As one school year draws to a close, it brings with it the anticipation and excitement of another school year. Well, it does if you’re a homeschool mom, that is.
The compulsory school age for the state of Pennsylvania is 8 years old, so I’ll still only be reporting my homeschooling for 2 kids. However, I’ll be actively working with 4 of them. Michael will be officially joining us this year in Kindergarten, Timmy is moving on to 2nd Grade, Virginia is moving on to 3rd Grade, and Daniel is somewhere between 2nd and 3rd Grade. I’ll also be figuring out how to juggle it all with a 3 year old and new baby! One year at a time ya’ll, one year at a time.
PreK – Kindergarten
I tried doing some preschool work with Michael in the 2018/2019 school year. He wasn’t ready, so the extent of his schooling was a pre-learning development workbook series and the Berenstein Bear’s Book of Science. As he would proudly claim, his “work” (play) was his school.
This year is his Kindergarten year, so I’ll be easing him into homeschooling by focusing on the basics: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. Michael’s reading and writing instruction will come from Logic of English’s Foundations of English Book A. I’ll supplement his reading with the Fun Tales Series that I got from Sonlight. For math, he’ll be using the Math-U-See Primer. My kids always seems to have trouble with the calendar, so I will also be doing the Create-a-Calendar from Sonlight.
The Elementary School Curriculum Plan: Combining 2nd and 3rd Grade
I really liked how the school year started to come together during the 2018/2019 School Year after we made a few adjustments. So we’ll continue on the same course for the 2019/2020 School Year. Since the baby is due in early September (oh, yeah – by the way, we’re expecting again lol), we’ll be starting even earlier this year – around the week of July 15. This will give us 3 weeks off for when the baby is born, still allow us to take off a week about every 6 weeks, and fulfill the Pennsylvania requirement of completing 180 school days. So here’s the plan…
Religion comes first and foremost in our school day. Although it’s not a requirement to homeschool our children, we know that a strong foundation built on our Catholic Faith is important. Although we could homeschool all aspects of our religious education, we do like to send the kids to the Faith Formation classes at our parish. A big part for choosing to do so, is to foster relationships in our parish community – especially since we live an hour away. It’s a reminder that our Faith is not just something that stems from our family; that we are joined by a universal church that holds our same values.
However, we do like to supplement their Faith Formation at church with the books from the Faith and Life Series from Ignatius Press. Timothy, in 2nd Grade, will be bringing home workbooks from church as he prepares for his 1st Reconciliation and 1st Communion, so I won’t do Faith and Life for him. Daniel and Virginia, in 3rd Grade, will be using the 3rd Grade Book and Workbook. (The links will redirect you to my affiliate links)
2nd and 3rd Grade come together once we start on our history. This year we’ll be using Sonlight’s Intro to World History Year 2. I love how we can all sit around the dining room table and read our history together. There are discussion questions after each reading, and many times we can put an important event on our timeline and/or check out the map to see where in the world we’re talking about. This overview also gives insight into different governments and expectations of the citizens in each time period.
History is quickly followed by Science which is also done all together at the table. We’ll be using Sonlight’s Science C Program. I love the transition from History to Science – it’s nearly seamless. We just switch over from history to reading from a section in our science book. On most days, the kids get to answer some questions on worksheets that come with the program. These worksheets have a lot of color and really help to reinforce what they’re learning. They also have opportunities to complete science experiments. If you want your child to see the experiment, but don’t have the time or resources to do it, then there is a DVD that accompanies the program that demonstrates each experiment! My kids get so excited on the days that they get to watch the experiment DVD, so we mainly stick with that. However, some weeks we choose to do an experiment as well. There are also ideas for additional activities in the teachers guide to reinforce the kids’ learning.
We’ve quickly become a Math-U-See family. I like that it’s mastery-based, especially for my oldest who needs a little extra time on concepts before they click. However, I even see that it benefits my 2nd grader who understands the math concepts pretty quickly. They both struggle with slowing down and paying attention. Focusing on mastery also helps them in this struggle since not paying attention can lead to the wrong answer even if you understand the concept. Some people choose to keep administering the tests until 100% is achieved, but I allow them to get lower grades (as long as I know it’s not a mastery issue) as a consequence for not paying attention. With all of the practice and review sheets that are available, it’s not hard to know when it’s a mastery issue vs. a sloppy issue. Each child completes their worksheets and moves through the book at their own pace. They are rarely ever on the same lesson number. As they work, I am available to assist with any questions, and sometimes have the chance to read to the younger kids.
As I was planning on re-starting our homeschooling journey during the spring of 2018, I was on a quest to find a phonics/english program that would benefit all of my children. Growing up, reading and writing came very naturally to me. However, I had many siblings who struggled due to dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Over the years, my mom worked closely with them to help them understand. One approach she used was Orton Gillingham, and this was very effective in helping their brains make those literary connections. Although I was financially unable to go that exact approach, I knew that my children would benefit from something similar. This was especially true for my oldest, who I really struggled with in this area when I attempted to teach him in Kindergarten and support him during his 1st grade year at the Montessori school. He was finally starting to make some headway when I had him repeat 1st grade in public school, and I wanted to foster that.
After looking through many different programs online, I finally came across Logic of English. In their words: “The Logic of English is a systematic, multi-sensory approach to learning how to read, spell and write. The method is based upon 75 basic phonograms and 31 spelling rules that together explain 98% of English words. Learning these essential tools eliminates unnecessary ‘exceptions’ in spelling, explains hundreds of commonly misspelled words, and brings order to the English language. We do not use any sight words; instead, students learn why words are read and spelled the way they are.” I find this approach to work well with my struggling reader as well as those who don’t struggle. I am also learning a great deal about our English language in a way that I never have before. I believe that this program will help create a strong foundation in the English language for my children.
There is a bit of a learning curve when teaching, so we took it a bit slow last year. Although we have a better grasp on how to implement it this year, each lesson does take between 25 – 45 minutes. We’ll continue to pace it so no one gets burnt out.
They have two programs: Foundations is for 5-8 year olds, and Essentials is for 8 and above. I started both Daniel and Virginia in Essentials last year, but ended up switching Daniel over to Foundations which is what I had Timothy doing. This year we’ll finish Foundations with Foundations D for both Timothy and Daniel. Depending on how quickly we end up going through the material, we’ll transition them to the first book in the Essentials Set. Virginia will continue with Essentials, and will be working on books 3 and 4 in the set.
I want to take a more structured approach to our Electives this year. Not quite as much as I started out with in the 2018/2019 year, but enough where I’m not just winging it. Originally I saw that Sonlight had an Electives section, but I wasn’t sure what I’d want to implement. Then I realized that they also had Elective sets for each year! Since we’ll be completing Science C with Sonlight, I decided that we would also go with Electives C. This set focuses on Art and Music Appreciation
As I mentioned in my review of last year, I was able to purchase Rosetta Stone through Sonlight at a discount. We’ll continue to use that for the 2019/2020 year. They will continue with French and I may introduce Italian to them as well. I’m just looking to expose them to these languages so that they are familiar with them rather than requiring full mastery.
In Pennsylvania, fire safety is required each year. I found a website called sparky schoolhouse which we will pull free resources from.
Our participation in our group’s co-op will provide more opportunities for electives as well.
Other than having the kids play outside, we’ll most likely participate in soccer again this year. Since the baby is due in September, I’m not sure if we’ll participate in the fall, but we’ll most likely participate in the spring again.
Continuing the Year-Round Schedule
The 2019/2020 year is scheduled to start pretty early so that we can take a few weeks off around the baby’s due date. Our first day of school will be July 15th. This will allow us to take 3 weeks off when the baby is due, 2 1/2 weeks off for Christmas, 1 week off every 6 weeks for our break week, and still finish up by memorial day. Some people don’t mind schooling through June, but I’d rather start earlier than end later. …at least for now.
July 2 1/2 Weeks (13 Days)
August 3 1/2 Weeks (17 Days)
September 2 Weeks (15 Days)
October 4 Weeks (19 Days)
November 3 1/2 Weeks (18 Days)
December 2 1/2 Weeks (12 Days)
January 4 Weeks (20 Days)
February 3 Weeks (15 Days)
March 4 1/2 Weeks (22 Days)
April 3 1/2 Weeks (17 Days)
May 3 Weeks (17 Days)
Total: 36 Weeks (180 Days)
7 Week 2019 Summer Break: May 27 – July 14
3 Week Baby Break: August 24 – September 15
Scheduled Break Week: October 26 – November 3
2 Day Thanksgiving Break: November 28 – December 1
2 1/2 Week Christmas Break: December 18 – January 5
Scheduled Break Week: February 15 – February 23
1 Week & 1 Day Easter Break: April 4 – April 13
Last Day of School: May 26, 2020
It’s always exciting to see just how much the kids have grown academically after each school year! Next year will be no different as we continue along our homeschooling journey. Who knows where it will take us!
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