Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Home School Curriculum for Kindergarten and 2nd Grade

During a conversation this morning on my personal Facebook account I was asked about the changes I'm making in our curriculum and what I recommend for visual learners.  Facebook does NOT give me enough space to share my thoughts on the topic so I looked for a post about our curriculum this year.  Imagine my surprise that I never shared that information!

So for my Facebook friends, homeschooling readers, those considering home schooling, and the just plain curious I give you the SMB home schooling curriculum 2010-11.

This year I have a 2 year old, 4 year old, kindergartener, and 2nd grader.  I'll group everything by ages, sort of.

2 Year Old:

I use ... nothing.  He's only 2!  I don't intentionally work with him on shapes, colors, letters, numbers.  Nothing.  Poor child.

However, we do count a lot as we clean up, we sing the Alphabet song as we go about our business.  We talk about colors as he gets dressed.  School for him is just part of our daily life.  It must be working because the boy can count to 10, knows random letters, and can tell you the correct color of a crayon about half the time.

It helps that he's #4 and listens to the other 3 all day long.

4 Year Old:

Ellie is ... well, my girlie.  She's only 18 months younger than Ben and likes to keep up with him.  So once school started in the fall she needed her own school books to use while "The Brothers" (as we call them) did their school.

My goals for Ellie are very low:  learn letters and their sounds, develop eye/hand coordination for writing, be able to write her name.

My friend, Stephanie, blogged about using Get Ready for the Code, Get Set for the Code and Go for the Code with her daughter.  It sounded like a great fit for us this year.

I bought all 3 for Ellie and she LOVES them.  In all honestly, I only spend about 5 or 10 minutes working with her.  But she faithfully pulls our her "Fish Book" and now "Dinosaur Book" and works her pages until The Brothers are done or playing with Sam sounds like more fun.  It keeps her occupied and she's gradually learning the sounds letters make.  I'll share more about the Code books in a minute.

I also bought Ellie a couple of general preschool workbooks from Wal-mart.  They are only $10 and have everything a child needs at this stage.  We're using Big Preschool Workbook Ages 3-5 published by School Zone.  It's colorful and fun for her to use.

Kindergarten and 2nd Grade:

Yes, most of what my boys do is exactly the same, except for language arts.  I just require more effort from Will (2nd grade) than I do Ben (K).

Science:  Apologia's Exploring Creation Flying Creatures.

We LOVE this series!  We studied Swimming Creatures last year and will use Land Animals this fall.  The textbook is professionally written, edited and bound.  It contains lots of diagrams and COLOR photographs (which is rare for HS materials). 

The material is written from a creationist world view so you don't have to deal with the theory of evolution, which I like at this early stage.

This year we bought the notebooking journal that goes with the textbook but I don't think we will for the fall.  After a few chapters it started to feel like busy work instead of reinforcement.  I hate busy work.  If you are into lapbooks I've seen companion lapbooks for sale as well.

You may be wondering how I do this with both boys.  Actually, all 4 children participate in science.  We all sit on the living room floor or couch while Will and I read the chapter aloud to everyone.  We talk about what we are learning and looking at the pictures.  The reading level is just a little challenging for my 2nd grader which is good for him.

I also supplement the textbook with picture books and non-fiction children's books from our library that relate to our current chapter.  This aren't a formal part of our school.  They are just available for my kids to pick up and read for fun.

Math:  Saxon Math. 1st Grade.  

I realize Will is in the 2nd grade but we just can't seem to get through the 1st grade textbook.  Saxon is VERY hands on and basically I don't like it.  It doesn't work for me.

We'll be throwing it out and trying something new this fall.  I'm open to suggestions that are mastery focused and NOT hands on or requires tons of help from mom.

History:  Early American History (Primary) published by Beautiful Feet Books.

This literature based history course uses a teacher guide book and over a dozen children's picture and chapter books.  I love the approach.  Not loving the guide book. 

According to the website this guide is intended for K-3rd grades.  After about a week of making me crazy I threw out the guide book (well, not literally.  I did spend good money on it!).  I felt like the concepts we're too high level for my children and the activities of journaling and writing were too involved.

So, we read the books that came in our jumbo pack.  I also found tons more children's books on the same topics at our local library.  We watched Liberty's Kids on NetFlixs.  And took field trips, after all, we live in NEW ENGLAND!

If you look at the intermediate level package it uses many of the same books from the primary level.  I'm holding onto the guide and I think we'll revisit early American history in a couple of years.

Phonics:  Explode the Code

Both boys have been going through these workbooks.  Will's ready level is way above grade level but I felt he needed to reinforce the phonics rules.  He whizzes through the pages.  Ben WORKS through his.

Ben started the year knowing letters and sounds.  He's now on book 4 (in April) and reading simple readers.  The switch hasn't flipped yet where reading is like breathing for him but he's close!

I highly recommend Explode the Code.  The black and white illustrations are VERY engaging and fun, especially for boys.  Each lesson is 10 pages long but you can take that as fast or as slow as you want.  It's phonics based but also includes some sight words.  There are 8 workbooks with 6 workbooks that are 1/2 books, meaning if your child needs more help with the concepts in book 4 then you move to book 4 1/2 instead of book 5.  The boys will finish this series next year.

Handwriting:  Draw. Write. Now

I highly recommend Draw. Write. Now.  These are drawing and handwriting non-consumable books that come in a set of 8.  You can buy them individually but if I love having the whole set.

The premise of Draw. Write. Now. is that children dislike practicing the same letter over and over on a worksheet.  So instead, give them a picture to draw with 4 sentences to copy that describe the picture.  The motor skills are still being developed but it's a lot more fun!

I recommend buying the notebooks that go with the series.  On one page is a blank box for the drawing and on the facing page are manuscript lines for their writing.  It's fun to have all the pictures together and see the development from the beginning of the year to now.

Also, we didn't work our way through the books chronologically.  I chose the day's picture based on what we were studying in history and science.  This only worked because I have the whole set.  I've also found similar how-to drawing books and made up my own sentences when our lessons didn't have a good example in D.W.N.

Language Arts:  Alpha Omega LifePacs Grade 2.

Will is using this set of 10 workbooks.  He just started book 4 (in April) so he'll be finishing it up this fall.  Will is an independent learner.  He doesn't need, or like!, a lot of direction from me so these workbooks have been great for him this year.  The workbooks include spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, and handwriting.  An all in one if you will.

LifePaks worked great for us this year as I adjusted to teaching 2 (sort of 3) kids, running a household and blogging.  If you need a language arts that doesn't require a lot of time and attention from mom then I recommend LifePaks.

For my non-homeschooling friends that have made it this far, I recommend Draw. Write. Now for children who enjoy drawing or need a little help developing their fine motor skills over the summer.  I also recommend the Code books for preschoolers learning to read and elementary students that need a little extra help over the summer.

What curriculum have you used, loved or hated this year?


Debi Bonilla said...

Thanks Stephanie for the reviews.. I will be checking out Draw Write Now... For another Language arts that is all inclusive and for independent workers you should check out Christian Light Publications..( we use it for Nick since coming home and now using it for Cristian...

Stephanie Kay said...

Your welcome Debi! I think Cristian would enjoy DWN. Ben loves it!

Julie said...

Christian Light also has a great Math program. It is totally written to the students from about grade 3 and up. Also, it's super cheap! (It is not mastery, tho)...I think ACE (School of Tomorrow) is mastery.

Debi Bonilla said...

Julie we used Christian light for math for 3 years with Nick.. he loved it but when he went to pre algebra we switched to Teaching Textbooks.. We are using Christian light LA and Learning to Read with my 1st grader and we are switching from Abeka Math to Christian Light for him next year.. I love it!!

Stephanie Kay said...

Thanks ladies. I'll have to check into those math programs.

The Hibbard Family said...

We LOVE Explode the Code! Such fun! We also like Wordly Wise, which is vocabulary development from a slightly different perspective. It's so awesome to hear the kids using the words they learn in both.

We use Horizons math because Olivia desperately needs a creative program to engage her and keep her focused. It does not take a lot of involvement from me. In fact, by 4th grade, the textbook has a lot of the teaching material worked into it. I'm glad to have the teacher's guide for additional worksheets, but I barely have to use it for teaching purposes. I haven't like the cost of it, but it's been worth it because of how it has helped Olivia learn to not despise math.

Stephanie Kay said...

I've seen Wordly Wise. Will is such a voracious reader that vocabulary hasn't been an issue but I'll remember your recommendation for the future.

We debated about Horizons math when we bought Saxon. My boys don't mind math. They'd probably enjoy it more if I were more diligent. But I don't enjoy teaching math and I really don't enjoy Saxon. It just takes too much of my time with the 2 boys - and they're doing the same level!

Christie said...

We used Horizons 1 last year. Caleb zoomed through it easily. I used the Teacher Guide as a ref see what all I wanted to cover with him before each lesson. We worked together with a little hand held white board....which he loved....and used window markers on the back door...lots of colors to make it fun!! :) This instruction time was minimal. We loved the spiral approach that kept the concepts fresh. He worked very independently with the daily work.

I'm glad you wrote this!!! I love to look through and hear people's thoughts on different curriculum to find a good fit for us!!

I had no idea that there were separate book tha went w/ DWN!!! My sister gave me one that I have not used yet! Will be checking that out!

Stephanie Kay said...

I just don't like the spiral approach. It annoys me. And I feel like my boys aren't really grasping the concepts long term.

Ethan is your artist, right? He will LOVE LOVE LOVE DWN!! Especially if you use the notebooks so he can keep all his drawings together. They are only a couple of dollars each so very affordable.

Maureen said...

I enjoyed your talk at the conference today - great practical advice. And thanks for posting your curriculum choices. They are so helpful as I look to next year's curriculum. Did you use LifePacs again and do you still like it?
We love Handwriting Without Tears and Explode the Code, and had the same experience with Beautiful Feet's Early American History guide!

Stephanie Kay said...

Hi Maureen,

Thanks!! I think LifePacs are great if you have a workbook loving child. I use it to keep me on track and make sure my oldest doesn't have any gaps in his language arts. The language arts LifePacs (which is the only one we've used) covers a lot of components of L.A. but doesn't go very deep in anyone. We've used it this year but I'm not sure that we'll use it next year. I think my sons need more writing practice so I'm researching different ways to do that.

It's a great curriculum and definitely has it's place. I don't regret using it.

This post was what we used last year. This year's curriculum is at

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