We’re a little over a week away from starting our new school year, yay?! ? We get very little breaks around here as year round homeschoolers so I have mixed emotions about getting back into the swing of things. On one hand I can’t wait until we get back into a routine…it’s better for all of us. Of course on the other hand it’s been nice to get a break and have time to do a few more things that I want to do versus just what I have to get done in a day.
So this blog post is about our curriculum choices for second-ish grade. I say second-ish because I think the only core subject that we’re doing that is 2nd grade is math and even with that we have already completed a 2nd grade math curriculum over the summer from a company I wanted to try out. Overall I wasn’t impressed with that program’s depth of learning though so we are going back to our previous curriculum for math, but with be adding in some additional resources to try out. I’ll get into the reasons behind all of that later.
In my last post I talked about us covering 10 subjects plus some additional unit studies this year. The subjects we are covering this year are: language arts, math, science, history, U.S. geography, government, health/phys ed, fine arts, bible, and Spanish. Some of these subjects are then further broken down into multiple curricula. Language arts for example is actually grammar, reading, spelling and handwriting. Most of these subjects are being done simultaneously, but some have a staggered start and will not be done until the second half of the year or some not until our summer months next year.
Lets start with language arts. Last year we dropped reading as an instructional subject because it was pointless when my son already knew all the words in the program we were using. I still cannot sing the praises of All About Reading enough because it gave him the keys to unlock reading and now read as well as he does. Late in the year I picked up a workbook on Amazon for reading comprehension though to make sure he was actually understanding and retaining what he was reading. We finished that booklet over the summer, so this year I picked up the next book in that reading comprehension series, so we will be doing that again.
For spelling we are sticking with All About Spelling. Like AAR, this is a great program for us and I firmly believe in the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ so we aren’t making any changes in spelling this year. Last year Stephen flew through two year’s worth of AAS and could have gotten another one done before we finished our school year, but I chose to consciously slow down a bit over the summer and focus on other things. I’m expecting to go through two years worth of spelling again this year, but we will be starting with level 3.
For handwriting we are still doing the A Reason For Handwriting series, because although my son gives me fits about handwriting…I believe he would do that no matter what curriculum we are using! ? We are going to be transitioning into cursive half way through the year so we will be using book T to do that. I have contemplated doing a different curriculum next year just because I had hoped that the bible versus in A Reason For…would be more incorporated into the copy work and that he would then commit some of those bible versus to memory, but it’s really not set up that way in my opinion.
Finally we come to grammar. Last year I used First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind and about half way through we found it rather repetitive which for my son that is equivalent to boring and he loses interest. Don’t get me wrong, repetition is good and he could tell you the definition of a noun like nobody’s business…but in an effort to get Stephen more engaged in the subject we’re changing it up a bit and trying out Grammar Galaxy. Grammar Galaxy is a story based grammar program that has less writing involved (which my son hates) and more imagination being brought in to engage the student. We’re starting out with their first level just to make sure there are not any gaps between the curricula that he would miss and we’ll go at his pace and possibly get the next level in the middle of the year. I did go ahead and purchase the next level of First Language Lessons and we will be doing both to a certain extent, but I will be omitting things that seem to be busy work for us.
I also picked up a booklet on paragraph writing that we will add in after the first couple of weeks. This is not a skill we have explored much yet and this little booklet seemed like a good introduction into writing a basic paragraph.
Next up is math. For the last two years we have used Math U See as our math curriculum. When we started looking for a math curriculum I thought my creative kid was a kinesthetic learner and I thought the MUS blocks would fit his personality and learning style. I also listened to several of Mr. Demme’s teaching videos and not only liked the way he taught, but learned a couple reasons why some things worked in math that I never knew or was taught growing up….and I was a pretty mathy kid! In high school I was the kid spending my study hall in my math teacher’s class helping other kids who came in for help. I took every advanced math course my high school had to offer and I still didn’t know some of the things I heard from Mr. Demme so that sold me to try out his system.
Y’all…last year was like pulling teeth when it came to math, second only to handwriting. It wasn’t that my son couldn’t do the work, but his focus was just not there. The blocks were too much like Legos and he would rather play with them than concentrate on the math problems. But then it wasn’t always the blocks it was other things and going down bunny trails that would pull his attention away and it was in this subject more than any other. Where he was ahead in math early on, he was seeming to lose interest and fall away. At first I thought it was because of learning styles because I really think he’s not kinesthetic, but visual. By the end of the year though I began to suspect that like the grammar, it was too repetitive and he was just bored.
So for the summer I decided to do a different approach to math and try out MasterBooks. I had heard all of these great things about the program and people raving about it and it was story based (which my son loves stories) so I thought, lets try it. I still had bought the next level of Math U See, but was planning to supplement and possibly totally switch if another program worked out better. So I bought the second grade year Math Lessons for a Living Education from Masterbooks. It honestly wasn’t that expensive, didn’t require me to buy new manipulatives and was pretty much pick up and go so I was willing to give it a shot. Mistake. Well I guess I won’t say it was a total mistake as it got my son a bit more comfortable with time and money which is something that MUS doesn’t really focus on, but the story was not really as interwoven with the math as I had hoped….it many ways it was just a time waster…and the first full 8 weeks or so was just review of concepts we had already mastered. Once we got past that we were still going of a pace of a whole week’s worth of lessons in just one day and from beginning to end we finished the 2nd grade book in less than 6 weeks.
I will do a further in depth review of our experience with Masterbooks’ math curriculum, but least to say we are not going to use it so I am glad I went ahead and bought the next level of Math U See for this year when I could get it at a discount from the homeschool convention in the spring. We are going to try out another curriculum to use with it for the first 9 weeks. It is also a story based curriculum, this one in comic book form (which Stephen loves) and see how it goes. That curriculum is Beast Academy. It’s a program created for gifted kids. It is challenging and it wants to get the student thinking mathematically and not just solving basic problems. I am using it to help add some interest when boredom sets in with MUS. I still think MUS is a good tool, but if your child gets bored with repetition it may not be the way to go. Beast Academy is considerably more expensive for a whole year than what MasterBooks was, so I only bought the first quarter’s books to try out so we can see how it goes before committing more money to the full curriculum.
For science this year we are sticking with Dr. Jay Wile’s/Berean Builder’s Science in the…series. Last year we did Science in the Beginning which was a big hit with my my son and my husband who teaches it, so this year we will be continuing on with Science in the Ancient World. This series is Christian based and interweaves some history into science to show the progression of science over the years. Stephen has picked up a lot of concepts and really understands the material the way it is presented. The experiments often use items that are readily found around your house or very inexpensive and easy to obtain which is a great plus.
In history we will be uses Story of the World, Volume 2, The Middle Ages. We did Story of the World, Volume 1, the last couple of years while we moved and lived our crazy life. This year we’ll finally be on track to get it all done in one year and have plenty of time to plan it all out. I have found a lot of helpful resources online when planning Story of the World and will some day do a separate post on how you can do everything from just reading the stories out of the main textbook to making it your spine for your whole homeschool. We don’t make it our spine, but we do use a lot of activities and supplemental reading.
Last year we focused on world geography by using the Galloping the Globe curriculum from GeoMatters. It’s a good curriculum and much like Story of the World, it can be used in a variety of ways and be dug into as much or as little as you want. This year we are going to focus on U.S. geography and are using a resource I already purchased a couple of years ago from Erica Arndt at Confessions of a Homeschooler called Road Trip USA. You can tell she has put a lot of time and effort into this curriculum and I’m excited to teach it this year. I have a couple of supplemental booklets to go along with it that I had previously purchased on the states that should match up well and I found a few other more artistic booklets on Amazon that we’re going to do as well. We will be going over one state per week and won’t fully finish up until the end of the first quarter of next school year. I could have done the 2 states a week method, but I don’t want to rush it.
We’re going to do a bit of government this year by going over all the presidents, one per week, and watching things like school house rock and some other videos either we own or are available through online resources. I expect this won’t take a long time each week yet might inspire some interesting discussions.
For physical education we are continuing to take Taekwondo classes and swim when possible. I’m actually supposed to get grass planted soon so by next spring we might actually have a yard for him to play in instead of weeds and mud! So excited! #thelittlethingswetakeforgranted We may switch up what things he does in the future, but right now this is where we are at with phys ed type classes. We’re doing a Healthy Habits book for health this year which should take us about 2/3rds of our year to complete as we’re only going to be doing a couple of pages per week. Honestly it looks like a bit of repetition from the book we did last year, but it’s good reinforcement.
Next we come to fine arts and we’re going to be doing a variety of things this year. Last year we did art over the summer using Artistic Pursuits and my plan is to do that again this year. We will however being focusing on the orchestra during the spring time using a book called Story of the Orchestra that I purchased off of Amazon. We will have other random art projects sprinkled in throughout the year that are part of the history or geography curriculum. We will finally be starting some piano lessons as well through Hoffman Academy.
We will be continuing on with the Picture Smart Bible curriculum and covering the New Testament. We did the Old Testament last year and followed that up by reading the OT out of Stephen’s Action Bible and we plan to do the same thing this year with the New Testament. If you are unfamiliar with The Action Bible, it covers major stories in each of the books of the bible in a comic book format. Stephen loves it.
Our final subject is Spanish. Stephen has been wanting to learn Spanish for a while and last year we did a bit of the DuoLingo app, but was not able to do it consistently enough to really gain any traction. This year I picked up a large Spanish book from Costco that will probably take us a couple years to get through and that’s fine with me. I’d rather be slow and consistent so he really learns it even if it takes a while. I’m supplementing it with some flash cards that we will go over once or twice a week as well.
So that’s it, that’s all of our official subjects. Now to cover some unit studies we have planned. I am using literature lapbook units from Confessions of a Homeschooler, like we did this past year, to study some books we will cover as read alouds. So far those units are: Little House in the Big Woods, Doctor Doolittle, Pinocchio, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. We will also be doing Evan Moor’s History Pockets for Native Americans and Life in Plymouth Colony. I thought both of these units would be a good supplement to our U.S. geography unit. Lastly, I have a variety of books that we are working through that we had started last year that are supplemental such as understanding analogies, some puzzle books and other various workbooks.
So that’s a wrap. It’s a lot, I know, I know. But honestly it doesn’t take as long as you might think and it stops things from getting too boring for our little guy who learns at a face pace. I’ve said before that we will probably have him skip a grade at some point and if math and language arts goes the way I think it will go, it may be that we consider him 4th grade next year instead of 3rd…..which sounds SOOO weird to say, but reflects the reality of his curriculum. Honestly grade level means a bunch of nothing for us in homeschool because we simply go according to the level our child is at which is probably different depending on subject and we do not have to declare grade level when we notify for homeschool in our state. However it’s easy to cringe when someone asks your child what grade they are in and they don’t know what to say back because traditional school parents/adults just don’t often understand homeschool. I saw this meme a week or so ago and ironically my husband saw it a few days ago and shared it on my Facebook wall and it made me chuckle a second time because it’s so true.
I hope everyone has a great start to your new school year, regardless of how you do it!Thanks for reading!