Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Curriculum Plans, 2013-2014

September is nearly here... fresh notebooks, unmarked workbooks, crisp covers, full boxes of crayons, and brand new No. 2 pencils. I'm dizzy with delight!  I love back to school time!  I love new school supplies and books - there's so much promise. And I love school plans - there's so much possibility. 

And that's important to remember.  A plan is what's possible. It's not what will definitely, absolutely, without a hitch transpire.  It's just a plan.  It's not an anvil hanging over my head, waiting to drop at the first sign of not happening.  But for me, having a plan at the beginning is important because it offers direction and an element of certitude that I may need to rely on in the future: "yes, I did actually think this through at one point and believed it was not only possible, but was good." 

I love reading about other home schooler's thoughts, and book recommendations, and plans.  And I'd love to chat about our choices if you want to comment here!  But, I say this to myself as much as to anyone else - feel confident in your decisions; use what works for you; don't keep looking for the next best thing if you've already got something that's working well; you can't use every wonderful program out there; make changes when necessary; don't compare kids and curricula; enjoy your kids' education.

There's a million different ways to homeschool.  Here's what works for us.  Here's how we've enjoyed lessons so far. Here's what we're planning on... 

Aaron, Grade 2


Math U See, Beta Level (This level looks fun!  I can't wait to start it, but we are still finishing up the end of the Alpha Level - you can read about that and our summer school here.)

My Book of Telling Time, Learning About Minutes, from Kumon. 
Telling Time With the Judy Clock, and Geared Student Clock
I bought these things last year, but Russ teased me saying, wasn't I smart enough to teach the kids how to tell time without fancy workbooks and stuff.  So I returned them aaaaannnnnnnnnd... no one learned how to tell time last year.  So we're taking the workbook route this year - and the iPad route - we'll use Freefall Time for extra practice.


Handwriting Without Tears, Printing Power

Copy Work - in the past, this has included portions of books we've read and songs we've learned.  This year, I also purchased Quotable Saints to use for copy work.  

I think I am going to start cursive with Aaron in our second semester.  But I'm not crazy about the HWT cursive program... so I'm going to try it on my own, or use a generic cursive book. I'd appreciate any suggestions or recommendations on this one!  


Still working on proficiency.  We'll continue to work our way through the Books to Remember, Decodable Literature from Flyleaf Publishing.  I've reviewed the series here - I LOVE them, so if you're looking for K - 2 readers, check 'em out!  

We'll probably also do plenty of Frog and Toad, which Aaron really enjoys.  

Language Arts (for extra practice)

Language of God, Level A from Catholic Heritage

Daily Language Review, Grade 2 - despite the title, we probably won't do this daily, because that just sounds maddening - doing one or two questions a day - We'll probably try to finish a lesson in a week's time, even in one sitting if possible.  


Grammar of Spelling, Grade 2 - I'm really looking forward to checking out this series.  I was attracted to the fact that it's no frills and that it's reproducible.  So, if we like it, I'll stick with the program (I think it goes through 6th grade?) and I can use it for the other kiddos.  (psst - I linked to Amazon, but it's cheaper at Rainbow Resource Center.)

Dominic, Grade 1


Math U See, Alpha Level (I have a suspicion that we'll be taking it very slowly, and using the MUS on-line worksheet generator for a lot of extra practice.  And that's ok!  I'm trying to remember not to compare my own kiddos, let alone bringing their friends into the "game.")  

My Book of Easy Telling Time, Learning About Hours and Half Hours, Kumon.
and the Judy Clock stuff... (see above explanation for the necessity of fancy telling-time equipment)


Handwriting Without Tears, My Printing Book 

Copy Work, I'm thinking this year it might be nice to use the poems he memorizes for copy work, but I haven't decided yet. 


Again, we're taking it slow.  We'll keep working through the CHC Little Stories for Little Folks AND....
I'm so excited!  I finally decided to buy the Emergent Reader Series from Flyleaf Publishing!!!!!  If they are as great as the Decodable Reader series, you can bet I'll be writing up some fabulous and gushing and bordering on Flyleaf Publishing Stalker reviews.

Language Arts (for extra practice)

Daily Language Review, Grade 1


Last year with Aaron, I used the first grade spelling lists from  I planned on using the same for Dom, but at the last minute I decided to buy Building Spelling Skills, Grade 1. Knowing Dominic, I think he'll do better with a workbook to use and I think it will be better for him to start off with the shorter lists.  This book starts with lists that are only 5 words and the lists grow as the book progresses.  

Combined Lessons for both boys:
* indicates subjects they will cover at tutoring with review at home

* Grammar

English for the Thoughtful Child, Volume 1

* Latin

Song School Latin, Books 1 and 2 

* History

Story of the World, Volume 4

* Literature

Book list from Tapestry of Grace, Year 4, Lower Grammar Level - typically follows along with, and is related to, the History lesson.  (The Study Center the boys attend follows the Tapestry of Grace classical homeschooling curriculum - so we're along for the ride as far as history and lit are concerned.)


In the Fall the boys will take two classes at our local science museum - I think the topics are sort of physics related - simple machines and how to move stuff by natural and man-made means. Right up their alley! 

In the Spring, we'll very casually read aloud from Exploring Creation With Astronomy, from Apologia, and perhaps do a few experiments here and there.  

Nature Study - we'll keep looking for flora and fauna (and rocks, of course) around the neighborhood, collecting what we can for our nature tray, using our field guides, and adding to our Nature Notebooks.  


Daily Geography Practice, Grade 3  

We've also been working on identifying the continents, oceans, large countries, and other places of interest.  I'm not sure where I'll take this, but I'm hoping to add some map memorization in with our other memory work.  


Jesus Our Life, Faith and Life Series 

Child's Bible History, Rev. F. J. Knecht, D.D.

New Catholic Picture Bible - We read through this last year, about a story a week, and I was just going to do it again this year.  But I obtained a copy of The Children's Bible through a curriculum swap, so we'll probably use parts of it also.

The New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism - Well, actually, we're still waiting to hear if Aaron will be able to make his First Communion this year, but we'll be starting Sacrament prep so that he can receive his First Reconciliation at our parish. 

The Weight of a Mass, a Tale of Faith Josephine Nobisso

The King of the Golden City, Mother Mary Loyola


I typically only ask for narrations after we read Bible stories. This year I may also consider using them as we read some of the other books for religion, and perhaps for the Apologia Astronomy.  

Poetry and Other Memory Work

A year and a half ago I would have scoffed at the idea of memory work but it's actually become a significant part of our school work.  In the future I may consider a program like Classically Catholic Memory.  For this year, we are just going to wing it and use our poetry anthologies and these CD's:

World Geography Songs
States and Capitals Songs
Grammar Songs
Math U See Skip Count CD
First Language Lessons, Level 1 and 2, Companion CD
Audiobook of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses
Favorite Poems for Children (Classic Literature with Classical Music)


Last year I found that instead of one artist a month, we did better with one a quarter.  This year we will study American artists Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Norman Rockwell.  "Studying" an artist involves library books and picture study using prints from wall calendars. (TIP!  I get current year calendars in the summer discounted at 50% or more from  We also try to do an art project in the style of the artist.

For drawing, we use the Draw Write Now Series.


Like art, we'll study a new composer each quarter.  We're pretty much going in chronological order - last year we covered the Baroque and early Classical period.  I haven't decided for sure yet, but I think this year we'll focus on Beethoven, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Brahms??  Maybe?  As for resources, I don't have anything finalized yet, but in general, I recommend the Classical Kids series of stories on CD, the Masters of Classical Music series (because it covers all the well-known favorites of each composer), and the Music Masters series which includes music and short biographies.  And library books!

For singing we'll do the same as last year.  We'll learn patriotic songs, folk songs, and hymns.  For patriotic songs I like Wee Sing America (even if you don't go for children's chorus recordings in general, I still recommend this because the words and pronunciations are very clear and they sing several verses of the songs that most people only know the first of), for folk songs we've used the easy piano book Go In and Out the Window, and for hymns I borrowed a hymnal from church and made some photo copies - for personal use.  

The assessment we're using this year is the California Achievement Test.  Hope I don't regret it...  

Ruth, "pre-K" 
Ruth enjoys being part of the school day, so she gets some lessons to work on if she shows interest.  Last year she joined in for music, art, poetry and memory work, religion, and science. I'm assuming it will be the same this year.  She has a handwriting book and a vast array of letters and numbers activities.  Anything else she learns is probably because she overheard it while she was looking for leftover breakfast food under the table ;)  

We'll also continue to use our fancy shmancy iPads!  Here's my post with the apps best suited for our school lessons
Whew.  I think that's it.  We've already started this year (I'm calling summer school "early first quarter") and I'm hoping to finish at the end of May.  Dragging on into June this past year was just too painful for words.  We'll probably take off a good chunk of time at Christmas and Easter.  And we'll see what we can hold together around the time our sweet baby is born in January! 

Questions?  Comments?  I love this stuff!  I could chat books and resources all day, so let's talk! 
And thanks to Micaela at California to Korea for the fun (for us nerds) linkup!


  1. Theresa,
    You might look into Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks. She has a method of seeing basic elements of shape in objects. I used it. I have it if you want to borrow to look at it.

    1. Oh, I'd love to borrow it! I've seen it mentioned many times so I'd love to see what it's all about. Thanks! Or... you could start a homeschool art class as a side business ;) I'd sign up!

    2. Oh and I LOVE your Music CD recommendations. We Sing has been a favorite here! The kids and I even performed some of the songs for a nursing home during Summer! They loved it..... I'm going to look into those other CDs that you are using that I have not heard about until now! We are well. Baby 6 due just before yours! (Last week of December).... and closing on a home in a few weeks. (we've been renting since our move almost 2 years ago). AND I am the director of a co-op in two weeks with about 40 kdis. Fun Times. Hope I can keep my sanity!

  2. Theresa, You go girl! Don't have my complete plan yet, but for cursive, I went all over the place and finally settled on SETON! I don't use SETON otherwise, but their handwriting books are excellent in my humble opinion (I probably did 5 different cursive curriculums....didn't like HWT for that either, though I LOVED HWT for the first couple years). With the other 3 or 4 nothing seemed to "stick". I have some kids that had fine motor issues and cursive had my now 10 year old boy then 7 and 8 in tears. This year albeit one year later than I like, but one year after doing SETON daily, he is writing beautifully, and naturally. No longer a "task" and doing it for all subjects...not "just handwriting". I think cursive starts in their Handwriting 3 program though I started my 2nd grader half way through his year. Hope that helps. Signed: Your Trini friend from College...

    1. Thank you! I really appreciate the recommendation. I'll look at their cursive materials. Hope you're well!

  3. I just did cursive myself for John Paul last year. I wrote the letter then he would copy it a bunch of times! That's it! He seemed to get it although I'll need to make sure this year that it's stuck and he can use it well. Oh, and we have the astronomy book if you happen to need to borrow it! Thanks for the geography songs link :)

  4. This is wonderful, Theresa! We're doing Story of the World vol 1 this year. I bought the Jim Weiss recordings and so far so good. Surprise!

    I started Gianna with Cursive First last year. She took off with it. Of course the summer has made her veeeerrrryyy rusty, but that's okay. I think she'll be fine after some review.

    Your story about teaching time cracks me up. My kids still struggle with it, too. Let me know how using the books goes. I may just decide to do that second semester.

    and I am hoping to finally finally start doing some regular memory work. I bought some 3x5 index boxes and I hope that will help me stay on top of it.

    Thanks for linking up!

  5. Wagner? Really? I'd suggest Dvorak instead. He has some wonderful tone poems based on legends that would make for good art work and story telling.

  6. I ordered the Quotable Saints (got the last one) and Wee Sing America CD on your recommendation. My kids are always repeating or singing the things they hear. I had better make sure they hear good things!

    Do you do the Amazon affiliate program?

    My oldest knows how to tell time because when he asks if he can watch TV, I often tell him he can watch TV at a certain time when I start making dinner and I tell him what the hands will look like and he seems to have picked upon it because now he is always tells me what time it is.

  7. WHAT? Nothing scheduled for Clare??? I guess she'll use osmosis...Always LOVE to hear about the kiddos...You're amazing!!! Lots of Love...Aunt Claire

  8. I know it's "just a plan", but this looks good to me! The approach you take to homeschooling really resonates with me, and I hope I'm able to work out a similar one with my own kids in a few years. Thanks for taking all the time to share your plans and the links. I will be dropping by on this post again in the future, I'm sure!


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