Greetings everyone! Here is the second installment as promised back before Christmas! In this post, I will focus upon the curriculum we have incorporated and share the nuts and bolts of our homeschooling day. I will present it in the same order as our daily school schedule.
I will warn you, this post is full of pictures, videos, personal anecdotes, and some nitty gritty stuff that might wear some readers plum out (oops…the Texan is slipping in). For that, I apologize. But as I have spent many hours refining this post, I count it as a detailed journal entry that I can look back on for years to come. It has been a labor of love for certain!
For those of you reading this that are currently homeschooling, or considering it, I am including direct links to company websites, students samples, and pdf’s. Hopefully this will aid you in your search for curriculum!
Okay, without further ado we start with…
We begin our day with Bible Road Trip. This study is very comprehensive and thorough. We have found that it takes at least 30 minutes to complete a lesson, and we actually leave out several of the activities. That being said, however, it is possible to tailor the lessons to fit your family’s schedule. There is something here for everyone. Sunshine completes the Lower Grammar activities and Rosebud the Upper Grammar curriculum. The Upper Grammar program contains more notebooking activities, scripture readings, and memorization. If you are on the lookout for an in-depth study of the Bible for your family, this is an excellent choice. We have loved all of the resources and suggestions that enhance this study, especially the What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver DVD series and Window on the World prayer guide. Each girl has her own notebook, that is completed as we talk about the scripture or text. Here are a few examples from their note-booking pages:
Rosebud will actually complete some of her Bible readings during her read-to-self time. She actually asks to read from the Bible and is excited to learn more. This, of course, makes me smile! At first, I felt a little stressed as we tried to complete all of the activities and notebook pages. For our family, this was an unrealistic goal. As the weeks progressed, we would sometimes take two weeks on a group of lessons rather than one, or we would just leave out some of the suggested activities. To me, the most important thing is that we read the Bible together and discuss what we have read. If the girls don’t get all the pages filled in, it is not the end of the world. I am still working through this to find the right balance for our family. Hopefully this will come about during our second semester. We do love Bible Road Trip! And, to be completely honest, there are some mornings we just don’t get it in (usually because we sleep in), and we move it to later in the day (around supper time).
After our Bible time we complete the warm up exercises in our Family Time Fitness core lesson. This takes about 15 minutes and the girls love starting our school day with movement. The smiles abound. We always put on some of their favorite tunes as we move. I have been so pleased with our physical education program. The lessons are excellent and include 10-15 minutes of warm up exercises, 15-20 minutes of cardiovascular and strengthening exercises, and 5-10 minutes of cool-down exercises. When we began the semester, we tried to do the entire lesson at one time. But we realized that this really didn’t work the best for our schedule, so, we divide the lesson up throughout the day. This also gives the girls an opportunity to move more often during our school day. They always look forward to our PE time! This curriculum is varied, thorough, and extremely enjoyable. Lessons can be completed in your home or out in your yard and it only requires a few pieces of equipment. I highly recommend it. I would say that this program has been the “pleasant surprise” of our schooling. On the Family Time Fitness website, you can download a variety of extra resources and assessments. It is even possible to view videos of the different activities so that you know how to demonstrate for your kids. We also complete a monthly assessment for sit ups and push ups. The girls love setting their monthly goals and striving to achieve them. This curriculum gets a hearty two thumbs up from our family!
After a time of movement, the girls go to their workboxes and start in on their handwriting. We are using the “A Reason For…”
series which utilizes the Zaner-Bloser style of manuscript and cursive. Sunshine is working through Handwriting A and Rosebud is completing the Handwriting C book. I have been pleased with the structure and pacing of the worksheets. Each week, they complete one Lesson that is broken up into 5 days of work. Day One is spent reviewing a specific letter and a word that contains that letter. Days Two and Three are spent working on writing words pulled from the scripture verse that they will write out at the end of the week. On Day Four, they trace the entire verse and on Day Five they write it on their own on a separate decorative sheet provided at the end of the text. The verses that are included are very practical and can be applied to their daily lives. We will definitely continue with this curriculum for the rest of the year and next year.
Here is a sample from one of Sunshine’s lessons. The workbook offers plenty of repetition and sequence. Many times I will have the girls circle their best handwriting for that particular lesson. This has helped them to take more responsibility for their work. Handwriting generally lasts 10-15 minutes each day.
After handwriting we move on to math. Both girls are working from Math-U-See texts. Sunshine is working in Alpha (level 1), and Rosebud in Delta (level 4). This curriculum is mastery oriented and
incorporates manipulative blocks in order to help the student “see” math in action. Here is an Alpha sample lesson and a Delta sample lesson. Students are guided to build with the blocks, write the answers, and say or teach the concept back to the teacher. What I like about the curriculum is that it offers plenty of review. This is exactly what we were looking for in a math curriculum for Rosebud. The spiral method of learning in the Core Curriculum in public schools just wasn’t working for her. The mastery based learning is much better for her brain and confidence. So far, both girls have been able to work through a lesson each week. There are 30 lessons in all. We begin each lesson on Monday by watching a short DVD teaching, and then I spend time reinforcing the concept. We then practice the “build, write, and say” method together and then the girls complete 1 worksheet. Tuesday – Thursday is spent reviewing concepts, and completing 1-2 worksheets per day (each lesson has a total of 7 worksheets and a test). Friday they take their test. I keep this very low key and treat it as another worksheet. If they get to the point where they need more time, though, I will stretch it out over a couple of weeks instead of just one. That is the beauty if this program. A student can take as much time has he/she needs to master a concept before moving onto the next. I have read, though, that some homeschoolers have felt that Math-U-See isn’t as comprehensive as Saxon Math or BJU/Abeka Math. I can see where this would be a concern and I have also felt a need to supplement a bit. Rosebud, is going through a great program called Teaching Textbooks. When she finishes her Math-U-See work, she proceeds to my computer to complete a Math 4 lesson. We really love this curriculum. It provides thorough teaching and a great review…all tied together with fun rewards. It also includes a grade book so that you can keep track of your child’s progress. Another benefit to this program is that it builds independence and self correction skills into the student. With these two programs, I feel like she is getting a complete and well-rounded approach to learning math. It has been so satisfying to watch her grow and become more and more confident in her math skills. The Teaching Textbooks curriculum begins with Math 3, so Sunshine isn’t using it yet. But after looking at the sequence, I think I am going to start it with her in 2nd grade. I think she will be ready for it. Both Math-U-See and Teaching Textbooks start out really simple and then move to more complex problems. In addition to Teaching Textbooks, I usually finish off their math time by having them complete a quick “Math Minute”. These short pages are varied, straight forward, and don’t take much time to complete. I highly recommend this little workbook if you are looking for a quick, easy review for your kids.
Sunshine spent her preschool years in our local Montessori school. I love it that this philosophy of education continues to permeate our school day at times. Sometimes, she will just grab a box of math manipulatives and start working with them.
Sunshine usually completes her math first, so she and I move into her spelling time. Spelling lessons are about 15-20 minutes. Of all the subjects we are using, I am the most impressed with the All About Spelling and All About Reading curriculum. I can see tangible evidence that these programs are improving both spelling and reading skills. The spelling program is sequential and has a specific methodology. Because of this, Rosebud and I started on Level 1 last spring. She has worked through levels 1, 2, & 3 and is now on Level 4. I am so glad we took the time to start this from the beginning. The rules that she has learned and the multi-sensory activities provided have helped to fill in the gaps. Sunshine has already finished level 1 and is about 1/3 of the way through level 2. There has been more than one occasion when my husband has overheard the different rules for spelling that they are learning and he announces, “Wow! I wish I had learned that in school! I’d be a much better speller.” Each lesson is clearly spelled out (pun intended) for the teacher so it does not require much preparation. That being said, though, you can’t just send your child off to complete it on their own. The teacher is directly involved in every aspect. I really enjoy teaching these lessons, though. They really are fun! Rosebud has declared that spelling is now one of her favorite subjects–and that is saying something! To the left is a picture of just one of the many activities included in the program. Featured here are 4 ways to spell the sound of long “e”. I would call out a word, and Rosebud would either build the word with tiles or write out the word under the correct heading. The tiles have been especially helpful! Here are a few close up shots of the different tiles.
Another reason I love this curriculum is its method of review. The students memorize and apply various rules and each day these are reviewed through drilling flashcards and by building words. Here are a couple of pictures of the cards and card box:
There are about 26 steps in each level. Each step contains a list of 10 spelling words and a few phrases and/or sentences to dictate. The phrases and sentences often contain words that are similar to their spelling list words, so they get a chance to apply the rules they are learning. Sometimes we write these in their notebooks, and other times we spell on our white board. In level 4, the student is given a few random words with which to create her own sentence. This gives Rosebud practical application for combining writing and spelling skills. Did I say that I LOVE this curriculum??
Here is a very short snippet of how Rosebud used the tiles to spell words with the sound of [ch]. I would dictate words, and she would have to know the rules for using either “tch” or “ch” at the end of a one-syllable word.
PDF samples from the All About Spelling Website:
After spelling we move on to reading time. Both girls are using the All About Reading texts. Sunshine is working through level 2 and Rosebud level 4. The readers for level 4 are a bit easy for Rosebud, but along the way she has been introduced to some excellent strategies for decoding long and difficult words. As an aside, the level 4 stories are quite funny and entertaining. She has laughed out loud on several occasions! She has also learned syllabification rules, decoding various prefixes and suffixes, and how to recognize various literary devices such as alliteration. In the spring she will be taught how to recognize Greek and Latin roots!
The practice sheets have been especially helpful for both girls. They have helped Sunshine gain fluency and have given Rosebud more difficult words to decode. The student books contain many varied activities that are multi-sensory and enjoyable. Just like All About Spelling, a card file is included with sight words and sound cards to review daily. Another great plus is that you can use the same letter tiles, syllable tags, and prefix and suffix tiles for both programs. If you are looking to fill in gaps in your child’s spelling or reading capabilities, these programs are well worth the investment.
PDF Samples from All About Reading Levels 2 & 4
In addition to the All About Reading program, Rosebud is using some of the products from the Abeka Reading 4 curriculum. We are using the readers as additional “read aloud” time. With the All About Reading program, she reads the practice sheet aloud to me two days per week, and the story one day per week. I like to have my girls reading aloud to me everyday, so the other two days, Rosebud and I use the Abeka readers. What I like about these readers is the stories are full of characters and people who face difficult decisions and struggles, but employ honesty, integrity, and perseverance in the end. To me, these stories are planting seeds in the heart of Rosebud. They teach her to hang in there when the going gets tough, to be honest when it is easy to lie, to do everything with integrity. In addition to the readers, Rosebud completes two Read and Think Skill Sheets per week. These are short, timed readings that are followed with comprehension questions. They only take about 5 minutes and are a perfect way for me to check that she is understanding passages that she reads silently.
For Rosebud’s “read to self” time, she has been able to choose books from an assigned reading list. This fall, she read Number the Stars, Sarah Plain and Tall, Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, the Kaya series from American Girl, and The Horse and His Boy from the Chronicles of Narnia.
Our homeschool is a part of a local Homeschool Assistance Program. Because of this, we have access to thousands of resources. Rosebud has been able to read several different books on Greek mythology, whales, sea turtles, our solar system, and much more. We are so blessed to have this much access to wonderful literature!
For Sunshine, we have primarily been working through books that correlate to the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Levels J-M. She loves series books like Henry and Mudge, Nate the Great, Frog and Toad and many more. We are also working through some of the Magic Treehouse books. She will spend time reading silently and often I will have her read a few pages aloud to me. Since she loves to draw during any moment of free time, I have placed some audiobooks on our ipad and she listens to great literature while she draws. It’s a win/win!
Finally, when the girls have completed their reading assignments, they have the option to go online to readingeggs.com and complete a Reading Express lesson there. (This program was provided as a part of a grant for our school district). These lessons aren’t perfect, but they really focus upon strengthening comprehension skills. The lessons are challenging, and I appreciate that!
I have also been reading aloud to the girls. For the fall semester we read through Charlotte’s Web and The Hobbit and in the spring semester we will work through Aesop’s Fables, D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, Prince Caspian and other books from the Chronicles of Narnia series. We love to snuggle on the couch for read aloud time. Sometimes we even take the books into our lunchroom. I take a few bites and keep reading! I have learned so much about the importance of reading aloud to your kids–even your teenagers!! Twenty minutes a day is an excellent start. Honestly, I think it could count as their vocabulary lessons too because they hear so many new words and contexts. I had hoped to work through the Charlotte’s Web Literature Unit and Lapbook by Erica Arndt. We made our lapbooks and read the novel, but we just didn’t have time to complete the lapbook activities. Oh well, we can’t do it all! Summer activity, anyone?
Grammar and Vocabulary
After reading we move into our grammar and vocabulary time. For Sunshine, this doesn’t take very long. We are working through the First Language Lessons and she really enjoys these grammar sessions. Thus far, she has learned working definitions for parts of speech such as nouns, verbs and pronouns. She knows how to write all of the days of the week and months of the year. She knows the rules for capitalization and she has memorized 5-6 poems. These lessons also incorporate narration exercises. I will read a short passage from a classic work of literature. I will then ask her a series of questions from the passage and she answers in complete sentences. She is then asked to summarize the story or poem in one sentence.
At the end of the semester, I recorded Sunshine as she recited all of the poems she had learned thus far. She loved this process!
Rosebud is also working through the First Language Lessons program, but she is completing the Level Three workbook. I had thought about starting her with Level Four, but after perusing the text, I felt that Level Three would suit her better. This text covers all of the major parts of speech and introduces sentence diagramming. We try to complete three lessons per week (T, W, F). Rosebud is memorizing poetry too! She has been reciting poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, and William Wordsworth.
In addition to this text, I wanted a curriculum that would give her practical application of what she was learning in First Language Lessons. We found the PERFECT program for this: Fix It! Grammar, which is published by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I highly recommend this curriculum! Over the course of 32 weeks, Rosebud corrects and re-writes a fairy tale (The Nose Tree). There are four days per week and each day, she “fixes” a short sentence from the tale. The program builds upon itself each week. For instance, during week one, Rosebud simply labeled all of the nouns, circled the correct homophone to use in a sentence, and placed the proper punctuation at the end of the sentence. For week two, she completed those tasks and added a new task: labelling the articles a, an, and the. We are now up to week seventeen and she is labelling nouns, articles, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs; adding punctuation marks, correcting capitalization, and identifying who-which clauses. She completes each day’s sentence in under 10 minutes and then I check her work. Each day’s sentence also contains a vocabulary word that she looks up in the dictionary, writes the definition in the back of her notebook, and later completes a quiz that I give her. Ninety-five percent of this program is self-directed, whereas the First Language Lessons is teacher intensive. Fix It Grammar is completed Monday-Thursday.
If you would like to see a student sample up close here is a pdf from the IEW website.
Rosebud has vocabulary built into her grammar text, but she also completed a few weeks from the VocabuLit D workbook. If you are looking for a vocabulary curriculum that is pulled from great literature and can be completed by the student alone, then this is for you! I really enjoyed seeing how Rosebud independently completed all of the various exercises each week. VocabuLit has the student look up words in a dictionary, use the assigned words in a sentence, use context clues to infer meaning, and identify synonyms and antonyms for each word. Each week, 10 words were pulled from great novels or encyclopedia entries so that both fiction and non-fiction texts were employed. Each week, I would write the words and definitions on index cards and file them in a card box. After a few weeks, I would drill her on several of the words. When a definition was mastered, I would file it behind a different file. Other words would be filed behind a “review” divider.
Sunshine and I go through a simple little workbook entitled A Word a Day. She is completing the grade 1 text. These lessons take 5 minutes maximum. There are four words per week and the fifth day is spent completing different activities to review the words. It is simple, straight-forward, effective, and requires no preparation on my part, which a nice change of pace!
After lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays we dive into our history lessons. For history, we are using The Story of the World Volume I: Ancient Times. We are going about our history lessons according to the Classical model. This year, we cover ancient times. Next year, medieval history. The following year, we study early modern times and the final year we tackle the modern era. For the Classical model, you start this sequence in first grade and then cycle back through the sequence again beginning in fifth grade and for a final time in ninth grade. Since Rosebud is starting in on this cycle in fourth grade instead of first, I am probably going to be working in some U. S. History during her 5th-6th grade years. Right now I am formulating a list of books that she can read about famous Americans, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and more. I plan to intersperse this, along with memorizing the state names/capitals throughout the next two years.
But, I digress….back to The Story of the World! We all have really loved this curriculum. The text is written on such a level that a 1st-4th grader can understand it perfectly. It is
written in a narrative style, which is very appealing to a child in the grammar stage of learning. Along with the main text, there is an activity book. This book contains maps, coloring pages, narration questions, suggested additional resources such as books and websites, and a plethora of activities for each chapter. There are SO many options for activities that any family is sure to find one or two that suits their tastes. We typically read, explore the Usborne Encyclopedia of Ancient History, narrate, and fill in the map on Monday. On Wednesday we read and narrate more if needed, and work on our History Timeline (provided by Homeschool in the Woods). On Friday, we complete various activities.
Over the course of the semester, we made our own cave paintings:
built a ziggurat:
dressed up like Cleopatra:
took an “Art of the Ancients” class at our local ArtHaus:
wrote our names in cuneiform, and much more!
As mentioned earlier, we are putting together a long-term project–our History Timeline.
This project will take four years to complete, but it will be well worth the time and energy! Homeschool in the Woods provides this beautiful timeline notebook and a CD-ROM with images that you can download, print, cut out, glue on the timeline pages, and color. We color the characters and empires as we study them. After we finish a few chapters in our history study, we go back and start at the beginning of the timeline and talk through all of the people, dynasties, and wars we’ve covered thus far. My goal is to have the girls give a little “report” using the timeline at the end of the school year. I hope that they will be able to point to each figure we have colored and give a little synopsis of all that we have covered this year in ancient history. This will also be a great way to review before starting volume 2 next fall!
On Tuesdays and Thursdays after lunch we work on our science lesson. I have been SO impressed with the Apologia science curriculum. Never in my life have I looked forward to or been excited about a science lesson. But I have absolutely loved teaching this curriculum and my little budding scientist, Rosebud, has eaten it up! I decided to bite the bullet and purchase four years worth of textbooks so that we could have four 9-week units through out the next three years. Have I confused you? Sorry! With each unit, we are covering 5-6 chapters in a given textbook. We will cycle back through subsequent chapters next year. If we feel like we want even more time with these texts then we will take all or part of a third year.
For our first nine weeks, we studied the first five chapters of Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day, which is a part of the Young Explorers Series. These science texts are geared toward 1st-6th grade students. With each textbook, you have the option of purchasing notebooking journals for your students. Sunshine completes the pages in the Junior Notebooking Journal and Rosebud completes the Notebooking Journal for older elementary students. The main textbook is on a reading level that Rosebud could tackle on her own if she so wished. Fulbright’s writing style is very enjoyable and accessible, but also chock full of excellent science (Apologia provides a free sample chapter: Zoology 2 Lesson 2)! The notebooking journals are also full of a variety of activities and experiments. In fact, there are so many that we have not been able to get through all of them. We just pick the ones that appeal to us. After I read the day’s lesson, the girls write/summarize what they have learned. There is also space for drawing pictures and diagrams. We studied whales, seals, aquatic herps, sea turtles, and fish. We created a “sea box” with a large cardboard box and blue construction paper. When we studied a particular creature, we made it out of clay and put it in our box.
We drew a life-size replica of a leather back sea turtle. Wow they are huge! And we tried to get around the house with some sea turtle moves. Needless to say we didn’t need P. E. that day!
As a part of this study, it was suggested that we raise tadpoles. We did just that and named them Miracle and Lucky. Can you tell we weren’t confident in our tadpole raising abilities? But, much to our surprise, they both grew into healthy frogs! We released them into a nearby spring before the temperature dropped outside.
For our second nine weeks we studied Exploring Creation with Astronomy. This has been a favorite of ours. If you are looking to start an Apologia science book, this is the one with which to begin. It has been truly inspiring and fascinating to learn about our solar system, stars, and other galaxies. The experiments in this textbook are wonderful as well, and the apologia website has a page of “extras” where you can explore various websites with amazing pictures of the galaxy. We’ve made our own telescope, constructed our own version of the phases of the sun and moon, charted the moon’s phases, chalked our own nebulas on black poster board, and are in the process of creating our own solar system model. I also highly recommend downloading the “Night Sky” app onto your ipad or tablet. The girls have loved putting it up above them and seeing exactly what constellations are there. I actually coordinated our study of the stars with our study of Greek and Roman mythology. This way, they hear about the stories of the various mythological gods and goddesses and find the constellations that bear their names in the sky.
In the Spring we finish up our astronomy study for now, and move to a nine week unit on Exploring Creation Through Human Anatomy and Physiology. We will cover the first 6 chapters of this book and finish off the year with the first 5 chapters of Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics.
In the fall semester, we completed writing lessons in the afternoons, but in the spring we are moving them to our mornings. So far, we like this better!
Sunshine is going through the Writing with Ease curriculum put out by Susan Wise Bauer (also the author of our history and language lessons). She completes her lessons in about 15 minutes each day for four days. Day one consists of copywork. Day two incorporates a dictated story and narration. In day three, she returns to copywork and then day four finishes out with another story segment with narration exercises. What I like about this curriculum is that it is giving her excellent examples of how to write (copywork), it is teaching her how to answer and write in complete sentences and it is developing her summarizing skills. On some occasions, she will dictate her summaries to me and I will write them down for her (which the program supports). For a sample from PeaceHill Press click here.
Since her writing time is rather short, Sunshine will also have short journal entries that she completes. I will give her a fun, simple writing prompt that she finishes. For example: “Last night I dreamed I went to Paris and this is what happened:” Sunshine also has a strong, driving passion to write and illustrate books. Over the course of the fall semester, she composed at least a dozen “books.” She is our little artist and creative writer so when she would finish other work she would just pull out her blank paper and create a story. I never hindered this in any way because it was her true love and I wanted her to explore it as often as she liked. It was fun to watch how her penmanship, spelling, and word usage improved over the course of the semester. Who needs tests? Just let them create and you can see what they are learning! Sometimes, she would ask me to type up her stories for her to illustrate. Here is one such example:
Finding the right writing curriculum for Rosebud took some diligent researching on my part. I poured over several different options and finally decided upon The Institute for Excellence in Writing. IEW is not cheap. Fortunately, I was able to find used items at a reduced cost, otherwise I don’t think this program would have fit into our budget. In order to teach IEW writing, the instructor must go through the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style seminar. The course is divided into nine units and correlate to the nine units through which your students progress. I have learned an amazing amount of practical information by viewing this seminar. I have also learned that many times I would incorrectly major on penmanship (Rosebud has struggled with having neat/legible handwriting) and spelling when I should have been majoring on content.
Did you know that the skills for spelling and penmanship take place in a different part of the brain than the skills for composition? If a child is focusing too much on her spelling, then the brilliant sentence that she created in her mind will be lost. Work on spelling during your spelling lessons. Work on penmanship during handwriting lessons. Work on composition during your writing lessons.
Following this approach has made all the difference in Rosebud’s confidence and has freed her up to really WRITE! When I let go of my idea of handwriting and spelling perfection, there was much less anxiety during our writing time.
Andrew Peduwa, the instructor, happens to be a musician, and his process in teaching writing just makes sense to me. After viewing the seminar, I was sold on the methodology and philosophy and purchased the Student Writing Intensive A program for Rosebud. This, too, includes a series of DVDs and a binder with several examples and writing exercises for each unit. Because we are studying ancient history this year, I purchased the Ancient History Based Writing Lessons. You can actually complete the student writing intensive as a stand alone course for the year, but I wanted Rosebud to have material that connected to another subject we were studying. Our process has been to view the DVD for a certain unit, and then complete the exercises and writing in the Ancient History text.
This program is challenging. But, it is challenging in a good way and has provided a structured framework from which Rosebud can build her writing skills. For the first four units, our lessons were very teacher intensive. I had to do most of the brainstorming when we first began (except for the unit on writing narrative stories).
Rosebud is a fairly strong narrative writer, but not a natural “report”writer. Summarizing a resource and getting thoughts down on paper can be a challenge for her. It has been very rewarding to see her grow leaps and bounds in this area. When she finishes her final draft of a multi-paragraph report, I can tell that she is proud of her hard work. As we have started the spring semester, I have been able to step back and let her take over most of the responsibility for her assignments. With writing, it has been small and consistent steps forward that have made the difference and we are sticking with this program! Next year, we will incorporate the Middle Ages Writing Lessons. Here are a few examples from her Ancient History Based Writing Lessons: 1) an example of a key word outline 2) source text on Expressions from Greek Myths 3) paragraph checklist (this is what we use to make sure her final draft has all of the required elements of structure and style) 4) a sample brainstorming page, where she can write sentences that incorporate the needed style dress ups. 5) final draft of her multi-paragraph report on Greek expressions. I should say that she hand writes the outline, first draft, and revisions; and then dictates the final draft to me and I type it up.
If you would like to read the final draft of her multi-paragraph report, click below. Hopefully these examples will help give a clearer picture of how the program works. The highlighted and/or underlined portions indicated topic/clincher sentence rules and required style dress ups.
For cleaner examples from the IEW website, click here.
When Rosebud has needed a little extra work on usage (such as commas, quotation marks, capitalization, etc), I have given her a little Abeka Language A worksheet to complete. These are great for reinforcing rules of punctuation in writing.
During the month of November, I put together some simple little notebooking pages to form a “Thankfulness Journal.” To the left is a little sample of Sunshine’s journal. Each day during writing time, the girls would write a simple statement about what they were thankful for that day. For the journal, I used Thanksgiving themed pages found at notebookingpages.com. Just as an aside, this website has many free pages that you can easily download, but I think the lifetime subscription is well worth the money. The notebooking possibilities are endless! I use their spelling pages, storybook pages, history and science pages, and Bible themed pages. It is an outstanding resource for homeschoolers!
In December, we scrapped our normal writing routine and combined history, geography, and writing as we studied Christmas Around the World. We watched Rick Steve’s European Christmas and wrote about the different Christmas traditions celebrated around Europe. We wrote about their Christmas cuisine, studied their flag, found each location on our world map, and compared/contrasted their traditions to our own.We also went through the Everyday Emmanuel writing activities, which included many fun writing prompts. It was a fun project with plenty of opportunities to write!
The Fine Arts
Now for the important stuff! I firmly believe that music, art, and dance are just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Yes, I am little biased as my husband and I are both classically trained musicians. It is very important to us that our daughters are immersed in the arts each day.
Both girls are studying piano and theory for at least 30 minutes each day. In the future, Rosebud plans to take up the flute and Sunshine the violin. We also work on music history and literature lessons from time to time. While the girls work on their handwriting, math, spelling, and reading, I have classical music playing softly in the background. We discuss what instruments they are hearing and I talk briefly about the composer and the era in which he/she composed.
We also completed a “mini” unit on G. F. Handel and his Messiah during the advent season.
Our local Homeschooling Assistance Program provided around eight weeks of group music lessons. These were taught by one of the music education professors and a music education major at our local college. The lessons were outstanding! Our kids were exposed to master music educators!
Furthermore our community is blessed to have two community youth choirs. Rosebud sings in one and Sunshine in the other. Both groups are conducted by excellent musicians and teachers. Again, we feel so blessed to have so many top-notch opportunities for our kids!
Another fun music/drama experience came our way when Sunshine was cast as Gretl in the local high school’s production of The Sound of Music. I could go on and on about this production and the amazing things Sunshine learned but I am already quite long winded in this blog post! I will simply post a few pictures.
Sunshine wasn’t the only one gaining acting skills–Rosebud had her own acting class through our local arts studio and thoroughly enjoyed it. So both girls were able to experience a taste of stage life this semester and it was a joy to watch them grow in this field of art.
In addition to music and drama, we also take part in art lessons. As you have seen, Sunshine absolutely loves drawing, so I try to incorporate many opportunities for her to grow in this area. We are going through an excellent series of DVDs entitled Art Class. I have been impressed with these lessons and have learned drawing skills that have really improved my own drawing (yes, I grab my sketch paper and drawing pencils too)! Rosebud has been able to draw things she hasn’t attempted before. She actually smiled after completing one of the lessons. Pat Knepley, who teaches the lessons, is thorough, positive, and a great communicator. Like our P. E. instruction, these lessons have been a pleasant surprise! The only problem on my part is that I haven’t scheduled in enough practice time between lessons (students view 1 lesson per week). I am hoping to remedy that this spring.
As mentioned earlier, the girls were able to take part in a local, multi-week art class which focused upon the art of the ancient world. This tied in perfectly with our history lessons! They came home with an enormous amount of art after the sessions concluded!
We have also incorporated a bit of art history study here and there. One week, we focused upon the works of Norman Rockwell. This semester we will look at Degas, Renoir, and Rembrandt. We are hoping to use Confessions of a Homeschooler’s The World’s Greatest Artists curriculum. We didn’t really get around to the lapbooks in the fall. Instead we read the books and looked at different art work examples on the internet. We also had discussions about the artist’s use of color and the style in which he/she painted.
Like the group music classes, our homeschooling group was also offered two art classes at our local college. Art education students gave our kids wonderful experiences with different art media.
Sunshine also designs dresses in her spare time. In fact, she and a close friend announced recently that they were going to start their own fashion design business.I love their entrepreneurial spirit! And Anna and Elsa seem to like their new couture.
Other fun stuff…
During the fall semester we had the opportunity to:
- Watch and participate in the extracting of honey from a bee hive (thanks to some wonderful friends who gave us an impromptu telephone call).
- Explore a cave
- Aquire a first pair of glasses
- Attend a concert of The Five Browns and sit on the front row!
5. Make lots and lots of messes…
6. And eat quite a few breakfasts or lunches out on the town as a family. It is amusing to watch passers-by give us a double take. We know they are thinking, “Why aren’t those girls in school?”
All in all…it was a GREAT semester and we are grateful to God for this opportunity! I hope you enjoyed getting an in-depth look at our homeschool. I feel like you deserve a special reward for making it all the way to the end!
If you have any further questions about curriculum or our school day I am more than happy to share information. We are not perfect, but we are loving this journey!
The Seed Sower Clan!