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home-school curriculum overhaul and reviews

Every once in awhile I get the urge to revamp, reassess, and revise our home-schooling routines.  We recently set up a computer for the children to use, which opens up a whole new arena of curriculum for us.  I'm particularly attracted to curriculum that does the grading for me.

Here is what we are currently using:

Language Arts
We are using the Pathways Readers and Workbooks as well as the Climbing to Good English series. I like the Pathways series a lot -- the readers are themed about a hard-working Amish family that has values similar to ours, so there is a lot of moral reinforcement in these books.

The children are practicing their keyboard skills and letter writing skills as they sends daily emails to relatives via Kidmail.net.  $30.00 a year gives the kids their own email addresses and gives me complete control over what goes into their inboxes,  I manually approve each and every potential correspondent.  This service helps them learn:
  • keyboarding
  • writing
  • how to keep a conversation going
Cursive Handwriting - Contracted EditionThey are both learning cursive with the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum.

We have added the Sequential Spelling DVDs for our Sequential Spelling sessions, which pretty much cuts me out of the loop.  The children do the lessons together.  You can preview the lessons here.


Timez Attack Standard--Home LicenseWe love the MathUSee curriculum. The nice man teaches it on the DVD, the nice children understand it and fill out the nice worksheets.  If only it were on-line and self-grading . . .

Have you met the Timez troll yet? He's marvelous.  The student navigates through the drafty castle until a troll blocks his way.  The troll will demand multiplication facts.  If you can provide them, you may pass; if not, you will be thumped and have to start over.  

Social Studies
The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia Of World HistoryHistory Pockets: Ancient Civilizations, Grades 1-3We are learning about Ancient Times via the Story of the World material.  The children listen to the CD, read the book, do the worksheets and the tests.  We supplement this with the awesome Usbourne internet-linked books.  And we just discovered History Pockets; nifty little kits that the children can use to create artifacts of what they have learned.

We are checking out the Time4Learning online curriculum on a two-week trial.  (Full disclosure, they offered me cash to review their curriculum on my blog; since I was working on this post anyway, I said "sure".)  For 34.90 dollars a month (total, two kids), I get full curriculum (Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, Science) whether I need it all or not.  It's all web-based and auto-graded, which I love.

Each child has done a lesson in Social Studies and I can't say that it was a resounding hit.  We'll give it the full two weeks and I'll let you know more then.  If this does not work out, we will probably go with Switched On Schoolhouse: History. It's all on CD-Rom.  It's interactive.  It's self-grading. It's expensive.

We are checking out the Time4Learning online curriculum for science as well. Same lack-luster response after our first lessons, but we'll give it time.  If this does not work out, we will probably go with Switched On Schoolhouse: Science. It's all on CD-Rom.  It's interactive.  It's self-grading. It's expensive.

We often listen to our Science lesson on our All Around Us CD.

And have you seen this?  Expensive, oh yes, but elegant, informative, and I wants it, I wants it I do.  I might even let the kids use it. Layered Earth.

World Languages

Word Roots Level A1 SoftwareWe use three approaches for Latin and Greek:
            Prima Latina: audio CD + workbook  The children listen to the audio lesson, do the workbook tasks, and practice the vocabulary words via iFlipr, which works on both the computer and on my iTouch or iPad.  Try it.  How many words can you decipher?
            English from the Roots Up: vocabulary cards.  These clever cards show the Greek or Latin root word on one side and then a list of common words using that root on the other side.  The children simply copy the cards, essentially making their own flashcards which they drill each other with.
Word Roots CD-ROMs: Fun adventure games in which the clues are all in Greek and Latin roots and you must decode them to move forward in the game.

We have ordered Switched On Schoolhouse: Bible.  In the meantime, we visit this site daily and the children take turns reading the passage aloud.

Elliott's Chess School DVD 2, KNIGHTChess: We use the Chess4Life Knight level training DVD -- short snappy lessons help improve Dandy's game and the Chess4Life website for on-line practice games.

The children have (at last) their own computer.  I’ve made them a home-page which includes links to approved sites.  They are learning about seeing and clicking on active links, key-boarding, and navigating learning software.

Fine Arts
We participation in community theater events as performers (A Christmas Carol, Dance School Christmas Program, Girls Choir) and as audience (Swan Lake, Wizard of Oz).  Both kids take piano lessons and Chickadee starts Ballet lessons in January.
    Chickadee uses the Draw Write Now series. These books provide guided free-hand drawing and some copy-work.  She really enjoys them and is improving mightily. 

      We are all staying physically active at our local Athletic Club which offers children's programs at the same time as the adult programs (how clever!).  They swim and participate in group sports in the gym whilst I do Pilates.

      Questions for you:
      1. Have I left off your favorite curriculum?  What is it and why do you like it so?
      2. Have you used SwitchedOnSchoolhouse?  Comments?
      3. Should I start Dandy in 3rd grade Science and Social Studies/History and prod him through at double-speed? Or just bag 3rd grade and start with 4th grade?  Yes, I know he is supposed to be in 5th grade, but he is just barely writing, so I have to teach him where he is, not where is age-mates are. 


      Dana said...

      My daughter would love some online/computer curriculum. May be looking into it when she reaches high school.

      kate said...

      Now that my news is out, I can comment!

      THANKS, Suz!

      I don't know what we'll use. I sort of depends on where we land. While I'd like this to be our education for a loooooong time, I don't think that's an option. (note to self: consider lottery)So, it will depend on state standards for our science/ss curriculum.

      I'll use Saxxon math, because I love it.

      For language arts, I think we'll use a modified Open Court with, well, lots of reading and writing. I just want to fill her up with GOOD things. I feel like I have a big hole to fill and get frustrated when her teacher chooses to fill it up with literary junk food. She's seven and in first grade. She needs more nursery rhymes and classic fairy tales. She hasn't yet heard all the romantic ones as it's beyond her. She loves Frances and Ladybug Girl and Mother Goose. I feel like I have to choose carefully--and be willing and hopeful that the rest will come.

      Now, science. What is your third and fourth grade curriculum? Will he understand the fourth without the third? Are there skills and topics in the third that he needs now or will need soon? That should help your decision process.

      Forget where he "should" be. Teach where he IS.

      Interesting article on effort vs. intelligence. (Assigned by principal for tomorrow's meeting.) Want the link?

      Suzanne said...

      Yes, I would like the link, thanks.

      I have ordered Switched on Schoolhouse for science, but it has not arrived yet, so I don't know. I am going to start with 3rd grade for both of them, but move Dandy through at a faster pace, as he reads as a 5th grader.

      I'll post on Switched On when we get started with it.