I’ve been thinking off and on all summer about our curriculum choices for this coming school year. I’m one of those people who has to investigate, read and then let it all ruminate in my subconscious before I can make a decision. Now we’re getting to the time to make decision so here we go!
David and I regularly pray for guidance to know how to best educate Caroline given her personality and learning style. Our method so far would be best described as semi-organized, very relaxed, delight-directed, Charlotte Mason appreciating, eclectic quasi-unschoolers. I’ve given Caroline a lot of unstructured time with plenty of time to play. We have utilized the computer quite a bit using Starfall, More Starfall, ABCMouse, ABCya, etc. And we’ve read books. Lots and lots and lots of books. I do formal lessons with her, but not every day.
This year I think we are ready for a bit more structure although we will still be pretty relaxed. Caroline is a right-brained learner so I’m trying to work with that. She also finds writing challenging so I am also working around that. I believe in picking my battles. I am mostly interested that learning continues to be enjoyable for both of us. One thing that would not work for either of us is a highly structured curriculum so a curriculum in a box is pretty much out of the question, appealing as it may be.
One of the things I struggle with as the mother of an only child is how much to spend on materials. So far we’ve spent very little on homeschooling. But Caroline is someone who thrives on variety and it really isn’t fair to her to limit what I purchase just because I won’t have the opportunity to use it again with additional children. It would be much easier to justify spending money on things if I had two or three more children to use them! But Caroline shouldn’t miss out because she’s an only so I’ve made peace with spending a bit to get things that really make a difference.
So here’s a rundown of what I have planned for the beginning of the year. This is what I have to get us started. I am very much someone who tinkers along the way and so I really don’t think much past Christmas at this point. Then over Christmas vacation I’ll assess where we are, where we need to go, and what we should do next. It’s too hard to anticipate where a child will be in four months and so I keep things pretty open ended in my planning.
Because writing is an issue, I’ve invested in some fun tools to use. I’m putting up a Magnetic Dry Erase Board in our learning room and we’ll utilize that frequently because it will be fun, active and easier to use than a paper and pencil.
We’re also going to utilize a Boogie Board 8.5-Inch LCD Writing Tablet, Pink. I think this will be one of those fun tools we can take advantage of while snuggled up on the couch. We can use it for spelling, math or phonics. Again, a different set of tools usually makes the physical act of writing more appealing.
We’re going to continue with calendar time. I use a Calendar Pocket Chart on the wall. We’ll be starting to use the various Fact Cards for Calendar Pocket Charts that I’ve been creating and selling. Caroline has been watching me create them and is very excited to start using them! We’ll also do some math during this time (time, money, etc.) so we practice those concepts every day. This is one of those good get up and move around activities that go over well!
Reading, Phonics and Spelling
I have Caroline read aloud to me every day as we snuggle on the couch. So far we have primarily used readers that I ordered from the library. We’ve been through so many series already such as Annie and Snowball, Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby, and so on.
To start the year, I’ve purchased a number of books to use. We’re going to start with the Cobble Street Cousins series which I can tell she will enjoy. In fact, we’re going to use a number of Cynthia Rylant stories such as Thimbleberry Stories and Let’s Go Home: The Wonderful Things About a House. (We are all about cozy, homey stories!) I’ll also continue to pick up books at the library. Most Level 2s are perfect for her, but a few are still a challenge. I imagine we’ll be on to Level 3s shortly.
For phonics and spelling, we are going to use All About Spelling. Caroline reads very well, but needs more work on decoding. And since I’m avoiding writing as much as possible with her, this hands-on approach will work much better.
I’ll also be supplementing with my own literacy materials that I create and some different workbooks I’ve picked up here and there. And we’ll use sentence strip activities with a large Sentence Strips Pocket Chart.
We’ll create some lapbooks and other hands-on materials for these.
Writing and Handwriting
For handwriting, I have lots of workbook pages I can still use that we didn’t use last year. I’m taking a wait and see attitude on the handwriting and will not be pushing it. We will continue to do a journal in which Caroline dictates to me, she reads it back to me, and then illustrates.
I read about the Life of Fred series this summer and think it will be a good fit for Caroline. I think she’ll enjoy the quirky story aspect of it. I’m only ordering the first book to see how it goes and then we’ll go from there.
I’ll also use my own materials that I create, some workbook pages from here and there, and other materials I can purchase from TPT. I like to put together my own little packets using my Fellowes Star Manual Comb Binding Machine.
I’ve decided to utilize a lot of Early Readers for science. I looked at many science textbooks out there and none of them grabbed me. Many of them simply aren’t engaging enough visually even if the content is solid. If it doesn’t look appealing, it is simply a no-go for Caroline.
So I went through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and selected a variety of topics I know Caroline will enjoy. I splurged and purchased many books for this. I plan on creating lapbooks or other activities for many of them. I decided the books were an investment I was willing to make because Caroline will read them over and over again after we study the topic. Although we utilize the library a great deal, I also want her to have a full bookcase of books in her room to enjoy. (This is one place where I part ways with Charlotte Mason. She encourages a few high quality books read slowly over many weeks. That would never fly in my home. It’s about both quality and quantity around here.)
I’m going to group them in loose topics such as:
We’re also going to cover some other topics with hands-on materials. I purchased Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 and will have her do a unit on electricity and circuits with her daddy.
I also purchased ROCK ON! Geology Game & Rock Collection, Let’s Go Rock Collecting (Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science. Stage 2) and National Geographic Readers: Rocks and Minerals since she has shown a strong interest in rocks. I’ll probably also add a few other books to our study as we get closer and create some materials to go with it such as a lapbook.
I would like to introduce a Charlotte Mason type nature study, but my motherly instinct tells me this isn’t the year to do that. We do spend a lot of time noticing nature already, but I’m not sure we’re ready to study and draw it on a regular basis.
History and Geography
This is one area where I’m not doing much planning. Caroline is taking two classes at co-op and they are both history and geography related. We’ll get into history as we do other things (read alouds, etc.) and that will be sufficient for this year.
We’re going to use a Grapevine Studies book this year. (They also happen to be one of our clients!) At this point, I haven’t decided which book to use. That’s one of the last details I need to work out! But I think Caroline will like the stick figuring aspect of it.
We listen to a lot of classical music in our home. We were joking today in the car that Caroline’s probably one of the only six year olds around who asks, “Would you put in the Telemann CD?” LOL!
So we’re going to continue with the classical music in a structured way. We’re going to use World’s Greatest Composers Volume 1 from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I thought about making my own curriculum, but I decided it was way easier to spend $5.50 and use what Erica has already created!
I still haven’t decided what we are going to do here. I’m still looking for some inspiration in this area!
I did buy a Spirograph Deluxe Design Set and I’m not sure who is more excited – Caroline or David. (He had one as a child and LOVED IT.) We keep a well-stocked cabinet full of art supplies so Caroline has lots of opportunities for creating her own things. I realize this isn’t the same as art appreciation, but it is very important to us to give her lots of materials to use.
Subscriptions, Games and Fun
Caroline has absolutely loved the BrainPop videos she’s been watching on the Kindle Fire via the Unlimited FreeTime subscription we have. She would really like me to purchase a subscription to the BrainPop site, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to plop down the $85 for a year. It’s probably more than worth it, but I haven’t done it yet.
So there is what we have for getting started! It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds in the weeks ahead!
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