We follow a classical program called The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. It is history and literature based and there is a lot of freedom to fill in the ‘specifics’ for each individual subject; Susan makes recommendations and then you must figure out what works best for your family. We have just finished our first year (May 2009), will take a few weeks totally off, and then likely do french and reading and math during the summer. I will first list what we used last year along with short ‘reviews’ of the curriculum and then tell you my plan for next year.
Math We used Saxon Math 2 this year and my 7 and 8 year old both ended up at relatively the same level. I hated it at first. The teachers’ manual gives you a ‘script’ to read and it can get long and boring. I finally learned to glance over the lesson and teach it myself—which was much better for all of us—and by the middle of the year, I did like the program. It’s very repetitive and tends to build very slowly and incrementally—which was good for my girls who are not natural math wizards. I’ve been reading and ‘shopping’ around a little and may consider Singapore next year. But if I decide to stick with Saxon, I won’t dread it—now that I’m familiar with the program, it’ll will continue to be easier to use. Math is not ‘my thing’ so I’d like to find the best possible program.
We finished the year by starting the multiplication tables. We learned the 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5, and 10’s during the school year along with the addition and subtraction facts and hope to learn the 6’s, 7’s, 8’s and 9’s this summer. I’ve ordered a Singapore workbook to try out for the summer to see if I like it better. I’ll let you know. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions.
Reading I made the mistake of ordering readers from A Beka. We’ve read those for two days and the girls hated them. Whole books written by real writers are so much better. The girls have made tremendous strides in their reading this year. Elea (1st grade) started the year with short chapter books (Magic Tree House) and is now probably reading at a fourth or fifth grade level. She’s reading Heidi right now and has recently read Stuart Little and several Boxcar Children. She’s a natural but I do attribute their fluency to the heavy memorization we’ve done along with reading a lot and listening to books on tape. Emme (2nd grade) started the year in Magic Treehouse (the harder ones) and has made tremendous strides as well. She’s read Popper’s Penguins, Stuart Little, many Boxcar Children, The Railway Children, and many others. She’s also listened to books on tape nearly every day and done a lot of memory work. She remembers amazing details about her reading and is working on summarizing stories. (not that easy for detail-oriented people). We tend to stick with classic literature for our ‘mandatory reading ( I discourage Junie B Jones and other such fluff) but they can pick anything they want at the library once they’ve picked their required list. We tried as much as possible to coordinate our reading with our history, so for example, after we studied about Cleopatra we checked out some library books about her.
This summer they both take an hour break after lunch to read or rest in their rooms. Elea is reading Heidi and Emme (8) The Secret Garden. We’re reading The Hobbit together in the mornings and they both check out 4-5 books a week at the library. I follow Susan’s advice and make them check out a biography, science book, and history book every week and then whatever else they want. They tend to choose shorter books for this since they’re reading chapter books at home. We also will continue to listen to books on tape through the summer. My girls think they can’t go to sleep at night without an audiobook!
Writing We used Classically Cursive and I wasn’t too crazy about it. I’ve shopped around at curriculum fairs and maybe handwriting is just one of those things that’s not gonna be very exciting. We mostly did copywork from classic literature and often we would copy whatever poem or scripture we happened to be memorizing at the time. I wasn’t very strict letter formation and such (although the girls complained that I was correcting them all the time) and I probably should have been. They both had already developed bad habits (holding their pencil wrong and making wrong strokes for letter formation) so I’ve tried to correct those but they continue to creep up. I will probably still use Classically Cursive as a supplement but I’m still open to trying something different.
History We used Susan Wise Bauer’s curriculum called Story of the World 1 and this was by far the girls favorite subject. We did history 2-3 days a week usually and didn’t quite finish our year yet. We studied ancient people through the fall of Rome and we really took our time when we got to the greeks and romans. I plan to finish that up this summer with some fun activities and then use SOTW 2 next year. I can’t wait. It’s an awesome program with lots of extra options to make it come alive! I have such fond memories of learning history with my girls.
Spelling We used Modern Curriculum Press’ Spelling Workout. Elea started in book A and finished book B. Emme started book B and didn’t quite finish book C. I really like this curriculum. It moves a little slow so we often did 2 or 3 lessons a week. I love the types of exercises they require and I love that it teaches spelling rules. We did the traditional spelling test on Friday and they rarely miss any words. We will continue with this program next year.
We also used Phonics Pathways and got about 3/4’s of the way through that book. We should finish it early this year.
Grammar I’m a little schizophrenic on this subject. I started with Primary Language Lessons and English for the Thoughtful Child. I didn’t love those and thought there wasn’t enough ‘meat’ in the lessons. I then purchased Shurley Grammer 1 for the homeschooler but haven’t quite taken the time to ‘learn’ it completely. So we learned all the Shurley ‘jingles’ but mostly did work from the other two books. SWB isn’t too fond of Shurley for homeschoolers and doesn’t like the way Shurley teaches sentence diagramming. That said, I’m still debating for next year.
Memory My 2nd favorite part of the day next to History! I used a book called The Harp and Laurel Wreath and just picked out ahead of time what I wanted the girls to memorize. We memorized the following poems/scriptures this year:
The Apostle’s Creed, The Moon by Robert Louis Stevenson, Days of the Week by Sara Buffington, The Creation by Cecil Francis Alexander, The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson, A Christmas Carol by GK Chesterton, The Wind by Robert Louis STevenson, The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howington (very long, we still have 2 more stanzas to go), Foreign Lands by Robert Louis Stevenson, The catechism of the Ten Commandments, I Peter 1: 3-5, 2 stanzas from Horatius at the Bridge, Deut. 6:4-9, a very long history and bible catechism that includes the days of creation, the 12 tribes of isreal, the plagues of Egypt and lots more, Psalm 8, Luke 2:8-14, a list of Roman and Greek gods and goddesses, Proverbs 24:3.4, Psalm 139:1-6.
I write all their memory work onto a large easel style flip chart and then we just recite everyday for 15 minutes or so. We filled 2 1/2 flip charts this year! We work on the new stuff first and then go back and review as much as we can. I will try this year to plan the memory work so that it coincides as much as possible with what we’re studying (in Bible or history). This is one of the reasons I don’t want to join a co-op (Classical Conversations). I want to be able to control what they memorize because this has been one of the most fun things we’ve done together. And believe me, even though I say the recitation as much as they do, they always know it by heart before me.
Bible We used Veritas Genesis through Joshua. I have mixed feelings about it but I love the ‘cards’ that come with the curriculum. The cards (there are about 30 for the whole year) have the major events of this period in Bible history, in summary form. We used the card titles as the structure for our Bible catechism. Example: The first card says Creation Genesis 1,2 and then gives the creation account. We memorized it like a catechism, so I would say the left hand column and the girls would say the right hand column
Genesis 1,2 The Creation
Day 1 God created day and night
Day 2 Heaven and earth
Day 3 Seas and Land
We did this all year and it’s impressive to hear them recite all this Bible history. When we would learn a new card, we added it to the catechism, so it didn’t seem hard to do when done in small increments. The curriculum comes with a CD and the memory is done in song form. I liked our catechism method better so we’ll likely just continue it next year with the next series. Otherwise, the curriculum or workbook itself was a little dry. I’ve thought about just ordering the cards. If you have any favorite Bible curricula, let me know.
This post is still in progress and will be updated periodically!