Posted in Among The Homeschool, On The Reading Chair

A Gentle Feast- Full Review

This year, I deviated from my usual homeschool planning. Being in school full-time and trying to homeschool 5 kids, I didn’t have the time to put into planning my own curriculum out like I usually do. So, I turned to A Gentle Feast.

I initally chose A Gentle Feast because it has four cycles, where each child is working at their grade level within each cycle. That is a very familiar form for me, as I have always done a four-year history cycle with everyone on the same page. I opted to implement A Gentle Feast fully, using it for Morning Time, Core Subjects, and Langauage Arts. This program is one where you can just add math.

If you’re new to Charlotte Mason, A Gentle Feast offers a lot of guidance along the way to help you implement the philosophies. There are scheduling helps, including how to schedule for a 4 or 5 day school week. For the Children’s Sake is a good book to help you understand the philosophy of a Charlotte Mason education, as well.

A Gentle Feast uses forms instead of grades. Grades 1-3 are in form 1. Grades 4-6 are in form 2. Grades 7-9 are in form 3. And grades 10-12 are in form 4. With A Gentle Feast, you get all forms in your purchase of the main curriculum. So, if you look at your 5th grader’s history book and think, “This is way too difficult.” You have the option to look at the form under the one they are currently in and swap in that book instead. If you look and think, “This is way too easy.” You can easily move up a form. Additionally, buying 4 cycles is buying an entire 12 years of education. So, let’s say Little Jimmy is starting in 1st grade. In 1st grade, you buy Cycle 1. LJ does Cyle 1 Form 1. The next year, LJ is in 2nd grade. You buy Cyle 2 and do form 1. The next year, LJ moves to Cycle 3, form 1. The following year, LJ moves on to Cycle 4, form 2. The next year, you don’t buy curriculum. LJ goes back to Cycle 1 and does form 2. Each cycle has plans for grades 1-12, so once you’ve purchased all 4 cycles, you don’t have to buy more.

I really love the Bible memory portion of Morning Time. It isn’t something we’d added to our Morning Time, and I certainly didn’t think to add big chunks of passages to learn over a term instead of a single verse here and there. I wasn’t sure my kids could handle it, but it turns out they are masters of memory, especially the younger ones.

We have also really enjoyed poetry memorization. I was surprised at how well they memorized poems and how much they seem to enjoy it. Even Daisy, who is 2, memorized a poem in the first term.

I also really like that the program in literature based. I’ve been utilizing literature to build up our education in the home for years, so it is something I’ve grown to love incorporating into our learning.

When you buy A Gentle Feast, you can choose to get a printed teacher’s manual (which is what the pictures are from) in addition to the online resources or you can opt for the online resources only. The printed manual is pretty and makes organization easy, but it isn’t as all encompassing as I would like and you still have to utilize the online resources. The online resources aren’t organized in the best way, often using Google Documents instead of PDFs, which I find to be more time consuming and less user friendly. As a whole, it could be much more user friendly and better organized. You’ll get all the information you need by purchasing the print or digital option, but you’ll need to spend some time navigating and putting it all together.

Now, I have several complaints about A Gentle Feast, which I will outline in detail so that you can see if it’d be an issue for you. A Gentle Feast has many users and it works beautifully for many families. It is working for my family. It isn’t that it isn’t functional. It is. I just have some issues that will likely be the reason I choose to go back to compiling my own curriculum next school year.

Morning Time

My issues with Morning Time are really a matter of preference. I like to have all my kids together for Morning Time. While I love the addition of Bible Memory and poetry memorization, I’ve disliked some of the other portions.

Each form has different recommendations for Morning Time. To keep everyone together, we’ve been utilizing the books from all the forms. For example, in term 1 of cycle 1, younger students are reading one of Aesop’s fables each week. Form 2 students are reading a Norse myth once a week. Form 3 students are reading Shakespeare once a week. Form 4 are reading a different book once a week. To keep everyone together for Morning Time, we read one form’s suggested reading each day. The result is that we’re never really making much progress in any of them, but we are hitting all of them each week.

I also really liked the balance we had going in our Morning Time and feel like we’ve lost balance with A Gentle Feast. Morning Time just isn’t flowing as well as it has before, and I can’t quite put my finger on anything other than we’ve spread very thin and there is little cohesion day-to-day.

Language Arts

The Language Arts portion of A Gentle Feast goes along with the readings from other portions of the feast. If you’re skipping Morning Time, History, or Literature, the Language Arts packet will have content that is foreign for your child. I really liked this aspect of the Language Arts program and chose it for that reason. However, the excerpts aren’t always aligned with their reading. So, they may have an excerpt from a book they’ll be reading in a couple months or one they finished weeks ago. I don’t know why it doesn’t all align with their weekly reading.

Additionally, I don’t think there is enough grammar instruction in the Language Arts packets. Charlotte Mason is typically light on grammar, but I tend to find myself somewhere between Charlotte Mason and classical education (even though many will say Charlotte Mason is classical, there are clear differences), so this falls a bit short for me. There also isn’t a lot of writing. That might be wonderful to hear for some people. My older kids do all their narrations for each subject in writing, so they are getting writing practice in somewhere. I would say this program is grammar and writing light. There is a little of each, probably enough for most people’s taste, but it was a definite step back in difficulty and comprehensiveness for my kids. My kids have had more comprehensive grammar instruction, so the light review has been fine for them for this year, but I wouldn’t want that every year.

For the youngest kids, there is 100 Gentle Lessons for both reading and handwriting. I find both to be significantly lacking. The handwriting moves so slowly and offers no variety or interest. The reading is just a disjointed mess. My kids have had such a hard time following along and staying engaged. I ended up switching them back to An Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading, as it just does a better job at teaching the basics.

The handwriting isn’t really necessary if you’re using the Language Arts pack. There is weekly copywork included there, so they get plenty of writing practice. Also, if you’re using the student pages for Exploring Nature with Children (which is part of the receommended curriculum for A Gentle Feast), there is copywork available there, as well.

History

This is my main issue with A Gentle Feast. In classical education, history rotates through a chornological cycle. Charlotte Mason taught an individual out history model. Instead of starting history at the beginning, you start with the child. So, A Gentle Feast has American history (or Canadian history) as the four-year history cyle. Form 1, which is grades 1-3, only has American history. Form 2, grades 4-6, add in British history alongside American history. Form 3 and 4, grades 7-12, also have Ancient history along with British and American history. This has been so confusing and scattered. So, even though my kids are all on the same cycle, they are not on the same history schedule.

Additionally, there is no history spine. You just skip from book to book, but there is nothing really tying it all together or keeping the path clear. Keeping a Book of Centuries is a necessary component because without it, the kids would have no clue where everything fits together. I just find that I prefer a classical chronological history rotation over the haphazardness of this history method. That is a completely personal preference.

Geography isn’t tied into history at all in this program. It stands on its own and kids work through their geography work as a completely seperate subject. My kids have been doing fine with geography. There is nothing wrong with how it is done, I just prefer more tie-ins between subjects and tying history to geography is so easy.

Literature

The literature readings have been very hit or miss for my kids. I like to tie history into literature, and while there is some of that in this program, it isn’t as merged as I usually make it. There is nothing wrong with the book selections in A Gentle Feast, I think I’d just prefer to choose my own. And while you can do that with this program, just input what you want where you want, you’ll disjoint Language Arts even further by doing that. And why buy a comprehensive curriculum if you’re going to tweak it in the big areas anyway?

Science

This program is really weak in science. Using living books is very hard to create a science program that is deep and interesting. Form 1 has no science other than nature study. That is fine with me as our nature study tends to be pretty deep, especially for the younger kids who have lots of questions. It isn’t that I love textbooks, but using living books for science with no spine is quite difficult to get a decent depth. I also like to keep everyone moving together through science, which isn’t possible with this program. The upper level science plans utilize Sabbath Mood curriculum, so this isn’t included in your purchase of A Gentle Feast.

Nature Study

Forms 1 and 2 utilize Exploring Nature with Children curriculum in their Nature Study. I was already utilizing this resource before beginning A Gentle Feast and I really like it. I do not like the alternative plan A Gentle Feast uses for Exploring Nature with Children and stick to the original plan.

Another complaint of mine falls in this category. Instead of reading one book, form 1 are splitting between two unrelated books each week, making it difficult for the little guys to really keep track. They learn about small mammals one day and birds on another. I would prefer to read each book quicker, rather than adding more unrelated content onto the table each week. I’d rather stick to small mammals for half the term and then move onto birds for the other half of the term. This curriculum just spreads the net too wide and too shallow, especially for the younger kids. I constantly feel the need to supplement for the younger ones because I don’t think the curriculum provides as adequate coverage of anything. I feel like it is just spread thin in an attempt to be gentle. I’m all for young kids being exposed to nature, science, and history and not forced into the world of facts. I just felt that with so much jumping around, a lot of the interest and wonder was lost.

Older forms have a single book for Nature Study, but only read it once a week since they are also involved in other science learning. I have been pleased with the book choices for the older forms.

Citizenship

I have always called this “character” and have typically included it in Morning Time. Form 1 have no lessons in this subject. I did swap out the Form 3 Charlotte Mason reading for something that they would find more interesting. I have a hard time slogging through Charlotte Mason’s writings and my 8th graders were having a hard time with it, as well. I usually make them keep at hard books, but I really couldn’t blame them on this one. We swapped it out for The Great Divorce, which they both loved and got a lot more out of. My form 2 student has loved the reading option for his citizenship and says it is his favorite book of the program so far.

Extras

There is no math included in A Gentle Feast. There are suggestions, but it is ultimately up to you what you do for math.

There are languages and singing lessons for A Gentle Feast. There are Spanish, French, Latin, and German options for languages. I opted for Rosetta Stone instead. My form 1 kids have been using the book suggestions for learning French, but my older kids have been using Rosetta Stone and really enjoying it.

There are drawing and art lessons, as well. We haven’t utilized those since I include watercolor painting in our Nature Study. My older kids also like to use Skillshare to learn art skills that interest them. We’ve been really happy with that, so we have stuck to Skillshare and Nature Study instead of utilizing the art lessons from A Gentle Feast.

Prep Time

I have been able to make A Gentle Feast largely independent for my older kids. I do Morning Time and Tea Time at the same time to keep my afternoons open for working on my own school work. My younger kids are finished very quickly, as there isn’t much to do for them in this program. My older kids do all their work outside of Morning Time independently and keep a narration notebook where they write their narrations for each subject down instead of telling me orally. Even if I had the time to listen to their oral narrations, this program is so light on writing that I think I’d still prefer written narrations.

Overall, this curriculum has been a big step back from our usual education. I’m not sure I’d call it gentle, I think light and spread thin describes it more accurately. For some people, this would be absolutely ideal. I just happen to lean a bit more toward the classical side and need a little bit more than this curriculum offers.

Additionally, this program was pretty expensive for me to implement. Now, there are ways to make it more afforable. Many of the books can be found on Scribd or in your local library. You absolutely don’t have to buy every single book. Some of the books are hard to find. Like most Charloote Mason programs, there aren’t a lot of new books suggested.

Overall, this is a good program, despite my plethora of complaints. It is a usable program that we’ve been successfully using during a very busy time in our lives with minimal modifications. The curriculum does work. I’m glad we have it for this year, even if I do plan to go back to creating my own curriculum next year. A Gentle Feast allowed me to take a step back and still have the kids’ education pretty well handled. It is similar enough to what they are used to that there was no big transition. There are aspects of A Gentle Feast that I will be adding to our own currilum next year, including written narrations, Bible memory, and poetry memorization.

The only part of A Gentle Feast I’d flat out not recommend is their 100 Gentle Lessons reading and handwriting programs. That has been the only complete flop of the program for us. Everything else is worth getting if you’re looking for things to be done for you. If you’re used to a box curriculum but want to switch to a Charlotte Mason method, this is a great option.

This post contains affiliate links. I am in no way obligated to review anything positively. Using affiliate links from your favorite content creators is a great way to offer support, sinc ethe use of affilaite links does help support them.

Posted in Among The Homeschool, On The Reading Chair, With The Kids

Homeschool Resources

I realized that I haven’t shared my favorite homeschool resources lately. I have been finding some really awesome things for the kids that we have all really enjoyed. I’ve also found a few things I thought would be awesome that were complete duds.

Firefly Nature School

I happened to get a resource from Firefly Nature School in a bundle pack I purchased. It was so beautiful and so well done. I immediately went and did a full year subscription. If you sign up for emails, they do send out coupon codes, so keep your eyes open for that. The lessons are really beautiful and fun. They can be used for a wide range of ages. You can incorporate them in as science or nature study curriculum or you can just use them as a fun, planned outdoor activity.

Twig and Moth

I have been loving the Twig and Moth resources. I print the cards onto cardstock and my kids absolutely love them. They are so beautiful with lots of information. They go well with our Nature Anatomy books and Exploring Nature with Children.

Exploring Nature with Children

This guide is such a good resource for science or nature study. It would also make an excellent and fun co-op, for anyone inclined toward that sort of thing. I have the guide, the print guided journal, and the cursive guided journal. The guide contains a year round curriculum for nature study. It includes book recommendations and activities. The guided journal has a poem for the child to copy each week and papers to go along with activities. We’re using it again this year because one year wasn’t enough.

Brave Grown Home

We have been loving the nature guides from Brave Grown Home. I highly recommend the Full Nature Guide sets. For weeks when we have some more time for nature study or science, I love pulling and printing these lovely cards and posters for the kids to enjoy.

A Gentle Feast

I know I’ve already talked about it on the Facebook page, but we are going full in with A Gentle Feast this year. Being in school full time, I didn’t have the time to plan every detail of our curriculum myself, which is what I usually do. A Gentle Feast has all the planning done for me. I’ll give a full review in the future, but I am really happy with the choice and it fits our family really well. This is a Charlotte Mason curriculum that is meant to work well for people who have kids in multiple grades at the same time. The main curriculum has all the plans for history, science, literature, grammer, French, Spanish, and more. Just add math. The Language Arts add on pack gives all the copywork and dictation right there on the page so you aren’t pulling it for them each day. The Morning Time packets are for poetry, Bible, fables, art, and music. If you’ve never started your days with Morning Time, I highly recommend it. A Gentle Feast also has a reading program and handwriting program.

Our Handcrafted Life

This website has several beautiful free printables you can use for science or nature study. They are really lovely when printed onto cardstock. (My kids adore cards, can you tell?)

The Peaceful Preschool

This site only has resources for up to age 12, but they are beautiful. They have full curriculum, but also several unit study type packs. They also have some really nice free resources, including the book lists for their full curriculum!

Intentional Homeschooling

This one is actually in the dud category for me. I really thought I would enjoy several of her paid resources, and I was really disappointed in what I got. I bought the Guide to Annotating Books, thinking it would be great for my 8th grader. It was a 17 page document that was really just a glorified blog post. It should have been a free blog post. There was no technical information, just pictures and rambling about how she highlights and writes in her books. It was not helpful at all and I felt pretty ripped off. I also bought her mini planner, which I think I actually bought in a bundle pack with other brands and things. It was okay. Nothing spectacular. Most of the things in it were things I already have bullet journal spread for. It was just very basic. I just feel the content of her work isn’t necessarily worth the price.

Teachable.com

I’ve actually purchased a few things lately that use the Teachable.com platform. I’m just not a fan of things that come in the format. It is obnoxious. I’m usually just looking for PDFs. If I want to listen to something, I’ll listen to a podcast. These Teachable classes are just cumbersome and not the best way to get ideas out there. I’m sure some types of learners love these. But I have my current load of online classes with being in school full time and don’t want to waste my time on this.

As usual, this post may contain affiliate links. These links help me and they don’t cost you more to use.

Posted in Among The Homeschool, From The Altar, Out Of My Head, With The Kids

Good Enough Parenting

If you follow me, you’ll know that I have made the foolhardy decision to go back to school. Because, you know, homeschooling seven kids and being in full-time ministry isn’t enough on a person. I clearly lacked the pressure of deadlines and lamenting over formatting issues in the wee hours of the morning in case my toddler isn’t keeping me up enough. Smack dab in the middle of my struggle to be everything to everyone, I get to take a lifespan development class. Now, I was really not looking forward to knowing all the ways I was currently messing up my kids’ lives. I’d really rather just keep my head down and get through this degree program.

And right on schedule, as I dove into lifespan development for the third time (I’ve had lifespan development classes before from other perspectives), I was ready to feel bad about the stress I am putting my family under right now. At first, I got that— the guilt. Infants rely on the steady care of a single caregiver and are upset when that is disrupted. Sorry Daisy. Preschoolers need adequate scaffolding to help them acquire new and deeper skills. Sorry Pippin, can’t scaffold for you, Mama’s got to write a paper about it instead. School aged children need security and patience with close monitoring as they learn new skills and begin to see themselves as others see them. Sorry Topher and Ransom, I don’t have time to monitor your mud pit fun, I’ve got papers to write. You get the idea. Everything is a slap in the face when you feel like you’re messing everything up— especially when you’re a mom of seven in school full time.

Then I came across the work of Donald Winnicott. He was an English pediatrician and psychoanalyst who voiced the idea of the “good enough” parent. I’m going to be grossly simplifying his work and pretty much just talking about a singular aspect. I’m imagining that if you were especially fond of psychoanalytic theory of infant development, you’d likely be taking the class I’m taking or reading a much longer book about the topic. (And just as a point of interest, the class ended up being extremely interesting and insightful. I feel like I only scratched the surface and would need another year to follow all the little rabbit trails my brain made.) For Winnicott, children didn’t need perfect parents. Children needed someone they could count on, but that someone didn’t have to be perfect all the time, they just had to be good enough. They just had to show up, love the kid, and do their best. Winnicott said that was the best kind of parent.

In today’s “perfect parenting” world, where parents feel judged every time they turn around, a world where parents spend so much time comparing their own parenting (and life) to what they see on Instagram, it is a breath of fresh air to read an expert tell us we only need to be “good enough”. The idea that everything bad that happens to our kid will be our fault is never flipped. If I’m responsible for all wrong roads my child may take, I’m also responsible for the right ones. And really, according to Winnicott, if I show up and do my best, my kids will turn out fine. Winnicott realized something our society won’t mention. Moms are people. They come with their own burdens, insecurities, and issues. Learning to be there for a child while still being a real person isn’t the easiest task for some people. And if you’re showing up, trying your best, and meeting the kid’s needs most of the time— you’re doing a good enough job of it. Not all of us can be Instagram perfect. We can’t have the perfect house with everything in various shades of white and grey. (How do you people keep white couches clean with kids?!) We can’t all be stay at home moms with endless budgets for all the kids enrichment activities and the “right” toys, clothes, and baby gear. We can’t all have all organic everything from the local farmer’s market. Life is messy. Life isn’t always ideal. The good news, according to Winnicott, is that we don’t need all those things. We need to pay attention most of the time. We need to provide security most of the time. We need need to learn to sacrifice, but it is okay for life to not be all sacrifice. We won’t get the mothering thing right every single time. The good enough mom knows this and can give herself some grace, learn from her mistakes, and move on. 

So if I have to delegate some schooling tasks to Dad for the next year, that is okay. If afternoon reading time has to be audible books, that is okay. If my cooking slips to eating PB&J a little too often, they will survive. If I’m not sewing them cute clothes and instead slipping them into hand-me-downs, I doubt they’ll notice. I’m here. I’m doing my best. The kids will be alright, I’m good enough. 

Posted in Among The Homeschool, On The Reading Chair

Archaeology Bible Review

The Archaeology Study Bible was sent to me by Crossway to review. This is the hardback version. I really like the look and feel of the hardback. The half dust jacket comes off and you have a really nice hardback book with the white spine. It is also available in imitation leather and genuine leather versions. It is not a compact Bible, by any means. 

This is a study Bible. It has full color pictures and maps throughout. You’ll also find interesting articles about archaeology, as well. This Bible will help you understand better the context of the Biblical world. 

There is just so much jam-packed into this Bible, I can only show so much. The pictures throughout are full color. I have no idea how they got such great quality printing on thin Bible paper, but somehow they managed it. There are so many good articles to help you understand the times, places, and items in the Biblical world. This Bible also has a pretty good concordance. If you are at all interested in archaeology or at all interested in the world of the Bible- this Bible will definitely be of help and interest as you study. 

This Bible would also make an awesome gift. I wish someone had gifted me a Bible like this as a teen, honestly. I would have gotten so much more out of it than the teen devotional Bibles I had. I’m not, at all, saying this Bible is juvenile, just that it has a reach that includes teens through Bible college students through people who have been in church all their lives and want to see the world of the Bible as they read about it. 

This Bible would also make an excellent homeschool or Sunday school resource. 

And if you’re reading this when it is written, one of my readers will be gifted this Bible for Advent. (Keep checking back for more details on that!) At the time of this writing, Christian Book Distributors has this Bible on sale! I recommend buying Bibles from CBD.com. They have great prices and selection when it comes to Bibles.

This post does contain affiliate links. Using these links does not cost you more, but is a great way to support your favorite bloggers. 

Posted in Among The Homeschool, With The Kids

Kindergarten Math Box

Last school year, in addition to our Kindergarten Math book that we used, I also made a Math Box for my little guys. I was super pregnant at the beginning of the year and then had a newborn, so I knew I would need something easy to grab and execute to help them with math. I found so many awesome ideas for math games and activities on Pinterest, so I simplified what I found and put everything in these neat little drawer system.

I had some specific pre-made activities, but I also had extra supplies for additional ga,es and activities. This is at the end of the school year, so you can see it held up quite well. And it was super easy to pull out and use.

My first drawers were for these little containers that I found at Hobby Lobby, colored Pom-poms, and little grabbers I found in the kitchen section at Wal-Mart. I colored a side of each box, so we could dump the Pom-poms out and sort them by color. Or we could practice making patterns. Or we could practice counting or adding. They were a lot of fun and the grabbers made it even more fun.

I had another drawer with a similar activity. It was my ice cream counting. I got these wooden cards at Hobby Lobby and drew an ice cream cone and number on each with a Sharpie. (I used the front and back of the card to use less cards.) Then we used our fancy grabbers to “scoop” the Pom-Pom ice cream onto the cone. They loved this one. We used it for some adding, too.

I used more of the wooden cards to make these number cards. One side had the number written out, the other side had the numeral with dots. We used clothespins to cover the dots as we counted. We also used these for addition and subtraction.

I purchased pre-colored popsicle sticks for this drawer. I wrote on the sticks with a Sharpie. We used these to make shapes and count the sides of shapes.

My pipe cleaner drawer was a bit of a mess. I maybe should have put them inside a sandwich bag. Live and learn. Some pipe cleaners were labeled with washi tape with numbers on them. You put the number of beads on the pipe cleaner that the tag says. We also used beads and pipe cleaners for patterns. And we used pipe cleaners to make numbers.

One drawer just had card games in it. We would pull out the cards and play a game! This was one of their favorite drawers. And miraculously, the cards ended up all together and in really good condition.

I also had some extra supplies. I did make wooden tags with each of their names and then write the letters of their name on clothespins so they could learn to spell their own names. We used the Pom-poms as manipulatives. They used clothespins and extra popsicles sticks to build three dimensional shapes. Overall, the math boxes were a big hit.

Posted in Among The Homeschool

2017-2018 Morning Basket Curriculum Review

You can find the post of my plans here. This was my first year incorporating a morning basket into our homeschool routine. It was something I picked up from Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. And while we generally stick to The Well Trained Mind, morning basket sounded like something I wanted to adapt to our homeschool routine.

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This school year, I had a wide range of ages. And from here until people start graduating, the range will continue to expand. I really wanted something to keep them all together while they are all going their own ways. That makes no sense, but maybe you follow. I ended up not getting as much covered as I expected. I did not account for how much time would be spent either reading with a distracting toddler or while trying to nurse a new baby. I was pretty okay with relaxing my standards a bit. So, some books I planned to read didn’t get touched.

History

We are sticking with The Story of The World for history. Younger kids jump in wherever we happen to be in the history cycle. This year, we were on Year 3. I read a chapter once or twice a week during morning basket. We actually ended up finishing it in term 2, so term 3, we went back and read some supplemental materials we didn’t get around to in the first pass instead of proceeding on to Year 4.

I used The Activity Guide, The Well Trained Mind, and Ambleside to make up our supplemental reading list. I will get into the grade specific supplements in later posts. For this post, I’m just focusing on the ones we used in our Morning Basket.

The Landing of the Pilgrims was a bit dry, but it did give a good picture of what was going on with the pilgrims as they settled North America. Diving into this gave a better picture of how America was built with certain aspects of life in place. It gave a better understanding of what “religious freedom” would have meant to these people. The kids recalled the details of the book really well, despite only listening to me read it. It ended up taking up an entire term to read this because of the whole having a baby thing.

George Vs. George is a picture book with lots of information. We actually spread this out over a week of reading. My older kids were later found rereading it in their own time. Apparently they liked it.

Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? is another info packed picture book. The kids really enjoyed it.

If You Can Keep It is not a book written for children. It is a very interesting read. It pretty much went over the heads of the younger crew, but the older three did seem to understand much of what we read and it lead to some very interesting dinner table discussions about liberty, freedom, and religion. It made a good read aloud supplement to the American Revolution for my logic aged kids. It would make a good independent reading book in the rhetoric stage. It deals with lofty topics, but it written in a very approachable way.

John Wesley: The World and His Parish was an excellent read. Anyone in the Wesleyan tradition should read this to their kids. It is a bit on the dry side, but it is really interesting. It doesn’t sugar coat the situation at all. You’ll better understand Wesley’s ideas and intentions through reading about his life. This probably falls more in line with character development than history, but we ended up having a good bit of cross over with John Wesley’s world our history studies.

Operation World was again a big part of our geography studies. We focused in on the Caribbean islands this year since The Pastor made his first trip down to Haiti to teach at a seminary there. We also read Under The Storyteller’s Spell, which is a collection of Caribbean folk tales. We found them pretty interesting and they sparked discussions of the culture of these people. It ended up overlapping into history as we were talking about the slave trade and the revolutions of South America and the Caribbean islands a bit.

Science

We started the year using the Berean Builder‘s curriculum.  But really, I couldn’t keep up with the experiments with a newborn, so we had to switch gears a little bit.

It Couldn’t Just Happen ended up taking most of the year to get through. It wasn’t the length or difficulty so much as I didn’t want to throw too much out at once. I felt like taking it slower gave them more time to process the information. This book is essentially answering the question, “Did the universe and all that is in it just happen or is their a Creator?” The book is not dogmatic about creationist issues (literal 7 days, young earth/old earth, etc.) It simply points out the evidence that supports that there is an intelligent design to our world. It is an argument against Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. It does allow for natural evolution, but not the Theory of Evolution. It is a very interesting look into the scientific process and about how we “know” something to be scientifically true, only to find out later it isn’t as true as we thought. Science exists in theories, so we have to have some flexible system of working through the evidence as it arises. My 10 year old said this was his favorite part of the school day.

We also read excerpts from The Handbook of Nature Study. We also grabbed up library books to explore topics as they came up. When talking about the gold rush in history, the topic of gold and geology arose, so we investigated it through library books.

Prayer

I had this plan of the prayers we would learn as a family. I picked too many. I picked 3 prayers per term, meaning we’d learn one prayer each month. At the end of the month, they were just getting to the place of memorization of the prayer. I felt like I was pulling the rug out from under them when we switched. So, for term 2 and 3, we went with one prayer per term. Getting much more familiar and comfortable with the prayer before moving to the next. That worked much better, even though we weren’t memorizing as much.

Truth

For Bible memorization, we simply chose a verse each week. The older kids would look it up and read it each morning. The little kids would repeat after me. By Friday every week, they had all memorized the verse. It was a very simple process. I did have the kids who could write keep a list in their binder of all there verses. So, the older kids did write the verse out once a week.

For Bible study, we started with Herein Is Love: Genesis. I really love this series. It does go through Genesis at a snail’s pace. For the younger kids, I would read whatever story we were on in one of our storybook Bibles. (Jesus, Jesus Calling, Character, Adventure, Friends)

Once we finished that, we moved into doing The Talk once a week. I’m not entirely sure what I think about that particular book. First, it is very small. 7 lessons total. They recommend them once a week, so that is what we did. They are very scientifically accurate, which I liked. Very straightforward, which I liked. I’m just not entirely sure about the order of the lessons and I am not entirely sure about the skimpiness of the lessons. There are recommended videos, which are free. I used my iPad to screen share through our Xbox Air Play app to show the videos. My kids had questions way beyond what were in the lessons. The first three lessons are learning the differences between male and female, sex, and fetal development. It then gets into the moral issues around sex and bodies. I think the order I would have liked to have seen would have been differences between male and female and then respecting other people’s bodies, good touch/bad touch sort of thing. Then move on to sex and the moral issues around adultery and sex outside marriage. Then fetal development and birth. That would have made more sense in how the conversations took my crew. I also have to note that my oldest daughter was very uncomfortable with the questions her younger brothers were asking. I think if I were to do this again, I would split up my boys and girl since they had entirely different questions and ways of looking at it.

We also read Indescribable during the days we weren’t reading The Talk. My kids really enjoyed it, but I think it is more devotional reading than a Bible study. I think it would be awesome for Family Devotion time. Just for a homeschool Bible class, there isn’t nearly enough meat. Though all my kids absolutely love it. It is really quick, under five minutes.

I included our character study in with Truth. First, we read 7 Men. This is not a kid’s book. This is a biography of seven different men written for adult readers. However, for a read aloud, it was quite appropriate for children. Now, there were some issues with Jackie Robinson, as there are some very harsh words to be reading aloud to kids. There were also issues in reading about Pope John Paul II in terms of sex. These items are easily glossed over or skipped if you choose, or you can have a conversation about them, which is what we chose to do. The kids really enjoyed 7 Men. They immediately asked me to read 7 Women.

We also really enjoyed Manners class once a week with Modern Manners. I did skip around a little bit, because my 8 year old has no interest in email etiquette at this point. But the kids really enjoyed it.

Beauty

This was a mixed bag. Turns out that my kids are not the biggest fans of poetry. I ended up only doing poetry for one term. I’ll introduce some more next year and see how it goes.

Art appreciation, they loved. 50 Artists You Should Know was a little on the dry side. It was also not conducive to be looking at tiny versions of the art in one book when you have 6 or 7 people gathered around. What I ended up doing was picking one artist. I’d read from the book and throw the art onto our TV from my iPad via the AirPlay app on our Xbox. This way the kids could all see the pictures we were talking about. Some weeks, I gave them the opportunity to recreate some of the art. They particularly enjoyed making a Chinese Bridge in watercolors and painting with scissors like Matisse.

We ended up stopping the hymns after one term. My kids were just too jacked up to do it. If I did the music at the beginning, it took me forever to calm them back down. If I did it at the end, it took forever to calm them down to move onto their independent work. They just lost their ever-loving minds with the simple move from around the coffee table to around the piano. I don’t know what happened, but for sanity, we removed it. It was a lovely idea. It just didn’t work out for us.

Goodness

I had planned to read so much. We didn’t make it beyond 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. I ended up reading one chapter a week, spreading each chapter over two or three smaller readings. Which meant the book took the entire school year to read. The kids really enjoyed it. I didn’t think they were into it, but then they told me they loved it and wanted to reread it. So, I guess it went well. It just wasn’t the pace I had originally planned. But this is definitely a read aloud kind of book. Though brush up on your latin or you’ll be stumbling all over the Latin names for every sea animal and plant mentioned in the book. I’m kind of wishing we had done an audio book instead. But my kids listen to me reading aloud so much better than they listen to audio books. It is the weirdest thing. But I would have enjoyed the audio book more.

the crew

Overall, morning basket went really well for us this year and I definitely plan to incorporate it next year. I’m glad I had planned a lot, even if I didn’t get to use it all. It gave me something to choose from when we were finishing up in one area and moving to the next.

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Posted in Among The Homeschool

2017-2018 Preschool- First Grade Curriculum Review

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.

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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.

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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.

Life of Fred

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.

Math Games

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.

Fairy Tales

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.

Peter Rabbit

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.

Phonics

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.)

Science

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.)

Critical Thinking

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.

Ransom

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.

Topher & Pip

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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