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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More Pumpkin Activities

Time got away from me with the new little one but I still wanted to share our language arts activities from our pumpkin unit.  I also include some of our sensory activities at the end (besides the pumpkin playdough in my science and math pumpkin post).

Word Family Pumpkins

Pumpkin word families

I had my husband make this fun puzzle game to play around with word families.  They match the pumpkin pieces together to create a word family pumpkin.  The girls had a great time matching up the word families and seeing how they made a pumpkin.

The bottom piece is printed on white paper and then the top pumpkin pieces were printed on orange paper.

The bottom piece is printed on white paper and then the top pumpkin pieces were printed on orange paper.

The pieces can be a puzzle to reuse over and over or it can be a cut and paste activity to produce a finished product.

fall word family activity

Our finished pumpkins

Download Pumpkin Word Family Printables

Sight Word Collages

This was a great way to work with our sight words.  We cut the words out of magazines and then in keeping with our theme glued them to these cute little pumpkins for our growing pumpkin patch.

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fall sight word activity

Pumpkin Popsicle Words

This is a great way to practice our vocabulary words.  The vowel is written on the pumpkin and then the girls can slide the popsicle sticks through to create new words making it an interactive way to get through their reading lists.

Pumpkin sliding stick reading

Pumpkin Letter Bingo

Have I mentioned before that my kids love letter bingo?  I make a letter sound and they find the letter on their bingo sheets.  Really they love the the game because it ends in eating lots of M&Ms but I like that it’s a great phonics review.

Pumpkin Letter Bingo

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Candy Corn Letter Game

My girls really enjoyed this cute candy corn letter game from Kindergarten Smiles.  It was a great review of letter recognition and sounds.

Candy Corn Letter Game

Just click on the picture below to access the game which is available for free through Teachers Pay Teachers.

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Sensory Activities

Pumpkin Cloud Dough

My girls love cloud dough!  Who am I kidding?  So do I!  It’s super easy to make just add flour and vegetable oil (enough to make it damp and moldable).  I just added pumpkin spice and orange powdered tempera paint to make it pumpkin flavored.

Pumpkin Cloud Dough

We often use activities like this while I work one on one with the girls.

Fall Fizzing Bath Bombs

Thanks to Fun at Home With Kids we were able to make these fun fizzing bath bombs.  We will definitely be doing this again in different shapes and scents!  The cinnamon is good to fight germs but it does make your tub rather cinnamon-y so you probably won’t be washing hair in the tub that night.  You get get the recipe here.

Pumpkin fizzing bath bombs

 

 

And finally since we are talking about pumpkins I just need to include my pumpkin baby picture.  I just love this little guy!

Pumpkin baby

 

 

Fall Reading and Writing Activities

It might still be hot out here where we are, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring the fall indoors.  Here are some of our fall-themed reading and writing activities that we’ve enjoyed (but don’t fit with some of our other themes).

Practice with “the”

Since we were working on the sight word “the” this falling leaves activities from Mrs. Wood’s Kindergarten Class was perfect for us…

Fall sight word the

Download Fall writing for THE

Fall Similes

Another writing assignment that the girls enjoyed was describing the fall using similes.

fall similes
fall writing

Download Fall Similes Worksheet

 

Reading the Leaves

Our apple tree underwent another transformation, becoming the perfect fall decoration.  Again using the same trunk from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, we removed the green leaves and added more branches.

fall classroom decoration

I used my cricut to cut out all the leaves in different shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown.  Then I wrote our most recent vocabulary words onto leaves.  The girls would add a leaf to the tree after they read the word.

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Apples, Apples, Apples

We recently finished our apple unit–it was definitely yummy and fun and perfect for the fall!  Here are some of our favorite activities…

We started our unit with a bare apple tree.  apple tree decorationI made the tree out of the trunk from our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree and then added the tree part using a cheap, green plastic tablecloth–quick, easy, and cute.  Eventually our tree was covered in apples in apples.

 

Letter Hunt and Smack the Apple

For reviewing letter sounds, we started with another letter hunt since they liked the last one so much!

After the letters were up on our tree, we played our Smack the Apple game.  I made the letter sounds and then they slapped the lettered apple with our flower fly swatters.

Kindergarten Apple Game

 

Apple Words

In addition to reviewing letter sounds, we also used our apple tree to practice our reading list.  I copied our reading lists over to apples and as the girls read each letter they put it up on our tree.  The visual image of so many words on the tree made the girls very proud and allowed them to see how many words they already know.

apple word board

Apple Tasting

Or course we had to taste apples!  We first made a trip to the grocery store where the girls picked out a wide variety of apples.  They took turns tasting each apple we had.  And then they recorded their opinion on their apple worksheet.  We used happy, sad, and middle faces to show how they felt.  Then we compared everyone’s results to see what we all liked.

apple tasting worksheet

 

Apple Popsicle Word Practice

We used these cute little apples to practice our reading words.  On the apple I wrote the vowel from the our three letter words and then on the popsicle stick I wrote to consonants.  Just cute slots on either side to feed the stick through.  I used the large sticks so it was easier to read the letters and I laminated the apples so that they would hold up better.

apple word activity

 

Apple Science

We used this easy science project to introduce the girls to acids and bases.  (The best part of this lesson was that my husband taught it all!)  After introducing the girls to the concept, they selected some acids and bases around the house for our experiment.  We used orange juice and vinegar as our acids while milk of magnesium and oil were our bases.  We soaked apple slices in each substance as well as water and watched to see if acids or bases spoiled or preserved the apples better.

apple acid base experiment

The apple slices browned in every substance except orange juice which caused us to speculate that orange juice has something else in it that helped preserve the apples.apple experiment

 

Plant the “Seed” Letter Recognition

We played this as further review of letter recognition.  We used large lima beans to be our “seeds” and wrote on each the lower case letters.  Then we used a mini-muffin pan (with two more little dishes) with capital letters.  The girls just matched the seeds to the correct spots in the tin.Letter recognition with lima beans

 

Apple Bingo

My kiddos LOVE letter bingo.  I draw the letters, make the sound, and the girls cover the letter with the M&Ms.  When they have four in a row they call bingo and get to eat the M&Ms.  Simple, but fun and yummy.

Download Apple Letter Bingo

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Apple Counting and Painting

We filled in this worksheet by painting apples with q-tips, just dipping the q-tips and dotting the row with the correct number of apples.  The worksheet does go from 0-20.

Download Painting Counting Apples worksheet

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Apple Counting

I also made this worksheet for the girls to practice their numbers.

Download Apple Counting worksheet

apple math printable

 

Seasons of the Apple Tree

To go with the story Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree, we also did this painting activity from Mrs. Vento’s Kindergarten Class.

apple tree seasons

 

Science Worksheets

We also looked at the life cycle and different parts of the apple as part of our science curriculum, including these printables.

DSCN0528[1]Apple life cycle from education.com


DSCN0529[1]Apple parts from ateachingmommy.com

Baking time

Our cooking activities included apple butter (a favorite in our house) and candied apples.

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Sensory Activities

In addition to cooking with each unit, I also try to include a few sensory activities.  Even though the girls are getting bigger they still love these activities.  I find that it also helps relax the girls, gives me time to work one on one with each, and allows them to further develop their language and fine motor skills.

We played with apple scented homemade playdough.  I picked up the recipe from The Imagination Tree, but I had to use apple and cinnamon tea.
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And we did apple scented frozen baking soda and vinegar squares.  Since it was still hot here the frozen blocks were very refreshing to play with outside.
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I have even more activities posted on my kindergarten pinterest board.

Sharing a Love of Reading

My post yesterday about the Goodreads reading challenge prompted a conversation about sharing your love of reading with your 560581_4169830516604_1861102797_nlittle ones.  As I said yesterday, we agree that reading is important and that parents are children’s best role models, so it’s important that parents role model reading for enjoyment.

But with active little ones in the house, it can be very hard to show that you read for pleasure.  I read their books to the girls, but how do I show them how much I love to read?  It’s not like I can just sit around the house reading all day.  (Hmmm, or can I?)   When it comes to reading, of course reading aloud is the most important thing you can do for your child.  But here are some other ideas to show your young children that you yourself are also a reader:

  • Have your books out where they can see them.  In addition to our bookcases filled with our books, we also leave our books around the house and let the girls know that those are the ones we are currently reading.
  • Talk about books.  I love books and talking so this is very easy for me.  At the dinner table, we talk about what we are reading, interesting tidbits.  We also reference books that we love.  (I’ll be honest, in our house that means a lot of Harry Potter references).  And of course we talk to the girls about their books as well.
  • Read when your children read.  At first I thought this was impossible with little ones.  Now when the girls are looking at books, I get out my book to read.  I try to sit with them during their quiet time at least a few times a week and read my book as well.  They especially love laying on our bed looking at books together.
  • Let them look at your magazines and books.  Of course you want to be sure that the magazines are appropriate for them to look at but the girls love flipping the pages in my magazines and making up stories.DSCN1198
  • Share books that used to be yours.  If you have any books leftover from when you were little, share them with your kiddos and tell them about how much you loved them.  If you don’t, see if you can find copies of your favorite childhood books and share those.
  • Show interest in your children’s books.  Usually the girls choose which books we will read, but sometimes my husband or I pick the books.  We will talk about which ones are our favorites or why we want to read a certain book.  It’s hard to make your children interested in reading if you show no interest in the books they choose.  And try to not sigh or complain if you hate a book they like.

But what if you aren’t a reader yourself?  Well, then this is one of those times you fake it until you make it.

 

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