Our Homeschool Curriculum for 2014-15 (with a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old)
Leadership Education is our overall homeschooling philosophy. Since my kids are 4 and 7, they are still in the Core Phase of development, where I am not pushing them academically. That does not mean that we don't do any academics, just that I don't force or pressure anyone to do academics. In keeping with the lessons of Core Phase, I do make it a priority for my kids to learn how to be helpful, responsible members of our household through chores and working alongside me.
Common Subjects for Both Kids
Although my kids are three years apart, a significant portion of our homeschool lessons are for both of them. This is one way in which homeschooling often differs from conventional schools which are separated by grade and age. In our homeschool, to a large degree everyone is learning about the same things, though certainly my daughter often digs into things more deeply than her younger brother does.
Responsibility, Integrity, Good and Bad, Right and Wrong
Both of my children are learning the most important lessons of Core Phase (good/bad, right/wrong, responsibility, etc) through working alongside me and through doing chores. In our home, I need to have a routine and very clear expectations in place in order to facilitate my children's completion of their chores.
Both of my children are expected to:
put away their own clean clothes when I do laundry,
put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket,
take their dirty dishes to the sink after each meal, and
clean up their toys and the messes they make.
In addition, my 4-year-old son is expected to:
wash lunch dishes once a week (which are then loaded into the dishwasher by myself), and
work alongside me on Once-A-Month Cleaning Day.
In addition, my 7-year-old daughter is expected to:
wash breakfast dishes twice a week (which are then loaded into the dishwasher by myself),
feed and water the chickens daily,
collect and label eggs daily, and
clean the kids' room and the play/craft table on Once-A-Month Cleaning Day, in addition to cleaning alongside me.
Family Read-Alouds of Books Which Teach Character and Beauty
Daily, I read to my children from a classic book. This reading time has become an integral part of our day, a time for us to connect while we read and discuss the valuable life lessons that are illustrated in the books we read.
My children and I also participate in a monthly Classic Book Discussion Group with some friends who are also implementing the Leadership Education philosophy. In this group, the parents read the books aloud to their own children, and then we all get together to discuss the books.
I am not using a traditional math curriculum for my children. Rather, they are learning math in the context of everyday life, through games, and through Life of Fred.
Everyday math includes learning math through activities such as:
baking, which teaches measuring and fractions,
grocery shopping, including price comparisons and weighing of items,
setting the table for dinner with the right number of napkins and utensils, and
earning money for pulling weeds, then counting their money and saving to buy specific items.
Life of Fred is a series of math books that my kids LOVE. These books tell stories about Fred, a 5-year-old math genius who teaches classes at a university. The chapters are nice and short, and the end of each chapter gives a chance for us to practice math from the chapter (which we usually do on a lap-size dry erase board). In addition to teaching math, Life of Fred also teaches much more. For instance, we learned about the Orion Nebulae in Life of Fred: Butterflies. Our new Life of Fred books for this school year are Edgewood and Farming.
Math games are a wonderful way to learn math while having fun. Since my son isn't advanced enough to play many of these games yet, I modify some of the rules for him. Currently, our favorite math games are:
Sum Swamp - teaches addition, subtraction, odd and even
Yahtzee - teaches addition, number recognition, and writing
Monopoly - teaches larger numbers and the concepts of buying/selling. Since it can be such a long game, I typically limit the game to one hour long and we each start the game with two properties.
Milles Borne - teaches addition of larger numbers and an understanding of which numbers are greater
Pretend Store - Both of my kids love setting up pretend stores so they can buy and sell their wares.
History and Science
Because I like to have some overarching themes of what we will focus on from year to year, I am using a 4-year cycle for History and Science. (I read about this 4-year-cycle in The Well-Trained Mind; I don't recommend following the overall schooling methodology laid out in The Well-Trained Mind as that is what led us to have total school burnout, but I do still like to use some of the ideas from that book.) The cycle starts with 1st-4th grade, and then gets repeated again from 5th-8th grade and again in 9th-12th grade, with more detail and rigor each time. Although my son is still in preschool, he chooses to join my daughter for most of these studies.
For 3rd grade history, we are using the audio book of Story of the World Volume 3: Early Modern Times as our history backbone. I love using the audio version of these books since they allow us to listen to the history lessons while driving around town on errands.
In addition to Story of the World, I supplement history study with relevant books from the library. I am using All Through The Ages: History Through Literature Guide to aid in finding books that apply to the topics we are studying.
For Chemistry, we are performing science experiments related to Chemistry from Adventures with Atoms and Molecules as well as More Mudpies to Magnets.
Nature study is an integral part of our science studies. It can be as simple as collecting and studying Fall leaves or paying close attention to the changes in our yard throughout the seasons. We also take nature walks, looking at the flora and fauna in our own yard and desert landscape. Each of us has a Nature Notebook, where we can write about our observations or draw pictures of creatures and plants we encounter.
One new thing for this year's homeschool is weekly circle time. This is quickly turning into a special time in our home, when we sing songs, read poetry, and act silly together.
I gifted my kids with beautiful playsilks that we use during Circle Time. They can use the playsilks as we act out poems from Favorite Poems Old and New.
Arts and Crafts
Although art is the subject I am most likely to forget about, I try to make sure that at least once a week my kids have the opportunity to do arts and crafts. Sometimes, art is as simple as freeform painting, and other times we do full-blown craft projects.
For this school year, my kids were given a large tub of Modeling Magic so they may make sculptures and various creations. They have been loving the vibrant colors of Pelikan Watercolors (which are not washable, but they are really fantastic compared to the Crayola watercolors we've used in the past). My daughter also likes learning to draw on her own using Draw Write Now.
Play time is hugely important in brain development. Though we do school work throughout the week, much of the time my children are just allowed to play.
Preschool Curriculum for 4&1/2-year-old son
Preschool for my son looks quite different than it did for my daughter. My daughter is very eager to please and malleable, so I was able to push her academically from a young age. I didn't figure out how much of a mistake this was until we were a couple years into homeschooling, when we both ended up stressed out and burned out. It is a very good thing that I figured all of this out before it was time to start homeschooling my son.
My son is very independent and determined, yet he is also sensitive. When he has decided (or decided not) to pursue a course of action, trying to change his mind is like trying to move a mountain. Pushing my son academically would have been a complete disaster! One of the beauties of homeschooling is that I am able to tailor my approach to the very different needs of my two children. In addition to the Common Subjects listed above, I also focus on the following with my 4-year-old son.
I encourage a love of reading in my son with by:
reading picture books aloud to my son daily,
reading my own books daily, so he can see that reading is something that everyone enjoys,
reading aloud quality chapter books to both my daughter and son daily, and
allowing my son to select library books about his own interests (usually vehicles of all kinds, especially cars and diggers, insects, and animals).
When he chooses to do so, we have formal reading lessons. This typically happens about twice a week. Currently, we are using the following early reading resources:
Progressive Phonics (which is super silly, so my son loves it, and it is FREE)
Fine Motor Skills
About once or twice a week, my son chooses to do some work on paper. This builds his fine motor skills, which will be necessary once he starts writing. I primarily use Kumon workbooks for teaching fine motor skills. I've used Kumon workbooks for both of my kids, starting when they were two years old. Both of my kids have loved using these books.
Kumon books are great because they use a very gradual progression to teach basic coloring, pencil skills, cutting, and gluing. I love the Kumon workbooks for preschool work; I don't like them at all once they get into grade-school type work as they are too repetitive and suck the fun right out of school.
My son's workbooks for this year are:
My son also likes worksheets I have printed from worksheetlab.com
3rd Grade Curriculum for 7&1/2-year-old daughter
It's been 16 months since I started implementing Leadership Education into our homeschooling. In that time, my daughter's attitude about school has changed dramatically. She used to dread math work in particular, and was starting to exhibit a general dislike of school. Now, she loves school and loves to learn. In addition to the Common Subjects described above, I also focus on the following with my 7-year-old daughter:
Transitioning into Love of Learning Phase
My daughter is transitioning into the next phase of development, called Love of Learning, so she is becoming increasingly interested in learning about a very wide variety of subjects.
According to Leadership Education: the Phases of Learning, "Love of Learning Phase naturally follows the establishment of a solid core. During the Love of Learning Phase, the student falls deeply in love with learning, studying, knowing and learning even more... each young person has the opportunity to freely fall in love with the joys of learning and to experience first-hand how wonderful learning can be. These are the years when children dabble with learning, getting to know 'what's out there.' If they have come from the Core Phase in good order they are usually fearless, feel almost everything will be interesting and believe they will be able to do whatever they set their minds to."
Because she can read very well on her own far ahead of her grade-level, exposing my daughter to new ideas can be as simple as checking out a variety of books from the library. My daughter loves reading, and she typically chooses to read for a minimum of 1-2 hours each day. To meet her needs as she moves into the Love of Learning Phase, I make sure she has plenty of new things to read, and then watch to see which subjects she becomes particularly enamored with so that I can encourage her in those interests.
My daughter is not required to do any writing; nonetheless she chooses to write about twice a week. I encourage my daughter to write in the following ways.
I make sure that my daughter sees me writing in my own notebooks on a regular basis. This makes a huge difference in the amount of writing my kids choose to do themselves.
I provide many writing options, such as writing in a Nature Notebook, writing letters to friends/family, and writing poems.
We play writing games, such as:
Hang-Man - One of us comes up with a word or phrase, and the other person has to guess the right letters to solve the puzzle before the man gets hanged.
Writing Conversation - We pretend we cannot hear, so that we write to each other to have a conversation. To make this work, my daughter uses a chart of words that help her if she gets stuck on spelling out what she wants to write.
In addition to the math resources described above, my daughter also has a couple of math workbooks for this year. I do not require her to do any work in these books; she is free to use them when she wants to. She chooses to do math work on paper an average of once a week. She sometimes goes several weeks without doing any, but then she will have a random week where she does math work every day. The math workbooks my daughter chooses to use the most often are:
Primary Mathematics 1B Workbook (Singapore Math)
Recently, my daughter has become very enthusiastic about bird watching and reporting her observations on ebird.org. Although this was not part of my original "plan" for the school year, I am encouraging my daughter to pursue this interest as far as she wants to take it, even if it displaces some of the other things I had planned. In the Leadership Education model, the child's own interests take a high priority in schooling, and the parents must be willing to lead the way by increasing their own education if necessary to effectively mentor their children.
Nearly a year ago, my daughter decided to start an egg business to earn money. Starting a business can take awhile, especially if you are only 6 years old! My daughter tends to have many, many new ideas, but she isn't always so good on following through with them. So I wanted to make sure she was really serious about this before she got into the egg business.
In the last year, my daughter has:
saved up money to buy chicks,
proved to me that she could be responsible for taking care of the chickens by being responsible for our two laying hens,
called the local feed stores to determine which breeds of chicken were available locally, and
purchased her seven chicks.
My husband and I agreed to invest in our daughter's business by providing housing and whole-grain food for the chicks. Now our daughter has been tending to her babies for a few months, and in about 6 weeks, she will start having eggs to sell. This is a fantastic homeschooling opportunity that is teaching my daughter about business, finances, and marketing.