Friday, August 17, 2018

Homeschool Mother's Journal: What Curriculum We are Using This Year

Is it approaching the end of August already?!?!  Seems like just last week we were standing at the beginning of June, looking out to August's Fair week and discussing how school would start shortly after!  As I write this my kiddos are serving their last few days at the fair; one is directing Lego Derby Races and build competitions with the company he works for and the other is painting faces with Christian Youth in Action and sharing about Jesus!

Me?  I was stacking curriculum this morning to make sure I had everything in it's place (snapping a few pictures while I was at it to share here!) and looking over my notes to prep for next Friday's soft-set (more on that next week)

I'm always inspired by articles where parents share what they are using for the school year.  Yet, I'm not consistent with sharing mine.  After a favorable response to my 7 Homeschooling Through High School Encouragements and Tips article last week and some impromptu discussions with local homeschooling parents, I realized talking about our curriculum is especially important in the mysterious and seemingly daunting realm of high school!  So here goes!

Once my kids hit high school, I usually have them take a more active role in choosing classes and, on some occasions, curriculum.  Many years ago, when we were first homeschooling, a family at church had just graduated their youngest on ABeka and offered up their full stash for our taking!  We readily accepted!

Over the years, I have learned not all of the curriculum works well for my kiddos' individual learning needs.  Still, it gets filtered in here and there and as they choose classes for the various negotiables (i.e. Language Arts, Math, Science and Electives) I have learned to say "It's OK" to not use what I have on hand if what I have won't work!  With that said, I shall elaborate...

Brooke has opted to complete ALL possible high school math options before she graduates.  It's a good thing she is my only student left because I don't know if I would have it in me to meet her request otherwise!  This year she will be taking Consumer Math, Geometry and Pre-Calculus. She has already completed Algebra 1 and 2 in Freshman and Sophomore years.  I debated doing Algebra 2 before Geometry and, depending on the website you visit, there are a variety of views and opinions on the matter.  I kind of wish we had done Geometry in 10th grade, I feel it would have laid better ground-work before moving on to Algebra 2.  However, here we are....

I and the state require one semester of some form of Consumer Math for graduation.  If Brooke wasn't taking TWO other high level maths, I would just use the Abeka Consumer Math pictured at right.  However, Abeka is pretty intense so, instead, we are using it supplementally.  I want to start the year with a short unit on time budgeting and see if we are able to filter in some of the other valuable lessons from Abeka later in the year.

For our full 'curriculum' we are using "Buying with Sense", an older book published in the 90s and picked up at a resale early in my homeschooling days.  I actually love this book because it teaches Consumer Math through a story:  Boy has just gotten out of military service and needs a job because he has fallen in love with Girl and they are to be married.  Girl needs job because one income isn't enough to get on their feet and she wants to contribute to setting up house.  It walks through the job hunt process, getting a place to live and  transportation.  After the wedding and move-in they learn how to manage all the other expenses which go into setting up house and daily living.

We will be doing Consumer Math only on Mondays and I believe the story approach to the subject will be a welcome ease in the first day of each school week!

Abeka Geometry is pictured at right.  I bought this one a few years ago for Brenden to use and the text is just so convoluted, we both struggled with it.  I believe Abeka's high school math is best for  families where mom or dad have a good grasp of these higher math concepts because the teacher's guide does not offer any teacher helps what so ever and the text is often vague on instruction. (Abeka DOES offer video teaching options for their curriculum which I hear is really good).  We did find some videos on YouTube to help when Brooke and I did the Abeka Algebras the last two years.  But I wanted something more comprehensive as we plugged forward in meeting her math requests.

Enter LifePac (on left).  We have used their history curriculum after being exposed to it through an awesome score at a book sale.  We loved the packet approach and how well drawn out the directions are.  I also like how, if you can't afford the steep rate of book and teacher key right out of the gate, which many programs require, Lifepac allows you to buy unit-by-unit.  Teacher's key was $18 and each unit, which I estimate to last approximately 3 weeks, is $6.

I am reallllly looking forward to both our LifePac maths.  The layout of the books is beautiful and very easy to follow.  Each unit begins with vocabulary terms to help in comprehension of the subject matter and the Geometry teacher key even has bonus activities to make the course more hands-on.

I am keeping our Abeka book close in case we need some reference material or extension activities.

This is her Pre-calculus.  I searched high and low for a program that wouldn't break the bank.  I was nervous about using LifePac for Pre-Calc since the reviews weren't great.  However, as I prayed through the process and the weeks passed, AlphaOmega released an updated version of the material.  As I virtually browsed the sample pages of the new edition I knew it was the answer to my prayers.

The updated curriculum is much easier to read and use.  Instructions are clear and, I believe, attainable.  If you have seen or used the older edition and hated it, I encourage you to check this one out, it may be much better.  One caution:  DO NOT ORDER FROM Christian Book Distributors for this product's Pre-Calc, they are still stocking the antiquated version.  The website shows the updated cover but that is not what they shipped me.  When I requested a replacement, they still shipped the wrong one!  I ordered direct from AlphaOmega.  Their pricing was the same and came on the exact same day as my CBD order for other materials placed at the same time!

With Earth Science and Biology/Health requirements (per state) out of the way we have cast our gaze towards elective sciences.  We will probably do Chemistry senior year to prepare her for college but this year, she asked for Astronomy!

I pray over all our curriculum, but especially over the sciences if they are not produced by reputable Christian companies.  I don't want to waste time and money on "evolution" and other pseudo-secular science points of view (I make sure my kids know these views, but I don't want curriculum saturated with them and denying Creationism).

Through my prayer process God led me to "The Stargazers Guide to the Night Sky" by Dr. Jason Lisle and published by Answers in Genesis.  This can be a full-year course with the other supplemental material they provide, but Brooke requested we focus more beyond our own celestial neighborhood so I didn't order any additional material (except the videos).

The Stargazer's Guide is full of beutifully vibrant pictures and is set up for all ages from late elementary through high school depending on how you choose to use it.  The back of the book also contains a Stargazers Planisphere! The teacher's guide included detailed lesson plans, worksheets and tests.  I ordered the supplementary DVDs and will filter them in accordingly.

Since we only ordered the main book, and not the full curriculum set, it will not be enough to constitute a full year of study so I drew up an outline with research projects filtered in between units.  I felt it would be insightful to understand some of the grandfathers of modern astronomy as well as the development of the telescope, which we studied some when she was in elementary/middle school but I don't believe she remembers very much.

I have also scheduled in "lab" days for experiments which can help to better grasp some of the concepts the book discusses, hence the "Astronomy Lab" and "Astronomy for Every Kid" books.  I know these materials are written with younger kids in mind, but lets face it; even high school and college science classes make use of elementary experiments to study basic concepts!

My step-dad gifted us his old telescope while we were in Chicago this past spring.  When we approach the chapter on telescopes I will be tasking Brooke with learning how to get ours in working condition and then using it to complete various labs!

I really feel in uncharted waters with this class but we are both looking forward to all the possibilities it holds!

By the way, if you order the Stargazer's Guide through Amazon, you can download the eBook copy for pennies.  We usually do textbook reading together and this is a cost effective way for both of us to have a copy as we plow through!

Grammar Composition 
By high school I allow the kids to choose how they want to fulfill their English requirements each year (our state requires 4 years of it).  Of all the choices Brooke had, this was the one she picked!  She likes the book work and predictability of basic grammar!  I had to write the lesson plans for this Abeka 11th Grade Grammar Composition, since, like Abeka math, none are included.  I combined and cut certain units to make room for an end of year research writing project featured in the Handbook.

Brooke requested NO Abeka spelling/vocabulary, which I did have (as per our gifted curriculum) and I was absolutely ok with that.  It is intense.  However, when I was going through paperwork I saw this:
... and felt a study on "Commonly Confused Words" would be a good edition to her writing curriculum.  One of our goals is to graduate our students with good writing skills. Knowing the words on this list, I felt, would be an asset to that end.  The plan is to cover one set of words each day with a review quiz every Monday.  We will be taking a week off about every 6 weeks and for the few days prior to our mini vacation she will do a full review and have a test on the words learned so far.

Every year I incorporate literature into our regular curriculum.  It could be it's own class with intensive study, but this year it is supplemental and, as with most years I teach, it ties History and Language Arts together.  (I think it is the Living Books Charlotte Mason-y side of me!)

The stack above is not All the books we will be using, just the ones on my shelf (Tolstoy is checked out from the library).  We are doing Geography this year and I wanted literature which covered the regions we will be studying, when we are studying them.

Once each book is complete she will have a few days to put together a reaction paper, a skill I know will be helpful for college.  I have scheduled floating writing days into our Language Arts class so she won't be overwhelmed by too much work.

I know this class is typically taken Freshman/Sophomore year.  She spent those years studying American History and Modern History with her brother at the 11th/12th grade levels!  So this should be a nice step back for her!!

The Base of our studies is an older BJU set.  We are using the full curriculum, however, because of our 4 day school weeks and somewhat nontraditional school year, we won't have time for it all unless we cram.  I don't like cramming, I prefer to have the 'work' be fun and laced with interactive activities.  To complete this curriculum in one school year, we would never leave the book and I knew Brooke would grow weary of that (so would I!!).  So, we will focus on the Eastern Hemisphere this year and then move to the Western Hemisphere for the first few months of next school year, which should tie in well to American Government (state required) and Civics.

I'm really excited about our supplemental material.  I heard about "Operation World" in an article somewhere this summer.  It is a sort of Almanac of world and country statistics with focused prayer points for each area discussed.  I plan to start each unit with a browse through and then we can pick people groups and missionaries to be praying over as we study through each region in our textbook.

We used "Geography Through Art" and "Trail Guide to World Geography" when Ashley was in high school.  We probably won't use the Trail Guide very much since BJU covers quite a bit, however, if you are looking for a curriculum to teach across grades, I highly recommend this one.  It is split up to teach 3 levels at once; elementary, middle school, high school.  It has a research based, living books approach.  Brooke was elementary/middle when we last used it.  We never did get to all the projects in the Art book and, since Brooke loves art, I thought it would be fun to try some of the activities we didn't get to before.

Brooke also loves cooking so "Eat Your Way Around the World" was a necessary add-in to our curriculum!  It is another element of the "Trail Guide" series.  I just finally ordered it this summer and I think it will quickly become our favorite part of Geography studies.  My plan is to have a day in each unit where we do project work and plan a geographically specific meal.  On test day, at the end of each unit, we will have a special country/region wrap-up dinner.  When applicable, I am hoping some of the art activities can be used as decorations at our dinner!  I will also encourage her to invite friends to share the experience.

World History from Abeka is thrown on the stack.  We covered most of this book last year in Modern History, however, we skipped the first few chapters which discuss ancient history and the post-diluvian movement of man.  We will spend a few days going over this material as we transition from world overview to specific cultures in Geograph.  This is also where we will jump into Beowulf as a way to explore ancient literature.  The copy of Beowulf we have by Seamus Heaney is the most comprehensive version I have found.  It has the traditional Old English on one page mirrored by modern English on the facing page with footnotes to provide understanding and insight.  (If you have seen the movie, which I couldnt' stomach, the book is NOTHING like the movie)

Brooke has been taking French all through high school.  The first two years she focused on using Duolingo and trying her knowledge out on French story books and listening to French dubbed in familiar movies.  This year we are going to begin learning how to write French using the Abeka curriculum I have on hand.  The teachers manual for this subject is actually quite helpful, unlike their Math curriculum.

Just for the record... my French vocabulary is VERY limited.  I just started Duolingo myself this summer!  However, I have always wanted to learn French and have taken Spanish in college so I am familiar with the dynamics of learning to write another language (Don't be detoured if you don't... it is still possible to teach a foreign language to your high schooler!!  Brenden took Mandarin and I know ZERO Chinese!  He was total self-taught). I told Brooke we would be taking French together this year and she was very happy with that!

Yes, that bottom book is a Usborne "My First Dictionary" book.  I figure, learning a new language is just like being a child again and trying to understand your own.  Rosetta Stone has proven that picture association with foreign languages actually speeds up and solidifies the learning process.  So, "My First Dictionary...", absolutely!

We will continue using Duolingo supplementally.

I don't know why my pictures turned out so blurry!  Sorry.  This one is a print out of a class I require for all my high school students called "Foundations" .  The state requires a "Life Skills" class... this is similar.  It is found at Easy Peasy All In One Homeschool and is absolutely FREE.  I print off the daily plans so I can make adjustments since I don't require them to do EVERY lesson.  She will keep this print-out pack in her binder.

Again, our odd schedule won't allow for the full curriculum this year so we will break off about 2/3 of the way through and finish it up next fall.  If I had one thing to do different/better with this class: Foundations is best taken Freshman/Sophomore year... hindsight is always 20/20, right?  The reason I would have done it sooner?....

Foundations covers character traits, memory building, study skills, some consumer math, speech/research papers, and a unit on propaganda/advertising.  Some of the concepts covered would be helpful in equipping for all of high school (and, obviously, into Life!).  However, any time it can be fit in is rewarding.  I really like this program for a few reasons:  it is self-paced and it fills in some gaps I might not think to make time to teach on my own.

I require all my kids to do a Bible read-through before I will write their graduation diploma.  They have the 4 years of high school to complete the task.  Reason: if you know what is in God's Good Book you will be less likely fooled!  This doesn't mean they do an in-depth study of the entire Bible or that they become Biblical experts... that takes a lifetime.  But I would like to see them familiar with the material by graduation and confident in self-study.

Full disclosure: both Brenden and Ashley got stuck in Leviticus!!!  I gave leniency because of their learning challenges and because I knew they were dedicated in daily Bible studies (Ashley led one her senior year and Brenden was always actively sharing his!)  So, instead, I had them go through a Bible Overview Class with me (I have a goal to eventually get the 'class' down on paper and share it here!). 

Brooke, however, is determined to meet this requirement.  She wants to start working on it this year in order to have plenty of time to finish before her 2020 graduation.  I had a copy of Abeka's "Genesis, First Things" on hand and really liked the format and information.  I feel it lays a good groundwork for the Bible read-through.  We will be starting this together as a manner of devotional time each morning this fall.  If my estimations are correct, she should be sailing through the Old Testament on her own by late winter.

Driver's Ed
Last but not least, this one-semester doosey.  Brooke is DETERMINED to get her permit ON her 16th birthday in January (In Montana you can do so without driver's ed). It has been almost 10 years since I last full-on taught a kiddo how to drive!  (Man does that statement make me feel old!!)  Since then, I started teaching Ashley how to drive a few years ago but her temporal seizures made us all decide it wasn't in anyone's best interest that she get behind a wheel.  Brenden just turned 18 and JUST got his driver's permit.  Our first hair-raising venture out a few weeks ago made me realize I don't feel equipped to teach my kids driving anymore!!!

I have identified our pitfalls... first one being that he needed more parking lot time before heading out on the open road.  Secondly, we needed "Student Driver" magnets so other drivers on the road can (hopefully) be more patient with us as we try to gauge traffic light stops and merging cars.  I also felt it would be helpful to have a sort of outline to follow for all those taken-for-granted skills I now need to articulate at the appropriate junctures.  Nearly getting t-boned by an anxious driver because I didn't think to point out to my son the appropriate ratio of turn-signal and breaking distance timing was a real eye-opener!!

As I was throwing the magnets in my Amazon cart I decided to look up other affordable videos or material available and stumbled onto, "Teach Your Teenager How to Drive a Car" by Hank Wysocki, a veteran Driver's Ed teacher .  It is set up with consecutive lessons to help parents and kiddos step-by-step through learning to drive.  Upon skimming, the lay-out seems pretty easy to follow with short, concise chapters and review questions at the end of each.

I feel much better and less inclined to panic!  We have also found some instructional videos on YouTube.  The most potentially helpful ones are hosted by a man with a VERY annoying voice ("Hi everybodeeeeee")... we may need to choke that back because his instruction does seem spot-on.

Next Friday we do our "Soft-set" day where I will hand out syllabuses, schedules and touch base on school year expectations.  We will also situate school supplies and thumb through new books.  This will help us to be good and ready for our first full day of school the following Monday!  I plan to throw an article up of this process as well!

What curriculum are you using this year?  I love browsing other homeschool set ups from pre-k through graduation!  I hope and pray you have a most blessed school year ahead!


Follow this in-text link to see some of the great websites I am linking up with today!

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  1. Wow, it seems like a lot to me, but when you've got a motivated student who wants to do all the math - go for it!! We loved studying classical astronomy a few years ago, and I see a couple of familiar books in your geography set - Geography Through Art has been one of our favorite resources through the years!

    1. It IS alot! I expected shorter days this school year until she requested those extra maths! And, agreed, Geo through art is one of my faves too! I'm looking forward to incorporating it again.

  2. Lots of great choices. We are using Geography through art too. I think I will order the Buying With Sense book. We are doing consumer math this year. I can't imagine doing three math courses with one child. I think that would do me in.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. Thank you :-) I think, if my other kids were still in school, it would definitely do me in too! But with it just being my daughter, and she is ambitious in this, I am hopeful it will go well. Buying With Sense is pretty easy to follow and Geometry is one of the more do-able upper level maths (for me anyway). I am nervous about Pre-Calc though! I never took that one. I hear it is a lot like Trig, which I had in high school so I am hopeful!

  3. My oldest is just starting his first year of high school this year and while I found it so overwhelming at first once we sat down and made a rough outline of what credits he would need each year I think we have a good handle on grade 9 now... I hope!

    1. Sounds like you will do GREAT! You can check out my article from last Friday, 7 Homeschooling Through High School Tips and Encouragements (if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page you should see it in the list of articles for August). I have some resources linked in that article if you feel you need them. WTG homeschooling all the way through!! :-)