Sunday, September 28, 2014

Homeschool 2014-2015: My curriculum choices, and now we're official!

When we first decided to homeschool, I was surprised to discover that here in Louisiana children do not reach compulsory age for school attendance until age seven! This meant that as we were homeschooling kindergarten and first grade, we did not need to submit any notification to the state because Sunshine was not yet legally required to attend school. (Just don't tell her that!)  She will turn seven this fall however, so this school year marks our first as official, state-recognized homeschoolers. There are two registration options for homeschooling in Louisiana; we have chosen the least involved method for the time being, which simply requires that we register with the state as a private school. This meant our school needed a name, so we have chosen St. Dominic Savio Academy. I like that St. Dominic Savio isn't terribly common, but he's also very relatable for kids. He himself was still a teenager when he died, was very devout, and tried to help his schoolmates life holy lives for Jesus; a trait which I think any Christian parent hopes their child will have.

As a complete novice homeschooler when we started out in kindergarten, I opted to use a complete "box" curriculum while I was still discovering our styles of teaching and learning, as well as what types of curriculum were out there. For first grade I made a few substitutions, and this year for second grade I've gone totally eclectic and chosen all subjects myself. With Sunshine's giftedness this really is the best option for us, as it allows me to choose materials that are on her level, regardless of what letter or number is printed on the cover.

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Update: Links have been added! In the next few days I hope to have time to share my morning work printables available for download in a new post.

Morning Work: For her morning work, I created journal pages for Sunshine to keep in a binder. One side has her writing her name and the date (since she's my only student, she never has to do so for any of her papers!), our number of days in school, some basic addition, subtraction, and greater/less than, as well as writing the time in both analog and digital. On the back I give her a sentence to proofread for simple mistakes, she has a place to write her spelling words for the week, and a short 2-3 sentence journal topic.

Math: We're sticking with MCP Math, which we started off with in Kindergarten. It's not mind-blowingly exciting, but it seems to be getting the job done so I figure why fix what isn't broken? We're supplementing with Math Wraps to help practice her facts, some Base Ten blocks, pattern tiles, and logic puzzles.

Reading: I wanted a program that used real books and not readers, so once we got through the Little Stories for Little Folks phonics readers and Bigger Stories for Little Folks short stories from Catholic Heritage Curriculum (CHC) last year, we moved on to the Storytime Treasures series from Memoria Press (MP). The reading material in Storytime Treasures was a bit simple for her, but I found it to still be a good fit for her as she gets used to the comprehension portion of the student guides. We're finishing up More Storytime Treasures now, then we will move on to MP's second grade literature program.

Handwriting: Up until now, we used and liked the handwriting books from CHC. Sunshine, however, really wanted to learn to write in cursive this year, and CHC doesn't introduce cursive until third grade. So since I would say our current curriculum is Kolbe Academy "inspired," we're using this book which they recommend. I like that it reviews printing one more time before moving on to cursive writing.

Phonics & Spelling: Sunshine has always been a strong reader, but I wanted to make sure that for the sake of her spelling she didn't miss out on learning phonics rules. I particularly went looking for phonics and spelling programs that worked together, and settled on the "plaid" phonics series and Spelling Workout series, both from MCP.

Grammar & Writing: Last year I totally could not settle on a program, even after reading through lots of reviews. I was already using a couple of things from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) and was pleased with them, so I found their English materials on Amazon and decided to just go with that until I found something else for the long term. I still haven't found anything else, and like I said with Math why fix what isn't broken; so we're sticking with Houghton Mifflin English again this year. It's obviously designed for use in a traditional classroom, but thanks to Amazon I can get the textbooks, workbooks, and even teacher editions pretty inexpensively.

Science: Since this was and is still my favorite subject, we decided it would be the one thing we would splurge on. For second grade we are continuing with the Harcourt ScienceFusion series. Each year I've been able to save 40% by purchasing through the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op; it's still expensive, but the multidisciplinary approach of digital lessons, book work, and hands on experiements really seems to help her grasp the concepts more clearly.

Social Studies: For the past two years we've used a general social studies, Harcourt Horizons, which I was buying inexpensively on Amazon. I've been happy with it as a general course, but this year at Sunshine's request we've decided to go it alone as we are starting in on world history. We're using "History Year by Year" as our spine and fleshing it out with library books and other activities. Continuing this year is our world geography using Little Passports as our spine (which is one of Sunshine's favorite parts of homeschool), and we're using the Evan-Moore Daily Geography Practice to work on map skills.

Religion: For religion this year I'm letting Sunshine go to CCD classes at church; last year since we were just starting out I did her CCD at home while we settled in. But I'm still supplementing at home with the CHC sacramental prep materials "Preparing to Receive Jesus" as well as the Baltimore Catechism, saint stories, the CHC character cards, etc.

Extracurriculars: We are of course continuing gymnastics classes for part of her PE lessons. She's still in Girl Scouts, and as her art/music class she has joined our church parish's children's choir. We also enjoy using the Wee Sing cd's and books at home. And for visual arts, in addition to our random arts & crafts projects she has requested an art center in our office/homeschool room for her birthday, so soon I'll be assembling a collection of nicer art supplies and a space to work. Plus we've signed her up with a membership on DIY, so while we haven't had much time to play with it yet it looks like it will be a good tool to give her an incentive to explore a lot of different areas.

We certainly don't get to every subject every day, but when I lesson plan I just make a list of lessons for each subject, rather than actually scheduling lessons onto a calendar, and when we pick something up we just start again where we left off. I figure the school year isn't a race, and we've got 180 days to fill. As long as I feel like we're making satisfactory progress, I don't stress too much. After all, one of the joys of homeschooling is flexibility, right? The weather is FINALLY nice after the sweltering southern summer, so a lot of days I let her out to just enjoy the freedoms of childhood. There will be plenty of cold, wet days and hot, sweaty days to hide inside with our formal learning.

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