I don't write much about our homeschooling here. Partly because I tend to keep most of our lives private (I know that may seem weird-- with a blog and all) and partly because we are so NEW to it that I don't feel qualified to be spouting advice! So even though you haven't been hearing much about it, we've been "officially" homeschooling since last fall. Since many people rely on online reviews to help them make informed curriculum choices, I wanted to give a brief update about the books and materials we've been using. You can read about the reasons for our original choices in this post.
Lena was 5 and in her first year of school, so in many ways it was a kindergarten year. Most of her curriculum, however, was at a first grade level, so you'll see a bit of a hodgepodge of materials. Overall, we lightened the load as the year went on, choosing instead to give the girls plenty of time to play, be silly, explore, visit grandparents, help make muffins in the morning, and generally be kids. It's also worth noting that we're planning to continue homeschooling throughout the summer since we like to take a lot of days off! One of the best parts about homeschooling is that you get to give your children whatever they need in the way that suits your family best!
Here's a detailed breakdown of how things went.
We have spent the year in Saxon math. Lena completed Saxon 1 and we moved on to Saxon 2 early in the spring. My main complaint with Saxon math so far is that almost the entire first half of 2nd grade math is review of 1st grade material. I understand that this make sense if kids have taken a whole summer off, but since we started 2nd grade math immediately after finishing 1st grade math Lena didn't need quite so much review. I could have skipped ahead to fresh material, but instead we chose to breeze through 2 or 3 lessons a day to really solidify the content.
Overall, I like the Saxon program. It's thorough, provides lots of practice, and builds skills and concepts in a direct and logical manner. We plan to continue with Saxon for the foreseeable future. We skip a lot of it that seems too repetitive (we don't really need to have calendar time, check temperature, and count by 2s, 5s, and 10s every day) and that makes the program manageable.
We've also been supplementing a bit with Lollipop Logic and The Complete Book Of Time And Money. I pull them out on days when we didn't feel like doing a real math lesson, but want a few minutes of an engaged math brain!
Lena is a good reader. When we started the school year, we were working through some of the later lessons in The Ordinary Parents Guide To Teaching Reading. We dropped that sometime during the year. Once reading had really "clicked" for her, it didn't seem necessary. I still like the book and think it provides great practice for children who are learning to read. But since Lena knows how to read, we stopped using it.
Instead, I simply have her read aloud to me from some of our chapter books. That was I can monitor her fluency, and encourage her to stop and sound out words that she wants to skip. We may need to move into some more formal reading instruction later, but since she is so far ahead of grade level I'm not spending time on it now.
I really love the writing program that we're using, Writing With Ease: Level 1. It is heavy on the copywork, which basically serves as handwriting instruction. Half of the lessons are a couple of sentences to copy. The other half have a short passage for the adult to read aloud and then comprehension questions for the student to answer in complete sentences. I love how this trains children to "tune in" with attentive listening. I also LOVE how it trains children to answer in complete sentences. When I used to teach middle school, there were many students who STILL struggled with answering in clear, complete sentences. I love that we're instilling that practice from the beginning. We're not quite finished with the book, but plan to be finished by the end of the summer.
I have mixed feelings about First Language Lessons For The Well Trained Mind Level 1. Overall, the program feels really slow. I understand that a kindergartner or first grader doesn't need to study grammar in depth. But if you're going to cover it, it'd be nice if there were a more interesting way to do it than by repeating the same basic concepts over and over again. I found myself only pulling out the book once every couple of weeks, skimming the lessons, and realizing that we didn't need to do much in order to "catch up." There are a handful of short poems to memorize, some practice in identifying nouns, pronouns, and verbs, and practice in reciting one's phone number, address, and full name. Lena has a strong memory, so she didn't need so much review and many of the lessons seemed like busy work to us.
Since Lena reads so much, she doesn't need a whole lot of spelling practice. We've worked through Spelling Workout Level A & Spelling Workout Level B. It is always her FAVORITE subject to complete! There are teacher's guides with suggestions for activities, but Lena just completes the workbook pages and then I give her a little "quiz" to see which words she needs extra practice on. Those tricky words keep reappearing on her quizzes until she knows them. Lena likes that there are crossword puzzles and other games as part of the program. Each lesson ends with a writing prompt that requires the student to write a few sentences or a short paragraph. It's the hardest part for Lena, but she's getting better!
I really, really, really wanted to like Sassafras Science Adventures: Volume 1- Zoology. But I just didn't. It is a narrative based program, that weaves science information throughout a travel adventure story. There was just SO MUCH story to read aloud and not very much science information. It took a really long time to read a chapter or section and at the end we only came away with 3 or 4 little factoids about a particular animal or habitat. It just wasn't worth the time that it was taking. I felt like Lena got more science out the "Magic Treehouse" and "Magic Schoolbus" books than she did with this program. We stopped after about 1/3 of the program and didn't replace it with anything else, so we're looking for something new for the fall.
I will say that my girls both LOVED the book and would have happily kept going. I just didn't have enough time to read it and get so little out of it.
We let history slide this year. Our full work load that I anticipated at the beginning of the year was too much. I wanted the girls to have more play time, and goodness knows world history isn't a critical subject for kindergartners! I do still like the curriculum we chose, Story Of The World: Volume 1 so we will probably try to pick it up again in the fall. I did end up getting the Audio CDs of the text fairly recently. We've been listening to them in the car, and Lena asks to listen to them during her quiet time. So the girls are learning the stories, even if we're not doing all the comprehension questions, narration, and additional activities to go along with them.
Lena takes violin lessons, and for now that is counting as her music curriculum. We finished a simple theory book, but I think her violin teacher has realized that she's not ready for anything more advanced. We try to play a variety of styles of music in the house and especially at dinnertime in order to expose the girls to different composers and genres. In a couple of years we will start some more formal composer studies.
The geography books that I chose to use, DK Workbooks: Geography- Kindergarten and DK Workbooks: Geography- First Grade were just right for us this year. There was nothing too challenging, and I could easily pick them up when the mood struck. We may work on more formal geography next year, but this was good for introducing some very basic map and geography skills. We ended up doing a few pages once a week. Lena's favorite part was definitely the gold star reward stickers. Ha!
We started the year doing projects from Deep Space Sparkle. The girls LOVED them and I loved the variety and different art techniques that we tried. Soon, though, I realized that we were spending all of our arts and crafts time doing things from Deep Space Sparkle which left no time to do our own original arts and crafts for me to blog about! So, we've continued to do plenty of arts and crafts, just not many from Deep Space Sparkle (although we all agree that the are awesome). You can find most of what we DID do by poking around on the blog!
So we abandoned formal art instruction for now. No biggie. We'll pick something up later!
I'm not completely crazy-- I wasn't planning to teach my 5-year-old how to type. But I saw a great deal on Typing Instructor For Kids at a homeschool convention that I attended so I went ahead and picked it up to use in a few years. Lena saw it on my desk and begged to do it, so I went ahead and installed it. She's become a typing whiz! It makes learning to type a game, and since Lena doesn't get a whole lot of screen time she sees it as a treat to get to play. I've actually never asked her to do it, but she asks to play several times a day. If only all learning were so easy.... *sigh*
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