Sunday, June 9, 2013

2012-2013 Curriculum Reviews

Whew!  This has been a marathon of a school year.  We began with second grade and first grade the last week of June in 2012.  We still have about three weeks to go. I'm glad I started early last year! I anticipated loosing some momentum while in the US this fall, and we lost more than I expected. : )  However, we have kept on (even if my blogging hasn't!), and are just about to finish up this year.  It's time for the year-end review.

Grammar: Shurley Grammar and Composition
Spelling/Phonics: All About Spelling
Math: Math-U-See
History/Geography/Literature: Tapestry of Grace
Science: Elemental Science: Earth and Astronomy
Bible: Veritas Bible-Genesis to Joshua
Art: Artistic Pursuits

Last year, I posted that these were the programs we were going to be using.  Here's what ended up actually happening. 

Grammar: We did make it through Shurley Grammar for homeschool Level 1.  I liked this program. I thought it moved at a good pace, and the kids learned a lot and were challenged. It was a bit formulaic, but it was not overly repetitive as to be boring.  It was very open and go for me, and required basically no prep time.  At the end of this year, the kids have a good handle on basic parts of speech (N, V, Adj, Adv, Article Adv, Prep, Object of Prep.).  Their vocabulary has increased.  They can also write beginning two-point expository paragraphs, journal entries, friendly letters, and thank you notes. Overall, I'm really pleased with how this year went with Shurley.  Looking ahead, the scope and sequence is impressive in the coming years, and it takes grammar and composition through the7th grade/level.  For reasons I will outline in my next post, though, we will not continue with Shurley.

Spelling: We have LOVED All About Spelling.  We jumped into Level 2, and I wouldn't recommend doing that. Even if your kids are great readers, start with Level one and work through it quickly.  We only did spelling two days a week: one day of new teaching and flash cards, and a second day of reviewing flash cards, spelling with tiles, and phrase/sentence dictation.  Level 2 was also fairly easy for our kids, so this worked fine.  They could already spell pretty much all the words in the book correctly, but now they know *why* these words are spelled the way they are. We will definitely continue on with All About Spelling. I saw on their website they now have a Level 7 which gets into Latin root words, French and Spanish loan words, and more.  I love that this program does not have a workbook.  It's very hands on and fun for the kids.  In the lower levels (1 & 2), they also have lovely little readers that we all enjoyed.  Highly recommend this as a follow up to or alongside a phonics program.  It's so good, that I plan to use their phonics/reading program (All About Reading) with my next two. 

Math-U-See:  I love Math-U-See.  Confidently continuing with this next year.  Kids are learning it well, it doesn't take a lot of time out of our day, requires no prep for me.  Perfect!

Elemental Science: This was our first year with Elemental Science.  We have really enjoyed it!  We studied earth science and astronomy this year.  This program does not use a textbook, but instead uses things like Usborne First Encyclopedia of Space, Kingfisher books, and biographies of astronauts.  It has a student book with a poem for each unit, note-booking pages, and coloring pictures to put in the note-booking pages. It also has one experiment a week which was usually something we managed to do.  The student book also includes a report type page for the experiment to help students draw conclusions from what they experienced.  This program has also been a lot of fun, and fairly easy to use.  I always dreaded science, but the astronomy part of this in particular has been fascinating!  We'll continue with Elemental Science at least through their four year grammar stage cycle (Life Science, Earth Science, Chemistry, Physics) with Chemistry next year and then Physics.  Beyond that, I may be switching to Apologia for a bit more rigorous science study.  

Veritas Bible: I have been so pleased with this program.  It begins with a flash card with the main event/story/person for the week. The first day, I read the back of the card to the kids, listen to the memory song, and drill the facts (story title, scripture reference, date).  Second and third day we do worksheets and projects in the student workbook, and review the card.  Usually the second day involves reading the story from Scripture.  The fourth day we look at any extra resources that might be called for.  And the last day, they take either an oral or written test, reviewing all the stories up to that point.  It has worked amazingly well, and really concreted their understanding and knowledge of the first five books of the Bible.  We will definitely keep going in this curriculum. 

Artistic Pursuits:  We just flat out didn't do this this year.  We traveled so much.  I think we got in about 10-12 of the lessons, and that's it.  I just gave up after awhile. : )  But we'll pick it up again next year hopefully!

-We added McGuffey's Readers (1 & 2) (Mott Media version) mid-year. I love these books!  I highly recommend them! Get the Ruth Beechick teacher's manual that goes with them.  Wonderful readers full of high thoughts and character, morality, and Biblical principle.  

-New American Cursive: Luke was begging to learn to write cursive, so I purchased these from Memoria Press. I love Memoria Press curriculum!  We bought their Famous Men series, an Astronomy unit study, as well as the 2nd grade Literature guides.  All are excellent, including the cursive.  You should see both the kids' cursive writing!  They whizzed through the workbook and loved it! Their writing is impressive. : )  

-Everyday Graces: A Child's Book of Manners (by Karen Santorum):  We added this mid-year too, as we were dealing with some cultural lack of manners. : )  We read a little section several times a week. I love this book.  It's enjoyable to read, and Karen's points she draws from each poem or story are great.  My kids have remembered the stories from that book and will bring them up at appropriate times to be applying the truth learned.  Wonderful! : ) 

Tapestry of Grace:  I have to admit. I had a little crisis of faith in my Tapestry this year.  After Unit 2, I was ready to quit.  It was a tough unit, just based on the subject matter (reformation, Martin Luther, Protestantism vs. Catholicism vs. Church of England, etc.).  That is really heady stuff, even for me, let alone a first and second grader. : )  I felt like I was loosing the thread, the main idea each week, and it was getting really difficult to see the forest for the trees. We were in the states at the time, and I began looking around, and thought maybe I needed to simplify. Maybe Tapestry was just too much for us, at least right now.  So I caved and bought a different history program for next year.  I chose Veritas Press Self-Paced online history for several reasons.  Their flashcard and memory song system worked SO well for us with Bible.  And with the online aspect, I wouldn't have to prepare anything for history.  They could just watch a video on the internet and fill out their worksheets.  It also called for about 15% of the books that Tapestry does for a year, so I thought I would be saving money.  

Then we came back to India.  And we got back into our home and our routine, and got back to school.  Things started clicking again with Tapestry.  I began to feel more confident, and started regretting the choice to abandon it. (I'd always felt guilty, but was convinced it was the right choice).  Being back in our own home made me realize, I don't want to give up on Tapestry. I want to keep going.  One thing I came to realize about Veritas History is that it is a western civilization history. It does not cover anything outside the U.S. and Europe.  I definitely want the world history aspect in there that Tapestry offers.  Being back in our routine here also reminded me of how much I love sitting down together with the kids, reading the books, and talking about the events and time periods, digging for fun videos to watch on the internet, doing the activities, and just spending time together. I would be missing that all next year if I delegated history to a video.  I read a lot on the Tapestry forums which gave me confidence that I could do it, and decided to re-change my mind and go back to Tapestry.  I know that I know that I want our kids doing Tapestry in high school.  The Pageant of Philosophy, government, discussion questions, socratic discussions, all that. I want that, no question.  So we'll stick with Tapestry after all. 

I feel like I have gained a lot of clarity about what we're doing through this year.  I'm so thankful that this is a journey for all of us, and we keep learning as we go.  I'm sure I'll change my mind one hundred times more in the coming years! But I know my Father is with me and is guiding each step and decision we make.

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