March 25, 2011

Curriculum Thoughts

I have found it pretty impossible to do school these days. The baby's schedule and my exhaustion combined with post-partum fuzzy brain has necessitated a small hiatus.

I expected that.

What I didn't expect was my obsession with picking curriculum for next year. I think it is because I can pick curriculum sitting down, it allows me to feel like I'm being a little productive, and it is fun. Fun, fun, fun.

So far I have almost every subject decided. I'm still investigating a few options for art and adding/subtracting from my "wish list."

Here are my thoughts on my choices. First, I really like A Beka math for its frustrating amount of review problems--now that I've gotten past the "do every problem" mentality. It really is a great program when you pick and choose the problems based on your child's competence.

However, I like A Beka a LOT MORE when combined with The Thinking Company's math reasoning books. The Math Reasoning books are fantastic for critical thinking/problem solving and terrible for reviewing basic concepts. I've found that a mix of problem solving (what my children like best) and practicing the basics of computation (what A Beka does best) has proven a real winner for us.

Math Program: A Beka math with The Thinking Co.'s Mathematical Reasoning books.

Miriam is turning 8 this June and in my head that means she has to start "real school." Before 8, I just can't take it all that seriously. Example: language arts. We haven't done much by way of real gung-ho grammar in the past. This year, however, I feel strongly that it is time to start. Due to my recent discovery of The Well-Trained Mind (I'll be sharing my thoughts on that book in another post) I discovered the Rod and Staff Publishing Co. When I looked through their third grade language arts program I found--miracle of miracles--that it requires diagramming sentences. WAHOO!! When I taught English in a public school I found sentence diagramming to be the number one best way to learn/teach grammar. Really. And it isn't even awful--it is actually pretty fun. It's like a game or puzzle. Sold.

Picking a spelling program has proven extremely time consuming. Every program has its advocates and denigrators. Every expert has an opinion. It always comes down to the needs of your child. We've been using Sequential Speller and loving it. My daughter spells the words out loud and feels very proud that she can spell such long words. However, Miriam is also a reluctant writer because she hates misspelling words. Unlike me, Miriam does not pick up spelling from reading. I need a program that lays things out for her--so more phonics based--that she can do independently and will hopefully help jumpstart her writing because the words she's learning to spell are words she's comfortable using in her writing (unlike most words in Sequential Speller). With all those many requirements, I finally decided on the Rod and Staff spelling program. She can do it independently, it groups words in a way that makes sense, and I think it will appeal to Miriam. Plus, we can keep using Sequential Speller for fun.

Language Arts Program: Rod and Staff for Miriam and for Cowen Language Lessons for the Very Young. Rod and Staff Spelling for Miriam and my own made-up spelling curriculum for Cowen. McGuffey's Eclectic Readers for Miriam (thank you Dad for the best Christmas present!!) for reading. Cowen and Emeline (yes, she's ready) will be using the Little Books: Set One and Set Two for reading. (I have a whole new plan for teaching reading--I'll tell you all about it in anther post.)

As you all know, I make up my own science and history.

For handwriting we will continue to use Handwriting Without Tears. We love that program. It has worked miracles in our homeschool.

The jury is still out on art. I am currently investigating a book called Storybook Art that has art projects drawn from children's books. The premise is that the author of the art book found 100 "greatest" children's books. Then she studied how the illustrators illustrated the books and created art projects that helps children do what the illustrator did in the children's book. I love the premise. I just got the book from the library so I'll be looking through it thoroughly in the next week or so. If you've used this book or any of its projects, let me know what you think.

There you have it. I haven't bought any of the new stuff yet because I don't want to be hasty and make mistakes. I'm prone to doing that. However, I am very pleased with how far along I am in the process and pleased with my plans for schooling this summer.

If you have used any of these materials and have thoughts on them--PLEASE SHARE. Also, if you have found a product you think is fantastic--PLEASE SHARE. Picking curriculum is good fun, but it is also a long, nerve-wracking process. I hate spending money only to find out that the curriculum didn't match the child. It happens.

Still, in the end, there is just something very elemental and soul-satisfying about setting all the new books on the table and really going to town planning for the new school year. I love it. Love it, love it.


  1. I sort of follow the WTM book. We tried Rod and Staff spelling and it just didn't work for my child. I tried hard since it was a cheap program but he needs a better spelling program. I bought a Zaner Bloser spelling book and we are having better luck with that. I'm really tempted to try Rod and Staff grammar next year. Right now we use Voyages in English which is okay but nothing we love. Math we use Math Mammoth. I like how it teaches mental math and it's easy for me to teach.Science we use Elemental Science. It reminds me of how you do science in a way. History I'm still figuring out. Story of the World was NOT a hit with my kids. My twins have been learning about different countries as we learn the continents. Art is sorely lacking in our house. Funny I came here to see if you had anything fun for art.

  2. I always LOVE thinking about next year's stuff right about now, too. It is, as you said, fun, fun fun!! Love your ideas and suggestions. Good luck! JU

  3. I have a fairly busy 6 year old little girl who didn't like to sit still to read anything. I found the program All About Spelling for our spelling curriculum and fell in love. It has letter tiles that they use to spell out the words. It also works to incorporate the phonetics and rules as to why we spell things certain ways and what letters say when spelled that way. They also just came out with an All About Reading program that I am so excited to start using with my 4 year old in the fall. The Math program that we use and love also is Math-U-See, also a hands on program with manipulatives.