It’s that time of year again! It’s time to share all the new curricula we purchased and have been prepping for a new school year. Last year we didn’t switch out a lot of curriculum, but this year we had more changes than usual. Some of those changes were because Stephen had finished up previous levels of a curriculum and essentially ‘aged out’ of the program, others we felt the need for a change either to get a fresh perspective or to deep dive into a subject and in general we had several new additions to start covering more subjects as Stephen enters his middle school years.
History & Geography
One of the biggest changes we made this year was in history and geography. Up until now, our history curriculum has always been Story of the World and I still stand by that SOTW is a great curriculum, especially for the early elementary years. SOTW is done by historical age and is separated into four books with the idea that you can repeat the program three times by the time your child graduates and there are plenty of resources they list to help you make it as challenging or as gentle as it needs to be for their age. I was totally sold on this way of doing history when I picked out that curriculum.
What I have found though is that while it’s a great overview of world history, it doesn’t dive into U.S. History enough for us. Yes you could add stuff to dive deeper on the 2nd or 3rd time through the curriculum, BUT I found my child does not like repeating things! So this year we decided to do a history curriculum that was just U.S. history and after much gnashing of teeth we settled on Notgrass America the Beautiful curriculum. We appreciated the colorful text and all the different parts this curriculum has to offer. We’re going all in and bought just about every book or workbook to go with the curriculum including the reading set and we can’t wait to get started!
Next year we plan to get back to world history, but we won’t be repeating Story of the World because of my son’s aversion to repeating things. It just won’t keep his interest and I think there are other subjects my son may want to learn a lot more about than what is covered in SOTW. I haven’t done the research yet to figure out what we’ll be switching to, but I have a whole year to figure it out!
Much of our language arts curriculum is staying the same this year. For composition we have moved onto Structure and Style for Students 1B. Structure and Style for Students levels can be confusing. The level is go 1A, 2A, 1B, 2B, 1C, etc. Why they chose this route I don’t know but essentially this is the 3rd level if you are doing the video lesson track and not the teacher led track.
We are also doing what is now book 3 of Fix It Grammar, Robin Hood, both from IEW. You may say, “Huh? I thought Robin Hood was book 2” and you would not be wrong…last year. Robin Hood used to be book 2 and it’s what we did last year, but they revamped their program and put in a book between what use to be book 1 and book 2.
They wrote in a whole new story for Robin Hood so that those of us who used Robin Hood last year would not be repeating the same exact text this year. I was skeptical because as I mentioned earlier Stephen does not like repeating things, but we’re going with it because I was told it would be hard to skip book 3 and go straight to book 4. I will be sure to give an update at the end of the year on how this played out in our homeschool.
Over all we are really excited about the changes they made to the program as you no longer need a separate notebook to do your rewrites, they let the student know exactly how many rewrites and what types they are looking for each day and each day has it’s own page so it is less overwhelming to look at for kids. These were our biggest issues with the way the program used to be structured so I am glad to see a company take to heart what their community was saying and make the appropriate changes.
Other changes to our language arts program is actually a lack of curriculum….spelling curriculum that is! Stephen finished up the last two levels of All About Spelling last year so we have dropped spelling as an official subject and are just using the vocabulary words found in the IEW programs to both expand vocabulary and practice spelling new words. We will continue using A Reason For Handwriting this year for continued fluency in cursive writing, I would love to drop it soon, but Stephen doesn’t feel as confident in cursive yet as he does in manuscript.
As always we have a large list of read alouds planned for this year. Some of our choices come from suggested reading lists for this age range, some come from book sets we already own and want to finish up and some come from a poster we have of 100 books your child should read. The poster is fun, but we didn’t get it until a year or two ago so sometimes we go back and read things below his age range now just so we’ve read these well loved books if we have missed some. Last year’s book list dealt with a lot of really heavy topics, this year I am trying to go a little more on the lighter side. This is our list of read alouds for this year, in no particular order:
- Pippi Longstocking
- Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Adventures of Huck Finn
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
- Helen Keller
- Tuck Everlasting
- All Creatures Great and Small
- The Secret Garden
- The Witches
- Charlie and the Glass Elevator
- The Twits
- Billy and the Min Pins
- The Wednesday Wars
- Paul Revere’s Ride
- The Hobbit
As you can see, most of these books we purchased but a few not in this picture are either going to be done via library books or we’re going to listen to them on Audible. We’ll also be finishing up the Chronicles of Narnia series, I think we have 2 or 3 books left. This list does not include books he will be reading on his own. I try to let him pick a lot of those books himself, but also buy some books for him that I think he will find fun and interesting. He really loves books that combine adventure and history, but is also into some fantasy series. Two of his current favorite authors are S.D. Smith, the author of The Green Ember series and Steven K. Smith, the author of The Virginia Mysteries series.
We’re continuing to use Math U See as our math curriculum, but this year we are doing two years’ worth of math in one year. Why you ask? Well in almost every other subject Stephen is doing work at least one year above his public school grade level. Math he has stayed on grade level, but not necessarily because of lack of ability, more due to time constraints as math takes a lot of time in our homeschool day. We decided to do the equivalent of a public school grade skip this year and go from 4th to 6th grade, in essence skipping 5th grade.
To make sure he’s ready for 7th grade in the fall of 2023, we are doing Math U See Epsilon and Zeta this year. We started in the summer when our homeschool kind of winds down to fun subjects and have seen Stephen already fly through 3/4ths of Epsilon in only two months. Fractions (Epsilon) has been a breeze for him so we have no doubt we will get through both Epsilon and Zeta this year. If anything we might finish early if he flies through decimals and percents the way he has fractions. I also bought quite a few math games to help supplement math this year on gameschooling days.
“Why are we concerned about public school grade levels when we home school?” I can already hear the questions, I understand you and in general I agree. The short answer is that we’re not really concerned about that, after all that’s the beauty of homeschool is that you can go at your child’s pace and be in multiple different levels at once. The longer answer has more to do with making sure he’s ready for college early so he can have the option of dual enrollment early. Getting enough college credits to graduate high school a couple years of college already completed is the long term goal.
Stephen and Richard continue to love Berean Builders science curricula, but like math they will be doing two years worth this year. Again this is to ‘grade skip’ 5th grade yet we still want to do all of the curriculum from 5th grade. It also helps that Stephen REALLY loves science. The levels we will be using this year are Science in the Industrial Age and Science in the Atomic Age. We did not start the first book over the summer like we did with math, but we have mapped out a pretty good schedule to get both books done in one school year. It definitely helps that we school eleven months out of the year and not just nine.
This year will be our final year using the Apologia series, What We Believe. We will be using the fourth book in the series, What on Earth Can I Do? alongside our Indescribable Kids devotions. We are currently in the middle of the 2nd book in that series, How Great is our God and I picked up the 3rd book, The Wonder of Creation, for when we finish book 2. These are just fast, fun devotionals that combine biblical teaching principals with the science God created. We really love the Apologia series and are sad we are coming to an end of those books. I think we will do a little more robust bible study starting next year, but I haven’t picked that out yet. Stay tuned!
We are trying a different way to do art for 6th grade. Instead of a curriculum that we do once a week or whenever we can fit it in, we’ve purchased a school year of Homeschool Art Box. This is a monthly subscription service that sends you a box of materials, both teaching and art supplies, to learn about a famous artist and then do a project in the style of the artist.
It is a little pricey, but there are ways you can make it cheaper either by buying your own supplies and only buying the educational materials from them or by purchasing the full nine month subscription at once and getting a discount. The latter option was the option we took and I even bought an existing artist box they had on sale for us to do this month just to check it out because I liked the project.
I’m looking forward to having an art curriculum that we just open up a box and everything is there to do the artist study and project without me having to track down all the supplies ahead of time. If I find that we have a lot of the art supplies on hand used in these projects this year and we like the boxes, next year I will sign up for the instructional materials only box.
For music this year Stephen is going to learn the recorder! This is something I remember doing around this age in public school and thought it would be fun to learn. I bought a nicer wooden recorder through Rainbow Resource instead of the cheap plastic ones that you find in stores that often get cracked and picked up a simple teaching book on the basics. We may utilize some Youtube resources as well.
Health and Phys Ed
This year we are doing Abeka health workbooks. Because of what we covered last year, I am actually going to do different segments from two different Abeka health books so we don’t repeat too much year to year. The books I have bought were for grades five and six, Enjoying Good Health and Choosing Good Health.
For Phys Ed we’ve done Taekwondo for the last 3 1/2 years. We are currently on a break from TKD through the end of our first semester of school, so for now we’re doing walks several times per week and we may pick up an activity this fall to supplement.
I picked up some interesting supplements to our normal subjects. One area I feel we haven’t touched on as much in the language arts curricula we’ve done is poetry. To help learn a bit more about poetry I picked up the Poetry Adventures series as well as the Poet’s Workshop series, Read, Recite and Write, both found at Rainbow Resource.
I also want to do some figurative language work so I bought a small book off Amazon called There’s a Frog in my Throat about animal sayings that looked fun and 100 Task Cards in a Box for Figurative Language from Rainbow Resource. I actually think he will ace all of this material, but it’s a touch base to see where he is on both knowing terms and understanding meanings of the phrases.
Stephen is at the age where he can start learning a bit more about money and how money works in our society, so I picked up a Personal Finance workbook as well as a broader workbook on Economic Literacy. Critical thinking and logic is another area I want to work on so I grabbed book one of The Critical Thinking Detective and Think Analogies off of Amazon. Finally although I generally know where Stephen is at in reading level and comprehension, it’s good to take an official assessment once in a while to verify, so I picked up a couple reading assessments to make sure my perception is reality.
All of these things are not priorities, but more of ‘on days we have time we’ll pull one of these activities out’ level. We’ll get through them eventually, but whatever pace it happens is fine. As always we have some curriculum that will finish off before the end of our school year, often by about 2 or 3 months, so these things will be done more frequently as we gain time.
Finally, under the category of extras, I picked up a few other things to add to our gameschooling days.
While we follow Stephen’s interests, we also give him structure which he desperately needs. Therefore he does all the main subjects that he would have to learn in traditional school we just tailor them to his interests and learning style. This year, grade 6, we decided he could choose his first elective that could be anything he wanted it to be. We had him making a list of about 6 things/subjects he was most interested in learning more about. This was the list he gave us:
As you can see, he really is a science kid! Those are the things that excite him and fuel his passion. While we were at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati this year we happened upon Home Hacker Camp’s booth and thought it would be right up his alley and would combine both of his top two interests.
In the end we paid for Stephen to take Robotics 1 & 2 this year (first and second semesters respectively). He received a robot kit and will be building his own robot and programming it to do various tricks/tasks. He’s had a robot before that he could program a little on, a toy called Cozmo we bought him for Christmas one year, but this seems to be a little more robust. They are online classes and only one day per week so it’s not too much of a commitment for us in the middle of our already busy schedule.
He’s been excited to get started learning some programming in order to program his own games. He started messing with Scratch, which is what will be used in the class and then asked to start learning something a little more powerful, so Richard bought him this book and will slowly be helping him to learn C#.
So I think that’s it, that’s everything that I bought and am prepping for this next school year. Richard will continue to teach science while I teach the rest, except for the robotics classes of course. We are in our one month we take off and I am enjoying the downtime, but I can’t wait to get started next month with fresh curriculum and new goals. Now to clean the homeschool room….Thanks for reading!