Monday, June 18, 2012

First Year of Homeschooling in Review

I was just thinking back again today at how different my life is compared to what it was one year ago.  What a joy and blessing to be where I am today!  Today, as I put away a Christmas present that I ordered early, Alissa was working on some school work.  The thought went through my head that if I was still teaching, instead of doing work this summer, we would be "vegging-out" and using summer break as the excuse.  My whole life and train of thought have changed.  Alissa is still doing a small amount of work every day.  On a heavy day, she may work for one and a half hours.  On a light day, she MAY work an hour.  Why stop?  Real life doesn't stop.  Working now will enable us to take a break during the holidays if we wish and enable us to officially end our year early in the spring next year when we are ready to be outside enjoying the beautiful, mild weather days.

Right now, Alissa is working on math and language arts everyday on, and soon, we will be adding social studies through the use of lapbooks.  Today, though, I thought I would give an overview of the curriculum we used last year.  I was inspired when I read anothers blogger's review of her year.  Maybe others out there, like me, enjoy reading about the experiences of others with different curriculums.  Please, remember, this was my first year.  There may be much better programs than what I used.

For math, we used Saxon math.  I used Saxon math for four years as a public school teacher and I loved the program.  I knew from the very beginning of my decision to homeschool that I would be using Saxon math at home.  I love that Saxon uses a spiral learning method.  When one new skill is covered, it is continually reviewed all the way until the last lesson.  In most curriculums, once one skill has been taught, the skill is never looked at again.  My child needs the continual review in order to really retain the skill.  Alissa really liked it, too.  It was probably her favorite subject.

Language Arts:

For phonics, we also used Saxon.  The Saxon phonics is much more intense than the math, but it is WONDERFUL!  This was my first experience with Saxon's phonics program, but now I am ready to be a sales representative for them!  lol!  I believe in it that much.  I was/am so amazed at what a difference it made in Alissa's ability to read and write well.  If you have a child who is really struggling with reading and spelling, I highly recommend this program!  It even taught me a thing or two-not that that would be a hard thing to do!  :)

For the reading component of language arts, we used Sonlight.  We also used Sonlight for history.  While Sonlight is good for some, it was not a good match for us.  I liked that it was a Christian curriculum, but Alissa just did not enjoy it.  Her reading books were much too easy for her.  The day we got the books in the mail, she picked up one of the books for the end of the year and started reading it.  Sonlight would have let me swap them, but with it being our first year of homeschool, I made the decision to keep them.  I decided I would rather her/us experience success and confidence rather than getting harder books that might push too hard and cause us to get discouraged.  She finished the books by Christmas.  I used books from our personal library and public library to finish out the year.  I did order the second grade books off ebay for her to work on during the summer.  That was before I made the decision to change curriculums for next year.  She also enjoyed some of the read alouds included with Sonlight.  Many of them were well-above her head, so to speak.  I found myself having to explain a lot to her.  It wasn't a horrible thing, but she would get very bored.  She is a do-er.  She would rather be doing something or making up her own story.  Every time I would take a breath, she would want to know if we were through.  :)  This doesn't make Sonlight a bad curriculum.  It just didn't fit her.  For many, it would be a perfect fit.  Many love to read/be read to for long periods of time.  For those, it would be perfect!  I loved the fact that my lesson plans with Sonlight were already done.  I will miss that this next school year!

I taught basics such as verbs, nouns, capital letters, punctuation, subjects, and predicates through writing and DOL (daily oral language).  Daily oral language was something I used in my classroom.  Basically, a sentence is written on the board with mistakes in it.  The student has to find and correct the mistakes.  Multiple choice questions or fill in the blank questions can also be used.  These are good for having a student identify or list parts of speech.  For example:  Which word is a noun?  List three verbs.  Underline the subject.  Underline the predicate.  etc...  This summer, we have had a great addition to our writing regimen.  Alissa now has a penpal.  It is turning out to be a great experience!

For science, we used LifePac.  The units were really too easy for Alissa, but it allowed for a lot of extra exploration outside of the curriculum.  I liked the fact that Jake (3) was able to participate in a lot of the activities.  I have looked at the units for second grade, and it doesn't look quite as easy.  I think Alissa will be doing a lot more independent work with it this year.  The fact that it is easy is okay with me since it is science.  We like adding activities and doing research beyond what is in the books.  The research often leads to great little writting projects!

For the next school year, I have decided to continue using Saxon math and LifePac science.  I went to a used curriculum sale and found the teacher's guide for Saxon and all but the first three units for the second grade LifePac curriculum.  For everything else, including Bible studies, I will be using the second grade curriculum from BJU Press.  I spent a long time piecing together the different pieces of the BJU Press curriculum and the missing pieces of the Saxon math and LifePac science using and  The savings were well worth the long hours and trouble!  If I had bought everything new and together, I would have spent about $1000.  I saved about $700!  I will have to sit down one day and figure out the exact numbers.  :)

What are your thoughts about your year or curriculum?  I would LOVE to hear about it!

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