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Curriculum We Love

Well, it's February. A notoriously L-O-N-G month for homeschool families. It's also the month we celebrate Valentine's Day. So why not blog about curriculum our family loves during the month when homeschoolers typically need some new ideas and encouragement?

This year one of my girls has been using the book "Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space" for science. (The rest of the girls are using different levels of Apologia - another fantastic science program; and my son is working primarily on college coursework via dual enrollment - no science for him this semester). This book is published by Bright Idea Press, the company that publishes The Mistory of History and All-American History. A link to their online catalog is www.brightideaspress.com/catalog.htm. BTW, the Christian perspective toward science in these books is the real deal - no watered down stuff here! I really, really LOVE that!!

I love the simplicity of this science program. None of the experiments is time consuming, none require hard to obtain materials, the lessons are clear and right from the get go you are aware of the primary concepts of each unit, and the tests are thorough but fun at the same time! My daughter is not really "science minded" and she truly enjoys this book. I would recommend this particular book for a child working at the 3rd grade level through the 6th grade. You could use it a little earlier or a little later as it adapts easily for your needs. Highly recommended by mom and student alike!!

The next curriculum choice I want to brag on is called "AVKO Sequential Spelling" by Don McCabe (Research Director for AVKO Educational Research Foundation). This series of books can be used from the first day of spelling at a very early age, or you can begin using the level that fits your child's need at any time, even mid-year. The books follow a pattern of spelling that seems a lot like "rhyming". The words learned fit together with other words, and each lesson builds upon the last lesson. One thing that I found very hard to adjust to (but now LOVE) is that the parent can spell the word for the child if they need some help. One of my children did not "take" to phonics very well - the rules made no sense to her and she was continually frustrated because her effort did not yield the same results as her siblings. She's also an avid reader, and typically avid readers are pretty good spellers. Having a program that allows her mom to help her without feeling like she was somehow cheating changed her perspective about spelling. And she quickly was spelling really long words without help from mom - which boosted her shaken confidence and was just the encouragement she needed. Another thing my daughter and I both love about this spelling program is the student workbook - the days are numbered from 1 to 180 (there are also some tests interspersed throughout). But the workbook pages are set up so that the student is not able to see yesterday's work - which makes each day's spelling an accomplishment they can really be pleased with. Here's an example of the way the words build upon previously learned words:


end
tend
intend
extend
attend
attendant
attendants
attendance

There are 7 levels in the series, and the student workbook works for any of the levels. Their website (www.avko.org/sequentialspelling.html) has a pre-test for the series so that parents know which level to purchase. They also have several other items they market, but Sequential Spelling is the only one we use. The have a page for homeschoolers on their website that contains info about the program and some freebies (what homeschool mom doesn't love an eductional freebie or two?!). You can also subscribe to their free email newsletter at the website.

I have purchased from their website and from Timberdoodle (www.timberdoodle.com). The prices are pretty similar, but Timberdoodle has some good sales now and then and sometimes they have a free book available with any purchase (again, gotta love the freebies!). These books are worth every penny.

And finally, I'd LOVE to tell you about "Lightning Lit & Comp" from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources (www.hewitthomeschooling.com). When you get to the Hewitt Homeschooling Resources homepage, use the search engine to find "Lightning Lit". This will take you to a page with a long list of Lightning Lit resources - don't be overwhelmed! (The direct link to that page is http://www.hewitthomeschooling.com/book/bsrch1.asp)
Each Lit & Comp student guide has a required series of books - you can buy the books in a set with the student guide and workbook, or you can buy them on your own (amazon.com and half.com have loads of used books at great prices). You can also find the books you need at the library. And if you are like me, you will probably own some of the books you need.

Take your time, look over a few of the different choices and kind of get a feel for the program. The student guide and workbook set come in a binder; the pages are 3-hole punched, making for easy photocopying if you choose not to write directly on the pages. I keep our workbook pages in the second half of the binder (they come this way) so that I don't have workbook pages in between the assignments in the student guidebook. Each level covers a variety of great literature - there's no twaddle here, moms!! Of course, not every selection is entirely Christian, so be choosey if you must. Each child and each family is unique and no one knows what is "right" or "wrong" for your child better than you, no matter how good the curriculum is. The reading assignments are very homeschool friendly (not too long, in other words!). The writing assignments are challenging but not overwhelming. The guide books is simple for mom and child to use, and I have found them much less confusing and labor intensive than some other writing curriculum we have used over the years. You may or may not want to purchase the teacher's guide in addition to the student guide and workbook - I found that I did just fine without the added expense of the teacher guide for the 7th grade course, but for some of the more advanced high school levels, the teacher's guide is pretty helpful. Again, it's all about what works for you and your family.

Here is a breakdown of the 7th grade level, which has an end goal of preparing the student for high school composition skills using great literature. (I can attest that it does what it sets out to do - my daughter using this level this year has gone from strongly disliking writing to writing more and more in her other subjects of her own free will, and she is enjoying reading more than ever before, too).

Chap. 1 - "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Kipling
Chap. 2 - "Tom Sawyer" by Twain
Chap. 3 - Poetry
Chap. 4 - "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Carrol
Chap. 5 - "The Bride Comes to the Yellow Sky" by Crane
Chap. 6 - "The Story of My Life" by Keller
Chap. 7 - Further Study of Poetry
Chap. 8 - "All Creatures Great and Small" by Herriot

Well, that's all the curriculum I'm going to share about today. You can leave a post if you have questions or comments about any of these books, or if you have something you just love to use and would love to share it with me!

Keep your chin up this month, enjoy your children even when the days seem really LONG and the weather pretty BLAH, and take some time to encourage another homeschooling mom this month - she probably needs it as much as you do :)

Day 16 done :)

Jan L. Burt
www.homeschoolingmothersbiblestudy.com

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