Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Nitty Gritty Homeschool Stuff

Yesterday, I described the overall picture of our homeschooling year: what we're doing with co-ops and outside classes and lessons.

Today, we'll look at the daily nitty-gritty. (Warning: This post may be way too detailed for some, and not tell nearly enough for others! I've tried to write for a broad audience.)

As I mentioned, we're using Sonlight's American History courses this year. Blondechick14 (8th grade) is using Core 100, and it's been challenging, but doable for her. Bantam7 (2nd grade) and Bantam11 (5th grade) are both using Core 3+4. It's been perfect for Bantam11; I've substituted easier books for Bantam7 when needed.

The Sonlight curriculum basically provides a schedule of reading assignments. For the elementary students, "Readers" are books they read to themselves, usually a chapter or two a day; "Read-Alouds" are the books a parent reads to them. The Read-Alouds are usually several reading levels above their level, which stimulates the students' comprehension of more complex vocabulary and sentence structure than they can read on their own. There are also "History" reading assignments, which are non-fiction and relate to the time period in which the literature is set. Usually the parent reads these to the students.

The high school courses like Core 100 include reading schedules for History and Literature (no more Read-Alouds at this level). For Core 100, Blondechick reads daily in an award-winning textbook series called A History of US by Joy Hakim. She also reads a chapter or two a day in a literature selection, and another chapter or so from a history book, which is often a biography or factual historical novel. She also reads a few pages of poetry a day, as scheduled.

Note: Sonlight also provides optional schedules for Bible reading, praying for the world, memorization projects, research papers, music listening, and geography lessons--that we hardly ever use. It's all great, but it's too much for most families I know. Just being real here...I know some of you are thinking of using Sonlight, and if you do, Sonlight Co. would be the first to tell you to pick and choose from all they they offer. We do try to read the Bible and pray together daily, but we have our own framework for that in the Book of Common Prayer.)

Included with the reading schedules are comprehension questions for all the books. I use these only occasionally. I prefer to have the kids tell me what they remember (narration), or ask me questions about things they might not have understood. (The answers to the questions are nice to have, however, when I have not read the book.) I do have Blondechick14 write out the answers to the questions on A History of US; I think with non-fiction, the questions are more helpful in drawing out the main points.

For Math, Blondechick14 and Bantam11 are both using Saxon Math (8/7 & 5/4), the most often-used and frequently-recommended homeschool math curriculum for upper elementary students. Bantam 7 was doing a page a day in Horizons 2, until recently, when I decided that it's more important for him to drill on math facts. So he's doing an addition and a subtraction worksheet drill program called Calculadder. I let him fill out the same sheet every day until he's ready to be timed; once he can do the page in 2 minutes, he goes on to the next, slightly harder, page of problems. Bantam11 is supposed to be doing this daily too, or Math-It--trying to get those multiplication facts down cold--but we don't always get to it. (I use Calculadder because I have it...but I just discovered that Sonlight offers these downloadable drill sheets that I'm going to try. (Calculadder can be almost too incremental--these are just one sheet to master!)

For Language Arts, I like the Spelling Workout workbooks because they cover other language arts topics like dictionary skills, analogies, synonyms, antonyms, etc. I like Easy Grammar; however, this year I have no one using it! I'm giving Blondechick a year off from grammar, since she's spending so much more time reading and writing this year, and it's a strength of hers anyway. Bantam11 is using A Beka's Language D, a workbook that Blondechick had barely started when I switched her to Easy Grammar (a much better fit for her). Bantam7 is finishing up leftovers as well--I pulled out the language arts sections that we never used from a couple of those giant workbooks (one was Comprehensive Curriculum, Grade 3), holepunched them and put them in a notebook. He does one or two pages a day, in addition to his Spelling Workout page. I let him stop doing handwriting for awhile, but we probably need to return to this series soon. The older two kids have writing class homework that they spend a couple hours a week on, as well.

For Science, Blondechick is doing Jay Wile's Exploring Creation with General Science, using the Sonlight schedule which divides the text up into reading assignments; at the end of each chapter she answers questions to create a study guide and then takes a test. She has always struggled a bit with reading comprehension, so I was anxious about whether she'd be able to handle this kind of a science course, but she is enjoying it. (I am so delighted!)

The Bantams are getting hands-on science through the co-op class that I described yesterday; at home, they read Usborne science books, a few pages a day--they especially like the Starting Point Science series. I acquired a whole shelf of Usborne science and history books back when I sold Usborne for a few months, long ago, and my boys, especially, have loved these highly illustrated books.

As I mentioned yesterday, P.E., music, speech and drama are all covered by piano and voice lessons, park district soccer, drama class and musical rehearsals. Art has been one of the hardest subjects to fit in, I've found, not because it's so terribly hard to do at home--there are plenty of great resources--but because it's hard to make it a priority, compared to the other subjects. So I have relied on classes in the past; the kids used to have an art class every week for the three years that we were in a certain co-op, and last year they took a few sessions of a summer art class which they all enjoyed. And they draw for fun, of course!

Tomorrow, I'll end this series with a look at some of the books we're read so far this year.


Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

Is sonlight worth the cost in younger grades? I'm contemplating it for grade 2 but its like $800 or something!!! :)

A Voice said...

I second Lindsey's question. I'm thinking that at most I would only want the core pack. I just don't see why I need a curriculum to teach k-4th Math! The Core is cheaper if I'm looking at it right (that website is confusing to me).

At A Hen's Pace said...

All I bought from them were the Instructor's Guides and a few of the books we'd need that I knew I wouldn't be able to easily find, used, elsewhere. I bought everything separately, not in a package.

I already owned about half of the books. I purchased a number of others used, online (Half.com is nearly always the cheapest). The rest we've gotten from the library.

I bought our math books, the 8th grade science books and a lot of the readers/read-alouds at our support group's used curriculum sale last year. In fact, I found a Kindergarten Sonlight Instructor's Guide there too, cheap, that I bought. But there's always VegSource, eBay and Half.com, of course.

Oh, and you can always buy used IG's (Instructor's Guides) on the Sonlight Buying/Selling Forum. Just note how old they are. And some people will sell books along with the IG's as a package--often a good deal if you don't own any of the books already.
Of course, you can always use the library. At the younger ages, it really won't matter if you have to shuffle the order of the books around, if someone else has the book checked out, for example. We've fudged a little even in 8th grade and it's been fine. The IG is just nice to give you a framework--but it's not hard to rearrange things if you need to, or even substitute a book you own for one you can't get.

Does that help? Hope so!


Honey said...

Is it worth becoming an Usborne dist. just to get the books or are there fees? I was wondering about that and then noticed you used to be one.