We did it! We survived our first full year of homeschooling. It’s been an incredible journey and we’ve learned so much. Going into 2016/2017 we will be doing some things the same, but other things will be changing. We are learning what works for us and I think that is a fantastic thing. I expect I’ll have this whole homeschooling thing nailed down by the time they head off to University! I get lots of questions around what materials and resources we use for homeschooling, so here are all our plans for our 2016/2017 Secular Homeschool Curriculum.
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First up, I want to tell you a little bit about my kids and family so you can understand why we are using certain tools and resources, and what drove our decision making to ensure our choices best meet our needs.
We have two boys, our youngest is going into Grade 2 and our oldest into Grade 5. We are dealing with some interesting and diverse needs.
Our youngest is going into Grade 2. He was adopted and has a number of disorders and delays due to early childhood trauma. His struggles are so interesting to this brain loving momma! When he was in school they wrote him off as unable to learn, but he is absolutely able to learn! In fact, he is extremely bright, we just need to find ways to teach that work for his brain. This year we scored huge success with math, with him finishing the grade 1 curriculum two months early. Reading and language related studies are coming along more slowly, but they are developing and he is catching up to his peers.
Our oldest is going into Grade 5. He is very advanced in language and science. He requires a lot of challenge and embraces technology. When most kids were learning how to play video games, he was learning how to code games. But he has dysgraphia (struggles with printing) and severe anxiety around math studies. He spent three years in the school system which sadly led to his anxiety around math becoming very severe. When that anxiety is in control our son is unable to learn. He is gifted, but anxiety strips it all away. So our goal with him is to teach him ways to control that anxiety so he can realize his full potential.
We do believe in a plan, a curriculum, and school at home as many like to call it. Although school at home looks nothing like school at school, so I’m not entirely sure that is an accurate description. Our children require structure, goals and plans to thrive. Since both my husband and I also work from home, having structure and a plan is even more important. It’s critical to the smooth functioning of our entire home life.
Frankly, my sanity requires organization. But within that school at home, extensive organization and detailed plans, there are big chunks of time where the children are free to explore their passions and learn on their own. My oldest has taken that time recently to embrace video production. My youngest still struggles with self-directed learning, it’s part of his disorders, but he is learning and developing those skills simply by giving him the space and encouragement to practice those skills.
We are secular homeschoolers and although we love teaching the kids about all religions it can be a struggle to find curriculum that is not religious, and by religious I mean Christian. We love exploring our world and it’s many amazing religions, but for generalized purposes we have a secular homeschool curriculum.
We are Canadian, and at some point my children may integrate back into the school system. So knowing the curriculum standards and ensuring the children are achieving similar or higher levels of knowledge and achievement compared to their peers is important.
So with that bit of background here are our secular homeschool curriculum plans for 2016/2017.
SECULAR HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM FOR ELEMENTARY
GENERAL GUIDING MATERIALS
One of the big benefits of homeschooling is that we can move at our own pace, if my kids need more time on something, they get it. If it comes easily, they can fly ahead to more interesting challenges. I love that! However, I do still want to ensure they are meeting the Canadian Curriculum standards and that if they ever return to school they will be on par or ahead of their peers. So each year I buy the Canadian Curriculum Guides. These are filled with activities and worksheets. Most of it is boring, but we get enough out of them each year to warrant their purchase.
When it comes to my youngest, we had huge success in math using Jump Math. Since language is a struggle for him, the fact that it barely used any word problems was extremely helpful. We have the grade 2 Jump Math books and plan to continue using those this year.
My oldest has severe anxiety around math. We discovered this year that we needed to bounce around a bit. The bulk of the year was spent doing Beast Academy and my son loved the puzzles, however, we did discover that BA started to trigger his anxiety after a while so we switched things up and moved to doing the math in the Canadian Curriculum Guide. The work was so easy after BA that it was a little better for him, but his anxiety is such a struggle, especially around math that we are still learning what will work best for him. This year we are going to try Teaching Textbooks. It’s a computer based curriculum that I’ve heard works well for kids with math anxiety. I will be sure to report back and let you know how it’s working for us.
Both boys also play Prodigy which is a fantastic resource for math practice in a fun and interesting way. I LOVE the control I have over assigning the types of problems I want them to practice in the game.
It’s no secret how much we love science, and not surprisingly we spend a lot of time exploring scientific passion pursuits. We have the Pandia Press Chemistry, Physics, Life Sciences and Earth Sciences work books, which are great, but we are definitely not limited to those. We use them more as a resource for ideas and activities but don’t work through the books in chronological order.
We also love using STEM Kits and will rotate through some our favourites throughout the year.
And my favourite new resource for science experiments and projects is STEAM Kids! Even though I was a co-author on this book, I’ve discovered so many amazing new activities from my fellow authors that I can wait to dive into this year.
We do lots of reading together. We love curling up together and reading great novels. These are some of my favourite homeschooling moments.
For my youngest, he is still learning to read. Language is a big struggle for him and up until 3 years ago he was non-verbal. There are auditory processing issues, so phonics do not work as easily for him as some other kids, but it is coming! In addition to reading with us regularly he is using Reading Eggs with a huge amount of success.
For my oldest we are using workbooks from the Critical Thinking Co. in addition to working with me on his writing. Having an editor for a mother is a big help here!
SOCIAL STUDIES AND HISTORY
I was so pleasantly surprised at how much my boys loved history this year! Pandia Press created the Ancient Civilizations spine we used for our history curriculum and it worked beautifully. This upcoming year we will continue with Ancient Civilizations and start into the Middle Ages. The spine references a number of resource materials and some of them, such as Story of the World, have some religious content, but the spine does a good job of filtering out most of those readings so the lessons still align with our needs in a secular homeschool curriculum.
In addition to History I develop my own unit studies using the Canadian curriculum guides and based on interests, current events, and passions. Field trips can also be a great educational resource and I find government facilities are often very open to hosting tours and field trips.
PRINTING, CURSIVE & TYPING
Resources for these skills will stay the same using Handwriting Without Tears for printing and cursive and Typing Instructor For Kids. We are also slowly and naturally increasing the amount of writing the children are doing as part of their schooling. This integrates the learning and practice making it seem less burdensome. Notebooking pages are an amazing way of building in this handwriting work into our regular routines.
Like most young boys ours have a lot of energy! So in addition to regular, daily free play time, they will also be doing Dodgeball, Swimming and Basketball. Winters are often spent skiing and snowboarding, but we will decide that in the winter. There is also talk of starting Parkour.
In my opinion, one of the greatest parts of homeschooling is our ability to chase our passions. To learn what truly gets us excited to learn and grow. So although we have our curriculum plans, I’ve left LOTS of time for the kids to chase those passions. Being kids, that are still discovering the world and themselves, which means those passions change regularly. Right now my oldest is asking to learn French, so we will be incorporating that into our lessons. We have some local homeschooling families who speak French, so who knows, he might really get into it. In previous years there has been a big focus on learning programming, but that seems to be less of a passion at the moment. If that changes we can definitely pick it up again.
So that’s our Secular Homeschool Curriculum for Grades 2 and 5 for 2016/2017. I hope it helps inspire your plans!