Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Our Homeschool Plans 2016-2017

Ah yes, the last-minute homeschool prep. The part of the summer where I finally make peace with the fact that even though it's CRAZY HOT, it's time to actually get back to the "school" part of our lives. 

Because we just kind of... petered out. And never really "ended" things last year. Not that I'm super-concerned, because we started out ahead of the game, and I'm pretty sure we're still ahead of the game starting out this year (in terms of math & reading and the like).

The school books have been trickling in through the mail, and the kids are so excited about EVERYTHING that we've basically started already. Just without "officially" starting. I'll call it a soft start, because I was planning on easing back into things once we officially start on Monday anyway.


So what's the plan this year? Read on!
Last year we "did school" four days a week and took Fridays off. It was really nice not having to worry about checking things off on Fridays, and we often ended up reading ahead in our books or catching up with whatever we may have missed, but the big big big deal was that he never had to do handwriting on Fridays. We're doing the same this year - I really think we can get everything done in just four days, and it's nice to have that day available for play dates or field trips.

Math (daily)

Last year we were pretty loosey-goosey with our math - John Paul really, really, really loves math, and understands pretty complex concepts, but is still fairly careless when it comes to things like borrowing (although he's gotten SO much better), and while he "gets" long division, he still needs to be coached through problems like that because he can't keep the steps straight.

Which is normal, because he's 7. But he kept finding these old workbooks at my mom's house and wanting to do FOURTH GRADE MATH! Or FIFTH GRADE MATH!!! And he got so hung up on his "grade level" of expertise that he refused to do any lower levels anymore. So one major reason I went with the Math-U-See program is because it's not structured by grade level, but uses Greek letters to denote levels (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.). He took an online placement test and while he probably would have been okay in Delta, I thought it would be better to start out in Gamma just to reinforce some of the concepts he'd gotten careless about. He's SO EXCITED, but it's a lot of review, so I'm just letting him go through the test book until we get to a point that he actually needs to review. He's gone through 8 of the tests already and hasn't gotten a single answer wrong so... I think it might be a while before he needs to learn something new. 

He's happy because he likes the manipulatives and is crazy-excited about the DVD lessons. I got Cecilia the Alpha level, and she's excited to be doing "real" school, and is making all sorts of math connections all over the place and doing her best to astonish me, which is pretty adorable.

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Handwriting (daily)

Last year we used Writing Our Catholic Faith (Level 2 MC) and while handwriting was like pulling teeth (I'm told it's a boy thing?), we finished the year with really phenomenally beautiful cursive handwriting coming from John Paul. This year Cecilia desperately wants to learn cursive, so I ordered another copy of the same workbook. It's kind of pricey, but I love that it has print and cursive, and I think the sequence by which it goes through the different letters makes a lot more sense than any of the other books I looked at. 

Since John Paul's done with his workbook, I got him this book (reproducible pages) as a reward, so he'll slowly work through that this year and also do a fair amount of dictation and copywork.


Religion (daily)

This year John Paul will receive his First Communion, so we'll be using the Grade 2 Faith & Life textbook (but NO workbook, John Paul was adamant about that, which is fine), the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism, and probably Kendra's book.

In addition to our other saint books, we got the New Catholic Picture Bible (which is really cheap and I don't understand why we didn't already have it since we have EVERY OTHER Catholic children's Bible, it seems...), A Life of Our Lord for Children (we read another Marigold Hunt book last year and I think I love her), and another Lives of the Saints book.

Cecilia and the twins are doing Level I Atrium this year, but we realized that Level II wasn't a good fit for John Paul, so I'm trying to figure out a good "activity" for him to do to make up for it...


Science

We're still reading through the Burgess Bird Book and using our field guide to try to identify birds around us. 

John Paul's a science nut and the girls will go along with anything that interests him - I really love these Kingfisher Young Discoverers books and am just going to end up buying all of them eventually. Want to know one of the best parts? Short lessons, and experiments that kids can do by themselves!!! 




Everything Else

We're loosely following the Level 1A plans for Mater Amabilis (a free Catholic Charlotte Mason-based curriculum) and using their book recommendations. Some of these we're finishing up from last year (Pagoo), others are multi-year books:

This Country of Ours - I know a lot of people who DON'T like this book. But John Paul and Cecilia adore history, and they're obsessed with it. We talk about the problematic parts (like how maybe if people had been nicer to the American Indians, there would have been fewer issues, and how the religious persecution from both Catholics and Protestants was not exactly a super-Christian way to treat others), but it gets them interested in the time periods we've studied. I supplement with library books and they're obsessed with this series so I'm picking those up used whenever I find them.

The Harp & Laurel Wreath - I waited and waited to buy this, hoping the price would drop... Then I got it at a homeschool convention and of COURSE it's the cheapest I've ever seen it on Amazon now. It's pretty widely used in programs across the board, and a good book to have in ANY house, homeschooling or not.

Primary Language Lessons - I really really love this - we're only just starting, but it's really nice for me to have concrete things to do with the kids that don't involve huge amounts of extra effort for me. It felt pricey to buy (all of $26), but I think it'll last us many many years.

Classic Myths to Read Aloud - This is the one John Paul is most excited about - he wants to read ALL about Helen of Troy, so we've been going through those chapters even though technically we're not "supposed" to this year. I love that each chapter has pronunciation guides and also a time estimate.

I'll probably get some more beginner piano books and try to teach John Paul some more basic techniques. He's got really good music reading skills, and wants to do HARD stuff (give him the Czerny!), but obviously isn't ready yet. We listen to lots of music, but he wants this CD series (except NOT CHOPIN for some inexplicable reason) because he saw it mentioned on the MA website.We'll probably get a few of those and also listen to our Maestro Classics CDs, because those are pretty fabulous. 


So... There you have it? I know I'm forgetting things, but this is what I remember right now! 

Plans for a 2nd grader, Kindergarten-ish kid, and the preschoolers will probably tag along with quite a bit of it. Let's just hope Peter doesn't make himself too much of a nuisance...

Anything you're curious about? Do I need to write a post with our favorite ways to distract little kids while you're trying to get stuff done (wait until they're asleep or give them to grandma)?
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