Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some Curriculum Changes

I am learning. . . now that we are 3 years in to this homeschool thing, that some curriculum choices that we make at the beginning of the year may not end up being the best decision for our family. I tend to be the type of person that insists on finishing what we started, but when we all dread something or one subject makes a child cry - then we need a new plan.

Basically, this year we really like almost everything. There were, however, 2 things that needed to be changed. First, was Lucy's reading curriculum. I struggled in the beginning with what to do with her. She was beyond a regular kindergarten reading curriculum, but didn't know if she was confident enough in her reading to jump into a first grade program (for reading only). I ended up choosing a 1st grade reading curriculum that was on the easy side in comparison to most 1st grade programs. I thought this one was sort of a happy medium between kindergarten and a true 1st grade (like I used with Norah in 1st grade). However, while Lucy started reading last year, she was really struggling this year to pick up all the phonics rules at such a quick pace. She was basically learning a new rule every day. She did great the day of the rule, but by the next day when she was learning another, she had already forgotten the one from the day before. She was crying everyday about doing her reading. She didn't mind actually reading to me, but she hated any workbook pages related directly to the rules. I seriously about made myself CRAZY trying to decide what to do with her. Finally, I decided to take more of a Charlotte Mason approach to her reading. She is reading to me every day and as we come across a word she can't figure out - we go over that rule. She is also using Explode the Code - but we are in a book that is a little on the easy side for her. She has it in her mind that because Norah is such a good reader that she isn't going to be a good reader. (She actually told me today that is going to have her nose in math all the time - just like Norah has her nose in books all the time.) I really think she needs to build up some confidence before I push her too much. So far, this is working and she doesn't cry about reading (she does whine about it - but it is much easier to deal with than the falling on the ground and sobbing that was happening before.)

The second change is with our science. We really enjoyed our science last year - but the curriculum that I bought this year for Norah came with its own science so I decided to go with it. Now, I need to say that we LOVE the history and Bible portion of Norah's curriculum. It is great for us and the girls love both of those subjects. Lucy does them with us because she doesn't want to be left out. The science is on the weak side. We just pushed through the first half of the year but after Christmas, I told Kevin that I couldn't take it anymore. I dreaded doing science with them and unless I took tons of extra time adding to the lessons, I didn't feel like the girls were getting much out of it. The books that we used are good, but there was no rhyme or reason to the structure. To me, it didn't flow well and it was mostly reading. The reading was such a brief overview that I didn't think the girls were getting/remembering anything that they were learning.

We just started using Real Science-4-Kids. I am excited about this because it comes with a book to read together, a workbook for experiments/observations/thoughts and a teacher's guide with detailed instructions. So far, the book is great - the pictures are fun and the writing is done is a way that I think they will remember what they are learning. I love the workbook because I don't have to come up with a science notebook for the girls - it is all right here and follows the book exactly. There are 3 sets of books for the pre-level 1 (written for grade 1-3, but I think Lucy will enjoy it as much as Norah) - chemistry, biology, and physics. I love that the books are divided into areas of science - perfect for my OCD personality!! The experiments look great too! This week the girls played with legos as we talked about atoms as building blocks and tomorrow the girls are going to build molecules with marshmallows and toothpicks.

The other change is my time with Daphne. Her totschool time had sort of fallen by the wayside. We got busy doing other things and I would plan to do stuff with her later in the day and it never happened. Now, I am doing school stuff with her first thing - Lucy joins us for most of it. Then Lucy does a couple of independent things while I work with Daphne. Then when I am done with Daphne (we usually work for about 30-45 min), I work with Lucy. We get all of her work done (except history and science - which we do with Norah) by lunch. Daphne is LOVING her school-time. She asks every day, "It my cool time yet? Peas?" Seriously, cute.

Norah spends the whole morning doing independent work. She practices the piano, works on math facts, completes her handwriting, works on her writing lesson, reads, etc. I try to change it up for her - but she is a creature of habit so she likes the regular schedule. Once Daphne goes down for her nap, er, I mean, rest time (Well, I don't know what to call her afternoon time in her room. She doesn't sleep, she doesn't rest, and she really isn't quiet. at. all.), I teach history and science. When we finish that, Lucy goes to her room to listen to a book on cd or to play. Then I teach math, spelling and grammar. The schedule is working well, except for the fact that we literally don't finish until 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. The girls do get breaks here and there so it works for them.

I am glad that we are back into a routine after a crazy December. The girls are happy with the minor changes that we made. It is hard to believe that this school year is more than half over. I am so not ready to start looking at curriculum for next year but it won't be long!!


ErinL said...

I find that the longer I homeschool the more likely that I will change some part of my curriculum mid year. I think there are 2 reasons for this. One is that I take more risks. I'm not so nervous to try something new. Sometimes that is a HUGE blessing to us and sometimes not so much! The second reason is that I've done this long enough to know pretty quickly if something isn't going to work. I've already changed my grammar for Clayton this year. I'm changing their writing soon (great curriculum, it's just getting old for us) and I'm adding a couple of things (typing and a study on Latin roots). Science was the big bomb for me this year. I tried something new and expensive. I REALLY thought it was going to be perfect for them since it is very hands on. Unfortunately they present so little information on each subject that the kids aren't retaining ANYTHING. What's even more unfortunate is that I can't afford to change it right now so we are muddling through it and getting the most out of it that we can until next year when I am switching them to Apologia. That's the pros and cons of homeschooling!!!