[Warning: LONG Post]
So … we are about two months into the school year here in Montreal and are ready to talk curriculum! This year (school year 2012/2013 our children are in Grades 7, 5 and 3. Here is what Alethea is doing this year.
Overall, we have relied largely on the curriculum/book recommendations from Ambleside Online for Year 7.
Life in the Word - We wanted Alethea to learn how to study the Bible on her own this year and was pleased to find this guide published by www.simplycharlottemason.com. You will find more information and a free sample on their website. We believe it is important for our children to learn to search the Scriptures on their own and to develop discernment. She does this twice a week.
Book study – On the days that she is not doing Life in the Word, she reads a chapter of a pre-assigned book of the Bible. She has finished 1 & 2 Timothy and is now covering Proverbs.
Devotional reading – She is also reading the following on her own: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.
Scripture Memory – We are using www.fighterverses.com by Bethlehem Baptist Church. This is a five year programme and I love that they have a Fighter Verses App for both iPhone and Android so we are all doing it as a family. Each verse is set to song, which is great for the younger ones.
Hymns – We learn/review two to three hymns each week. I bought The Christian Life Hymnal from www.cbd.com and love it. It is inexpensive and includes some modern praise songs as well. Also nice that it comes in four colours, one for each child.
Christian Worldview – I had great ambitions to do the curriculum from Apologia titled Who is God?: And Can I Really Know Him but we haven’t yet found a fixed time during the week for this. Putting it on the backburner for now but itching to get it done.
This deserves a separate post of its own (which knowing me will not happen anytime soon). But here’s a summary of where we are: After having relied mainly on local (Singapore) math, with Math-U-See, Right Start Math, etc thrown in for good measure, we switched to Saxon Math last year because we wanted our kids to be adequately prepared for the Canadian Achievement Test at the end of the school year.
Suffice it to say it wore us all out and now we are using Life of Fred. Alethea is doing Pre-Algebra I with Biology and is really enjoying it. We’ll be sticking with this for a while. More on this another time.
Exploring Creation with General Science – I have a confession to make. We have NEVER, in our 8 years of homeschooling, completed a science curriculum. So as not to “mess around” this year, we signed Alethea up for the online class offered by The Potter School. This is a Christian school and the weekly live online classes/assignments/tests are keeping us on track … for once.
Madam How and Lady Why – This is actually on Tim’s reading list, but since it is so good, and Alethea missed doing it earlier, I have decided to read aloud to them both.
Nature Journaling - In Charlotte Mason style we try to go out for nature walks regularly, but recently it’s been COLD and sometimes rainy, so we have confined our nature journaling to the backyard, and bits of nature in the house – a venus flytrap, some ornamental corn and squash we bought for Thanksgiving. We bought and were thoroughly inspired by the books by Clare Walker Leslie on keeping a nature journal and sprang for a copy of the blank journal titled Nature Journal: A Guided Journal for Illustrating and Recording Your Observations of the Natural World by the same author. In it Alethea has produced some of her best illustrations. There is something to be said about drawing in a beautiful book.
The Mystery of History Volume 2: The Early Church and the Middle Ages – Our family started using The Mystery of History Volume 1 last year and though we are not done with it yet, I wanted Alethea to start on Volume 2 on her own this year. She does three chapters a week, making note cards for each lesson. In the meantime, we are reading from Volume 1 as a family.
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain – recommended by Ambleside Online.
Trail Guide to World Geography – this is a pretty painless but very effective geography programme. Four days a week, the kids answer two questions which takes them 10 to 15 mins depending on how easy it is to find the information. Once a week, with two other families, we do the map work for the week. I am learning so much with them. *shame*
Living Books – Alethea is also reading The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin and How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger, both recommended by Ambleside Online.
Dictation – We are continuing to use Spelling Wisdom from www.simplycharlottemason.com. Alethea is in Book 2 and does two passages a week. She is currently on passage 103 of 140, but I am not sure yet if we will continue on to Book 3 after.
Grammar – Our Mother Tongue: An Introductory Guide to English Grammar by Nancy Wilson. I didn’t know it when I bought it, but this has a Christian angle. Good for us, but thought I’d include that for other families looking into it. Also it is not by any means a “starter” book. Each lesson has A LOT to it and fits into the “better later” approach to learning grammar that Charlotte Mason had. This is our first year doing grammar. There is a separate answer key which we don’t have and haven’t needed. Yet.
Poetry – The Grammar of Poetry by Matt Whitling. Another Ambleside Online recommendation which Alethea is enjoying. In addition, we have a “Poet-tea” session every Friday (something which I blogged about earlier) and each of us reads a selection to the others. This year Alethea is reading from the anthology Favorite Poems Old and New, and later in the year will be studying the poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson and John Keats, both recommendations from Ambleside Online.
Journaling – Once a week Alethea writes a journal entry about something significant which happened during the week.
Written Narrations – Once a week Alethea is required to type up a narration from one of her readings. This is separate from the notes she makes from her Mystery of History readings and from the writing she does for her literature projects. So far her two favourite sources to narrate from have been “Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?” and “The Brendan Voyage”.
Boomerang Book Club by Brave Writer. You can read more about it here, but it basically is an online (but not real-time) book club. They study a book each month. The first week the students introduce themselves to the group and read the book. The subsequent weeks they post questions which the students respond to. They can respond to other students’ responses as well, and sometimes they get pretty carried away and it turns into like a chat room, but I love that the teacher is there as watchdog and moderator so things never get out of hand. There are some pretty smart kids in this group and Alethea has really benefitted from the exchange of ideas, which was one of the main areas that Tee Chiou felt was missing from the homeschool experience. So despite the price-tag (US$450 for 10 months’ worth of particpation), this has been a great addition to our homeschool curriculum. The other benefit has been Alethea’s exposure to literature outside our usual reading lists. They are reading and discussing titles I would never have thought to check out.
Ambleside Online Selections – As usual Ambleside Online has an incredible reading list for literature and even though the Boomerang Book Club would have been more than sufficient for literature, I was greedy and did not want Alethea to miss out on the Ambleside Online list! So this year she is also reading The Once and Future King by T. H. White, A Taste of Chaucer: Selections from the Cantebury Tales, Bulfinches’ Medieval Mythology, and English Literature for Boys and Girls. She does this on her own time on the weekends. Slave Driver Mom.
Chinese – Tee Chiou is still HOD (Head of Department) for Chinese here. *whew* The kids start each day at 7.30 am with lessons with Daddy before he heads for work. After he leaves, they continue on their own, either completing work he has set for them and/or reading.
French – The kids have lessons with a local French teacher once a week and she supplies them with enough homework/reading assignments to last the week. In addition, they now have their music lessons (almost) completely in French.
[Aside: It was funny the other day when we were trying to figure out the tune for a new hymn and I said the word "crotchet", refering to a quarter note, and they all stared blankly at me. LOL! I told them it was a note value and they thought I meant "croche" which sounds almost the same but really is French for a "quaver" which is an eighth note. *faint*]
Latin – Together with two other homeschool families, we are learning Latin the fun way using Minimus: Starting Out in Latin.
Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury is the Ambleside Online recommendation for this.
Twice a week, Alethea and I scan the online news sites in search of something significant. Like the US Elections. Tee Chiou is always feeding us with news articles and happenings as well, which is great because I’m honestly pretty clueless about what’s happening around the world. There! I said it! Alethea reads the article(s) and types up a summary for record.
Fallacy Detective – Alethea and I are working through this together and I’m particularly fond of this because I majored in philosophy in university and love being able to “talk shop” with her. Tim is always trying to butt into our discussions.
Thinking Toolbox – the high schoolers are doing this together during our weekly homeschool group sessions.
Both these books are by the Bluedorns.
We are doing Charlotte Mason style picture studies with two other families during the week. Starting a new artist this week. I think we’ll be doing Michaelangelo. I’m so tempted to buy the picture study packages from Simply Charlotte Mason but know that with all that I already own, I really have no excuse to buy more. *wink*
Music and Moments with the Masters - We were using this music appreciation programme by Cornerstone Curriculum, www.cornerstonecurriculum.com last year but have not been able to fit it into our schedules this year. Hope to revive it again in due course.
Piano – Alethea is learning to play the piano in a local music school and has been a most diligent student! Tee Chiou is waiting for the day she will play Chopin and we think that day may be soon.
Sewing – We are very ad hoc with this, but Alethea has picked up sewing on the sewing machine. I have been trying to get her started, but she kept saying she preferred sewing by hand till recently. I hope she’s hooked. She also does cross-stitching.
Cooking – Alethea was cooking a lot with me during the summer break, and we canned various things with great success. But since starting school, I haven’t been able to find time to include her. The weekdays are full, and on the weekends, I honestly like my “space” to work alone in the kitchen. I need to involve her more. Sigh …
Cleaning – Apart from her own room and helping out in various general areas, Alethea is responsible for washing one load of laundry a week and for folding her own clothes. She also washes her own toilet, which I try not to step into. LOL!
WHEW! That certainly got long! If you have other suggestions for us to consider (not for this year, I think we are pretty full ) but for the future, please leave a comment! I’m a bit of a curriculum junkie and would love to hear of new and interesting finds.
Here’s to Teaching Our Own!