Friday, July 22, 2011

School Setup #2- Curriculum Choices

  • Our church, Reformation Covenant Church, has a great Sunday school program that goes through the whole bible if you start at the beginning.   I have the kids do their bible reading for Sunday school first thing every day, and we work on the memory verses during school time as well. 
  • WSC-A friend found this study, Catechism for Kids going through the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and I plan on working through it with the kids beginning this fall.

Language Arts
I have had quite a rough time of it with teaching language arts.  I am not a writer, nor do I know why things are spelled the way they are. I just know when they look "right" to me.   Because of this I didn't realize that my son needed MUCH MORE instruction in spelling until about 3rd grade.
Here's what I have tried that didn't work for us in grammar:
  • Waiting till 3rd grade for formal grammar( very bad idea if you ever MIGHT use a private school) 
  • Abeka 
  • Misc. free online grammar workbook that we were doing for a while, then realized that there was no answer key!
I finally Settled on First Language Lessons for elementary grammar.   This was just the right approach for kiddo & myself. Sadly, I realized that this was the best fit for him just before we decided to put the kids in a private school for last year.  My son was placed a grade lower than I had thought mainly because of the weakness in the LA areas.  They were using Shurley English, so this was completely the right decision for us. So, here we are again, homeschooling.  I am going to use Shurley English.  If I were starting again from the beginning I would definitely use FLL again, but he has now had a whole year of Shurley, and he is doing well in it.

Spelling... GACK!   I used TATRAS for reading instruction/phonics.  However, I stopped when DS#1 was reading well.   I didn't even think about the impact this might have on his spelling.

I don't know how to spell. I just do it.
Remember, I just use my very accurate visual memory combined with my reading addiction love for reading.  This means that most of my spelling issues are things like "Which version of the word colour/color should I  use?   Grey or gray?  This meant that I had no idea of how to TEACH spelling. I was surprised that although DS could read well, he couldn't spell very well.
Sequential Spelling did nothing for him.  He could only spell the words by figuring out the pattern, and the base words were often completely wrong.   A couple friends had been talking to me about Spell to Write & Read.   I was semi interested, but the teachers manual is very hard to work through. It is NOT open & go, so flipping through the book was a turn off.   I was surprised when Levi came home from private school with a spelling rule chart from the SWR program. Charlotte was in 1st grade there, and was doing very well with her spelling.   Levi was ok with the newer rules that were introduced, but the spelling lists that the school used were designed for those students who had already done 3 years of SWR.

I was able to hear Ms. Sanseri speak at the OCEAN homeschool conference in June. This was very helpful with the reasoning why she taught what she does and when.  The book is still hard to figure out, but hearing a few of the spelling rules explained in the lecture on how English is a logical language was just amazing.  Starting SWR at the beginning with an older reader is just fine, and he will move upward at the rate he learns, not based on grade level/age. So, I am now using the Spell to Write and Read core kit for phonics and spelling.

I prefer to keep on the same time period with all my kids, and I only have 2 in school.   I imagine that teaching more kids in several different time periods would be frustrating.  My parents used Bob Jones,  Abeka, Rushdoony's World History Notes, and America, the First 350 years, along with lectures from Dad.   A few of my siblings used Sonlight.  I was and am an avid reader.   I remember much of what I read from actual books, and the lectures Dad used. However, I don't remember a lick of the textbooks.  A few pictures from the textbooks stick in my brain, and I could pick out the book we used by its cover, but not what they were about.

All this led me toward Tapestry Of Grace.  I couldn't afford it new when I found it.  Thankfully, Exodus Books had the last 2 units of year 1 classic. I was able to get a good taste of the way TOG worked without spending a ton.  I love it.  I then bought year 2 used from homeschool classifieds, and I was happily working along through it, and then disaster struck! I was missing a week. (it's a 3ring binder product,so the seller lost some of it)  I really didn't want to skip that week, it was the week comparing and contrasting Islam and Christianity. I decided to buy the redesigned unit to compare the two, since I was missing a whole week, and I could get the digital version that day.    It was so spiffy that I have been saving up for the redesigned ever since then.  I am currently finishing up our first pass through Year 2, (it's summer, we're reading only)  and will start year 3 in LG & UG in September.

Fine Arts
  • Charlotte Mason style Picture Study  I have great hope of spreading this out to match our TOG weekplans. 
  • Meet the Masters   This is artist study & hands on art projects-Homeschool buyers co-op had a 3 year subscription for about 1/2 price, so I bit.    
  • Composer study - Again, I am weaving this in with Tapestry.  There are composer & artist listed in the TOG teachers notes, but no comprehensive listing of artist or composer by week plan.   I want that so I can file my prints by the week we will use them.  This means more work for me, but I'll only have to do it once for each year plan.
  •  Music Lessons- I would love to pay for piano lesson for DD, and something else for DS, but the $ just isn't here right now.  I am toying with the idea of buying the Alfred piano kit & teaching them at home, but that too requires money not currently available. 

I need to figure this out more, so I am currently doing Writing With Ease for 2nd grade DD, and I am a bit in flux with DS.  I am currently having him do a report using a cluster diagram on  Killer Bunnies, a silly and fun game he loves.   We are going to do Imitation In Writing  this fall, and while we work through that, I need to get in depth with the IEW teacher training. 

DS started Latin for Children  last year in school, and we will continue that.  DD wants to learn Latin too, so she is doing Songschool Latin.

  • Saxon older grades are the best for us, but k-3rd is way too scripted for me.  DS is a math kiddo, he likes to read the chapter, work the problems and go. He is currently in 5/4 and will be starting 6/5 in the early spring.
  • I prefer Horizons for the younger grades of Math.

 Links for help:

Some of my favorite places for information on curriculum choice are Exodus Books, a lovely LOCAL homeschool bookstore with great service, the Well Trained Mind Forum, and curriculum fairs.  Of course, if you know other homeschoolers, (I do, almost a whole church full :-D )  then they can be of great assistance in evaluating different choices.   Just don't get swept up in a large wave of "Everyone likes it so you should try it" if what you have is working.    The hs curriculum fairs are worth going to just to be able to look at particular things you may not have access to in real life.   The OCEAN conference allows you to buy an exhibit hall only pass so you can browse & research without going to the expense of doing all the lectures.  This can be a great option for a more seasoned homeschooler, or a non christian. 

Anyhow, sorry for the lengthy post, but it's nice to get all my thoughts down in one spot.  :-)


  1. Hi there!
    I hopped over here from the WTM board. I'm using TOG this year too (Year 1). I LOVE your idea of weaving in Picture and Composer study with TOG weeks! That sounds so awesome......any chance you would consider sharing once you're done? =)

  2. I'm glad I found your blog, very helpful since we are just starting and really looking at our child's overall education. One art program I found to be useful is the Great Artist Program, our daughter has loved it. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have heard of them. Thanks!