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.

img_1639-2

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.

**This post contains affiliate links. I do benefit (get money) when you use these links when you shop. Affiliate links are a great way to support your favorite bloggers!**

 

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.

img_1639-2

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.

img_1470

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.

**This post contains affiliate links. Using these links does earn me a small amount of commission. It does not cost you more to use an affiliate link. Using affiliate links is a great way to support your favorite bloggers.**

Modern Curriculum Press Phonics: Level A Review

Modern Curriculum Press Phonics, also referred to as MCP Plaid.

I use The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition) as the basis of homeschooling for my children. We started teaching reading with The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. It is a great program, but my kids just didn’t care for it like I wanted them to. My daughter did very well with that program learning all her letter sounds, but once she moved into the reading section, she stalled. She is very work book oriented, so I bought this workbook as a supplement for her phonics. Once it arrived and she started using it, I quickly realized it was all she really needed.

It reminds me of Explode the Code 1, but I actually like MCP Phonics better. The worksheets are full color, though the paper is a bit on the thin side. I would recommend buying a new book for each student. The range on the level A is pretty broad. I’d start this book once they had letter recognition and letter sounds learned. Then you’ll use this work book for beginning to put words together (well, it actually begins with recognizing beginning and ending letters of words) through contractions. It is a very good first grade phonics program. (Though I do start mine about halfway through Kindergarten and then work it through 1st grade.)

I liked the book so much, I bought another for my Kindergarten son to go ahead and start. (Since he had just recently completed learning all his letter sounds.) I tore out all the pages and placed them in a 1″ binder, so I could better keep up with their work.

The book also comes with cards for letters and sight words along with an envelope for storage. You could very easily use these to teach your child his/her letters and letter sounds before beginning the workbook pages.

I highly recommend this phonics program. It is a little more on the “traditional” side of schooling. It has “name” and “date” places on each page and is geared for a classroom setting (with letters to go home with kids to parents). However, I find it works very well in a homeschooling setting.