Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fifth Grade Homeschool Curriculum

My fifth grade homeschool plans for James....



  • Life of Fred series - Honey, Ice Cream, and Jellybeans (or whatever we get through)

 Literature & History

Language Arts

  • Brave Writer-inspired writing program....details after I plan this! Our spring Brave Writer plans are here

 Foreign Language

  • Beginning Spanish (or French if he prefers, either way, very casually) with Duolingo
Art & Music

Art will be a family affair and I haven't decided yet what we'll use.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Planning Out the Whole School Year

This year I decided that I wanted to actually do the things I set out to do at the beginning of our homeschool year... to closely follow the plans I made in the spring for the kids' education. I know that sounds kind of silly and obvious, but I have always been better at making plans than actually following them. I am prone to giving up on things that are difficult, to changing things up too often, and to taking too many breaks and short days if I just don't feel like teaching. I thought that if I just had a clear idea of what I wanted to cover and when, and if I wrote it all down somewhere, that I would stick to it. I think the reason BookShark/Sonlight has worked so well for me is that I really love having a plan to follow. Yep, I am a certified box-checker. I think it is best to admit that and to work with my natural desire for order.

I wanted to be able to check our progress at a glance and know where we were in relation to where I thought we'd be.  I wanted to finish the math books and not have the same Latin book drag on for three years (yes, we've had that happen). So I decided to be a bit more intentional about what we completed each week in our homeschool.

Last summer, I sat down and came up with a week-by-week plan for the whole school year, using Excel. It took quite a bit of time to figure out how I wanted to do this, because I am not the most technologically savvy person out there,  but once I figured out a system it only took a couple of hours to plug everything in.  I made a separate spreadsheet for each child, with the curriculum I wanted scheduled across the top and weeks 1-36 listed down the left-hand side. Then it was just a matter of plugging in lesson numbers or page numbers for each week. My husband helped out quite a bit, putting in formulas for me that greatly simplified the data entry. I am not great with such things, so I can't get into that aspect of it much here.

These simple spreadsheets have made a huge difference in keeping us on track this year.

Now, I did not plan all of our subjects on these spreadsheets. Some things lend themselves to this way of planning, others definitely do not.  These are the subjects that I planned out week by week. Most required very minimal planning, since they are already neatly laid-out programs.

  • Latin: Latin for Children schedules 32 weeks of lessons; I plugged in one per week.
  • Math: I plugged in four Teaching Textbooks lessons per week for Christopher. For James and Rose, I figured out how many Math Mammoth pages we needed to cover each day in order to finish the level half-way through the year (since I only purchased half of a level at first). I scheduled Life of Fred: Algebra for Grace, but I don't hold her to it. She puts in an hour four days a week and I think that's plenty, so I don't care that she's "behind" my schedule.  I also scheduled LOF for Christopher, but he dropped it partway through the year, so I just ignore that column.
  • Grammar: For First Language Lessons (both levels 1 & 4), I plugged in three lessons per week. FLL 4 has a nice schedule in the back of the book;  I just copied it into my spreadsheet. Analytical Grammar has schedules on their website; I used those when deciding which lessons to cover this year and how many lessons to enter each week.
  • Writing: I scheduled in Writing with Skill or Writing with Ease lessons for everyone. Both are already divided into 36 weeks of lessons - love that!
  • Science: For Rose, I scheduled the first 10 weeks as "human body", the next 20 weeks for "animals", and the last 6 weeks for "plants". Each week we spend a little time reading about our current topic and call it good. Grace has her own biology routine, which I did not schedule. The boys' science is folded into their BookShark work, so I did not assign it a separate spreadsheet column.
  • BookShark: This program is already divided up into 36 weeks; I scheduled one BookShark week per week. Since we didn't start our current BS levels at the beginning of the year, the weeks don't line up. So on this week, week 25 of our year, we worked on week 33 of World Cultures, weeks 11 and 17 of World History 1, and week 22 of American History 1.
  • Critical Thinking: For Critical Thinking Books 1 & 2, I scheduled half of a chapter each week.
  • Vocabulary: Grace does one lesson from Vocabulary from Classical Roots each week. She is covering two books this year (A and B), so I plugged in lesson numbers for Level A for the first half of the year, then added lesson numbers for Level B for the rest of the year. 

What didn't make it on the 36 week schedule....

  • Music
  • Picture study
  • Art 
  • Handwriting 
  • Spelling
  • Phonics
  • Memory work
  • Greek and Spanish
  • Typing
  • Current Events

Most of these subjects didn't make it onto the master schedule because they are strictly "do the next thing" or "work at your own pace" type programs that don't make sense to schedule out.  I do wish I had scheduled out picture study and music, because we haven't been very good about doing those every week. There is just something about having a written plan that makes me want to stick with it. Next year, music and picture study will be on my plan for sure.

I sized the finished spreadsheets to fit onto just one page per child and printed them out. I keep the plans in a folder inside my homeschool binder.

So what do I do with the plans? As you can see, I mark them up quite a bit! Above is James's 36 week plan. I scheduled math, grammar, writing, and BookShark work. When I make him a new weekly checklist, I refer to his 36-week plan to see what to add in. Each week, I highlight our progress on each child's list. It is very encouraging to be able to see at a glance how much we have accomplished!

On Grace's plan you can see that we are kind of all over the place, but staying exactly on track isn't the point. The point is to be able to see at a glance where we are, to provide accountability, and to simplify weekly planning.

Obviously, this type of planning would not work for everyone, nor would everyone want to follow something like this. I do it because I enjoy it, it motivates me, and it simplifies my prep time. And I might be just a little bit of a planning nut!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Musings

Thoughts for the week of March 16th....

Thinking about
Lots of things....there are so very many things going on at this time of year! Lately, I have been trying to limit my focus to just three major items each week, because I can only do so much. This week's three are:  getting ready for James's tenth birthday, summer plans (camps, camping, beach trip), and the holidays and special days for this week.  Of course, there will be other must-do's that don't relate to those three, but those are my major projects to work on this week. This "routine of three" really seems to make a difference in my stress level. Instead of also worrying about the kids' spring clothes, Easter basket shopping, curriculum planning, portfolios, garden planning, and a million other things, I just tell myself those will make it onto another week's priority list.

Plans for this week

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with our usual bagel breakfast (and green cream cheese), plus shamrock shakes later that night.  Celebrating the dog's birthday with a small gift and a dog food "cake". The dog doesn't seem to understand, but he certainly doesn't mind either and the kids love doing it. Starting our living Easter baskets on the first day of spring (Friday!).  Also a trip to a local college greenhouse sometime this week - such a nice place to visit when it's still cold out!

Homeschool notes

Grace is still doubling up on her Bookshark World History readings and it is going well for her. She wants to finish this level by year's end and then go double pace through World History II so she can start the high school levels sometime next year and still not miss anything. I am hoping Bookshark releases those levels in time for her to use them, but if not, we will just use Sonlight.  I am currently working on plans for her 9th grade year, my first time planning high school! It feels a little terrifying. I have plans mostly in place for my boys and will post those soon. Rose's plans are posted here.

Around the house
I am trying to get better at using odd moments here and there during our homeschooling day for housework. I find that relying on a list is helping me hugely with this because I don't have to think about what to do when I find a minute or two...making a note to do a post soon on my new housework routine.

Out of doors

Windy, rainy, warm-ish, cool-ish, cold.....sometimes all in one day, yep it's March! We tapped trees last weekend and boiled down our first few jars of maple syrup. The process gets easier every year and is really not stressful anymore at all.   Everyone has their part to do: the kids check the sap buckets twice a day and transfer the maple sap to a big barrel. When the sap barrel is half-full, we start boiling.  We do our boiling outdoors on the gas grill,  which makes it very low maintenance and easy. I would love to do it over a wood-fire, but it is just too windy this time of year to deal with an open fire. The hardest part of  the whole process happens at the end when we bring the syrup indoors to finish it off, because it needs to be watched very carefully at that point. It's all worth it though.

In the kitchen

We made a big Irish dinner over the weekend since St. Patrick's Day falls on gymnastics night. I made cookies for the first time in awhile last week when we had a surprise free afternoon. I used to do much more baking when the kids were younger and I had more time. I miss that.

Watching & reading

I am reading Big Little Lies, which is a fun read and has me really looking forward to bedtime each night so I can read without interruption.  James and I are finally going to finish Johnny Tremain this week: I feel like I have been reading that book forever! James will be glad to be finished with it, it was not his favorite book.  He and I just started reading Lion Boy before bed. Our family movie night this weekend was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day . It was a fun movie and I really liked that they kept some stuff from the book, like the same names for his school friends.  For our documentary Friday we watched Cracking the Maya Code.

This past weekend

St. Patrick's Day coloring. Trip to a flower show. Sap buckets. And getting the kids passports filled out and signed before locking them up safely. They took the job of signing their own passports so seriously and are so excited to have them.

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Second Grade Homeschool Curriculum

This is my first in a series of four curriculum plan posts for next year....Rose's second grade year.

Language Arts

  • Brave Writer-inspired writing program....details after I plan this! Our spring Brave Writer plans are here.


  • Miquon Math Labs - probably the Blue and Green books, though we may still be finishing up with Red.


Literature, History, & Science

Art & Music

Art will be a family affair and I haven't decided yet what we'll use. For music, she will follow in the footsteps of her siblings and listen to Classical Kids CD's.

And that's my second grade curriculum plan...always subject to change, of course!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our Spring Brave Writer Routine

I just posted the other day about how I haven't made very many changes at all this year to our curriculum. That must have got my mind in gear a bit, because lately I have been feeling like our language arts choices are a bit lackluster. I do still like and plan to use both Writing with Ease and Writing with Skill , but for now I think we need something different for awhile. A breath of fresh air, creativity....something fun! Must be spring in the air. Anyway, I started thinking about Brave Writer again and our old Bravewriter plan.

The main thing I do not love about Brave Writer and The Writer's Jungle is that they are so messy...for lack of a better word. I tend to gravitate toward neatly laid out, open-and-go programs. That's why I made that list, so I could just do the next thing. But the way we do things has changed quite a bit, so an updated list was in order.  We read a lot of poetry for Bookshark and we already have our own teatime ritual, so I didn't need that on the list. Movie-watching and discussing has just become a regular family thing as the kids have gotten older; it didn't need to be on the list. Ditto with games.

My general plan is for Christopher to do Writing with Skill Level 1 about twice each week, probably on copywork days, in addition to our BW activities.   Grace will alternate between Writing with Skill and The Creative Writer most days, joining in with BW activities as she wishes. I did give her the option of taking a WWS break, but she wants to stick with it and finish the book. My younger two are going to take a break from WWE to focus on our BraveWriter activities.

Our Spring Brave Writer Plan

* Mondays: Copywork

* Tuesdays: Work on Writing Project  (list below)

* Wednesdays: Copywork or current writing project (whichever feels right that day)

* Thursdays: Dictation & work on project

* Fridays: Freewrite 

More information on copywork, dictation, and freewriting can be found in The Writer's Jungle, or on the  Brave Writer Lifestyle page. I will also be sharing our experiences as we go along.

So copywork, dictation, and freewriting will make up our basic writing framework. Each week we will also spend at least two days working on our current writing project. I am trying to embrace a less is more approach, so we will focus on just one (or two short) writing projects each month. 

March Writing Projects

* Keen Observation Exercise - over the course of two weeks or so... observe and take detailed notes on an object, turn the notes into a paragraph, then work on editing and word choice.

* Start some sort of list on one of our copywork days (lots of ideas in TWJ for doing this!).

* Read some limericks and tongue twisters together and try writing some!


* Retell a famous story.  This link is helpful. I plan to introduce some basic plot diagramming as part of this project. Illustrations would be great for this as well!

*Choose a freewrite to revise next month. By month's end we should have about eight freewrites to choose from.


* Work on editing chosen freewrites, including expanding on them as necessary... again, lots of tips in TWJ for doing this.

I think this plan should take us through the spring and straight into our summer break. I am pretty excited about it and the kids are too!