Monday, September 3, 2012

2012-13 School Plans

It's that time again. Time to gather school supplies and head into a new school year. As a homeschooling mom, I have my own particular task list to accomplish to begin a new year. Sure, I need to take stock and purchase new pencils, paper, etc. Thankfully, I can bypass the new shoes, new clothes, and new bookbag. Instead, I can put my husband's hard-earned dollar toward new curriculum - books, books, more books (ok, some non-book items too, but mostly books - and I love books!).

In truth, we are nearly two months into a new school year already. Last year I started school up in the summer because I knew having a baby would take a good chunk out of the middle of our year. At the end of the year, I realized how much I liked schooling year-round, and being able to take more time off during the year, especially during prime fall and spring days.

So, what are we up to? Skipper's now in second grade. Boy, is he growing up so fast! I must say I was more than a little nervous as this year his workload really increases. I knew I would have to be more organized, and more on top of school, than I ever have been, and that certainly left me panicking a bit, especially as I've felt far from being organized and on top of everything for quite awhile now. Not to mention I still had to work with the younger kids too! However, with some time under my belt, I feel much more confident on accomplishing our goals for the year.

Critter is in kindergarten and so far has been an eager pupil. It appears reading may be his least favorite subject, but I think that will change once he "gets it."

Miss Bear is only 3 but really, really wants to do school. I have some preschool workbooks that I let her "work" out of, as well as a few educational toys and blank paper as she loves to draw. I would like to make more individual time with her but it is proving to be difficult.

Now, to the details...

A peek into our school room / dining room. We do our seat work here as well as eat.

A close-up of our main school wall. The bulletin boards display art work, the bins hold art supplies, science paraphenalia, paper, pencils, markers, educational toys, etc. The shelves hold resources and books we use. The filing cabinet holds folders for each child as well as ideas (for the calendar month, liturgical season, and ABC themes). On top of the filing cabinet is a crate that holds the items we use every day. This makes it easy to cart to another room or outside. Here it is up close:

Our core academic work:

Reading... I have found Hooked on Phonics to work quite well. Skipper is doing the second grade bundle. Though in reality he can read at a higher level, I find that this helps him with reading aloud and smoothing out his reading. Critter is cementing in letter sounds as he is not quite ready for the jump of combining sounds, but once he is, we can continue with HOP kindergarten level.

Writing... I have tried multiple methods, but have always come back to Handwriting Without Tears. Critter works out of kindergarten and Skipper, second grade printing. I also have Skipper do extra practice in a journal (3 sentences a day) plus any extra work that crops up with science or history.

Spelling... I have yet to find a way to do this with Skipper that I like. For now, I make a list using groups of words from his reading and have him write them out, fill in the letters, spell out loud, etc. Once a week, I also have him alphabetize his words. If it is still a struggle - for me or him, I have looked at All About Spelling.

Language... Skipper is using the Language of God series from Catholic Heritage Curricula. It has been a gentle introduction for him.

Math... Skipper had been using - and eventually struggling with MCP math - and so at the advice of his assessor, I ordered Math-U-See, starting from the very beginning and doing remedial work. So far it seems to be working. There have been no tears and while most of it is easy for him, it filled in a few blanks with no problem so I am hopeful it continues to work well. For Critter, I started with MCP math level K until Skipper was out of Math-U-See primer. He will be transitioning soon. It will be interesting to see if he likes it or not. I thought this hands-on Rightstart math would be ideal for him, but I really do not want to swing two types of math. Or I am considering doing it for the bulk of the year and heading into Math-U-See Primer later, and speeding through it. I will wait and see how he enjoys Math-U-See first.

In another corner of the room, there is the perfect space for a monthly calendar. Most of the supplies I picked up at a local teacher supply store, but for the liturgical add-ons, I used a few printables from here (an awesome collection to make a saint calendar each month) as well as googling images for our own personal feast days we celebrate.

Other subjects:

Religion... Really, this is core, and done daily. Each child has a prayer "journal." I start this young. With my help, we cut and glue prayers as they learn them. So Miss Bear has the Sign of the Cross and is learning The Hail Mary now (not just the pieces, but all of it). As a prayer is learned, a new one is glued in to learn. We say the prayers collectively as a group during school with each leading their prayer to the point that they know it. They seem to like it.

The kids also do some book work in addition to living the faith. Critter uses Image of God: Who am I? and Miss Bear jumps in on that too. Skipper uses Faith and Life: grade 2 as well as various other sources (like The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism). He is also creating a First Holy Communion notebook, inspired by this one, and I hope to share it with you.

Science... We are continuing to use Apologia Science after our success with Astronomy last year. This year, the boys chose to study Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. We read each lesson in bits, doing experiments and completing notebook/workbook pages I created along the way. There is a coordinating lapbook but I had my fill of lapbooks last year!

History... This is my first official year with history, and I am still not sure how to go about it. Our goal for the year is ancient history, from creation through the birth of Christ. We are looking at a few ancient cultures that have impacted today's world, but overall, I am concentrating on ancient history from a Biblical perspective, speaking to the kids using salvation history. We are reading a bit from a textbook, reading even more from living history books, doing a project or two, creating a wall timeline, and Skipper has notebook work. He decided to create a page from each culture, talking about the people - what they did, wore, ate, etc. We are using a variety of sources, but my main go-to resources are RC History volume 1 (great book list) and the textbook, Founders of Freedom. Included in this is map work and geography. The boys are still working on finishing up Beginning Geography. It is a nice filler between history topics.

Art... This year I want to concentrate on the process of making art, not necessarily the finished product. I have not put this into practice so well yet. I have a few ideas though. One is for art appreciation using prints of great Catholic arts to go with each month (to display, talk about, feel). And, with their science study, we are creating a wall mural filled with creatures they create after we study them. Right now, I have a cute (and large) big blue whale staring at me.

Music... Skipper is starting the piano. I am teaching him for now. If he shows true interest in continuing, I will look into a teacher for him since I taught myself and am, I'm sure, full of bad habits. To include everyone, we will also learn some songs throughout the year, primarily using songs from Making Music, Praying Twice.

Karate... Skipper really wants to do this. We actually have a local place. My husband is supposed to get this going, hopefully participating as well. If able, Critter will join.

Well, that's it in a nutshell. It looks like a lot on paper, doesn't it? We fit it in around our normal day. We have plenty of life lessons around here!

Dear Lord, be with us this day, in all that we think, and do, and say. Amen.


  1. Nicole, this is such a great post, and your learning environments are wonderful!! I like the pic on your sidebar of your children. Blessings to you in your family's school year.

  2. Thanks Gardenia. I love that picture too!


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