Monday, September 1, 2014

Homeschooling Themes and Curriculum for 2014-2015

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Our new school year begins tomorrow! (Who starts school on a holiday, anyway?) Munchkin is officially a preschooler now (age 3) and Bean is still technically a preschooler, but most of her lessons are for kindergarten (age 4 1/2). She'll start Kindergarten officially in January. I've compiled a list of the subjects, themes and curriculums we will be working on this year.

We do not follow any specific curriculum plan. We're eclectic homeschoolers. We do what feels right for us. We're pretty much borderline unschoolers, but we do some traditional activities too. That's because my daughter loves those kinds of activities. So long as she likes them, we will continue using them. We also use flash cards and worksheets, although we don't use worksheets too often. We typically use living books to learn about geography, history, math and science, and read lots of books with interesting stories for literature and literacy activities.

Munchkin hasn't decided what sort of schooling he likes yet. Last school year we involved him in the activities he wanted to participate in and gave him plenty of time to play. We did learn letters, numbers, and lots of beginning concepts. He can count to 5 by himself and up to 20 with assistance. He knows every letter in the alphabet and can read a few short words. He prefers hands-on activities. He loves to listen to music, draw cars and build anything and everything.

Bean enjoys using flash cards and tracing sheets to practice handwriting. She is a very independent child and needs her space. She prefers using online programs for certain subjects (science is almost always hands-on), like math and literacy. She will find any excuse to read a book about something, so she is allowed free range at the library to choose what she wants to learn about. I provide as much assistance as she allows, but she picks up things on her own. For instance, we read books so often that she can now recognize words and can read a few short books on her own. Her favorite subjects are math and science, but reading is her primary focus right now.

Geography - We will be learning about America this year! We will learn about the different states using maps, documentaries, books, travel brochures, and whatever else we come across. We have no yet found a curriculum for this subject that we like. Our geography lessons will typically be paired with our history lessons. Example, if we are learning about the Early Settlers, we will learn about the different colonies and where they lived. We will learn about America both past and present. For little ones, the Good Night Our World books are great. Our favorite is Good Night New Hampshire. These books cover states, countries, the world, and themes like zoos, farms, mountains, oceans, etc. All sorts of things, basically. They're perfect for introducing young children to geography and other fun subjects.

History - Native Americans, Early Settlers, Revolutionary War, Wild West, Civil War. We will also cover the French-Indian War, Pirates, and at the end of the year, we will begin the World Wars, which will lead to modern history. We'll begin world history (beginning with ancient history) next year.We intend to teach history using literature-based activities, hands-on activities, and play activities. Heroes and Heroines of the Past (our review) will provide us with a curriculum to follow. We will learn about presidents, different states, territories and colonies, historical figures and events, as well as anything else we might stumble upon. We will aim to break up American history in blocks, based on centuries (we started with pre-American history and now we are on the 16th century). This Wikipedia Timeline will provide a very basic guideline for our studies. It basically lists people and events based on the date. I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out, but we will fill in as we work through the year. Please keep in mind that while my children are young, we are simply introducing these subjects by setting up small worlds, learning activities and creative crafts, as well as reading plenty of books. Our history lessons will be styled like unit studies and we will incorporate other subjects into our lessons.

Math - Preschool and Kindergarten math. We will be using online programs, such as CTC Math (our review), Mathletics (our review), and Verbal Math (I'll post a review soon). My children love math, much more than I ever will, and request to do math daily. We incorporate math into everyday activities as well, such as cooking in the kitchen (reading and scooping measurements provide hands-on ways to learn), reading price labels at the store and counting money, and telling time (my daughter can already read the clock, which is something that I find amazing). We use pattern blocks, geoboards and other math tools to learn as we go.

Reading - Rosetta Stone Reading for Homeschool (our review) and Essential Skills Advantage (our review) are the primary online programs we use. Logic of English (our review) incorporates reading, spelling and writing and provides many hands-on activities.

Spelling - Spelling You See (our review) is a ten-minutes (or less) activity that are worksheets that Bean completes during our literacy hour. They are great because they incorporate different learning styles to practice spelling. You read the word out loud while you trace the word and then fill in the blank letters to practice writing on your own.

Writing - WriteShop (our review) is a product we use mainly for storytelling. We incorporate our sight word tree (which I will eventually post about), flash cards, books and story stones. Small world play and games often inspire stories, which we write down and illustrate using our WriteShop pages.

Literature - Hewitt Homeschooling Lightning Literature Grade 1 (our review) is our curriculum for the year. There are so many great books we will read and each day provides fun activities. There's so much to do with this curriculum and we love it! We will also use sensory bins, felt boards and small worlds based on books we love to read. The majority of our lessons are literature-based and reading is very important to us. Books are the main element of our homeschool and that's the way we like it.

Music - HomeSchoolPiano (our review) is our main source of music study, which teaches piano by watching videos and completing worksheets. We have a full size keyboard that we practice on, as well as many sets of 3-Pard Cards that are used for memory games and matching activities. I also have a handful of music themed felt boards (which I will some day get around to sharing) that we use often and is our fun way of creating our own music!

Foreign Language - We are considering Spanish as a second language option, but as of right now, we are not using an online program or any curriculum. I'll update this when we make a decision.

Art - No specific curriculum, but we paint, color and draw every day. We create tons of arts and crafts and are inspired by nature every day. We keep a Nature's Art Journal at our nature table that we use to draw acorns, pine cones, leaves, flowers, whatever we end up finding outside. We keep a book called Nature's Symmetry at the table next to the journal so they can consult it.

We will use our Learning Wrap-Ups Learning Palette online subscription to work on literacy and math (our review). We now own a physical set of one of their literacy cards, and definitely prefer the physical set but the online subscription is more cost effective. We hope to pick up a few more this year, since they are great for review.

A few additional activities that work for us are:
- Tea time in the afternoon. I read poetry to them while they enjoy their lunch and some tea.
- An episode of Magic School Bus while eating breakfast, which often inspires a science activity that day, such as an experiment or lesson. We also own a few of the books, which means we can read those too and they are great for short unit studies!
- And the best one of all, reading at bedtime. We have become accustomed to preparing for bed an hour early so we can cuddle in bed with a stack of good books. We read a mixture of short stories, picture books, and chapter books, like A Wrinkle in Time, Harry Potter and soon, How to Train Your Dragon! Chapter books are great for bedtime and also introduce them to bigger storylines, which further teaches the concept of plot and character development.
- And last but not least, plenty of time to play outside with their friends! We usually "do" school from 9 to between 12 and 2, depending on what we are working on that day. Then we spend the afternoon until dinner, and usually after as well, outside at the park. They have a wonderful group of friends who are mostly older than them, ranging from age 8 to 13. They also play with other children, some closer in age, depending who decides to visit the park that day. During the summer we take the majority of our activities outside and involve the other children in the neighborhood. They loved the themed arts and crafts activities, story time books, science experiments and nature walks we went on.

I hope that gives you a good idea of what we will be working on this homeschool year! We look forward to sharing more of our activities and experiences with you, our readers. We will also continue sharing reviews, which I hope will help others who are making decisions about homeschooling curriculum and materials.
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