Sunday, January 08, 2012

What We Are Doing for 2nd Grade and More

So many of y'all have asked the dreaded curriculum question. Many of you I have emailed or sent a super long text or send a ridiculously long facebook message. I thought that I was getting the question enough, that I might as well put it out there on a blog so I can send my friends a link in answer to their questions instead of a super long, overwhelming message. :)

While this blog post will only cover 2nd grade (as I am just making up the Pre-K stuff as I go) my hope is that the links provided will get you to the grade level you need and you will find some great things for your kiddos:: homeschooling or not!

We have to cover a variety of subject in 2nd Grade so I am going to break this post down by subject. This way if you only want information for one subject you don't have to wade through the entire thing. We have been through (and around) a variety of curriculum so PLEASE don't hesitate to ask me if you want advice starting a younger child in a curriculum. I would love to do my best to help you on your way and tell you pros and cons of whatever you are interested...if I know anything about it :)

Okay, here are the subject we are attempting to cover this school year:: Reading, Writing, Spelling & Grammar, Math, History, Science, Geography, Latin, Bible and Art. So here we go!

Here is a quick link list. Then below that is the explanations and more info about how/what we do::

Writing:: IWE
Grammar:: Shurley
Math:: Saxon
Science:: Apologia

To get started each year I check out what Veritas Press suggests we cover in that grade year, which curriculum they recommend (which is typically close to what we follow) and then I start searching around to see if anything better suits our boys for any particular subject. Then I wait for the sales :) (for sale finding I recommend:: CBD, Rainbow, Amazon, Barnes & Noble)

We started the year with Veritas Press's More Favorites which included Mouse Soup, Danny the Dinosaur, Sarah Plain and Tall and My Father's Dragon. Between some of these I let him pick his own chapter books like The Magic Tree House. I am finding great comprehension guides for free online along with project ideas for The Magic Tree House books. (here) I haven't exactly mapped out what he will be finishing the year with, I am just making sure his reading is at grade level, comprehending well and that he is developing a love of reading. I will continue to follow Veritas Press's suggested reading or pull from Sonlight's suggested grade level readers to make sure he is on level. This will include all kinds of fun classics. He reads at minimum one chapter a day from a chapter book but often he will do 2-3.

Titus has had a lot of hand writing issues because we transferred schools in Kindergarten and the school he moved to already did cursive. This has caused a bit of a set back in writing but he is doing great working on it. As for the subject of writing (as in NOT handwriting but actual composition) we use The Institute for Writing Excellence. (the DVDs that come with it were so good, old school, but good. They are for the parent or teacher and are very insightful) It is recommended by VP to begin in second grade while the actual IWE suggests more like 4th. So we are going very slowly and honestly he doesn't even know there is a curriculum. He just thinks I think of things for him to outline. When we are not doing IWE stuff, I let him "write " a story by him telling me it and we make correct sentences together. Then I write it out then he copies it. Again, trying to not make him hate writing while keeping him at grade level. I sometimes give him writing prompts that are silly and let him make "book" out of them. He really likes this as he can also illustrate it. We simply sit together and outline his story then he makes sentences that complete the story.

Man, this subject has been quite a deal. Like I mentioned above, Titus transferred Kindergarten mid-semester when we moved to St. Louis. We put him in a school that used Abeka and his previous school did not. So he spent most of Kinder catching up on CURSIVE...I know, crazy, but they were already doing cursive. So being the perfectionist he is, he caught up quickly, but hated writing. :( So when we started homeschooling, I needed to go back and teach him print, as he did not fully learn it. We used A Reason for Handwriting. He really enjoyed it, surprisingly. I have recently been wooed by Handwriting without Tears and plan to start Justus on it this semester and Titus as well when we move into the cursive one next year.

Grammar & Spelling::
We use Shurley Grammar and have LOVED it. It is song driven. Shurley calls them "jingles." Each jingle teaches the child a part of speech or an english rule. He has a little book work each day, which Titus doesn't mind at all. My lovely sister-in-law got annoyed with having to write out the sentences they are to outline each day so she took some time to type them out and shared that document with us. It has made Grammar time go MUCH faster and a lot less "teacher heavy." I would suggest it for anyone to do and I will do it for next year as soon as I have the next book!

As for spelling, we do the Institute for Writing Excellence program called Phonics Zoo but are not very strict about it. We will start strong with it in 3rd grade but wanted to intro Titus to it this year. Titus did Abeka in Kindergarden and some of 1st grade so he has a bit of a bad taste in his mouth for spelling. So this year has been about rebuilding his confidence in writing and spelling.

We do Saxon. We have loved it. He is in Saxon 3 now. He is not good with timed things (by not good I mean he has total meltdowns) but we have learned our own way of using Saxon, completing the work and getting around all the timed sheets while still incorporating them when needed. He is doing well and way above level on Math. As his teacher I have really appreciated the way the Saxon teachers book is laid out:: easy and efficient. We don't do all the recommended daily activities but we always cover the lesson in one way or another :)

We use Mystery of History. We really loved last year (Volume 1) but have found this year a bit harder. Its easier to get through, better laid out curriculum wise, but the material is heavier because of the nature of the dark ages. I really like MofH because it covers all of history including but not limited to the Christian movement. It is all over the globe not just middle eastern/western History. I have found this year that it is better for me to read the chapter first then teach it to Titus instead of how we did last year where he just listened to me read it. He really likes interacting with History lessons and MofH has great ideas after each lesson of thing to do. We usually do one a week. We have a timeline going and plan to make a binder but haven't got around to it yet :) As a supplement we use Story of the World. In retrospect I probably would have gone completely through Story of the World for the first 4-5 years of school then started Mystery of History but doing them together has worked. Titus LOVES listening to the Story of the World CDs. He has no idea it is idea.

Curriculum wise we use Apologia. We have done the astronomy one and are now on an animal one. But Titus just loves science. He loves it so much that it often is what we skip because I am very confident that he is already learning this stuff. :) As he gets older we will crack down and follow stricter to the books but for now I love that he makes it up as we go. I sorta teach him some and let him come up with experiments to do.

This year we are learning the United States and all of their capitals.
We don't use a curriculum. I have big flash cards (these) and small flash cards I got in the dollar bin at Target. As well as 2 workbooks we also found in the dollar bin of Target. We have a states puzzle that twice a week he has to take out all the ones I call out and then put them back in saying the capital. I bought some songs online to help him memorize the capitals and we have yet to listen to them because he is doing great with out them. Last year we did Veritas Press's Legends & Leagues Geography and WE LOVED IT. I highly recommend it to younger students K-2! We have also done some fun projects about where we live (like this one).

We use Song School Latin. It is a very fun work book and a great intro to Latin. I also HIGHLY recommend it. It is song based and has a super fun, not time consuming, workbook.

This year we haven't followed anything in particular for Bible. Since Justus (our 3yr old) is doing some preK now, we have been doing a verse a week that starts with the letter we are studying. For Titus the verse we cover is his weekly memory verse. We often use it for his handwriting. This year we are focusing on God being Faithful. We have a board in our home that says "God is Faithful. You can be/have _______" and each week we have a different character trait that we can have as believers because of God's faithfulness. We try to line this trait up with the message of the verse he is memorizing. For example, "God is Faithful, You can have Confidence" to go along with Romans 8:39
We hope to start a catechism next year or with both boys when Justus is a bit more attentive.

We don't have a "curriculum" per se but I try to at least have us "make" one thing a day. Draw a picture, paint, model clay, play-doh, build something that goes along with History, photograph, sing, etc. I really hope to do some Art History soon along with Titus doing corresponding art. I have some fun books ( Discovering Great Artists & Drawing With Children) I've bought along the way but just haven't done them yet.

**disclaimer:: after re-reading this post, I feel I should say that we had a good experience with Abeka's Homeschooling curriculum as it helped us start with something Titus was familiar with from his previous school. I think my post sounded like we totally did not like it and that is not the case. It is great curriculum! We have just, since then, decided to move on to others.**

If you have hung with me this long, I hope this has been resourceful! Feel free to pass it along to anyone. I remember the overwhelming feeling as we began the journey of homeschooling. There are so many options and so many opinions!

Happy Schooling!

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