Monday, September 2, 2013

5th and 7th Grade Homeschool Courses

When I started homeschooling, I scoured the web trying to find good materials to use to teach my kids.  One of the most helpful resources I found was other peoples' blogs and reading about what materials they liked and found useful.  So here's a look at the coursework that we are doing this year, all in the spirit of sharing.

This is Jack's 7th grade year and Ginny's 5th grade year.  Jack is one year ahead on grammar, so he is working on the level 8 course from Growing With Grammar.  Gin's on the level 6 course.  We've used this program from the very start, from level 1 up to level 8, and have never needed another grammar course.  It's a great course with independent work and a great price!  Couldn't ask for anything better.

We also use Soaring With Spelling from the same company.  It took a while for me to find a spelling course that would work for our family, and this one came out right when I was searching for another option.  I wouldn't say it's the best spelling program out there, but it works for us.  Again, independent work and cheap!

Ah math!  I love math!  We started homeschooling using Saxon's math courses.  We totally LOVED their kindergarten course, hands on and fun!  But grade 1 crashed and burned with Jack.  There was just TOO much practice and busy work.  So we tried some ABeka math and that was pretty good, but still too much practice work and too much review.  Jack is really quick at math and gets bored with silly practice very easily.  I would even circle only half the problems for him to do and it was still just too much.  So we moved on to Math-U-See and that was perfect!  Jack used those courses all the way through Pre-Algebra.  But I felt the Pre-Alg course was not quite as in depth as I was hoping, so we picked up the Art of Problem Solving.

Jack doesn't like this very much, but I love it!  I think he's getting a very strong foundation in math with these courses.  There is a lot more talking and reading about math with AOPS, and Jack doesn't like that much.  But each section only has 10 or so problems to work, and he does likes that!  There are no busy-work type problems.  These problems are all well thought out and often work more than one math skill at a time.  Many of these problems are also taken from national math competitions!

Ginny is still working though the Math-U-See courses.  She's on the fractions course (Epsilon) right now, which is another thing that I like about Math-U-See.  Each course works on a basic skill, like division or decimals.  There isn't any jumping around from long division to adding 4 digit numbers to ratios.  With Math-U-See you get a full course just on learning to add and related skills, for example. 

For history this year, we have one month of The Human Odyssey Volume 1 left, and then we're moving on to Volume 2.  After we finished Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World, we were really floundering to find a good history course.  The Human Odyssey seems to fit the bill.  We are taking the online course through K12.  It is super pricey, but worth it in the end I think.

Finding a science course for this year was also a struggle.  The ones available for secular homeschool study are very limited.  And most of those are simply schedules with reading from a science encyclopedia and writing paragraphs.  This just isn't satisfying for us.  I really wanted something with more meat.  Encyclopedias are just too short and dry.  So we finally settled on Holt Physical Science which is just overflowing with good stuff!  We are supposed to be doing Chemistry this year and Physics next year, but I thought we could use this book and make it last 2 years.  There are tons of labs to try and loads of work that comes with the homeschool CDs, I'm pretty sure 2 years won't be a problem!  We also have some other hands on kits that we will use to supplement the course, like Lego Education's Simple Machines sets.

Writing With Skill just came out recently, so we are giving it a go.  Jack is doing level 1.  Ginny is working on Writing With Ease level 4.  We're rather behind as far as writing courses go.  We've tried a bunch of them and never found one that clicked.  Hopefully this will work out.  I will probably put my foot down on this one.  I think this course will really help with the outlining and planning skills necessary for good writing to happen and I think both kids will benefit from that.

For Latin, we are continuing our study with Lively Latin book 2.  Book 1 worked out really well for us, and we learned quite a lot.  Book 2 is looking good!  We are also going to continue reviewing our vocabulary with my Latin puzzles.  You can see some of Ginny's puzzling work above.

This week we are reviewing Battle Words.  I should have that pack of puzzles ready for the store by this weekend!

We are also going to be doing some programming this year.  We are starting off with a super fun little app called Light-Bot.  We're going to work through that for a couple weeks.  The kids already have learned what a main program is and what procedures are!  Then we will start reading Hello World! and learn how to code in Python!  I don't know Python, so I'll be learning along with them.  Sounds like fun to me!

We no longer live in Fayetteville where we had an awesome PE class to attend twice a week, but we will be doing some walking and biking and other activities.  We don't have an official art course either, but I pick up ideas here and there that we try out during our non-school hours, like zentangles and knitting.  Doing PE, art and music at other times of the day gives us more homeschool hours that the kids don't realize are happening!  Doing some fun art project doesn't feel like school and isn't during school hours, so it can't be school....or can it??!!

Today was our first day back to school, and everything went very smoothly.  Jack only whined 12 times, so actually a very good day for him!  (Just kidding really, but he is a notorious whiner!  He probably only actually whined 3 times.)  Ginny rocked everything, of course.  She sees where Jack goes wrong and always does the right thing.  She's a teacher's pet for sure!

Here's what Ginny drew on our white board for the first day of school.  It's an advertisement (she called it an article) for a "Math Rocks" balloon.  You can enter a code online for a free balloon and $20 gift certificate.  You can also see some stick people testimonials on how Math Rocks will help you love math too!  She trips me up!

I hope this info about our curricula helps you in your quest for homeschooling materials!

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