Tuesday, July 12, 2011

HomeSchool Curriculum

Ok, a reader asked me if I would share what curriculum we chose and why, so just in case anyone else is curious, here goes...

First off, I decided to choose subject by subject instead of a complete grade.  There are lots of companies that offer you all subjects for a grade in one kit, like Sonlight or Switched On Schoolhouse.  Some of them are all on the computer, some are all books, some are a mix.  We didn't want all computer based learning, but that is something you'd have to decide for yourself.  Some people are comforted by just buying a complete grade and knowing that everything is there for you.  I however, wanted a more customized approach :)

For "english" I chose to go with Learning Language Arts Through Literature ( usually abbreviated LLAL).  I did this for a few reasons. First, it incorporates real books, which you can buy or pick up at the library.  I didn't want a course that used only paragraphs and excerpts printed in the work book.  LLAL does have these too, but relies mainly on real books, and also includes passages from the Bible, which is important to our family.  Also, it's an all-in-one program.  Spelling, grammar, reading and penmanship is all in one work book and blended into each day's lesson.  This was my preference over a course that had separate books for each of these areas.  I figure if I run into an area where they need extra work, I will supplement as needed.  These books are very popular, and it was one of the books I was able to borrow from my friend to look inside.  I was very impressed with both the content and the quality of them.

For math, we chose products from ABeka.  You have to buy directly from them, you can check out their website.  This too was a book I was able to look at.  We chose it over the other programs we considered for one main reason, it includes both metric and imperial in the lessons.  This way I don't have to supplement with a "Canadian measurements" book.  I may still have to supplement when we do money units, but I think I'll just explain to the kids that this quarter looks different because it's an American one, but you know what a Canadian one looks like.  It seems to me that there are two main types of math course.  One approach is called "mastery" where a student stays on one concept until they've done it a million times and mastered it.  The other is "spiral". The student learns little bits from all areas, coming back around and reviewing things throughout the year until they build up mastery in the many concepts.  ABeka is a spiral method.  We thought this would work best for our kids, but you'd have to decide which would suit your daughter best. There are so many great math programs out there!

For Bible, we chose the Alpha Omega Lifepacs.  I don't have any in depth reasons why, but we are giving it a try over the summer.  We too are building up to full class load through the summer.  We chose to start the Bible course now, and the kids like it alot.

For Science, I have two things.  One is the Human Physiology set from Apologia.  They come with a notebook that is great.  Again, it's from a Christian perspective which is important to us.  This set I think would still work well for your daughter's age.  There is a whole line ( biology, astronomy etc) and I know so many people who love them.  The other book we chose would be way to young for your daughter, as its aimed at kids from K-3, but just for interest sake, its called Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space.

The hardest thing to find was a french program.  Since we speak french, we don't want what would be too basic for our kids. ( Think the difference between starting English as a second language or actually taking an English course in high school...there is a big difference)  I did finally find one I am excited about, it's called The Easy French.  You can find her website by googling that.  I chose the early ages set, but she does have them going all the way to a high school level.  I love that this set teaches french a lot like a french immersion school would.

My kids are too young for me to worry much about social studies, but I am looking forward to covering it later.  Mystery of History and The Story of the World are two which intrigue me, but I haven't seen either of them.

We also incorporate learning into everyday situations.  If someone runs into something they'd like to know more about, we often google topics or questions.  We look up topics of interest at the library.  My kids obviously are too young to do this alone, but they are always welcome to ask for help.  It's pretty normal around here to hear someone say " I dunno... let's google it and find out!".  We watch lots of educational shows.  Our PVR really is my best friend!  I record shows from the history channel, discovery channel or PBS. y kids love Wild Kratts and the Magic School Bus, both shows which teach science in a kid friendly way.  They like MythBusters, although I hate the commercials that are on during it, so I sit with them and make sure we fast forward through them.

Ok, all that being said, I can only make choices for my family, and obviously you might have different interests or considerations than me.  Also, I chose these now, but haven't gotten full scale into using them, so I may change my opinions after we do.

It was really scary to choose everything!  The resources I thought were the most helpful were Cathy Duffy's Book 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.  She walks you through choosing what is important for you,what learning style your kids are, what teaching style you are, what method you would be ( Charlotte Mason, Classical, unschool, eclectic etc. When I first encountered these words, I was like Huh? What are those??  She explains them all and helps you think about what method would work for you. She's great at pointing out which course would work for your style.  Then all the reviews make waaaay more sense when you know.  Then you read that a book works well with Charlotte Mason, you'll know why they heck they are saying that!)  I highly suggest grabbing a copy of this, or checking it out of the library.  She then reviews tons of courses.  Also her website is great, with even more reviews and articles.  Another website I liked is www.homeschoolreviews.com  You can look up each course by name, or browse by subject area.

I bought most of my items from christianbook.com.  They also have tons of great reviews for their products.  I enjoyed reading through and seeing what other moms, and dads, had to say about their experiences with a product.  Of course, you'll find one person will love it, and the next will hate it, but at least most people include their reasons why and it gives you a good insight into the products.

Some books that I found helpful and encouraging were by Linda Dobson.  I'm sure you could search your local library and find lots of her titles.  One that was Helpful was specifically about your first year, and what to do to make it great instead of overwhelming.  There is a whole chapter on what to expect when you are bringing your child home in reaction to a negative school experience.

I have also loved reading and browsing through the blogs of other Christian homeschoolers.  I have found a whole list of blogs that I now follow and love the advice and experience of both other new homeschoolers and those more experienced moms.

Ok, well, if thats not the longest reply! Haha! Hopefully there was some helpful info in there for you!  Keep in touch, I'm looking forward to hearing how your search goes :)

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