Field Guide – n. A book for the identification of birds, flowers, minerals, or other things in their natural environment.
Our chosen methods and curriculum serve as the field guide for our homeschool. It’s the guide that my scouts and I follow.
At the beginning of our homeschool journey, I set out to follow a Classical education path, but as the years have gone by, I’ve found myself steering more and more toward a Charlotte Mason philosophy. Especially since we’re surrounded by nature here, and the boys (especially Gray) are so immersed in it and learn so easily from it. So nowadays, we practice a combination of both Classical education and Charlotte Mason methods. I’ve never been an all-in-one curriculum kind of homeschooler (I’m not knocking anyone who is, but it’s not for us). I pick and choose from many sources in order to find the best fit for each of the boys in each subject, which makes our homeschool quite eclectic.
I’m believe strongly in the “Three R’s”. Our math is traditional, and at least two years of intensive phonics is a must (this served Gray very well, and we’re in the throes of phonics now with Des). Gray has a passion for science and nature, as well as history, so those are our most enjoyed subjects, and the ones in which we really go hardcore Charlotte Mason. Des is old enough now to participate in our science lessons, and I might have him join in on history lessons this year.
Here are our curriculum choices for the 2014-15 year:
Gray’s Curriculum (6th Grade):
Math: Abeka Arithmetic 6. He’s used Abeka since grade 1, and it’s nothing if not solid and traditional. However, this will be our last year with Abeka math, since their approach changes dramatically from the pre-algebra level on up. We’re going to be switching to Teaching Texbooks for pre-algebra and beyond. In fact, since Abeka’s 6th grade is mostly heavy review, we’re going to try to skip through some redundant lessons and get done in half a year. If we can do that, I’m going to get him Teaching Textbooks 6th or 7th grade math (undecided as of yet) and let him do a year-long review of basic arithmetic, from another perspective (TT is traditional, but also employs more critical thinking exercises, which Abeka lacks…and which I think he needs to learn). Then he’ll be more than ready for pre-algebra in 7th or 8th grade.
Grammar: Easy Grammar 5. This is a huge book that I got last year to split between grades 5 and 6. We made it halfway through last year, and will finish it up this year. It’s a very simple-yet-thorough, one-page-per day grammar program. He has a very good grasp of grammar. Once he’s done with this, the plan is to just do Daily Grams for the rest of his school career, to keep his grammar skills sharp. If he shows any grammar struggles at any point later on, we’ll get another full Easy Grammar course, but I doubt he’ll need it.
Writing: Writing Strands 2 & 3. We started Writing Strands 2 pretty late into 5th grade. He enjoys it and it seems to be a good fit. When we finish WS 2, we’ll start WS 3. We may even get to WS 4 this year, depending on how slow or fast we progress through the lessons.
I also give him a dictation exercise once a week, chosen by me from one of our books (lately it’s been from the Lord of the Rings trilogy).
He journals every day.
Handwriting: We’re trying out Classical Copywork this year. Gray has fallen into a very messy cursive pattern (he used to write beautifully for a boy), so I’m going to be insisting on him writing in cursive for all his schoolwork, as well as doing Classical Copywork daily.
Reading: We have a nice collection of chapter books thanks to my mad thrift store skillz. 😉 He reads one at a time, 30 minutes (required- he can read longer if he wishes) per day, and then writes a book report when he finishes. He keeps track of all the books that he’s read, is reading, and wants to read, on Goodreads, if you know us personally and want to follow him.
History: Mystery of History. This is going to be our 5th year using MOH, and we’re on Volume 3, currently studying the 16th century. There’s nothing I don’t love about this amazing, Christian-worldview history curriculum. The plan for this year is to advance to the 18th century up to the time of the American Revolution, and then stop and do a long study on the Revolution (I’m seriously considering All American History for that).
Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Botany. We did Botany all during our summer break, and are about to finish up with it. Our next study will be Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy.
Bible: Who is God? And How Can I Know Him? by Apologia. Can’t wait to dig into this one.
I’ve never had to use a spelling curriculum for Gray. He’s an excellent and naturally gifted speller (he has continuously scored college level/99.9th percentile on his yearly standardized test evaluations), and the beauty of homeschooling is that we don’t have to waste time on something he obviously doesn’t need. Whenever he does misspell a word, I make note of it and have him write it a few times and quiz him on it until he knows how to spell it from then on.
Des’ Curriculum (1st Grade):
Math: Abeka Arithmetic 1. This is his 2nd year using Abeka for math. We made it about 1/4 of the way through the course before we stopped for our summer break, so he’s already started it and was doing great when we left off.
Phonics: Abeka Phonics 1. Again, his 2nd year with Abeka Phonics. Phonics-based spelling is included in this. We’re also about 1/4 of the way through this from last year, as we start this new school year.
Reading: Abeka Grade 1 Readers for his lesson-based read-alouds, and I also have him read me some of his “I Can Read” books and other similar, lower-level reading books. He’s just learned to read, so that’s where we are now. He also does 15 minutes a day of required independent reading, using story books that are on his level. I’m going to try him on some chapter books this year; we have a lot of Magic Tree House books, which should be perfectly on his level.
Handwriting: Des is also going to be trying out Classical Copywork this year. Manuscript.
Writing: This is going to be Des’ first year doing journal entries each day. He got his very own cool spiral notebook for that. Should be interesting.
Des joins us for science (right now, it’s Apologia Botany), for Bible lessons (see Gray’s curriculum listing), and for any art or holiday projects, but for now I’m focusing hard on giving him an intensive, solid foundation in math, phonics, and reading. I did this with Gray through 1st grade, and found it to work quite well. And as I mentioned earlier, he might join us for history lessons this year…we’ll see how that goes.