July 29, 2014

Beginning Our Journey (Part 2)

(continued from Beginning Our Journey)

Three years later, Mollie is still growing and learning by simply being a kid. She still loves to draw, and has started illustrating and writing a series of comic books that she hopes to sell someday. She's incredibly crafty and often takes trash or other things she finds and turns them into some kind of toy. She has a passion for nature and geography, and loves anything done by National Geographic. She can do some basic addition/subtraction, and has learned how to read simple cvc (consonant-vowel-consanant) words by playing reading games on my phone. We haven't done anything structured at all yet.

Now that she is 5, we will be officially starting our home school journey. Moving from Alaska to Michigan was a big change, but we moved from one very "homeschool-friendly" state to another. Unlike Alaska, there are no public funds for homeschooling, but on the upside, there is no required reporting, testing, or regulations from the state. The only requirement is to "provide your children instruction in the subject areas of Reading, Spelling, Mathematics, Science, History, Civics, Literature, Writing and English Grammar”. What to use, and how to do that is totally up to us.

In researching about homeschooling, I've read a lot about the different homeschooling methods (classical, Charlotte Mason, Thomas Jefferson education, Montessori, Waldorf, traditional, unschooling, etc.) I don't know that I will be following any particular method, but one trait found in several methods that I do find myself agreeing with is that kindergarten aged children should still be spending most of their time learning through play and everyday life. Luckily kindergarten isn't actually required in Michigan, so we have a lot of leeway in how much structured learning we do. I want this year to be hands-on, laid-back, and most of all - fun.

The two subjects that we'll be focusing on are Reading and Math. Yep, just like the "three R's" (reading, writing, and 'rithmetic :) I think kindergarten could easily be done without using official curriculum, but between having Stu gone half the time and three kids, I don't have much free time, and wanted something that would take the majority of the planning out of the equation. When it came to choosing curriculum, I was clueless. I started at square one and spent months learning about the different options, reading sample lessons, and looking for feedback and reviews from other parents.

For reading, I'm still deciding between two curriculums. The first is All About Reading. I've read through the sample lessons of many reading curriculums and books, and this one was a clear winner for me. It's multisensory, using magnetic letter tiles, games, and crafts/activities in the lessons. I love the fact in each lesson, you use the magnetic letters to physically "build" words.

I hadn't been looking into reading curriculum for months, but I noticed a deal on Educents, a daily deal website for educational materials, for the complete Pre-K through 2nd grade Hooked on Phonics homeschool curriculum. With four grade levels costing just a few dollars more than the All About Reading Level 1 program, I had to check it out. If you're like me, Hooked on Phonics brings to mind a gimmicky "as seen on tv" deal. It used to be a supplemental program for struggling readers, but it's gone through some redesigns over the years and now it's Learn to Read program is designed to work as a full curriculum for both homeschoolers, or in a mainstream classroom. Each of the 4 levels it comes with includes 6-12 readers, 2 storybooks, 2 workbooks, 2 DVDs that introduce the sounds taught in the lessons through songs, and stickers to use with a progress chart. You also get to become a member of a special part of the company's website where there are games and printables that correspond to the lessons. Mollie has used the Hooked on Phonics iPhone app and enjoyed it, so it's giving me something to think about. The price for what you get is definitely amazing, but I'm trying not to let money be my deciding factor. If we do go with Hooked on Phonics, I would definitely use our CVC Triblocks or make my own magnetic letters tiles to add that hands-on element to the lessons.
For math, I decided on Saxon Math K. It was a toss up between Saxon and Math-U-See. Both focus on using manipulatives. Saxon uses a huge variety of manipulatives in the early years, and that sealed the deal for me. I used this curriculum in public elementary school and remember using some of these same things!

So, as far as "real curriculum" for this year, that's it! But that doesn't mean that's all she'll be learning. For the other subjects, science, geography, history, writing, and social studies, we'll be taking a child-led/interest based approach, but I'll leave that for next time..

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