Sunday, July 27, 2014

A chart comparison of how some programs handle history eras

I'm making a chart comparing how a few non-classical programs approach their history eras by rough grade level. Why non-classical? Well because the classical cycle is a fairly standard 4-year rotation.

I did this to help me visualize other approaches. For instance, Heart of Dakota does two big sweeps of history, and they do American history early on. My Father's World has a year of cultural studies and geography before they get into a history cycle. Each program listed has differences (of course).

I sorta color-coded eras but it's not perfect (but let me know if there's a mistake). The programs break up time periods differently. Within the chart currently are My Father's World, Heart of Dakota, Sonlight, Simply Charlotte Mason, and Ambleside Online.

I did:

  • light red: ancients
  • blue: US history/modern
  • green: more of a cultural/geographical approach vs. strict historical period
  • yellow: middle ages
  • purple: sweep of everything, or a really broad period of history tackled in a year
I linked to the scope & sequence or page that I grabbed the info from, below each column.

(shown as an image but the link to the chart is here)

Important to note: 

With Heart of Dakota, I called their "Little Hearts for His Glory" program their kindergarten program, but you can do that for 1st (they say ages 5-7). 

With Sonlight, the grade levels mentioned are minimums. Many people use P4/5 as their kindergarten, and do Core A with an older kid and so on. Also, they have years where they do a B+C combo, or a C+D combo if you wanted to hit that content in one year instead of two. 

I stopped at roughly 8th grade rather than compare it all the way through 12th. 

I am really not sure how to group some of Ambleside's. May need some revisions. 

P.S. I don't like Ambleside's approach at all, nor SCM's.

Are there other programs I should include here? Should I throw in classical programs? Any color-coding errors I should fix?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Learning some history myself

It occurred to me that it would be a good idea (given my rather pathetic education and understanding of world history) to do some learnin' of my own.

I am definitely a "see the big picture first" kinda gal. I need a broad view so I can have an idea of where the little pieces fit in, vs. a "examine individual plants and trees and THEN see them in the forest." Just like I want to have a general idea of how we'll approach history in my home -- I want to see the big picture before getting down to the details.

So, I grabbed a few sweeping history story books to read through. I hope to gain a better understanding of some key historical moments and people, as well as see how the general progression of history has flowed over the years. Perhaps this knowledge will help me make more informed decisions for choosing what to study with my children.

I have:

  • A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich
  • The Story of Mankind by van Loon
  • The Light and the Glory (American history) by Peter Marshall
I also have some Usborne world history books. One is a timeline and another is either an encyclopedia or just short fact book -- I forget what it's called.

I've read about 90 pages in to Story of the World vol. 3 by Bauer. Awhile back, I tried to read her history book written for adults. It was on the ancients. I just could not pay attention. 

I plan to get my hands on a copy of A Child's History of the World

This is only a start, so let me know if you have recommendations.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Plans and curriculum choices for kindergarten for my firstborn

My son is SO excited to go from "pre-kindergartner" to "kindergartner." I don't know what it is. But he just really likes the sound of it.

For a little while, I was a bit flustered at trying to figure out our plans for the year or even trimester. I realized I was trying to fit in too much and make things too complicated for myself. I still might be making things too complicated, and I will soon find out if that's the case.

To recap, my overall goals for his kindergarten year:

  • Keeping learning fun. Not stressful. Kindergarten!
  • Reading instruction/build confidence with reading
  • Build a mathematical-thinking foundation
  • Learn how to properly form lowercase letters
  • Be exposed to a variety of good literature through read-alouds, audio books, and reading to himself

So for this first trimester, here's my plan for Jonathan, age 5.5:

We'll start our first official week by making an "all about me" book. He loves making books and I'm sure he'll enjoy this activity. He's already talking about it and wanting to get started, but sometimes I think a little anticipation is good.

Bible study: At first, I was making things really complicated by trying to match a Bible reading with a memory verse + related song + coloring page + flannelboard. Sure, it's nice if things can be cohesive in theory, but in practice it was just getting complicated, and unnecessarily so. So we will read through some of our Bible storybooks, do scripture memory, read some devotionals that we have, and do songs but they don't have to all work together. It can be "pick it up and do it" and that is a-ok.

Phonics: Moving forward with All About Reading level 1. We are about halfway through this level (plenty of breaks up to this point) and it is going well. Some lessons are quite a bit longer than others. For example, a lesson might have a few new sounds, plus some activity sheets, plus a few pages of fluency reading. I break those into several days. Then the next lesson might be "just" have him read a story from the AAR reader. Much shorter.

If we want to take a break from AAR, we can pop over to some Happy Phonics games or Reading Pathways for some practice. But mostly? He is starting to really feel comfortable with reading children's books. He can read a lot of words and "just" having him read to me is the best thing, imo.

Strengthening his reading skills and confidence is my primary academic goal for him this year.

Math: RightStart math level A, 2nd edition. We have already completed a few lessons in here upon request. It is going well. The first 3 lessons have been a good length for us. He wanted to do more, but nope we will do one lesson per day max. Later on if he wants to keep moving I might entertain more than one lesson, but I think for the sake of avoiding burnout and also letting concepts soak in, one per day is plenty. If we want a break from RightStart, I have Math-U-See Alpha (I now own the DVD and teacher's manual thanks to some freebies from a friend! And some other MUS DVDs, too), Math Mammoth, and the Critical Thinking Co. kindergarten-level book.

We'll also do some calendar work and tally stick counting/bundling up to 100 as described in the MFWK manual.

Handwriting: Johnny is decent with capital letters and it's time to work on lowercase. I guess. His fine motor skills are improving and he enjoys writing. A few weeks ago, he made me a "Happy July 13" card with a silly message inside. Haha! So we'll use Handwriting Without Tears K (since I already have it) and I'll look for other ways for him to do some writing.

Science/crafts/poetry/music/nature/etc.: Even though I'm using different materials for the 3Rs right now, I still like the My Father's World kindergarten units. We have completed 7 of 26. I like the unit study with these, and will use them to help focus our library books for read-alouds. Also, field trips, educational DVDs and such. The Bible lessons are short and sweet, but I think they are age-appropriate and worthwhile.

I've decided to skip all phonics and the worksheets within, so that I can have them to use with Vivienne. Unfortunately I don't have the ones from previous lessons, so I'm not sure what I'll do about that. Maybe create my own for those units, maybe skip it. I dunno. I think she could be ready to do the program herself in full next year. It will look different for her when she does it, because I will likely use the introductory phonics with her.

I also plan to use Five in a Row vol 1. and the FIAR character study book. I also have the character study book put out by Beautiful Feet, and perhaps we can do a mish-mash of them. I might wait until we're done with the MFWK units, or I might start doing those alongside our MFWK? I'm going to be flexible here.

Developing the Early Learner: I don't even know what to call this workbook, exactly. We have only used it a few times but I want to be more deliberate with pulling it out this year. It has activities for improving eye tracking, listening skills, memory, thinking skills, etc. Brain exercises.

Field trips: I would ideally like to do at least 2 field trips per month. We can do some with my little local field trip group, or some as a family. I will try to match them up to our MFWK units, or perhaps just something fun of interest. Or the zoo, or children's museum, or some one-time thing going on. For these to happen, I think I'm going to have to be intentional with planning and putting them on the calendar.

We have one coming up in August that is at a park and we'll have a program about insects, reptiles and amphibians. We will likely do a family trip to a local dairy as part of our cow unit.

Other activities: Library storytime, homeschool playtime co-op group, swimming lessons and who knows what else.

As far as scheduling, I think that's what tripped me up the most when I was trying to make spreadsheets and stuff. I am in a busy stage right now with the baby and I do need to work with and around her. I want to do reading instruction in some form 4-5 days per week. Math, I'm thinking 3-5 days per week. Handwriting/fine motor skill work 3-5 days. I think. Read-alouds daily.

But really, this is doable because lessons can be really short. I can do a 15-minute reading lesson with the baby crawling around nearby/put her in her playpen/put her in the highchair with something to nom on.

Vivienne is gobs easier at this age. I will include her with read-alouds, Bible time and of course field trips and activities. If she wants to join us for phonics, I've just been using some of the AAR tiles or flashcards to teach her letter names and sounds. She is also welcome to join us for some math lessons if she wants. I also have a lot of educational toys on her level that we can work with together.

2nd/3rd trimester possibilities:

We may add some additional science experiments using some books I already have.

We may also add some more focused history reading via History for Little Pilgrims and History Stories for Children (which I already own). They are a part of the Heart of Dakota curriculum. I considered using HOD this year but there was plenty I would omit and I thought it would complicate things by trying to integrate it all. Still, I may use it to help guide history readings and discussion later on.

Maybe we'll add on our Beginning Geography workbook.

Once we complete AAR level 1, I will add a spelling program. Most likely, All About Spelling. I'll look into spelling programs later.

Check back with me in a few months to see what we really did :).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More history thoughts, and I'm not on an island

It's so nice that I'm not homeschooling on an island. I mean, I guess I could do it on an island and I'm sure we'd learn a lot. But what I'm saying is, I'm really thankful that I'm not in the pioneering generation of homeschoolers. I have friends who are late 20s/early 30s who were homeschooled themselves, and now they are homeschooling their children.

I have friends who homeschooled their children, who are now graduates or high schoolers.

And I have friends who are right here with me, starting out and with younger kids.

I LOVE that I can obtain so many perspectives from friends! And of course the internet has lots of opinions. What a convenient time I'm in.


So I'm getting some history ideas from friends and soaking it in. I wanted to share just a few things that are standing out to me:

This post at Memoria Press called "History is Not Chronological." I am not familiar with the company or their general education philosophy, but this article really, really resonated with me. See part 2 here, at "How to Teach History Chronologically."

Another influential article, this time from Beautiful Feet: "When Should I Teach Ancient History?"

It's curriculum round-up week at The Curriculum Choice, and here are a ton of reviews for history and geography. Perfect timing, folks!

I own a resource called "All Through the Ages" which is a very well-organized book list for history titles. I may get it spiral-bound or do contact paper on the cover or something, because this is a book I will use for many years to help get ideas for library books and such for specific time periods. Love it.

Linking for future reference: a pro-ancient history in 1st grade thread from Well-Trained Mind forums (with some who are not doing ancients/wouldn't recommend it). And here's "is there a case against teaching history chronologically."

Wanted to link up a book and movie list matchup for historical eras since that post isn't particularly good for Pinterest.

Soo...I'm less anti-ancients in early years than I was a few days ago. I'm still not completely sure of what I want to do, though.

Ooh, and I remember we definitely talked about Mesopotamia and the "fertile crescent" and I'm wanting to say that was 6th grade? Perhaps? It's starting to come back to me in bits.

p.s. Blogger has been eating comments! So if you want to comment here, I would suggest typing it and then copying it to your clipboard just in case.