For those of you living in the North East, how did you like all that snow on Easter Monday? It’s hard to believe that spring is here, but it really is here! Princess brought me some daffodils she picked from our front lawn – happy proof that warm weather is on its way and our school year will be winding down.
I always think about the next year’s curriculum in April. Planning curriculum in the early spring keeps things realistic. I’m still vividly aware of what we are doing well and what keeps getting pushed to the side. When I’m tempted to throw extra curriculum into the plan, the reality of this year’s juggling act keeps me in check. Spring planning also gives me a chance to create a shopping list so I don’t impulse shop at home school conferences (the curse of the curriculum junkie!)
Just in case any of you are doing some spring planning, I thought I’d share some of our favorite curriculum from this year.
The Oldies but the Goodies: Tried and true, these are books we have used for several years and serve as a staple in our home school.
This beautiful allegory makes wonderful spiritual reading for children. The guide helps them to recognize the symbolism and to think more deeply about what they have read.
Friendly Defenders Flash Cards (Gr. 6-8)
Our children need to know how to recognize false teachings about the church and to defend their faith. Each week, my kids memorize 1 or 2 cards and review previously learned cards. My oldest daughter who is now in highschool says these have helped her uphold church teachings at school.
Handwriting Without Tears Cursive (Gr. 3-5)
I love books that my kids can use independently. Handwriting Without Tears cursive books (grades 3-5) are so clear in their instructions that my kids teach themselves how to write in cursive with their series.
All About Spelling (Grades 1-7)
Here’s one series that kids can’t use independently. However, the effort that you put in as teacher is well worth it. My children really master the spelling rules.
Words are like colors on a painter’s palette. The more words a child knows, the better his reading comprehension and the more expressive his writing style. Plus, a rich vocabulary is essential for performing well on standardized tests. This series can be done independently by students in about 10-15 minutes a day. It not only enriches their vocabulary, it also teaches them test-taking skills such as analyzing analogies. Before you pay the full price at Kolbe, see if you can get these books used at Amazon. To save the books so siblings can reuse them, I have my kids write out the answers in a notebook (This also gives them extra spelling practice!).
Primary Mathematics by Singapore Math (Gr. 1-6)
For those of you who follow this blog, you know how much I like this series. This challenging math program is not for the faint of heart, but it does make children strong in problem solving and mental math skills. I wax (somewhat) eloquently about it here (lesson plans) and here (tips on teaching).
And now for our New Favorites: These books are new to us last year or this year. We have found them to be excellent and effective.
Pentime cursive (Gr. 3-6)
The Handwriting Without Tears books are great, but my kids finish them midway through the year. For extra practice, we use these Pentime Cursive books which provide interesting facts about nature for the children to copy.
Voyages in English 2011 ed. (gr. 5-8)
Over the years we’ve tried out many different grammar programs, and this is the most comprehensive one I have found. Each day, students learn and practice a new grammatical concept. They also analyze and diagram one sentence as part of a continual review. We use the textbooks, practice books, and test books. The textbook is so well written that my kids are able to use this program mostly independently. After reading the explanation in text, they do the work in the practice book. In each grade level, the same concepts are presented and expanded upon. Thus, my kids really learn the rules of grammar and can identify all the different parts of speech within a sentence.
Note: The Teacher’s Manual is so expensive that I only get the answer key for the practice book and test book. Because we use IEW for writing, we do not use the writing part of the text.
Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons (Gr. 5-7)
I am such a big fan of the Institute of Excellence in Writing, and I find Lori Verstegen’s history-based writing lessons particularly effective. Teaching boys to write is not an easy task, but these lessons really help them to organize their thoughts and to write with (relative) elegance. By the way, A Word Right Now is an excellent resource for helping your kids find the right words to express their ideas.
and Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology (Gr. 7-8)
It’s taken a lot of experimenting with different science curricula, but finally this year I’ve decided that Apologia Science is the way to go for grades 5-8. Previously I thought that the Apologia texts were too wordy, even though Big Sis had once done the Botany book and had learned a lot. However, after Feisty and All-Star struggled with science texts that were not clear enough in their explanations, we switched mid-year to the Apologia texts and notebooking journals. (Thanls to Sue’s recommendations!) I’m glad we did. Both boys enjoyed science so much more, and they learned an impressive amount!
Quizlet is an excellent online tool for practicing science vocabulary. Several homeschoolers have posted their Apologia quizzes there, and anyone can use them. Some quizzes even include diagrams and pictures. So, the boys used quizlet to learn and memorize the oodles of science terms.
One little tip: if you use any of the Apologia texts, find and print out pictures for the notebooking journals before the school year begins. This will save a lot of time during the school year.
Also: The Apologia texts push the idea of literal creationism, which is not something Catholics are required to believe. You may want to discuss these ideas when they come up in the texts.
Mystery Science (Gr. K-4)
I learned about these online lessons last year when our homeschooling science club began using this program. Each video lesson begins with a question inviting students to wonder about a scientific topic. Little by little, the teacher on the video gives clues to the mystery, stopping throughout to give students a chance to discuss their thoughts. Finally, the students do simple experiments which lead to the answer to the original question. Forms to record data and assessment sheets for each lesson are available for printing out. This program is neither systematic nor thorough, but it does cover a wide variety of topics and, more importantly, it really encourages children to think, wonder, and observe. The current membership fee is $69/yr. Sparky *really* enjoyed these lessons.
Want to see more of my favorite school books? Here are my favorite books by grade. You can also go to the home page and click on the “curriculum” tab to find them.
What are some of your favorite curricula this year? Happy planning!