Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Homeschooling Review 2012-2013 and Plans for 2013-2014

(with peppered photos of our smallest little mohawked-learner from a few weeks ago)

We had a good school year.  Mary Clare finished the 4th grade and Ellie 2nd.  I can hardly believe that Steven Joseph will be in Kindergarten this year!  I'm not going to add all the curriculum links here since it takes forever and it's so easy to Google, but if anyone has questions, let me know.

We're going to stick with most of the same things we've done before, but as usual I always add in a few new options each year.  We'll also be participating in our local Classically Catholic Memory co-op that I'm spearheading here, and we'll continue to have our monthly St. Francis Nature Club days at the Botanical Gardens.  If all goes well, we'll be welcoming a new little one around February, so I need to keep that in mind with my planning.  I imagine we'll have to work into the summer a bit next year if we take a big break for baby.  We'll see!

I'm looking at the possibility of enrolling with the Mother of Divine Grace school in the future, maybe around 7th grade for Mary Clare.  So some of my current book choices are reflecting my current thoughts about getting back on the MODG "train" in the coming  years.

This was Ellie's First Confession and First Holy Communion year.  We used both Faith & Life and the New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism.  Mary Clare used Seton's Religion.

For this next year, I don't plan to do a formal religion program with Steven for Kindergarten, but just read some saint and bible stories, celebrate feasts, and I'm sure he'll listen in on some of his sisters' lessons.  I am also hoping he'll get to participate in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program at church, and Ellie might be able to participate as well!  I need to check and see if we have Faith & Life's 3rd grade book for Ellie.  I am actually considering just using the Baltimore Catechism for both the girls this year, possibly doing some copywork from it too.  I liked that the Seton book was independent but I also didn't keep up with what she was reading, and I'm not sure that I like the format with the questions at the end which seemed to be difficult for her to answer.  If I decide to choose a textbook, I plan to use Faith & Life.

This past year we continued with Math U See, which we've been using since Mary Clare was in Kindergarten.  Ellie finished Beta and Mary Clare finished Delta.  I considered switching her to Saxon this year but ended up sticking with MUS It works for us, but I'm afraid that we'll want to switch to Saxon at some point and I've heard that sooner than later is better!

Next year I will definitely have Ellie and Steven Joseph using MUS, but I have yet to decide whether to change Mary Clare to Saxon.  If you have any advice, please share!  I'd also like for them to use an online or iPhone app for math fact drills a few times a week.  Steven Joseph hasn't finished the kindergarten Abeka Math yet, so I'm not sure if we'll finish that before moving into MUS Alpha a few months into the year.  MUS Alpha is technically their 1st grade book, so I don't mind working slowly through both Alpha and Beta like I did with the girls.

All 3 of the children have been using Seton's Handwriting for Young Catholics series, and I plan to continue that.  They also each have a Phonics workbook from Seton.  The girls each have a Seton English grammar book as well.  I have considered trying out Intermediate Language Lessons, but Primary Language Lessons didn't work well for us, so I'm not sure it would be a good fit.  I'd like to start the IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) Program with Mary Clare sometime soon, but right now I'm thinking we'll wait until 6th grade.

I was so happy to find All About Spelling this year!  Ellie started it last August, while Mary Clare tried out IEW's Phonetic Zoo for Spelling.  By January I decided that AAS would be good for her too, so we dropped the Phonetic Zoo (not a great fit for her) and they're both working through the 3rd book of AAS.  Steven Joseph started All About Reading Pre-Level 1 in January and loves it.  I plan to continue that with him for reading, and move into Level 1 when he finishes the Pre-Reading program.  I'll probably wait until 1st or 2nd grade to start All About Spelling with him.

I would like to improve our literature choices and amount of reading this year.  Both girls are now able to read chapter books, and Mary Clare definitely needs to be encouraged to try some more challenging books than the American Girl series or Nancy Drew.  She's hoping to read The Hobbit soon, and I know I just need to invest in a good number of juvenile fiction books.  Ellie is at the beginning chapter book level, so it can be hard to find good selections for her.  I'm hoping she'll try the Little House series and a few others that we have on our shelves.  I'd like to continue reading chapter books to them, but unfortunately this hasn't gone over very well.  They complain when I want to read to them, but they do enjoy books on CD, so I guess we can focus on those.  They still enjoy when I read picture books, at least the younger three.

This year we covered Texas History.  Mary Clare used Texas History by Splash Publications which was great for her level.  Ellie used a little workbook I found at the teacher supply store that included the basic facts about our state.  We also read some from a book entitled "Catholic Texans: Our Family Album," and did a little writing project using a fun picture book called "L is for Lone Star." We finished out the year with trips to Goliad State Park and the Alamo, both Texas missions.  It was a low-key year for History, which was good for all of us.

This year we'll go back to American History for the girls.  Ellie will use the Abeka 3rd grade book, hopefully peppered with some literature choices.  Mary Clare will use From Sea to Shining Sea (Catholic Textbook Project), and we plan to use some of the extra reading choices that go along with that book from the list on the Mater Amabilis website.  Steven Joseph can listen in on the lessons but I won't do formal History (or Science) with him until closer to 2nd grade.  I may also read (or find CDs for) Story of the World.  I'd like them to have at least a little exposure to World History before middle school.

We have been studying Human Anatomy using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology.  This is a pretty in-depth program compared to other science texts we've used, so we didn't make it through the book and will continue over the next few months.  We have enjoyed using their lab kit, with the materials for each experiment bagged and ready to use!  We also like their notebooking journals as a fun way to review what they've been learning with mini-books, worksheets, and coloring pages.

We'll finish up Anatomy and then I'm thinking we may into Apologia's Botany program after that.  I know many Catholics are hesitant because of the Young Earth and Evangelical Protestant perspective in these books, but I read them aloud and can skip or explain things and I do like the Christian perspective when considering God's hand in creating all the amazing things that we learn about in science.  Steven Joseph will listen in on the girls' science, but won't have a formal program.  They'll all do some nature study at our St. Francis Nature Club.

This year the girls used Map Skills for Today books.  I'm not overly opinionated about Geography but I do like the kids to work through a book throughout the year.  MODG recommends the Abeka Geography that goes with their History (Our American Heritage) for 2nd grade, so I will probably use that for Ellie.  For 5th grade they recommend "The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide" which looks interesting but includes a lot of printables and games, and I'm not sure I'll be up for that this year.  I may just move into the next level of Map Skills for Today for her.

Both girls will continue with ballet training, probably twice weekly.  They'll likely participate in the Nutcracker Ballet again, too.  Ellie will keep up with her piano lessons, and Mary Clare will probably continue the church choir with me (Ellie comes too but doesn't really sing).  I'll be helping with the Fine Arts in our twice-monthly co-op, where I'm planning to use the program Artistic Pursuits.  We may do some of that at home too.  I'd like to purchase some more Music Masters CDs for music appreciation.  They'll do some nature study and artwork at our monthly Nature Club as well.

Mary Clare has almost finished the Prima Latina Latin book from last year, and I am planning on doing Latina Christiana with her this coming year.  She's not looking forward to more Latin, though, so I'll need to really promote this program and its importance!  I've always wanted to do the Rosetta Stone Spanish program with the kids, but it has never quite fit in the budget.  Maybe we'll be able to fit it in sometime later this school year. 

The kids will learn some poetry, along with Latin songs and prayers in their co-op, but I hope to do some of this at home, too.  And the girls will learn some Latin chant in our church choir. 

I'm always grateful to finish another year of homeschooling with the knowledge that our kids are gaining academic knowledge as well as good social skills and family relationships.  We are learning together as a family as we hope to help each other reach Heaven.  This summer has been a time of recognition for me about various aspects of the childrens' formation that has been enhanced by our homeschool.  Each of them excel in different areas and have challenges in other areas, and we all have discipline issues to work on (me most of all!).  But I'm confident that this is where we are called to be right now, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve my family in this way, on the good days and the bad.  Thanks be to God!


Neen said...

I love apologia books. Every museum offers the old earth perspective. I think they are more rounded having been offered this. I have heard some say that they are not strong enough in the sciences, but I have only heard that from those in the field. The books they would like would not work for my simple mind. I didn't love Botany as much as Astronomy. have a fun year.

Ingrid said...

We bought the Rosetta Stone Spanish homeschool version this summer and it has been a good fit for Emma but challenging for Colin to work through independently. Next year will probably be perfect for him. I was able to purchase it with a friend since the homeschool version license allows you to use it on two separate computers with up to five profiles per computer. I think we had a coupon too, and each paid about $200 for levels 1-5. It would be worth looking into. You know I like the Usborne series for early chapter books (like the ones MK borrowed so long ago). Other good early chapter books are the Boxcar Children, Magic Treehouse, Ready Freddy, A to Z mysteries, etc. More complex picture books like Berenstain Bears or Magic Schoolbus are also a good fit for this group! You are welcome to browse my shelves and borrow something fresh for a few months the next time you are in town.

Kiley said...

Hi Blair! Thanks for sharing your year with us! I just wanted to comment about MODG, enrolling, following, etc. I have used MODG almost exclusively with the boys, now in 7th grade. Its a good fit for them. If they decide they want to homeschool through highschool, I will enroll them in 9th grade. This way they will have official transcripts and an official diploma when college admission time rolls around (all too soon!). I used Abeka Math for them according to MODG, then switched to Saxon Math for 4th and 5th grade. But in 6th, I went out on my own and switched them to Teaching Textbooks. They love it and so do I! It really answered my prayers for Math, I din't have the time I used to have to instruct them with all the little ones running around. TT does that on the computer. I didn't have time to keep up with grades (although not super important, it is nice to see how they progress). TT does that too! They are using it again this year for 7th and I plan to use it for 8th too. Obviously if I enroll them in MODG, they will have to do what is suggested for Math. I also standardize test them, and they are doing excellent in Math, which takes the worry off that they are missing something. Hope that helps! Also, a little about Rosetta Stone...the boys tried Arabic a couple of years ago and were very frustrated with it. With all the noise in our lovely household, background noise would mess up what the computer heard the boys say, and was just difficult for them. Even when they took the computer to the bedroom and shut the door, it was still difficult to pronounce and have the computer recognize the voice. Perhaps this is just more technical (maybe the laptops), but I'll let you know if we try it again. I have heard nothing but good reviews, but that is our experience. Not giving up! You are so right, the most important learning we do is together as a family, learning to know, love, and serve God here on earth and work together to get to heaven. I'm certain God is not going to ask us 2X2, but He will ask us if we went forth and multiplied.........for HIM! All the best for next year! Miss and love you bunches, Kiley

Anonymous said...

We use a lot of the same things. This past year we were part of a coop that did Classically Catholic Memory and my son did Catechisis of the Good Shepherd which we loved. However, we just moved from the area.

We also use MUS, lots of MODG materials and Apologia. We just finished Land Animals last year, this coming year we are doing Astronomy.

Last year, my oldest used from Sea to Shining Sea, but we did struggle with it a bit, so this year we are just following the MODG syllabus for history.
We do like the Abeka 3rd grade history, so my 3rd grader is doing that this year.

We've also used AAS and really like it, although this year, we are trying The Writing Road to Reading and Starting a Spelling Notebook, so we'll see how that goes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing all this, Blair! We bought Rosetta Stone French for William this past year, and it turned out to be too hard. I didn't realize it is really a high school equivalent course, so it will go pretty slowly for an elementary school student. William also had trouble due to the noise in the house. We may try again next year but will probably just stick with Latin workbooks instead.

We moved to Saxon Math in 4th grade (5/4 level). It sounds like you've had nothing but success with MUS. I have heard if you plan to use Saxon for higher math, you want to switch by the year before pre-algrebra.

I would really like to organize a St. Francis Nature Club for our co-op. Can you share on your blog or email me how you do it? Thanks!!

Micaela Darr said...

So much good stuff here, Blair! (I apologize. The link-up didn't send me an email that you had participated, so I didn't see it until just now.)

I am interested in AAS. I just bought Lighted Lanterns for my 2nd grader, so we're going to try that this year, but perhaps the following year.

Also, I'd be really interested in more info on MUS. we were choosing between that and Singapore and ended up going with Singapore. I like it, but sometimes I wish math was just a teeny bit less hands-on for me.

Ashlee said...

I am excited to see you're using MUS and the kids enjoy it. We are using Singapore, and I'm not loving it. For the same reason Micaela said, it's just not as hands on as I wanted in a math curriculum. We just finished KA and are thinking of adding MathTacular or MUS primer instead of moving on to KB. ~Ashlee

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