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I always start surfing the web and old catalogs in January or February to start getting a feel for what curriculum I may want to use the following school year.  This is the first year I've ever had to look at preschool curriculums.  We didn't start homeschooling our oldest until they were in 5th and 2nd grades, respectively.  My youngest is almost 4 now and is already ahead by leaps and bounds.

I am learning about Charlotte Mason so while I'm still reading books and watching videos about the Charlotte Mason approach, I'm also perusing websites that I have seen other parents mention or seen mentioned  on the Charlotte Mason blogs and websites.

Here's a few I have taken a look at recently:

Simply Charlotte Mason  offers a preschool guide.  While they are not suggesting anything formal, they do offer some very good tips here. They also have a section on planning schedules.

Heart of Dakota  I've seen various years of this curriculum and I have liked what I've seen, especially the flexibility offered within the choices.  Each day is laid out and very easy to follow.  The preschool program - Little Hands To Heaven- offers educational skills such as letter recognition and formation, sounds, art projects, early math skills and more.  HD also offers daily bible stories and activities. HD has curriculum through high school.

My Father's World I always find myself lingering around their booths set up at the Christian Homeschool Convention of Pennsylvania held each year in Harrisburg.  MFW has a toddler program and preschool program(as well as additional years). The preschool program offers alphabet skills and numbers 1-10, shapes, sequencing, visual discrimination, etc.  The package comes with a CD of bible verses for the child to listen to throughout the day.

Five In a Row  is literature based and seems to be a very relaxed style of learning.  There are 4 volumes for ages 4-8, volume 1 -3 being written at about the same level while volume 4 contains more difficult literature.  The 4 volumes contain 70 different unit studies covering various academic areas (math, geography, social studies, etc.)

Ambleside - While not really a curriculum, this site offers book lists that are of a Charlotte Mason approach for each year level.  Level year is geared for 5-6 but there is a list there for toddlers as well and can certainly be started early!

Math U See  In Primer, the child is introduced to writing numerals and basic counting, skip counting, adding and subtracting and is considered by the company a gentle approach to introducing math.  Math U See is a common curriculum used by homeschoolers.  It's one of those programs people seem to either love or greatly dislike all depending on their perspective of how math should be covered.  A lot of parents enjoy the video presentations and how Math U See is known to completely cover and reach mastery of a skill before moving on.

Explode the Code This series offers Get Ready For the Code - a series of 3 workbooks introducing the letters of the alphabet with various activities including tracing, writing and riddles.  Most places indicate this to be used for preschool.  Sonlight (see below) offers it in kindergarten - I'm not sure what their rational is for this.

Sonlight offers a preschool and a pre-kindergarten program.  I have often lingered near the sonlight tables at the CHAP convention as well.  I actually started out using Sonlight (back when I first pulled my daughter and son out of public school) but part ways from it because I found it overwhelming at the time.  We had many issues going on at the time but I always wondered if I should have stuck it out or gone back to it once those issues resolved themselves.  It was really laid out very well for the parent to follow.  It was a wonderful literature based program.  I just found it to be too intensive for our personal factors at that time.  I'm sure I will strongly consider it this time around.

Modern Curriculum Press Phonics - Who doesn't remember the plaid colored phonics books from elementary school?  I loved them in school and I loved them teaching... just as a supplement to practice skills being taught.

So this is what I've covered thus far.  I've only glanced at these websites.  I haven't even lingered very long but they are the top sites I'll probably keep revisiting.  I doubt that I'll make a choice before long. I usually make a list of the ones I've narrowed it down to and look at them extensively at the homeschool convention when I can hold the products in hand and really look through the manuals and get a better feel for the program. This makes it easier to compare.  I'll also talk to as many fellow homeschoolers as I can and see what programs they are or have used and why they have or have not liked particular programs.

One thing I've learned already is that maybe preschool is NOT the way to go....  looking over these I see skills that my little man has already mastered without my having to present anything in a school like fashion.  I am now considering looking at kindergarten options as well...but with the idea of only doing about half a year.  He will only be 4 and while his academic skills are advanced his attention span at this point is not.  But these are all things to consider in the months ahead and not make a sudden decision without thought.

Of course, before I do any in-depth research into any of the 'curriculum packages' above, as I stated earlier, I'll be finishing up my Charlotte Mason reading/viewing materials that I have.  I may find that I won't be using a formal curriculum at all or just use a few materials from one or two of them.

In the meantime, I hope you'll find the above links helpful if you are planning preschool in the year ahead as well.  If you have already covered preschool and/or kindergarten and have any advice to offer on the curriculums above or other curriculums you have used, by all means share it with me!  🙂  Others , including myself, may benefit from what you have experienced!

 

Today marks day 64 of the school year for my oldest boy.  This is his 9th grade year, his first year of high school and his first year of keeping grades for a transcript.

Some parts of planning for this year were difficult.  Others not so much.  You see, I've been through this before and have sent my daughter off to college already.  She is in her first year and doing quite well! I'm really proud of her.

My other boy is only 3!  There's not so much planning for the three-year old...though my eagerness has kept me exploring and I have peeked at several preschool and kindergarten curriculums but am heavily leaning towards a Charlotte Mason approach for him.

But back to my oldest!

This year we determined to start with 5 major classes:  English 9, Biology with a Lab, American History, Algebra II, and Russian.

English is always my favorite subject to plan!  I love reading and I love writing so what's not to love about planning English?  I do not like curriculums that lay everything out for English because I like to fiddle with things too much and make it more personable and meeting the needs of my child.  But I have dealt with such curriculums in the past for various reasons.  This year, I again chose a mixture.  For Literature, we are using the Gold Book of the Learning Language Arts through Literature Curriculum.    I chose the Gold Book because it ties into American History.  In the beginning, I was all for having him do the whole book and was excited about him being introduced to short stories.  But then I read some of them....   🙁     I knew darn well these were not going to be his cup of tea.  Classic literature or not, if he wasn't going to enjoy it at all, he wasn't going to learn.  So I fairly quickly ditched that part of the set-up.  (We'll try short stories another time, perhaps, if I can find some modern stories that he could relate to.)  Instead, I made a book list (oh how I LOVE creating book lists!).  In addition to the three books that the Gold Book incorporates (The Pearl, The Old Man and the Sea, and The Red Badge of Courage), I decided to introduce him to at least one Shakespeare.  We will be reading The Tempest.

Selecting which Shakespeare play to begin with was probably the hardest part of the book list!  But with much researching and asking of friend's opinions, The Tempest it will be! I'm looking forward to it as this is one I actually have not read myself yet. Additional required books on his list are:  Rifles for Waite, The Outsiders, Johnny Tremain (we read this one a long time ago as a read-aloud but I felt it fit with his American History and he may enjoy it more now that he's older), and My Side of the Mountain.  In addition to these, he gets to choose 8 for himself with the only rules that one must be about our Orthodox faith and they all must be pre-approved by myself.  I have a feeling he will be reading the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book soon since it was just released, but this one will NOT count towards the required reading!!  The Gold Book, in addition to providing background information and questions for the three books it covers, also has a poetry unit.  Three poems are assigned for reading for each poet the book covers along with comprehension type questions.  It seems to give a good overall view of the elements of poetry and develops skill for analyzing literature.

For the writing part of English, we are using IEW.  My son watches the video lessons presented by Andrew Pudewa and follows through with the assignments.  I think his writing has improved a great deal.  We are also using IEW's Fix It Grammar program as a nice review.  My son completed the Analytical Grammar program last year and,quite frankly, that program covered things so well that I truly  don't think he will ever need much in grammar ever again!

Biology was another easy choice.  It's his 9th grade year and the local co-op provides a lab for biology every few years....this being the year for it!  The course is through the Apologia Curriculum.  I love Apologia. It truly prepares the student for college level science but keeps the Christian worldview focus.  Science does NOT have to be all evolution.

American History was a little bit trickier to choose.  My son is not a lover of history.  He doesn't hate it.  But it's not a huge interest.  So I wanted something that may present things differently... not a typical dry textbook and not something that was only going to quickly go over the basics without grabbing any interest.  After much debate, we chose Exploring America by the Notgrass Company.  Of course, we've done some adapting.  The curriculum is cumulative in that it incorporates reading and bible into the history.  We are only using it for the history.  This means he's not doing the literature books they recommend, primarily because I knew they would never be books he would choose for himself and it wouldn't have left room for me to select books I felt he should read.  In addition to skipping the literature, we skip the bible lessons as well - they are of a protestant nature and I don't feel they are necessary to comprehend the history lessons.  We are Orthodox Christians and we read plenty of bible and faith related material without adding this aspect to it.  I here that part of the curriculum is actually done quite well.  I just decided there wasn't a need for it for our particular needs. We are actually reading the history lessons together and I am enjoying this.  We then answer the questions orally together and I help him study for the quiz that he takes every 5 lessons. I like the detail that the author put into the history lessons.  I've covered more American history in the past 2 months I've been reading with him than I think I covered in all my history years in the public schools.  And it's interesting... not just boring factual stuff.  I like it.

I am a HUGE fan of Teaching Textbooks!  We've been using it for our math since my daughter was in 6th grade!  It is AMAZING!!!!!!!  I am not a math expert.  While I got through math and actually got an A in my last semester of high school Algebra, it is not a subject I prefer teaching.  Teaching Textbooks does it all for me.  It's a computerized program and every single problem is on the computer.  If the student plugs in a wrong answer, they can watch the entire problem worked out step by step and see exactly where they made their mistake...and NO arguments with Momma!!  🙂  How can you not love it?? So this year he is doing Algebra II. He knows that he is to watch the explanation of any problem he misses.  If he scores below an 80, I delete the lesson and he does a do-over.  This way, we meet mastery before going on to the next lesson.

My son chose the language he wanted to learn.  My husband's heritage is Russian so it seemed a no-brainer to him to pick Russian.  While my husband recalls a few words and phrases taught to him by his grandparents in his youth, he is not ready to teach the language and I know nothing....sooooo......    CurrClick.Com offers a variety of online courses for homeschoolers and one of them is Russian!!  Mr. G does a fabulous job and my son really loves the course.

Well, that's the main courses.  In addition to these, he practices typing with a Mavis Beacon program as well as types out his final papers for IEW and Fix-It-Grammar.  We haven't seen dramatic results yet, but there are signs of improvement! He also uses Vocabulary.Com to practice SAT vocabulary and does the SAT question of the day two times a week to help prepare himself for that test in the future.

We've also added a bit of geography to the day.  I've been reading a lot about that Charlotte Mason approach and have learned a bit of how she approached geography with outline maps.  I liked the idea and thought it would be a really easy thing to start covering with him.  There's actually no set law that a course HAS to be completed in the same year it's started, so we decided to start out slow and add to it bit by bit like it's presented by the CM Approach... so right now we are covering North America since that's what he is most familiar with.  He did a bigger course last year that covered land forms, environments, etc.  so right now we are only focusing on learning names and locations of countries, major cities, bodies of water, etc.  It's only North America and I've already added to my own geography knowledge!! We'll see how we do the rest of this year before deciding whether to add to it and actually make it worth a partial or whole credit course.

Well, that wraps up what we are doing this year for my son's 9th grade year.  It's actually been a good year so far.  He seems to be doing well.  It's been an adjustment getting used to the amount of reading material and higher level questions and balancing that with Boy Scouts, hunting and pretty soon the ski season will start.  But for a 15-year-old boy who also helps out with chores and is a great big brother, I'd say he's doing a really good job!