Curriculum Choices

As we sit and wait for the hurricane I thought that now is as good a time as any to start blogging again.  I’ve been meaning to get back up and going especially since we started our school year.  And it seems the best place to start is with our curriculum choices for the year.   For those who homeschool maybe it will give you some ideas and for those who don’t, it might give some insight into what we do all day (since that’s a question I get asked by my non-homeschooling friends).  So far we like the materials we are using; most, though, are ones we’ve been using for years.  Some are really popular while others are off the homeschool beaten path.  So, without further ado, here is what we are using this year…

Religion–Seton’s Religion

I like that Seton’s religion program is concise while providing a solid Catholic foundation.  It has also helped us memorize our catechism and improved the girls’ reading.  We are also using the Virtues in Practice program from the Dominican Sisters of St. Celia.  It’s a free program that focuses on a different virtue and saint each month.  It helps us easily learn about saints and holy virtues.

 

Literature–Memoria Press

We are doing the third grade literature study from Memoria Press.  The novels include Mr. Popper’s Penguins, A Bear Called Paddington, and Charlotte’s Web.  I’m replacing Farmer’s Boy with The Courage of Sarah Noble since we haven’t started the Little House on the Prairie series yet and The Courage of Sarah Noble fits with our Social Studies curriculum.  Our current schedule has us finishing the novels before our year is over so we will either enjoy books of the girls’ choosing, continue our Shakespeare studies from last year, or jump into the Little House on the Prairie series.  We’ll figure that out when we get there.

 

Poetry–The Harp and the Laurel Wreath

A lot of our curriculum choices are inspired by the classical program put forth by Laura Berquist so it makes sense that for poetry we use her anthology.  Each morning we read and practice our poem until eventually the girls have memorized it.  After reciting their poem correctly for their grandparents, we move on to another one, usually completing a poem a month.  During the course of their memorizing, we also have many discussions about the poem, read other books connected to it, and complete a coloring sheet.  This is one part of our homeschooling that has surprised me by all the benefits and joys it has provided us.

 

Latin–English From the Roots Up

Also based on Laura Berquist’s curriculum, we are using English From the Roots Up flashcards this year to introduce the Latin and Greek root words so that when they officially begin studying Latin next year it will be easier.   Each week we add three new cards that we then review daily and regularly I’m giving them a quick, cumulative quiz.  So far the girls are loving this–learning a different language and getting to play with words.  I was surprised that they consider Latin to be one of their favorite subjects.

 

Grammar–Easy Grammar

Easy Grammar really is just that, easy.  We do about a page a day.  The lessons include good explanations and enough practice without overdoing it or giving busy work.  I especially like that it starts with prepositions and prepositional phrases before identifying the subject and verbs.  Makes it so much easier and will make diagramming sentences easier in the future.

 

Writing

This year we aren’t really using a formal writing curriculum but working on simply writing regularly.  While we have some materials from the teaching supply store, I’ve also purchased a few things from Teachers Pay Teachers and will be occasionally supplementing with Memoria Press’s Introduction to Composition book which parallels our reading program.  I’m trying for as many authentic writing experiences as possible, trying to connect our writing to what we are studying or experiencing in life in order to make it more meaningful.  We aren’t just doing formal writing assignments, but writing letters, journaling, and creating stories.  At this age, I want the girls to like writing and to develop into strong writers.  So our goals for the year is for them to enjoy writing and to be able to write clear, well written paragraphs.

 

Math

Math is another subject where we don’t have a clear cut curriculum this year.  We are taking a strong mastery approach.  While the girls haven’t struggled with math concepts, they have struggled to memorize their math facts.  I know this is going to continue to hold them back.  They were also getting frustrated and hating math.  So we have taken a step back from an organized curriculum to focus on learning all of our math facts.  We are using Xtra Math daily which does a great job quizzing the kids on their math facts.  We are also using our Math Wrap-Ups (but if you get these be sure you get the set with the CDs; if you don’t have the music they don’t really work), worksheets from education.com, and fun resources such as Fun-Schooling Math Mysteries and Practice Problems with Minecraft.  We started all the way back with our addition facts and will move through subtraction, multiplication, and division with fractions and balancing equations along the way.  By the end the girls will have mastered their math facts and will be truly ready to move on to higher level concepts.  We’ve already seen improvements but the best one so far has been that they are enjoying math again and regaining their confidence.  This was a hard decision for us to make (math was the one subject I said I would always need a formal curriculum for) but this is one of the many reasons why we homeschool–to meet our children’s own needs.

 

Science–Elemental Science, Chemistry

In addition to Laura Berquist’s book and approach, our homeschool is strongly influence by The Well-Trained Mind.  One thing I like about the classical approach is focusing on a different branch of science each year.  Instead of spiraling and covering the same topics every year, we rotate through Biology, Earth Science/Astronomy, Chemistry, and Physics on a four year track.  While I like what Susan Wise Bauer describes in The Well-Trained Mind, I didn’t quite like how she approached it and wanted more structure as well as more diversity in activities.  Elemental Science uses the yearly structured I wanted.  It also uses real books as opposed to a text and includes lapbooking and has easy hands on experiments for every week.  Basically, Elemental Science program has everything I want in a science program.

 

Social Studies–Truthquest

Truthquest is basically my Social Studies equivalent to Elemental Science.  While it offers suggestions for a spine the program is also based on real books.  For the most part it is a list of topics with book suggestions.  It also includes lapbooks, writing assignments, timelines, maps, and coloring sheets.  And most importantly it makes history fun.  What I also really like is that it starts with American history and it is so hard to find a classical, hands on program for American History for the lower grades.  So often the classical programs start with Ancient History which I think can be very confusing for young children–here is a totally different culture from a long time that includes a bunch of gods that we don’t believe in.  The reason the Greeks used to study Greek history first is because it was their history and they started with what they knew so to me it’s silly for us following the classical model to start with the Greeks when what we really should start with is our own history and culture, like the Greeks did, building on the framework that children already have.

 

Spelling–Spellwell

This year we are trying a new spelling curriculum and so far so good.  Spellwell is phonics based with each word list grouped according to a different rule or phonogram.  What we like is that each list is only 10 words long but there with spaces for me to add words to each week’s list.  I also like that the week starts with a pre-test so we can focus on the words they need to.

 

Handwriting–Abeka Writing with Phonics Cursive

The girls asked to learn cursive awhile back and it’s been great for them.  While they are still working on perfecting their penmanship, learning cursive early helped them get their b’s and d’s straight.  And while the curved lines and loops are easier for them than manuscript writing, it has helped their manuscript printing as well.  Currently we are using our handwriting book from last year.  In addition to the workbook, I have them write their final drafts in cursive but for everything else the girls can choose what style they want to use.

We are also using our Draw Write Now books every so often as further practice for handwriting, drawing, and our fine motor skills.

 

Art–Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters

In the past we’ve just done art projects throughout the year.  While this was great when the kids were younger, it’s been really hit or miss so this year I wanted a more structured approach.  But not too structured that it took out the fun of art at this age.  We are doing an artist/project a week and just moving chronologically through the book.  It is exposing our entire family to a wide variety of artists and different techniques.  We tend to already have the materials on hand and the projects are fun.

 

 

So that’s what we are using with the girls.  We are also doing sewing and nature study but those don’t really have a curriculum.  And of course we also have our little man doing tot school but I’ll be sharing that along the way.

For my homeschoolers, what curriculum are you using this year or what do you love?

 

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Pumpkins Math and Science

So Halloween may have passed but I still wanted to share our pumpkin activities, especially since they can still work for Thanksgiving.  And to avoid one monster long post about pumpkins so I divided it up so here are our math and science activities we’ve been doing lately.

Pumpkin Craft–Life Cycle and Parts All Rolled Into One

I combined about five different pumpkin crafts that I liked into one super sciency pumpkin.  First we used three paper plates to create the pumpkin body–one of the base, one for the back pocket, and one of the frame.

Pumpkin Science Craft

We painted the pumpkins with pumpkin-scented paint–just adding pumpkin spice to our orange paint.  We also used a cork for our stem.

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On the framed side, we showed the different parts of the pumpkin.  We used real seeds and then pipe cleaners (or you could use orange yarn) for the fibers inside.  While creating it, the girls also cut and pasted the labels for the different parts.

Download labels for parts of the pumpkin.docx

Parts of pumpkin craft

We then added our life cycle vine to the pumpkin.  We used the circle labels for the different stages from printables.atoz

Pumpkin Life Cycle Craft

After attaching them to the yarn, we tied it to our pumpkin stem.  They can also get tucked into the pocket on the back side.

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Pumpkin Worksheets

Before making our pumpkins, we completed the following worksheets to help learn about the pumpkin life cycle and the different parts of a pumpkin.

Pumpkin life cycle worksheet from education.com

Pumpkin life cycle worksheet from education.com Click the picture for the worksheet

Worksheet on pumpkin parts from ateachingmommy.com

Worksheet on pumpkin parts from ateachingmommy.com Click the picture to link to the worksheet

Pumpkin Investigation

There are TONS of different pumpkin investigation worksheets out there where kids answer questions about their pumpkin.  This one, from Fun For First, was my personal favorite and the one we chose to use.  It was the most thorough and touched on the topics I wanted the girls to explore.

Pumpkin Investigation

 

Number Lines

pumpkin number line

In math our current chapter is on number order (we use the Singpore Math Kindergarten Curriculum) so I had us make these adorable pumpkin number lines.  While you can use a pumpkin template and then stickers or handwritten numbers, I just used my cricut to cut the pumpkins and numbers.  Then the girls glued them all together.  Finally they strung them on ribbon, which was great practice since we recently started learning to stitch.

And yes, I have realized that my little one did the seven backwards. :)

And yes, I have realized that my little one did the seven backwards. 🙂

 

Number Cards and Playdough

To review our number shapes (and hopefully help with our handwriting) we used these fall-themed number cards from Life Over C’s.

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And then for the playdough we used clay made from pumpkin (recipe courtesy of Fun at Home with Kids).  All you need is canned pumpkin, corn starch, and pumpkin spice.  Mix it together until it is the consistency and smell you would like.  In addition to using this with our number cards, it also made a great sensory activity for the girls to play with while I did some one on one work with each.

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Different Kinds of Graphs

Since the girls were so into their graphs, I decided to have us just go with it and explore graphs even more.

Our Pizza Graph Display

Our Pizza Graph Display

My goal was to expose the girls to different kinds of graphs since they were interested and to help them see that in math you can say the same thing in many different ways.

As I mentioned before, we graphed what type of pizza our family and friends like to eat.

Our pizza graph

Our pizza graph

We then turned that pictagraph into one using slices of pizza to show how many people prefer which kinds.

Pizza Pictagraph made by Zoe

Pizza Pictagraph made by Zoe

Click here for Pizza Pictagraph Labels & Slices

To help you create your own pizza graph, here are the images I used:

pepperoni pizza
cheese pizza
supreme pizza
Veggie pizza
pizza-boxes
No pizza

 

Following that we also colored in a bar graph similar to the pictagraph with pizza slices.  The girls were able to see that each graph made the same shape and gave the same basic information even though they looked a little different.

Bar graph of Pizza Preferences

Bar graph of Pizza Preferences

 

Of course we had to make pie graph when talking about pizza.  I cut large pizza images into slices and we assembled the slices to make a pizza pie graph showing the different preferences with pizza slices.  To make the slices all fit together, I actually used powerpoint to “slice” the different kinds of pizza into the same size slices (We surveyed 28 people so each pizza–cheese, pepperoni, supreme, etc–was divided into 28 equal sections.)

Pizza Pie Chart made by Mia

Pizza Pie Chart made by Mia

Click here to see how I divided the pizzas into slices

We didn’t do quite as much with the graph we made about what people loved as a baby.

Our Original Lovey Graph

Our Original Lovey Graph

We translated our big graph with people’s pictures into a smaller pictagraph using heart shapes.  I tried to get the girls to make their graph horizontally but they were not going for that.  I did make sheets of hearts, both blank to be colored (like we used) as well as hearts of various colors to use.

 

Heart Pictagraph showing which comfort items people had as a baby

Heart Pictagraph showing which comfort items people had as a baby

Before they colored it in

Before they colored it in

 

Click here for sheets of heart shapes

Click here for Comfort Item Survey Labels

I probably wouldn’t have introduced so much graphing so early but since the girls were excited, I was happy to follow their passions.  And I think the idea that the same idea can be expressed in different ways is a great take away that will help them as they move forward in math.

 

 

 

Graphing Fun

Who knew graphing could be so much fun?  Once we started it was hard to get the girls to stop!

The graph that started it all...

The graph that started it all…

Our math program had the girls graph the hair color of family members (we are using Saxon Math kindergarten this year which has worked well since it has limited writing but big concepts).  When we finished Mia asked if we could graph people’s pizza.  I don’t know where the idea came from but it started us on quite a graphing kick.

Our first question was “What is your favorite pizza?”  The girls came up with the choices: cheese, pepperoni, meat & vegetables (Supreme), vegetarian, every pizza (Mia’s pick), and no pizza.

Our pizza graph

Our pizza graph

Click here for our pizza graph labels

To make our graphs we used the profile pictures from our family magnets and sheets of paper taped together (yes, posterboard would work but I’m trying to be more frugal).

Then the girls Skyped with family and friends and asked them their question to graph their responses.

After working on our pizza pictagraph, Zoe wanted to come up with her own question.  Since she loves her lovey, she asked “What was your favorite comfort item when you were a baby?”  Her choices were: lovey, blanket, teddy bear, stuffed animal, doll, or nothing.

Not to be left out, the lovey survey

Not to be left out, the lovey survey

Here are the labels from our Lovey Survey

What I love about this is that the kiddos were making up the questions and then investigating and reporting the results.  They were practicing so many skills!  It was also a great way to connect with family and friends and include them in our learning.

Our graphing madness

Our graphing madness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day Fun

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up we spent some time talking about St. Patrick and that saints are people who love God very, very much.  We also used it to do a lot of math and counting activities.  I actually had a few more things planned but my little leprechauns got so into counting their gold that we didn’t get to everything.

Skills: math, counting, fine motor skills,
Supplies: green felt, green posterboard, green yarn, file folder, pennies, ink & paper

Pots of Gold File Folder Game

Little leprechaun pots of gold seemed like a perfect way to practice counting.  This was the first file folder game I’ve made all on my own (well, to be honest, that my husband designed and I put together).  Usually I find others online but I couldn’t find one that I really liked.  We’re focused on counting and not as much the number symbols so instead of matching the leprechauns with the numbers on them, we just counted out pennies for each pot of gold.  For my girls at this age, it probably would have worked even better had I put each pot of gold on separate notecards, instead of the file folder with all of them, since they became a little overwhelmed with all the pennies.  But now I have it ready for next year when it will be easier and they can also match the little number leprechauns.

Apparently Mia became a little leprechaun because she kept grabbing the bowl of pennies and saying “My pot of gold!”  🙂  We ended up getting out two more bowls and practiced counting out pennies into their own bowls and then building towers with the pennies.

Pots of Gold File Folder Game

St. Patrick Action Story

We recently did an action story and the girls really enjoyed it. So I did one today for the girls to learn about St. Patrick. It’s pretty hokey but they had fun doing the motions. The girls loved the snakes so even after the story we spent a long time being snakes and then yelling “Go away snakes.”

St. Patrick lived a long time ago (wave back with your hand) and far away (wave far off) in Ireland. Ireland is across the ocean (make waves with hands) with rolling hills (draw hills with hand). St. Patrick loved (cross hands over chest) God (point up) very much. He loved (cross chest) God (point up) so much that he wanted to tell everyone about God (wave pointed finger like talking to someone). He told everyone in Ireland how much God (point up) loves (cross chest)us (point to self).

St. Patrick loved (cross chest) God (point up) so much that he could do special things. Ireland had lots of snakes (wiggle like a snack and stick out your tongue). The snakes (wiggle) were scary. St. Patrick loved (cross chest) God (point up) so much that God (point up) helped him get rid of the snakes (wiggle). St. Patrick said “Go away snakes!” (shout “Go away snakes!”) and the snakes (wiggle) went away. St. Patrick knew God (point up) could help him do anything.

Shamrock Felt Board Story

I really liked this Shamrock felt board story from preschooleducation.com.  I’ve been trying to get away from the 5 little whatevers for each holiday but I really liked this one because it was a little different.  The girls also really taking the pieces off of the board and this one forced them to take turns.

Five green shamrocks growing outdoors,
(Child’s name) picked one, and that left four.
Four little shamrocks, green as they can be.
(Child’s name) picked one and that left three.
Three little shamrocks playing peek-a-boo.
(Child’s name) picked one and that left two.
Two little shamrocks nodding in the sun.
(Child’s name) picked one, and that left one.
One little shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day fun.
(Child’s name) picked it, and that left none.

Lacing Shamrocks

I just cut out Shamrocks out of green posterboard and then punched holes along the edge for the girls to lace yarn through.  To make it easier I attached a little “needle” made out of a pipe cleaner.  Since we had sewn the mittens before, we experimented a little with different stitches.

Other Printables

Lately Zoe and Mia really like pasting things in place so they really enjoyed the shape and pattern printables I found at First School.  We also coloring some St. Patrick’s Day coloring pages.  Here are the ones we did:

Shamrock hat shape matching
St. Patrick’s Day pattern activity

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