Friday, July 30, 2010


I'm a curriculum junkie - it's true. I just LOVE researching and planning our homeschool year - it's so much fun! At a recent marriage seminar that my husband and I attended, we played a version of the "Newlywed Game". One of the questions for my hubby was "What is your wife's favorite hobby?". I just knew I had this question in the bag - what else? Photography - hellooo?? But I got that answer wrong - WHAT?? Do you want to take a guess at what HE thought my favorite hobby was? Thats right - he said "Homeschool Curriculum Shopping and Research online"!!!! Oh dear. Okay, so thats maybe my second favorite hobby. I have really enjoyed putting together our own curriculum for the first time this year. It takes a TON of time, but I think it will be well worth the effort put in. I thought I would share a list of our curriculum choices for this year since I have so many people that ask me about it. First we will focus on fifth grade.
LANGUAGE ARTS: Having kids in a Classical Christian school for so many years has made me re-evaluate so many learning methods. Educating the "whole child" is our focus. First and foremost in our homeschool methodology is the Charlotte Mason approach to language arts. Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her method, the Charlotte Mason method, is centered around the idea that education is three-pronged: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.

By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. Charlotte believed that atmosphere makes up one-third of a child’s education.

By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits — and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.

The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.
Two of my latest favorite Charlotte Mason quotes are "The habits of the child produce the character of the man", and "Every day, every hour, the parents are either actively or passively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend".

For example, Charlotte’s students used living books rather than dry textbooks. Living books are usually written in story form by one author who has a passion for the subject. A living book makes the subject “come alive.” She taught spelling by using passages from great books that communicate great ideas rather than just a list of words. She encouraged spending time outdoors, interacting with God’s creation firsthand and learning the living ways of nature.
Many homeschoolers have adopted her philosophy and methods as they seek to educate the whole child, not just his or her mind.

This means that much of our "subjects", within language arts and other areas can be rolled into lessons together using the simple methods of reading, dictation, copywork and narration. For a wonderful resource on an in-depth look at how this works you can visit this blog - Wildflowers and Marbles. She has very eloquently laid out a classical Charlotte Mason education and schedule. I truly believe that exposing children to great works of literature, reading it themselves, as well as having it read to them creates in them naturally the ability of composition and writing. I have seen this first hand in my oldest who has read more great works of literature in her 15 years in a classical school than I have in my lifetime - and she is an incredibly gifted writer. It just comes "naturally" as Charlotte Mason states. Handwriting is naturally incorporated into "copywork" - as they write passages straight from these books, exposing them to correct grammar and punctuation usage, which moves to dictation - hearing this read out loud and being able to write it out correctly.
I could go on and on, but instead I'll show you the books we will be using this year. Much of these methodologies will translate over into our literature and history readings. But to supplement some of our living books we will be using, we will also use Language Lessons for the Elementary Child , Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer, and even a little bit of Daily Six Trait Writing for a little more of a "modern" twist, such as writing prompts, etc. And our tried and true Daily Grams to keep constantly reviewing our grammar. Here is where much of her reading/literature will take place and just a few books on the list for this year are Thimble Summer, Sing Down the Moon, Plain Girl, In Grandma's Attic, The Penderwicks, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, Helen Keller, Rosa of Linden Castle, Treasures of the Snow, Caddie Woodlawn, Helen's Temper and Amish Pathway Readers just to name a few - living books about our time period in history will also be part of her literature reading. We also will memorize songs from Grammar Songs by Audio Memory (we LOVE their stuff!) We will also use some additional resources to focus on spelling as that is a problem area for Banana - MegaWords is what we will use here. And for additional handwriting practice, we will use A Reason for Handwriting - we love these workbooks because they integrate faith and learning by featuring lessons based on Scripture verses and built-in opportunities for sharing God's Word with others. They include beautifully decorated papers for the scriptures to be written on that the girls really enjoy coloring and giving as gifts - which really makes them want to use their most beautiful handwriting. From here the next natural subject to talk about will be history.

HISTORY: Story of the World, Volume 2, The Middle Ages : From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance (Story of the World: History for the Classical Child). This is a wonderful series that puts history into a "story" and makes it very engaging. Along with the read-aloud book, we will be using the Companion Guide to Story of the World, The Middle Ages, Volume 2 to go along with it. This will make it much easier for us to do history together - from kindergarten to fifth grade as it provides you with comprehension questions and answers, sample narrations, maps and geography activities, coloring pages, lists of additional readings in history and literature, and plenty of simple, hands-on activities all designed for grades 1-4. (which we will adapt to make it fit for K through 5!) The style of this history also follows along with the Charlotte Mason methods and ideas. This is where much of our living books will come into play. Books such as Huguenot Garden, Son of Charlemagne, Ransom for a Knight, King Arthur and His Knights, Knights, Maidens and Dragons - Six Medieval Tales of Virtue and Valor, Castle and Cathedral. And some more "fun" type of activity books such as Days of Knights and Damsels, An Activity Guide, Adventures with Vikings, Easy to Make Castle, Design Your Own Coat of Arms - An Introduction of Heraldry, and The Time Traveler. We will also be memorizing the entire time period, dates and important events set to music Middle Ages Renaissance and Reformation Memory Song CD, which is always a favorite. The song begins "Listen to a time of castles and kings, a time when God's church went through suffering and change"..... We already love this song. History is a huge part of our core classical curriculum - most everything we study will circulate around our time period of history. We will incorporate notebooking here in history as well as documenting our studies in our Book of Time.

GEOGRAPHY: We are really going to focus on Geography this year for fifth grade, mostly discussing places in our history readings, but also using Switched on Schoolhouse Geography. This is our first time using this computer program, so we will see how we like it. Map Skills for Today Grade 5 for some additional workbook type pages. These wonderful Geopuzzles from Timberdoodle (one of our favorite websites). We have already been enjoying these this summer they are such a hit!! Our favorite thing to do with these is to listen to the songs for each continent that we are working on as we put the puzzles together from Geography Songs by AudioMemory. This is FUN!!! I'm learning so much doing these puzzles and songs together.

MATH: There is not much to say here except for TEACHING TEXTBOOKS 6th grade!!! I absolutely love this math computer program. The program has a total of 116 lessons and 19 quizzes. It covers all the topics normally found in sixth-grade school texts including fractions, decimals, percents, simple geometry, units of measure, probability, bar and circle graphs, and equation-solving. Math 6 also has a digital gradebook that grades answers as soon as they are entered and calculates percentages for each assignment. Banana has always worked a year ahead in math so she will be doing sixth grade math this year. I love this program because math is my weakest area. This way I know she is getting very good proper math instruction and is completely independent with it, which is crucial for giving me time with Miss Boo. We also will together use the book Family Math for some fun everyday math thinking skills. I still drill the multiplication facts for Banana using this fun system called Hot Dots Flash Cards. It uses a special pen and when you "touch" the right answer on the card it does this fun little light up thing and says something to the effect of "that's right!" but it isn't too loud or obnoxious and is perfect for my multi-sensory learner. Speaking of multi-sensory, we do incorporate a lot of Orton-Gillingham type methods as well for Banana in every subject area. She has some slight dyslexic tendencies (though not a true dyslexic) and certainly has some areas of struggle. Introducing as much multi-sensory and hands-on learning into every subject area is always on the front burner for her.

LOGIC/CRITICAL THINKING: I think this is a crucial part of a classical curriculum, and is a very important component of preparing for tests such as the SAT. We are using Red Herring Mysteries for those all important problem solving through critical questioning and they are also very fun! Along with that we will use Building Thinking Skills, Level 2 - Critical thinking skills for reading, writing, math and science. As Banana gets older we will study more formal logic.

LATIN: Banana began studying Latin in third grade, but was most definitely not ready to begin that early. We took a year off last year and are going to return again this fall to studying Latin. We will use Latina Christiana along with the instructional DVD. This is something we will ALL learn together.

HEALTH: This is our first year doing a Health program. We are using Horizons Health Grade 5. I'm really hoping that hearing about making healthy food choices will be effective coming from someone other than mom!!

SCIENCE: We are continuing our study of Zoology using Apologia's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, along with notebooking. We all know what an avid bird lover my Banana is, and tapping into their unique interests is always part of our planning. Since we started this mid year last year, we are planning on finishing that up the first half of this year. Then we will reconsider what we will pick up at that point. I'm considering Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space, or we may just continue along with Apologia science. Along with our bird studies we will be using the Burgess Bird Book for Children and the entire collection of the "Among The" series these are a definite favorite that we enjoy year round!! They are very old classics so well-written that combine an engaging story from an animal's perspective along with a wonderful lesson in science. My girls always ask for these first when I offer them a choice at read-aloud time. In addition to that we will do lots of fun experiments using Usborne's 100 Science Experiments as well as this fun kit called Test Tube Discoveries. Of course, following true Charlotte Mason methods, we always have some sort of nature study going on, as well as plenty of time outdoors studying and learning about God's creations first hand. We also just ordered a subscription for Ranger Rick and Highlights magazines, which I'm sure Banana will love receiving those in the mail every month!

POETRY: We have so many wonderful poetry collections that we enjoy - mostly we choose seasonal selections, or perhaps if we have a rainy day, or a windy day - we look up poems about those. Our favorite is Favorite Poems Old and New, Selected for Boys and Girls. The girls usually enjoy drawing, painting or sketching as I read aloud our poetry selections. I love seeing how they translate the poems onto paper. We also enjoy A Treasury of Poetry for Young People.

BIBLE: So much of our "bible" teachings are incorporated into every other subject, that we don't have a special subject just for bible. Every morning we have our family worship time when Dad reads the scriptures to us and then he prays over our day. We use The Child's Story Bible during read aloud times or during our morning "Together Time". Every evening at dinner time Daddy reads a devotional from a book that was his when he was a child called "Little Visits with God". I think this book is no longer in print, which is a shame. The kids enjoy it so much that we barely can begin eating before out littlest starts begging for our devotion time. We use the CD's Hide Em in Your Heart by Steven Green. We listen to these almost every day during our morning chore time. They are such wonderful scriptures to "hide in your heart". If someone starts to "complain" then mom suddenly breaks into singing the scripture "do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God". Although, I am looking into some more formal studies for Banana for her Bible time. Last year, she simply had a certain amount of scripture reading each day.

ART/MUSIC: We have some exciting things planned here that are still in the works! How to Teach Art to Children, and the Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas are just the beginning. I have a fellow homeschool mom who is an incredible artist and has offered to give my girls some fun lessons which we are very excited about! We are also joining a new homeschool co-op this year which is going to provide some exciting field trips (including a tour of the White House coming up soon!) and great learning opportunities too. We are very excited about meeting some new homeschooling friends.

KEYBOARDING SKILLS: For this we use Typing Instructor which is always a favorite thing to do.
HOMEMAKING: Banana will continue with her sewing class this year which she really enjoys. We also will be reading Keepers At Home, A Handbook for Young Ladies as well as Beautiful Girlhood. This classic book consists of 33 concise, eloquent lessons regarding ladylike behavior. Included are chapters on watching one's tongue, modesty, obedience, and much more. I think it's very important to teach our girls the art of homemaking, this is something that is SOO overlooked in our day and age. Banana is excited about continuing her skills she recently acquired at the cooking camp she attended at our classical school.
That about sums up my Banana's curriculum for the year - a full year centered around Castles, Kings, Knights and Explorers!! I know this seems like a lot, but we certainly don't do everything every day - and much of it (especially in Language Arts) is only supplemental that will be used very seldomly. I am in the midst of coming up with our plans and schedule for the year, which is very fun but overwhelming too.
Next up - kindergarten curriculum!!

Not Back to School Blog Hop


Warm Cozy Cook said...

Hi Heather~ Here is a link I stumbled upon tonight that has great information as a companion to the Burgess Bird Book. This mom has done a ton of research and its all laid out beautifully to go along with each chapter.

Looks like you're in for a fun year!
~Beth V

Timeless and Treasured, Photography by Heather said...

Thank you so much for that resource Beth - that's perfect!!


Libby said...

Aug. 4, 2010

Hi Heather,
I enjoyed reading your homeschooling blog post. Thanks for your mention of our magazine. We love it when bloggers like you give us a shout-out!

Did you know you can find free teaching resources on our Website? Just go to and click on Parents & Educators on the left column. There is a monthly educators' guide to go w each issue of the magazine and a monthly nature notebook page to encourage outdoor exploration and fun.

With warmest wishes to you all,
Libby Schleichert, Sr. Editor
Ranger Rick Magazine
National Wildlife Federation
Reston, VA.

Follow me on Twitter:
@epschleichert or @rangerrickmag

Ranger Rick is also on Facebook!
Look him up: Ranger Rick and become a fan.