Monday, September 22, 2014

What Works For Us - Part 2

My oldest is a very independent learner. With guidance, he will just take a list of assignments and plow through them to get on with his day. Although he enjoys hands on studies immensely, he also likes being able to guide himself at his own pace through his learning. There are some days that he will spend all morning going through math lessons and others that he'll be playing catch-up with his language arts materials. At the end of the day it all seems to even out, so basically "if its not broke, don't fix it!"

C was sort of our guinea-pig in regards to homeschooling. He started off in public school and although we liked his teachers and friends we decided that public school was no longer a good fit for our education philosophy.  Here is the list of materials we are using with him this year:
Each child has their own Thirty-One Bags Utility Tote for their school books. 
I have provided non-affiliate links for your reference.

Math:  Saxon Math Homeschool 5/4  We have tried a number of different math curricula including Miquon, Singapore and Seton.  Last year we successfully plowed through both Grade 3 and 1/2 of Grade 4 Seton so we started up with Saxon 5/4. I found the transition between the two to be seamless.  True to form though he is plowing through the book and we'll be in 6/5 after the holidays. I am tempted to move him up now but we do have some gaps that need to be covered. 

English: English 4 For Young Catholics This is a great basic English program that covers grammar, writing and reference skills.  As with their other materials, Catholicism is woven throughout the books.

Phonics:  Phonics 4 For Young Catholics We are big fans of Seton phonics.  Having seen the program from the beginning (kindy) through grade 4 I've found it to be a good solid no-frills program for learning to read. We are also using this with our kindergartener who is flourishing with it. Like anything else, its not for everyone - we have one child that we had to find alternate materials for. 

Spelling: Spelling 3 For Young Catholics. He struggles with confidence in spelling so we are finishing up last year's book and trying to decide whether or not to move onto Spelling 4 or try All About Spelling. Seton has a great spelling program, but we've always struggled in this area from the beginning. I'd love to hear your thoughts on All About Spelling.

This book is identical to the book I used back in the 1980s.
Vocabulary: Wordly Wise: Book 1 These are the old-school vocabulary books that I used in grade school so it was a no-brainer that I use this program.  We do not give tests in vocabulary and this is generally a subject that we do side by side together. I'm a word geek so I am not sure who enjoys this program more, he or myself.  I will again say that this is a very dry program and Seton has been developing their own vocabulary program that we have also used and enjoyed. 

Faith and Freedom Readers (pic borrowed from Seton)
Reading:  Faith and Freedom Readers I wish we had purchased the complete set of these readers from the beginning!  We are buying year to year for now, but thankfully they bundle grades 5-8 for a big savings.  My only complaint about these books is that they are only available in paperback. We are also using Seton's Reading Comprehension and Thinking Skills books intermittently.  Some reading lists we also use for book recommendations: Seton Home Study, Catholic Heritage Curricula, Ambelside Online, and Classical Homeschooling. He really is into non-fiction as well and our home library is loaded with nonfiction books on just about any topic that we've collected from library book sales or purchased used on Amazon.

History:  The Catholic Faith Comes To The New World. Seton's history books at the elementary level are pretty dry but we do use them for a spine.   I love that they are written to include Catholic history along with general world/American history. I was able to peak inside the table of contents and saw that it did cover one of our major topics for this year: Colonial History.  It also included Vikings which my 4th grader has suddenly developed an interest in so it was a great purchase for us.

In addition to this book, we will be doing a unit study with another home school family that will be covering Massachusetts State history.

Geography: Maps Charts Graphs: States and Regions. This is your basic Geography book. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but teaches a lot about map reading. I would have skipped it all together but 9yo loves maps.  We are also hosting a geography club out of my home this year that will cover all the continents and a few major world regions.

Science: We are taking science classes with the local natural history museum. Many of the topics covered in these classes are also in Science 4 for Young Catholics so we'll be referring to this as well. We are also doing activities and projects from which cover a lot of science topics.

Reading all this it would seem that we are pretty rigorous.  I want to make it clear though that we do not do all these subjects on a daily basis and they are always subject to changed based on what hands-on experiences we can provide throughout the year. We have done full enrollment with Seton in the past and it was just too much book work for us so now we use the materials and branch out from there. In addition, there are many great curriculum providers out there, but I love that I can order so much of what we need from one location. Although there might be other curricula out their with more bells and whistles I'll still stick with Seton based on the easy ordering process, one stop shopping and fabulous customer service. Also, I know that it is a solid "tried and true" curriculum.  When needed we do step outside the box (as I'll explain in another post) but for now this works for us. 

Part 3 of this series will cover materials for our first grader.

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