I love finding out what other people use for their homeschool curriculum. I have a few friends that I always ask just because I trust their opinions and feel that they take the time to really find quality resources. Most of what I use came directly from fellow homeschool moms!
So I will share what I use now along with my opinions:
For my 9-year-old son (3rd grade)
Math – Math U See Gamma
I LOVE this program. I started using MUS when my son was K4 age and we started with Alpha. We went through it very slowly since he was young which ended up being good and bad. He learned everything that he was supposed to learn, but because we took so long with one level (2 years) we were just both sick of looking at it. I decided to take a break and try something else.
First I wanted to try Horizons Math. I should’ve know that this wouldn’t work out. Horizons claims to be a mastery approach program, but they are actually very SPIRAL! I hate spiral math programs…especially in the early years. I bought just the 2nd half of the program of a used curriculum site to try it out. I hated it.
Then I purchased k12.com 2nd grade math. I was unimpressed. I loved other things about K12, but the 2nd grade math was mostly just items learned in Alpha with the last 1/3 of book containing new content…adding/subtracting with regrouping. There was also a VERY small section at the end with an intro to multiplication. I will say that I liked that it was colorful and it included graphs and charts that my son hadn’t seen before….but in the end, I basically tested him through the book then taught the regrouping part (which would’ve been Math U See Beta).
After that, I went BACK to MUS! We picked up with Gamma and we’re back on course. I can now see the benefit of using the MUS program. It starts out so slowly at first that it scares many people away. They feel that their child is not being introduced to enough concepts. But if you give that time with a solid foundation in the basics, it pays off! My son is in Gamma which is multiplication (including large numbers) and he is just sailing through! He knows his add/subtraction facts so that doesn’t slow him down and he has learned his basic multiplication facts through our Classical Conversations curriculum along with the skip counting at the beginning of Gamma that concentrates on that…so now that he is doing 3 digit x 3 digit with regrouping…he gets it! No more switching for us!
Grammar – Growing with Grammar (level 3)
LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! I good friend told me about this program. It was cheap, easy and requires no prep time! If your child is a good reader, then he can even do this pretty much on his own! It teaches grammar in step-by-step format. Each lesson has the new teaching (again…one step at a time) with practice, then it reviews previous lessons. It also teaches sentence diagramming which was important to me. It comes with a “text book” and a “workbook”. The text book is half-page size and spiral bound. This has the lesson that you read with examples that explain the concept. The workbook is what the kids write in. Each lesson has a workbook page (2-sided) with a section on the new content and then 3 or 4 sections on review material. It can be done in about 10-15 min for a quick worker or maybe 20 min for a student that takes their time.
Spelling – All About Spelling – Level 3
If you have read my blog, then you know how much I love this program. I have posts on my blog totally dedicated to AAS program! I will just say here that again…this is awesome. My son was behind in reading and many of the phonics programs were geared toward younger kids. I needed something that would continue phonics instruction but not be babyish! AAS was it. It’s a spelling program, but it’s phonics based, so it is a wonderful reading program as well.
The lessons are called “Steps” because you don’t just go through lesson by lesson….moving on each day. You start on Step 1 and stay with Step 1 until they have mastered the spelling skill/key as well as mastery on their spelling words and dictation sentences. It is very flexible in how you break up the Step into daily lessons…although some will not like this aspect. If you want a lesson plan that tells you exactly what to do minute by minute for spelling each day, then you will not like this layout. But, I would still encourage you to try this out! It is totally worth it. There is an online community that helps give you ideas on how to schedule spelling for the week as well as other tips and suggestions.
The program comes with one book (this is YOUR book…there is no student book!), index cards, and any relevant charts or word reading sheets. You can also purchase the magnet letter tiles separately (do it… I tried without this and although it can be done, I saw a huge difference when I started using the tiles!). You will only need to purchase an index card box and have pencil and paper on hand. I suggest the this box. It provides all the room you need so it’s not squished in too tight…plus it allows room for the dividers without smashing them!
The teacher’s book will tell you what you will be covering in each step and what to say. So, although it doesn’t have detailed lesson plans, it does have a scripted lesson! You read through the Step (lesson) as it is written in the book. It will tell you when to bring out the index cards (which have the spelling words, the key cards, phonogram cards, and sound cards) and when to use the tiles. At the end of each lesson there is a list of spelling words and “more” or Challenge words (not all lessons have challenge words). There is also a list of sentences that are used for dictation. They reinforce the skills previous and currently taught in the book. It also comes with a handy chart to mark off each step as you go and a certificate of completion.
How I Do It: I start a new step by just reading through the first few sections. There is usually a skill reinforcement section where you really analyze the spelling of a word. Then there is the new stuff for that lesson. I read through the New Teaching section. If it’s short then we will complete all of that in about 15 min. If it’s longer then I sometimes break up the New Teaching section and just introduce part of it one day and part another day. I finish the first day with a few of the dictation sentences on paper. Don’t skip this part. It truly makes a difference. This where you see if they can take what they learn in isolation and apply it to regular writing! The next day in spelling, I review what we learned by QUICKLY restating what was in the New Teaching section and then continue forward. If there was more New Teaching, then I continue that section. If not, then I introduce the spelling words and we practice with the letter tiles on the magnet board. We finish that day with a few more dictation sentences on paper.
I continue on like this each day until I see that he “gets” it and then I do a test. The test certainly doesn’t have to be formal, but I like to have him do it on paper. He has to spell the 10 words plus 2-3 dictation sentences. If he misses a few, but seems to get most of it right I usually move on, but keep those words in our “Review” section of our card box. This is then reviewed with the next set of words. If however, I feel that he didn’t get enough correct, we would just stay with that lesson/step a little longer.
Phonics/Spelling – Explode the Code – Level 5
We started with Explode the Code series pretty early on in our homeschooling, but then I put it aside for a time. I wish I hadn’t. It is a great program that easily and without difficulty, introduces key spelling, phonics/decoding skills as well as some vocabulary. It’s a workbook that the student writes in. There is a teacher’s guide that I hear is very good, however I don’t have it. I only used it for the K levels. I have found that Level 5 goes wonderfully with AAS Level 3. Last year we did Level 2 in AAS and level 4 in Explode the Code and they mirrored each other. So for me, Explode the Code offers an independent way for my son to get reinforcement in his spelling concepts. I usually just have him do 3 pages a day. When he gets to the end of a section, I give him a test that tests both spelling of the words in that section as well as some vocabulary by doing a fill in the blank. I created the tests myself and will post them here soon.
Literature – Various Books
Okay, so I’ve totally slacked in this department. I have just recently picked this subject back up. I’m starting out right now just by reading great books to and with my kids. My son has made wonderful improvements in his reading and actually reads all the time, but for literature, I still wanted to read to him. We all enjoy story time. We have read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Which, and The Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew. We are now reading the Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s been fun learning about how families survived in those times! I’m always amazed at the pioneer spirit! I currently don’t do any formal program for literature or use any literature guides. We just enjoy the books and discuss them as we go. I bring up new words as I read them and also find places on the map so they can visualize the story better. No quizzes or tests…just learning to enjoy a great book.
History & Science – Classical Conversations
We are part of Classical Conversations which is a wonderful Classical Education homeschool program (read more on my other posts). Our History and Science pulls from what we are doing with CC each week. We meet once a week with CC and each week the kids are introduced to a new History and Science sentence/fact. At home each week we expound on that fact by reading from encyclopedias, library books (or books I have on hand), internet, DVDs, and biographies.
I do History 2 days a week and Science 2 days. We spend one day at CC to that makes up our week. The first day for History and Science I do the reading from one of my sources (or sometimes a great DVD from the library) We spend about 20 min. doing this. We discuss what happened and how it relates to our CC History or Science fact. On the second day for each one, we read a little more from a different source and then I have my son draw and/or write about what we learned in his own words. This goes into his notebook.
We are always reviewing our History and Science fact from CC so they have that memorized by the end of the week. We also review previous week’s facts and memory work so that they stay fresh in their minds!
Some of my favorite resources are:
Geography and Timeline – Classical Conversations
At CC each week, we introduce several new places on the map. Right now we are concentrating on Europe which ties into our History this year. At home, we continue to review those new places by locating them and coloring them in on our maps. We also draw/trace the maps. At least once a week we will also review some of the places from previous weeks to keep them memorized.
Our timeline is also introduced each week at CC. We introduce 8 new cards per week using the Veritas Press timeline cards. CC incorporates the Bible History cards with the World History cards in chronological order. It creates a wonderful outline of history from creation to modern times that really helps kids in all subjects! At home, we practice the cards using hand motions and the cards themselves. Sometimes we play games with the cards too.
I am still figuring out vocabulary and Latin. We do some Latin at CC each week, but I have not formally started that at home. I’m thinking of either Latin’s Not So Tough or Prima Latina. Vocabulary has been another sore subject for me. I haven’t found anything that I really love and have just been using different things here and there.
So if you have any great vocabulary or Latin ideas, let me know.