Monday, October 21, 2013

And Our Curriculum This Year…

…hasn’t changed much from last yearSo we have a head start on our post this year – last year we waited until October 30th.

It does include a bit more homework.  With Miss Esmé doing bits of 2nd and 3rd grade in school, she has some unique challenges, like taking two spelling tests each Wednesday for a total of 40 words, and having two “review-ish” math assignments each weekend.  She has also been “struggling” to keep up with the written work in class, and what doesn’t get done during class (and recess) comes home as well.  So that is about an hour of kick-butt homework a day, or 4 hours of Esmé-dilly-dallying homework a day.

And there are days I am ready to demand we quit the madness at any cost, when I’ve been practically pulling teeth to get her to finish 27 problems of adding three or four numbers, each of two to four digits a piece, to prove what?  Or when she has to draw her problems (which thankfully are usually single-digit problems) as dwarfs or tropical fish with minute detail, once again, to prove what?  Or when her Math-a-Minute practices get slower and slower the more she practices, because she is adding to 12 or 9 or 13 instead of to 10, or halving even numbers and adding half and then half again or some other such game instead of simply memorizing her facts.

But we do have a routine of sorts now.  Sort of.  They involve my FlyLady 15-minute timer – though sometimes Esmé turns it off and hides it from me.  And so far her “I hate school because I have to do homework” rants are outweighed by the “I would hate to homeschool because I would never see my friends” comments, so I feel a little more at peace with our limbo state of existence.

So, what DO we do for fun when the homework is done?

Actually, the first is something we do before getting to homework, but “fun” rhymes with “done,” so deal with it.

The News.  Yep, I go straight to as soon as we get home from school and bring up the liberal slant of the day.  It’s a great way to develop critical thinking skills and learn that fiction can be presented as fact.  Seriously, in spite of their atrocious take on the debt ceiling, it’s an easy 10-minute way to introduce Miss Esmé to current events and help her see the world beyond her four walls, plus she learns awful puns to practice on her dad later.

Math.  Because she doesn’t get enough of it at school?  No, because she comes home telling me how she hates math, so I need to re-convince her that math is awesome.

  • Life of Fred Elementary Series:  HoneyLife of FredCuddle-reading time always works for us, and Miss tolerates Fred’s quirkiness reasonably well.  Still meandering through the elementary series, we should be wrapping up and getting through the intermediate series this year.
  • Beast AcademyNew to us this year, it is a good complement to the 3rd grade math Esmé does in school.  It gives the “depth” stuff to the subject matter being covered in a cool way; Esmé is still fascinated by the cartoon characters giving the lessons, and there are puzzles and games to reinforce the lessons.
  • Timez Attack LogoTimezAttackThough I sometimes wonder at the psychology of an ogre-giant-monster guy swinging a club at a girl every time she takes too long answering a problem, I try not to question computer games that make learning facts fun.  Because a paper and a timer, day after day, just isn’t fun.

Science.  Because she is fascinated by it.  Especially animals.  And hands-on stuff.  If I could afford science experiment kits for every day of the year, she’d be in science heaven.

  • Noeo Science: Biology I Instructor's GuideNoeo ScienceWe are still working through Biology I.  (And I’m okay with that.  Though we’ve now passed the one-year mark.  Truly.)  As soon as it is done, it’ll be Chemistry I. And Physics I.  Because we love it and it comes with everything already included and we can just keep working on it as long as the world turns.
  • Magic School BusI succumbed and bought the whole DVD series on a super sale, so we have a handy DVD resource for just about any science topic.  And there are so many cool unit studies and freebies available online.  Like these free science plans from The Homeschool Belle.
  • Jonathan Park.  We keep adding to our collection of this creation-based science audio series as we have funds.  And we’ve scored a couple of corresponding study guides in thrift stores.
  • And we’ve just got scads of science early readers, science project books, DVDs, not to mention internet and library resources. 

Bible.  Okay, I’m just copying this from last year’s post.  Because really, nothing’s changed.  Though we do add devotionals and magazines and books all over the place.

  • Your Story Hour.  We’ve had a set of Bible stories through the life of Christ, and it is amazing how much Esmé has picked up on biblical knowledge from listening to these at bedtime for several years.  We keep adding to our collection as finances allow.  Best prices I’ve seen are at  And if you want a free weekly sampling, you can listen in at – we regularly check there for the stories we don’t already have.  Great for all elementary ages.
  • The Bible Story Set.  We invested in these a couple of years ago, and we still love the illustrations and the inclusion of so many Bible stories in this series.  I try to read one chapter a night.  Great for all elementary ages.
  • Roar!SuperbookI grew up on this series – which is cool since we didn’t have a television or VCR; I watched it at the bookstore my father managed…  Anyway, I hooked Esmé on one of the new revamped DVDs and am trying to figure out an economical way to get the rest.  Anyone have ideas?

History. Once again, lots of repeats from last year’s post. Why change something that’s awesome?

  • Drive Thru HistoryOur newest addition is part of this video series with a Christian perspective -  we’ve been catching up on Roman history, and it’s neat to visually correlate it to what we’ve heard in biblical and other history sources.  Now to keep adding to our collection as finances allow…
  • Mystery of History Volume IMystery of HistoryWe have Volumes I & II on CD and have listened 3 times through; I keep checking every SINGLE week on whether Volume III is out on CD yet, since it’s supposed to come out this fall.  I love the chronological, world-wide approach to history from a Christian perspective; Esmé enjoys the stories.  For now, this age, we are just listening, not expanding or doing supplemental material.  Great for long commutes and road trips.
  • imageTruthQuest History (American History for Young Students III) – an introduction to a topic with an awesome booklist to choose from.  (STILL working on the same “year” after several years.  And I’m okay with that. Truly.) Even with our small secular library, there are stacks of good material on a bulk of the topics.
  • Liberty’s KidsWhich Amazon keeps selling at ridiculously low prices.  Esmé had already watched the whole series via the library, but since she enjoyed it and it seems all kinds of free unit study resources are coming out for it, it was definitely worth adding to our history line-up.

While it feels like we are on hiatus from most other “formal” subjects (including music and dance), life is full of learning ALL THE TIME.  We have a piano and an expanding instrument selection that get occasional use.  Unit studies and lapbooks provide inspiration on random subjects all over the place.  And Little Miss has an obsession with board games and Barbies lately.  Now that Esmé is reading with relative ease, the opportunities keep expanding.  I love this age.  Does the learning just keep getting better and better?

I still want to spend more time site-seeing our local area each week. 

And Esmé’s requested subject for the year is Spanish.  Help!  I am horrid at languages!  She specifically asked for Speekee again – and it looks like you can now get a basic account free, so I need to figure that out.  I’ll also dust off REAL Homeschool Spanish as soon as I get a moment to breath.

I am feeling overwhelmed writing this.  I think we will just do unschooling.  Except I’ll require Esmé to brush her teeth.