Monday, August 27, 2012

What are we using? Curriculum for 2012-2013 school year

Today was our first day of the second year of our homeschooling journey. We began with a light day, just introducing part of our new curriculum and familiarizing ourselves with our new tools. We changed  things up this year. Here is the rundown of tools we're using for the school year.


The only thing that stayed the same is our science curriculum. We will finish Animals & Their Worlds this year. We definitely enjoyed going through it last year and did not finish the materials. We will start it in about 2-3 weeks. The kids study each major type of ecosystem for 5-8 weeks. It covers biology, zoology, writing, and many other topics. They've enjoyed the areas they've covered so far and I know they're excited to finish what we've started.


We're adding in history with Winter Promise's All American 1. Both kids will go through this together each day however Matthew's writing requirements will be more stringent than Emma's.  The kids are very excited about journeying through American History this year.

This program is filled with great reading and projects. We will also start Timelining with each of the kids. Part of the reason public schools don't teach linear history in elementary grades anymore is that children that age don't grasp how one thing happens after another and because of another in time and space. Using timelines and maps, they get a three dimensional representation of history so that they can order their thoughts. It turns into a huge learning scrapbook of everything they've studies. I'm very excited to start pasting in dates and historical figures. I think tonight, we may paste in baby pictures of everyone ^_^

I had hoped to do an extended election unit along side the Presidential Election this fall, but I don't think it will fit into what we're studying at the time. By October, we should be at the end of the Explorer's Unit and heading into the Colonial Unit. Fitting government in as well would just be too much. I do plan on adding in some extra reading when we can. Now if I can figure out how to work that goofy book widget thing that goes along the side of my blog...


Although we loved Singapore Math last year, it only goes as far as 8th grade. I didn't relish switching Matthew at the end of middle school so we switched this year. We also needed something that if the kids were doing math with the grandmas, they could have a back up plan. Enter Math-U-See.

Things that drew us to MUS were numerous. First, it is based on a mastery approach to math. You don't flit from topic to topic (as spiral programs do). You start a topic, learn the ins and outs, try out the variations and finally master that topic. Then and only then do you move to the next topic. It also has DVD lessons. Although Mark & I feel confident in our math skills until we get up to calculus and beyond, our moms do not. Since last year, our moms were helping the kids go through the lessons after I set them up, we thought having a dvd lesson to watch and reinforce the day's lessons would be easier on the them. Finally, their presentations at the convention just blew Mark's mind. The way they explain math, using the manipulatives really removes confusion and makes math more concrete. With the kids, having the hands on portion holds their attention on task more than just a page full of problems ever could. We looked at many other programs (including Life of Fred, Teaching Textbooks, and Saxon Math) but preferred MUS over each of the others.

Emma is starting the year with Gamma it will reinforce her multiplication and division skills that she started building last year and expand her into doing multiple digit multiplication and division.

Matthew is beginning with Epsilon. It will cover fractions and factoring. Although we covered fractions in depth, we hope that the new approach and angle used in MUS will clarify the parts that he found confusing and give him a solid foundation to move forward into decimals and pre-algebra.

We are all a bit nervous because the first 2 videos on the dvd are 2 hours and 2 hours & 45 minutes long. Hopefully, those are not the norm because I am certain that none of us will sit through that much math each week.

Language Arts

Here's where we really changed things up. This year, we went with Switched on Schoolhouse for LA. Mark really loved the idea of using the computer and a completely on-line school for both kids. I hesitate that they need quite that much screen time. I worry about absorption of information and retention of information. However, as we both work full-time (40-50 hours per week) outside the home, at some point, I need some help getting everything done. Grading was a real problem last school year as was maintaing a grade book. The compromise we reached was this, we will try the LA section of SOS and see how it goes. If I feel like they learned and retained enough material, maybe next year we'll expand the subjects we teach with it.

I've discovered there is a huge learning curve to the software. I'm sure that we'll get it figured out but at the moment, I've managed to assign a couple of things and set up the school calendar, sort of. The kids did very well at working their way through the tutorial this morning and figuring out the various tools they have at their disposal through the software.


We went with Horizons Penmanship Book 3 and Book 5 for the kids. I was so mad at myself when I opened these last week and realized I had bought the wrong books. My intention was to get pick up Book 2 as that is where cursive is "taught" from beginning to end. Emma is just beginning in cursive and Matthew has no confidence in his ability with cursive so starting over seemed like a good idea. I know what distracted me. I started looking through the 6th grade book and talking to one of the ladies in the AOP booth. She told me if I was doing American History, I should use the Book 5 for Matthew rather than Book 6. Book 5 is a lot of American History speeches, documents and information. Then I just grabbed Third grade with out thinking.


I have a fantastic book I found that is an art curriculum called Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. I plan on this being daddy's contribution as he has his BFA in Fine Arts Graphic Design. Sounds about right, huh? We also have tons of projects and hands on pages in our history program (750 + pages in one part and 300+ pages in the State Study sections). We also supplemented with some great classes ran by a family friend over the summer, the kids loved them.

All American 1 also includes 3 great American artists studies. These are fairly in depth and take artists who painted scenes of great battles or historical figures. What I've read so far has been very exciting. Can't wait til the kids start trying to recreate George Washington Crossing the Delaware or some of the other amazing paintings.

Health & Nutrition, Physical Education

I am slowly putting together my own Health, Nutrition and Kitchen Home Ec program with a variety of resources I've found on-line. I want to teach my kids the reasoning behind choosing good foods over junk foods. I'll eventually do a separate post where I organize the sites, blogs and worksheets I've found  on the subjects.

Physical Education will be bolstered by playing Upward Bound Basketball this fall/winter. The kids also want to take karate and gymnastic lessons. Sounds pretty busy, but can't wait to see which activities the kids like best.


Our history program (AA1) has included as part of it a fantastic resource for Bible study. It is called Christian Character Traits for Kids. We will cover things like:

  • Courage
  • Determination
  • Leadership
  • Insight
  • Sacrifice
  • Loyalty
  • Diligence
  • Compassion
  • Commitment
These character traits are paired with stories from great American historical figures and their stories. We learn about George Washington while studying leadership and Bible verses that support the qualities a leader displays. It includes writing prompts that encourage a depth of thinking and study that I hope will prompt the kids to look inside themselves and contemplate their own decisions from a more thoughtful place. I am excited to start sharing this with them.

Seeing it all in black and white makes me wonder how it will all fit in to our week. All we can do is our best, I suppose. 

I know I'm forgetting something. I guess I can always edit the post at a later date.

~make good choices

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