Thursday, July 18, 2019

Homeschool: How I Write my own Curriculum

I don't really like to be told what to do. I love seeking out lots of ideas and wisdom, but then I like to take that gathered information and do with it what I want. This is true for me in a lot of areas of life, including homeschooling.

So it's no surprise, I suppose, that I don't use one of the hundreds of ready-made homeschool curriculums available but instead write my own. Writing your own curriculum isn't for everyone, but I absolutely love it and find joy in it, and I want to share how I do so for those who might be interested. 

I am currently planning my third official year of homeschooling, as my daughter heads into third grade. We did a few fun and light years of homeschooling in pre-school and kindergarten, but we officially begin schooling at age 6, so that's when I begin to plan a full curriculum. We use the Charlotte Mason method, so everything I plan for our curriculum is based off of her methods.

STEP ONE: And I'll pause here to say that's truly your first step- deciding on the method of education you want to follow and/or your reasons for homeschooling. Otherwise you'll end up with a hodge podge mix of loose curriculum with no sequence, and you'll probably end up switching every year as well. Following Charlotte Mason's method gives me a foundation for everything I do in homeschooling and truly gives me the backbone I need as I plan my year.

STEP TWO: I begin by purchasing the scheduling cards through A Delectable Education. With these, I am able to work out my weekly schedule, to make sure I don't miss a subject, and to make sure I know how many times we will cover a subject in a week.

Once I lay out all the scheduling cards, I have a schedule that amounts to classes for 2 1/2 hours every day from Monday-Friday. I can't share an exact schedule as the cards are the private ownership of A Delectable Education, but seriously- they're only $5! Best $5 I ever spent! This will be the third year I re-use them too! (Next year I will have to buy another $5 set as we add in some new subjects for 4th-6th grade.)

STEP THREE: Then I look at each of my subjects, and I start filling in what I need for each. Literally, it's about as easy as that! But I will walk you through each subject and let you know where I go to find what I need. Scroll down to after Step 5, and I'll walk you through each subject. The subjects we cover in form 1 (1-3 grade), are listed below. If you're unsure of what types of subjects to cover in each grade, go back to step two and purchase those scheduling cards! You can also check out A Delectable Education's Subjects by Form page.

Natural History
Physical Education
Music Appreciation
Art Appreciation

STEP FOUR: As I'm filling in different slots, I make a list of books I need. Some of these I will purchase and some I will get from the library. It helps to write out each list, and it's especially nice to have your library list all ready to go when it's time to get the books at the beginning of the school year. 

STEP FIVE: Make a folder on your computer of all the things you need to print before the school year. For us, this includes songs, recitations, geography maps, pictures for Spanish class, sometimes a map or artwork for Bible, and solfa and piano printables. You could certainly print them as you come to each subject and work on it, but for me it is easiest to keep it all in a folder and print it all at once.

STEP SIX: I don't worry about having every day planned out at the beginning of the year. I don't always know how many pages we'll get through in a book in a day, and sometimes life happens and we might not even get to a book (public school teachers have told me the same happens to them ;)). Therefore, I just have my general outline for the year ready (and I actually mostly worry just about one term at a time... I plan some things for the whole year, but I focus especially on the term in front of me)... all the books planned, artist prints ready, a youtube playlist with songs ready, maps, songs, recitations, and pictures needed printed off, and then I do a little planning (keyword- very little!) at the beginning of each week, simply to make sure I have all these things in order. Then I do what I affectionately call "reverse planning." I have a planner, and every day when we finish our school day, I write down what we did that day. That helps me keep track of page numbers we finished on or artist prints we studied. Then the next time we circle back to that book or subject, we pick up where we left off. 


Charlotte Mason had a program for Bible. It's actually really simple- you just read the actual Bible text. So that is what we do. This spreadsheet created by Emily of A Delectable Education is what I more specifically follow to decide on what Old and New Testament passages to study each year.

This video is from a talk that Art Middlekauff did that I was able to hear last year. It's excellent if you're interested in understanding the depth and breadth of how CM schools did Bible lessons.

I choose a poet each term for us to study. Most often, I choose poets that we have connected with through our poetry anthologies. I often like to buy a book of that poet's poems- there are a lot of illustrated ones made for children.

Charlotte Mason actually had a very specific program for math, and it's really wonderful!

I own this book, which explains the entire scope and sequence of Mason's math lessons from first lessons through graduation. 

Richele Baburina has been writing a math curriculum to accommodate these ideas for teaching math in a living way. The first two books are out with more on the way! I have been using them with my daughters and think they are gold to truly understanding mathematical concepts. I can't recommend them enough!

With Sophie, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. With Brielle, I began by using more a gentler and fun approach, using Charlotte Mason's ideas from her volumes as well as ideas that Amy Tuttle gives in Discover Reading. She was reading some words in this way. This summer, however, she found our 100 Easy Lessons book and asked if we could do it, so we have been going through some of it. If you use this book, I recommend using it as a tool and not a faultless guide. Once we get to lesson 60ish, my kids do better to move away from it and on to actual readers.

At that point, I like to use this source from Charlotte Mason Soiree as my guide, along with the Treadwell readers.I also love Arnold Lobel readers

I also hear wonderful things about Simply Charlotte Mason's Delightful Reading program, but we have not personally used it.

For my beginner writers, I bought this type of paper. I then give them a line or two of poetry to copy. I encourage my children to picture the whole word before writing it so that they are also learning spelling. I choose poems and verses for them to copy each day and don't put a ton of time or thought into it. This year, I will start teaching my third grader cursive.

I love planning history! Charlotte Mason used a four year rotation for this subject, teaching a child's own history for the first four years, then adding in world history and ancient history. Here is a resource with more information on how we approach this subject. 

Once I know the years we are studying (1700-1800 for instance), then I start researching and finding books to use for the year. I look for a spine as well as a few biographies.
Resources I enjoy using to get book ideas:

The last two years, we have used Alice Dalgliesh's America Begins and America Builds Homes as our spines. These are very expensive as they are out of print, so I get them from the library. This year I think we will use Betsy Maestro's The American Story series for our spine. If you need a free option, Lawton's America First is a good choice (this is also available to purchase as a book on Amazon).

Geography has always been a passion of mine, so it is a subject I have put probably the most time into researching.To be honest, I think our modern public education curriculums and our homeschool curriculums do a poor job at this subject. I also think finding a living book is incredibly hard. You can find a lot of good books about people who live in other countries and cultures, but finding ones that actually talk about the land and resources is difficult. And this is a hard subject to use old books in because geography changes! If you would like to try to understand Mason's actual method for teaching geography, then I recommend listening to this podcast by A Delectable Education. 

We personally are using an old textbook and a few old books this year for geography. They were written in 1960, which is still a long time ago for geography, but being written after World War 2 is key as things have changed less dramatically since then. And as a side note, it's kind of amazing how different textbooks used to be! Like, way more detail than ones being put out today, and written much differently as well.

We also will finish using Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography this year, which we've used for the last two years and it's essentially an intro to geography (discusses direction, distance, maps, compasses, and more).

Natural History:
You'll be happy to know that natural history is pretty easy planning for me- it's a one stop subject. I go to Sabbath Mood Homeschool to get all my ideas for books. Right now we just use her nature lore book list, but starting next year we'll also use her science guides. 

If you look at A Delectable Education's Subject by Form guide, you can see what is recommended for each grade. For instance, this year for 3rd grade, my daughter will read mythology and Pilgrim's Progress, listed under "Tales" on this guide. My 1st grade daughter will have fairy tales and fables for her literature this year. They list literature as tales, reading, and literature on this guide.

Physical Education:
We do several main things for this time slot...

* Free play
* Jump rope
* Singing games 
     - For singing games, I use songs and dances from The Joyous Book of Singing Games. For young beginners, you can do common ones like London Bridges and Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Music Appreciation:
This is where we do our composer study. We study 3 a term. I don't do anything special for this, but I do look at Ambleside Online's composer list to decide on composers and compositions to use. We also Opal Wheeler's composer books. I also recently found Thomas Tapper's The Great Musicians books which would be good books to introduce children to composers.

Art Appreciation:
We study 3 artists a year, and I buy the artist packets from Simply Charlotte Mason.

This subject has been a bit harder for me to wrap my mind around. I know some Spanish, but I'm nowhere close to being fluent. We use the Speaking Spanish books from Cherrydale Press (we'll be using book 1 for the third year this year). Along with this, we always learn a Spanish song each term, and I just use youtube usually to help me with that (Jose Luis Orozco is good if you're studying Spanish). Then I buy Spanish picture books... think of ones that you love in English and buy them in Spanish. I just bought the Jesus Storybook Bible, The Hungry Caterpillar, and Are you my Mother... all in Spanish. The idea is to teach children a foreign language in the way they learn their native language. I'd love to find a way to interact with a native speaker but haven't found an opportunity yet. 

Miss Mason's Languages is also a wonderful foreign language resource.

We have several categories of songs I choose from:

* Folksong/Patriotic Song
* Hymn
* Spanish Song
* Solfa

For patriotic songs, I just use google. For folksongs, you can get some great kid ideas (like I've been Working on the Railroad) by a simple google, or you can get some wordier folksongs from Ambleside Online's list. For hymns, I just look in our hymnal book that we own, but you could easily look these up online, or Ambleside Online also has a list for these. For Spanish songs, I use Youtube. For solfa, I have preciously used Miss Mason's Music. There's a $15/year membership, but it's definitely worth it as she has a lot of information and videos on her website. I've been using it for a year and a half and still haven't gotten through all of it. This year, though, for solfa we will be using Solfa Sofa. I'm excited to use this one!

There are three different categories that we use for recitation pieces:

* Hymns (we actually speak them instead of sing)
* Bible verses
* Poems

For hymns, I go through my hymnal and try to find two by the same writer. I often try to find ones that I don't love to sing because the ones that I love to sing I always want to use during singing time. For Bible verses, I choose 2 or 3 passages that are around 6 verses in length. I choose from either the Old Testament book we are studying, the New Testament book we are studying, or the Psalms. For poems, I choose two from the poet we are studying for the term. With younger children, I try to choose shorter poems.

Charlotte Mason definitely had a purpose and plan for her drawing course, which I don't have time to go into, but I will say that there are three things we focus on drawing throughout a term:

* Drawings from nature (memory)
* Drawing from objects in front of us
* Drawing scenes we read about in our stories (imagination)

We also do nature journaling, but this is during our afternoon time. I will also mention that when Charlotte Mason said drawing, she was referring to brush drawing.- with paints and paintbrush. She believed it was the best medium for training in art.

I choose one handcraft to focus on each term. We have learned sewing, hand sewing, knitting, embroidery, cooking, gardening, and loom work. We will do clay next term. If you have boys, I think all of these things are valuable for boys to learn (and I know many who love learning how to sew on buttons and finger knit!), but there are plenty of woodworking and whittling handcrafts as well! And incase you're curious, every one of the things that I taught my daughters, besides cooking and gardening, are things I just learned to do myself in the last five years! Learn with your kids- it's a lot of fun!

If you need video guides, Youtube has a lot, and Simply Charlotte Mason has video series.

Afternoon Occupations:
I also wanted to give a little acknowledgement to things we do during our afternoon time.

* Nature walks (and nature journaling)
* Piano (we will be doing online lessons with Curwen Music this year)
* Dance (my two eldest take dance classes)
* Free reads (we always have books we read for fun, and a read aloud that we read at night)
* Free time (so important for this time to think about what they've read and learned in a day and to play at them)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Homeschool: Grade 2, Term 3 (2018-2019)

Our third term truly feels like it flew by. I'm ready for a break (especially one that includes SUMMER!), but I'm also sad that second grade it already over! It goes so fast. Honestly, I'm also always bummed at what we don't get to - but I have to trust that it's always enough! My sweet girls are learning so much every day, and they have the rest of their lives to keep learning. Anything we don't get to is just something to look forward to in the years to come.

In the Charlotte Mason world, I call the "grade" Sophie is in "Form 1A." But in trusty American talk, she is in grade 2, or second grade.

As mentioned in this post, these are the subjects we cover in a term:

Natural History
Physical Education
Music Appreciation
Art Appreciation

We use the scheduling cards from A Delectable Education to schedule each of these subjects into our week, some being just once a week, and some being every day, some being 10 minutes, and some being 20.

Here is what we feasted on in Term 3:
(If you click on any of the books and nearly have a heart-attack at the price - be assured that my library is my saving grace. Sadly, some of the best books are no longer in print- check out your library!)

Bible: We read from the actual Bible text, and we are reading through Exodus and Mark in Grade 2 (Form 1A). We covered Exodus 37-40 and Mark 14-16. We read roughly 10-20 verses a day, seeking to cover one whole "episode" but not (typically) an entire chapter in a day. We alternate days between Exodus and Mark. We finished both books with a few weeks left in our term, so we also selected a few Psalms and read through Esther. Because Esther is always exciting for a house full of girls- a real, live (well, now dead) Queen!

Poetry: We choose one poet to focus on each term, and for term three, we focused on Walt Whitman. We read Poetry for Kids: Walt Whitman. I chose him because his "O Captain, My Captain" is so well known, and this book has lovely illustrations. I'll be honest though- Walt Whitman is hard even for me to read and grasp! He wasn't the girls' favorite, but they did enjoy listening to the poems, and Sophie even really liked "O Captain, My Captain" which she also had as a recitation piece. We read poetry every day, so we read poems by Walt Whitman 3 times a week, and on the other days, we read from A Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa or nursery rhymes from The Real Mother Goose. We also love poems from Favorite Poems Old and New.

Math: We continue to use and love Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic Book 2. This book can easily be used for 2nd and 3rd grade, though it's always most important to go at a child's pace and be where they actually are at in understanding. There are plans for the rest of this series to come out in the next couple years. We finished our addition and subtraction tables (doing numbers 5-10). We also worked on adding numbers in the hundreds, including carrying. Sophie really enjoyed doing addition with bigger numbers! We are a little over half-way through this math book, and will continue it into next year where we will work on subtraction with larger numbers and multiplication. I really see a love for numbers and math growing in Sophie, which is my deepest desire- but also a firm understanding of how they work in the world, which is of second importance to me.

Reading: We just use this time for Sophie to get more practice with reading – 10 minutes a day. She read through Billy and Blaze books this term, and she loved them so much! She also really loves My Father's Dragon and read some of it as well. She reads to her sisters sometimes, and I find her reading to herself more often. She also loves to listen to audiobooks, but that's not during school hours :)

Copywork: For copywork, Sophie typically copies a line or two of poetry. Occasionally we do a verse instead or a line from a hymn. The goal is to visualize each word before writing it so that she can write the whole word from memory. This helps her learn to not only be a good writer but also a good speller!

History: This year, we are covering American history from 1600-1700. I used America Builds Homes by Alice Dalgliesh as our spine for the year. For biography supplements, we used the following books- we read some in the afternoons and we only read portions of some (we stopped if a book continued into the 1700s):
Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times by Kate Waters and Russ Kendall
The New Americans by Betsy Maestro
- Molly Bannaky by Chris K. Soentpiet and Alice McGill
Skippack School by Marguerite De Angeli
- Thunder from the Clear Sky by Marcia Sewall

Geography: We have two days that we do geography. One day is more for learning about physical geography and the general workings of the world (this is like "pre-map" work, because a child needs to understand these things before grasping a map or globe). The other day we have begun learning about specific areas of geography. We focused on learning about different areas of the United States this term, and we also learned about a few places afar.
Day 1 BookElementary Geography by Charlotte Mason (Lessons 30-31). We learned about maps and scales on maps. We made our own map of the living room, using a scale to show true size.
Day 2 Books: - Cross Country by Paul Hanna (we read this book, and looked at the map to follow the family's journey.
- Miroslav Sasek books to briefly learn about other countries

Natural History: For Natural History, I choose two books that we will spend the whole term using, and then we have a special studies topic for the term (and sometimes two special studies), and I choose several books to cover that topic.
Book 1: Christian Liberty Nature Reader book 3 by Michael McHugh (We were pleasantly surprised with how wonderful this book was! We covered ants, flies, and beetles.)
Book 2: A Walk in the Prairie by Rebecca Johnson (We plan to continue using the other books in this series to cover biomes in future terms.)
Special Studies Books: 
Our special study was bees and water birds.We used these books:
- Here Come the Bees by Alice Goudey
- Bees: A Honeyed History by Piotr Socha 
- Watching Water Birds by Jim Arnosky

Literature: We sure do love literature! We have two days of literature.
Day 1: We are reading Pilgrim's Progress (which will spread out over two years) (We read from pages 79-117 this term.)
Day 2: Mythology (currently reading A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne)... We absolutely love this book. In this book, we read The Miraculous Pitcher (Baucis and Philemon) and The Chimaera this term.

Physical Education (Drill/Dance/Play): This time should be used twice a week for actual free play. No rules, just let the child play. Other possibilities for the way we use this time (on the other days) are to learn jumping rope, fun dances together, and Swedish Drill. I taught the girls a few fun songs, like "Wallflowers," too.
My two favorite resources for Charlotte Mason dance and drill: Swedish Drill and Dance/Moving to Songs

Music Appreciation: We studied Paganini this term. We read Paganini: Master of Strings by Opal Wheeler. I love connecting to the composers as people (as does Sophie), and this always helps us to connect to their music. We listened to La Campanella, Caprice 24, Sonata No. 1, Sonata Napoleone, Moses Fantasy, and Cantabile

Art Appreciation: We studied James Whistler. We again used the artist packets from Simply Charlotte Mason... they are great! The picture quality is incredible, and I love that they come with information on the artist and each picture. We studied Arrangement in Grey and White, No. 1 (Portrait of the Artist's Mother), Symphony in White, No. 1 (The White Girl), Symphony in White, No. 2, Nocturne in Blue and Gold (Old Battersea Bridge), Nocturne in Black and Gold (The Falling Rocket), Caprice in Purple and Gold (The Golden Screen), Arrangement in Grey (Portrait of the Painter), and At the Piano. Sophie (and Brielle) study each picture for a couple minutes and then narrates to me what they see. Sophie's favorite painting was Symphony in White, No. 1. 

Spanish: We use Cherrydale Press's Spanish Book (volume 1) as our spine for this subject. We use it 1-2 times a week. It is based on Francois Gouin's research that showed it is easier to learn a language when you learn the action verbs (rather than just a noun). So, we learn a set of activities in English (acting them out); then once we have the English memorized, we learn the same set of activities in Spanish. We did Cherrydale lessons 18, 25, and 29 this term. We also had flash cards and learned new words from those, and we used real objects, such as objects in a room, to learn new words. 

Singing: We learned and sang the following songs over the term:
- Patriotic Song: "God Bless America"
- Hymn: "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands"
- Spanish Songs: We learned "Tu Eres Mi Sol"
- Solfa: We use Miss Mason's Music website for these lessons, as I am not comfortable teaching it on my own and her lessons are excellent. Membership is $15/year which is totally worth it to have access to all her materials and videos on her website. We used her term 3 lessons for sofa beginners.

Recitation: We do recitation three times a week. The first day, we recite a hymn (rather than sing). The second day we recite a Bible verse. The third day we recite a poem. In a term, for the second grade year, the preference is to learn two hymns, two-three verses, and two poems. The purpose of recitation is not memorization (though, that often happens over the term!); the purpose is to be able to read something beautifully. Sometimes we each read a line and share the recitation, and sometimes Sophie does it all on her own. This term, we did the following:
- Hymns: Kurt Kaiser's "Pass it On" and "As for Me and My House"
- Verses: Exodus 40:34-38, Mark 12:28-31
- Poems: Walt Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain" and "I Hear America Singing"

Drawing: We used this time to do drawings from nature (we bring the object inside and she brush draws it – with a paint brush), from her imagination of stories we have read, and from her memory of animals she has seen. 
She did drawings this term of a lilac, a lemon, a bird, bees, Native Americans, Hercules, and Christian from Pilgrim's Progress.

Handicrafts/Work: This term, we learned how to knit- both of us! It was fun! We used this DVD: Handicrafts Made Simple. We did a few paper modeling projects, using this book by M. Swannell. She learned to make a rabbit hutch and a box with a lid.

Reflections: I love homeschooling, I feel completely confident in the Charlotte Mason method and feel that I have really become comfortable and even good at doing this. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't always areas that I want or need to improve. I have learned to rest in what we do get done but to continue to learn and grow and work at implementing more and knowing more.
One thing I've learned about myself is that I do best with planning everything before the term. I love that this year I took a week break between terms- this planning time was truly precious and so good for us. I want to really take this summer to plan a large majority of next year- and then to also take advantage of those week breaks. 
Areas I'd like to really study and spend time preparing for for next year: Brush drawing, Solfa, geography, Piano (I'd like to look into both Curwen and Hoffman online piano lessons), Spanish, and phys. ed. I feel that we were weak in most of these areas this year, and I'd like to be better prepared with them for next year.