Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Homeschool Curriculum Planning 2014

Ya'll know how much I love the last minute, right?

Nothing motivates me more than the realization that I have literally run out of time.

Here we are.  Time for school to begin again.  My Facebook feed full of pictures of people who have already gone back to school.  The school district here started school on Monday.  Other areas started last week.  Pretty much the entire world is back to school.

But because I like to be contrary and because summer is too short.  "How can summer be over ALREADY??  I don't WANNA go back to school."  I refuse to start school before September.  No matter how hard my kids beg I remain firm in my resolve to wait.  August is my birth month and since there are no recognized holidays during the month, I have declared the entire month a holiday.  Just for me!  I also think it's silly to start school and then take a holiday after only a week or two.  So, I don't start until after Labor Day.  I also end by Memorial Day for the same reason.  It makes it easy to mark the beginning and end of school each year.

Of course, I realized yesterday that I had done exactly zero planning for this year.  I mean I guess I could put it off until Friday, or the weekend, or even early Monday morning for that matter.  It has been known to happen.  But for the sake of a wee bit of "organization" and sanity on my part, I thought I should give myself some idea of what we are doing before we do it.  And maybe a few days for books to be ordered so that maybe they could arrive toward the beginningish of the school year.

Ahem.  BTW if I can do this, anyone can.  Don't tell me YOU are too disorganized to homeschool!!

Yesterday was crisis day.  I spent all day googling and agonizing and researching and changing my mind and changing it again.  When my husband called to check in, I was in the depths of despair.  For some reason, waiting till the last minute ends up feeling stressful and rushed.  What's up with that?

I always get sucked into whatever the "latest greatest" trend is in the homeschooling universe.  Whatever program it is that "everyone" swears by, must be great.  Especially if it costs hundreds of dollars.  For one subject.  Which is way over my budget for all subjects.  But clearly it will be better than the one we are using, which works and we like, but we will obviously love the other one more and it will make my children automagically geniuses with absolutely no effort on my part!!!  So says the internets!

After an entire day of that, I think I have finally decided for absolute really and truly, surely, kinda what we will use this year.  

P.S.  It's pretty much exactly the same things we used last year.  Because when it works, why mess with it??

The Princess is in Kindergarten and the Peanut is in 2nd this year.
Many of our curriculum choices have been inspired by Angelicum Academy.  We started out using their program and have since branched off a bit but as my kids get older I plan on going back to Angelicum Academy for at least some of the subjects.  I really love their great books program.
Math:  Math-U-See
Alpha for the Princess and Beta for the Peanut.
This one is a no brainer for me.  I don't even consider anything else.  Which came as a shock to me because I used Saxon Math when I was homeschooled and was absolutely sure I would use it for my kids.  That was before I discovered Math-U-See.  I watched the demo videos and it just clicked both for me and for my son.  So we gave it a shot.  I love Math-U-See so much.  I mean, the lesson is on DVD so I don't even have to actually teach it!  Right up my alley!!  (I know, worst homeschool mom ever!)  And it works so well for my kids.  The manipulatives and Steve Demme's teaching style make math make sense.  The only change I will make this year is to edit down the work considerably.  Last year my kids would get bored and frustrated and I finally realized the problem was that they were getting it right away but I was so fixated on doing the book as the book is intended.  I wasn't being flexible and adjusting to their needs.  Which BTW is NOT how the program is intended.  The book is set up specifically to be easy to adjust.  DUH!!  If they get it right away, there is no reason to do all the lessons.  If they don't, there are extras so you can keep practicing.  Once I had that light-bulb moment, I tried to cut back, only to realize the kids were horrified at the idea of skipping something.  They just couldn't move ahead until they had completed everything.  Ok.  "This year will be different!"  (Famous last words of a homeschooling mom.  HA!)  I always tear all the worksheets out of the student text and put them in a binder anyway so the pages lay flat.  This year I will only take out lessons A and D.  One new lesson and one review for each chapter.  Then if they need more I can add as necessary.  Work will go faster.  They won't get bored.  Sweet!

Phonics:  Explode the Code
Book 1 for the Princess and Book 6 for the Peanut.
Love this program too.  It did a great job of teaching my son to read and now it is my daughter's turn.  He is finishing up the last few books this year and he has already done all the Beyond the Code reading comprehension books.  They were actually a bit advanced for him phonetically because he hasn't finished all the Explode the Code books but he loved them so much he rose to the challenge.  This year I will have to find something to replace those since he has finished them all.

The Princess and Peanut will both do the same units.
Last year we did Alice in Wonderland.  We were planning on doing more than that but that's all we got through.  Mainly because I was so disorganized and unprepared.  This year we plan on starting with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I learned my lesson last year and this year I will have everything printed and CUT OUT in advance.  Too often we would read the chapter and then I would have to tell them to wait until the next day to get all their stuff ready for the lap book or longer if the printer was out of ink.  "This year will be different!"  I also plan on using more of her materials but that's my starting point.

Grammar:  Shurley English
Level 2 mostly for the Peanut but the Princess follows along.
I picked this book up at a Half Price Bookstore one day because I recognized it as something I saw recommended somewhere.  Then I got home and actually looked at it and realized right away I had made a big mistake.  Teacher intensive.  Reading off scripts from a book.  Ugh.  So not my style.  But I already had it and (big surprise) I had waited until the last minute.  I had no choice but to give it a shot. Shocker of shockers, we LOVED it.  The kids beg to do it.  They learn so much from it.  I can't say enough about how much I love the jingles.  Seriously, I wish we had known about it when I was a kid.  It is an amazing program.  I can't recommend it highly enough.  It is another program that has been very flexible for us.  If the kids get it right away, I don't do all the lessons in the chapter.  Just assign the work in the student book and skip several days of practice sentences.  And yes, both kids listen to the lessons even though it is a bit over my daughter's head.  She just enjoys it that much.  My son is the only one who does the work in the book though.  The only thing I wish the program had was a DVD like Math-U-See so I didn't have to actually read the whole thing!

History/Geography:  Story of the World
Finishing up Ancient Times and on to Medieval for both kids.
For years I have complained that they way history is taught makes no sense.  It wasn't until I was an adult watching the series "The Tudors" that I connected all the events that were happening across the world at the same time.  Because in history they were all taught as separate events, I never got how they were so interconnected and, amazingly enough, influenced each other.  Why isn't history taught in chronological order?!!  As it happened?
Well, now it is.  We love Story of the World for that reason and also because the activities are, wait for it, flexible.  We can do just the basics in the book.  A map and a coloring page.  Which is what we usually do.  Or we can add extras.  Build a pyramid out of sugar cubes or some such crafty aspiration.  I also try to add documentaries or other TV programs that go along with what we are learning.  A once a week or so treat for the kids and they are learning something.  Winning!  Last year I also supplemented with History Pockets and The Encyclopedia of Ancient History that I found at Half Price Books.  This year I will also do a bit of supplementing as well using this resource.  Story of the World is another program that my kids do together.  I plan on getting the CDs this time around so we can listen to the chapter even if I have my hands full.  I also plan on making all copies in advance so we are prepared.  "This year will be different!"

Science:  HSP Science
Book 2 mostly for the Peanut but the Princess follows along.
Science caused me the most angst this year.  I really love HSP Science.  The book is colorful, engaging and simple.  There are little activity suggestions that, get this, are actually doable.  Even for someone like me.  They can actually usually be done with household items.  And I mean household items that normal people keep around the house.  Things like paper towels.  Not things like a horseshoe magnet.  Yup, let me just pull that off the refrigerator.  Not only that, the activities are illustrated in the book so if for some reason you can't actually do them, you can look at them in the book and draw proper conclusions.  The workbook has just the right amount of work.  A short page of questions.  It's lovely.
We all read the book together, read or do the activity together, answer the questions in the book together and the Peanut answers the questions in the workbook.
Seems like a no brainer huh?  But they don't actually make the book anymore!!!
So I looked into the program that replaces it.  It looks amazing.  Lots of things on the computer.  Fun!  $152!!  Ack!  Ain't. Gonna. Happen my friends.  And there it went.
The HSP Science book can be bought used for around $30.  Done and done.  I am just worried that as time goes on it will be harder to find and we will have to move on to something else.  But we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

Religion:  Religious Education at our church
I thought it would be nice to have one class I didn't have to formally teach myself.  Plus the kids get something that is their own without me as their teacher.  That way they will appreciate me all the more.  Right??  Plus, free time for me on a Sunday afternoon kid free?!  Sign me up!  Worked out so well last year.  We went to Mass right after their class so we were always on time for Mass!  Maybe not always for class.  This year will be different.  No really.  I volunteered as a catechist aid so I will be assisting in my daughters class.  So much for time away from each other!  I kind of feel a bit the helicopter parent.  Wait, the kids are doing something without me?  Let me get involved in that so I can watch over them!!  The Princess is so excited though.  She is still young enough to think that hanging out with mom is cool.  I guess I better take advantage of that while I still can.  I'm excited too.  But very nervous.  I don't think they knew what they were in for when they asked me to help out!  The Peanut will be preparing for the sacraments of Reconciliation and First Communion this year.  I can't tell you how happy that makes me!

Misc:  Stuff we already have
I have a habit of collecting things I think could be useful for homeschooling.  Some might call it hoarding.  I call it collecting.  It could totally be organized if I just had a few more bookshelves.  I did buy more bookshelves and reorganized our homeschool area.  "This year will be different!"  Because really.  How do you say no to Star Wars workbooks?
Almost every time I go to Half Price Books, I end up bringing something home we might use one day.  (Hence Shurley English.)  I was homeschooled and so I received quite a bit of hand me down materials from my mother.  In fact, I would probably have never tried Math-U-See except that we already had all the ("Mortensen Math") manipulatives that match the program even down to the colors of the cubes.   I simply would have written it off as too expensive.  (BTW, this year they have an app for that!  Manipulatives on the iPad rather than scattered all over the floor?  Yes please!)  I am often given books that friends think might be useful for homeschooling.  Really, if I was more creative and motivated, I could probably homeschool using these materials alone.  And that's not even counting Pinterest.  Seriously, how did my mother homeschool before the internet?  For now they come in handy as a supplement and as my kids get older I know they will be able to take advantage of these resources whenever their interest is sparked.

We are seriously considering giving this a try this year.  Especially for the Peanut, if it's on the computer, it's fun.  Thought it would be worth a shot.  "This year will be different!"
That's the plan.  Time to start placing some orders.  Thank goodness for Amazon Prime!!!