Stone in 2nd grade and did fine with it.  She was a stronger reader though.  I may try it out, but revert back to just reading children's books to her in Spanish so she can pick up whatever she picks up.  Or I may have her do Rosetta Stone but only the listening and speaking parts. 

Geography: Evan-Moor Geography Grade 2.  Both girls just enjoy these worksheets.  They aren't particularly difficult and I assign the whole "week" at once (it takes them about 10 minutes).

Language Arts: Brave Writer Jot-It-Down.  I've fully accepted at this point that I stink at teaching writing.  Mostly because no good step-by-step teacher guide exists and I am much more comfortable dealing with math and science.  I have high hopes for Brave Writer.  I've been dipping my toe in the water over the last year, slowly incorporating some of their ideas.  The girls both do average or better on writing tests, but it's clear this is where they lag behind their other subjects.  It's time to really step up to the plate and make sure we develop a strong writing foundation.

Art and Music: I haven't decided 100%, but I think these are going to be largely self-led.  While this hasn't worked in the past, I think our new daily plan is going to be much more conducive to encouraging child-led projects and practices.

Sierra. 5th grade.  Very strong reader (high school level reading and comprehension). Talented at math, but not self-confident. Thrives on independent book and worksheet based learning and does her best work when she perceives it to be getting her ahead of where she should be.
Math: RightStart Level G.  This is the end of RightStart and I'm sad to leave it behind.  I've been waffling about where to go next, but the current plan is to start Life of Fred Fractions and Decimals around Christmas (in conjunction with Level G).  When she finishes those, it will be time to move on to pre-algebra.  Don't ask me which program we'll use for that...I've ruled out many, but haven't found anything I totally love yet.

Reading: Her history program this year includes quite a few related books, and I have some ideas for books that relate to science as well.  She is at an age and stage where she will sit down and read an entire Rick Riordan series, then have an educated conversation about it with me, so I will likely require a certain amount of reading without dictating too much of what she reads this year.  She is making choices on her own that are a good mix of fiction and non-fiction and as long as I read along with her it's easy to check on her comprehension and discuss literary techniques.  She's not quite ready content-wise for a lot of the books I would consider "required reading" at her reading level.

Spelling: All About Spelling Level 4 and 5.  She started with level 1 when she was in 3rd grade and she sped through the earlier levels.  She's now hit the point where it can take her a few days to do one of the lessons.  She's got just a bit of Level 4 to finish and will probably get through level 5 this year. 

Science: RSO Biology Level 2.  She and I are both so excited about this course.  This will be a real shift in responsibility for her.  It's a 5 day a week course requiring regular text reading, worksheets, bench labs (and reports), microscope labs, dissections, and unit tests.  A lot of material will be covered that she's already been wanting to know more about and she is dying to get started.

History: History Odyssey Ancients Level 2.  We have been using Pandia Press science for several years, but this is our first time using their history.  Their Level 1 history uses Story of the World as a spine, which I wasn't comfortable with after reading a lot of reviews questioning its accuracy.  Level 2 is a whole different set-up that I think will be great for her.  Again, it will be a big step up in responsibility.  She'll keep her own binder with a list of lessons in the front.  Each lesson has a checklist of tasks that need to be completed.  Reading, outlining information, writing paragraphs and eventually papers about what was read, coloring maps, keeping a timeline, and giving oral presentations.  I think this may be a challenge for her at first, but she'll end up proud of her work.

Spanish: She needs to continue with Rosetta Stone.  She really doesn't want to.  I don't think it's Rosetta Stone itself, I think it's just something to butt heads with me about because we've really locked horns over her lack of initiative with this.  She tries to get away with 5 minutes of work a day and call it done.  With no framework for how a typical public school day goes, she just doesn't appreciate that even if I tell her to do 30 minutes a day, she's still getting a pretty good deal.  I have started making her get early readers in Spanish from the library and translate them for me to keep her at least doing something. 

Geography: I bought a states and capitals book last year that was a total flop.  I have another random Target workbook that I'll give her to work through in her free time this year.  She enjoys geography and will do this outside of school time without being told.  We always include plenty of geography and map reading lessons during our travels too.

Language Arts: Brave Writer Partnership Writing. Like I said above, I've got to get on the ball with teaching more language arts.  Hopefully this gets it done.

Art and Music: Like Sedona, she'll do arts and music on a self-guided basis.  She has been working on piano, guitar and recorder on her own and continues to make progress.  She'll also happily do art if given a few ideas to start with.  She will have access to and be encouraged to explore books about art this year as well.

And that's that!  You can check out other families' choices at the Not Back-to-School Blog Hop!

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