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.

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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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Posted in Among The Homeschool, With The Kids

2016-2017 Homeschool Curriculum Review

We haven’t yet moved into our next school year, but the planning for next year is coming along. This past year was our 7th homeschooling year. We had 4 official students and 1 who insisted on jumping into the fun with us. (Preschoolers do that from time to time. Sometimes they want to participate. Sometimes they don’t. Before age 6, we let them choose. Play time is learning time for that age, so I’m not comfortable pushing them toward rigorous studies just yet.) I figured I’d let you guys know what worked and what didn’t this school year. But I always like to give an update on what worked and what didn't, since my opinions may change by the time we get closer to the end.

Overall, we have used The Well Trained Mind throughout our schooling days. We’ve been a little more relaxed in the Grammar stage. Some of the suggested resources haven’t worked for us, so we have found alternatives that work.

I had two fifth graders this year, one third grader, one kindergartener, and one preschooler.

Math
We used Teaching Textbooks 5 and 3 for these guys this year. Teaching Textbooks has been the best math program for these guys. These two started with Singapore Math and then switched to Teaching Textbooks for fourth grade. We no longer buy the workbooks, because my kids only use the computer disc portion of the program. Each lesson is well explained, having them do practice problems as they go. If they don’t do well on a lesson, you can go in and delete the grade and let them try again. They get two tries at each problem, and the program explains how the answer is achieved. It gives immediate gratification, telling them if they are right or wrong on each problem before they move on. The kids do very well with this program. I have read some reviews that say the grade levels are off, but I have not found that to be the case. Each year starts off pretty easy, but builds back to more difficult concepts. So, a student may find it easy at first, but there is more challenge coming. My only issue with the program is the cardboard cases the CDs come in. I feel like for the price, they should come in some durable CD cases for long term use. I’ve had to move all our discs into a zippered CD case. That works, but for $99 a set (higher in the higher levels) they should come with something more durable than paper. The program keeps up with the grades and you can check them at any time. We don’t usually do grades, but since the kids were doing it all on their own, it helped me keep an eye on their progress.
We started the year with Essential Math K. He flew through it. It wasn’t a challenge for him at all. We switched to Life of Fred about halfway through the year. It introduced more complex topics and he liked the storytelling aspect. The preschooler joined us for these lessons, but will likely need to do them again.

Grammar
I signed the older two up for Wordly Wise Online through Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. They didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. The program isn’t well laid out. It is very confusing and takes a lot of time per lesson. I also felt like they weren’t really learning much for the effort being put in. We stopped it mid-year and will not be picking it back up.
We also grabbed the new Writer’s In Residence program from Apologia. Each student needs their own book. And the books are hefty. While I like some of the content, overall, the program didn’t work well for us. For one, it isn’t well laid out. The grading rubric is confusing. Everything has to be graded, which is weird for us since we don’t really grade things. Some of the assignments were frivolous. Also, it got really messy. It is a huge workbook, so I expect all the work to be done in the book and fit in the book. But there were several times when things were cut out of the book (which annoys me greatly) or they had to paper clip extra pages into the book. I felt like they could have made it all work, but didn’t. If the kids are needing to use separate paper, I would have just liked it in textbook format with all the work being done on their own paper in a separate notebook. My kids did learn from the program, but it was far too parent intensive and far too convoluted. You will need at least one of the Teacher’s Guides. I won’t be continuing this program. Even if I wanted to, I can’t. They released Volume 1 of 4 last year but haven’t released Volume 2 yet. I have such mixed feelings on this program. Some of it is SO good. But then some of it is SO bad.

I kept my third grader signed up for Explode the Code online. I absolutely love that program. It has worked so unbelievably well for him. He enjoys it. It challenges him. He is finishing up the program now, so he won’t be using it next year. I’ll be looking at buying it again for our rising first grader, though.

History
Our history years aren’t lining up smoothly because we spent longer than a school year on Ancient history. We use Story of The World. This year, we started a history co-op with some other families in our church. That slowed us down considerably, so we didn’t finish a full year of history this year either. We finished up Story of The World 2 and then moved into Story of the World 3. We tried the audio version of Story of the World 2, but the kids hated it. They did not like listening to the CDs. So, we went back to me reading it to them from the book. When we started Story of The World 3, I added interactive notebooks. It would have worked well for just my kids, but in the co-op setting, it got a little hectic. We will be continuing Story of The World 3 next year, but these two will be moving into the Logic stage, so they will be adjusting how they do history. (Technically, the Logic Stage begins in 5th grade, but my kids needed an extra year of writing and grammar before they could really tackle outlines and summaries.)

Science
We found a really awesome Science curriculum that works alongside Story of The World so well. Berean Builders Science is chronological science, studied by scientist and discovery. That has made so much more sense to my kids and given them a better understanding of how we come to know what we know. I’ll admit, they watched a few too many documentaries that had distorted their view of science. Because each documentary presents everything as fact, not theory. Then the documentaries would contradict one another or come from an atheistic world view. My kids became super skeptical and I was having difficulty drawing them back into the subject. The Berean Science books have been perfect to hook them back in. We started using Science in the Scientific Revolution along with Story of the World 3. There are experiments to better understand the discoveries made. It has been awesome. The kids love it, they are actually engaged, and they better understand the scientific process and how new discoveries change the way we see the world.

Handwriting
I have never used a proper handwriting program. However, my kids really needed it. They were having a lot of trouble writing clearly enough to communicate their ideas. So, I opted for an actual handwriting book. I chose Patriotic Penmanship. I liked the selected quotes. I decided to keep my third grader in print writing because he was only 7 and he needed some reinforcement on the proper way to make letters. One of my fifth graders did introductory cursive and the other did her proper grade. The workbooks are great. I had them work on a two page spread, one lesson, each week. Day one they would just practice making a letter. Day two they would practice key words. Day three they would work on a full phrase or two. Day four they would write the entire quote. It didn’t take more than a few minutes each day and I simply asked for very hard work for those few minutes. All of them have improved their handwriting significantly with just a little work each day. I will definitely be ordering Patriotic Penmanship workbooks again this year. Each child needs their own workbook as they are consumable.

Bible
For our Bible study for the older kids, we used Herein Is Love: Genesis. This one has a lot more lessons in it than the Leviticus book. The kids really enjoyed it and I think they learned a lot. It does a great job of weaving the whole story into the beginning story.
For the Little Guys, we used the Jesus Calling Storybook. I was not as in love with this Storybook Bible as I was with the Jesus Storybook Bible. It has little notes from Jesus, but they are worded oddly and it makes it a little difficult to follow in a read aloud format. But the kids liked it and they did learn.

Geography
We used my Operation World geography plan. It went really well. It helped open my kids’ worldview and show them more than what is outside their front door. I was really happy with how it went and will continue it next year.

Kindergarten
I purchased Alpha Tales and Phonics Tales at Costco for the little guys. We did not get into the Phonics Tales. It will really be a toss up this year if we do that book or The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading. I’m not sure which will work better for these guys.
I also signed them up for ABCMouse.com mid year. They have loved it. They can use their tablets to play. I signed up for the assessments, as well, but found that portion pretty worthless.

Reading
I basically let the kids pick what they wanted to read this year instead of using the reading list from Well Trained Mind. Turned out, that was a mistake. Well, the kids really loved reading, but they essentially spent the year reading junk books. I did strongly suggest a few classics that they did read and enjoy. The third grader loved the Roald Dahl books we have and finished all the Magic Treehouse books we own, plus ventured over to the Imagination Station books. The fifth graders read Peter Pan and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They also read some Judy Bloom. But they did read a bunch of Goosebumps books and other junk type books. Next year, I’ll separate the required reading and the fun reading a bit more.

I kept track of everything in a composition notebook that I used like a bullet journal for schooling. This helped the planning significantly. I’ll be doing the same again because it worked so well. Though I’ll likely opt for a real bullet journal this year. (I’ve been using a bullet journal for a class I am taking and another one for the upcoming 2018 year. I’m liking the customization so much more than a standard planner. I also have one that I’ve been using alongside my 2017 planner for notes and things. I do like having separate planners for each of those areas, since I feel like everything together just gets too cluttered.)

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