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Homeschool For Me and My House Part 5 – My Bookshelf

I think that this might just be my last post about how we do homeschool.  This will be a list of my favorite curriculum and why we use it.  I’ll also put this list on my sidebar later on.

First things first.  The Language Arts.


First of all, I am categorically opposed to preschool out of principle.  I think that when you are teaching older children, the younger ones pick it up too.  I especially think things like “calendar time” is a waste of my time.

BUT I also know that a three year old wants to be involved in what the family is doing.  So I AM going to start Spencer on “letter of the week” stuff.  Not because I think it is necessary, but because he really wants to participate.  For preschool, I really like the stuff that Confessions of a Homeschooler creates.  She also has several freebies for those who want to try it out.

Update: This Letter of the Week Curriculum is a WONDERFUL tool for “baby duty”.  Emma was able to keep Spencer occupied for a long while when I was working on other things.

If you want something that deals with several subjects www.abchomepreschool.com is great and has different levels for two year olds, three year olds and a third level for four thru six year olds.

For Emma I started with the Explode the Code Primers (she was almost five when she started these).  There are three books and over the course of the three books they learn each of the letters and their sounds and by the end they are reading simple words.  It’s a fun little workbook and Emma really liked it.

There is a teacher’s manual, but I found it unnecessary.  They also have books that come after it, but I wouldn’t have gotten them if I could do it over again.  Emma is working on level 1, but only because I don’t want to waste a workbook I’ve already bought.  Instead I would have gotten these earlier
Emma enjoys these short books.  They build upon each other, each a little harder than the last.  They are very colorful and the fun illustrations keep her reaching for these books often.  She will read them out loud to Spencer, carefully sounding out the words, then shouting the sentence out to me with pride.  Each set comes with 10 books.  If you aren’t opposed to buying used, you can get some great deals on them on ebay.  Nora Gaydos (the author) has several different levels as well has some that focus on math and science.  All three of my older kids love them.
Happy Phonics is on my wish list.  I have a friend who had it and I covet her copy.
For Lucy, we focus on refining her reading skills, so she reads out loud to us a lot.  We also read out loud to her.  I have found having her read out loud from the scriptures helps the most.  I have her read out loud to Spencer and Emma whenever I need them to be occupied.  And I read books out loud to her that she will write about them in her English binder.
For creative writing, Emma and Lucy both love to draw.  Without prompting, they are always writing “books” about whatever they have been drawing.  I’ll find the stories scattered throughout the house and put them in their English binders.  I’ll usually have Emma translate for me what she was trying to write and I’ll put it on the back or the bottom.  It’s fun to look back and see how far they have come!
I also use First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind with Lucy.  This book covers levels one and two.  Since I have started it with Lucy in second grade, we were able to skip several chapters (we are in our third week and are on lesson 52).  I’ve really enjoyed it myself.  I have to admit, that while I know how to speak properly (for the most part), I didn’t actually know most of the rules.

Memorization is also something I put a big emphasis on.  In addition to the poems that are in First Language Lessons, we have her working on the Articles of Faith and other scriptures, songs and other things.  When she is reciting things back to me or singing for us, I try to show her how to stand up straight, not fidget, look us in the eyes and smile.

For Spelling we use < a href=”http://www.all-about-spelling.com/”>All About Spelling.  This is one of Lucy’s favorite subjects.  When I spell, I mostly rely on what “looks right”.  It will be nice to be able to spell because I actually know how and why.  Do you know when you use ck instead of k?  Or what letters are often doubled following a short vowel sound at the end of a one syllable word?  Lucy is getting SO much better at spelling and these lessons reenforce her reading skills.  The biggest problem I face is that sometimes when we say a word fast, we say the wrong sound.  So we are all trying to speak more carefully.

Lucy just finished her most recent Explode the Code book, so we are going to replace it with a handwriting course.  Her handwriting is sometimes beautiful, but most of the time it is sloppy and not easily understood.  I am thinking about either A Reason for Handwriting
or Handwriting Without Tears.  If anyone has any experience with either of those, I’d love your input!
Math is something I have really struggled with.  Lucy pretty much can thrive on whatever I throw at her, but Emma learns differently and I don’t want to buy two separate curriculums for them.  In my math travels I have found two methods that I like.
I like Singapore Math, especially for kindergarten or intro to math.  They have very colorful and vibrant and work well with visual kids.
But eventually, Math became a battle and the lessons aren’t scripted like most of the other subjects.  So it is really hard for me to teach it.  So I finally ended up on Math U See and I’m praying I can just stick with it this time.  I like it because, like Singapore Math, it places a lot of emphasis on place value and counting from 0-9 instead of 1-10.  But for me, the best part is that the lessons are on DVD.  I turn it on, they watch a 3-5 minute lesson and then do the worksheets.  If they need to watch it again then they can.    And I don’t get frustrated and they don’t get frustrated.  Win-win.  Occasionally I’ll watch a lesson with them and when they have a question later, I’ll know how to answer them so that I can be consistent with his teaching.  Emma is on the Primer and Lucy is on Alpha.
I started Lucy on a lower level then she is capable of because I want her to have the right mind set.  She’s quickly (three or four lessons a day) moving on through alpha and will be on beta soon.
We have two days a week for History and two days for Science.
For History I use The Story of the World and the accompanying activity book.  It’s interesting, easy to understand and fun.  The only criticism that I have is that the author uses some artistic license in order to make some of the stories more interesting and relatable and she doesn’t clarify what is fact and what is embellished.  However, as a parent, I think it is easy enough to turn to your kid and say “we don’t know for sure that it happened this way, but it could have”.  And we spend a fair amount of time clarifying to our children what is and isn’t factual because of our beliefs.  For example, there are several stories and myths from the ancient civilizations (Egyptian Gods and Pharaohs, etc) but I will always turn to Lucy and say “but we know that there isn’t really a “river god”, that’s just what they believed back then.”  This book, as far as I can tell, does come from a Christian viewpoint.
For Science this year, we are currently studying Biology.  We’ll be spending 20 weeks on animals, 10 on human anatomy and 6 or so on botany.
Right now, each week the girls will alternate picking which animal they would like to learn about.  We’ll get out our DK animal encyclopedia and read about it, check out library books, do art projects, make posters and other things all about that animal.  There are countless free materials on the web for this kind of thing.  Yesterday (we had four extra kids at our house for this subject) we learned about horses.  After the coloring page and reading about them, we sorted through all of our toy animals and got out all of the horses.  We sorted them into hot-blood and cold-blood breeds.  Then we went into the back yard and the kids all practiced walking, trotting, cantering and galloping.  Later in the day, Lucy did some work on her poster.  Today Emma brought me a book of how to draw horses, pointed to one of the pictures and said “Is this horse galloping?” Yes it was.  Then “Is this one trotting?” Yes it was!
Next time we do biology in our four year cycle, we’ll be using the Apologia books.  We are using them now as a supplement, but they are a little detailed for Emma.  So we mostly use the sources I listed above.
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For Human Anatomy, we’ll be using Apologia
I don’t know yet what I’ll do for botany.  When springtime comes, we’ll put a hold on anatomy and study botany while we can plant a garden and see it in action.  Then we’ll go back to anatomy.

For Scripture Studies we use Discover the Scriptures.  This year it is Old Testament.  But there are only 20 lessons or so, so we very well may finish New Testament as well by the end of the school year.  I really love these!  They go hand in hand with the Scripture Stories, there are activities, drawing pages, memory scriptures, crossword puzzles, word search and all sorts of fun things.  Lucy really loves it.

Some other great resources as I love www.curriclick.com.  Ready made, unit studies for all ages and prices.  It is a place where several different people sell the curriculum that they have created (kind of like digital scrapbooking).  They have great things like monthly unit studies and you can see previews of most of the things that are available.  This one is by one of my favorites, Teacher’s Book Bag and it’s for just $2.49.  Games, info, cut and paste for the little ones…
I also love Homeschool Bits, most of her gems are just $1 and I can tell you from experience that they are packed!
Hands of a Child is one that I have used for the first time with our Horse study.  They are a little more pricey than others, but they are just PACKED full of information and activities!  I’ll be using them again for sure.  I’ll show you Lucy’s poster when she finishes it.

A lot of these have activities for making “Lapbooks”, which I have yet to do successfully, but we use the same things and just make small posters instead of lapbooks without any problems at all 🙂


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