Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

curriculum picks

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In my 7 years of homeschooling this is actually the 1st year I have ever felt great about , nearly all our curriculum choices!
I’m talking 7 years of attempting to be joyful, despite the pure hatred of one, or more of my choices! 7 years of hardcore prayers, “God PLEASE just make me, FORCE ME , to just…just like it! That’s all I ask”, or something like that 🙂

Now I know summer is just around the corner and this isn’t really the time that people are thinking about next year’s curriculum; but I wanted to share about this school year before I move on to SUMMER .
Like I said this has to be the best year for us in this area. Because of that, I wanted to share our choices with you and tell you why it worked for us, what worked for us, and well, what tanked!

So here they are, our 2015-2016 curriculum choices:

  1. Math

Mathematics

I went ahead and started with the most intense and frustrating and downright frightening subject (for me at least)! Our math adventures have had its ups and downs. There’s been screaming, pouting, occasional aha moments, tears, and just straight up fear! The kids have struggled a bit with it as well (oh, you thought the kids were the ones throwing the tantrums? I can see why you might think that.)!

In the past we have used, K12, Saxon, Teaching Textbooks, Math- U-See (not enough to give it a chance though), and Singapore Math just to name a few. Out of all these, I liked Singapore the most. I liked it, because they showed how to do problems in many different ways. I felt that was beneficial. I liked the fact that they sought to teach how to problem solve. I want my kids to see all subjects as a part of life and not separate. The way I saw it, Singapore would do that.

Queue child number four. My little Elijah, my drummer, pianist, artsy little guy. My poor guy was just confused! First of all, all those explanations for type of one problem, was too much for him to grasp. Math was already abstract to him, this made it more abstract, and the explanations were doing the opposite of helping him! Now I know they say that Singapore is a mastery curriculum, I have to say I truly did not see it that way, it was more of a spiral. He needed concepts to be drilled into his little head but it just wasn’t. Singapore would touch on it, move on, then come back. Unfortunately, by that time they came back, he would’ve forgotten he had ever seen it, like Nemo’s little friend, Dori. This was actually the biggest reason we just HAD to switch. Christian Light Publications (Christian Light Education or CLE) has been our answered prayer to both Math and then later Language Arts. Since we’ve switched, not only have we ALL been happier, I haven’t been fearful that my kiddos aren’t getting the education they need. Also, my kids are now staying on task, are way more independent, and are learning a ton!

Why I like it:

  • It has Speed drills and flash card practice built into it, it also requires the student to orally recite a specific piece of the times table (or count, depending on the grade level) to the teacher in the beginning of every lesson.
  • Each grade level starts with a story and keeps that theme throughout.  I love it because it totally speaks to my Charlotte Mason educator side!
  • It’s given in bite sized chunks rather than a giant, overwhelming textbook. Each grade level is broken down into 10 bite sized units (LightUnits, as they call it). Each LightUnit has two quizzes and one test at the end. Now I’m not for educating strictly to take a test, but I’m all about assessing or measuring where my kids are at, if they are learning, and where I can help them. I seriously love that they have quizzes and tests. Can you say, “piece of mind”? Pssshhh, well I can now!
  • New concepts are taught clearly and directly and independently to the student.  (I almost NEVER have to explain a concept anymore! They just read it on their own and do what it says.)
  • Every lesson has a We Remember section, actually most of the lesson is the We Remember section. It’s basically concepts that they learned previously and they mix it up quite nicely so that the student doesn’t forget a thing.

We started this math last summer and honestly the longer we have used it, the more reason I have to like it!  I only listed a few reason I like CLE math, but there are so many more! I really haven’t found any cons yet, but I will certainly update if I do.

2. Language arts

Language arts curriculum choice

Our Language Arts journey is much like our math journey with one difference; I sort of like language arts, at least whole lot more than I like math! I have tried many different methods throughout the years, in fact, a lot more than math…I think! One thing I have found with many of the language arts choices out there is that there are many moving parts; which just confuses me. I also find them, in my opinion, too teacher intensive. Before we made the switch to Christian Light Publications (Christian Light Education or CLE) for our LA needs, we were using Spelling Power, for spelling of course, Explode the Code along with Abeka readers for my youngest (2nd grade at the time), IEW for writing and vocabulary (which was very beneficial), Handwriting Without Tears, and Easy Grammar. I think that was all
Honestly, it was just too much for me! I need order, I need structure, otherwise I go mad! I basically just need everything in a neat package and that’s just what CLE brought into my life! Now, if I needed to stick it out just with this ADHD nightmare, so that my kids can get the best education, then believe me I will. I mean seriously, I did for this long. Although, I just knew that there had to be something out there more streamlined than this! I was about to design my own curriculum, I’m not even lying. Phew, totally dodged that bullet!
Why we like it:
  • Similar to the math, they start off each lesson with a new concept and then move into the We Remember section.
  • Again, just like math, it has two quizzes and ends with a test per LightUnit. So I have my measuring stick, YAY!
  • It covers EVERYTHING! Spelling, vocabulary, penmanship, grammar, and writing (4th grade and up). The writing is sort of separate (but not…if that makes any sense). There’s a special writing book for the teacher that’s quite nice, though not intense. They tell you what to work on in the beginning of each LA lightunit and encourages the child and teacher to keep a writing journal. The writing is optional so you can certainly do the LA without doing the writing portion, it won’t affect it at all.

The reading, however, is separate. I don’t find this as a con because I think it needs to be separate. Each set comes with a certain number of Lightunits (depending on grade) and a corresponding reading book. Because my Ez was taking a couple classes in our co-op that required him to read tons of literature, I only purchased it for my Elijah. He’s learned so much from it and works really well on his own. Just like their other subjects, the reading also has two quizzes and a final test.

Why we like it:

  • All the reasons above (applied to reading of course, quizzes, tests, etc.)
  • It covers all the other stuff that I was afraid they would miss. How to use a pronunciation key, glossary, etc. Things like what are synonyms and antonyms etc, reading comprehension, poetry, etc., etc. It also has extras. It covers even more vocab, as well as Bible verse memorization that are applicable to the story they are studying!

3. Science

Science curriculum choices

I normally teach science as a mini co-op I conduct at my, or another family’s home. For the simple reason that if I didn’t we probably wouldn’t do the experiments. I’ve been the mom who has normally taken on the science part of the school day and have enjoyed it thoroughly. This year, however, I  co-taught with one of my close friends.

She and I have both mainly used Apologia for science and liked it. So we decided to go ahead with that curriculum. Our dilemma though, was the fact that we had big six graders this year. We just finished Chemistry and Physics the previous year, which would seem the most appropriate for our mixed aged group. So, the next step seemed to be Apologia  Exploring Creation with General Science. The problem was, it’s a 7th grade curriculum and we were teaching 8 to 11 year olds.Science notebook

So we made a decision to split the book in half! We would do the first 8 chapters this year and the last 8 the following year. We also made our 3rd and 4th graders their own little Science Notebooks (see pic) that went along with what the older kids were learning. Instead of the little guys reading from the textbook, like their older siblings, they would read about the same subject in books from home or in the library. They would then do the corresponding assignment in their notebook and prepare to share in class on Thursday.
4. Nature Studies
Nature study journal

Since we got together for science every other week, I really, really, really, wanted to make sure that we did nature studies. The previous year my kids took a canoeing class that added so much value to their education.  Not only did they learn how to canoe, they were also required to keep a nature journal and learn about the flora and fauna that were native to our area! It was AWESOME! Though it was very reasonably in priced, it was still an added expense so we had to drop it.

I decided that since we were only doing science labs every other week, we can do nature studies the off weeks. The book we used was, Creating Nature in Watercolor an Artist’s Guide by Cathy Johnson This book, along with a homemade field journal and membership to our local nature center, added the value I was hoping to reclaim. Also between the Nature center and this really cool book we had a seemingly endless list of things to learn!

5. Fine Arts

Fine arts picks

Even though I’m a musician myself, and perpetually the starving artist (starving for something to sink my creative teeth into, otherwise I’m pretty well fed), I still have to call the subject of Fine Arts in our homeschool days our “good intentions subject” (appropriately named by my friend Crystall). It’s unfortunate, frustrating and downright depressing to me, but it is what it is, and it’s very common among homeschooling families.
Now I do have a solution for this but I’ll share it in my 2016-17 curriculum picks post, but in the mean time, I shall stay on track.
So what was my “good intention” curriculum choices for this year?
I had a few, but all in the form of lapbooks. Homeschooling in the Woods Hands-on Activity-Paks Artists for art and Hands-on Activity-Paks Composers for music. I also wanted a poetry curriculum, so keeping with the lapbooking theme I purchased  A Peek at Poetry and Poems collection from In the Hands of a Child.
I really like the curriculum that Homeschooling in the Woods puts out. It’s very nicely put together, informative and fun. We used their history curriculum the past two years and it was pretty successful. There are some cons overall and if I get enough interest I wouldn’t mind doing a post about the pros and cons…but of course in due time.
We put together our lapbooks a little differently than others. We normally put together the file folder part first, along with the pockets and front cover together. Then we glue in each activity in it’s place as we do them. If you understand the way lapbooking works, then you’ll understand what I’m talking about, if not then…oooh maybe I’ll do a post on lapbooking! Anyhow, going against my normal ways. I decided this year, I will go ahead and put the books together myself rather than have the kiddos do it. Then have my kids fill things out as we learn about them. I did this for two reasons:
1) The process of cutting and gluing took way too much time and I already knew (based on experience) that we probably wouldn’t even have time for this in our week.
2) I learned, by discussing it with my kids, that the process of making the actual book takes away from them listening and learning. It’s distracting for them. I’m all about, if it doesn’t add value then cut it out, so I did. Plus they are seasoned pros in all the skills formed from lapbooking and because of that, I was totally fine with them not having to put it together themselves.
So the question still remains doesn’t it? How did it go? Did we like it?
Well guys here’s the sad part. Remember when I said I will tell you about things that tanked? do you remember how I said, ummm, this is my “good intentions” subject?
WELL………
I can’t really say too much about the pros and cons of this because as awesome as these cute little packets seemed, we really didn’t give it a chance.
We did two artist and one composer in the beginning of the year. Both times, I pretty much threw it in at the end of our very busy day and the kids (as well as mom) were already burnt out on those days.
I do intend on using them maybe in the summer; we’ll see. I don’t want to throw them out just yet because darn it, I’ve invested too much time and energy in them! Not to mention, I had a really good, no, great plan in how I was going to utilize them in our week (seriously, once a week)! You know what, I’m thinking I’m just going to have to do a post about it. Hey, just because I didn’t do it (YET), doesn’t mean that somebody else can’t benefit from it!
In the end, their Fine Arts studies ended up being:

I regret nothing, I am not a failure it all worked out. That’s what I repeat to myself lol. In all seriousness though, I think it worked out nicely and despite it all, these sort of hiccups makes me think about what the psalmist said;

A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

Psalm 16:9

SO TRUE!!!

6. History

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Our most fave subject of the year this year, hands down
Ez, loves history and is a big critic when it comes to the choices in this area.This curriculum has totally got his approval. I think I might do a post strictly on This BIblioplan because we have really liked it and I feel like I’ve learned a ton along with them…I always feel that way though. I’m still not sure who’s teaching who.
 
Why We Like it:
  • The kids voted on more information and less activities (they still wanted pertinent activities, they just wanted less, and remember our previous history was lapbooking…highly activity based)
  • It comes with a nice schedule that included tons of optional reading. Tons of “living” Literature, options for writing assignments, page or chapter correlations to many of the homeschool greats such as, Story of the world, Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, Streams of Civilization, Mystery of History, Journey Through the Bible and soooooooo much more. They basically gave pages in these book to what would compliment that weeks BiblioPlan reading.
  • They have a cool craft book and suggestion for the activity or activities you can do that week that will bring what you studied to life.
  • You can teach it to ALL ages at the same time! Other educational programs have said this, but Biblioplan has made it the easiest, in my opinion.

7. Bible Studies

Our 2015-2016 choice for Bible studies…Drum roll please…………

Bible curriculum choice

The Bible

Lol…For real though! We have used many different Bible studies curriculum for our kids in the past,  and they’re all pretty great but I chose not to purchase one this year for a few reasons.

  • First off, the kids wake up in the morning and read their Bible without being told as part of their daily routine anyways, so I don’t know why I have to purchase a specific curriculum, right now at least
  • Dad assigns them (I use the term “assign” loosely. Ez often asks his dad what he can read) things to read and then they usually discuss it at least once that week.
  • Scripture frequently comes out in their assigned daily school work. From Math to LA to History to Science etc. Their school work is plagued (for lack of a better term) with scripture. This aids in scripture memorization and just as importantly apologetics.
  • As a part of our homeschooling, character training is a natural part of our day, for all of us! This of course helps make God’s word relevant. You know when moms all like, “kids please forgive me for being selfish and easily angered for the umpteenth time today”. Seriously though, it’s just incorporated into our life. They mess up, we mess up and in the process we all learn. They learn God’s word in a real way. In life!

8. Co-op

Last but definitely not least on the value scale, Co-op!

Aside from our every other Thursday science lab, we are a part of a Coop that meets every Friday. For those of you who have no idea of what a homeschool co-op is, here’s a brief description.

A homeschool co-op is a group of families (in our case, many families, we’re 200 deep) who meet together and work to achieve common goals. Co-ops can be organized around academics, social time, the arts, activities, crafts, service work, etc. They can have all of these subjects or a specific subject in mind. All parents participate in something, whether it’s teaching a specific subject, administrative work, day care, etc.

The co-op we attend of has a variety of subjects. We’ve been a part of it for 3 years now. My kids love it and have learned tons from it. They absolutely enjoy the fellowship. They took quite a few different classes this year so I won’t list them all. I taught a Travel through the Ancients Class that Elijah was in. It was so much fun. I may or may not put up a post about it; though I have tons of pics!

So that’s pretty much it. There was so much more we did this year than I listed. The kids won medals in FLL, Elijah learned tons on the piano, Ez dug deeper into the world of robots and history but as far as curriculum goes this was it…I think!

So here’s where I ask you to tell me what you think!

Reallly, is there any thing I listed about that you may want to know more about?

What were your faves of the year?

My Fine Arts flopped, how bout yours? Let me know if you have any insight.

Talk to you soon and have a HAPPY HAPPY SUMMER!!!

 

About author

Trish Santos

Trish is a wife & mother of four. She lives & homeschools her children in their home in Houston. She is the owner & DJ with The JoyfulNoise Mobile Music Studio. Trish is also a musician, an avid thrifter, a bargin hunter, a diy'er, & Content Creator for BagladyChic.com

4 comments

  1. Rebekka says:

    Great read! You’re so informative. I will keep this tucked away in my back pocket in case I ever have the opportunity to homeschool.

    1. bagladychic1@gmail.com says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Hey you never know when the opportunity will present itself 😉

  2. Crystall says:

    I enjoyed reading your pros and cons for each curriculum. Since I use almost everything you use, it was cool to see why you like it/didn’t like it. I wish I had a few more hours in each day to do the extras that I want to do but alas God hasn’t seen fit to provide me with that wish:)

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