Since we are winding down with the school year, I figured it was time to update you on my thoughts on the curriculum we used this school year. Now, we technically school year round, so we aren’t really done with the year, but we are winding down and I’m planning next year already.
You can find my post about our plans here. As usual, some aspects of the plan changed, but for the most part, this is what we stuck with.
Turns out my Preschool/First Grade kids were the most problematic in terms of finding and sticking to a curriculum. My first grader started the year unable to read. He is currently barely reading CVC words. He is just struggling with reading. It isn’t clicking just yet. In my experience, kids who struggle with reading seem to struggle for ages, then something clicks and they speed through and “catch up” extremely quickly. I am waiting for the “clicking” moment for my first grader. I decided halfway through the year that while I would keep putting phonics in front of them, we weren’t going to stop our world because they couldn’t read or remember all their letters.
Turns out my little kids did not care for Life of Fred. They thought it was funny, but they weren’t really learning much from it. I had it from a pervious child who did really well with it, so I was a little surprised that it wasn’t working for these kids. We read it anyway, but it was pretty clear they weren’t learning much from it, simply being entertained. We may pull it out again when they are a little older and see how they like it, but for now, we’re setting it aside.
I made a box of math games at the beginning of the semester. (I promise I will get around to making a post about it!) It worked out really well for the most part. Each game had several “levels” of play. They really enjoyed it and it was easy for me to take out while the toddler napped and let them have some hands on math fun.
For our first term, we went through Fairy Tales. We pulled from several books, including Time Lord Fairy Tales. I expected that to be their favorite, but it had no pictures, so it was a little difficult for the little kids to imagine. The love Doctor Who, but the books were a little difficult for their level. I appreciated them. Their favorite Fairy Tale book ended up being Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection. We read Hans Christian Anderson, Grimm’s, and a few more. I added activities in to go along with the stories. I just looked them up on Pinterest. They liked the snack activities best. The bog kids were constantly asking to sit in.
During our second term, we read through all the Peter Rabbit books. The boys were very into it. Add in a squirrel and rabbit hand puppet to use as a narrator, and we had a hit on our hands. I also bought them each a Peter Rabbit Coloring book that we colored throughout the term. The coloring book was a picture by picture version of Peter Rabbit. It is just that story. I expected it to have more characters in the Peter Rabbit world, but it did not. However, the boys did enjoy the coloring books.
Winnie the Pooh
For the third term, we read through Winnie the Pooh. For this, they bring their own bears to story time. I contemplated buying them each a classic Pooh bear, but ultimately, since they eat have a bear given to them at birth, we used their own bears. I had a lot pf ideas for this unit, but ended up deciding to stick with the simplicity of story time with bear. The boys are loving it. The big kids are jealous.
We did use Alpha Tales and Phonics Tales. We really like Alpha Tales. Phonics Tales, not so much. I think Bob Books are better. We used Alphabetimals Coloring books. The boys loved them. I ended up having to buy the toddler one, too. When they finished those, I bought them each The Garden Fairy Alphabet Coloring Book. These are pretty detailed for younger kids. My boys liked them, but they did not love them. My oldest daughter would have loved them at that age. But the boys weren’t as excited about the fairies and the flowers. After they finished those up, I bought them each a Little ABC Coloring Book. These are much smaller coloring books, but the boys LOVED them. They loved the small size and the simpler pictures. They really enjoyed the alphabet coloring books, so I will probably keep that up next year. The Letter Factory DVD was also in high rotation. I didn’t have the Fridge Phonics set with it this time, just a set of magnetic letters. I really think the combination of the Letter Factory and the Fridge Phonics makes learning letter sounds so easy and simple. My ABC Bible Verses was a surprising hit, as well. I think it was a stretch to consider it an alphabet book, but we liked the wholesome stories about a brother and sister and how they learned certain Bible verses. It was a good start to our “class time” but it didn’t really reinforce letters so much as it did Bible verses and character building. We will likely try out My ABC Verses from the Psalms next school year because the boys did really like it.
We tried numerous apps and games on the tablets that I just didn’t think worked. They loved them. I didn’t think they were learning anything. Some of them were just too repetitive and didn’t get on to the next thing for them to learn more than the A sound in a month. Some of them just had too many bells and whistles. ABC Mouse was one the boys liked, but they didn’t learn anything with. Veritas Press Phonics Museum was good, but the boys didn’t enjoy it as much. Homer I loved the books and music, but the program itself was far too slow moving. (I still have my Homer subscription because of the books. I screen share from my iPad to our home TV through an app on the Xbox called AirPlay. I also do this with Kindle books for kids. I throw them on the screen so they can see the pictures easily while I read.)
The little boys sat in on our morning basket time, so they did get some science there. Other than that, we read selections from The Handbook of Nature Study and took nature walks. They loved doing this. Though, in the suburbs, there is only so much nature you’re really going to encounter. But we talked about weather, trees, seasons, dirt, rocks, and wind. We also read through the Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia. Whatever our letter of the day would be, we’d pick an animal with that letter. While they enjoyed it that way, I think an animal encyclopedia goes best with weekly zoo trips, which we did not do this year. I’m looking to do that next year, though Topher is trying to convince me that the natural history museum will be more fun. (Because it has dinosaurs.)
We got Critical and Creative Level One for these little guys. I honestly did not like this level as much as I like the higher levels. There was a lot of content that was assumed a young child would know that my young children did not know. They don’t know much about Hanukah. They don’t know much about commercialized Christmas. They don’t know about a traditional school setting. We ended up having to skip a lot of the beginning content because it was just stuff they didn’t know. And since this was about logic skills, I didn’t see why it would be necessary to teach them about the topic just for them to complete the thinking skills work. I also liked skipping around in the book because you want to do the Halloween section around Halloween (if you want to do it at all). You want to cover Fall at the beginning of Fall. I’m not sure if we’ll continue the Critical and Creative books next year. I liked them, but I didn’t like them. They were good in terms of teaching logic, but I didn’t actually like the content and the books. If that makes any sense at all.
Overall, we didn’t make as much progress this year with this age as I thought we would. They had a lot of fun. We read a lot of books. So, the exposure was certainly there. I wouldn’t consider it a failed year, because they really were engaged and exposed to a whole host of new ideas. But as far as their skills in reading and math, they’ll need another year to work that out. So, Ransom will stay in the “little kid class” next year and not move up into the “Upper Grammar” stage. Again, there is nothing wrong with this at all. This is just my assessment of where they are and then using that to plan for next year. My kids usually work from “Lower Grammar” where I do more Kindergarten and “little kid” stuff with them. Once they are reading proficiently and have a grasp on basic math concepts and numbers, they move into “Upper Grammar”. They get more independent in this phase and have to read a lot more books and have a much more in depth math program. After “Upper Grammar”, they move into the “Logic Stage”, which is their middle school years. They read a lot. They write a lot more. They are much, much more independent. After that, they’ll move into the “Rhetoric Stage”, also known as high school. We don’t have any that far yet, so I’m not sure what that will entail, but I am currently thinking dual enrollment will be in their future. We’ll see.
But the boys are right where they are. And where they are is where they are “supposed” to be. That is part of the beauty of homeschooling. Their education is hand made for them, so their progress is the right progress. No matter how fast or slow. No matter how lopsided it may seem. They are where they are “supposed” to be.
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