September 9, 2014

Great Curriculum Adventure II

I'm running just  teensy bit behind schedule this year, as far as purchasing curriculum is concerned.  Oh!  Wait!  We homeschool.  There is no schedule.  Silly me.  Okay, maybe I'm just feeling the crunch, because we've done no formal lessons since June, and it's nearly September.  I feel as though all the knowledge gained last year is seeping out of my boys' brains like water through a sieve the longer we go without lessons.  I think I was better prepared last year.

Let's jump into it, shall we?

Last year we used Bob Jones University Press' Math 5 for my 6th grader.  It was a success!  We rarely had to fight over math work.  But, we also only made it a little over half way through the book.  So, this year, we'll be sticking with BJU, but I also wanted to try out something about which I've heard rave reviews - Teaching Textbooks.  They are CD-ROM based lessons with a workbook to reinforce the lessons.  On first glance, the first half of Teaching Textbooks 7 seems to be review of what we did in BJU 5 last year, so we're going to do a mixture of BJU 5, BJU 6, and TT 7.  Should be interesting!

My younger son is still a math whiz.  Last year, we started multiplication, and you'd think he'd been doing it since birth.  Thank goodness!  Because I am horrible at math and was not looking forward to teaching this to him.  Last year we used Scott Foresman/Addison Wesley's Mathematics for grade 3.  We've used the Foresman/Wesley curriculum every year for him, and it seems to work well.  We'll be using this for as long as the pre-common core versions are available on eBay.  So, Foresman/Wesleyan Mathematics for grade 4 this year.

Last year I branched out and used several different resources for this subject, which you can check out in my Great Curriculum Adventure post from last year.  We ended up not fully completing several of those books, though, so we'll be continuing with them this year, as well as adding a few new ones to the mix.

For reading, we'll be finishing up the Reading Detective books, which turned out to be perfect for my boys.  They grew in their reading comprehension abilities by leaps and bounds last year with this curriculum.

Last year, for spelling, we used Bob Jones University Press's curriculum, which didn't end up being quite what I was looking for.  It was a lot of busy work.  So, this year, we're going to give Soaring with Spelling a try. I asked a bunch of other homeschooling moms for suggestions in this area, and Soaring with Spelling was a popular suggestion.  Hopefully, this will end my search for the perfect spelling program.

Penmanship.  This is such a struggle for both my boys.  Their handwriting is sloppy, and they hate having to write.  Last year, we tried A Reason for Handwriting.  It was good, but not quite what I was looking for.  I again asked a bunch of homeschooling moms for suggestions, and by and large, the number one suggestion was Handwriting without Tears.  It's definitely different than other programs I've looked at.  I'm hopeful it will be the one that makes my boys enjoy handwriting.

For grammar, we'll be continuing what we started last year - Grammar Minutes and The Language Mechanic.  I was happy with these, and the boys seemed to enjoy them.  No need to change what's working.

Writing.  Another subject where we'll continue what we started last year, because it worked, and the boys enjoyed it.  We're using Jump In: a workbook for reluctant and eager writers.  But we'll also be adding another aspect for my oldest - study skills.  I found the Victus Study Skills System DIY workbook.  It seems very intensive, but my son has zero concept of how to study, and I feel that's something important for him to learn if his future plans include attending college.  We shall see if this program is successful.

Last year, I found the Uncle Sam and You curriculum from the Notgrass company.  What I like about this is the student workbook that accompanies it.  Jam packed with fun activities to reinforce each lesson, it looked like it might make learning history fun.  Thankfully, the boys really enjoyed it.  But, we only made it about half way through the curriculum, so we'll be continuing it again this year.  

Also, my oldest is required to do Geography either this or next year.  Last year, I found a curriculum called 50 States and Where to Find Them, which was being offered for FREE for a limited time.  I jumped on it, knowing I could use it at some point.  That point has come, and we'll be using it this year.  I think the boys will like it, because it involves crossword puzzles and coloring pages.  It breaks the states down into small regions so the boys can learn them in bite sized pieces.  I have high hopes for this one!

Last year, we used Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy, which we absolutely loved!  This year, the boys told me they wanted to use Apologia again, but they wanted to do the Chemistry and Physics curriculum this time.  I was all set to purchase it, but at the last minute, my oldest tole me he changed his mind.  Grr!!!  Okay, I can make this work.  Ha!  

My son decided he wanted to do an engineering type program.  He wanted to build machines.  So I did some research and found a really fantastic looking program.  Unfortunately, I misunderstood the pricing of it, and it ended up being far too expensive for us.  After much more research, I finally landed on K'nex Education's Exploring Machines curriculum.  Since it arrived at our house, the boys have been begging to start school!  What better way to do school than with toys?  It is an actual curriculum, though, so they'll be learning while they're having fun.  

Last year, we used Alpha Omega's Monarch Health Quest online curriculum.  What a wasted effort!  The curriculum itself was not bad, but my boys just cannot work together on a computer curriculum.  They distract each other, they fool around, they fight.  They nearly flunked the course.  Not because they couldn't do the work or understand the material, but because it was the wrong method of learning for them.

This year, we're using the good old fashioned textbook and workbook method.  I'll be reading the lessons aloud to both boys at the same time, and then they will be set loose to complete worksheets relating to the lessons.  I think this will work much better.  The curriculum we'll use is called Total Health: talking about life's changes by Susan Boe.  Another thing I am drawn to with this curriculum is its Biblical base.

This is always my favorite subject, but also the one I find most difficult to teach, which is odd, considering I studied art in college and was just shy of earning my B.A. in it.

Last year, we tried Art with a Purpose Artpacs by Myron and Rachel Weaver.  Disaster!  I don't know; I suppose these would work for someone, but they were just so dry and lacked any real lessons.  My boys and I were not impressed.  So, once again, on to something new.

We're trying two different books this year.  First, Creating Line Designs (book 4) by Randy Womack.  It's exactly what it says - creating line designs.  It's really a book full of connect-the-dot pages, but it teaches kids to follow directions, create a straight line, and use lines in creative ways.  Each page gets progressively more difficult. 

Our second book is a journal type book called Art, Doodle, Love.  It is filled with pretty, blank pages with different creativity prompts written on each.  I'm hoping this will inspire my boys to use their imaginations and realize they can create anything they want using any materials they want.  It's technically for women, but I took a look at it, and it will work just fine for my boys.  Sshhh!!! Don't tell them! 

Simplify.  That's the plan this year.  With our Bible curriculum, at least.  Last year we used Apologia's Who am I? curriculum, which was fantastic!  But, it was just a little too advanced for my boys.  So, I decided to make it much more simple this year.  

For my oldest, we'll use the Book of Fidgets: a jot & doodle journal for Christian youth.  It's filled with art and writing prompts that line up with various scripture passages and faith questions.  My boy is an artist, so this is perfect for him.

My youngest will use The Bible Doodle Book by Zonderkidz.  Each pages has a chapter from the Bible illustrated, but not completed, along with a prompt for completing the pages.  We'll read the scripture together, then he can get creative and complete the pages.

Nothing new here.  The boys take piano lessons during the public school year from a friend of ours.  They'll continue their lessons this year, too.

Last, but not least, Practical Arts is required for my oldest this year, so we'll do it for both boys.  Practical Arts, from what I understand, is basically Life Skills.  Things that we old folk used to call home economics, shop, technology, keyboarding... that sort of thing.  To that end, we'll be working on a few things - critical thinking, cooking/baking, typing, and skill building.  For critical thinking, we're using Word Winks and Perplexors.  Cooking/baking will be my boys and me in the kitchen, planning meals, shopping for ingredients, and putting the meals together.  For typing, I found a free typing tutor that I downloaded last year called Typing Instructor for Kids.  It resembles a video game, but teaches typing skills at the same time.  Finally, for skill building, we'll use the website  It lists numerous different skills, and within each skill are several projects to complete.  Upon completion of a certain number of projects, the child earns a patch.  It's similar to a Boy Scouts skill building program, but, as the name of the website suggests, we will do it ourselves.

That.  Was a lot.  But, really, it's not.  As I write this final paragraph, we've actually begun our second week of our fourth year homeschooling, and, so far, it's been our best year yet!  All of the curriculum I chose has proven to be perfect!  I'm hopeful it will continue to be so throughout the rest of the year.

What are your thoughts?  Have you used any of these resources?  If so, how did you like them?  Let me know what's on your mind in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like fun plans! I'll have to check out the knex set. My kids used to love those!