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Friday, July 14, 2017

Our Upcoming School Year (2017-2018 Curriculum Choices)



Where did the summer go?? Well, technically, there's still plenty of summer left (which can be verified by the soaring temperatures outside, but even still, our BX, Walmart and Staples all have started their Back-to-School sales, the local schools have put out their supply lists and the start of a new school year (at least for the public schools) is right around the corner.

Granted, we school year round.  It's really way too hot outside during the summer months for the kids to have any sort of fun outside anyway and so we just continue to do our school each day like any other time period.  This means we are able to take a few weeks off more often during the rest of the year and it also means our school year runs from October to October rather than from August to May. So while we still have a few weeks left of our third grade year, 4th grade is in our sights.

So what do we have planned for the kids as they transition from 3rd to 4th?


Math
First up, our math curriculum.  We have been using Math Lessons For A Living Education: Level 3 from MasterBooks and are nearing completion of that book and the kids have enjoyed the format of it well enough.  So why mess with a good thing, right?  In October, we will continue with the series and start Level 4.  We find that the way this curriculum breaks down the sequence of learning as well as provide multiple opportunities to review previously learned skills to be perfect for the kids and the workbook pages are not just pages of straight math problems, which the kids seem to like much better than other curriculum.  I also really like how each chapter uses a story to chose the kids how the skills are used in a real life setting - answering that age old question "When will I ever need this in life".

We prefer the digital download version of this book, as I can print out the work each week for both kids easily (and legally!!) and it takes up no room in our bookcase.  I simply print out each weeks lesson, staple and punch holes in it and put it in their weekly notebook for them to work on each day during our math time.

Science

I gave the kids the opportunity to decide what science course they wanted to take and Anatomy and Physiology won out.  I couldn't think of a better curriculum for this than Apologia's Young Explorers Exploring Creation Anatomy and Physiology.  As you might recall, I got a wonderful deal on these books from Rainbow Resources at the recent Homeschool Convention.  Apologia has some wonderful curriculum and is one of our "go to" sources for sciences.  

I'm extremely impressed with this particular curriculum as it is pretty thorough in it's coverage of the human body, especially for an elementary level course. (My oldest daughter took an Anatomy and Physiology course in High School her Senior year and I find this to be pretty "on par" with her class).

In addition to the labs and notebooking included in the text/journals, I will probably be adding occasional coloring pages from The Anatomy Coloring Book by Wyn Kapit/Lawrence M Elson.


If you are unfamiliar with this particular book, I highly recommend it for any Anatomy&Physiology course, especially at the high school and college levels.  While much of it is going to be too advanced for my 4th graders, there are plenty of diagrams that they will be able to use while learning about the different systems of the body.

History

Some time back, we finished Mystery of History Book 1 and a couple of weeks ago, so now it's time to jump into Book 2.


I absolutely love this particular history curriculum because 1.) it's from a Christian perspective 2.) it provides history lessons more of a "story" format rather than a typical history text and 3.) it includes grade appropriate activities and map work laid out in one book. I also really like that this is a curriculum that can "grow" with this kids.  I don't have to expect them to memorize every little detail as we cover it right now, because in a few years, I will just pull this book back down from the bookshelf, wipe off the dust and repeat the lessons but include activities for middle school students in mind. Then,
it goes back on the shelf and in a few more years, it again gets pulled off the bookshelf and repeated, but with high school level activities.  This means that this book will be used at least three times, each time increasing in difficulty and should result in more retention of information each time.

In addition to the activites and map work included in the book, Garrett will be using one of Skrafty's Minecraft self paced classes that coincide with this particular book.  If you are unfamiliar with Skrafty classes I'll give a brief explanation. Each week, students are able to listen to an audio lesson from one of the teachers that cover the weekly material in addition to reading the pages assigned in their text book and doing the assignment activities.  Then, following the lessons, the students are given a minecraft build assignment, which is completed on the secure Skrafty Minecraft server. Builds include things like making a copy of the Arch of Constantine, the Mayan ruins, or the Tower of Hercules.  At the end of each week, there is also a quiz (which is multiple choice) that is graded.  Since Garrett is more of a "hands on" learner and he absolutely loves Minecraft, this is a great addition for him and he has really enjoyed the Skrafty classes we have done in the past.

Foreign Language

We've tried so many foreign languages in our school and while they kids show some enthusiasm in the first week or two, that quickly wanes and then they start hating it.. We've tried Chinese, French and Spanish, all with very little success. However, that changed when Ashleigh was introduced to Latin.  Her first taste of Latin was when we reviewed Olim..Once Upon a Time in Latin from Laurelwood Books.  She enjoyed it but it wasn't what I would consider a comprehensive curriculum.  Then we reviewed Prima Latina from Memoria Press and that was the perfect fit for her. So why mess up a good thing, right?


Since we've only been using this book for a few weeks, we have plenty of lessons to last until the middle of this year, before we transition to the next level (Latina Christiana), which I will probably have to purchase in January.

Garrett has begun working on Greek (which is a review item coming soon) and has really been enjoying it as well, so I think we've finally found something that works for him in the Foreign Language department.  He is currently using "Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!" level 3 and while we've just completed learning the alphabet, he's taken a shine to it and is doing well.  On the plus side, Ashleigh has also been involved with Garrett's lessons and has been learning a bit herself which is great, since Greek and Latin seem to work well together.


Language Arts

This is the area where things are not yet set in stone, so to speak.  Garrett is setup with Language Arts as he will continue using Lighting Literature and Composition (Grade 3).  This has been a good fit for him and he's doing extremely well with it, far better than most reading/language arts curriculum we have tried.  It's hard to find a Language Arts curriculum that Garrett doesn't balk at doing and this one fit the bill.   With a pretty modest price tag, I will probably transition him to Grade 4 of this same curriculum once he's completed this book. 


The problem arises when trying to decide on a curriculum for Ashleigh, as she is well above grade level in Language Arts and Reading. She's currently using Apologia's Readers in Residence and while it does include Grammar lessons, it is more of a reading comprehension curriculum.  I also don't want to purchase a 4th grade curriculum for her and it not be challenging enough for her but I also don't want to move to a 6th grade curriculum and have her miss some important information.  This is my current conundrum.  

My honest hope is that we will be granted the chance to review Monarch Online and begin Ashleigh on the Language Arts curriculum offered there.  Then, depending on how well she does and which grade level seems to be the best fit for her, I will probably purchase the individual grade CD for the class.  Alpha Omega Publishing offers a very generous discount for military families, which I can take advantage of at that time.  So - fingers crossed that we're selected for that review. LOL  Even if not selected, we are taking advantage of the 30 day free trial for Monarch Online, which will give me an idea if their curriculum will work for Ashleigh and if so, what grade level would work best for her and so I can still decide if that's the route we wish to take. 

Those are the major subjects that the two littles will be doing this upcoming year.  There will be more added to the list, for example, reading selections and electives such as physical education, arts and music.  Those are "as we go", however, and no actual set in stone curriculum.  Other subjects like Nature study and Astronomy are an ongoing education in our home and they will continue to be taught.  We will also continue to use Home School in the Woods Make-a-State Activity Pak along with the USA Activity Bundle from TheCraftyClassroom.com (another upcoming review item, btw) to help the kids learn the 50 States. 

Getting Prepared for College

One exciting event for us is that Alyssa will be joining us in our school this year.  As you know, Alyssa graduated from public school in May.  However, because the school only provides the state minimum requirements to graduate, Alyssa's lacking three classes that she needs in order to enter the university that she wants to attend (Lamar University in Beaumont, TX). Because of this, Alyssa will be taking courses with our school so that I can add an additional transcript to her education once she completes those three classes.  Basically, she'll be taking a gap year before going off to college in order to complete those needed required classes.

Since Alyssa needs one additional laboratory science, we will once again be adding an Apologia class
to the mix.  Alyssa will be working through the latest edition of Marine Biology, a college preparatory, high school level course.  This is yet another upcoming review from the Review Crew and we are extremely blessed to have been selected for this review. (Btw, the Crew will begin taking applications for new members probably in October - so if your interested, feel free to message me for information!!).  This book contains text, tests and labs including experiments, dissection and microscope work and once completed, will give her a full high school credit for a laboratory science.  We're fortunate to have a microscope and many of the required slides (and what we do not have, we can access online) and $40 later, the marine life specimens are on their way, although I have no idea where I am going to store a dead dogfish shark lol.  

Once again, we've got our fingers crossed that we will be placed on the Monarch Online review, because if so, this will allow Alyssa to complete her Algebra 2 class and have it taken care of within 6 months.   This would take care of the 2nd class requirement that she needs for Lamar.  (I am still upset with the local high school for NOT offering her an Algebra 2 option and instead forced her to take Consumer Math following Algebra 1 and Geometry- but that's a whole different blog post.. haha).

For the third class, Alyssa and I will have to sit down and make a few decisions. She has two options that will work - 1. she can take the second level Spanish course with Rosetta Stone (which we can get from our base library) and then take the Spanish CLEP test in order to get credit. The other option that she has is to take a Spanish course with our nearby Community College, hopefully as an online course so that she will not have to drive 40 minutes a day for class. If not selected for the Monarch Online review, she will have the same option (Community College) in order to take College Algebra and then transfer both credits over to Lamar University.


What do you think of our choices? Are any of these selections new to you? Have you used any of these yourself?  Let me know in the comments :) 

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