Next Year Plans 2015-2016

Homeschool Curriculum Planning | homeschool plans

I must confess, planning for this next school year’s homeschool curriculum was much less difficult than it has been in the past. We had so much success this year that I had little to research and change. And while it was very nice to have those decisions pretty well made, I kind of missed the search-and-find part of the process. I’m thrilled that we’ve found the pieces that fit just right for us. It’s been a great fit this year, a perfect balance. So, here is our master list for next year’s plans, our homeschool curriculum in 2015-2016 (4th grade, 2nd grade, and preschool).

Plans for Grade 4:

Christian Light Publications Grade 4 Math

Alpha Omega Grade 4 Language Arts

Easy Grammar/Daily Grams 4

Spelling Power, 1st edition

Visual Latin 1 (second half)

Legends and Leagues geography (North, South, East—one for each school term)

My State Notebook, A Beka

Tapestry of Grace year 4, Upper Grammar (with Draw through History and Time Travelers Pak activities)

Plans for Grade 2:

Christian Light Publication Grade 2 Math

Logic of English Foundations D

Legends and Leagues (original book and workbook)

Tapestry of Grace Year 4, Lower Grammar (with Draw through History and Time Traveler Pak activities)

We’ll also be studying Norman Rockwell and Kandinsky for art, as well as jazz and Louis Armstrong for music.

Plans for “Preschool”  (3 year old)

Nothing heavy here, trust me. But I have to plan something to keep Little Man out of trouble. And he loves “plojects.” Honestly, I’m aiming for exploration. And while I don’t have anything finalized, I expect to use a lot of Pinterest ideas, some resources from Letter of the Week (COAH), and some inspiration from The Homegrown Preschooler. I also want to implement a lot of Montessori activities with him.

Tot School | homeschool plans

Littlest is such a sponge. He does a lot of counting, can recognize a few different letters, and knows his colors pretty well with absolutely no formal instruction from me. He’s too little to have a learning style just yet, but he clearly loves to explore rather than pursue anything structured. I’m really okay with that for now. I love setting out the supplies and letting him explore them on his own.

We do have a “summer school” schedule that I’ll post more details about soon. And I can’t wait to get into that learning mode. In the meantime, I’ll have to satisfy my curriculum-hunting instincts by delving into some preschool pinterest boards.

 

The 2014-15 Curriculum Reveal

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.

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.

The Post Where Middlest Begins to Read!

I’m starting this post with a disclaimer that, technically, Middlest did some reading last year. But it was strained; it was a struggle. Last year, reading was a cross between guessing and memorizing—with lots of tears in between.

This year, she’s reading—and still all smiles! She’s reading words that she sees during the day on packaging and store signs, not just during school with a required reader.

I know a year makes a lot of difference in development and maturity, so some of our success could be due to that. But a huge part of the success is the Foundations curriculum that we are using. The steps to reading are very incremental, taking nothing for granted. And the games make reading irresistible.

She earns blocks to build a tower by reading words.

Learning to Read

She moves her game piece down her colored board by reading blends and words.

Learning to Read

She races across the room and up the stairs in a reading relay.

Learning to Read

And she makes her own books, cutting and pasting the right picture into the book after reading the page.

Learning to Read

She’s just finished the first level of this program (Foundations A), and we are both ecstatic at the results: not just that she is reading, but that she is smiling, too.

Learning to Read

A Foundation for Fun: a Logic of English review

This review is purely out of love (I love this program!) All the materials in this review were purchased, and I received no compensation for my opinions.

Logic of English Foundations review Logic of English Foundations Phonics

This year, I made a very scary decision. I changed our phonics program to something new. I can’t tell you how many times I re-evaluated that decision and wondered if I were making the right own. We’re only a few weeks in to our new year, but I’d have to say—all my fears have been relieved!

Not only am I impressed with what Middlest is learning and the things I’m discovering about her in the process, but I am thoroughly convinced that the program must have been written with her in mind!

Logic of English Foundations teaches solid phonics and eliminates nearly all the exceptions and sight words. It teaches detailed awareness of sounds and how to make them. It teaches phonemic awareness and how to blend sounds. It teaches consonant blends and reading in a very logical, simple progression. But best of all, it does all of this in a way the child would never suspect because we’re having so much fun.

We explore sounds; we play guessing games (she “guesses” the word I’m sounding out to her, or I “guess” the word she’s sounding out to me) and scavenger hunt (she hunts for the word I’ve sounded out); we play phonogram hopscotch; we march, twirl, dance, shout, jump, and run.

Logic of English Foundations

And in the process, I’m uncovering problem areas before they become problems. For instance, in one lesson (the work page pictured above), Middlest was to stamp the picture that had the initial sound I said. When I said “ch,” she kept thinking the answer was the tree because she says “chree” instead of “tree.” And I’d never noticed before. We were able to correct the sound before it caused her trouble in her reading.

Last year, consonant blends were nearly our undoing, but this year she is learning to blend orally before she ever sees it on paper. It’s a brilliant strategy that keeps learning to read a lot of fun rather than intimidating. Last year, she dreaded phonics time and pouted nearly everyday; this year she asks to do it first. Best of all, she’s sounding out and reading simple words all on her own throughout the day, before we’ve even introduced a single reading book. I’m ecstatic about the difference!

Logic of English Foundations Cursive

Although Logic of English Foundations gives you the option for cursive or manuscript instruction, cursive is recommended; and I must say, this is another aspect of the program that I have been most impressed with.

Just the like the phonics, the writing instruction is simple, methodical, and logical. It engages both fine and gross motor skills, and it’s creative. This is Middlest’s favorite part. Games are a big part of this instruction as well, games that get my child out of her chair and moving. For my little wiggle-worm, this is ideal. We write in the air with our noses, elbows, feet, and fingers. She writes on my glass door and on my whiteboard. She writes on the line size that she is most comfortable with, and then we each draw funny faces over our favorite letter she’s written.

Logic of English

And honestly, there are days when I wouldn’t be able to tell her letters apart from mine; she’s learning it so well! As a matter of fact, I’ve retaught Oldest a few of the letters using the LOE program because he’s had so much trouble writing the letters with our original program. The LOE cursive makes so much sense and actually helps the children to be less confused about letter-formation. It’s a-mazing!

Logic of English Foundations comes in 6 different levels (A-F) with about 40 lessons each, equivalent of K4-2nd grade. These levels can be used one or more a year, depending on the level and maturity of the child. We opted for two levels this year. Though I probably could have jumped to Level B (a kindergarten equivalent), I really felt that Middlest would benefit from a quick review with the Logic of English approach. We are whizzing through Level A at about a lesson a day, and the lessons are taking roughly 20-30 minutes for both phonics and cursive instruction. We’ll slow down when we get to Level B and take a couple of days per lesson.

I couldn’t be more pleased with Foundations, and highly recommend it over any phonics program I’ve seen or used.

I received the Basic Phonograms cards as a part of an earlier review of the Essentials program. Otherwise, the only other materials I’ve purchased for Middlest are the teacher and student copies of Levels A and B and the Doodling Dragons app on iTunes for $4.99. Teacher copies are $38 each, and student workbooks are $18.

If you are looking for thorough phonics instruction that will totally engage your child, Logic of English Foundations is all that and more.

Stepping into Grammar

Being a former English and writing instructor, I have had a difficult time finding a grammar program that fits my expectations, especially for introductory (i.e. 2nd grade) grammar. I have very definite opinions about how I want to teach it and what I think it should include.

After an exhaustive search this summer, I feel like I’ve found the perfect blend of activities for our grammar intro.

Logic of English Essentials

Essentials is the program I am using with Oldest for his phonics and spelling, and it also integrates grammar into the lessons. The grammar is taught from his spelling words, which I love! He learns parts of speech, uses his spelling words to form dictation or copywork exercises, and labels those phrases with the parts of speech. Essentials is not the most colorful program I’ve seen, but I love its thoroughness.

Winston-Grammar

I happen to have this program because my mom saved it from the days when my sister and I were homeschooled. While I am not using this program in its entirety right now, I have loved using some elements of it as we learn grammar in our Essentials. For instance, the parts of speech cards are a fun kinesthetic way to label the parts of speech. (Don’t own Winston Grammar cards? You could always make your own.)

Hands-on Grammar

Tapestry of Grace

This is our core curriculum for the humanities. It incorporates some basic grammar and progressive writing activities that tie in with our history studies. Though I wasn’t comfortable using the Tapestry “Writing Aids” as our only grammar, I have loved using the ideas to supplement what we are doing. One of the activities, for instance, is to make a word bank. Each part of speech has a card it’s own color, but Oldest gets to choose the word to write on that part of speech card. For example, Oldest is working on nouns for his word bank right now. We are using red index cards, and he gets to think of the nouns to write on each card. Most of these nouns are coming from our history or his own reading: knights, dragons, King Arthur, sword, hero, rain, dog, etc.

Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids

I’ve been excited not only about what he is learning but how much fun he’s having learning it. He’s not just filling out a worksheet; he’s finding grammar in his everyday. What could be better than that!

 

 

Logic of English Essentials review

Logic of EnglishI’ve grown up with phonics all my life—learned it, used it, taught it, explored variations of it. And yet, I have absolutely been blown away by the Logic of English phonics.

I received the Essentials Teacher Manual, one Essentials cursive student workbook, and one set of Basic Phonograms flashcards to review with my children. And every time I open the book I have a new epiphany. This program is hands-down amazing.

  Logic of English Essentials curriculum

“The Logic of English Essentials curriculum includes 40 lessons, introducing 74 Basic Phonograms and 30 Spelling Rules. While the spelling list includes 480 of the most frequently used words, students learn thousands of additional words with the lessons as they learn how to write compound words and add prefixes and suffixes to form derivatives.”~ from the website

In other words, this program is very comprehensive and thorough while breaking the concepts down into easy-to-handle lessons. It’s phonics, spelling, and grammar all in one.

Logic of English
The Teacher’s Manual provides detailed scripted lessons that require minimal teacher prep and are easy to teach from. Plus, it’s a beautiful, high quality hard cover book.
The student workbook, available in cursive or manuscript, is a soft cover book with perforated pages.
The student workbook, available in cursive or manuscript, is a soft cover book with perforated pages.

The lessons are not intended to be completed all in one day. Rather, you can take as much or as little time as your student needs to master the material. Each lesson is divided into three parts: phonics, spelling, and grammar. While the program is intended for older students and adults, there are plenty of helps and suggestions for younger students.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working through the Essentials program in two different ways. Middlest is working on the material through the Intro of the book before Lesson 1. We’ve been working on phonemic awareness activities and phonograms. Oldest has been working through the complete program, taking roughly 10 days to finish a lesson (working 15-20 minutes a day).

Unique features of curriculum:

  • The most obvious is that it really explains and makes sense of the language. The curriculum claims that 98% of all the English “exceptions” can be explained with phonics; and I’m now convinced that’s true. Her approach to phonics is very logical and progresses steadily, eliminating nearly all of the traditional “sight words.”
  • This program has suggested activities that appeal to all modes of learning. A lot of curriculums claim that, but this particular curriculum makes it easy to see and choose the activities that fit your child. Even the layout of this curriculum makes sense! Activities are coded for each learning style.
  • The program blends phonics, spelling, and grammar into each lesson. The phonograms are incorporated into the spelling list, the spelling words are incorporated into the grammar lesson, and the spelling and grammar is solidified with simple dictation and composition activities at the end of the lesson.
  • This program is intended to be user-friendly for any age, young to adult. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities, but the curriculum and the material would not be insulting to an older student or adult. The author has provided sample schedules for dividing the lessons into daily assignments based on the age of your student.

The author Denise Eide, in her video presentations, describes readers as either intuitive or logical. Intuitive readers have a feel for language, and usually do not struggle when presented with an exception or variation on a rule. Logical readers, however, need all the information up front and struggle considerably when a word does not follow a memorized rule.

I am learning this first-hand. My son was definitely an intuitive reader; he could easily read words and phonograms we hadn’t even covered yet. He had a “feel” for language. My daughter, on the other hand, is apparently a logical learner. She struggles with exceptions, and  I long gave up trying to teach her any sight words.

How has this curriculum worked for both of my learners? My son’s spelling frustrations have turned to absolute delight as he explores and understands the language, and my daughter has absolutely flourished.

Logic of English Essentials curriculum

Here’s a break-down of a daily lesson in Essentials.

Phonics

The phonograms lessons are a mix of drill and experiencing the sounds. In other words, the student is allowed to really understand what the sound is doing and why. Vowels are the sounds we can sing or sustain, the sounds that can be made louder and softer. For instance, I asked my daughter if she would be able to yell /b/ or /m/ from across the yard and have me hear her inside the house. No, of course not. But if she yelled /a/, I would definitely hear her (and often do, I might add).

This experiencing the sounds has been phenomenal with both of the kids. We talk about what part of our mouth is actually making the sound (tip of the tongue, back of the tongue, teeth, or lips) and whether the sound is voiced or unvoiced (s and z; b and p, for instance). We’ve even gotten a mirror and looked to see what our mouths are doing. It has really helped her with some of the tough-to-tell-apart sounds like e and i.

There is also a terrific emphasis on phonemic awareness, a concept I really knew very little about before we began this program. I always thought that phonemic awareness had to do with “reading readiness” and whether your child was interested in reading. But these exercises really help a child to understand how to break a word into its individual sounds and how to “glue” those sounds back together. Game ideas include variations on “I Spy” and “Charades” and more.

Doing these exercises has solved a lot of the reading issues I was having with Middlest, like random guessing at words rather than sounding them out. What I thought was a personality conflict between the two of us was actually a gap in her learning! And she has loved our time together with these game and activity ideas.

Logic of English

In addition to drilling the flashcards (or we often used their Phonics with Phonograms app), the student is given several suggested kinesthetic and auditory activities to reinforce those sounds.

Phonograms Bingo
Phonograms Bingo is a favorite that we play often.

Spelling

Here’s where I could park for a long time. The method for teaching spelling is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I love it!

The spelling words provided, about 15 for each lesson, follow both the phonograms and the spelling rules introduced within the lesson. In other words, not only are the phonograms taught to help the student read the sounds, but spelling rules are also taught in the same lesson to help the child know when to use those sounds in writing and spelling.

The student is taught how to think through the sounds in a word before he attempts to spell it. “How many syllables?” “Let’s sound out each syllable.” You then coach your student through the phonograms and the letters that make those sounds, having him mark the word as he spells it.

The student book provides a place for the words to be written, a page that is similar to his own dictionary page. The student writes the word by syllables on the blanks provided. Then, throughout the lessons, he refers back to this page to add more information: the part of speech, the plural spelling, and the past tense spelling of the word.

There are also suggested activities for making spelling cards on 3×5 cards that can be used in the grammar lesson. We did both of these activities on different days during the week. As my son becomes more comfortable with the process, I could easily assign him to do his spelling cards independently after we have done the list together.

As in the phonics approach, the spelling rules are both drilled and explored. In other words, there is a flashcard for the rule that you will review and require the student to learn. However, the exercises are geared toward exploring the rule and learning how and why it works. For instance, several similar words will be shown, and as the student studies the words, you help him to see the similarities in those words. (Deck, duck, stick, lick—”CK is used only after a single vowel which says its short sound.”) Then, several suggested games and activities allow him to think of his own words that follow the rule.

One area where my son has really struggled this year is understanding when and how to add suffixes. A terrific feature of this program is that in addition to learned rules, there is also a flowchart that allows a student to ask questions and logically follow a process for deciding how the word should change.

The rules are very thorough and can, in some instances, tend to be complicated. But the combination of both memorizing and exploring the rules through a variety of activities helps to make even the more complicated ideas memorable.

There are both spelling rule and grammar rule flashcards available for purchase. However, we made our own to fit our 3×5 card system.

The spelling words are further taught within the grammar lesson, so I will continue explaining that process below.

Grammar

Within each lesson, one or more grammar concepts are introduced. For instance, in Lesson 1 the concept of both nouns and singular/plural were introduced. Again, I loved how the spelling words were the foundation for this lesson.

The student is asked to find the words in his list that are nouns, label them on his spelling list, and/or draw a red box around them on the spelling cards. Another suggested activity was to allow the student to illustrate the nouns in his list. Then, an exercise in the student workbook had him spell both the singular and plural form of the spelling words using the grammar rule that had been given.

To me this was priceless. The student is not simply memorizing a list of words but actively using those words in their different variations.

Other activities include creating phrases by combining words from the spelling list, either by dictation or by copying phrases made with the spelling cards, providing opportunity for both copywork and dictation depending on the your child’s level of ability.

Oldest is arranging his spelling cards into his own phrases and copying them into his student workbook as a "composition" activity.
Oldest is arranging his spelling cards into his own phrases and copying them into his student workbook as a “composition” activity.

The grammar rules introduced in the next lessons not only apply to the current list for that lesson but also refer back to previous lessons. For example, in Lesson Two, adjectives are introduced. The student labels adjectives in both List 2 and List 1. Everything in this program builds logically and smoothly.

Assessments

The program does not come with tests and quizzes per se, but assessments are worked into the curriculum every fifth lesson. Even this, however, really reflected the teacher’s heart that the author has. Her assessments require the student to show not just that he can repeat a drilled list of words but that he can use those words in various forms; and built within the assessments are lots of additional activities to reinforce trouble spots.

You are not simply drilling and testing. You are teaching and assessing and teaching some more.

On the Logic of English blog, Denise has also provided alternate lessons, either to add more challenging words or to help a student who might need a little more practice with a particular rule. Again, to me this really reflects her heart for those using her material. She has a passion for helping students understand the language.

Summary

Logic of English Essentials curriculum makes sense, in every way! From the phonograms and rules to the layout and teaching methods. Your child will never again complain that English is a language that doesn’t follow the rules.

Is there anything I didn’t like? Not really, but there are a few points that might be an issue for some.

Cons:

  • There is not an easy way to go back to lesson material for reference. There is no index, and the table of contents provides only the lesson number. When trying to find information, I instead went to the website to the teacher training video which provided page numbers for the teacher manual.
  • There are no readers that accompany the Essentials curriculum. This would be one reason why I would hesitate to recommend this for younger beginning readers; reading practice is limited. For those first-time readers and pre-readers, I would recommend investigating the Foundations curriculum that Logic of English is currently working on.
  • This is a curriculum that will require teacher involvement, particularly with younger students. That said, the lessons are well scripted for the teacher; and as the teacher and student become familiar with the process, there are opportunities for the student to work independently. The lessons also allow the teacher to customize how long the lesson will last each day and over how many days the lesson will continue.

Bottom line, I love this program. I was impressed by the website and videos and have been equally impressed by the curriculum. I have learned a ton, and I’ve been surrounded by phonics my whole life!

In fact, I love this program so much that I am discontinuing our current program (phonics, language, and spelling) with Oldest and switching him to this next fall. And I’m seriously considering switching Middlest to the Foundations curriculum, geared for the younger students, when it prints. (That’s saying a lot, folks, since I have a very long-standing relationship with our current program.)

Want to see more? The Logic of English website provides great samples of both the teacher manual and the student workbook (available in cursive or manuscript) as well as a video tour of the lessons. Also, the teacher training videos available for free on her website give you a very comprehensive look at the program’s approach to both phonics and spelling.

Whether you are looking for a spelling/language program for your young reader, a remedial program for your older reader, or a literacy program for adults, Essentials is a fantastic solution. And if you are needing a curriculum for your beginning or emerging reader, be sure to investigate the Logic of English’s new Foundations program.

Disclaimer: I received these materials for free for the purpose of review. I was not paid or compensated for a positive review, and all the opinions in this post are my own.