Sunday, July 27, 2014

A chart comparison of how some programs handle history eras

Note: Some updates below.

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.  OK Actually, after reading more about SCM's approach and actually downloading a sample (instead of just looking at the page where they describe the materials used) I think I do like it a little more. The 6-year cycle is kind of throwing me but I need to look into it more. Some people say the 4-year is too short. My main concern is I don't want to wait thaaat long to get to American lit, but perhaps there is an easy workaround.

P.P.S. I actually have been unaware of the Sonlight drama that went down like a year ago. Maybe it's ongoing. I dunno. Apparently Sonlight has made a bunch of changes to cores and people are mad. For me, Sonlight isn't a good fit (I identify with several of the "reason's not to buy this program" that they have on their site). But I just wanted to include how they do their progression...which apparently has changed and it's not a set in stone thing. So. Ok then.

P.P.P.S: I was woken up a lot last night. And each time I was thinking about some history-related thing. Apparently I'm dreaming about this and a baby is interrupting me.

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.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Which sequence do I want to follow to teach history?! And to combine, or not combine kids?!!

Oh my word, there are as many ways to approach teaching history as there are dandelions in my yard.

My head is spinning. I've tackled the phonics curriculum and math curriculum decisions for right now and I guess I'll move on to thinking about history. I have time to read and think it over.

Some people take a classical 4-year cycle: ancients, medieval, renaissance/early modern, modern-present. You'd do a year for each time period and cycle through it three times over the course of the 1st-12th grade span. You go deeper each time.

Or you could do a six-year cycle.

Then there's the school of thought that the little kids don't need to deal with ancient history from the get-go. Do a sweep of world history perhaps, but focus on the modern-present era, namely American history while they are little.

BUT if I did a bunch of American and more modern history and then jumped back to ancients when Johnny was 4th or 5th grade, then my baby would then be starting out with the ancients.

That brings me to the question of whether to keep all children in your family studying the same time period, or put them on their own cycle?

Because yeah, if you're keeping them all together then what will that look like for child #2 and child #3?!

It's all well and good for the firstborn. I guess the second kid will jump in at the middle ages or something, but in theory hear some of the earlier stuff if they are in the room for read-alouds and discussions.

I made a chart of when my kids will all start their more formal learning. I based it on the local cutoff dates for K (must be age 5 by like August something). I also think I'd like them to be 18 at graduation, rather than 17. I was 17, but turned 18 a few weeks later which was fine. My December X2 and late September babies will have their birthdays mid-year or toward the beginning of the year.

So again, the grade label is pretty much for social purposes. Academics are done on a per-child level.

I color-coded the 4-year spans pretending we'll do a classical history cycle and starting over again with each color, to see how that might look.

So no pretty matchup, here. Johnny is 2 grade levels ahead of Vivie, and Vivie is 3 ahead of Amelia. Johnny is 5 grades ahead of Amelia.

If I wanna combine some kids, it would be easiest to combine either Johnny and Viv, or Viv and Millie, rather than trying to combine all 3.

Or, I could have Amelia join Johnny's cycle in kindergarten, and slide my little color-coded thing back a level. Then change up her focus in high school since she'll be by herself for 3 years (maybe she could do her 4 years of high school credits starting in 8th, and then pick her favorite periods to go in-depth in 12th?).

I think I prefer that vs. sliding Amelia forward one notch.

To me, the 4-year cycle and going chronologically makes sense, except I do wonder about those first 4 years. Does it even matter to a child at that age? One of the drawbacks of this is the availability of literature for the ancients for the 1st grade set. Sure, there are books like Usborne or Eyewitness varieties. But literature? Meh.

Plus, you have to consider the opportunity cost. If I'm doing ancients in 1st and medieval in 2nd, there perhaps won't be enough time to do some of the wonderful, age-appropriate read-alouds from the modern-present era. Or perhaps it will just need to be more limited. Can't do it all. Know what I mean? By following one path, I can't take another at the same time.

I could try to combine until the child hits 8th grade, and then have them do their own thing for high school. Yeah I think that makes sense. High school is a whole 'nother thing.

When I think back to my own education, I know we did state history in 4th grade. I cannot remember anything else from elementary "social studies." Probably American history, and I have no idea if world history was involved in any way. (Maybe it doesn't actually matter that much? The eras studied in elementary?) In middle school, it was "social studies" for 6th and 7th, and then 8th grade was "U.S. History."

In high school, I did world geography, a year of U.S. history, and a semester focusing on WW2 because I liked the teacher so much. I wanted to take world history, but the teacher who taught that class was pretty bad (I had him for something else) so I opted out.

(I took a break here and pulled up some pages from my old middle and high school, as well as Indiana state standards to see what I might have been taught).

....ok. So, I think no matter what I put together, it's going to be ok.

Anyway. There are a lot of ways to approach the sequence, and there are a lot of ways to approach how you even teach it in the first place.

Rather than try to answer the question, "what is the best way to teach history?" I'm going to look at "what is the best way for ME to teach history to MY kids."

I'm going to explore some ways to handle this with my 3 kids and I will report back.

I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on any of this.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Geopuzzles are awesome for geography and puzzles and yaaaaaay!

Ever since I saw a picture of Geopuzzles in a homeschool stuff catalog a few years ago, I knew that eventually we would own them. What's not to love? Puzzles for geography!

These puzzles have a few typical jigsaw-style pieces on sections like oceans, but for countries, states, etc., they are shaped like that state. Of course, teeny-tiny New England states are lumped together and there are indeed a few smaller countries that are a part of another piece, but for the most part they are their own little shape.

These are like cardboard with a special coating on them. Matte. I'm not sure what it is, but it seems reasonably durable for children who can handle things with care. The box says ages 4+. For Johnny, I think he would have been overwhelmed at that age.

He did the United States and Canada puzzle first. He just did his thing, and then I added a piece. He asked if I would just let him do it. Well, ok then.

Then, he asked if he could do Africa. Sure, why not?

He was so proud! I asked him to find a few states and we left it at that. I showed him where Egypt was on the Africa map. The end. Plenty of time to learn more place names and such.

It looks like Geopuzzles has repackaged their offerings to a new bundle. You can buy all 6 puzzles from Rainbow Resource for $46.25. That is a STEAL. But. I was able to snag a bargain (damaged) version for $33. Ha! I knew that meant the box would be damaged but Idoncare.

Sure enough, the box was torn and squashed on the end but it mattered not. All of the puzzles came in their own bag, and it included a zip-top bag to store them. It also had 3 double-sided pictures of what the maps are supposed to look like when completed.

I cut out the picture on the damaged box to also include in each storage bag. I am storing all the bags in a canvas cube that we had.

I do think the 6 puzzle set is worth it, because it's definitely cheaper and less to store. If you buy each puzzle separately, they are $12.95 ($77 for all 6/nope!).

I plan to put these puzzles in our educational toy loop (more on that topic to come). Or if we don't have much going on and he wants to do a puzzle, then yep, that's ok.

We've had these for a few weeks now and he pulls them out of the closet fairly frequently. I have noticed some pieces have slight "stress factures" especially where there is a narrow part. We will have to be careful.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thoughts and goals for my son's kindergarten year

Note: This post got stuck as a draft. I wrote this at the beginning of June. Wanted to publish.

I'm going to follow the public school cutoff and general calendar for assigning grade levels for my children. It has nothing to do with the level of curriculum they are using; it's just to keep things easier for when folks ask, "What grade are you in?" or for outside activities and such.

Anyway, kindergarten. Let's talk about it.

Philosophically, I am leaning Charlotte Mason. I appreciate her gentle approach, short lessons, encouraging exploration in the outdoors, fine arts appreciation, narration and dictation and so on. She would have formal schooling begin at 1st grade or age 6, and I've jumped ahead since I am overeager with my firstborn.

I've been devouring pages and posts at and I think I may try to piece together our full program using their model.

Here's some big-picture goals that I'd like to accomplish for my son's kindergarten experience:
  • Fun. If no fun, no doing. It's kindergarten. The unfun schooling can come later. :)
  • Field trips! Museums, historical sites, whatever. I feel like this is a wonderful age to get out and explore as a family. 
  • Phonics: Phonics instruction will continue to be my primary focus. 
  • Writing: I will increase the frequency in handwriting instruction and practice to emphasize proper letter formation, spacing and scale. 
  • Math: We will also begin a math program to start laying a solid mathy foundation.
  • Read-alouds. There are so many wonderful books and such limited time! I'm happy my kids enjoy listening to books. We still do plenty of picture books and are adding longer stories with fewer pictures, too. Also, some audio books.
  • Bible: hymns, memory verses, stories, catechism 

Just submitted my application to join HSLDA (and a free gift with membership!)

Even though Indiana is a homeschool-friendly state, and even though my son is only 5 and the law doesn't require me to start his official schooling yet, I wanted to join HSLDA this year.

Why? Well the Home School Legal Defense Association has done a LOT to advocate for homeschoolers. Legally, legislatively, all about it here.

If a member family were to run into legal trouble regarding homeschooling, the HSLDA would be there to represent them for no charge beyond the membership dues.

Friendly as Indiana may be, I have seen Hoosier parents run into trouble from overreaching public school administrators. It's a bit concerning.

So I'm happy to put part of my homeschool budget toward a HSLDA membership. The money helps support a cause I believe in.

The bargain-lover in me wants to share this:

As a (free!) member of my state's homeschooling association, I was able to get a discount pricing for HSLDA membership. You can, too.

ALSO, if you join for a 2-year or 5-year membership, you can get a free gift. There are a few options from which to choose.

I chose the "Adventures in American History" from Adventures in Odyssey. It's 8 hours of CD stories. Woo! Retail value of $49 for non-members. This appears to be an exclusive HSLDA compilation, but I could be wrong on that.

Either way, I have been looking for more audio stories to enjoy in the van and I'm excited! I think I vaguely remember some Adventures in Odyssey programs from the radio from when I was little, but I could be mis-remembering.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

One of the problems with being a curriculum junkie

There are actually many. One problem I'm discovering as I'm trying to piece together our plan for kindergarten is I have so many materials I want to use, but a finite amount of time. We can't do it all!

I'm also seeing that while all-in-one programs are convenient in theory, I don't like everything in the all-in-ones I've seen. So. Harumph. Benefit gone.

I am mapping out kindergarten with the aid of Simply Charlotte Mason ebook "Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education." I appreciate how it takes you from a big-picture view, then year, term, week and day. The SCM blog talks about this, but the ebook has more detail and planning worksheets. I didn't get the DVD so no comment there.

I am also repeating, "This is kindergarten," to myself pretty much every third thought.

So. I'm piecing together kindergarten with way too many resources. A little bit overwhelming and a problem I gave myself.

I'm figuring out what I would like J to learn, how frequent and a general flow to our day. Subject to change, of course. Also, thinking about outside-the-house activities and field trips and how to make it all work.

I do like the idea of planning terms vs. an entire year.

Also on my mind are my other two children. Viv is 3.5 and we're going to call her a preschooler. Millie is 9 months old and she's a babyschooler. Johnny was actually talking about his idea of her curriculum. He said she needed to learn letters, shapes, numbers, and how to not eat things that are not food. Also, how to walk. Haha! Get with it, baby.

Our RightStart math box came a few days ago and swoon! I am loving it. I let the kids look over some of the materials and they are happy. Johnny asked me a few times today about doing the first lesson so I caved and J and V and I did lesson 1, plus some open-ended exploring on the fly.

I was impressed when I asked them to show me 3 on the abacus. Vivie slid 3 beads over. I said ok now make it 6 (her favorite number). She didn't count She just grabbed 3 more and slid them over and said "6." HECK YES, BABY GIRL! High-fives all around.

I will invite Vivie to join us for math lessons as a means of crowd control and inclusion, and if she gets something more out if it then yay.

I'm going to have some activities and one-on-one time for her. Hopefully that will help our days go more smoothly, and maybe help her learn some stuff.

As far as baybay...oh man. Amelia is entering the crazy stage, which Shane and I have observed with our other children that it lasts until oh, 18m? And then they plateau for a few months and then turn 2 and become a different sort of crazy. With this crazy stage, they are becoming increasingly mobile and their hand-mouth coordination is improving...and they are a total hazard to themselves.

So the trick will be to include Amelia in whatever possible (mostly by being in my baby carrier, or perhaps in her high chair with some interesting toys/baby-safe items) and swap out big kids playing with her where I can see them, but have one-on-one time with the other kid. I am nervous about all of that.

Anyways. The good news? It's kindergarten! And I will learn lots. By the time Amelia finishes kindergarten, maybe I will have the whole kindergarten thing figured out.

Where is my coffee.