I’m so excited to share our 2015/2016 secular homeschool curriculum for my boys going into grades 1 and 4!
Going into our first year of homeschooling has been a little nerve-wracking. I mean, how does one know what curriculum will work best for their kids? If my boys had fit in at school I could have gone aligned and followed exactly what the schools teach, but my kids didn’t fit into the school box. That’s how we got here in the first place.
For the 2015/2016 school year I needed a few different things from our curriculum:
~ I needed something that would fit where my kids are now and could grow with them as I expect both kids will learn quite quickly in the homeschool environment.
~ It had to foster a love of learning, which means it needs to be interesting and fun, which for my kids means hands-on activities.
~ I want my boys to learn critical thinking skills. I firmly believe this is something very important for future success, no matter what my boys decide to do when they are adults.
~ The materials needed to be secular. This is actually harder than it sounds, a lot of homeschool curriculum and materials are very religious.
~ It had to be available in Canada or available to be shipped to Canada.
~ Preston is going into grade 1. He has language and fine motor delays, along with some other struggles, but he loves to learn. My goal for him is to find a way for him to learn so he retains that love of learning and doesn’t become frustrated by any limitations we encounter.
~ Jackson is going into grade 4. He is gifted (2e) but has some skill gaps, is asynchronous in his learning, plus has dysgraphia and learning induced anxiety. My goal for Jackson is to challenge him and help him regain the love of learning he had before starting school. He is insanely curious, I want to foster that as much as possible.
Here is what I found that I think will meet our curriculum needs this year. Links, including some affiliate links, have been provided for your convenience.
Life of Fred – This literacy based program is either a love it or hate it situation based on the reviews. I decided to order the entire elementary series so I could use it with both boys. It is not totally secular, which I knew before ordering, but I didn’t realize the main character is an orphaned 5 year old boy. I thought it was a comedy series. I’m on the fence about this one now I have it in hand. For now I will offer it as a supplement and see what my boys think. If they connect with it great.
Jump Math – We used these workbooks for the few months we homeschooled last year and found them okay. It is a bit repetitious and very school like, but it is easy to follow (minimal reading required) and Preston has already completed almost half of the grade 1 curriculum.
Beast Academy – This is the math curriculum I am most excited about! It is only available for grades 3 and 4 right now, but this is perfect for Jackson. Jackson has a lot of anxiety around math, but he loves graphic novels. The one thing I read about this series is that it is very challenging. I think this will actually be good for Jackson. One of his issues is that he hasn’t been challenged and engaged enough when it comes to math. And from what I have read so far it is challenging because it engages critical thinking and problem solving rather than rote memorization. Score! I have all the grade 3 and grade 4 books. Jackson will start with grade 3 and if he goes through it fast enough we can move into grade 4 this year. I want him to learn to love math and I think this series just might be the ticket!
Science is a big deal around here. Both boys love it, so I had to put a LOT of thought and consideration into which program I would use as our spine.
R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Life Level 1 – I chose this program for Preston. He is very into animals and biology at the moment, so I think it will be a good fit.
R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Physics Level 1 – Jackson informed me he wanted to study Chemistry and Physics this year. I asked him to chose one to start, and he went with physics. The curriculum is actually for the full year, but I am considering ordering the chemistry one in a few months and doing half of the physics program this year, then half of the chemistry program. Next year we can do the second half.
Using these books as our spine we will also be doing a lot of experiments and hands-on exploration. Not only is this a fun way to learn but my kids retain the concepts so much better. We are members at our local science museum (where they offer special homeschool classes), plus we visit a lot of museums during our travels. We love them due to their hands-on approach. We will also be using a program called Groovy Lab in a Box that delivers STEM based activities to our home every month. The kids are always so excited to get these boxes and they are a great supplement to our Science program.
LITERATURE, READING & GRAMMAR STUDIES
The Critical Thinking Co. – Jackson will be working on his comprehension and critical thinking skills this year. He is an avid reader who tested above grade 12 in literacy about 2 years ago. So reading skills are not an issue, but I would love to help him explore his curiosity and thoughts about what he reads. So we will be using Reading Detective Beginning and A1. I also have Editor In Chief Level 1 for him to practice his grammar along with Mad Libs. Finally I grabbed him the Red Herring Mysteries, it strikes me as something he might really enjoy. On top of this we will be doing a lot of reading. Something Jackson loves. Plus, I will encourage his passion for story writing.
Another thing I plan on using with both boys is Notebooking Pages. I think this will be an excellent opportunity for some double duty work, where the kids can review things they are learning in Science or Social or LA, while also practicing their writing and drawing skills. The resulting pages will also be an excellent addition to our portfolio we present to our board that oversees our homeschool on behalf of the government.
Both boys will also be doing daily journaling. I have some fun ideas around the journal, and I think it is something they will both come to really enjoy.
Preston will also be working on his reading and spelling. I don’t have a set curriculum for this. Due to his special needs, phonics are very difficult for him, so we are using a combination of approaches to encourage his reading skills.
I’m also planning on doing some novel studies, with me reading out loud. I found this to be something my boys really enjoy and hope to bring it into our daily routine again.
SOCIAL & HISTORY
R.E.A.L. History Odyssey Ancients Level 1 – I researched a lot of history programs and discovered this one when I was looking at Pandia Press’ science courses. I checked out the try before you buy and was really impressed. It is a teacher resource that guides the learning through the year using other supplemental materials such as Story of the World Vol. 1, Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, Kingfisher History Encyclopedia (this is usually for the Level 2, but I think Jackson will want the more advanced resource). I will also be ordering some educational colouring books and activity packs, which I think will be a nice change for Jackson and will be perfect for Preston. Jackson is really into ancient cultures, so he was stoked when I told him we were going to be studying the ancients.
Canada Unit Study – I’m building my own program around this. My hope is that we can do some traveling this year and learn by exploring. Plus, I want to cover some Canadian geography, history and government studies.
PRINTING & CURSIVE
Handwriting Without Tears – We used this program last year with a lot of success. Both of my boys struggle with printing and fine motor skills, so I plan on continuing to use these workbooks. Jackson is working on cursive and Preston on printing.
Typing Instructor For Kids – This is another carry over from last year. I tried a number of typing programs last year, but this is the one the kids seemed to enjoy the most.
Youth Digital – Jackson took the Minecraft Mod Level 1 course last year and is still working his way through it. The course is fantastic but very time consuming and lately Jackson has moved away from Minecraft, he has just outgrown it, so his motivation has really waned. I wish we had started the course about 6 months earlier when he was really passionate about Minecraft. This year Jackson wants to program his own game. So he will be taking one of the game design courses, which I think will really suit him. Preston will be learning programming at a level suitable for his age using some tools you can learn more about in this post.
Each year I pick up the Canadian Curriculum Guides for the grades I will be teaching. I don’t use them as a guide for what we teach but I find them to be a handy reference and they have lots of great little activities I can use to supplement our work.
On top of this the boys will also be taking courses, including: music (Drums for Jackson and Piano for Preston), swimming, basketball, snowboarding/skiing, scouts, art classes, science workshops, and more. We will also be doing some worldschooling through travel and fieldtrips. We may also start teaching the boys some Spanish if we end up traveling to a Spanish speaking country.
The other thing I will be factoring in, is passion pursuits. The boys have their own individual interests that I will be encouraging them to pursue, such as Jackson’s interest in the Mesozoic era of paleontology study. He is fascinated about the origins of life. At this point I’m not sure how formal I will get with these passion pursuits, but I am definitely allowing time for them to focus on things that excite them.
Seeing the whole year before us is pretty intimidating. So my next step is to build a monthly plan for the year, highlighting what I want to cover each month. Essentially breaking it down into bite sized chunks. I will also be developing a weekly schedule with a general breakdown of how much time we will need to cover each subject (or my best guess!). Then I can use this to update their daily project checklist. These plans are all developed with the full intention that they are living documents that will change as we progress throughout the year and learn more about how homeschooling will look for us.
I know things will change. We are so new to homeschooling, I feel a bit like we are still throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. But, I think we have some really strong curriculum choices that will be interesting and provide some great opportunities for learning. I’m really looking forward to diving in!
Next week I will post pictures of our gloriously geeky homeschool room! Here’s a sneak peek!
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