Planning for Another Year of Home School

3:04 PM

It always seems too early to me to really start thinking about school for the next year while school is currently still going on, but in reality, it probably is easier this way.  Curriculum companies seem to think so, because they send catalogues my way beginning in January. 

In case you're wondering, we are still really enjoying homeschooling.  When I say we, I really do mean all of us. Kyle, myself and the kids.

We are approaching the end of our school year, and I'll be honest - I'm really excited about having some time for myself to dive into some Ashley projects. Things like sewing and catching up on my photo albums and baby books, maybe doing some projects around the house...with school, daily housecleaning, cooking, managing a house, kids, dog and chickens, my days are extremely packed. I love my life wholly and completely, but I have to budget my time differently since we choose to homeschool, and that means some of my pet projects get put on back burners. Or get put off until the summer. 

I recently stumbled upon some great sewing blogs, including some awesome maternity sewing patterns and I have a major itch to start sewing. Only....there are a few things I had to check off my list first.

One major thing I felt it was time to do was figure out our plan for the next school year.

We began homeschooling Brooklyn for kindergarten last year.  August, though way too little for formal school, tagged along and participated as much as he wanted. We used Sonlight's Core A - kindergarten curriculum last year and were very pleased with it.  Their core curriculum is based on the Charlotte Mason style of education, of which I thoroughly embrace, and their package, while costly, was a good fit for a first-time home schooler such as myself.  

By the end of her kindergarten year, Brooklyn was reading with an impressive proficiency, which was very important to me going into this process.  Now, as a first grader, her reading skills are phenomenal. She reads probably somewhere around an 8th grade level, and I don't mean just her ability to decipher words - she reads with emphasis, inflection, has a fantastic sense of timing and pace and is a joy to listen to. There are funny moments when she is reading aloud and gets really caught up in the book and trails off into silence as she switches to reading in her head. I have to remind her gently that we're listening to the story too.... 

This year, our second year of home schooling (B's first grade year and August's kindergarten year), we stuck with Sonlight (Core B), but switched our math from Saxon to Singapore.  Because there was such a jump from Saxon's Kindergarten math to Singapore's math, we actually worked on Singapore's Earlybird (kindergarten) math all through last summer so we could pick up with the 1st grade math this year.  August used all of Brooklyn's kindergarten readers, an A Beka Handbook for Reading, some A Beka readers and Bob Books and has become quite a proficient reader himself. He won't even turn 5 until July, but he's reading at least at a first grade level.  

I had no intention of really pushing August into school, but he wanted to participate with his sister, so we worked on handwriting with him (Handwriting Without Tears K), he used Sonlight's Kindergarten Language Arts curriculum, and then went along with the main curriculum from Sonlight, including math.  He's actually really really good at math.

There were a few things that I wasn't happy about this year, though.  Primarily, it was the Language Arts program.  Since Brooklyn is such an accomplished reader, it didn't make sense to go with the 1st grade readers as part of the overall Language Arts package. So we picked the 2nd grade Language Arts program and its accompanying readers. The readers were still probably not challenging enough for her, but the Language Art creative writing assignments were way beyond her.  It seems like a huge gap exists between the curriculum's expectations for where a child should be writing and reading.  We ended up scrapping a lot of the writing assignments and doing our own thing. 

While I know the best way to learn to write is by hearing and reading great writing, I would still like the kids to be working on their own writing skills as we go along.  I was also not happy with the lack of art or music appreciation in our studies this year - totally my own fault. 

So as I was considering the curriculum to use for next year - I gave some serious thought to the issues.
I studied some free resources on the Charlotte Mason website, which includes a general curriculum list and some very helpful suggestions about how to implement various topics for all ages, even when schooling multiple aged kiddos.

Specifically, looking at the upcoming year, in addition to the basic reading, writing, math, history, geography, Bible and science that pretty much any curriculum covers, I want to incorporate the following:

1) an emphasis on character development
2) an improved Language Arts experience
3) music and art 
4) development of critical thinking skills.

Towards that end, I did some research and have decided that we will stick with Sonlight's Core C for next year, but we will not be using their Language Arts. I came across a company called The Critical Thinking Co. and they have some interesting Language Arts books and some general Critical Thinking development books which I have ordered.

As of now, here's our plan for the 2013-2014 school year.

Bible, History, Geography, Science: Sonlight's Core C
Reading: Sonlight's 3rd Grade Readers for Brooklyn and 1st grade readers for August supplemented with A Beka books and as many other interesting books as should find their way into our hands
Language Arts: Language Smarts Level B (for August) and Language Smarts Level C (for Brooklyn) - both from the Critical Thinking Co.
Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears
Math: Singapore Primary 2A & 2B
Critical Thinking: Building Thinking Skills Primary (August) and Level 1 (Brooklyn)
Art:  We will focus on 3 artists for 12 week periods - I'm planning to use Charlotte Mason's Picture Study Portfolios
Music:  We will focus on 6 composers - 3 weeks at a time, listening to and becoming familiar with their music and reading books about their lives
Character Development:  One evening a week, we will have family time where Kyle reads to us from the Gothard Character Sketch books

I'm learning that this process of figuring out school is just that... a process.  You feel things out as you go.  I want to make it be as fun as possible, so it'll be something I want to do as much as the kids.  I also know that I'm gonna be having a baby in the middle of this, so I want to be as prepared as possible in advance! 

The journey continues!

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