Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Curriculum Do You Use?

This is one of the most common questions asked of me when people find out I am homeschooling.  So, if you are interested in knowing what we're doing, then read on!

Before choosing a curriculum, I spent time thinking about what my main goals were for the school year.  Here are the three I came up with:

  1. I want my kids to grow deeper in their knowledge of the Bible.
  2. I want my kids to value what it means to be part of a family, and continue to solidify family attachments and relationships (this goal has a special emphasis for Mikayla, but applies to all of us).
  3. I want my kids to LOVE learning!
Is this simple enough for you?  Notice I do not even have a single goal about reading, writing, math, etc.?  Don't worry, we are doing all of that stuff... it's just not my focus.  By prioritizing the three goals above, I truly believe my kiddos will be equipped to learn and handle whatever comes their way in terms of academics.  And most importantly, my prayer is for them become people of character and integrity who love Jesus with all of their hearts. 

So, in my quest to choose curriculum I did a lot of research, consulted trusted friends, browsed through samples of things, and ultimately decided not to actually purchase a "full" curriculum.  One in particular that I really liked (I was able to attend a session on it at the homeschool conference last summer) is called My Father's World.  If I continue to homeschool in the years ahead, this might be an option that I choose.  

But, for this year I decided to just piece a few things together...

We start off our morning each day with Circle Time.  I gain ideas for this time from this lovely site, and even downloaded her ebook which has been a great resource. I use this time for a variety of things, depending on the day.  Here are some of the options I choose from:
  • Calendar and Weather Journals
  • Counting (Hundreds Chart activities)
  • Songs or Poems
  • Memory Verse
  • Devotional
  • Map skills
  • Read-Alouds
  • Handwriting practice or Copy Work
  • Cutting skills
  • Praying together for our day (most important part!)
I really enjoy Circle Time, because it brings the three of us together first thing in the morning and really "sets the tone" for our day.  We spend anywhere from 10-30 minutes doing Circle Time, just depending on what I have planned (and how the kids respond to what I have planned... even more important!).

For Reading, I am using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons .

This was recommended to me by a couple friends, including one of whom gave me the book since she was done with it... getting things for free pretty much seals the deal for me. :)  So far, this book has been serving us very well.  My kids were at two very different "levels" in terms of reading ability when we started the year, so I do the lessons one on one with each of them, instead of together.  One kiddo flies through two lessons a day, and the other is able to make it through one without feeling overwhelmed.  Both of them feel very successful and by the time we finish I have no doubt they will both be reading like champs!

During our reading time, the child who is not sitting with me doing a reading lesson from the above book, is sitting at the computer using a wonderful online software program called "Raz-Kids."  The program provides differentiated reading instruction using animated books that teach sight words, fluency, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and comprehension.  The kids are able to first listen to a book, then read the book (with help prompts), and then take a short quiz on the book.  They earn points through the site's incentive program and can then cash in their points to buy things for their virtual rockets :)  My kids love this program, and I love that it keeps one of them busy doing something meaningful while I work with the other one.

For Math, I am using Math in Focus which is part of the Singapore Math Curriculum series.  

I debated a long time over whether or not to purchase a math program, and if so, which one to purchase.  I knew in Kindergarten my focus would be more on literacy, so I considered just creating my own math activities for the kids, based on state/national standards... but in the end, I knew I would have a lot on my plate and would probably enjoy following something a bit more sequential and already planned out.  I am glad I made the choice I did, even though it's a little more of a financial investment.  In the Kindergarten series, there are four student books... Eli and Mikayla just finished the first book last week and jumped right into the second!  Something tells me I'm going to need to order the 1st grade materials by early-spring... and no, it's not because my kids are amazingly gifted (though doesn't every parent think that about their kids?), rather it's one of the many "perks" of homeschool - the ability to go much faster due to having  1 or 2 kids to teach the lesson too, as opposed to 20-25!  

And finally, my favorite component of our "hodgepodge" curriculum... Five in a Row!

I had so many people recommend this program to me, not to mention the fact that someone gave me the first volume free (remember what an influencer "free" can be for me?), so I couldn't wait to check it out!  The program provides "theme units" based on children's literature (picture books) and brings in Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, Fine Art, and Applied Math to go along with each book. I LOVE theme units, so this program is right up my alley.  It is extremely flexible, so you can really use it to meet your needs and the needs of your child.  I also purchased the Bible supplement to go along with it, and we have been utilizing that for our devotions and memory verses each week.  I have  found incredible resources for this program on the homeschool share website, as well as  the Five in a Row forums, and blogs of other homeschooling parents.  We just finished our first "row" last week - Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel - and had a blast!  Look for pictures and a report of our activities in an up-and-coming blog post :)  We are currently rowing, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, which lends itself nicely to what has become an incredible unit on apples... and yes, I will be attempting to make an apple pie (from scratch) with the kids when we finish this book... so wish me luck!

I guess that about wraps it up!  We have officially be "in school" now for 4.5 weeks, and so far so good!  I am thoroughly enjoying my role as both mom and teacher, and the kids seem to be having a great time and learning a lot.  If you came across this post because you are considering homeschooling, or looking at any of these curriculum options, please let me know if I can answer any questions for you. 

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you're off to a great start with all those good materials and your two eager students. Most of those books can be found on our bookshelves, as well. Have a great autumn!


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