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I decided to do a themed 7 Quick Takes this week: “Why Next Year Will be the Best Year of Homeschooling Yet” (or, “Why I Think Homeschooling Peter Will Work This Time When I Gave Up in Frustration and Enrolled Him in School in March Two Years Ago”).

For those who don’t know, I have been homeschooling my son Simon for the past two years (preschool and junior kindergarten); he will be in kindergarten next year.   I homeschooled Peter for grade 3 and most of grade 4 before giving up and sending him to public school because I was completely burnt out.  We are going to try again next year, when he will be in grade 7.  Here’s why I think it will work this time:

  1.  I have read several books that have changed my perspective, and I think the insights I’ve gained will help me keep a better attitude when the going gets rough.  In particular, I was inspired by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté’s Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.  As a former high school teacher, their descriptions of the dangers of peer orientation brought back vivid memories of former students and situations.  I am now consciously aware that while getting schoolwork and chores done is important, maintaining a healthy relationship with my kids is more important.  Although I do slip sometimes when I’m tired and frustrated, I’ve gotten reasonably good at using techniques from Hold On to Your Kids and No-Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, which takes a similar approach.  Finally, I also bought and read Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace.  It’s a short book and an easy read, but very apropos.  I expect to flip through it for inspiration at challenging times during the school year.
  2. My spiritual life is in better shape.  A stronger relationship with God makes it easier for me to find the strength, peace, patience, endurance, et cetera that I need to successfully spend a lot of time with my kids.  One of the resources that has been most helpful to me is reading Regnum Christi’s daily meditations.
  3. I am going to use a more flexible approach in scheduling.  When I homeschooled Peter previously, I made a complicated chart every week with every assignment for every subject for each day.  When life happened, as it does–when someone had a dentist appointment or got sick or there was some special event going on–and we couldn’t finish all of the assignments for a day, it would throw everything off.  This time, I’m going to set up some basic routines; for example, reading, writing, and math will happen every day, while science and history will alternate.  Each subject will be scheduled separately, so if we miss a day in one subject, we’ll just pick up with it where we left off and it won’t affect the schedule for the other subjects.
  4. I’m going to put the boys to work around the house.  Peter did have chores to do before, but now that he’s older, he can do more.  Simon also can do some useful chores now.  The work they do will help lighten my load so that I have the time and energy to instruct and supervise them.  I’m also going to try off-loading some of Simon’s read-alouds to Peter.  I figure that it’s a positive way for the brothers to spend time together, reading aloud is a good experience for Peter, and it will save me some time.  I will still do some read-alouds with Simon because it’s one of my favorite parts of homeschooling and I don’t want to miss out on it.
  5. I am streamlining the curriculum.  I pared my subject list for Peter down to what I felt was the bare minimum.  Then, after reflecting on my mission and vision for homeschooling, I carefully added in only two other subjects, both of which will be done for less than half the year.  In addition, I’m integrating several subjects.  For example, not only will Peter’s literature selections be coordinated with his history/geography studies, but about a third of them will be in French.  A good chunk of Simon’s read-aloud and science books will be in French.
  6. I’m going to be using some great curriculum resources.  I won’t go into details now (maybe I’ll do a post around the beginning of the school year), but I am looking forward to using some exciting new materials for both boys as well as some tried-and-true materials with Simon (I’m enjoying homeschooling for the second time around, getting to repeat the good stuff and replace the stuff I didn’t care for as much).  Of course, every year I’m enthusiastic about the resources I’m planning to use and sometimes I end up disappointed once we get into them; we’ll have to see how they go.
  7. Finally, I have gotten better at self-care.  I recognize when I’m starting to get run-down and I take steps to get back on track.  I know that when I get really tired, I feel sad, so I have learned to tell myself not wallow in my sadness when the real problem is that I’m tired.  I know what kinds of activities rejuvenate me and I find time for them at least semi-regularly.  On the whole, I’ve been eating better and doing a better job of not staying up too late, so I have more energy and don’t get run down as often.

And that’s my first themed 7 Takes!  Maybe it would have been better to write at the beginning of next school year, but all these thoughts have been bouncing around in my head since we decided we would homeschool Peter again, so it feels good to get them down in writing.  Perhaps it will be useful to look back at this post in a few months when the new school year is getting underway.

You can find more 7 Quick Takes here:

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Several weeks ago, I went to a parents meeting for the local school district-homeschool partnership program.  Simon will be enrolled with them for kindergarten next year and next year’s schedule was one of the meeting’s agenda items, so I figured it would be worthwhile for me to attend.

What I didn’t appreciate was that developing mission and vision statements was the main purpose of the meeting.  Getting a roomful of people (maybe a couple dozen) to try to formulate and agree on mission and vision statements in less than an hour is unrealistic to begin with.  Add to that the poor conceptualization of the process and the instructions we were given, and it was doomed before we even started.  We were told that the vision was suppose to describe what we wanted to achieve and the mission was supposed to describe how we would make the vision happen (I’m not sure I agree with that, but let’s leave that aside).  Then the room was split in half, with one half told to work on developing a vision statement and the other half to work on a mission statement.  Hello?  How are we supposed to describe how we’re going to make the vision happen if they’re still figuring out what the vision is on the other side of the room?  We tried anyhow, but in the end, we had about five statements proposed by different people (one of them mine) and no consensus.  Then we got together as a large group again to share our work, and their vision statements sounded suspiciously like our mission statements.  I asked whether we really needed to have separate vision and mission statements and was brushed off.  On the whole, it was a frustrating experience.

However, the experience did have value in that it got me thinking about mission statements and defining the purpose of the things we do.  I had come across a quote online that I have not, for the life of me, been able to locate since, so I don’t know the exact wording and I can’t attribute it to its original author (it may have been St. Katharine Drexel).  It seems like a great mission statement (or is it a vision statement?), so I have adopted it for my homeschool.  It was something like, “The purpose of education is to prepare our children for whatever service God may someday call them to.”  This is rich; there is a lot there to ponder on.

Then I went on to make a list of my goals, what I want my children to be able to do as a result of their education (dare I say, a vision statement?).  In no particular order, here’s what I came up with:

  • to think critically
  • to value truth and reason
  • to communicate effectively
  • to be respectful and empathetic to people in diverse situations
  • to have a well-developed conscience; to be honest and responsible
  • to appreciate beauty as found in nature, art, and music
  • to know, love, and serve God
  • to have the skills to carry out projects independently—to plan a project, locate resources, use resources effectively, keep materials organized, manage time wisely, work diligently, and produce appropriate results
  • to make choices that promote health, both physical and mental
  • to understand the interconnectedness of human lives with each other and the environment; to value social justice and environmental responsibility
  • to apply knowledge to real-world situations; to do “hands-on” problem-solving

Next year will be a challenging one for homeschooling.  Not only will Simon be in kindergarten, but we have just decided that Peter will return to being homeschooled for grade 7.  He will still go to school every day–he will be in band and Science Olympiad at the middle school he currently attends.  We believe that this will give him the best of both worlds.  However, it will be an adjustment for all of us.  I am hopeful that defining my mission and vision before we begin will help me make good decisions as I plan for next year and deal with issues as they arise.

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I wrote a fairly extensive post on homeschooling for preschool back in 2009.  An even more extensive comment that was made on my post a couple months ago brought it back to my attention.  It was interesting to re-read my post six years later and see how my approach to homeschooling for preschool has evolved.

My overall approach to literacy education is very similar.  I still swear by Diane McGuinness’ book Why Our Children Can’t Read And What We Can Do About It.  I am still using The Phonics Handbook by Sue Lloyd.  This time around, I am photocopying the page for each letter and having Simon color it, since he doesn’t mind coloring (Peter really disliked it).  We’re doing slightly different practice activities, such as tracing Montessori sandpaper letters and playing Go Fish and memory/matching games with index cards that I wrote the letters on.  One thing I am doing differently this time is teaching uppercase and lowercase letters together; with Peter, I focused on lowercase letters, but then when he started reading he had to go through a period of learning which uppercase letters corresponded with which lowercase letters.  I’m taking it slow on introducing letters/sounds, going at a pace of one a week, in the order that they are presented in the Jolly Phonics program.  This gives us time to do the Jolly Phonics story/action/coloring page and two art projects per letter, and it’s not an overwhelming pace for Simon, who was 3 1/2 when we started.  Because we took several weeks off here and there, we’re about halfway done with the alphabet (I know there are more sounds than letters, but I’m focusing on the most common sound associated with each letter for now, and we’ll get to digraphs and alternate pronunciations later).  We practice segmenting and blending orally a couple times a week; Simon can identify the first sound in a word pretty reliably, but has trouble with the last (or any other) sound, and he doesn’t have the hang of blending yet.  It will come.

I have added the book Alphabet Art by Judy Press.  Even though I don’t do the rhymes and fingerplays in the book because they focus on letter names instead of sounds, this book has still been a great resource.  Every letter has an art project to make the capital and lowercase letter out of cut and decorated paper plates; for example, M has macaroni glued on and S is “silver” (wrapped in aluminum foil).  Each letter also has an art project to make an animal that starts with that letter.  I have been impressed that all of the projects have been relatively simple and use inexpensive materials that I mostly already have around the house, like yarn, paper bags, aluminum foil, paper muffin cups, and pipe cleaners.  Simon is getting good fine motor skills practice cutting the letters out of paper plates and doing the gluing, etc.  It’s good exposure to the letter shapes, and he enjoys playing with the various animals that we’ve made.  For me, it’s been motivating to have appropriately-scaled art projects all planned out; I always felt like I should be doing more creative stuff but didn’t have the energy to plan it.

I chuckled when I read that I had written, “I’ve had a hard time finding decent simple phonics readers at a reasonable price.”  I really struggled to find appropriate very-beginning phonics books; most “phonics” books use too many irregular/more advanced words, and most have very little text and rather dull stories.  I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found Little Stories for Little Folks.  For less than $1 per story booklet, the forty-five stories in this program progress from extremely simple (only two short vowel sounds are used in the first story) to what is easily second-grade-level text.  They are broken up into four levels; when Peter went through them, we had a family celebration with ice cream every time he finished a level.  They don’t dovetail perfectly with Jolly Phonics; that’s why I’m skipping digraphs like “ch” and just teaching Simon the most common sound for each letter.  Little Stories for Little Folks develops basic reading fluency before introducing digraphs and other more complicated phonics. I found them a great value, and they helped Peter become a very strong reader (at the beginning of this school year, in 5th grade, he tested at a high school reading level).  Note that Little Stories for Little Folks is an unapologetically Catholic program.  If you’re not Christian, then you might not be comfortable with the content.  If you’re a non-Catholic Christian, you might be okay with using it, knowing that you would have to explain a few Catholic vocabulary words and/or concepts (such as the rosary and the fact that priests are called “Father”).  As an aside, the person who commented on my previous post made me aware of these free phonics readers based on the Jolly Phonics program.  They look like a wonderful resource.  I don’t plan to use them for Simon, however, because I want him to learn to read from paper, not from a screen (I know they can be printed, but that would be an extra expense).  I already have Little Stories for Little Folks and I like it, so I will use it again.

Math is the area that I’m doing completely differently with Simon than I did with Peter.  I started Peter in Saxon Math K, then we did some Singapore Earlybird math, and then I came across an incredible program called RightStart Math.  This program is hands-on, very visual, and focuses on building mathematical concepts; I wish I had learned math this way.  Because Peter had already done two years of kindergarten math before I found RightStart, I started him in RightStart level B.  With Simon, I’m skipping the other programs and starting him in RightStart level A.  Level A is technically a kindergarten program, and we started when Simon was 3 1/2, but I am taking it very slowly for now and he is keeping up (Peter did Saxon Math K full-speed starting at age 3 1/2, but I also think Saxon Math K was less intellectually challenging).  We have been doing one lesson a week, repeating so that we’re doing the same lesson two weeks in a row.

Read-aloud is still a big part of homeschool preschool.  We’ve mostly been reading picture books from the library, but we have recently started on some of the books from Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten list.  Simon was enchanted by the Milly-Molly-Mandy stories and is now enjoying the Uncle Wiggly stories.  I love how older children’s books have sweet, innocent stories and rich vocabulary; they are so different from modern books written for children.

When I was homeschooling Peter for preschool, I was actually afterschooling him.  I was working full-time and Peter attended a center-based preschool part-time while my husband was in school.  This time around, Simon is home with me full-time.  I am making an effort to do things with him (like crafts) that I didn’t do with Peter because I figured that the preschool Peter went to would pick up the slack.  Every month I print out a blank calendar and put it on the fridge.  Every day, Simon and I color the day’s square following a pattern (this month, it’s orange-orange-blue-blue).  We have our Montessori room and we do Montessori activities a couple times a week.  I feel like we should do Montessori more often and I would if Simon were more independent, but he always wants me in the room with him, usually wants to talk to me about what he’s doing, and often wants me to do it with him.  It’s a great learning experience for him, but it means I get nothing else done for an hour or more, and I can’t always afford that.  I try to incorporate some French into every day, whether it’s responding to him in French, playing a game, discussing a book, or just watching tv.  In addition to our weekly grocery shopping trip on Mondays, we have been going ice skating on Wednesdays, sometimes to story/craft time at the library on Thursdays, and to gymnastics lessons on Fridays.  Of course, other things pop up here and there too, like taking Peter to the dentist.  I try to have at least one day a week where we don’t leave home; those are the days that I get (sort of) caught up on housework.

I’ve deliberately taken a flexible approach to scheduling this year and it has been going well.  I suspect that next year will be more challenging, with the addition of a baby to the household, but if I remain flexible and focus on what’s most important, I think we can make it work.

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I put together a post with my curriculum choices last year.  It ended up being a bit more work than I expected, but I enjoyed doing it, so I decided to do it again this year.  It ended up being a lot of work again.  I started this post at the end of August, before we started our school year, didn’t finish it before we started, and have been so busy since then that it’s been a low priority to get it done.  My options were to give up or finish it.  I don’t want to waste the work I already did so I’m going to finish it, but forgive me for not illustrating all my choices, because that’s where most of the work is.

First, my updated introduction.  We are a Canadian-American family living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Our son Peter is 9 years old and entering grade 4.  This is our second year of homeschooling, but the first year in our current home (we moved here from Ontario, Canada over the summer) and the first year that I will not be working.  We also have a two-and-a-half-year-old, Simon.

Lafreniere Family April 2014

Our family in April, the most recent picture of all four of us.

We are continuing with the two-year American/Canadian history sequence that we started last year.  I have been splicing together Sonlight curriculum‘s one-year condensed version of American history with a Sonlight-style Canadian history schedule to cover both American and Canadian history together chronologically.  Peter and I have both been enjoying it.  We ended up making it a little less than halfway through last year, but I think we’ll be able to finish it off this year.

US history

I am recycling a picture of some of the Sonlight books we used last year, but we are now approaching the American Civil War.

This is just a sample of the many books we will be reading.

And again, recycling a picture of some of the Canadian history books we read.

For grammar and writing mechanics, we are trying something new this year.  We are using the Easy Grammar grade 4 book along with Daily Grams, for daily practice of capitalization, punctuation, etc.  Peter continues to write a daily journal (now a minimum of four sentences, up from three last year) and has a weekly writing assignment.

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Peter made great progress using All About Spelling last year, finishing level 1 and getting halfway through level 2.  We will continue moving through the program at his pace.  I’m projecting that he’ll start level 3 sometime in November.

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This will probably be Peter’s last year of handwriting.  He will finish CHC‘s Catholic Heritage Handwriting series with level 4.

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For math, we will continue with the combination of RightStart Mathematics and Singapore workbooks.  We’ll be doing level D in RightStart and using the 3B and 4A Singapore workbooks.  Peter also plays math computer games for practice (Math Blaster and Vroot and Vroom).

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RightStart is an American program, but they do sell a Canadian workbook (money problems have pictures of Canadian coins) and Canadian money cards for their card games. I bought this workbook when we were still living in Canada, as we weren’t expecting to move for at least another year. I think Peter will enjoy doing money problems with Canadian currency, though.

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As part of my effort to maintain Peter’s fluency in French, we will continue to use materials from the French Ministry of Education’s distance education program, which are available for free online.  We are using CM1 Français and Sciences expérimentales et technologies,  and finishing up the parts of CE2 Instruction civique that I planned to do last year and ended up dropping when life got crazy as we prepared to move.  Peter watches French-language tv programs at least three days a week (through satellite tv) and will be reading some books in French (I bought a half-dozen before we moved so I can give him one a month; I’m planning to restock at Christmas, plus we have lots of books for younger kids for him to read to Simon).

Francais

Recycled sample of French language arts from last year

Instruction civique

Recycled sample of “civic instruction” (rights/freedoms, safety, etc)

Sciences

Recycled sample of science

We’ve also changed our religion program this year.  Peter still has daily Bible passages to read, but we’ve switched the rest to Memoria Press Christian Studies book 1, which uses the Golden Children’s Bible.

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We just wrapped up the last lesson in last year’s art book, and we will be starting ARTistic Pursuits grades 4-6 book 1, by the same author.  Last year, we made a variety of kinds of art (drawing, painting, cutting-and-pasting shapes, mosaic, sculpture).  This year will be focused on drawing in black-and-white.  Art has been a challenge for us and I’m not sure how long we’ll continue to do it, but I’m not ready to give up on it yet.  We’ll see how things go this year; I may not bother to do it again next year.

Peter started learning to type last year, but didn’t make great progress.  I still think it’s a useful skill for him to learn, so I found a different free online typing program to use this year–TypingWeb.   He enjoys the games and I appreciate the fact that I can log in and track his progress (how much time he spends on the lessons, speed, error rate).  He is only in fourth grade so I’m not pushing it too hard–he’s only doing it once or twice a week–but I’m hoping to see some improvement this year.

I added Memoria Press’ Book of Astronomy to Peter’s science this year, since he is interested in space and in Greek mythology.  We live out in the country and we can see an incredible number of stars on a clear night, so learning constellations is a great thing to do here.

Also new this year is Latin.  Near the end of the summer, Peter kept saying he wanted to learn Latin.  I wasn’t too keen on increasing his workload, but Don insisted that since one of our main reasons for homeschooling is to be able to adapt to his needs and interests, we should listen to him.  So we’re using Memoria Press’ Prima Latina program.  It’s a fairly easy program (intended to be used as young as 2nd grade), so he’s able to be successful without a whole lot of time and effort.  I bought the optional DVD set so he can sort of have the experience of listening to a teacher lecture.

We are participating in a local public school district’s homeschool partnership program.  Peter is taking a Lego Robotics class, and they are paying for part of the cost for him to play hockey (it counts as physical education).

So far, a month into the school year, we’ve had a rough start.  For the first few weeks, I was seriously tempted to send him to school so I wouldn’t have to deal with him during the day.  Things are still not going as well as I would like, but schoolwork is getting done, chores are getting done, and he is learning stuff.  We are pulling it off and I hope it will continue to get better.

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We finished our first year of full-time homeschooling last week, just in time for our new third grade graduate to head off to Webelos Scout camp for four days.  It certainly wasn’t my intention to still be doing lessons on the first day of August, but life doesn’t always go according to plan.  My husband applied for, interviewed for, was offered, and accepted a job in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (we were living in Ontario, Canada), so we put an unexpected amount of time and effort into house-buying, house-selling, moving internationally, and getting settled into our new house, which meant we got behind  in homeschooling and had to do three weeks of lessons in July.  Fear not, Peter has still been having an awesome summer, complete with swimming lessons, going to parks, jumping on the neighbors’ trampoline, exploring the woods at our new house, playing with the neighbor kids, and reading lots of books.  We are taking the month of August off before starting 4th grade in September and I plan to be done by mid-June next year, barring other major unforeseen life changes.

When we first decided to homeschool Peter, the plan was for me to stay home full-time with both boys.  Then I had an opportunity to teach part-time and I decided to go for it.  It seemed like we could pull it off–I would still be home enough to do lessons with Peter, but it would give me a chance to make some money, keep my foot in the door with the school board, and have a life outside of my home.  Originally, Don was watching the boys while I was at work, which definitely helped financially, but with his whole job thing happening, we ended up hiring a babysitter to come to the house every day.  Even though I was only gone about three hours a day, it was a challenge to homeschool while working part-time.  I had to leave for work around noon, but factoring in time to eat lunch and get dressed before that, and Peter’s slow-pokiness in the mornings, we usually only had about two hours to get lessons done together, and even that time was fraught with interruptions from Simon (diaper changes, snack requests, and just general needs for attention).  Peter was supposed to do his independent work while I was gone, which also was a challenge sometimes.  After I got home and checked his independent work, it was time to cook dinner and deal with other things, so we rarely did any lessons other than in the mornings.  If someone had a doctor or dentist appointment or if we went grocery shopping or to open gym time, it meant sacrificing lessons for a day.  Even if we got behind schedule, though, I insisted on taking weekends off so that we had a break.  Our scheduling wasn’t ideal, but we pulled it off.

The biggest area of growth over the school year was in Peter’s writing.  He’s still not a prolific writer, but it’s no longer like pulling teeth to get him to put words on a page.  He made it through level 1 and half of level 2 in All About Spelling, which has made him more comfortable in trying to spell words he doesn’t know (and more accurate, even though he still has a ways to go).  Writing a minimum of three sentences on topics of his choice in his daily journal gave him practice writing, again helping him become more comfortable.  I struggled with the weekly writing assignments, both making the assignments and getting him to do them with an appropriate amount of care.  Some of them came from his grammar book, some ideas I found online, and others I came up with myself.  He tended to put them off until Friday and then rush through them.  I felt that the amount of work the writing assignments were to come up with and to go over them with him was not worth what he was getting out of them, so I gave up on them for the last couple months when life was busy and stressful with the move.

The biggest disappointment was art.  I knew going into it that Peter wasn’t a huge fan of art, so I didn’t have really high expectations, but I figured it would be a fun thing to do once a week.  However, I made the mistake of scheduling art on Fridays, thinking it would be a nice way to end the week.  When we ended up behind schedule for the week, far too often I decided to just drop art.  Even when we did art, usually I just went over the directions with Peter before I left for work and then he did it himself while I was gone.  This meant that a) he didn’t put as much effort into his art as he would have if I were there, and b) I didn’t get to do art.  Near the end of the year, I made a point to do art with Peter, and it was fun for both of us.

With French language arts, science lessons in French, French workbooks, French library books, and watching tv in French, Peter seems to have gotten enough exposure to the language that his French seems to be holding up.  That was one of my main concerns about taking him out of school, as he had been attending a francophone school.

History continues to be a favorite subject for both of us.  Going back and forth between US and Canadian history has worked out well.  I feel that Peter is getting a solid introduction to the history of both countries, and I have learned things too.  Even though we both really enjoy doing read-alouds, I finally dropped them around Christmas time because we kept getting so far behind schedule.  Peter is a strong reader and has been able to read most of the read-aloud books himself.  I miss sharing the books with him, but this is easier, and he won’t suffer long-term harm from reading the books himself.  My parents didn’t read to me when I was in third grade and I turned out okay.  🙂

All in all, it has been a successful year.  I will enjoy having a month off, but I am also looking forward to the adventure of homeschooling for fourth grade.

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Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary called for homeschoolers to share a visual tour of their curricula for this upcoming school year.  Despite the fact that I have many more important things I should be doing (thus the reason I haven’t blogged in so long), I cannot resist this call, since this will be our first year of full-time homeschooling and I’m a bit of a curriculum junkie.  So here goes…

First, an introduction.  We are an American-Canadian family living in Canada.  Our son Peter is 8 years old and entering grade 3.  For the past four years (junior kindergarten through grade 2), he has attended French-language schools.  We’ve afterschooled on the weekends and over the summer.  Now we’re taking the plunge and going full-time.  We also have an 18-month-old, Simon.

This is the most recent picture I could find of the four of us, when we went to a sailing club open house in May.

This is the most recent picture I could find of the four of us, when we went to a sailing club open house in May.

I am a fan of the Sonlight curriculum for history and literature (both reading books and read-aloud books).  We’ve afterschooled using Sonlight for the past four years (from P4/5 through core C).  However, core D is the beginning of a two-year sequence in American history.  I have decided to splice core D+E (Sonlight’s one-year condensed version of American history) with a Sonlight-style Canadian history schedule, taking two years to cover both American and Canadian history together chronologically.  It should be interesting!  I’ve never seen American and Canadian history taught simultaneously, but it made more sense to me than doing a year of one and then starting over with a year of the other.  (Note: There is a Yahoo Group for Catholic Sonlight users.  There is also a secular Yahoo Group for Sonlight users.)

US history

This is a sample of the Sonlight US history books.

This is just a sample of the many books we will be reading.

These are some of the Canadian history books we will read.

For English language arts, we will be using Catholic Heritage Curricula‘s Language of God level B.  Peter and I have both enjoyed other Nancy Nicholson books (Little Stories for Little Folks, Devotional Stories for Little Folks, Devotional Stories Too).  It seems to cover the basics without requiring a ridiculous amount of work.  Someone with six kids might come out ahead buying a hardcover textbook and reusing it, but for us, for both cost and ease of use, this consumable workbook is the way to go.  Peter will also be writing a daily journal and will have a weekly writing assignment.

Language of God 1

Language of God 2

We started All About Spelling level 1 this summer after I realized that Peter’s atrocious English spelling skills weren’t improving on their own.  It took a while to get over his “spelling is too hard and I’m bad at it” psychological block, but now he’s starting to make progress.  The fact that he hasn’t yet had to write anything down on paper with a pencil has helped with his attitude change.  AAS starts with flash cards, oral activities, and magnet letter tiles.  When it’s time to write, I think I’ll have him start on a white board with a dry-erase marker, for his psychological benefit.

Spelling

Handwriting will be with CHC’s Catholic Heritage Handwriting levels 2 and 3.  I was just going to have him do level 3, which introduces cursive, but his consistently sloppy printing annoyed me so much that I went ahead and bought level 2 also, so he can review and practice printing.

Handwriting 1

Handwriting 2

On the left is two days’ worth of work, the right is one day. So again, not an overwhelming amount of work.

For math, we will continue with RightStart Mathematics level C (Peter has done about a quarter of the level already).  After using Saxon and Singapore math for kindergarten (we did two years of kindergarten math), I discovered RightStart and fell in love.  I appreciate the hands-on-ness of it, the way it focuses on building concepts, the visual and mental problem-solving strategies, and the incorporation of a variety of games for practice.  (If you’re interested, you can buy the Math Card Games book and materials separately and use them to supplement another math program–I highly recommend them.)  I wish I had learned math that way when I was in elementary school!  To provide some extra math practice from a slightly different perspective (and so Peter can practice doing math independently), I’m adding in the Singapore math workbooks.  Singapore is also concept- and strategy-oriented, but gives more drill and more word problems (which I personally think are important–what good is it to know math if you can’t apply it?).  Peter will start with the 2B workbook and continue with 3A.

Math

RightStart is an American program, but they do sell a Canadian workbook (money problems have pictures of Canadian coins) and Canadian money cards for their card games.

As part of my effort to maintain Peter’s fluency in French, we will be using materials from the French Ministry of Education’s distance education program, which are available for free online.  We will be using CE2 Français, Instruction civique, and Sciences expérimentales et technologies.  Peter will also be reading library books in French and watching French-language tv.

Francais

Sample of French language arts

Instruction civique

Sample of “civic instruction” (rights/freedoms, safety, etc)

Sciences

Sample of science

For religion, Peter will have daily Bible passages to read, so he can get some use out of the Bible we gave him as a First Communion present in April.  We will also be using the Image of God series 3rd grade book, Who is Our Example?  We did the Image of God 2nd grade book and I liked it reasonably well; the illustrations are dorky but the text is less boring than the Faith and Life series.  The 2nd grade program, however, is mostly in the teacher’s guide (stories to read and questions to ask).  Starting in 3rd grade, the program is based in the student’s book.  Last year, Peter was okay with me reading him stories but complained about doing the workbook, so we’ll see how it goes.

Religion

Religion 2

I am quite excited about doing art using ARTistic Pursuits K-3 book 1.  This program is specifically written for homeschoolers.  Peter is not into art by any stretch of the imagination, but I figured that a little art will help him be more well-rounded.  I will have fun with it, anyways!

Art

Finally, I’m hoping that a crazy goat with a British accent will help Peter learn to type.  He’ll be doing the BBC Dance Mat Typing course online (free!).

Dance Mat Typing

It seems like a lot, but I think it’s doable.  We won’t be doing every subject every day–science is two days a week, for example, and art once a week.  Language of God will be one page, twice a week.  French is the biggest “extra” subject, but it’s very important to us, so we’ll find a way to make it work.  Art and typing are also extras; if they cause more stress than fun, we’ll drop them.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m expecting a great year of learning!

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I recently received some questions about adopting a child with HIV.  As I was responding privately, I realized that some of my answers would make a good blog post.  First, my disclaimer: I don’t have a child with HIV.  However, this information is distilled from reputable sources, including families that do have children with HIV.  By sharing it, I hope to make HIV less scary.

If you haven’t read it yet, you might like to start with the basic info about HIV that I shared a few months ago.

I’ve been interested in HIV adoption for quite some time, since Peter was a baby.  I followed a blog by a woman who adopted two kids with HIV from Ethiopia.  Her sharing her experiences showed me that it was doable.  I did some research on it then, but because we were planning to move to Canada and we had a lot of debt, it wasn’t a good time for us to consider adopting.  At that time, Canada didn’t allow the international adoption of HIV+ children.  HIV adoption fell off my radar for a few years.  I only learned earlier this year that Canada now allows international HIV adoption.  I re-joined the HIV Adoption Yahoo Group, where parents who have adopted kids with HIV and those who are thinking about it can ask and answer questions, share resources, and support each other.

A common message of parents who have adopted kids with HIV is that it’s not really a big deal.  With advances in medication over the past decade, HIV is managed pretty easily.  Most kids who are on medication have a viral load that is undetectable (they aren’t cured of HIV, but the level of the virus in the blood is so low that current instruments cannot detect it, and their immune systems work just as well as if they didn’t have HIV).  Caring for a child with type 1 diabetes or severe food allergies would have a much greater impact on a family’s lifestyle than caring for a child with HIV.  Basically, they take medication twice a day, and see a doctor every three months.  Medications are available in a liquid form for younger children and as pills for older children and adults.

HIV is only spread from mother to child (through birth or breastfeeding), sexual contact, or contact with blood.  Most children with HIV who are available for adoption were infected at birth.  Parenting a child with HIV would certainly require careful attention to sex education when the time comes.  I suspect that if you looked at the entire life cycle of a child who is born with HIV, that the influence on their sex life is probably the greatest impact that HIV has on their life (well, in the developed world, anyhow).  As for blood, based on my eight years of experience as a mom so far, there haven’t been many occasions when I’ve come in contact with my kids’ blood (the only time I can think of is during one of Peter’s nosebleeds).  It would be prudent to have gloves on hand that could be worn if necessary, but it doesn’t have to be a big concern.  Especially with older kids, unless they’re bleeding profusely, you can just have them wash their own blood off (I learned that in teacher’s college).  Away from home, teachers, coaches, Scout leaders, paramedics, et cetera are supposed to take universal precautions against coming into contact with other people’s blood, so there’s no need to worry about that.  If the child is on meds and has an undetectable viral load, the chance of spreading HIV even in the case of an accidental exposure is pretty small.  In short, the child is not putting anyone at risk, and it’s not necessary to “warn” people that the child has HIV.

For most families, the social impact of having an HIV+ child is more of a concern than the medical aspect.  There is still a lot of stigma associated with HIV, a lot of fear and misunderstanding.  Many parents choose not to disclose their child’s HIV status, or to disclose only to close friends and family, because of fear of discrimination against their child.

I hope that has been a helpful introduction to the topic.  There is plenty more information and discussion out there if you’re interested in learning more.

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