Christian and Abbie started baseball this week! I love how their little league makes sure everyone gets two chances to bat each night (and the coaches pitch the balls so they usually hit it), and they also make sure the kids get to be in a variety of positions (tonight Abbie got to be in outfield, Christian was on 3rd base and got to be catcher). They are having so much fun!
It's the time of year when homeschool curriculum is going on sale and it's time to make choices about what curriculum we'll be using for the 2015-2016 school year. Last year was my first year homeschooling and the process of choosing curriculum was really hard and scary, but this year I found it enjoyable to be able to figure out what will be best for Christian (going into 3rd grade) and Abbie (going into 1st grade). Some subjects were working well so we're sticking with the same curriculum and some subjects needed a change.
I had Christian and Abbie take standardized tests this year and we will probably do this every year. It was important to me to see where they're ranking with other children their age, so I know if there are any subject areas that need improvement. When choosing curriculum this year their scores gave me confidence to "keep up the good work" in areas where they did well and showed be some areas that we needed to work harder on.
For Bible we use Christian Schools International's "Walking with God and His People." It's really expensive, but we really loved their systematic scope and sequence and the curriculum is excellent! I learn something every day too!
CSU Bible: http://store.csionline.org/curriculum-overviews/bible.html
For Reading Christian is advanced (93rd percentile) so this year instead of normal curriculum I'm going to be purchasing "Progeny Press" Study Guides. Each month Christian will read an age appropriate classic book (Charlotte's Web, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Sarah Plan and Tall, etc.) and really study the book by doing vocabulary work, answering analysis questions, and doing little projects.
Progeny Press: http://stores.progenypress.com/upper-elementary/
Abbie is also advanced in reading (94th percentile) so this year I wanted to provide her with more challenging curriculum then what we used last year as it was very basic and I had to purchase a lot of supplemental reading material to challenge her. This year I'll be using Alpha and Omega's "Horizons" Phonics/Reading program. The student reader books she will read look like they'll be a good challenge (but not too hard) and the phonics pages were basically exactly what I was looking for in phonics worksheets. I'm excited to really challenge her next year as this year has been a little too easy.
For Math we use Alpha and Omega's "Horizons" program. It's overall known to be the most challenging math curriculum which I LOVE – our kiddos both scored in the 99th percentile for math this year. Some parents find it too difficult, but I haven't found it too hard for my kids. I don't do all the recommended "drilling" for each day, but just have the kids focus on learning the concepts and completing their daily worksheets.
For Spelling/Vocabulary we’re making a change this year to "Horizons" because I wasn't thrilled with what we used last year for Christian ("A Reason for Spelling"). He scored in the 99th percentile for spelling, but I just felt that the curriculum didn't work super well for a homeschooler and that he needed more of a challenge. Abbie also starts spelling this year for the first time and I'm excited that this curriculum incorporates Vocabulary too because she scored low in vocabulary (40th percentile) so we need to work on this area.
We’re adding the subject of Health to our curriculum this year, and we'll be using "Horizons" for this as well.
For Science and Heritage Studies we have been using Bob Jones University curriculum and we'll continue using it this year. They have an excellent scope and sequence system which is really important to me. For science they also have a ton of hands on activities which Christian just loves.
BJU Science: http://www.bjupresshomeschool.com/store/category_Science____559359
BJU Heritage Studies: http://www.bjupresshomeschool.com/store/category_Heritage-Studies____559354
For Handwriting we use "A Reason for Handwriting." The print and cursive are very traditional which was important to me. This year Christian did the "T" transition year to learn cursive and it was just wonderful – slow and steady and now he can write beautifully in cursive. The "K" writing wasn't quite enough assignments for Abbie this year, so we also did part of the "Level A" writing workbook this year. Next year she'll finish "Level A" and do "Level B." I feel like with handwriting it's hard to go wrong when choosing curriculum. As long as they are doing something to practice good penmanship it's fine. I also have Christian and Abbie write a lot of letters to long distance friends.
A Reason for Handwriting: http://www.areasonfor.com/handwritinginfohome.html
Christian and Abbie didn't do stellar in the area of "Word Analysis" on their standardized tests. Christians was 66th percentile and Abbie was 68th percentile. Word Analysis is basically understanding phonics and word parts/structure, so to buff them up a little in this area I got "Spectrum Phonics & Word Study" workbooks for each of them, so hopefully they'll be able to brush up on these skills next year.
Also, next year Christian will be taking a recorder class through the "West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts" program. The Recorder Class is a great and fun way to introduce Christian to basic music principles so he can learn note recognition and rhythm. When he's in 4th grade he can then choose a band or orchestra instrument.
Finally, on Friday Christian and Abbie will continue taking part in their all day "extracurricular activies" group. Each Friday they'll take classes in Art, Spanish, Karate, Music, Physical Education, and Science, so they get a chance to participate in all those special classes, be part of 15-20 student classes, and receive interaction with different teachers.