This is the week that it all begins. Summer is drawing to a close, and starting this week, it’s back to alarm clocks ringing in the mornings and folks expecting us to be out of our pajamas with hair brushed and looking presentable several days a week. This week marks a new season of coming and going, reuniting with friends we’ve missed over the summer, and well, just getting back into the swing of things.
If I’m being honest, this summer has not been my favorite. It’s been one of those seasons of life that you just grit your teeth and plow through, knowing that eventually you will come out on the other side no worse for the wear. While we are all still happy and healthy, it’s been a doozy of a summer around here, and quite frankly, I’m ready for some distraction.
So…Welcome to September! The McKibben’s are ready to ring in the new school year!
During the summer months, I try to amp up the kids’ schoolwork as much as possible. It’s the only time all year that we have days on end at home with no extra-curricular activities to tie up our schedule and pull us away, and I try to make the most of it by getting ahead in some subjects or getting caught up in others. Don’t worry…we still make time for plenty of swimming and play dates. We just have more time for school work because we don’t have other commitments to work around.
Every year about this time, I like to post a curriculum rundown of what we plan to accomplish this year at McKibben Elementary. The main reason I do this is so in three years I have some idea what I was doing with Edie when I get to do it all over again with Roark. These subjects start to run together after awhile, and some days, I’m doing good to tell you what we did yesterday. So the curricula list serves as a good reference for me. But another reason for the list is just because.You see, homeschool moms love to talk curricula. Really, it’s one of our favorite subjects when we get together, and we can spend hours debating the pros and cons of each one we’ve tried. So really, this is just another outlet for me to discuss that much loved topic of conversation.
So here is Edie’s fourth grade work load for the year:
Sentence Dictation/Handwriting Practice
Read! Read! Read!
MATH: It’s another year for Edie and Math U See. No big surprise here. It’s the same curriculum we’ve used from the get go. This year she will be learning all about fractions. Math U See is somewhat a unique math curriculum in that it only tackles one math concept per year, but then drills the student on that topic for the entire year. It doesn’t skip around and try to introduce the student to several concepts a little at a time. Instead, it completely explores the subject before moving onto the next. For example, last year was all about division, which meant Edie began the year being introduced to the concept of division, and by the end of the year she was dividing numbers like 73,694 by 937. Personally, I love this method of teaching math. I think it’s so much less confusing for the student. I always tell my kids that math is just a puzzle, and I like Math U See because with each lesson my kids are given a couple of new pieces to add to the puzzle until it’s finally complete at the end of the year as opposed to other math curricula where the student is trying to work on several puzzles at once that take several years to complete. All that to say, this curriculum works for us, so we are sticking with it. Hopefully, by the end of the year, Edie and I will both be masters at fractions…because let’s face it, it’s been awhile since I’ve really used fractions outside of my measuring cups!
SPELLING: Again, no surprise here, but we will be using All About Spelling for Edie’s spelling curriculum. I go through stages with this curriculum. Some years I love it, and some years I tolerate it. Right now, I am currently in a love phase with All About Spelling. It’s finally starting to come together for Edie, and I am beginning to think maybe, just maybe, the kid won’t be a horrible speller for her entire life like her mother. All About Spelling focuses on teaching the student the rules of spelling, not just memorizing spelling lists. Oh sure, there is a spelling list with each lesson, but overall, the curriculum is aiming to teach the student the rules. For example, Edie’s spelling rule for this week is that we only use -tch after a short vowel when we hear the /ch/ sound in a word. She will review this rule every day this year and add new ones each week. I really am amazed that she can keep them all those rules straight, but I’ll be danged if it isn’t working. So we are sticking with it.
WRITING: I used to think that teaching a child to read was the hardest thing I’d have to tackle in our homeschooling years. Listening to a child take fifteen minutes to sound out the word C-A-T is enough to make any mom waver on the whole schooling at home concept, but eventually, we got through it and I thought, “Oh good, the hard work is over! Everything else is just easy sailing from here on out.”Oh silly, inexperienced Leigh. You have so much to learn!
Oh my goodness, the patience required to teach someone how to read doesn’t hold a candle to writing. This subject makes me want to beat my head against a wall. Hard. Writing is so subjective anyway, and while there are some hard rules you have to follow in order to write a comprehensive paragraph, sometimes those rules are really difficult to teach.
Last year we went through IEW’s Student Writing Intensive: Level A, and truthfully, Edie was not ready for it. Around the middle of the year, I finally admitted it, and I decided to put it away for another year. We both needed a break. I like IEW, and I believe in their methods on how to teach a child to write. I really do. I have drunk their Kool-aid, and I believe it works…just not for Edie’s third grade year. So we are going to give it another go again this year. However, we are starting over and doing it differently this time around. For one, Edie will be taking an IEW writing class at our local co-op which means I won’t be the only writing teacher she has (Hallelujah! I’m not alone anymore!), and we will have someone holding us accountable on completing the assignments. This is a big deal because it was not uncommon for me to quit an assignment half-way through because we were both crying and frustrated with each other. The other thing we are doing differently is we are using a much easier IEW workbook called All Things Fun & Fascinating that’s geared towards younger students. Hindsight is 20/20, and if I had to do it over again, I would have started with something like this on the first go round. Oh wait…I do get to do it over again, in about three years with that boy child of mine! Oh joy!
GRAMMAR: Ok let’s just get all of my least favorite subjects out of the way so I can get back to covering the fun stuff. I’ve covered writing, so that must mean grammar needs to come next. Uggg! Grammar! For the past three years, I have used Language Lessons, and I think I can finally say with some conviction…I hate Language Lessons. Last year, year three, is when I finally admitted it. I would open the book to start teaching, and I could actually feel my brain going to sleep and hear it snoring inside my head. Lord help me, it was that bad. I eventually switched to Easy Grammar Grade 3, and while I’m not in love with this curriculum either, at least it’s not a complete snooze-fest. My complaint with Easy Grammar is that it is, in fact, too easy, and Edie has a tendency to rush through the work without really grasping the concept. I have to go over her work with a fine tooth comb to make sure she really gets it. On the bright side, I think I have finally found a grammar curriculum that I love. I started using it with Roark this summer, but I wanted to become a little more familiar with it before I changed curriculum on her again. So I just went ahead and bought Easy Grammar Grade 4. At least she is progressing in the subject while I continue to research it.
In her co-op IEW writing class, they will also be covering some grammar using the Fix It! Grammar curriculum. Since I don’t really know what I’m doing in this subject, I figured it couldn’t hurt to tackle it twice, right? I’ve never used Fix It! Grammar, so I can’t really offer an opinion on it yet. I’ve bought the book and browsed through it, and upon first glance, it just doesn’t seem like an all-in-one grammar curriculum to me. However, I’m waiting for her class to get started before I really judge it.
Now…let’s get back to the fun stuff!
SCIENCE: Apologia…how do I love thee? Let me count the ways! This will be our third year using an Apologia science curriculum, and I still love it. Last year we covered flying creatures and learned all about birds and bugs and pretty much, anything with wings. This year we will be covering land animals. With the Apologia curriculum, you can go in whatever order you like, meaning there’s not a “fourth grade” science book that Edie needs to cover. Each book takes a year to get through and covers one subject thoroughly which means we will be talking about land animals the entire year. With Apologia, you just cover all the elementary level books at some point during the child’s elementary years. I love this because until Edie hits 7th grade, it means Roark can read right along with us, and the kids can do science at the same time. I can work double-time, and I only have to read the chapter once! Yea!
I chose land animals because again, this class was being offered at our local co-op. Each week, I just have to read a chapter with Edie and get her to co-op, and some other wonderful, homeschooling mommy will perform all the experiments with her in class. Three cheers for co-op! Yea! Yea! Yea!
SPANISH: I took two years of Spanish in high school, and now, finally, after twenty years, I’m glad I did. While I am no where near fluent, I can at least sit next to my fourth grader and listen to her Spanish lesson and follow what’s going on. Even though I hated the subject in high school, I really want my kids to know Spanish. No matter where you stand on the whole illegal alien/amnesty issue, I just think being able to speak Spanish could open up a lot of doors for them in the future. I mean, it certainly can’t hurt, right? So we are officially starting to learn Spanish this year. So far, Edie is enjoying it. After much research, I chose the Spanish for You! curriculum. Overall, it had good reviews and was easy on the wallet. It’s not an all in one Spanish curriculum like Rosetta Stone, but I figured, some Spanish is better than no Spanish which is what we were currently doing.
We started the lessons in July, and so far, it seems to be going well. Edie is enjoying it. When you purchase the curriculum, they email you files to download. Some of the files are audio, and some of the files are worksheets and lesson plans. I thought it was all confusing at first, trying to make heads or tails of it, but I eventually figured it out. Right now, that’s my only complaint with the curriculum.
HISTORY: This year we are going to try lapbooking our way through American History. While lapbooking is time consuming and involved, my kids absolutely love this method of learning. We made a lapbook over the summer while studying Alabama history, and they ate up every minute of it. We covered all kinds of boring topics about our state, but it didn’t matter. As long as they had scissors in one hand and a glue stick in the other, they happily listened and then begged me to quiz them at the end of each day.
Like Science, history is a good subject to complete with both kids at the same time, so I only have to teach it once a day. But since Edie is so much ahead of Roark, I wasn’t sure how to do it. Then a friend told me about a history lapbooking and timeline curriculum called Home School in the Woods. I thought this might be a fun way to introduce Roark to history. We are going to try it first with the Civil War and see how it goes.
READING COMPREHENSION: This subject was really just an after thought. Halfway through the year last year, I realized that I needed something Edie could work on independently while I worked with Roark. So I went to Amazon to see what I could find. I came across these little workbooks, and they have worked nicely.
BIBLE: We will be participating in Community Bible Study again this year. One of the things I love about CBS is that Edie studies the exact same scripture I am studying each day. It’s so much easier to teach something I have been studying myself. Then, we both get to spend an hour or so a week in a class with our friends discussing the scripture as well. It’s a double whammy on the bible, and we are both really benefiting from it.
SENTENCE DICTATION/HANDWRITING: Several times a week, I dictate four sentences from her spelling lessons and she has to write it on paper in cursive. She is not only practicing good handwriting skills, but she also has to spell everything correctly and have perfect punctuation. I still think this is a good exercise for her. So we will continue to do it.
PIANO: This past week while on a field trip with some friends, we were touring an old church. Our tour guide asked if any of the students wanted to play the piano for our little mock church service, and Edie was the only kid to volunteer. She confidently walked up to the front of the church, sat down at the piano, and proceeded to play the theme song to Charlie Brown flawlessly from memory. I beamed with pride and thought, “It’s for moments like this that we have spent all that money on piano lessons.” This will be Edie’s fourth year taking piano lessons, and I couldn’t be happier with her progress. Not only is she learning to read music and play an instrument, the piano is teaching her to feel confident about herself and her abilities. Money well spent.
READING: We read like crazy around here. We constantly have books strewn about across the furniture where kids have left them. We listen to books on CD while driving in the car. I read aloud to them several nights a week, and then each kid has to earn screen time by silently reading each day. My hope is that my children will still be readers when they are old and grey. If for some reason they aren’t, it won’t be because I didn’t try to teach them to love books when they were younger.