Our Homeschool Curriculum 2013 – 2014

I posted recently about our typical daily schedule so far this year.

Here are the nitty gritty details of what we actually DO for “math” and “memory work”, etc.

Memory work – We have been following this box method for memorizing for about two years now and I love it. It allows you to regularly review things you’ve memorized in the past, at regular intervals. Every day we recite a daily card, an odd or even card, a card for the day of the week, and any cards under the day of the month. We are working our way through a list of scriptures, and we’ve also memorized The Living Christ, which was a wonderful experience. I’d like to sprinkle in some poetry and good quotes as we go, but haven’t pinned any down yet.

Family song – We sing a song at breakfast, or around the piano after breakfast. We choose a song each month (usually a hymn or a children’s song) and sing it most days, throwing in a few days of reviewing previous months’ songs. We recently did a song in spanish, which was a fun change. It really helps my kids to sing in their church meetings and pay attention to the meaning of the songs. It’s great for me to learn the words to more rarely sung verses.

Scripture Study and Journal – On school days, Mackenzie currently reads a story from an illustrated scripture book, draws a picture, and narrates (tells me out loud in her own words) what she read so I can write it down.

Math – We are still loving Singapore Math and Kumon, and I updated my original post to include some changes we’ve made since then. Mackenzie’s in level 2 of Singapore Math and finishing 2A in Kumon. She does Singapore every day and Kumon 3 days a week (which means 3 packets a week).

She also does Khan Academy two times a week for a half hour, but begs to do it far more often. If you’re not familiar with it, Khan Academy is a great, free website for learning and practicing math.

It is my answer to my previously conflicting desire for my daughter to achieve mastery in each topic but still fan the flames of her excitement about math. With Khan, Mackenzie is turned loose to learn all the math she’d like to, while still working sequentially towards mastery through her regular Singapore textbook. I love that it’s no frills, no gimmick environment where the joy of learning new things takes a front seat.

(Side note: I’m a Khan fan myself and love to do some during my spare moments. We compare badges.)

Logic of English – I wrote up my reasons for choosing this curriculum previously, and I’m still a huge fan. In my opinion, it’s best to know these phonograms yourself so you can use them as you teach (or help) your child to read. The good news is that these phonograms are available for free online here. (Save it now, use it forever.)

Later, when it’s time to teach (or help) your child to spell, I recommend the Essentials textbook to learn the spelling rules and learn how to apply your knowledge of phonograms to help with spelling. Buy the flashcards and game cards or make your own. Skip the workbook and use a whiteboard or scratch paper. Skip the spelling journal and make your own.

We are taking a break right now and just reviewing phonograms and rules we’ve already learned. In another few weeks, we’ll pick it back up with the lessons (we’re on 17 of 40 after doing this fairly casually for a year).

With phonogram review, we aim to play “Phonogram Jump” once a week, drill the phonogram flash cards once a week with a timer, and play some kind of phonogram game together once a week (Go Fish, Memory, etc.).

(Phonogram Jump at our house involves me flipping over a flashcard and Mackenzie and I doing the action corresponding to the number of sounds that phonogram makes, while yelling the sounds. “O says oo, uh, oh” we say as we do three jumping jacks. “E says eh, ee” we say as we climb on the couch and jump off twice. Other three sounded phonograms result in jumping jacks, other two sounded phonograms involve jumping off the couch twice. Make sense? We change the plan every time we play it and it is fun to jump around together… plus it involves her younger brother and sister. Bonus!)

Reading Aloud – I read a chapter book every day at lunch time, and Scott reads just to Mackenzie and I after the littler kids are in bed at night. We are currently reading “Just David” at lunch and the Chronicles of Narnia at night. For more great read-alouds, you might be interested in this page (recently updated).

Rosetta Stone Spanish – This one requires some explanation. We are definitely a fan of sequential language learning (because true immersion learning isn’t possible without a fluent speaker in the home). That means that grammar is learned first, in a logical progression, which is very different from the programs that rush you right through to speaking before you understand the underpinnings of the language. For a great explanation of the diverging views on teaching languages, see this article.

Rosetta Stone is one of those programs that rush you into speaking! So why are we using it for our 5 year old? I was using it myself after having already taken years and years of Spanish grammar because I was rusty at actually carrying a conversation in Spanish. Mackenzie was looking over my shoulder often enough that I decided to try her on it. She loves it and it has done wonders to help her pronounce and hear the subtleties of the language. I didn’t plan on teaching my children a language until the 4th grade, and I’ll teach grammar-first at that point. Right now, though, we’re loving some early exposure to the sounds and pacing of Spanish. She does 30 minutes twice a week.

Art – We aim to complete a lesson in Artistic Pursuits together every week. I love that instead of focusing on copying at this stage (here is how you draw a dog: first draw a triangle for each ear, etc.), this series teaches you to think like an artist. You look for line, color, shadow, shape, etc. depending on the lesson. We are still working our way through their K-2 Book One, and will probably just repeat lessons as needed to finish the year. (I’d also love to do more chalk pastels… we love the free tutorials over at Southern Hodgepodge and I’d definitely buy an eBook from the same artist.)

contour drawing of a pasta scoop and some toys

Science – Oh how I love the curriculum I found for science!

I was beginning to despair after having looked at way too many science textbooks that were awful. Most are just a jumble of random topics, with gimmicky unrelated sidebars and thought bubbles littering the page. Science is a very orderly subject and deserves a solid foundation. That doesn’t mean you can’t ooh and ahhh over fun experiments, but it means you need to learn some context in order to really internalize the amazing things you observe.

And then the clouds parted and I found a curriculum designed by a mom with a chemistry P.h.D. She wanted to teach her children REAL science on a level they could understand and I think she succeeded. The books are simple, straightforward, short, and the experiments are related, easy, and illustrative. We are doing the Elementary level Chemistry book from Real Science-4-Kids (by Gravitas Publications) right now.

(We will spend the second half of the year focusing on history. Then we’ll pick up Biology for a part of next year, followed by a history focus, etc. That way we aren’t spread so thin with too many subjects, but we’re still able to dive into both science and history over the course of year.)

My only complaint with this curriculum is just that the laboratory notebook has some “busy work” questions that are redundant and don’t add much to the experiments. The experiments themselves are good, though. I got a steal of a deal on these and have them in digital format so I can print out new lab notebooks for each of my children for free. However, I don’t think I’d pay the money for the lab notebook now that I’ve seen it. I’d just get the teacher’s manual and let my kids write in a blank notebook to save the $$$.

Quiet Time – This is generally an hour of silent reading time for Mackenzie. I make sure she has a variety of great books to choose from, and she finds a comfy spot and gets lost in the stories. I consider this one of the most important things we do every day. It took diligence to establish the habit but it was absolutely worth the effort!

P.E. – I try and make sure we all get outside for some sunshine if there’s any to be had. Mackenzie’s playing soccer on a team right now so she does some specific soccer stuff every day to work on her skills.

Piano – After much deliberation, we decided it would be best for me to teach Mackenzie myself this year and so far (three weeks in), it’s going really well! I’m using the Alfred books that I learned from myself. She practices once or twice a day for 15 minutes and I give her a lesson whenever she thinks she’s ready to pass off her current assigned songs.

That’s it! It sounds like a lot laid out here, but we don’t do it all every day. I can quickly scale it down to the basics if needed, but I love that Mackenzie’s independent enough that we can do many “extras” right now as well.


IMPORTANT UPDATE: I blogged a year and a half later about which parts of our curriculum stood the test of time for us. Not everything listed above was a good fit, and I outline why in this update.


About beanland

Scott is a family practice doctor and Anne is a full-time mother and teacher to three beautiful girls and one boy.
This entry was posted in Curriculum, Homeschooling. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Our Homeschool Curriculum 2013 – 2014

  1. Anita says:

    That’s fantastic. You have such helpful links, too. Thank you for paving the way!


  2. Daniel says:

    Thank you so much for sharing with us all this info!


  3. mily says:

    Thanks for all good tips. We love you family.


  4. Pingback: An Ordinary January Day | Adventures in Beanland

  5. Pingback: Homeschool Curriculum Update – What we have loved and what we haven’t | Adventures in Beanland

  6. Pingback: What Memory Work Looks like in Our Homeschool | Adventures in Beanland

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