Monday, June 6, 2016

2015-2016 Read Aloud List

In the years past, I have always planned out my read aloud list for the year.  I am a planner.   It is a sickness I cannot control.  :)   I typically lay out 36 weeks of read alouds that correspond to our history or science studies---and sprinkle in some "for fun" books from the Sonlight literature lists.  However, in all of the years,I have homeschooled, I have NEVER stuck with my plan.  Never.   I always add in books and skip books.   I am always in some sort of flux of running "ahead" or falling "behind" my arbitrary schedule.    I started to realize that all of my planning does nothing but make me feel guilty when I fall short of the plan.

This year, I have decided to be more laid back when it comes to reading aloud.  It's all part of my new 'schole' mindset.  I have decided to purposely try to "teach from a state of rest".   (SERIOUSLY.   Go read that book.  It is life changing.)     For some people, rest comes naturally.   I am not that person.

 SO---Instead of planning and scheduling everything, my plan is to just find a good book...and read it!  I still have a list of books that I want to read--but I will no longer suffer from the guilt of being "behind" or "ahead".

For that reason, I will be keeping a running list of the books we have read together as a family on this page.   I will be updating it often as we finish a book.


At the Beginning of the year, we fell into sort of a "Ramona Quimby rabbit hole".   My children love Ramona's character.  As an adult, I find that Beverly Cleary is a genius when it comes to capturing the heart of a child at all of these various ages.   Reading these books is like growing up all over again.  I am not sure how she can remember so accurately the way children think or feel about the world at all of these different ages, but she does a wonderful job.   As a mother, I found that these books helped me to remember what it can feel like to be a child.   It has helped me be more understanding and look for the good intentions in some of the seemingly crazy things my kids do!   (Yes, my kids sometimes DO act like Ramona!) 

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary
Ramona and her Father by Beverly Cleary

Next, we moved on to the Little House series.   My third-grade teacher read these aloud to me, and I loved them.   I have been saving them to read to the kids.  

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On The Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (Sophie Only)
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Fable and Myth

D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire (Only part of this book)

Jataka Tales (Part of English Lessons Through Litterature) (Only part of this book)

Aesop Fables (Part of English Lessons Through Litterature) (Only part of this book)

Shakespeare Retellings

The Young Reader's Shakespeare: Hamlet by Adam McKeown

Julius Caesar by Adam McKeown


Columbus by Edgar Parin D'Aulair and Ingri D'Aulair

Cleopatra by Diane Stanley


(Various Poems by reading a poem per day from English Lessons Through Litterature)...

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Science and History

We finally finished Story of the World volume 1.  We started this book in 2013.  (Blush)  But it felt SO good to mark this as complete!

Child's History of the World by V.M. Hilyer (Only part of this book)

We also finished Quark Chronicles Botany.   This was such a great book.   We had a lot of fun reading it together this year.   

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Laying an Education Feast: 2015-2016 Curriculum Choices (Updated at the End of Year!)

UPDATED at the End of the Year!   
Now that we have finished our school year, I thought it might be nice to go back and update this list with what we actually did.  :)   (The plan doesn't always mesh with reality.)  I will also share some of my thoughts on these curriculum choices after using them for an entire year.   Updates will be in red.  

Hi, Everyone!
After much planning, I am finally ready to share my curriculum choices for the upcoming school year.   This list may look like a lot...and it is!   (I tend to put the LIBERAL in a classical liberal arts education!)  However, I think of curriculum choices as setting a huge banquet before my children.   At any banquet or feast--one is not expected to consume everything on the table!  Instead, a well laid 'educational' banquet gives us the opportunity for exposure to a wide variety of pursuits and interests.  For that reason, I have titled this post, "Laying the education banquet".

I also want to clarify what the word curriculum really means.   As one of my favorite authors, Sarah Mackenzie wrote, "Curriculum is not something you buy....Curriculum is life, and life cannot be contained within the pages of a book."  (Seriously...go read that article. It's really good.  I'll wait right here.)   In other words, this post is nothing more than a list of books or resources.   These books are tools.   They will not educate my children alone...nor are we limited to the confines of their pages.

This year I will be homeschooling three lovely children:   
  • Marcus will be 8 entering 3rd grade;   
  • Sophie will be 7  entering the 2nd grade;   
  • And Joseph will be 2 (majoring in cuteness and general mayhem.)   
Even though Marcus and Sophie are 'technically' in different grades according to their age, we tend to allow both kids to work at their own pace on any given subject.   In other words, we meet each child where they are at skill-wise on any given subject.   So I am calling this "3rd and 2nd Grade"--but those are really just arbitrary labels.   What works in my home may not work in yours.  Your second grader may be further ahead or a need a slower pace.
 This is a LONG post filled with all of those juicy details that you homeschool-mamas love.   So without further ado, I present my 2015-2016 Curriculum Choices.

Please don't think we typically do math outside in front of hydrangea bushes!  Its just on the rare days we do, this mama takes a lot of pictures.   :)


Singapore Standards 3A (HIG, Textbook, and Workbook)
Singapore Standards 3B (HIG, Textbook, and Workbook)
Xtra Math or Timez Attack

Singapore Challenging Work Problems-2nd Grade
Beast Academy

End of year update:   I have decided that Xtra Math is the single best way to drill math facts.   It may not be as fun as Timez Attack, but it is effective when done consistently.   Plus, it takes less than 5 minutes to complete.    So that is what we used to drill math facts daily.

We also never really used the two supplements that I have listed above.  This may seem like common sense to many of you, but I learned that doing TWO complete math programs is a bit of an overkill.   I love the looks of Beast Academy, but we just couldn't find the time in the day to add it in.   I also didn't find the need to add in more word problems.   The standard Singapore workbook had plenty of practice to meet our needs.   

It may seem like we have a lot of different math books listed up there, but we are a family who LOVES math.    I also believe that math is a concept that needs to be over practiced.   You can always reach a deeper understanding when it comes to math.  You never run out of things to learn.

Our main math curriculum will be Singapore standards.  The kids are thriving with this math program.   They consistently test many grade levels ahead and math.   And perhaps most importantly, they enjoy learning the "Singapore" way.

We have a few lessons to finish up in Singapore 2B, and then we will start with Singapore 3A.   I have given up stressing about what book we are in when we start and stop the school year.   Instead, we work diligently towards 100% mastery in math.   I have seen so many kids struggle in upper level math because they have a weak foundation in the basics.   So instead of rushing to complete a book before some arbitrary end of the school year, we spend as long as we need to master the material.

We will also be sprinkling in a few supplements as we have time.  Some days we warm up with the Singapore Math Challenging Word Problems book.   And trust me, they are not exaggerating when they say Challenging!   These problems are difficult, but we are not a family who runs away from a challenge!  In fact, we love 'hard' math problems.   I have found that the majority of our learning comes from the struggle in reaching a solution.   And it is a great character lesson in perseverance.   We are using a book that is a grade level behind from their regular math as another way of reviewing.

On a whim, I have also decided to test out Beast Academy.    We will be working through those books when we feel like we need a change....sprinkling them in as we have the time and inclination.   (We will probably NOT finish these.   So don't think we are doing two math programs.)   Beast Academy is another math program that encourages conceptual understanding and deep thinking as opposed to rote problem solving.   Again, the problems in these books are quite challenging.
Raising bookworms!


Sonlight Grade 3 readers (plus library books)
NOTE:  We do not use the Sonlight language arts package.   I love Sonlight, but their language arts products were not a good fit for our family.  We just use their suggested books and readers schedule.

One Minute Reader
All About Reading 4
Reading Detective

End of year update
:   Our "reading" subject this year basically consisted of the kids reading aloud to me for 20-30 minutes per day from really good books.   We would informally discuss these books so that I could subtly judge their comprehension.   My main goals were to  1) increase their reading level, 2)  build fluency; teach kids to read aloud smoothly and elegantly, 3) raise children who love to read.   (Hence no 'comprehension workboooks', quizes, reports, etc.)   

The kids made huge progress in reading this year.   We not only met our goals, but we exceeded them.   I had several friends tell me that I was scheduling too much reading aloud practice in our day, but my gut told me that that was what my kids needed.   And I am glad I listened to my instincts!  Looking back, I know it was time well invested.   

The Sonlight readers were a huge hit this year.   I really like how Sonlight staggers easier readers with more difficult readers.   That really helped to increase their reading level while also giving them practice reading fluently.

We also added in some history and science selections at their reading level.   

We only used One Minute Reader a few times.   I pulled out Reading Detective and did a few lessons.   However, I realized that it was busy work.   I personally think that reading and narrating is a much better use of our time.  

This year will be all about practice, practice, practice when it comes to reading.   So our main reading lesson time will be devoted to listening to both kids read aloud for 30 minutes per day.   I will also be encouraging independent reading whenever and however possible.

We are using Sonlight's Grade 3 Readers package as our book list base.   However, we quickly run out of books when we read for 30 minutes per day.   So I also allow the kids to choose level appropriate titles of interest from the library to read.  (Sometimes Mommy picks the book; other times they get to pick.)

I will also be supplementing our reading lesson as needed with several other resources.  I will use these as I see a need.
  • The One Minute reader app works on fluency and prosody through repeated oral readings.   
  • Reading Detective works on comprehension.
  • And All About Reading 4 will be for advanced phonics instruction.   We have finished about half of this book but put it on hold for awhile.  I could tell the kids needed pure practice before moving ahead. 


All About Spelling 3 and then start 4

nd of year update:   I ended up separating the kids in spelling.    It is like a switch went off in Marcus's head with spelling this year.   All of the sudden he just started naturally knowing how to spell words.   He not only finished AAS 3, he also made it to lesson 20 of AAS 4.   

Sophie, on the other hand, was still really struggling.   No matter how much we practiced our All About Spelling words, she could not remember how to spell them.   So, I ended up switching her to a program made especially for dyslexic students called Apples and Pears spelling book A which she completed.    She seemed to do better with a morpheme spelling program.   

We ended last year about 1/3 of the way through All About Spelling 3.   Like math, I believe that spelling needs to be over practiced for success.  I also believe that it is worth going at your own pace to build a strong foundation in this subject.   So, we move as fast or as slow as we have to in order to master the spelling concepts.   So my plan is to work diligently and start book 4 whenever we get there.

For now, I have both my 7-year-old and 8-year-old combined in spelling.   HOWEVER, I honestly don't know if this will work long term.   In a perfect world, I would probably split them into two separate spelling lessons; I just haven't found a way to make that happen in reality.

Both kids are whizzes in math....but both kids struggle with reading and spelling.  This means that they both require a very teacher intensive program to learn to spell.   Independent workbooks or traditional spelling lists are NOT going to cut it with these kids.  My 8 year old seems to be thriving with the Orton-Gillingham based methods used in All About Spelling.  However, my 7 year old would probably benefit from a morpheme-based approach to spelling.  (Perhaps Apples and Pears?)   For now, I am going to keep them combined and move at a slower pace---however, you may see me making a switch later on this year.  ;)


Song School Latin 1 and Song School Latin 2

End of year Update:   We only made it through Song School Latin 1 this year.   However, our introduction to Latin was a huge success.   My goal was to help the children fall in love with Latin, and that goal was accomplished.   We will start Song School Latin next year.   See my complete review of Song School Latin here.  

Latin a new subject for us this year.   I was all set to use Prima Latina by Memoria Press.  (See my review here.)   However, after looking at my subject line up in the context of reality, I knew I had to makes some cuts somewhere.  I just wasn't going to be able to cram it all in no matter how hard I tried!  :)   I made some priority calls, and I decided to switch to a 'less intense' version of Latin.   The kids are both in the upper age range of Song School Latin 1.  This means the program will probably feel easy for them and be a bit easier for me to teach.    So we will move through the Song School program at a quicker pace.   We may switch to Prima Latina next year.  I love all of the bells and whistles that come with Classical Academic Press products (DVDs, fun cartoons, songs, etc.)---but I feel like the layout of Memoria Press makes more sense when it comes to foreign language

Composition and Grammar:

Treasured Conversations  (Completed part one, the first 8 weeks worth of lessons)
Evan Moore Daily Language Review-2nd Grade

Impromptu Adds (Not in the original plan):
First Language Lessons 3,  
Classical Academic Press Writing and Rhetoric Fable (One term, did not complete)
Dictation from Spelling Wisdom
English Lessons Through Litterature 2 (For Sophie, 2nd Grade)
English Lessons Through Litterature 3 (for Marcus, 3rd Grade)
The Most Writing Lesson Ever (teacher resource)

End of Year Update:   I feel like we had a really good year with learning to write.    As you can see, we used a variety of things to work on composition and grammar.   Unlike math, I feel like it is OK to use a variety of resources when teaching a child to write.   Language is an art.   When I saw a weakness, I would find a resource which would help with that specific area.   When I saw a strength, I would attempt to allow it to shine in their writing.   

The variety made teaching writing really fun.   Plus, I feel like this is a better plan than just mindlessly checking off boxes and completing books.   Completing a book does not necessarily produce a good writer.    

We started the year off combined.   However, like spelling,  I ended up separating the kids into separate lessons halfway through the year.   They are no longer working at the same level, and this made the most sense.  

The first quarter, we did the first 8 weeks of Treasured Conversations (which I loved!).   We also added in some prepared dictation from Spelling Wisdom.   (Love that program too!)

Next, we continued with First Language Lessons 3 and added CAP Writing and Rhetoric book 1.  (It was OK but doesn't provide a lot of assistance with improving your writing.  I will not be completing this book or this series.)    

Finally, we spend the last half of the year using English Lessons Through Litterature 2 (for Sophie) and 3 (for Marcus).   I really love this program.   I have been telling everyone who will listen how great it is.   We only made it through half of these books and will continue where we left off next year.    Marcus also started on writing a book called "Phoenix Slayer".   :)  

I used the book The Most Wonderful Writing Lesson Ever as a teacher resource to help me give quality feedback on their writing.   I highly recommend that book.  

Composition wise, my goals for 3rd grade include teaching the kids to write strong sentences and eventually strong paragraphs given a topic sentence.   I looked (and actually purchased...blush) several different writing programs.   However, I finally settled on Treasured Conversations.   It covers strong sentence writing, paragraph writing, outlining and note taking.   It also teaches the parts of speech in relation to grammar.

We are also using Evan Moore's Daily language review to work on mechanics, vocabulary, alphabetizing, and a host of other skills not covered in Treasured Conversations.   All in all, this is a light year for us when it comes to grammar.   However, my REAL focus is on original paragraph writing.   I will hit the grammar aspect harder next year.

Sophie completing a very messy "archaeological" dig in my kitchen!


Finish Story of the World 1-Greek and Romans
(Book, Activity Guide Map Work, and Audiobook)

Last year we finished up the first 20 chapters (or so) of Story of the World Volume 1.   I was originally planning on trying to get through the whole book--but that just didn't happen.   So we will pick up where we left off.  Last year our main focus was on the ancient Egyptians.  This year our focus will be on the ancient Greeks and Romans.   (And there is PLENTY to cover when it comes to that topic!)

End of Year Update:   For once, I have nothing to add or change in this area.   We did what we set off to do!   I still love Story of the World, and we are going to continue with it next year.  


Visualize World Geography-Africa, Middle East, Greece, and Rome
Shepherd Software

We will continue using the Visualize World Geography program.   I purchased the old (and now out of print) book version of the program instead of the more expensive DVD program.    We will finish up learning all of the countries in Africa, and then we will start learning the countries of the Middle East and Mediterranean.   We are loosely tying this into our history studies.

We also utilize Shepherd Software to review.   It is something the kids can do independently, and it helps keep our past geography lessons fresh in their mind.

End of Year Update:   Geography was a success this year.   The kids can now identify EVERY country in North America, South America, Africa, and Europe.   That is a huge accomplishment.   

We are still learning the continents of Asia and the general "Oceania" area.   That will be our goal for next year.  After that, I am not sure what we will do for geography.   Maybe some physical geography study?   Or some cultural study of the different places?   Or possibly learn to draw the continents?   So many choices.   

Learning the "grammar" of geography at an early age has been a really wonderful thing.   Whenever they hear a place mentioned in a living history book, on the news, or in a movie, they now have some frame of reference for where that place is.   It allows them to have some mental pegs to hang the information on.   


Waseca Introduction to Biomes
Quark Chronicles-Botany (maybe Zoology)

End of Year Update:   We had a great year of science using Quark Chronicles Botany as a read aloud.   Plus, lots and lots of great living science readers.    The kids enjoyed some hands on projects using the website Mystery Science.  We also did a lot of gardening and nature study this year.   

My original plan was to move into Chemistry this year.  However, I decided to give the kids another year to mature and do a biome study instead.   It should be a great way to tie in Earth Science, Biology... and even geography.  We will use the free download and supplement it with LOTS and LOTS of living science book read alouds.   We will be getting together with friends once per week to complete the activities in the guide, and then doing the reading at home in preparation.

Speaking of living books, we are going to be reading through the new living book science program "Quark Chronicles"throughout the year.   It looks like a LOT of fun.  If there is time, we will also dive into Zoology.

Memory Work:

History Sentences
History Timeline
Science Sentences

End of Year Update:   We organized all of our memory work into a very sophisticated electronic flashcard too called ANKI.   It is completely free, and I highly recommend it.   It does take some time to get it set up.  However, this was a great investment for us.   

Our memory work comes from a variety of sources.   Much of it comes from the book Living Memory as well as the Classical Conversations foundations book and CD.  However, I also use quite a bit of "mama-made"memory work.   I basically take a list, date, or definition and set it to music for the kids to sing.

I import these into a play list in iTunes, and we listen to them in the car or while we are cleaning.   We will also continue to review the English Grammar lists and definitions from First Language Lessons. Our bible memory work comes from Seeds Family worship.


Most of our electives are covered in various homeschool clubs that I am a part of.   Some of these I have volunteered to start, and others are run by friends of mine.    I do this on purpose because it keeps me accountable to complete these electives.   Otherwise I am tempted to skip these important extras.   We meet once per month at a library or park to cover these electives as a group.   Afterwards the kids stick around to play. So it builds socialization into our week too.  In the summer, we typically go to a playground to play.   In the winter, we bring chess and other board games and play those.

 Our electives are listed below....


IEW Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization

I love this program.   It is a continuation from last year so we will pick up where we left off and continue to review the poems memorized from last year.   We also love the CD that comes with the program.  (Andrew Pudewa does a wonderful job reciting the poetry.)


How to Teach your Children Shakespeare
Coville Retellings
Young Readers Retellings
BBC Shakespeare Animated Series

I am helping to host a Shakespeare club this year.   This year we are going to be studying  Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Twelfth Night, The Tempest, and Midsummers Night's Dream.   I hope this is not too many plays for one year.   However, this is my first year running the program so we will have to see.

Bird Club

This year, we also joined a bird club.   We are using the new Simply Charlotte Mason Learning about Birds curriculum as our spine.   At home, we read a chapter from the Burgess Bird Book, color a picture of the bird, and narrate something interesting that we learned about the bird.   We meet as a group once per month to discuss the bird we are learning about and then try to spot it.   The kids are also keeping a running "bird log" of the birds they have spotted this year.

Nature Study Club

Our nature study club will study the following topics:
August- crayfish
September- bison
October- buckeye trees
November- Squirrels
December- No meeting
January - constellations
February- pine trees
March- maple trees

We do the reading at home and then meet once per month as a group to look for these things and observe them in nature.

End of Year Update:   Nature study kind of fell by the wayside this year.   I send the kids out occasionally to do some nature study in our backyard.   However, nothing was focused.   I felt OK though because we were doing some nature appreciation in bird, we did a lot with plants in our Botany exploration in science.   

Music Appreciation 

To be determined....
Art Club:  Our art curriculum includes lots of visits to our local museum with friends!

Visual Arts

Mama-made art program.

Physical Education

Homeschool Gym
Swim Lessons


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