Two weeks into our school year, and I'm just now getting around to posting my curriculum choices! Here's what I'm using with Junie B, 4th Grader (Taz's 1st grade resources coming soon!):
General: Sonlight Core 4: Introduction to American History, Part 2 (mid-1800s to present day). Includes History, Readers and Literature Read-alouds; extensive list of resources can be found by following the link.
History studies is a work in progress around here. I purchased all the books for the 5-day program, but we really have not been doing focused History studies on a daily basis. So far, we've worked on Sonlight's South America unit, which coincides with my goal to familiarize my 1st grader with the names of the continents and general map features, as part of our daily review-and-drill sessions (much more fun than that sounds! I'll eventually post details of how we do things like this over on my other site, In My Backyard.) I plan to focus more on regions, with some fun cuisine-sampling and mapmaking activites, and of course, Saints of South America. Junie also has several Top Secret Adventures focusing on South American countries, and we're working our way through those as well (and so far actually spending a great deal more time on this than Sonlight sets aside).
Also, 4th grade is the traditional year for focusing on state history. We live in an historically rich area, so in addition to completing this simple state study guide, we will be enjoying a number of field trips! (Our own humble home was built at the time of the civil war. We actually have transcriptions of the letters written by the son of the original builders of our home while he was serving as a soldier for the Union! A one-man play has even been written about that soldier based on those letters, and apparently opened in Washington DC. How cool is that?) A NYS travel guide from AAA will come in pretty handy, I think.
Math: After two consecutive years of using RightStart -- and really appreciating its approach -- I decided we really couldn't afford to spend over $200 every year on a math program, even if it would ultimately be used for more than one child. So this year we're going with Saxon 5/4, with the DIVE CD. You know, I had expected Saxon to be harder than it is. (That doesn't worry me at all, actually. I know it can make me feel good to have my kids succeeding all over the place well beyond their grade level, but in truth, if they're not bored and they are actually improving their skills, that's more than good enough for me, even if they find the work easy.) Right now, the emphasis is surprisingly on very basic math facts (addition and subtraction) -- but what's turning out to be great about that is that Junie is getting a lot of practice -- and confidence -- in these basics. She's doing 4 lessons each week, along with online facts drills at the Math-U-See website (in lieu of the written drills from the workbook), and for the Mixed Practice section she does either the even or the odd-numbered examples based on the date (e.g. on the 26th she completed the evens). So far, she's been doing the lessons entirely on her own, with me checking her work or assisting as needed -- and she seems to really like that. The 5th day each week is set aside for math games from the resources & materials we already purchased over the last two years from RightStart, and/or playing Math drill games from the websites we found last year (here's a favorite of my little fashion maven!) The balance so far seems just right.
Junie completes her work in a "Math Office" which so far, really, is just a 3-ring binder with pockets inside the cover. There is a log for the results of her MUS drills, and a log for the games we're playing; then there's just a lot of notebook paper for taking notes during her DIVE sessions, and working her Mixed Practice problems each day. As the work becomes more complicated (if it ever really does), we'll add sections more akin to an "office" style resource as needed (traditional math "mini office"example here).
Science: We're continuing to have our Nature Monday experiences as the backbone of our science program. Getting the kids out of bed on Monday mornings is easy -- all I have to do is call them with a cheery, "It's Nature Monday!" :) For a text, I decided to go with CHC's Behold and See. Junie will be reading this mostly on her own, then filling me in on what she read; we'll do the experiments together as a family, and coordinate the lessons whenever possible with what we're already doing on Nature Monday. While we've never followed any of these exactly, the Outdoor Hour Challenges from Handbook of Nature Study are wonderfully inspirational. I also really enjoy getting emails from Kramf chock full of other simple experiment ideas.
Language Arts: For grammar, we've just started using (and loving!) Easy Grammar and Daily Grams (4th grade level). Since the simple focus of the program is eliminating prepositional phrases in order to more easily identify a sentence's subject & predicate, we've been enjoying this Schoolhouse Rock video on youtube! :) Spelling: Natural Speller's 4th grade lists, with daily lessons inspired by Donna Young's approach and A Reason for Spelling's great sensory ideas. Writing has presented something of a challenge in the past, but over the summer we gave Writing Strands (WS) a try with wonderful success. We're going full-bore with that now, picking up where we left off in WS-2, and, when we're done with that, moving into WS-3. I'm also having her complete a simple summary/favorite scene worksheet following completion of a reader (which she moves through waaaaay too quickly -- it's hard for me to find the time to keep ahead of her on the books I've never yet read myself!!) Handwriting: Junie is really enjoying her first foray into CHC's Handwriting series, level 4, and is especially getting a kick out of its use of Latin ("Mom, I looked ahead -- they actually have the Latin for how much wood could a wood chuck chuck!" Very clever, and the book itself is beautifully published.) Keyboarding: We started using Typing Instructor a couple years ago, but without much focus; while she is able to type some things quickly (like the password to get on the computer), this year I'd like to see Junie refine those skills to make them actually useful for composition, perhaps by (school) year's end. We'll be continuing our habit of visiting the Library on at least a bi-weekly (often weekly) basis as well, with an ongoing focus on using the library search engine to identify resources, and locating those resources on the shelves.
Religion: I almost hesitate to post anything about this, because anyone who might happen upon this blog via 4Real, Catholic Mothers Online, Catholic Blogs or the Liturgical Year Circle has access to far more interesting, insightful and creative ideas in this area than anything I could ever come up with. I don't really like using text books for the study of our faith -- maybe it stems back to what The Chief calls "Peace, Love and Jesus" texts from our own early post-Vatican II childhoods, but they always give me kind of a bored, stilted feeling when I leaf through their slick pages. (Yes, even the Faith & Life and Image of God ones.) My children get plenty of that at CCD at church, anyway. Besides, I can state unequivocally that everything important I learned about our Faith as a child came from home, not from school -- and I'd like to think my children could say the same, even if we weren't homeschooling.
I like reading to my children from the Bible (Vos' Children's Bible has a lovely, Parent to child storytelling tone); talking about Jesus as both our Lord and God who insists on a certain way of life and behavior as well as being our loving and forgiving friend; learning about Mary and the Saints (primarily by celebrating their feasts and invoking their intercession in prayer), preparing for and participating in Mass and the Sacraments (if only by example), praying together, placing our negative behavior choices (including some of my own) in the context of what is demanded of us by God and owed by us to each other in love, and completing Liturgical Year notebooks, crafts and other activities. My focus will be on beginning preparation for Taz's First Confession & Communion, which will hopefully take place next school year. For inspiration, I love CHC's A Year with God, Cay Gibson's Catholic Mosaic, Jessica's endless supply of enthusiastic and creative ideas for celebrating the liturgical year with her own children atA Shower of Roses, Mass preparation ideas from Catholic Mom, Castle of the Immaculate and Footprints on the Fridge, Alice Gunther's Liturgical Teas and Crafts found at her beautiful Cottage Blessings site and Kimberlee's wonderful First Friday activities at Pondered in my Heart; and the invitingly simple Big Book of Catholic Customs. Little Acts of Grace is one of my all-time favorite books for introducing children to little loving "Catholic-isms." And, of course, where would our feast day celebrations be without the huge selection of tasty entrees, desserts and snacks available at Catholic Cuisine! :)
Finally, Assessment. In New York, formal assessments must be completed at least every other year beginning in 4th grade. We experimented with the IOWA last spring, and I was very pleased with both the testing situation and the results, so we'll be doing that again this coming spring, and formally submitting the results for the first time. (I've been submitting narrative reviews every year up until now.) In January, I'll probably order the 4th grade Scoring High book and manual to help Junie B. prepare for the testing situation, but I expect she'll do quite well either way.
So, that's pretty much it! So far, so good: We're looking forward to a wonderful, family- and faith-centered year!
UPDATE: After I finally put this post together, added all the links and published, I realized this whole post actually belongs In My Backyard! So I'm cross-posting it there. When I finish Taz's 1st grade post, I'll put it there, as well. :)