Every year, on every chat board on which I participate, curriculum threads are hugely popular–and I can see why. From my perspective, it’s helpful to see what others are using with their kids (especially knowing how similar or different their educational philosophies are to mine), what novel products I can research, how much each family anticipates accomplishing for kids of each grade level. So, in the spirit of sharing the joy, here’s what we’ve used (or plan to use) to date, listed by “school year” (though we go year-round, I mentally/verbally change their grade when the local schools start); I didn’t list grade level, since it’s merely a formality and doesn’t generally match the materials used:
I quickly discovered that my kids had no interest in any formal preschool-y activity I tried to organize, no matter how fun I thought it was. They wanted choice. But they definitely wanted Mommy attention, especially in those golden moments when their little brother was napping. To that end, each evening I would set out several activity options for “big kid time” during the first 30 minutes of the little guy’s afternoon nap. Each kid could choose one activity for us to do together. (After that 30 minutes it was my cleaning time, which they could help with or opt out of and play on their own.) I rotated activities, generally giving four options each day. I did a lot of searching on Pinterest and trying to find activities that would help my kids work on a developing skill or stretch their capabilities. I tried to plan activities that would help them develop gross and fine motor skills, social skills, literacy skills, basic math skills, and general world knowledge. Activities included the following:
- Craft projects – seasonal, thematic (something they were interested in) or free-play with materials their brother would otherwise eat
- Games – not only board or card games, but hide-and-seek, obstacle courses, ball play
- Science activities – baking, water play, gardening, magnifying glasses, simple experiments
- Literacy activities – Letter/word bingo, Progressive Phonics, tracing pages, read-alouds
- Math activities – I purchased RightStart level A in the spring of 2013 because my oldest was so interested in numbers and I wasn’t sure how to help him develop that passion in an age-appropriate way. The year he was 4, we worked through the first half of the material in RS-A completely informally, though play and discussion.
I didn’t start any official work until my oldest turned 5 in the late fall of 2013. At that point he was writing a ton and heartily refusing my gentle corrections to his atrocious letter formation. Thus, late 2013 saw our first formal curriculum: handwriting. After handwriting became solid, we added a little math (his choice) in the spring of 2014 and then moved from handwriting to phonics-based spelling, since both older kids had learned to read on their own and I wanted some direct phonics instruction to prevent any future reading issues.
It was at this time that I also introduced bedtime free-reading, an idea I’d seen someone mention online as an ideal way to allow for later bedtimes without eating into parents’ precious evening time.
- Getty-Dubay Handwriting books A and B (see my blog post for my likes and dislikes of this program)
- Right Start Math – end of level A and start of level B
- All About Spelling Level 1
- Lots of read-alouds, especially related to science and the planets in particular, as well as other activities similar to the prior year
This year we added quite a bit of material initially before dialing it down midway through the year to address Peatie’s ADHD. I also discovered that I have a strong desire to tweak every curriculum I use.
- Right Start Math – second half of level B and all of level C (except Peatie did C double-time and Goobie bailed halfway through C because it was super review-heavy and they were tired of the games)
- All About Spelling Levels 2-3 – We sped through these levels, making me question whether the expense was worth it. At least I can use them for all three kids…
- Institute for Excellence in Writing’s (IEW) Bible Heroes – Everyone loved it at the beginning, but we waned in the many weeks of story sequence, so I sped up the end.
- Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU)-inspired science
- Mom-designed prehistory and ancient history
This was the year I separated Peatie and Goober for math; her competitive spirit combined with his calculation speed (she’s very mathy, just not as fast at it) made for many tears. Even the separation wasn’t enough to overcome her distress, and we actually took a several-month math hiatus in the spring, allowing Peatie to play on Prodigy Math while Goober completely detoxed for a while and we just followed their interests academically with six-week study blocks. Pookie mostly tagged along, participating where he could and heading off to imagine, do puzzle pages, or play on Starfall or MathSeeds if he lost interest.
- Singapore Math 2A&B -3A for Goober, similar to Right Start in presentation but more get-er-done worksheet style like she wanted rather than the RS games she was getting so frustrated by. We ended up using only the workbooks, since most of the concepts were ones she’d already seen in Right Start–I was just trying to step back to reduce her anxiety.
- Art of Problem Solving’s Beast Academy 3A-C for Peatie. He would have easily finished the whole level, but several months math-free messed that up. This program was perfect for this kid who kept asking for “hard math.” It was funny and engaging, but super challenging, with great variety and no busy work.
- Michael Clay Thompson (MCT) Language Arts, Island Level – This is absolutely AWESOME. The kids learned all their basic parts of speech through story, learned how good grammar is connected to good writing, and got a great foundation in understanding the dynamics of poetry. You have to be willing to decide your own pace, though, so it’s not for everyone.
- NaNoWriMo writing, plus heavy editing in January (I will NOT make the mistake of signing myself up again. That 30,000 words nearly killed me.)
- Spanish language intro, mostly through Salsa Spanish (videos by Georgia Public Broadcasting, available free through their website)
- Various unit studies in the spring, including sewing, drawing, typing (using BBC’s Dance Mat), The Chemistry of Cooking, Dinosaurs, Maps and Mapping, Solutions and Crystallization
Because we’ve had such an enjoyable time following the kids’ interests this spring, I hesitate to leave that method; however, I do see value in consistent study of math and language arts, in particular, for this age level. Thus, the plan for the 2016-17 school year is to consistently work on math and language arts while allowing the kids to choose two additional subjects to continue our six-week unit studies.
- Right Start A for Pookie, taken slowly and playfully and combined with MathSeeds (subscription site), DragonBox Numbers (paid app), and Starfall games (inexpensive subscription site)–he can pick his activity for the day.
- Beast Academy 3 for Goobie–she’s declared herself ready. I plan to take it slow and sprinkle in some light work from Bedtime Math and other easy resources.
- Beast Academy 3D-4 for Peatie, continuing on last year’s success and likely in continued combination with Prodigy Math (free online math RPG), which he loves.
- Language Arts – This is one area where I simply can’t commit to one curriculum; I find myself using different resources for different purposes. Be assured, though, that we will not be spending hours and hours on LA every day.
- IEW’s Fix-It Grammar for some simple, consistent work on basic editing.
- MCT’s Town Level for more in-depth grammar, Latin roots, and poetry.
- How To Teach Spelling for rotating spelling units–partially because it’s one of few state requirements and partly because I think occasional lessons will be helpful even to my natural spellers.
- Killgallon’s Sentence Composing for Elementary for studying excellent and varied sentence structure.
- Writing using concepts from both IEW and Bravewriter.
- Continued review of cursive (random workbook) and typing (Dance Mat, Typing.com, or in-use).
- Pookie will get to choose from All About Spelling activities, Progressive Phonics read-togethers, and handwriting practice with Getty-Dubay Book A.
- All the rest of our academics will be primarily based on the kids’ interests. I’ll try to remember to record their selections below and link to what we use in our studies.