I am sitting here surrounded by books, and teacher’s manuals, and educational DVDs, and worksheets and planner pages. It’s time to start planning out our next school year, and the kids and I are just giddy over our choices. (okay, I admit it, I am more giddy then them, but they did see the Liberty’s Kids DVD box, so they at least have SOMETHING to be excited for)
Last year, I learned that I really need to be in control of my lesson plans. I started out the year with one of the many (expensive!) all in one “boxed” curriculum programs. I admit, I really liked being able to just open up the teachers manual when we started the lesson and not have to worry about anything. It took less time too…. But I am a “tweaker” and couldn’t just let that boxed curriculum be *it* for us. I needed to supplement, and change the order of things, and essentially re-write anything I have been given. I tried many other programs along the way (and spent more than I wanted to), but I think I finally have a plan.
The other mistake I made last year was planning things out only a couple weeks at a time, which meant every other weekend I would spend hours figuring out what we were doing next, and arranging lessons. I felt like I spent more time planning then I spent teaching, and I began feeling burnt out, because I never really had time “off” from teaching.
This year, I am taking a different approach. I have picked full year programs for every subject instead of building my own from scratch out of books (with only a few exceptions) and I am sitting down NOW to plan out a full year, down to the books we are getting from the library, our read-alouds, supplement videos and games…. Everything.
The wise ladies over at the Well Trained Mind Forums suggested I schedule not by week but by subject. I have a spread sheet for every subject, listing the lesson plans in order I want to do them. Then, on the weekends, all I have to do is sit down with my lesson binder and plug in the next lessons from the subject spreadsheets and it will always be accurate. This way, if we skip science one week, or want to spend extra time on a history lesson, my whole schedule isn’t thrown off, I simply keep on selecting the next lessons on the spreadsheet.
The other thing I am going to do this year to make my life easier is use an online planner program (the newly released Well Planned Day Planner) and use that to track attendance, reading list, grades and lesson plans. It’s still in Beta right now, so I hesitate to recommend it, but so far, it looks like it will not only handle lesson plans, but also budgeting, meal planning, chores, book lists, and more. I’ll let you know how that goes for us!
We are planning our school year to be 40 weeks, instead of the normal 36, so we can take every other Friday off. We also have many small breaks planned to allow for travel. Our school year will run from early July to the end of May.
Alright, enough rambling, here are our curriculum choices/goals for 2012-2013!
Logic of English– This is a new program for phonics, spelling and grammar. It is written for older students, so it is taking some work on my part to make it appropriate for the boys. I’ll be using it with Bug to reinforce phonics and teach spelling. Mr. Man will be using it to learn his phonograms and start reading and spelling. The goal is for Bug to be reading fluently (think Magic Treehouse Books) independently by the end of the year, and Mr. Man to be reading CVC words. We’ll be using this program slowly over two years. It was hard for me to leave All About Spelling, but this program is very similar, only it moves quicker, and costs less in the long run.
Michael Clay Thompson Island Level- People frequently call this program “much cuddle time” because it is meant to be done with the parent, cuddled up on the couch. This is for Bug only, to cover grammar, composition, poetry and vocabulary. It is also supposed to be for older children, but from the samples, I think it will be appropriate for his ability. We’ll be using this slowly!
First Language Lessons (level 1)- Early language skills and grammar. I’ll be doing this program orally with Mr. Man.
Saxon Math (K-3 level)- Both boys will be using Saxon this year. I found it after struggling with Math Mammoth (Bug is very good at math, but MM had too many problems per page with too small writing space for him, so we needed something different!). This program is heavily manipulative based, and uses the “spiral method” to introduce new concepts slowly, while continually reviewing past concepts. I feel like this is a good way for the boys to achieve mastery of their math facts.
Dreambox.com, Xtra Math.com- Both online programs are for Bug, Dreambox works on the more abstract math skills, and xtramath will help drill math facts.
Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding- Both Boys will be doing this together. The program itself is fantastic. The science is deep, but presented in an age appropriate manner. It would be perfect if it was easier to use. This is the program that is taking the most planning from me to make it useable because of how it is presented. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. I am halfway through planning our first year- I’ll share it with you when I am done.
Story of the World 1: Ancient History with Activity Guide– I think this is the program I am *most* excited to start. The stories and projects are fun, and I am a history junkie. I have rearranged the chapters geographically (insert gasps of horror from the classical education crowd 😉 ) and also skipped some of the chapters that don’t mesh well with my idea of a secular education. I am happy with how our lesson plans turned out. The BEST part of this program is that we are planning trips to Greece, Rome, the Egypt museum in Berlin, possibly Stonehenge, and the Messel pit in Hessen, Germany and Roman Ruins all over the country. It’s going to be AMAZING.
American History- Since we are doing Story of the World, American history is not a focus for us this year. We are using a few printables from the scholastic dollar days sales to cover famous Americans, American Symbols, and the history of the holidays, as well as watching the Liberty’s Kids series for “fun”.
This year I have the opportunity to teach art with the USO on post. Once a week, Bug will get to go with me and study art history, as well as create lots of really cool projects. I’ll share those lesson plans as I teach them as well.
For music, we will be doing composer studies.
German- We will continue going for playdates with our German friends, and get out of the house as much as possible. We are also going to continue with Pimsleur, First Step auf Deutch, and German for Children. I am determined to get more serious about my own German education, and am hoping to sign up for a formal class for myself, and use my McGraw Hill grammar and vocabulary workbooks more often.
I think that’s about it! We are excited to dig in and get started…. But first I have to get it all in order and get the lesson plans written!
Wish me luck!