K5 Elective Curriculum Choices

img_5264After yesterday’s rundown of our core curriculum choices, I wanted to share with you what electives we worked through over the past year!

Science and Health

  • In the Beginning by Berean Builders
  • The World God Made by Christian Liberty Press
  • Various Health and Safety Topics

The Berean Builders science series is written by Jay Wile, who wrote a lot of the Apologia books. In the Beginning organizes science topics by the first six days of creation and each “day” contains 15 lessons (example. The first day of creation contains 15 lessons on light, the second day of creation contains 15 lessons on water and air, etc). The last three lessons of each “day” are challenge lessons, that are appropriate for older or more advanced students. Each lesson contains 2-3 pages of reading, a simple experiment, and a few review questions separated by the age range of your student. The reading is a little more complex that what I would expect most kindergarteners to understand, so I modify the program by pre-reading the lesson and explaining it in simple terms. We then do the experiment, talk about the scientific principle we observed, and draw a picture in our science notebook.

The World God Made follows the days of creation as well, but is written for a much younger audience. It is a shorter program and the activities tend to be more arts and crafts based. However, it is a great supplement to our other program.

To teach health and safety, my husband and I are coming up with various topics that need to be addressed with our kids. These topics include bike safety, nutrition, handwashing, emergency preparedness, and various other skills. For each one, we mostly talk about the subject and try to find books at the library to reinforce the skills.

Science has been our “flounder” area. We tend to skip it more often than any other subject and I believe it is because of the academic writing of the Berean Builders book. I loved the curriculum; however, I feel like it is too advanced for this age range. This year we will be switching programs and I cannot wait to share how the change works out for us. I actually plan on keeping “In the Beginning” to use in a few years.

Social Studies

  • DK Learning: Geography Workbook Kindergarten
  • DK First Atlas
  • Tennessee History For Kids: Kindergarten Lessons with Boxy

Ethan loves maps! Every time we visit a bookstore, we go straight to the atlas section! We have enjoyed working through the DK Learning Geography workbook. These are pretty basic black and white map skills books that start at the Preschool level. I also keep a few atlases to look up places when we talk about different countries and states in our reading.

In Tennessee, we have a website called Tennessee History for Kids. It is a good resource for our Tennessee History studies. They have a website full of ideas for field trips and they produce booklets for each grade level. Grades K-3 touch on all of the state social studies standards for those grades, while books for 4th grade and up cover all of the Tennessee history portion of the state social studies standards.

Logic

  • Building Thinking Skills: Beginning
  • Mind Benders Level 1
  • Can You Find Me?

These workbooks from the Critical Thinking Company have been so much fun! Ethan refers to them as the “Play Books” and I use them a lot as a reward for finishing other work. We just finished up the Beginning book, and it has focused a lot on classifying colors, shapes, and types of lines. By far, our favorite activity is “Can You Find Me?,” which consists of a short poem with clues that allow your child to pick out which picture is being described from a list of 4 choices.  We have used “Can You Find Me?” and “Beginning” without having to write in them, so you could use each book with multiple children. However, “Primary” looks like it will have more writing in it, so you may want to consider multiple copies for multiple kids.

Art

  • Artisitic Pursuits K-3 Book 1

When I first started considering art programs, I knew I wanted something that was more “real art” than just cut and paste crafts. I also wanted something that covered a little bit of art appreciation/history. Artistic Pursuits fit the bill exactly. The supplies can be a little bit pricey because they recommend using higher quality materials. You can get around this slightly by getting cheaper materials or using coupons at craft stores. I asked for family members to give art supplies as birthday gifts and many did, so we ended up being gifted almost everything on the supply list. Each lesson in the book has a master piece of art to observe, discuss, and ask questions about. Then your child uses their imagination to create a unique work based off that master work. They work on sketching, painting, clay, and paper art in Book 1.

Misc.

  • Let’s Learn to Cut by Spectrum Workbook
  • Scissor Skills by Melissa and Doug
  • Morning Adapted Work Binder by Mrs. D’s Corner (Teacherspayteachers.com)

I started to notice that I have not focused on fine motor skills much with Ethan! So we have added in a lot of toys that have smaller pieces, such as Legos, Lite Brite, and Beginner Snap Circuits. In addition, I started to give him paper to cut up into pieces. The “Let’s Learn to Cut” book and “Scissors Skills” sheets have been fun additions because they include lots of cutting activities and games while he works on those fine motor skills.

A cousin gave us a binder full of Velcro activities from teacherspayteachers.com that has been great for morning work! While I believe this was designed for a special needs classroom, I think it is appropriate for 3 year-olds through first or second grade.

What curriculum has worked in your homeschool this year?

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K5 Core Curriculum Choices

img_5263As we are finishing up a lot of our K5 Curriculum,  I wanted to give a quick update of what we have ended up with for each core subject (Bible, Phonics, Math, Handwriting).

Bible

  • Foundations for Kids by Robby and Kandi Gallaty
  • Beginner’s Bible

I love the Foundations series! It is the heart of our Bible curriculum right now. There are five readings each week for 52 weeks. Each day you will read a short passage of scripture (less than ten verses) and read 3-4 bullet points explaining the verses. There is a small application activity and a short response prayer that follows each reading. An adult and teen version are also available, making this a wonderful family reading plan!

We also use the Beginner’s Bible and several resources that go with it. The simple text makes for great bedtime reading. The DVD is simply someone reading the text and very minimal animation of the same artwork from the book. We pull the DVD out to watch to reinforce what we have read in Foundations (and for me to get things done around the house on occasion). We have also purchased both the Beginner’s Bible Jumbo Activity Book and Coloring Book. I have not been overly impressed with the Activity Book because it is not as organized as I would prefer, and some of the instructions are a little vague. However, it was very inexpensive for such a large book and we have had fun doing some of the activities.

Phonics

  • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann
  • Leap Frog: Talking Words Factory
  • All About Reading Level 1
  • Bob Books

I am cringing to include Teach Your Child to Read because I personally would never have chosen this as a phonics program. However, I came across it in a free bin at a local used book store and decided to give it a whirl this fall. My son took to it wonderfully! While I thought it was too repetitive and dry, he seemed to finally be grasping how to blend letters together for the first time. I am not sure if it was the timing or the program, but something seemed to click! We only worked through the first 15-20 lessons, which did wonders in boosting his confidence.

Another confidence booster that we stumbled across was the “Talking Words Factory” DVD. We loved the “Letter Factory” movie for learning letter sounds in preschool, and this is simply a continuation of that film. The movie teaches how to read CVC words, vowels, and some special sounds. After watching it twice, my son was begging me to learn how to read, after showing very little interest beforehand.

After boosting his confidence, we worked through All About Reading Level 1. I love the program because it is a multisensory approach to phonics without being too overstimulating. The lesson plans in the teacher’s manual are completely open-and-go. They give step-by-step instructions that are clearly laid out. Each lesson includes simple games printed in black and white, phonogram and word cards to review, and fluency sheets to practice. There are also three readers used throughout the program that have engaging stories with simple black and white illustrations that do not steal focus from the words.

With the excitement of learning to read, comes the dilemma of finding something to read! That’s where Bob Books come in handy. We have especially loved “First Stories” and “Collection 1.” These simple readers have a few short-vowel words on each page and have coordinated well with what we are learning in our phonics program.

Math

  • Math-U-See Primer

Math is by far our favorite subject and I have fallen in love with Math-U-See. It is a multisensory program that uses modified base ten blocks to teach math skills. While the other levels are mastery based, Primer is a simple introduction to mathematical concepts that are all retaught in future levels. It focuses heavily on teaching how to count to 20, the basics of addition, and understanding place value. Each lesson contains a short (approx. 5 minute) video for the teach to watch (although my son watches with me), a short explanation in the teacher’s manual, and 7 practice worksheets. The first three practice sheets of each lesson are new material, the following three are mixed review, and the final sheet is an extension activity. You could probably get by without the teacher’s manual; however, there are some additional tips and game ideas included in it.

Handwriting

  • Various Dollar Tree Workbooks
  • Abeka K4 Worksheets
  • A Reason for Handwriting K

For most of the year, I have been giving my son 2-3 pages from various workbooks that I had on hand. Most were from the Dollar Tree, while some were leftovers from when we tried the Abeka K4 curriculum. I did not focus on the proper formation of letters with him until we started A Reason for Handwriting in April.

What curriculum has worked in your homeschool this year?

Stay tuned for my curriculum choices for electives!

Curriculum Choices: K4 Edition

Abeka Homeschool K4

This is the curriculum we are currently using. We are using the parent kit, child kit, one-vowel and two-vowel word cards, Readiness Skills, and Bible Activity Book.

We are only about 40 lessons in, but so far I do love this program.

I do feel like the Curriculum book is critical. Very little of the program is based on worksheets (maybe two per day on average). Most of the lesson plans involve discussing concepts with your child, playing games, and using the flashcards. The Curriculum Guide tells you exactly which cards and games to use and how to introduce materials.

You could probably get by without some of the cards and games if you want to spend time designing your own. I do enjoy having all of them because I can prep my lessons in five minutes by pulling out the called for game. You could save money by purchasing older editions of these used.

We did stop using the ABC Writing Tablet because the Champ is not quite ready for it. We will pick up handwriting later in the fall. We may even save the handwriting until we start K5. Even while we were doing handwriting, I did not find the Manuscript Lesson Plans necessary.

The Readiness Skills book is also non-essential. It introduces skills such as following directions, coloring, cutting, etc. You could easily work on those skills in other ways. However, I do not regret buying this book because it was around the same cost as similar workbooks and is brightly colored and well designed.

The Bible Activity Book is more or less a coloring book. You do one page per week. I do not use Abeka for Bible, so it does not line up with our Bible curriculum. This might be a better purchase if you use their Bible program as well.

We will be doing a blend of Abeka and a few other programs for K5.

The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories

We have the Beginner’s Bible, a Beginner’s Bible devotional, a Beginner’s Bible coloring book, and a couple of Beginner’s Bible activity books. I love all of these materials because they coordinate well with one another.

We also have begun reading a Psalm at lunchtime each day from a Children’s Bible.

Arts and Crafts

We do Pinterest crafts and open ended art activities throughout the week.

Miscellaneous Workbooks

We are using My Book of Easy Mazes (Kumon Workbooks) and a few map skills books that we found at a thrift store because the Champ loves mazes and maps. I also purchased Melissa & Doug Scissor Skills Activity Padto use later in the year. It comes with a pair of preschool scissors that only cut paper.

I am sure between now and the end of the year, we will discover some more workbooks to use for enrichment.

My Own Activitys

I have created several activities on my own for additional enrichment. Check back on Tuesday’s for FREE PRINTABLES for preschool and kindergarten.

Curriculum Choices: Preschool Edition

Every homeschool blogger is obligated to post her curriculum choices each year. We are “year-round” schoolers, so our new school year began mid-March.

Last summer through February we were using preschool curriculum. We kind of floated around with preschool. I just followed the Champ’s lead on when we did school and how much we did.

Here is what we used for preschool!

Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Letter of the Week

This was our core curriculum. I only printed off part of the curriculum because it is a ridiculous number of pages. We started by using most of the activities, but I ended up getting very frustrated with the Champ because I did not know how to explain the pattern activities. We then decided to hold off on those (as well as a few other activities) until January. When we came back to them, they clicked with him!

So, we did all of the letters (one per week) to begin with and then did all of the letters again to review (one per day). Doing the program this way took us a total of 32 weeks.

The Rhyme Bible

This children’s Bible is perfect for two year olds. The stories are told in rhyme form, so they tend to hold young children’s attention more than a narrative form. We attempted to read one story daily for a couple of days until it sank in.

Art and Pinterest Crafts

We tried to find one craft each day that related to either the letter we were working on or the Bible story we were reading. I also gave the Champ plenty of creative opportunities by allowing him to finger paint, color with crayons, paint with a large brush, and play with play dough.

Miscellaneous Workbooks

When we finished the Letter of the Week program, we worked through the Big Preschool Workbook. The book is around 300 pages, but the Champ finished it in about four weeks. However, if I had limited the number of pages he worked each day, this could have easily made it an entire school year. This was one of the best workbooks that we found. The concepts were for the most part on his level and went along perfectly with the concepts I wanted to teach.

I also used several workbooks from the Dollar Tree including Disney’s “I Can Learn With Pooh” Early Skills Workbooks, Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Learning Workbooks, and Playskool’s Pre-K Workbooks. These were used sparingly throughout the year when the Champ demanded “MORE SCHOOL.”

Free Printables and My Own Games

I made up a lot of games for the Champ and I relied on the internet to create other learning opportunities for him. It is possible to teach preschool and kindergarten without buying a single thing!

Check back on Tuesday’s for FREE PRINTABLES that you can use with your preschooler and kindergartner!

School Before Age 3

We started “formally” homeschooling a few months before my son hit his third birthday! I heard some criticism about starting him too young. Of course, no one would criticize starting preschool at that age.

If you were to ask when I started teaching the Champ, I would reply “at birth.” Children are always learning. And, while worksheets and textbooks are not necessary at a young age, you can teach your child a lot through play.

So, how do you “School” before the age of three?

Count Everything

When I changed the Champ’s diapers as a newborn, I counted the buttons on his pajama’s. Count everyday objects such as toys, place settings at the dinner table, or ducks at the park. When the Coach would swing the Champ on our porch, he would hold the swing and count “1, 2, 3…” before letting the swing go. The Champ was proudly imitating him within weeks.

Read Everything

It is never too early to read to your child. You can introduce books to your baby from the moment he arrives, and babies love to hear their parent’s voices. As your child gets older, you can point out words on buildings, signs, and brochures.

Sing and Dance

Gross motor skills are important to learn. Dancing is a great way for your child to learn how to control his body. Children’s songs are another way to introduce vocabulary and language skills.

Create a Literature Rich Environment

Make sure there are letters and words everywhere around your child. Have children’s books readily available. Hang up letter activities they created in the hallway or their room. Hang up an alphabet chart, calendar, or number chart next to the dinner table so they can ask questions while you are eating.

Go to Activities

Mommy and me classes are great if you can afford them. Many of these classes work on gross motor skills and social skills. If there are none in your area, or you don’t want to pay for them, start a mom’s group or set up play dates.  Story time at the library is a great opportunity for your child to work on social behaviors and be introduced to new books. Some libraries even offer puppet shows and craft time.

Creative Play

Playing dress up, toy cookware, toy tools, and other pretend toys are great ways for your child to learn about the world around them. Creative art such as drawing, coloring, painting, and playing with play dough is great for working on fine motor development. Sensory boxes can also help your child work on fine motor skills.

Cook and Clean Together

Assist your child as they work on skills such as pouring and mixing when you are working in the kitchen. Let them help you put clothes in the dryer and fold washcloths when you are folding towels. You can also let them think they are helping. Give them a miniature dust pan and broom while you are cleaning or fill the sink with water and let them “wash” a few dishes. They will slow you down, and they will make a mess. But they are learning and will actually be helping you one day.

Create Independence Learning Opportunities

As soon as your child can dump out a box of toys, you can begin to work on independence skills. Chores such as cleaning up toys, taking clothes to the laundry basket, cleaning up water spills with a towel, and taking dishes to the sink can all be introduced to two year olds. Other skills such as getting dressed, washing hands, and taking off shoes can also be introduced. Do not expect these skills to be mastered, but simply allow your child to have the opportunity to work on them.

World Ocean’s Day!

Today is World Oceans Day!

Play with an ocean themed sensory box, make ocean themed crafts, and watch the movie Oceans.

Fake Aquarium

A craft we made a few years ago that has been a huge hit was our fake aquarium!

We found a fishbowl jar (different candies and other items that are sold in these or pick up a cheap one in the fish aisle of a pet store).

We cut out a piece of paper in the shape of one flat side of the fishbowl and glued it to the back side of the bowl.

You can use decorative stones or shells from the floral department or decorative gravel from the pet store to fill the bottom of the bowl.

Then we placed cardboard strips of “sea grass” in the decorative stones at the bottom. (See further down for a free template download).

We punched out holes in the lid of the bowl and ran string through the holes. We attached our pet fish to the other end of the string.

Two years later, we still have our pet fish that we never have to feed!

Octopus Handprint

Cover your child’s hand with finger paint. Then have them press their hand down on a piece of construction paper. Flip the paper over and glue on google eyes and decorate the “ocean” around your octopus.

Paper Bowl Turtle

Color or paint a paper bowl green. Tear up pieces of green and brown construction paper and glue to the bowl. Then cut out four turtle feet, a tail and head. Glue these pieces to the inside lip of the bowl. Attach google eyes to your turtle’s head.

Download Free World Ocean Day Craft Templates for the Fake Aquarium and Paper Bowl Turtle.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day to remember the more than one million men and women who lost their lives while serving the United States.

This holiday may be difficult for younger children who do not understand the concept of death or for children that are sensitive to the topic. Be sure to celebrate on your child’s emotional level.

If you have any ancestors or family members who died in service, today is a great day to tell your children about them.

Paint Poppies

Traditionally, red poppies were worn on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving their nation.

Paint green stems on a piece of paper. Clamp two clothespins over two pompoms. Dip one pompom in red paint and then paint dots at the top of your stem. Dip the second pompom in black paint and use it to paint a single black dot at the center of each poppy.

Flag Etiquette

Until noon on Memorial Day, the American flag is displayed at half-mast in memory of the men and women who lost their lives. At noon, the flag is then raised to full-staff. This symbolizes that the living will continue to fight for liberty and justice for all.

If you have a flag, make sure to follow proper flag etiquette and explain the symbolism to your children. If you do not have a flag, find pictures of the flag at half-mast and full-staff to explain Memorial Day flag etiquette.

Moment of Remembrance

At 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, a National Moment of Remembrance is observed. Everyone is asked to take a moment of silence or listen to Taps. While your younger children will probably not understand the concept of a moment of silence, you can take the opportunity to say a short prayer for the lives lost and/or play Taps for your children to listen to.