Sunday, August 5, 2012

Homeschool Curriculum for the Un-Trained Mom

This will be my first year as a home school mom and I've gone back and forth and around and around with how to tackle our curriculum plan. Part of my indecision stems from the mountains of curriculum options available, but part of it comes from the unique situation we are coming from. In order to explain my choices, a little background is necessary.
Hunter is an August baby, so he started kindergarten just after his 5th birthday and has always been the youngest in his class. In fact, he was younger than many students in the grade below him. He was academically ready for school {he taught himself to read at 4} but socially immature.  He finished 2nd grade last year in public school in a Chinese language immersion program. 
{Caitlin has been in the Chinese program for 5 years now, Hunter 3. 
In the photo below, they are all dressed up before a concert last spring}
Basically, immersion education means he has had zero formal {English} language arts instruction thus far. He is, fortunately, an excellent reader, and is well above his age/grade level in that department. In all other aspects (spelling, grammar, writing, etc.) we are starting from square one. Due to the discrepancy between his reading and writing levels, I had to eliminate all-in-one curriculum packages, like Sonlight, from my list of choices. That was a wrench, as the simplicity of having everything planned and laid out for me was very appealing.
But it was classical education that first drew my attention, and that is what I kept coming back to.
The Well Trained Mind  by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise has become my homeschooling bible and that is where most of my choices stemmed from.
Here's the low-down on what we've chosen for the upcoming school year {wherein Hunter will be doing a hybrid of 2nd/3rd grade work}:

Language Arts
  • Reading: The plan is that Hunter will spend a significant amount of time each day reading  whole books {as opposed to using the abridged or modified stories typical of classroom textbooks}. Part of that time will be devoted to structured reading, likely with books linked to our history lessons and study of ancient cultures. The rest of the time will be for "fun" reading, with books of his choice. For memorization, we will be working from The Harp and Laurel Wreath, as well as using material from First Language Lessons. 
  • Writing I'm afraid this may be our Waterloo. Hunter is resistant to writing in any form, but I have high hopes for the program we've chosen: Writing with Ease, Level 2. It's designed to work in tandem with First Language Lessons, but I hope it's not overkill.
  • Spelling We are using Spelling Workout, Level B.
  • Grammar We are starting with First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 2.

We are using Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child starting with Volume 1: The Ancient Times. 
I am so excited about this portion of our learning. I think I will learn as much as {or more than} Hunter! I bought the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia  to augment our studies and plan to purchase the Usborne ancient history encyclopedia as well.
We're going to try Saxon math this year. I read a million different opinions about math curricula, and  in the end, I went with Saxon because I am familiar with it. I did the assessment test with Hunter twice and it looks like he needs to do level 2. I struggled with this, since I know a lot of the material is stuff he covered in school last year. However, it was all presented in Chinese, which means a lot of the concepts and terminology take a bit longer for him to grasp. Hopefully, it won't be too boring. I'd rather have him master the skills he needs to move on rather than start with level 3 and be frustrated.
I'm stumped for science. Hunter loves science and wants to study everything,  so I've been hard-pressed to commit to a curriculum. I might try a unit-study approach to allow us to touch on a bit of everything {he wants to study chemistry, astronomy, earth science, you name it!}. But I also like the looks of this curriculum that SWB recommends: Real Science-4-Kids. Has anyone tried this curriculum? Did you like it? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Fine Arts
Hmmm. This is the area I have given the least amount of thought to. I'm not musical at all, so it's not an area I can teach him. I might do some sort of music appreciation, but I've yet to figure out what that will entail. Piano lessons are not in the budget right now, but that might be something to consider in the future. As for art... we'll do crafts and other projects on Fridays and I hope to study various artists and types of art that fit with our study of ancient cultures.
Foreign Language
Hunter loved learning Chinese, so we are going to try and at least maintain the level of proficiency he has developed over the past 3 years. He will work with a tutor once a week and Caitlin will be practicing with him as well. I may also buy Rosetta Stone, but we'll see. This was one of the hardest things for me when we decided to home school. I knew he would be losing the opportunity to develop proficiency in another language, but hopefully we can continue to foster his enthusiasm for Chinese with a good tutor.
Phys. Ed
Hunter plays hockey 3 days a week all winter. He will be continuing with weekly swim lessons at our local Y. We'll also be working a walk/run/bike ride into our day somewhere in order to maintain every one's sanity {his, mine, and the dog's!}.

Phew. That's a whole lotta information in one post. I would love, love, love to hear any advice, recommendations, or words of wisdom from other homeschooling families. 
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  1. It sounds like you have done your research and will be off to a good start . Reading this really makes me hope we homeschool, but i am gonna give public a fair shake first. Are boys sound so similar, this will be a good starting block for me if we do decided to homeschool mid year. Good luck!!!

  2. It sounds like you have done your research and will be off to a good start . Reading this really makes me hope we homeschool, but i am gonna give public a fair shake first. Are boys sound so similar, this will be a good starting block for me if we do decided to homeschool mid year. Good luck!!!

  3. Well, first off, welcome to the homeschool journey! It's a blessing even on the hard days. Go easy on yourself the first year, you'll find that your style will develop over time and your students' needs will change every single year..LOL.

    A quick idea for fine arts - check out the Maestro Classics cds for music and the Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason for an easy artist study resource. We love listening to the Maestro classics cds.

    You can peek at the homeschool plans for our 7 children on our blog here:
    We have grade 6 down to the baby.

    Have a lovely year!

  4. My oldest just turned 9 and we have been homeschooling from the beginning.

    I hope you will continue to blog about your homeschool journey.


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