Our Curriculum

It's that time of year again!  Homeschool moms all across the nation have been thumbing through mountainous stacks of curriculum catalogs, reading blog after blog after endless blog, and downing one cup of coffee after another while memorizing the Well-Trained Mind message boards, all in the name of finding that one curriculum that will not only make their children smart enough for a full scholarship to the college of their choice but will also give them a heart for Jesus and sharing His love with everyone they meet.  If only it were that simple!  I haven't found a curriculum that will do all of that yet, but I have found what works for our family.  Here it is.  :)

Hannah—3rd grade

My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures

We've used My Father's World from the start, and it has been a great fit for our family.  This year we'll be using Exploring Countries and Cultures, which includes Bible, world geography, science, music, and art.  As we travel around the world in geography this year, we'll not only learn how to find our target countries on a map but we'll also get to know about their cultures—how people in those countries live, what they eat, what they wear, what kind of music they listen to, and most importantly, what they believe about God.  In science, we'll learn about the ecosystems of each of the continents—what the climate is like in the different regions and what kinds of plants and animals we could expect to find there.  In Bible, we'll study the book of Matthew throughout the year.  And as we travel to each new continent, we'll learn about the sin-scarred people who live there who desperately need to hear about our loving God and how He provided a way for fellowship with Him to be restored.  We'll also read a biography of a missionary who traveled there to tell those people the good news.  In music and art, we'll sing songs and make crafts that are related to the area we're studying. 

My goal for this year is that my children will walk away understanding that the world is a much bigger place than what they see on a daily basis.  I want them to understand that God has created an amazingly diverse planet with all kinds of people, but those people all need to hear about Jesus.  I pray that they will be fascinated by the people that we study, that they will desire to pray for them, that their hearts will ache when they learn about some of the lies that people believe, that the Great Commission will come to life for them and they will understand the importance of supporting missions.  Lofty goals, I know, but that's my heart.

We'll also be reading aloud from Hillyer's A Child's Geography of the World and Missionary Stories with the Millers to supplement our studies.


I thought long and hard about whether to stick with All About Spelling for another year or go ahead and switch to Spelling Power.  In the end, I decided that all of All About Spelling's rules and built-in review lays a good foundation that will help us when we do finally transition to Spelling Power.  One strike against All About Spelling is the tiles.  We can't stand the tiles!  So I made a pretty neat PowerPoint that accomplishes the same thing, only it does it more neatly and more quickly, both of which we like.  :)  We'll work our way through Levels 3 and 4 of All About Spelling this year.  If time allows, we'll do Level 5 as well, but we'll just have to play that one by ear.


We're going to stick with Singapore Math again.  We're finishing up 2B right now, and hopefully we'll get through 3A and 3B this year, but again, we'll have to play it by ear.  We're also adding in some Life of Fred books (Did you know he now has an elementary series?!!) and the Singapore Intensive Practice books.  Hannah's not just real thrilled about the Intensive Practice books, but it really stretches her and makes her apply the math she's learning, and both Greg and I think that's a good thing.  Singapore is known for its mental math component, and I have to say ... it works!  However, Greg isn't quite as enamored with it as Hannah and I are.  As a high school math teacher, he wants to see the work so he can know where she's messing up when she misses a problem.  So he's requiring her to show a little more work than she would care to (and more than I would require), but I'm not complaining!  I love having his input since he's the resident expert in that field.  ;)


This was one of Hannah's favorite subjects last year, so we're sticking with Rod & Staff.  I've heard this described as "rigorous," but I haven't found that to be true—at least not yet.  :)  It definitely gets the job done, but I would say it seems to be a good fit for the intended age.  We had a lot of success last year doing it orally, so we're going to do that again this year, with the exception of the worksheets, which she will complete and put in her notebook.


Ultimately, my goal is to use Institute for Excellence in Writing.  However, I have a child who hates the physical act of handwriting, so I want to kind of ease her into writing.  My friend Fawn showed me her daughter's Sonlight writing assignments (part of the Sonlight Language Arts program), and I knew it would be a great introduction to writing for Hannah.  The assignments are very fun and they allow the kids to use their imaginations, but they somehow manage to tackle some pretty hefty writing assignments.  By the time she's done, she will have written narrative essays, persuasive essays, poetry, and book reviews; and she will have covered topics that are normally covered in reading, such as alliteration, similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, etc.  I'm really excited about adding this to our curriculum this year, but at the same time, I just don't know how she'll react to all the handwriting that goes along with creative writing.  Any prayer would be greatly appreciated!


There's a chance that we may possibly use CLE Reading this year, but I'm still not completely sure about this one.  I went ahead and purchased it, but once it came in, I began having second thoughts.  Between the reading we do for My Father's World and the language arts she's doing with Sonlight, it kind of felt like overkill.  It also seemed a little like busywork, which made me wonder if it would suck the love of reading right out from under her.  On the other hand, it has a fairly strong missions component to it (which kind of goes along with our theme for the year), it can only help her less-than-stellar handwriting and spelling to improve, and she just loves those good old-fashioned, wholesome stories.  I ended up showing her the materials and letting her decide, and she chose to do them.  So far she's enjoying it, but if it ends up becoming a chore, I think it will be an easy one to let go.


For handwriting we'll be using Cheerful Cursive.  I was so excited when I found out about this book!  The lessons are short and fun, with various characters such as Bumps, Wags, and Loopy placing themselves on the letters to teach your child how to form them correctly.  The book includes practice for both print and cursive writing, as well as grammar reviews, and it also includes practice reading a variety of cursive handwriting styles since not everyone writes the same. 


We're going to stick with The Learnables for Spanish this year.  I thought we'd end up switching to Rosetta Stone since they lowered the price to only an arm rather than an arm and a leg.  ;)  But The Learnables is working for us for now and Hannah enjoys it, so why fix it if it isn't broken, know what I mean?


And finally, I am determined to finish the Lessons in Responsibility book we started back in 1st grade!  (Anyone else have something like that that you just can't seem to get through for some reason?)  She seriously loves this book, so it shouldn't be hard to get through it, but for whatever reason we didn't make much progress last year.  Plus, I already own the Level 2 book, so I really need to get Level 1 finished!


My Father's World Kindergarten

Millie will continue to use My Father's World Kindergarten this year.  She did the phonics and math portions of the program for Pre-K last year, but the Bible truths are so precious that I wanted her to be a little older so she would understand them more fully.  Marie Hazell (author of My Father's World) has done a masterful job of interweaving the Bible and science lessons and explaining them in a way that is perfect for young children to understand. 

We'll do the math portion of the program again this year to really reinforce our Base 10 system, counting to 100, and calendar skills.  The program also includes Bible, science, music, and art.  We've enjoyed all of our studies with My Father's World, but Kindergarten definitely has a soft spot in my heart.


We're going to continue using Hooked on Phonics for reading.  We started the Kindergarten level in Pre-K last year and have been working on it here and there throughout the summer.  We should definitely be able to get through the 1st grade level this year, but we'll have to see about the 2nd grade level.  It's amazing how much more relaxed you are with the second child!  ;)


We'll be using A Reason for Handwriting for Millie's handwriting.  We're not going to rearrange the order of the letters to match the My Father's World units because I love the way they're presented in a logical order based on the way the letters are formed. 


I picked up a copy of From Akebu to Zapotec when Hannah was in kindergarten, and it looks like it will be a perfect fit for our family this year.  In Millie's kindergarten, we focus on one letter every week.  This book contains 26 real stories of Bibleless peoples—one for each letter of the alphabet.  Millie will be tagging along with Hannah's Bible lessons anyway because we'll be doing them together as a family in the evenings, but it will be a great way for her to learn to pray for one group of people each week and still focus on her letter of the week.

So there you have it—the 2011-2012 curriculum line-up! Now stay tuned for changes ... I wouldn't be a real homeschool mom if I didn't have several of those throughout the year! ;)