The 2014-15 Curriculum Reveal

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2014-15 Curriculum

So, I’ve been busy. Plotting, planning, scheming, conniving, imagining, dreaming, wishing, purchasing, drooling, planning some more, etc. Many of you can probably relate. And I’m finally—FINALLY—ready to share next year’s vision.

Are you ready for this reveal?

Here it is: our 2014-2015 School Year, in all it’s glory!

Tot Time

For my toddler, I’m mostly keeping him occupied. But I did pick up this super easy and cute activity book that I happened to notice at the A Beka Materials Display in our area.

Nursery Arts and Crafts

I loved that the activities were pretty easy, AND they were organized by week. Glory! Which made them very easy to file into my weekly file folder system. He’ll do 2 to 3 of these activities a week. And I’ll probably recruit Middlest to help him with what he can’t manage on his own.

First Grade

Middlest is entering first grade. I can’t believe it! Her curriculum is pretty simple.

Foundations C (Logic of English)

A Beka Arithmetic 1

When she finishes her phonics book, which she will probably do pretty quickly based on her progress this last year, I’ll either have her begin Writing with Ease or English for the Thoughtful Child.* (See my notes on this below)


Third Grade

The bulk of my time has been spent on researching third grade books. Oh, my goodness, the hours I spent on this! But I am happy with the results.

CLE Math 300 series

I’m switching from A Beka to Christian Light this next year. We did a trial run with a couple of the 2nd grade math books from this company, and we both loved it. My primary reason for switching was that I needed a curriculum less teacher-dependent. Even though many use A Beka as a student-led curriculum, it isn’t designed to be used that way, and I could foresee problems with that. What I loved about CLE is that it is very much like A Beka in content (it’s still very challenging), and yet it is designed for independence. The teaching instruction is included right in the student’s book. Oldest loved this, too. He always found the A Beka explanations to be too brief and confusing. As an added bonus, CLE is strong in geometry and critical thinking, two areas I always felt we were a little behind in with A Beka.

Visual Latin I (lessons 1-12)

Winston Grammar

A Beka 3rd Grade Cursive Writing Skillbook

English for the Thoughtful Child*

This link is not actually to EFTC book, because I found an older ebook version of the same text. It’s dated and not in textbook format, but I love the style. Not to mention, I love FREE! The name of this is actually Lessons in the Use of English. We started using this at the end of this year, just so I could see if I was going to like it. And I totally do.

I also picked up the A Beka cursive book. This is a huge surprise for me because I have NEVER liked A Beka handwriting. But when I saw this book, it was everything I wanted to accomplish with our Charlotte Mason-style copywork, already done for me! This is a really amazing book. Short excerpts from historical documents; character traits, quotations, Bible verses; state information; short science sentences with an animal glossary to teach alphabetical order—it was a dream come true. And Oldest is stoked. He wanted to begin this summer, but I’m being mean and making him wait.


Combined Studies

We always have several subjects that we do all together. To help myself, I’ve divided all of our subjects into subjects of Discipline (math, grammar and usage, foreign language) and subjects of Inspiration. The Discipline subjects are grade-specific; but our Inspiration subjects are more relaxed and inclusive. They include history, science, art, music, poetry, reading, etc.

Tapestry of Grace, Year 3 (lower grammar and upper grammar)

Activity Supplements include Time Traveler pak Early 19th Century, Draw through History: Napoleon, and History Pockets Civil War.

Kinderbach Level 2

See the Light Art Class (affiliate link)

Artist Study: Frederick Remington and Winslow Homer

Ecology and Biomes (various library books and memory work from the Classical Conversations apps 1 & 2)


That’s our year in a nutshell. It’s always so exciting to start putting the pieces together and seeing the plan unfold. And I’m unfolding it a little differently this year, truly customizing Tapestry to the max. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.


Disclaimer: This post contains one affiliate link, which means that if you make a purchase through that link, I get a small compensation. You can read more in my disclosure.

Our 2014 Morning Routine

How We Do series

I’ve been putting off sharing this post, but I finally feel like we’ve settled into our new schedule enough to share it with you our morning routine. As you may recall, I shook up our whole schedule after Christmas in an attempt to find a fit for everyone, including Littlest.

In addition to accommodating our toddler, our life has some late nights for the kids;  many nights have the kids getting to bed at 9 or later. Which makes the next morning rough on everyone if I enforce a strict “traditional” schedule.

So, after a long, drawn out battle with myself, I’m finally allowing our natural rhythms as a family to dictate our schedule.

I have always tried to be up hours before the kids. But my husband and I are often up late as well (11 p.m. or even midnight). Rather than fight this, I’ve started sleeping in, too. Instead of 5 or 6 a.m., I now get up around 7:30 or 8, about the same time as the kids. But all of us begin the day with some quiet Bible time. If they finish before me, I give them morning hugs and gently remind them that Mommy needs time to finish her time with God and send them back to their rooms to dress and make their beds.

Enjoying our "Song Theatre," as Middlest termed it.
Enjoying our “Song Theatre,” as Middlest termed it.

We ease into our morning routine with breakfast at around 8 or 8:30, followed by “daily hygiene” (getting dressed, brushing teeth, and the rest) and lots of time with Littlest. I’ll play our favorite Family Favorite Tunes for some “jumpin’ and a dancin'” and banging on our rhythm instruments. Littlest loves this (as do the others). And it has helped get wiggles out for everyone. Or some days, Littlest prefers to read some books. Either way, this is my time to spend with him. The others may join in with Littlest as they finish their chores.

I finally purchased a baby gate, which has made a tremendous difference in our day. I could never have guessed how much it helps to limit his chaos to just one floor of our house rather than chasing him out of no-nos on both levels. (Highly recommend a baby-gate!)

We begin our school day about 9:00 or so with copy work and memory chants, and I’m really holding myself accountable to short lessons. Copy work and memory chants both take us 20 min. total.  Littlest usually joins us for this, dancing to our songs and waving his arms around to the motions of our timeline.

Homeschool ScheduleAfter 20 min., I spend time with Middlest on her math and reading; Oldest begins his independent work (a math worksheet, mapwork, and sometimes other activities). Littlest is often playing on his own in the living room, sitting in his high chair with his own coloring page or craft, or having a snack. He also enjoys playing Connect Four in my lap while I teach Middlest. Again, we spend 20 min. here and that’s it. Even if we aren’t quite done yet, Middlest will pick back up on her lessons the following day and Oldest can finish his independent work a little later on.

The next 20 minute segment varies each day. Some days it’s a read-aloud; other days it may be our Latin DVD (we’re doing Song School Latin 1) or Kinderbach. Occasionally, if I need the break to finish something, I’ll let everyone watch Oldest play his Reflex math while I finish a chore.

Another 20 minute segment finds us listening to our Story of the World audio (our core history source for Tapestry of Grace this year) and coloring the pictures, or reading a read-aloud if we haven’t gotten to that yet. We read aloud together for at least one subject every day, and most days Oldest will read some, too.

We don't do everything here. I cover 1 or 2 story problems, the Thinking Cap, and 5 or 6 Oral Combinations.
This is my A Beka Math teacher guide. We don’t do everything here. I cover 1 or 2 story problems, the Thinking Cap, and 5 or 6 Oral Combinations.

Oldest then works with me for 30 minutes. Notice this time, I’m spending 30 min.: that’s 15 min. of math and 15 min. of Language Arts. This segment of time has been a real eye-opener. I can’t believe how much we get accomplished in this time frame. In 15 minutes, I check his math page, review his new concept, give some critical thinking problems and oral problems for him to solve, and complete a speed drill. And yes, this is A Beka math. (Notice also, no flashcards! Reflex math replaces all of that for me.) Then, we move on to Essentials. I choose a few exercises from each lesson; we work for 15 minutes and then pick up with more from that lesson on the following day. Yes, it may take us longer to get through the LOE book, but otherwise we’d burn ourselves out. (There’s so much in one lesson! Spelling, grammar, dictation, composition, vocabulary/roots/prefixes/suffixes. It just has to be done incrementally.)

The rest of the morning routine is spent finishing up the little details we might not have completed yet, or enjoying the fun stuff—another read-aloud, some art, some nature study, or just enjoying a beautiful day outside.

Tapestry of Grace
Tapestry of Grace

We’re done by lunch, or on mornings when we all slept a little more than usual, we’ll finish shortly after lunch. It’s been such a freeing morning routine, and one that allows us to live the life God’s given us.

How do your mornings roll? 

Core Tour: First Grade

It’s been awhile since I’ve gone over our core subjects (reading, math, etc.) and shared what we are doing and how that is going. So I thought, over the next few posts, I’d give you a tour beginning with Oldest who is in first grade this year.

A Beka has been my go-to for reading, math, spelling, and handwriting for him this year. And for those of you who were along for the ride through all of our math frustrations last year, this year has gone incredibly smoothly so far.

Phonics: Oldest is using Letters and Sounds 1 for his phonics workbook. He works one side of a page each day on his own, learns a new flashcard phonics sound each day, and reviews his other sounds. Together, we go over the lesson for that day from the curriculum, and I have been following the curriculum more closely this year than last year, though I still don’t follow it to the letter. It does let me know when (and how) to teach syllables, homonyms, and alphabetical order. We also take a test once a week over his phonics and spelling. He spends 10 min. on his worksheet and 15 min. max on his flashcards; together, we probably spend 30 min. on reading and language concepts.

For his reading, I have mix of things I do. First, I have him read any related Bible work that fits in with our Tapestry history lessons. He reads out of the Seek and Find Bible, which has been perfect for his level of reading and understanding. Then, I’ll have him read any books from our Tapestry reading list that are on his level. If there aren’t any, then he will either read a library book (we’ve loved the Billy and Blaze series of books, and I throw in a few science-themed books here, too), or he’ll read from his A Beka first grade reader.

Spelling: We’ve used the A Beka Spelling and Poetry 1 book for this. He has largely tackled these lists on his own this year, while I supervise to make sure he is learning his list with the exercises provided in the book. If I test him and he did not learn the words on his own (which has only happened once this year with the “ight” and “ite” words, a tough list for him), then I take an extra week on the list and go over it with him everyday. Not only does this free me up a little bit, but it’s teaching him some independence; he’s learning to learn without my help.

Handwriting: He spends a total of 10 min. a day on this and works from two resources. First, he’s learning cursive this year out of the K4 book (shh! don’t tell him it’s K4) that I purchased his K4 year and then scrapped because it was too difficult for his motor skills at the time. He does one side of a page each day and will finish the whole alphabet any day now! I’ve also had him do some copywork from the Primary Arts of Language program that I reviewed earlier this year.

Arithmetic: I have really found A Beka to be much more consistent and enjoyable this year compared to last year. Everyday the amount of work is the same, and it allows us to keep a regular pace that seems much more realistic than last year. Each day he does one side of a page on his own (about 10 min. of work) and one side of a page with me during our “together” time. Together, we go over his flashcards, review and cover new concepts following the daily curriculum, take a speed drill (a timed math quiz), and complete his math work page. Depending on the day, this will take us 30 min. to 45 min. He also does Reflex, which I am still extremely impressed with. Not only does he still love this program, but I think it is also a key reason why math has not been the nightmare it was last year. I highly recommend this.

How do I organize his work pages? I have pocket dividers in a 3-ring binder with the days of the week marked on the divider. At the beginning of the week, I pull his pages for every subject out of his workbooks and file them into these dividers. I also place new flashcards in these pockets. We call these his “pocket pages,” and he starts each day with 30 min. to complete all of his independent work pages (10 min. for phonics, 10 min. for math, and 10 min. for handwriting). Later in the day, he has an additional 30 min. to review flashcards for phonics and history and to go over his spelling list.



*I want to mention one more thing here. He is not on the same lesson in every subject, which I’m totally okay with. He whizzes through all things reading and phonics; it’s his strength. Because of that, we actually began first grade phonics in March/April of last year. He is on lesson 104 in phonics as I write this. Math took us awhile to finish up because I didn’t move on until I knew he understood the lesson. Thus, we finished kindergarten math in August of last year. So that means, that we are on lesson 83 in arithmetic. Because I have done the same thing with spelling, taking the time we need for him to actually learn the words, we are on list 17, not the list that the curriculum says we should be doing. For me, the curriculum is a guide not a tyrant. I use it to help me stay on track, but I don’t let it dictate where we must be.*

And that’s our first grade tour of the core subjects. If you ever have questions, please feel free to email me. There is a link under my bio in the right sidebar. I’d love to hear from you!

What do you love to use for teaching the core subjects?

Why Classical? and our 2012/2013 curriculum

There are many fine ways of educating children. I was homeschooled using largely A Beka and Alpha Omega, a graduate of the traditional schooling method. My husband graduated from public school. And we’ve both done well in life by God’s grace.

When I began homeschooling my children, I really had little idea of all of the different approaches and styles. I began on a traditional road, and quickly fell into a lot of potholes. We could have trudged on I’m sure, but none of us enjoyed those first weeks of by-the-book schooling. Disillusioned, I took a break and re-evaluated everything. I searched blogs and checked out books from the library, one of which was the Well-Trained Mind. It was my first introduction to the idea of classical education, and every part of it appealed to me.

I began researching more about this approach. The more I discovered, the more my husband and I were convinced that this was the path for us. Classical is more than the study of ancient cultures and ancient languages; it’s about a framework and an ordering of information.

In a recent article I read by Martin Cochran, published in The Classical Teacher, Cochran sites an illustration given by Neil Postman in a speech. Postman referred to a new deck of cards which is arranged in a fashion that gives sense to the whole deck. Once that  deck is shuffled, however, the order is lost. There is no means of knowing which card will follow the next. Classical education gives order to the vast amount of information in our world. History is studied in chronological fashion; science is studied from the framework of history; modern languages and English are learned from the foundation of the classical languages from which they were derived. Classically educating is laying a foundation and constructing a framework for the facts our children must learn.

Another appealing aspect to this style is the trivium, the three stages of training through which a child progresses: grammar, logic or dialectic, and rhetoric. First, a child learns facts without fully understanding all of the relationships between those facts. Next, as the child nears adolescence, he begins to explore the logic, the relationships of ideas, and the reasons behind those relationships. It’s the stage when a child naturally starts questioning everything. In the final stage, the rhetoric stage, the high school student is now developing an understanding of what he believes and is now learning how to articulate and defend those beliefs. I love this video clip where Michael Horton explains the advantages of the trivium for the Christian faith.

And, thus, we embark on this adventure, fully embracing the classical model for the first time.

2012/2013 Curriculum

Tapestry of Grace, lower grammarHistory and Bible Curriculum: Tapestry of Grace (history, geography, Bible, art, literature, and beginning grammar)

Anatomy and Nutrition: Anatomy notebooking pages; Usborne’s See Inside Your Body; God’s Design for Life: the human body (borrowed from a friend); Little D’s Nutrition Expedition (free curriculum); My Plate (free printables)

letters and sounds 1 A Beka

1st grade Core:

A Beka 1st grade phonics/spelling

A Beka 1st grade math, supplemented with Math Mammoth as needed

K4/K5: (Middlest will be doing a blend of K4/K5 this year.)

A Beka K4/K5 phonics

A Beka K4 math (ABC-123)—she’s nearly finished this already; Professor B math and Math Mammoth

She’ll also be participating in our anatomy activities and our Tapestry read-alouds and crafts.


Tapestry of Grace read-alouds


Now, to get my house and my school room as organized as my lesson plans!


Disclaimer: This post contains my Tapestry of Grace affiliate link and my Usborne consultant link. If you purchase your Tapestry materials through my link, I get a discount on the materials that I purchase from them. If you purchase your Usborne books through my consultant page, my 25% commission will be used to help provide funds for down-syndrome orphans awaiting adoption (read more here).

Blending Fun

Middle-est has begun her blends this past week, starting with “ta, te, ti, to, tu.” She’s already a couple of steps ahead of the game, since she has been singing blend ladders from the time her brother began his blends. (Blends are sung to “Skip to My Lou” tune.) Nevertheless, she is absolutely thrilled to be officially beginning these reading lessons: her own flashcards, her own blend worksheets—it’s big girl school, and she is very ready for it.

We have a little system for the lessons, a few different ways I introduce each blend family. First, we use a laminated train to help her connect the two sounds. T (or whatever consonant we are on) is written on the engine; then each vowel is written on a different car. We say “T,T,T—a,a,a—T—a—Ta,” and she pushes the car up to the engine. Then, we repeat with the next vowel.

Next, we sing the blend ladder, as I mentioned above. I also have blend flashcards for her to read through. A couple of other fun activities that we’ve enjoyed include having her make the blends on our felt board, and playing with the dry erase board.

The dry erase board was a new idea this time around, combining some handwriting with our blend work. On the top line, I had 5 T’s written with plenty of space after each letter. On the second line, I had written the five vowels, with ample space before each letter. Her job was to fill in the missing letters and say the blend she made. Not only did it have her practicing writing several letters, but it also helped her to connect the sounds once more.

Adding the vowels


Adding the consonant

We’ve been working through these different activities about a week, and have recently started our second blend family, “la, le, li, lo, lu.” She’s catching on quickly, enjoying all the variety (her middle name is “variety”), and feeling like quite the big girl.

Language Arts Lesson: ‘s

I mentioned in a previous post that I was tackling A Beka’s language arts without a workbook this year; and while this particular lesson might not have actually shown up in their workbook, I thought it might still give a few ideas of how we loosely use the A Beka plans.

In my lesson planning for A Beka, I made notes at the bottom of our phonics work pages when a test or a language arts concept was scheduled. The other day, we encountered the first of my language arts notes. “LA ‘s vs. plural s” is what I had written at the bottom of the worksheet. So, I grabbed our $2 dry erase board and a marker.

First, I wrote “Dan’s dogs” on the board and talked him through the difference. “Both of these words end in s, but this word ends in what’s called an apostrophe.” (I had him repeat that to me.) “Now, is Dan’s telling me that he owns the dogs or that there are more than one Dans.” (He giggled and gave the right answer. I had him circle the apostrophe.) “An apostrophe tells us that he owns the dogs. Now, let’s look at dogs. Do the dogs own Dan or are there more than one.” (Again, he giggled and gave the right answer.)

Oldest with his LA lesson while Middle-est practices scissor skills beside us.

I erased the board and wrote “Ann’s cats,” and we repeated the process. Next, I wrote “Bill’s bugs” and had him do the teaching, walking me through the same questions and steps. I praised and cheered him when he was finished. Then, I had him come up with his own combination. At first he chose “Tom’s fish.” I let him talk me through the apostrophe, pointed out that fish didn’t need the s to be plural, and suggested we change it to birds. He eagerly made the adjustment (thinking through his phonics sounds to spell the word, a lesson in itself) and then talked me through his concept.

The whole process took five minutes MAX, and it was so fun! I tell you, a dry erase board and a marker can totally make a kid’s day. It’s absolute magic.