We’re starting a new school year this coming Monday, so it’s time for my annual post on what curriculum and methods we’ll be using in the Elliott home this year.
I’ve really struggled with this post. First of all, I’m fighting a cold, so I’m struggling with the motivation to start a new school year. However, we take time off school in the fall and spring for biblical feasts and a little vacation time (and we tend to need some “sick days” during the year, too), so we really need to get started.
Secondly, I’m actively teaching six of my seven children this year, the most I’ve ever done at one time. Here are their grades:
- 11th Grade Son
- 8th Grade Daughter
- 7th Grade Son
- 5th Grade Daughter
- 2nd Grade Daughter
- Kindergarten Daughter
- plus a 2 1/2-year-old Son
May I be honest and say I’m a little overwhelmed?
Finally, I had been hoping to have all of our own curriculum written and published by now, so that I could use it for my own family. However, it’s still in process. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in a day!
I’ve been praying a lot about what to do. Should I postpone the start of school and finish curriculum? I seriously considered it! But during the many hours I’m cooped up here in my office writing, my kids are “out there” without a mom. Everything I believe about my biblical priorities would be a lie in my own life, just so I could get curriculum done. It’s not worth it.
However, I really wanted that curriculum so that school could be easier here in my own home. I need a curriculum that is laid out for me, because I don’t invent very well on Monday mornings, on the spot. As a pastor’s wife, weekends are often devoted to my church family, so I don’t have a lot of time to do lesson plans then either. If my plans aren’t made in the summer, before school starts, then I know that those plans just won’t happen.
So since my own children are growing up right before my eyes, and since time to spend with them is very precious, I’ve decided to cut back on my writing hours and use ready-made curriculum for yet another year. I’ll keep working on curriculum that uses the Bible as its primary textbook, but in the meantime, here are our plans for 2012-2013:
We’ll start our day with breakfast together, then Bible reading time. We’re using our Foundations Bible curriculum, which includes Bible memory and discussion. When possible, we do this around the table, with Dad. After Bible time, we’ll finish up dishes and house chores.
After chores, school starts officially around the 8-foot table in our basement (until the weather gets too cold).
- World History — We’re finishing up Year 3 and heading into Year 4 of Foundations of World History.
- Grammar — Until our curriculum is done, I got out my copy of Easy Grammar Plus to use as a guide on what to do each day. I’m hoping to pick a sentence from our Bible reading each morning to use. I also want to add in diagramming, because I’m a huge proponent.
- Writing — I’m trying something different this year, as a combination of things we’ve done in the past. I’m going to alternate weeks. First week, we’re going to use Writing Strands at each child’s various level. (I think we’ll be using all but the last level!) The second week, the kids will write a short essay on their favorite verse from that day’s Bible copywork. Once in a while, I’m going to throw in a “fun” assignment from From Heart to Page and from If You Want to Teach Your Kids to Write. The older kids also have writing assignments in their other subjects. Writing is going to be an emphasis this year, especially with my older three.
- Music — Once a week, we’re planning to have a fun (short) time of singing and music theory, using a variety of books I have on my shelf.
We’ll still be at the table now, but I’ll start working with individuals or small groups. The others can start working on their individual homework while they wait for their turn with me. Each child has a checklist of subjects to work on (see below).
- Spelling — Oh, I’ve been debating this one! At this moment, I’m planning to use ABeka Spelling at each level. The only thing we need to do during “together school” is give pre-quizzes, take about hard words, maybe have occasional games and spelling bees, and have a test on Friday.
- Phonics — My 2nd grader’s reading is starting to take off, so I don’t know that she’ll need too much. However, I’d like to spend some time at the beginning of the year discussing syllables with Webster’s Speller, and learning to mark, read, and spell long words. I’m trying some new things with my kindergartener. I might have to fill you in later on how it all goes and exactly what we end up doing, but I know that at the bare minimum, she needs to learn the sounds of all her letters. She’s just barely 5, so I’m in no rush. Once she has all those down, I’ll use a combination of All About Spelling, Webster, and Abeka.
Somewhere in here we’re going to need a recess break! Not sure when it will hit, but I’m getting tired just thinking about all this! LOL!
- Math — We use Abeka for our math, except for in high school when we use Life of Fred. My oldest son will be finishing Advanced Algebra and moving into Trigonometry, then he’ll finish up high school with Calculus next year. The middle kids are sharpening their arithmetic skills and moving into pre-algebra. The younger ones are cementing their math facts (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and introducing division this year). My kindergartener will probably love having her own math book and counting and such! And my preschooler is just learning how to count out loud. So cute! My goal during this time period is to drill them (10 minutes or less) and just quickly check the work in their books. Otherwise, they work independently on their math.
Science — My 2nd and 5th graders will be using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Botany and making their own notebooks. (This is my 2nd-grader’s first time to officially do science, and she’s excited!) My 7th and 8th graders will be using Abeka’s Matter & Motion, which is basically chemistry and physics on a lighter level. It’s my first time to use this book, and after having scheduled it all out, I’m pretty impressed with how biblical it is. My 11th grader is still studying chemistry from last year, so we’ll keep going on that. (Read how we do high school science here.) I also want to emphasize science projects this year, so we’re using Abeka’s Science in Action guide for that. Finally, I love the book Science in the Kitchen, by Susan Stewart, and hope to try some of her ideas for all ages.
- Spanish — My oldest son worked on both Spanish and Hebrew last year, and we didn’t get very far! I’m finding this one of the most difficult subjects to teach so far, but maybe I’ll get better after letting my oldest be the guinea pig. Last year, he worked through Mango‘s Spanish program (free from our local library), but that’s not enough Spanish to count for two years of high school. So, we’re back to Abeka. I’m going to start over at the beginning of Year 1, to really get the basics down, and we’re going to attempt to stay on track so he can finish 2 years before he graduates. (Whew!) I’m figuring this will take 30 minutes of hard work a day. Scary!
- SAT Prep — Once a week, we’re continuing our practice from last year of studying for the SAT tests. This is from a recommendation by Lee Binz of the Home Scholar. We’re planning to have our son take the SATs for the first time this coming spring.
I’m not sure exactly how long all the subjects above will take, but I’m assuming we’ll eventually get hungry and need some lunch. After lunch (if I have any energy left), we’re planning to:
- Read aloud — These will be fictional books (both fun and historical fiction), as well as biographies.
- Poetry — I like to choose a poem each day from Favorite Poems: Old and New.
- Music lessons — We can’t afford private lessons, so I really need to make this “subject” a priority in our day. But I struggle with consistency here! Anyway, they are all learning piano, and I’m adding in hymn playing and improvisation this year. My 7th-grader is also learning guitar, my 5th-grader is learning flute, and the 2nd-grader wants to learn recorder. Whew!
After this, the kids will finish up their individual work, and I’ll
crash on the couch start working online. When the kids are done with schoolwork, each one has some “interest” areas they are wanting to work on through the afternoon:
- Arts and Crafts
- Opening an E-bay shop
- Digital Art and Design
- Helping Mom with Graphics and Marketing
As I said before, while I’m tutoring some of the kids, the rest can be working on their individual subjects. I’ve given each a checklist, as well as detailed instructions for the entire school year, which they keep in their binders. (This is what takes me so long to prepare each summer, but it’s worth it the rest of the year.) Here are some of the things on their checklists:
- Bible Copywork — We learned this from the Klein family, and we think this is the most important “subject” of their day. You can read more about it here. Each child starts his schoolwork for the day here. Each one also chooses a favorite verse to share with the family next morning at breakfast (and to write about every other week).
- Finish Grammar.
- Finish Writing assignments.
- Finish Math.
- Read for History and do any written assignments.
- Read for Science and do any written assignments.
- Read several chapters from the Bible. They are all on different “tracks,” but they basically read through the entire Bible every two years (more for the older ones). My oldest son also have assigned readings from various books on my shelf, such as The Purpose Driven Life and The Vanishing Ministry, designed to help him think through the future and what God wants him to do with his life. (Download his reading schedule here.)
- Read literature. We use ABeka for this for all ages.
- Read a chapter from a book on our shelves or from the library. They get to choose this book, with input from Dad and me.
- Practice music.
So what are the little ones going to do while I’m occupied with school with the bigger ones?
I have no idea! Well, I’ve been giving this some thought. We’ll all stay together for Bible reading, no doubt. While we start history and our other “together school,” I’m sure the little ones will want to sit at the table with us, so I’ve got some coloring books for them. As they get restless, I’m planning some 30-minute activity blocks for them, such as:
- Learning (reading a short book with an older sibling, activities from Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready and Activity Bags and Sonbeams)
- Creating (painting, crafting, play dough, bath or bubble time, again with help from older siblings)
- Building (toys, legos, on a rotating schedule, on a rug nearby our school table)
- Resting (snack, recorded TV such as Bubble Guppies)
- Outside (weather permitting)
In all honesty, I’m expecting Little Guy to struggle a bit as we head back to school. He especially seems to need predictability to his days, which school brings, but it’ll be different for him the first couple weeks — and he’ll probably be fussy! On the days Dad is home, maybe he can help. Otherwise, we’ll make it through.
So that’s our school year! I’m a little intimidated, but it helped a lot to write it down for you. Monday can come now. The binders are filled, the crates are full of books, the school room is ready — wait, that’s next week’s post!