Saturday, August 7, 2010

Our Curriculum

Checking in a little late, I thought I'd join in on Heart of the Matter's Not Back-to-School Blog Hop.  The first week was Curriculum Week.

Boy, has this been a topic of immense research and turmoil for me.  First comes the choice of what method of homeschool we're interested in:  unschooling, structured, eclectic, classical, CM, online, etc., etc...  Then what Esmé's learning style is, what topics we want to cover, what books to use, what we can afford, what and all that.

And I've gone through a few phases in choosing the route to go.
  • I thought of going unstructured, just checking through some book lists and surrounding ourselves with books, games, etc.  Except I personally need more structure in order to stay motivated and involved in Esmé's learning experience!
  • Or digging wholeheartedly into a full curriculum (Sonlight, My Father's World, and Timberdoodle were at the top of the list) - but nothing seemed like a perfect match.
  • I was convinced that we'd do a personalized geography-based curriculum as a foundation for a timeline approach in the future, with Math-U-See Primer and Explode the Code 1 rounding things out.
  • In the end, as I started going through our bookshelves, I realized we have TONS of resources already.  (THIRTY-plus workbooks in preschool-grade 1 level!  Not to mention all the printables available online.)  So we've decided to make a plan with what we already have - acquired via thrift stores, hand-me-downs, etc.  And that totally fits an eclectic mom with a 3yo whose interests change from week to week.
A few things I'm keeping in mind:
  • Esmé is three, with 3yo interests and attention spans.  Yet she's easily working at a K level; most K curriculums I checked would probably be good review/reinforcement, without a whole lot of new concepts for her.  So I'm mixing up the preschool-grade 1 stuff for her as we go along.
  • I work three days a week, which means Esmé is in a daycare/preschool environment three days.  She gets plenty of the typical preschool subject matter covered there.  (Also cool - she gets to check out lots of creepy crawlies and other fun science stuff.)
  • She loves school-time with Mom, and I want to keep it that way.  So while school WILL be parent-led, it will very much be child-influenced.  Which means my plans are simply guidelines, not rules, and will be adjusted as necessary.
I have a 27-week plan (three weeks per month for nine months).  And here's what we've got:

Ballet classes.  Worth mention because this is by far the priciest part of the year.  I was convinced after spring's tumbling class flop (total nonparticipation and a bunch of not-so-friendly kids) that we'd avoid similar classes for a while, but Esmé has been adamant that she will do what the teacher tells her, and she is a natural at the dancing thing.  She's even willing to let me put her hair in a ballet bun (if I can figure it out).  So I'm praying that she'll connect with the teacher and the other kids in the class, and that she'll continue to love dance.  We start August 30th.

Bible.  The other area I splurged.  We bought The Bible Story Ten Volume Set by Arthur Maxwell, which I love because it covers all those little-known stories most children's Bible books don't ever get to.  We'll read a chapter a day.

I also want to focus on memorizing verses.  We'll use Songs for Saplings as a core, with free printables from Totally Tots.  These will tie in with our letter of the week.

And we'll read through The Ladder of Life series (about Christian virtues).  My sister gifted us with this - it is the series I learned to read with back when I was a kid!

We'll get back on track with a Kindness Mission each week.  Also tying in with our letter of the week.

We're continuing on our devotional book:  The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2.

Book Themes.  We started on Bo's Year 2 curriculum at The Itty-Bitty Bookworm in January, and we've dilly-dallied enough that we easily have enough book themes left to cover this next year.  While we will be abandoning the letter/color/shape activities, there are so many great book-themed activities and crafts included that we'll keep going with it, though I may mix the weeks around.

Art subject matter will probably stem from here, as well as one cooking project a week, a science project, etc.

Geography.  I've decided not to buy anything major in this area and to keep it simple.  I've assigned a continent to each month, with Month 1 being basic geography concepts and Month 9 being the United States.  We've got a globe so we can keep things in perspective, and I'm working on a picture book list for various countries.  Other activities we might throw in:  ethnic cooking, ethnic paper dolls, ethnic music, national holidays, etc.

I love the photos and quotes in Precious in His Sight by David Dobson, so we will definitely be incorporating that.

Math.  As a core, I'm going with a Grade 1 Number Corner program from Bridges in Mathematics that I picked up at a 2nd-hand store.  Very hands-on and visual.  We've got lots of supplemental games and workbooks, as well.

Science. I've got SO MANY science books that I can't pick one core - we'll keep going with our personalized Motion, Matter, Mitosis, and Me program - with 4 random topics/week in those categories. :)

Phonics/Reading.  I'm going to put the Hooked on Phonics program on our schedule more consistently.  It's an older version with cassette tapes that I can't find online now...

We also acquired an A Beka Book complete kindergarten reading program 2nd hand that we'll use.  As well as the Bob Bookswe have, and the many printable beginning reader books and phonics printables you can find online.  I'll share more as we use them...

Literature.  I have a serious book addiction that I am passing on to my daughter.  We are surrounded by books of our own, and I frequent 2nd-hand book sales.  We also have two library cards with 50-book maximums that I have been known to reach on multiple occasions.

My goal this year is to track the books we read and do more discussion of them.  The plan is 25 per week - 5 related to the book theme, 5 related to the geography theme, 5 related to our science program, 5 off of whatever book list I'm on at the moment, and 5 randomly chosen by Esmé.  We'll probably overachieve here, as we have a 5-book session each night before bed.

We already do poetry reading most days.  Right now we're working through A Child's Garden Of Verses: A Collection Of Scriptures, Prayers & Poems featuring Robert Louis Stevenson.

Music.  We are going to schedule a piano/keyboard lesson each week.  I've got three books I'll be working from, but initially I just want to have fun with rhythms, chords, etc.  The books:

I also want to focus on classical music one day/week, using and other online sources.  And one day/week on hymns, using my church's hymnal and my rudimentary keyboard skills... :)

Workbooks.  Did I mention I have 30+ workbooks to pick from?!  We'll be using these to supplement phonics, math, and writing.  I've discovered it's pretty easy to get Esmé to complete 2 pages a day if I sit with her and provide feedback throughout.

I DID buy the Snip It! and Shape Builders books from this Mead Early Learning Set of Three Stage 1 Workbooks because they looked like a refreshing variation from the other workbooks I have.

Journaling.  Speaking of writing, I almost forgot.  Journaling is an important part of our curriculum.  Often I'll write Esmé's observations on life, or give her prompts to initiate discussion.  We do "thankful" lists.  And sometimes she does her own pages, with stickers, drawings, etc.  I'm hoping to transfer the journaling to an online blog this school year, and include her photos, as well!

Computer Time. I absolutely intend to use technology in education, and Esmé has her own laptop.  We'll be doing lots of JumpStart, Starfall, and plenty more, as well as the games on my iPod Touch.  In addition to the freeware stuff, two iPhone apps I've found very worth the upgrade are iWriteWords and FirstWords.

Goodness, what did I forget?  I was planning to keep this short!  We haven't gotten to homemaking skills, calendar/weather, PE/outside play, game time, languages (sign language & Afrikaans)!

I feel a little overwhelmed writing this, but it's really pretty quick once we get going, and we'll have lots of free-play time included. Flexibility is something I'm well practiced in!


    butterfly wishes and Wonderland Dreams said...

    what a awesome school year you have planned!

    we are right with you on the book addiction :) LOVE your book plan and all your ideas.

    Princess is starting ballet to this year well its pre ballet, tap and tumbling its 88 bucks every 2 months not bad i guess :)

    Ticia said...

    Wow, you've though it all out. And it really is amazing once we start loooking at our bookshelves how many different workbooks and the like that we collect. I need to go through mine again and see what I have that I can use.

    Jacque said...

    Wow! Sounds like a fabulous school year. I need to get on top of making our plan. You have mentioned a ton of great options and resources. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

    Brimful Curiosities said...

    My daughter loves her ballet classes as well. It is the only thing we really splurge on during the school year.