Thursday, September 15, 2016

5th Grade Curriculum - Classical and Kinesthetic

We have jumped into 5th grade here at our little homeschool!  We are a few weeks in and things are going great.  I often get asked about curriculum - it can often seem like the curriculum defines your homeschool, but it really is the other way around.  Curriculum is just that - a tool to use to teach your children.  Over the years one of the best things I have learned as a homeschool mom is that I am in charge of the curriculum, it is not in charge of me.  As you look through all the great things we are using, remember we don't necessarily do every single page in every single book.  I believe offering a great feast of learning before a student can be rich and fulfilling, as long as we don't let it become overwhelming.  Boo is an eager and independent learner, so it's important that I stay a step ahead of her in what I have to offer.  I always love sharing with my blog readers all the fun things we have planned for this year!  Enjoy! 

This year, as part of Timberdoodle's Blog team, we have been able to incorporate so much more fun, hands-on, kinesthetic type of learning to our more tried and true classical and Charlotte Mason inspired learning.  This post summarizes our core curriculum - be sure and click the link at the bottom to see all the great supplemental Timberdoodle products we are reviewing this year as well.  Here is what we are using this year!

Veritas Press History Self Paced - Explorers to 1815 -  This is a tried and true portion of our curriculum that we have done from the beginning.  This is probably our anchor for our entire curriculum.  Boo begins her day with this self-paced on line program from Veritas Press.  She memorizes an entire era of history of important dates and events in chronological order through an engaging song.  Using the classical approach of studying history chronologically at different levels through the grammar, logic and rhetoric stage, she is in her next to last year before we begin the cycle again at the logic state.  We are beginning American History this year and it's always a favorite for our family! We live in such a great spot for American History field trips being so close to Philadelphia, DC, Gettysburg and more!  The program is completely independent (though I learn so much just listening in), it uses a talking historical character, interactive teaching, engaging video and fun games.  It teaches a Christian worldview of how God has worked throughout history.  Along with a long list of history readers included in this program, our literature will also be largely inspired by the study of American History. Each of these cards represents a week worth of study. 

Writing and Rhetoric 3 and 4 - This is our second year using this program and I can't say enough about it! Both my older girls went through Institute for Excellence in Writing and they are certainly strong writers now - however, that program can be very labor intensive for a homeschool mom.  Writing and Rhetoric from Classical Academic Press takes all the hard prep work out for mom, but still teaches excellent writing in a natural way that is basically open and go.  It uses clips of excellent literature as examples, uses Charlotte Mason methods such as dictation and narration, while encouraging and teaching excellent methods of writing using a clear model before them. I have found not only is this method extremely effective but also allows for much more creativity than her big sisters had in their writing programs.   It is very much like an apprenticeship program in which a student is learning from a master teacher, using great stories and great writers from history.  Effective communication and proper rhetoric are an added bonus!

Shurley English/Grammar 6 - This is one of our tried and true curriculums that we have done from the very beginning.  It's one of those products that you either love or hate.  It clicks really well with some kids and really NOT well with others.  It is perfect for Boo and she just loves to do grammar every day.  It uses lots of fun jingles and chants to help memorize parts of speech, proper usage, vocabulary, capitalization and punctuation.  It uses a question and answer flow highly structured program to basically diagram a sentence.   This program has made Boo a grammar FOOL! She can diagram a sentence so fast and accurately it boggles my mind.  Sometimes I have her do it simply for my own entertainment.  Haha!! Proper grammar is so important for good writing - something that I never learned as a kid - but I'm learning it now as a homeschool momma (no judging my use of grammar here - I know it's horrid).  We were advised to skip Shurley 5 as it is mostly review of Shurley 4, so we went straight to level 6 this year and so far it seems to be the perfect fit to make slow but steady progress in the subject of grammar.  We tend to skip over the composition portions in this book since we prefer the writing program mentioned above.

Teaching Textbooks 6 - Can I just say that Teaching Textbooks is my new best friend?  Math has always been Boo's least favorite subject.  I was the same way as a kid.  I could just never quite make math click for me.  Boo seems to have inherited the math section of my brain - I offer her my deepest condolences.   After suffering through Saxon math in third grade, we tried Horizons math in fourth grade.  It was much better but still we had plenty of days of tears and frustration - from Boo AND mom.  This year, we have taken mom out of the equation (haha - see what I did there?) and math is now so much more pleasant - well, for me at least.  It is a very independent math program, plus quite a bit more multi-sensory in it's approach.  I feel like Boo still has very strong math instruction, even if she still doesn't enjoy it too much.  She does enjoy doing her math on the computer and has better options for learning if she doesn't understand a concept.   Math is just one of those things you have to just buckle down and tackle no matter what.  Teaching Textbooks makes it much less likely that Boo and I tackle EACH OTHER now.  HA!

Spelling You See - level F - The jury is still out on this one for us.  Boo has always enjoyed a traditional list of words each week and using different methods to explore the words throughout the week.    I love how it is multi-sensory and she enjoys using different colored highlighters as she learns through visual memory rather than rote memory.  It also uses Charlotte Mason methods of dictation which is a bonus for us.  It uses real words within their context instead of just a list of words which seems like a much more natural approach.  Boo seems to think it's a bit too repetitive and "busy-work-ish".  We will try it for a few months more to see if I see some good results, but we may go back to the traditional spelling word lists also.

5th Grade Literature Books:
Lad: A Dog, Old Yeller, Anne of Green Gables, Little Britches,  Plain Girl, The Family Under the Bridge, Where the Red Fern Grows, Calico Bush, A Long Walk to Water, Heidi, Robinson Crusoe, Pollyanna, Buried in the Snow, Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark , Ms. Bixby's Last Day  - In this picture you also see several of her history readers that are part of the Veritas Press History program.

Artistic Pursuits Book Two - These are great books that can be used very independently or together with mom.  It's a systematic approach, but Boo doesn't get excited about art, which always surprises me.  In addition to this curriculum, we have lots of other art kits and supplies that we get to experiment with throughout the year, as well as doing plenty of art appreciation, and studying great works of art and artists in our Morning Basket Time. 

Horizons Health - We are doing health this year mainly because it is required by our state for our homeschool review.  It's a great program with a Christian worldview.  I have other books that I use along with this to supplement the subject.

Building Thinking Skills - This is a super book that gives small daily doses of critical thinking skills.  Boo doesn't love this book, she thinks it is hard and boring.  However, mom sees the benefit in the daily practice of it so it's something I continue to keep in circulation within our curriculum.

The Geography Drawing Series - USA - This is a really fun Timberdoodle product that we are using for the first time this year to go along with our American history studies.  Boo is learning all the state facts and how to draw each state with daily practice.  At the end of the program she should be able to draw the USA from memory!  I can't wait to see if this will really work!  We have SOO many other geography tools to help us learn this year - be sure and click the link to the Timberdoodle post at the bottom of this page.

Latin Alive Book 1 - This is our third year in Latin and I am so THRILLED that I get to source this one out.  We have an excellent Latin teacher from our local classical school that teaches this subject.   Both of Boo's big sisters were seven year Latin scholars and I believe the study of Latin is almost crucial to the study of the English language, not to mention any other language they choose to study in the future.   We have gone through the Latin for Children program and now we are beginning Latin Alive which I believe is a middle school program.  Boo just loves heading to our local library where they meet for Latin class each week.  She gets to use her backpack - which lemme tell ya is a BIG DEAL when you are a homeschooler and a fifth grader.

So - that's a basic overview of our main curriculum.  We also have our Morning Basket time which looks basically the same this year as last year with a few different books thrown in.  Morning  Basket is the other anchor to our day.  I feel like if nothing else gets accomplished during our day, if we have covered morning basket time then the most important things have been covered. 

What is REALLY different for us this year however, is the addition of almost an entire Timberdoodle Custom Curriculum Kit for our STEM learning, robotics, HTML coding and all of our hands-on "crazy smart" homeschooling.  A few things listed above were from our custom kit, but to see our full review and all the fun products included in our kit.

A Custom Timberdoodle Curriculum Kit - 5th Grade - Product Review

Over the past few months we have had the opportunity to review so many fun Timberdoodle products that when I began to plan our curriculum for 5th grade this year, I found myself being drawn towards so many things on the Timberdoodle website.  We are still committed to classical education with a Charlotte Mason style, but so many of the Timberdoodle products can be easily incorporated into those methods. I ended up ordering a Custom Curriculum Kit based on our specific needs and it ended up being a combination of 5th and 6th grade materials, specially focusing on STEM learning, and crazy smart hands on products.   After we received our products, we were so honored to be asked to do a review of our curriculum kit as well! 

 Every item in these pictures is from Timberdoodle, with the exception of the stack of literature books on the left, our Latin and English programs.  Timberdoodle has GREAT options for Latin and English but we already had those in place. The wonderful part about the custom kits is that you can use things you already have in your home from older children, and it is super simple to customize your order through their website.  I (and Timberdoodle) would highly suggest adding in plenty of your own literature reading to compliment your homeschool kit.  You can easily pick up some great books at your local library as well.

Miss Boo was one HAPPY girl the day her box arrived - it's almost more fun than Christmas! 

 SCIENCE!! We are going to have so much fun this year discovering so many parts of science with all the fun products offered.  We are starting off our studies with the Human Body.  My Boo has recently discovered a passion for all things dance, so it is a prime time to teach her exactly how her body is able to do all that it does.   One of the great perks of homeschooling is to be able to really customize the learning to their particular interest as they grow. 

 Putting together this 3-D puzzle of the human skeleton is an excellent way to learn how we were put together!  We had lots of good conversations about how difficult it was for us to put the puzzle together, yet God was able to simply breathe life into us - simple yet profound.  Making humans can't be very easy!  The puzzle was fun and challenging, just enough challenge for a fifth grader.  She named him Gabriel.  Gabriel would like to say hello! :)

The Human Body book has been a great addition to our Dr. Bonyfide books. Of course Boo discovered right away the x-ray picture of a dance move she does in acro class.  She was so excited to try it out and even more excited to see a picture of herself re-enacting! 

 These Dr. Bonyfide books are fun and silly but take learning about the human skeleton to a whole new level! 

If you are looking for some fun and easy science experiments to do with your kids - this BOOM! 50 Fantastic Science Experiments is just what you need.  We learned about electrostatic using cornstarch, oil and a ballon.  So simple and so fun.

One of Boo's very favorite learning items is the SPRK Sphero.  It is a programmable robot remote control learning toy. It has amazing precision and can be reprogrammed via a smartphone or tablet. It teaches visual programming through different apps available, and can then move to text based programming. There are SPRK lessons to teach programming, robotics and math.  This thing is basically indestructible - it is waterproof, has a (sold separately) rugged cover to take it through any kind of outdoor terrain, it can even be incorporated as a pet toy - our little Shihtzu goes CRAZY over it and chases it all through the house.   It can even be used as a game controller - it's basically a go-anywhere do-anything all in one learning device.  A little pricey - but AMAZING!! We will be using this for many years to come - I'm not sure we will ever even be able to learn everything that is is capable of doing.

  Boo was programming it to launch into a sink of water here.  She has also made obstacle courses and tracks to maneuver the sphero through. I'm sure you will be seeing so much more on the blog about all the fun with have with this device.  We even just ordered a "chariot" that can be attached to it that has a phone holder so that Boo can create videos of the places her Sphero goes.
 A little addition to our Bible time is this book called The Ology, Ancient Truths Ever New.  Theology is certainly, without a doubt, one of the most weighty topics we will ever learn about.  This book gives a very simple overview of the basic truths of the christian doctrine.   I was a bit disappointed that it didn't go a little deeper, but sometimes reviewing the very basics of our faith, especially for a ten-year-old can't be overlooked. It is a beautiful book and it feels so wonderful - haha! It's very soft with wonderful illustrations with thick quality pages. We have other books that we use to round out our Bible curriculum as well.

Stopmotion Explosion Animation Set has been a huge hit!  The set comes with a camera to attach to a computer and the software to install.  It is simple enough for a novice (like Boo) to start experimenting with, and can last through much more advanced animation creations.  Boo has already made little movies about matchbox cars, lego figures, miniature horses and more.  We have only scratched the surface of everything this product can do, but it will be a great project tool for creating famous history scenes, bible stories and so much more! 

 We are diving in deep to geography this year as we begin year one of two years of studying American History (through a separate curriculum). Timberdoodle offers so many great enrichment tools for studying American history.  One of them is this book Drawing Around the World USA  - a great way to learn all the facts of each state, as well as being able to DRAW them!  She traces and draws one state at a time each one building on the next until by the end of the year she should be able to draw the entire US from memory. What a fun way to learn geography.

Bentley, the worlds cutest dog, is a huge fan of Timberdoodle.  He gives two paws up to this fun Doodle America book.  Each day Boo has something new to doodle that has to do with American History. Here she doodled her own design for an American flag.  This book along with Doodle Your Day are daily activities that Boo does while she listens to our current read-aloud. 
 Here is a fun way to review and memorize the capitals of each state - Wrap-Ups States and Capitals. This is a perfect tool for read-aloud time, car rides, waiting at appointments, or just about anywhere!  We have used wrap-ups for learning our math facts for many years but we thought this would be just as fun for states and capitals.  It's also a great way to learn the two letter abbreviation for each state.
 If you aren't familiar with wrap-ups, they are self-correcting joined at the top boards with a string attached.  Your child will match the state listed on one side to the capital listed on the other side and then turns it over to see if the string lines up with the printed lines.  A great tool for visual and kinesthetic learners.

 Another great geography tool is the Scrunch Map.  We have our large paper maps on the wall where we love to mark each place in our studies that we come across, but this map offers so much more versatility!  It is seriously indestructible and is stored in it's own little drawstring pouch.   Another great tool to throw in a bag for homeschooling on the go - or even just to explore with on the floor....

Or even for impromptu discussions with dad on the couch when the conversation arises - along with the 3D Puzzleball Globe.
 As crinkly and scrunchy as it is, I thought surely the ink would come off in places, but it doesn't! It's incredible and durable and must be made of indestructible materials - very impressive.

 Extreme Dot to Dot US History is a fun challenge and actually very relaxing too - even mom loves to do these pages!  The one below ended up being Betsy Ross sewing the flag - we have a friend by the last name Rossi and they named their cat Betsy.  I can NEVER get the name right when we are talking about who sewed our US flag.  I'm pretty sure my Boo thinks all kudos for our flag belong to a cat. 

 In addition to our own literature choices for the year, this Step by Step pathway reader is an excellent bonus to our reading time.  It has the absolute dearest stories in it that teach character, virtue and so much more. They were actually designed to be used in an Amish classroom, so there is nothing but wonderfulness in them! They have great questions at the end of the short stories that always spark great conversations.  It is full of stories - perfect for narration - as well as beautiful poetry, quotes and sayings, it is lovely and simple.  We have used these books for many years and they will always be a part of our home library.

Last year we didn't do a formal spelling program and instead incorporated it into daily dictations, narrations thus taking a more natural approach.  This year I thought we would try Spelling You See .  This is a great multi-sensory program and adds an element of color as they "chunk" different vowel combinations.  I think this would have been perfect for one of my older girls who struggled a bit more with spelling, but for Boo this has already become monotonous "busy work" that she would dread each day.   She is a natural when it comes to spelling so I think we are going to go back to the tried and true list of spelling words, along with a more natural method. She actually misses having spelling tests at the end of the week! Silly girl.

 You've heard me talk on here before about how much we love Thinking Putty for fidgets. Read alouds, quiet reading, thinking through math - the possibilities are endless.  Add in a magnet and you have Super Magnetic Reactive Razz Thinking Putty! 

After we complete our unit on the Human Body for science, we are going to begin using Interactive Science. What I love about this product is that it touches on lots of different areas of science, which I think for 5th grade is pretty important.  So many science curriculums for homeschoolers focus on only one subject for the whole year.  I want Boo to explore all the areas of science while she is young. 
This is kind of a text book meets workbook approach. There is an online component as well where she can see videos clips of what she is studying, as well as science experiments being performed.  I think this will be a great fit for a classic approach to fifth grade science, combined with lots of other products as well as "living books" that matches with our Charlotte Mason methods.

 Back to our unit on The Human Body - is this fun 4D Human Torso puzzle.  This puzzle was a bit trickier than the skeleton one, and doesn't hold up as well to stay on the desk.  But it certainly taught my Boo so much about the organs and where they were in her body.  It's funny what they think of when they have never really been taught what different organs do and where they are located. 

 "Here Mom, have a heart." 

Gabriel meets Torso Man. 

 I got this Jump In Writing course because I wanted something that focused a bit more on the creative writing side.  We are using a pretty intense writing program so I was hoping this could bring a different flavor to our writing.  I've decided to put it on the back burner right now.  I think it's just a bit too much to use as a supplement and would be better off possibly as a stand alone curriculum.  We already have so much writing incorporated into our everyday that I knew adding this would tip the scales.  Don't be afraid to know when to say NO to something, even if it's awesome, but not the right fit for your homeschool right now. I think in a year or two this may come in very handy.

 When it comes to strategic thinking and logic - Lazer Maze is the winner! It uses mirrors, targets and a (safe) laser to solve the challenges.  It has won tons of awards and endorsements and is another one of the products that kids just have FUN with, without realizing they are learning so much.
 By using challenge cards, which increase in difficulty, Boo has to figure out how to position each piece so that the laser bends and beams off the mirrors in the appropriate direction to finally land on the end target - which lights up if done correctly.
 Bentley is always fascinated by the beam of light on the floor - I'm pretty sure he is part cat. Because he also holds to the motto - 
"If it fits, I sits". 

For math this year, we went with Teaching Textbooks 6.  On the Timberdoodle website there is a place where you can have your child take a placement test to see what level is appropriate for them.  Math is always our least favorite part of the day, so this fun and independent computer program takes a huge load off of momma and makes for much fewer math tears - well for one of us anyway! It's a great program that is engaging, automatic, and open and go.  It even keeps track of all the grades for you - it is my new BFF - I'm kidding.......kind of. It even has a fun little cartoon character that interacts with the student and gives tips and hints when necessary.

The Spectrum Test Practice for Grade 5 is something we will use throughout the year as a guideline of sorts.  I think it's important that homeschool kids still get experience with standardized testing procedures. In some states, these tests are even used to determine if you are able to continue home education.  We are fortunate to not have that in Maryland.  Having test practice is helpful not only for the student, but can be a great way for moms to see where you may need to focus on certain skills. 

 In every Timberdoodle Curriculum Kit you get a super handy Handbook.  It gives you great tips on scheduling along with info on each piece of curriculum.  For custom kits like I did, there is even an option on line to create a custom weekly schedule as well.  Timberdoodle just makes it all SOOO easy! 
Homeschooling is one of the best decisions I have made as a parent.  It is certainly not for everyone, each kid is so different and has such different needs.   My favorite part about homeschooling is that it forces me to spend intentional time with my kids.  The time spent together, the conversations that develop, the memories made and the relationship that grows between us are all part of her well-rounded education.  Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life as Charlotte Mason says.  There is so much more to it than reading, writing and arithmetic. Have a great community support in place, a church with plenty of activities to be involved in, a place for your kids to serve, an extracurricular activity that encourages teamwork and a well rounded education in in place! 

Remember, your curriculum are simply tools towards education - the real education comes from the lifestyle you are living and the legacy you are passing on. You can accomplish a beautiful education without a single one of these items listed above, they are simply tools.  Happy Homeschooling my friends! 

This is not the complete curriculum I use for my fifth grader - this is just the Timberdoodle products that I was asked to review as part of the Timberdoodle blog team.  If you would like to see more of the core of our curriculum you can click here.