Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2018

Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2018

After I wrote my scheduling posts, I remembered that I had also wanted to write a little about what we are using for curriculum this year. We have made a few additions this year that are really helpful, so I wanted to talk about those a bit now that we have been using these materials for a little while.

The Curriculum Core:

As is clear from previous posts, we use AmblesideOnline for the core of our curriculum. The subjects that are fully covered under AO’s curriculum are as follows: Bible, History, Literature, Artist Study, Composer Study, and Geography. What I love about AO is that it is all laid out for what me as to what books to read and when. It is so much more than a booklist. Using AO actually has taught me more about Charlotte Mason education while I am immersed in doing it on the day-to-day basis.

Another great thing about AmblesideOnline is that it has links to free online versions of such a huge number of the books and resources because so many of them are in the public domain. So it is a very budget-friendly curriculum if you are in need of that. For us, the last two years we have actually bought all of the print books we needed for school for right around $100 just by buying used copies. That is still a lot less than most boxed curricula out there, even with the added cost a few other supplements! And that brings me to those extras…

The Extras:

Math

We have been using the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP) for a couple of years now. It is a free curriculum from the UK available online to download and print. Being free to access, you might think it would not be very high quality, but we have been very happy with the results so far. It teaches arithmetic in a way that helps children understand why and how numbers function, instead of only teaching rote. It also has a good blend of logic, problem solving and mental math. MEP is not flashy, and the printing of materials is a bit of a job at the beginning of the year. But the skills my son is learning are so valuable that I have zero complaints about MEP thus far!

Handwriting/Copywork

We started my son out learning cursive using ABeka handwriting books, and we are still slowly working our way through the first one. ABeka moved WAY too fast in cursive for us at the beginning, and handwriting became a real pain point in our homeschool for a while. We slowed down a great deal and even took long breaks from doing any work on writing at times. Now it is no longer an issue, but I still only require a few lines of simple handwriting practice from my son each day. We are starting to incorporate some quotes from our Ambleside Year 2 books, as well, but when I do that he still only writes one short sentence a day.

Science/Nature Study

Nature Study is still something we are learning how to do well and consistently at this point. It was one of the things that dropped from our schedule most often last year. I decided that in 2018 we would start using Lynn Seddon’s wonderful guide, Exploring Nature with Children. It is such a lovely resource, and I fully expect us to reuse it again and again over the next few years. Right now we are using the curriculum sparingly, mainly noting the subject for us to observe each week and using perhaps one extension activity to help us give attention to whatever that is for the week. It is helping us have more structured nature study time, and I feel like I have more motivation to get to it each week. If you are struggling to incorporate nature study regularly in your homeschool, I highly recommend Exploring Nature with Children!

Foreign Language

Another subject I needed more consistency and structure to implement was foreign language. Even though I know a lot of Spanish grammar and vocabulary myself, I did not know how to actually teach it. So this year we began using Song School Spanish from Classical Academic Press, and it has been a big hit! Both of the kids look forward to our 5-10 minute daily Spanish lesson, and I have heard our 2-year-old singing the songs while playing on more than one occasion! One word of caution to Charlotte Mason homeschoolers…Song School Spanish does include some exercises in which the student is supposed to read and write words in Spanish. Charlotte Mason strongly recommended against children seeing words in a foreign language before they were fluently reading their own language. This is not a problem for us because my son IS a very fluent reader, but if your child is not reading well in English, you would have to adjust many of the activities in this book.

Drawing

My son LOVES doing art and drawing, but I was at a loss of where to begin when it comes to formal lessons. Although I would love to put him in a class with an art teacher some day, that just isn’t practical for us yet. So this year we started using Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks as a guide. I admit that I was highly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information presented in the book before she even gets to the first lesson! But after I got over that initial “shock” I decided to just dive in and start following some of the opening warm-ups and teaching the basic elements of drawing as she presents them. We only do one brief session each week, so we have not gotten very far. We will see how it goes throughout the year!

Solfa/Solfege

Although I know solfege and the Kodaly handsigns myself, this was another highly neglected part of our homeschool last year. I have taught children’s choirs and used solfa singing as presented in the curricula, but I did not know how to present it at home. Enter the sweet and helpful Heather and her Children of the Open Air Solfa lesson videos on YouTube! Each week we sit down and sing a little song and practice our hand signs and solfege along with Heather (and her adorable kids!) It is quick and painless for all of us, and again, it is something even the 2-year-old loves to do!

Swedish Drill

Don’t know what Swedish Drill is? Neither did I until I found Dawn Duran’s tutorials on the Afterthoughts blog! Essentially, it is an exercise practice that involves teaching good posture, following directions (training the habit of attention!) and using various muscle groups. Last year we did Swedish Drill nearly every day. This year we have been doing it weekly so far, but I think we may add it back in as a daily activity again soon. I need to teach the kids a few more new moves and make some cards for me to call out drills so I’m not always thinking on my feet and leaving something out. I really have appreciated Dawn’s work on creating video tutorials with her kids doing some of the moves. And now she has even created a complete open and go resource called Swedish Drill Revisited to help us implement Swedish Drill effectively in our homeschool! I really NEED to get my hands on this one!

So, there you have it! A complete run-down of what curricula we are using in our homeschool in 2018. Are you using any of the same things this year? I’d love to hear what you fellow classical Charlotte Mason moms (and dads!) are using to help you teach this year!

Scheduling AmblesideOnline Year 2, Pt. 1

Now that we are almost a month into our second “official” year of using AmblesideOnline, I feel like we are really getting into the groove. Not that I don’t still have a lot to learn about teaching and living in a more Charlotte Mason-esque way! We certainly have not arrived! I do feel, however, that I have a handle on the flow of the academic portion of our school day, and that is a welcome change from last year. Many days I felt scattered, and I often could not remember what I was supposed to be doing from one day to the next.

Now, it could be partly that we were in the midst of pretty major upheaval all of last year, as opposed to feeling fairly settled here at the start of 2018. Another difference this year is that I have a much more mature, less destructive two-and-a-half year old along for the ride, than the high need 20 month old I had at the beginning of last year! But I honestly think that one of the biggest factor in my ability to juggle all the various subjects and moving parts is that I have a much better schedule this year!

Why I Created Our AO Year 2 Schedule:

This year I wanted to be more intentional about short lessons and varying the subjects to stick to the idea of “a change is as good as a rest.” But with so many moving parts (i.e.-some subjects daily, some bi-weekly, some only weekly) I was unsure how to make sure I got everything in the right place. Last year we tried looping some subjects, but inevitably, there was always one or more that got left off or skipped somehow. And some lessons seemed to get drawn out much longer than need be because of frustration or dawdling (I’m looking at you, Math!)  I knew I needed a set schedule for Every. Single. Subject. And I knew I needed to use a timetable to keep us on track.

How I Created Our AO Year 2 Schedule:

Step 1: First I listed out all the subjects, noting which are weekly and which are daily. Some of the subjects on the weekly list could be done more frequently, such as Swedish Drill and Solfege and Poetry. For us at this time, however, dividing them up with the weekly subject is working better.

Daily—
Recitation (this is where we do our memory work)
Spanish
Math
Copywork
Ambleside Readings and Narrations
Bible
History and Tales
Natural History
Literature

Weekly—
Artist Study
Composer Study
Solfege Practice
Swedish Drill Practice
Geography
Timeline
Nature Study
Drawing
Handicrafts
Poetry

Step 2: Figure out how many of each type of AO Reading there are typically in a week.

  • Bible: 1-2
  • History and Tales: 3 (We are skipping Trial and Triumph at this time, so there would be 4 here if you are including it.
  • Natural History: 2
  • Literature: 3 (although these are frequently long and need to be divided over 2 days)

Since this makes an average total of 10 readings in a week, it works out nicely for us to have 2 spots in our daily schedule for AO books and narration. I also plugged in 2 of the weekly subjects each day. With 4 additional daily subjects, I now know I need 8 total time slots in my timetable.

Because the rest of my planning process gets a bit more detailed, and this post is already long enough, I will continue with the rest of my steps in a new post tomorrow. Until then, I hope these beginning steps are helpful to anyone just starting out with scheduling with AmblesideOnline Year 2!

My Goals for GROWTH in 2018, Part 2: Personal Growth

Welcome to the second post in my Goals for Growth series! Last week, I wrote about my goals for developing stronger relationships. Today, I want to share my 2018 goals for personal growth.

Physical Growth:

In the area of my physical health my overall goal is to get in better shape so that I can have more energy and strength so that I can better serve my family now and in the long term. Since my pregnancy with my daughter three years ago, I have had very little energy and strength. I have largely neglected my physical health, at least in terms of getting the exercise and intentional movement I need on a daily basis. I am not a highly athletic person naturally, anyway, and since it has been a long time since I have asked my body to move in many different ways, I am intentionally starting small and being very gentle with myself. My action steps to achieve this goal are as follows: complete the Foundational 5+ course from Fit2B, exercise at least 30 minutes 3-4 times a week (also using routines from Fit2B), and go outside for 30 minutes every day for fresh air and sunshine.

My second goal is the area of physical health is to break my addiction to sugar. I have struggled with craving sweets for a long time, even though I know that sugar depletes my immune system and causes blood sugar spikes and drops that contribute to bad mood swings. My first line of attack in this sugar addiction battle is going to be following the 40 Day Sugar Fast hosted by Wendy Speake, starting January 8th.

Spiritual Growth:

Tied closely to my physical health battles, my spiritual health is going to be of paramount importance to the rest of my growth. Recently I have realized that the scripts that run through my head are normally pretty negative. This negativity spills out into every other area of my life. My goal in 2018 is to exchange those negative thoughts with the truth of Scripture. This will increase my joy and gratitude and decrease my anxiety and discontent. My action steps to accomplish this goal include waking early each morning to spend time alone studying the Word and praying before the rest of my family gets up. I will also be writing down at least 3 things I am grateful for each day.

Educational Growth:

My goals in this area are not really new but more of a continuation of what I am already doing. My goals for my personal education in 2018 are to continue bettering myself through wide reading and learning new skills. I want to always be learning and growing my understanding of the world, of God and of other people. I never want to stagnate and stop using my mind or lose my sense of wonder at the marvels of creation. As I mentioned in my last Reading Report of 2017, I am joining the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Of course, I also have other books that I want to read that are not on that list, and I am hoping to complete at least 30 titles this year. As for learning new skills, I am planning to study some basic drawing and watercolor techniques. I want to practice at least once a week, as well as using what I learn in my nature journal entries each week.

I will be back in a few days with the last post in my goals series, all about my professional goals for 2018. In the meantime, tell me about your personal growth goals for this coming year. What are you going to be doing to improve your spiritual, physical and mental health? 

The Reading Report, Vol. 7: Back to the Classics Challenge 2018

Welcome to the December edition of The Reading Report! I can hardly believe that Christmas is only two weeks away! The holidays feel a little different this year since we are in a new location, but we have been enjoying the local festivities. We will also get to see some family during Christmas break, which will be very nice!

My reading life has been a little off lately. I got a bit overwhelmed with life a couple of weeks ago and stepped back from a lot of things to give myself a mental break. During that time, I realized that I had succumbed to a bad case of start-itis, especially where books are concerned. I have started a lot of books recently and then lacked the motivation or focus to finish them. As I thought over what I want 2018 to look like, I came to the conclusion that I need to simplify and narrow my focus in several areas, one of those being my reading habits. And just at the moment I was thinking about how to do this, I stumbled upon some posts by fellow AmblesideOnline moms about the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Perfect timing!

This challenge is hosted by Karen at her blog, Books and Chocolate. (Sounds like a great combo, right?!) What I like about her challenge is that it will give me a chance to narrow down just exactly what I want to read in the coming year, with a creative twist. I have a specific goal to shoot for, and a timeline to do it in. It also will challenge me to read some things I might not otherwise have the courage to crack open. Some these prompts made me think of more than one book that I might like to read, so I am writing down both options and will see what mood I am in when it comes down to the actual reading. Now, without further ado, here are my proposed titles for the Back to the Classics 2018 Challenge:

1. A 19th Century Classic: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
2. A 20th Century Classic: Howards End by E. M. Forster
3. A Classic by a Woman Author: Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
4. A Classic in Translation: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert or The Wreath (book 1 of Kristin Lavransdatter) by Sigrid Undset
5. A Children’s Classic: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Heidi by Johanna Spyri
6. A Classic Crime Story: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
7. Classic Travel or Journey Narrative: Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
8. Classics with a Single-Word Title: Utopia by Thomas More or Walden by Henry David Thoreau
9. Classic with a Color in the Title: White Fang by Jack London
10. Classic by a New-to-You Author: The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray
11. A Classic that Scares You: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
12. Re-read a Favorite Classic: something by Jane Austen (because I just have to read an Austen ever year!)

At the end of the 2018, I will report back with the complete list of finished titles. I really do hope I can discipline myself to focus in on this list and not get distracted by too many other books I could read. In 2017 I finished 16 books, not including numerous children’s classics we either read aloud or listened to as a family. In light of that, 12 classics should not be too much to ask, even if some of them a bit long. I also am very slowly working my way through Charlotte Mason’s Home Education Series, but I just read a few pages of one of those each day or two and let the ideas simmer.

Do you have any reading plans for 2018? Are you joining in the Back to the Classics Challenge? I’d love to hear what you are going to be reading in the New Year, so leave me a comment below!

 

 

 

This post is linked up with Books and Chocolate: Back to the Classics 2018. 

Planning Our Homeschool Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, it is Christmastime! And in our homeschool that means a more relaxed schedule with more fun and freedom. It also means it is planning time for me! Since we homeschool year-round and have a January start, this is the time of year I get all our new books ordered and figure out what our new school year is going to look like. I already got my first shipment on new-to-us classics, and I was so excited!

This year I decided to be a little more proactive and plan out more of the details than I have in the past, especially when it comes to our memory work and morning time subjects. That means I am choosing hymns, folksongs, poems, quotes and scriptures to memorize for each month of the year right now. Usually, I do that on a month-by-month basis, and inevitably I get down to the last day of the month and realize I have a bunch of work to do to choose, format and print the next set of memory work. I am hoping by getting all these things in order now, I will have a less stressful, more productive school year!

There are several other aspects of our homeschool that I am also currently evaluating and planning as we get ready for the new year, including curriculum choices and scheduling. The Plan Your Year kit from homeschool planning wizard Pam Barnhill is great for all this. She literally walks you through every step of homeschool planning, from the very beginning step of creating a vision for your homeschool all the way to organizing simple, streamlined school days. I have used some of Pam’s products for scheduling, and they really are helpful and well thought out.

Plan Your Year Ad

How about you? Are you making any plans for the new year? Even if you don’t start a new school calendar in January, this can be a great time of year to step back and reassess what has been working and what needs tweaked. It might even help avoid the dreaded February homeschool burn-out!