Books and Resources Part 2: FREEBIES!

In Part 1 of this two-part post, I listed websites and resources for purchasing used and new books and curriculum. In this Part 2, every resource listed here is free! I’ve organized it into:

Books/Texts

Full Curriculum

Informational/Partial curriculum or full curriculum (organized by subject)

Games/Interactive (organized by subject)

Videos

This list is by no means comprehensive; it merely scratches the surface of the vast amount of free resources currently available online.  Also, please note that I cannot verify the appropriateness of the content of each of these sites. Some are secular, some are Christian. Use your own judgment.

Sites with Free Books/Texts

LibriVox. You can download and listen to free audio readings of books in the public domain; a good source for classics.

ICDL (International Children’s Digital Library). Free children’s books from around the world; choose your language then you can filter results from there.

Many Books offers more than 33,000 free ebooks, including titles that are not in the public domain.

Open Library has over 1.7 million free ebooks, including high school and college textbooks; available in a number of formats.

Authorama offers more free ebooks of the classics/public domain literature in HTML and XHTML format.

Read Print. Lots of classics; lets you keep track of what you’ve read in a user-friendly way and provides the opportunity to discuss books and join online book clubs and groups.

Questia has 5,000 free classics, rare books, and textbooks.  

Project Gutenberg. For the older texts and classics; over 50,000 free books.  Also good for research purposes when looking for original source material; along those lines, see also texts from  Wikisource and Google Books.

Internet Archive boasts a rich collection of over 16 million free downloadable books, plus movies, music, software, etc.

Wikibooks. Free educational books/textbooks; note that these are open content and anyone can edit them.

FreeComputerBooks. For the geeks, a site with tons of free computer programming/coding books; see also FreeTechBooks for free computer science books/textbooks—over 1,200 available.

Local library. When you’re looking for a particular title you need for a school assignment, don’t forget this resource! And many times even if you’re local library doesn’t have it, you may be able to procure it through inter-library loan.

Free Full Curriculum Sites

The sites listed here offer lessons in all academic subjects, for free.

Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. This is a laid-back, Christian curriculum with a bit of an “unschooling” flavor. It teaches preschool through 8th grade, with a separate site offering high school curriculum. It covers reading, writing, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, math, history/social studies/geography, science, Spanish, Bible, computer, music, art, PE/health, and logic.

Kahn Academy. Spanning kindergarten through high school, Kahn Academy has millions of students the world over, while their resources are being translated into 36 different languages. Their mission is “to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” The bulk of the course relies on instructional videos and practice exercises. (I even signed up for its math instruction to fill in some of my own gaps!)

Ambleside Online offers a classical/Charlotte Mason-style homeschool curriculum. It relies heavily on living books—real-world literature, as opposed to textbooks. Thirty-six week schedules are outlined in detail for each grade. (This would be one of my top picks.)

Free World U is a pre-K through 12 academy that teaches the subjects through electronic flashcards; a $19.95/month upgrade to the free version provides exams, an exam portal, a feedback function, a year plan, and progress bars; several other upgrades/extensions are also available.

See a list of more full, free online programs here

Informational/Partial or Full Curriculum (remember that these subjects can also be found at the “full curriculum” sites listed above)

Science

Teach Preschool Science. Complete, free science curriculum for ages 3 through kindergarten; lesson plans, learning experiences involving various projects, and related books, websites, and resources are included.

Science Sparks. All kinds of fun, hands-on projects, activities, and sensory/messy play for little tikes—looks like a very fun site!

Magic School Bus science curriculum (for elementary grades). This includes free lesson plans, worksheets, and experiments to go along with the episodes—which you will need to purchase or borrow.

Classic Science Life. Free downloadable science ebooks for children of all ages.

Guest Hollow . Science of Seasons is a free literature and activity-based science curriculum for a younger grade (this one is more classical/Charlotte Mason style). This site also offers other science courses for elementary, upper elementary and even high school students, relying on living books and hands-on activities (while some are free, some require the purchase of a curriculum schedule, $25). Check them out—they’re pretty awesome!

Try Engineering. Lesson plans for 141 cool projects can be found here as downloadable pdf files; ages 8 and up.

Micropolitan Museum. This science site features image galleries of microscopic specimens.

Zooborns features “the newest, cutest animals from the world’s zoos and aquariums.”

Math

Do the kids need a little extra math practice in a certain area, or maybe just need a worksheet here and there over the summer to help them keep up what they’ve already learned? The following sites offer free math activities and printable worksheets for many different grades: K5 LearningHomeschool MathEducation, Math Aids, and SoftSchools.

History and Geography

Bringing Up Learners. Free, full year history curriculum: lesson plans, guides, and resource suggestions.

Guest Hollow also has free American history curriculum (grades 2-6)!

Timeline Index. Everything is organized by “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when.”

Check out this LONG list of free geography curriculum, resources, and supplements.

Language Arts

Scott Foresman grammar and writing curriculum. Free online grammar and writing handbooks for grades 1-6.

National Treasures Workbooks. Downloadable spelling and grammar practice books for grades K-6.

KISS Grammar . Instructional materials and workbooks for grade 2 through high school.

Spelling Words Curriculum. Complete spelling curriculum for grades 1-5.

Bible Based Spelling Lessons. Spelling lessons for lower elementary grades.

Art

Hodgepodge .  Over 100 free art lessons for many ages.

Kinder Art. Preschool through high school arts and crafts projects.

Music

This find made me so excited! Years ago when I taught piano I used the Mayron Cole music curriculum. This complete course begins as young as kindergarten or pre-K and spans through high school. Lessons, music theory, performance music—everything is here; this course is good for both group and private lessons. The books were always a little pricey, but I felt they were worth the cost: they’re fun, heavy on theory (no, those two things are not mutually exclusive 😉 ), and encourage mastery.

Then a few weeks ago I received an email that made my day: Mayron Cole was retiring and she had decided to gift her music curriculum to the world…for free. More than 3,600 pages, 525 solos, 1,000 worksheets, 60 ensembles, 650 midi and mp3 fully orchestrated accompaniments, and several games are available as free downloads—every product and book she ever created! I’ve already started downloading the books and accompaniments—it’s like Christmas, people! So check this incredible offer out here. Screenshot_20180515-141026 

Miscellaneous/Multi-subject

Rudiments of Wisdom Encyclopedia . Informative and entertaining, this online encyclopaedia is written up in the form of cartoonish drawings with text.

Virtual Homeschool Group . This site offers free, online courses for IEW, Fix it Grammar, Saxon Math, Spanish, Photography, Mystery of History, Apologia science, and more! Video lessons and computer-scored quizzes and tests included!

Games/Interactive

Science

Science Kids offers interactive science games, as well as projects, lessons and more.

Math

Johnnie’s Math Page. Math practice and games for ages 5-15.

Math Game Time. Free math games, videos, and worksheets.

Math Goodies. Free math games, interactive lessons, and downloadable worksheets.

History and Geography

History Mystery. Search for clues and enter the answers as you read.

Mission US. For grades 5-8. These role-playing mission games help students explore historical time periods and events. “Each mission consists of an interactive game and a set of curriculum materials that are aligned to national standards and feature document-based activities.”

DOCSTeach is a free tool for teaching from original documents; it provides primary source materials, then allows you as the parent to create your own interactive learning activities with these sources.

Ducksters Geography. I’ve played some games from this site with the kids.

National Geographic Kids. Lots of videos, games, and information for kids. It covers more than geography, of course; science and history are also touched on.

Language Arts

Grammar Practice Park. Grammar games organized by grade.

BBC grammar games. Alphabet, spelling, and grammar games.

Education Spelling Games. Spelling, letter knowledge, reading, and word games.

Home Spelling Words. Lists, games, tests and practice.

Spelling City targets spelling, writing, phonics, and vocabulary.

Art

NGAkids Art Zone. Interactive art activities at the National Gallery of Art.

Miscellaneous/Multi-subject

Starfall covers a variety of topics. There is a free version and an upgraded version which you can pay for. I have only used the free version with the kids and this has allowed them to practice reading and math skills. I noticed a difference, that they had gained ground in their phonics skills, when they started using this.

Apples4theTeacher. Interactive site with lots of games covering a vast array of educational subjects.

Sheppard Software has a variety of games, videos and quizzes on a variety of subjects.

Apps—there are many free educational games you can download. 

Videos

There are so many educational videos on every subject under the sun available on YouTube and elsewhere that there’s no way I could even begin to scratch the surface. But for history and art, here are several compilations others have made of these offerings:

History Videos for Kids from Brookdale House is a great educational resource as it gives extensive lists/collections of YouTube videos for different periods/subjects of history (was having trouble with the link this morning so I don’t currently have one in this post, but you should be able to google it).

YouTube Art Lessons for Kids. List of art channels for kids.

A Big List of Free Art Lessons on YouTube. A lengthy list of YouTube channels that teach art, sorted by style/subject; many are probably geared toward older students.

* * * * *

Do you have some favorite free resources you use? Share in the comments!

School Curriculum Part 6: The Odds and Ends–from Art to Government

And here’s a wrap-up to the series of posts on school curriculum for this year, touching on the miscellany not previously covered. 🙂

Art

I debated on many different things for art lessons this year. There are so many neat programs out there! Unfortunately many of them are also quite pricey. So this year I stuck to something more modest and within budget: Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes. Essentially what a homeschooling philosophy is to homeschooling, this book is to one’s approach to art, laying a foundation for all art study and practice. It is, first and foremost, a philosophy of art. In fact, the first 45 pages of the book simply explain the reasoning behind the methodology presented. 20180428_110731

Brookes emphasizes the parts to the whole. In other words, she helps the student learn to “see” that all art is made up of just a few basic sorts of lines and shapes—five, to be exact: the dot family, the circle family, the straight line family, the curved line family, and the angle line family. The student is trained to look for and identify these as they draw their images, first from paper graphics, and eventually still life.

This is not something you go through and “complete” in a year (there are actually only a handful of actual lessons). It’s a philosophy of art methodology, and so something you can practice and incorporate through many years of art study. I found it very interesting, and while we worked on some introductory exercises this year, I’m looking forward to using this in the years to come. 20180428_110754

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We also used step-by-step drawing exercises from books we borrowed at the library, and from videos on YouTube (lots of great channels for kids!).

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Marcus drew Olaf, and Bri the cake from YouTube videos. 🙂

Bible and Bible/Character Curriculum

Bible reading, Scripture memory, prayer, and singing are all part of Bible time each morning. Then we delve into our Bible and/or character curriculum. I’ve used different things: one year we went through The Young Peacemaker by Corlette Sande. Another year we we studied through the first 10 chapters of Proverbs verse by verse. Last school year we read The Ology Book by Marty Machowski. This year we used Adventures in Obedience from the Cat and Dog Theology series by Bob Sjogren.

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The course includes two coloring books, a book of missionary stories, a CD with more missionary stories, and a parent’s guide. Each morning the kids color (and we discuss) a picture of a dog and a cat reacting to a real-life situation that children often encounter; the “cat” reacts to please himself, while the “dog” seeks to glorify God—to “make Him famous.” A missionary story (from the book or CD) is read (or listened to) each day as well. This character curriculum emphasizes growth in character and obedience from a place of pursuing the glory of God rather than from a mere moralistic, self-improvement standpoint, which I appreciate. I have few complaints, though I might share a minor caveat or two.

There were a couple of coloring pages, the message of which I disagreed with somewhat, as far as how it was presented. Most of the missionary stories are pretty neat, although a little heavy on the tales of Mennonites (this book was not written by Sjogren but is a book formerly published by the Mennonites, which Sjogren added into the curriculum). There were a small handful of stories where I thought the story choice a little strange, too. Nevertheless, there was lots of good stuff here, and the kids enjoyed coloring the pictures, discussing the attitudes and actions presented, and listening to tales of men and women who shared the gospel of Jesus.

Thinking Skills 20180428_110439

Brianna: This year we used Building Thinking Skills Level 1 from The Critical Thinking Co. (Click link, check under “special offers,” and follow the instructions to get a free printable puzzle delivered to your inbox each week!)  It’s marked for grades 2-3 so we completed half of it this year and we’ll complete the other half next year (Level 2 spans grades 4-6). The first half of the book focuses on spatial reasoning: figural similarities and differences, sequences, classifications, analogies, etc., and the second half deals with verbal reasoning (describing things, similarities and differences, sequences, classifications, and analogies). It’s a good supplement to math and language studies and only takes a few minutes a day to complete. 

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Marcus: He worked through the entire Developing the Early Learner series of 4 books. This tracks and develops fine motor, visual, auditory, and comprehension skills through fun daily exercises. 20180428_111516 

Law and Government (afflink below)

Another homeschooling family introduced us to the Tuttle Twins—and we love them! With six titles in the series (when I purchased them; I believe there are more now), this is a pretty unique set of books, as it introduces young children to the principles of freedom, Austrian economics, and classical liberalism. Connor Boyack breaks down the ideas and vocabulary of political and economic concepts, making them accessible for even the youngest kids.

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The Golden Rule introduces kids to the non-aggression principle, based on Ron Paul’s book, A Foreign Policy of Freedom. In Food Truck Fiasco, the dangers of protectionism are presented, while kids learn about business and economics (this book is based on Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson). The Miraculous Pencil explores the way the free market works and is based on Leonard Reed’s essay, I, Pencil. In The Creature from Jekyll Island, kids learn about the Federal Reserve and the meaning of terms like “fiat currency,” “inflation,” and “medium of exchange.” Road to Surfdom is a play on words, being based on F. A. Hayek’s book, Road to Serfdom. This tale underscores the unintended consequences of central planning. The Law explores the role of government, and challenges the idea that plundering personal property can be justified in the name of a “good cause.” Based on Frederic Bastiat’s book, The Law.

Bonus: each book includes a free download of worksheets to go along with it!

Ron Paul approved! 😉

School Curriculum Part (2+3=) 5: Patterns and Principles of Numbers

Math. Every kid’s favorite subject.

Or not.

Well I guess there are a few cases out there of children who have a math-loving disorder (that is, they actually love math), but my kids do not happen to be afflicted with any such thing.

Unfortunately. ;p

But hey for the record, I won’t say they hate it either—at least not most of it. Honestly I think some of that is because of the tactile, hands-on way math is introduced in the program we use, and the many games it relies on to teach the facts.

 RightStart Math definitely has its draw-backs. It’s time-consuming, teacher-intensive, and sometimes introduces concepts at a faster pace than kids are ready for. But I haven’t sacked it for another curriculum yet and there’s a good reason for that. 20180416_131548

This program really helps kids understand math. It encourages them to think outside the box and to see the patterns in numbers. It does not rely on rote memory or a list of steps. Instead, different ways of finding answers are explored so that a child is stretched to see the patterns and principles—not just memorize a list of rules.

We spent a year and a half in Level B (which is the equivalent of a 1st grade program), and I plan to spread Level C out over a year and a half as well (2 levels in 3 years). Now while I mentioned that Level B would rate as a 1st grade program, you should know that this is not a traditional math program, and it’s actually quite ambitious. At this level children are taught to add double-digit numbers in their head and four-digit numbers (or more) on paper. They make a cotter tens fractal, learn to use an abacus, construct shapes on a geoboard, and practice symmetry mirroring, as well as the traditional stuff like learning to count change and tell time.

I have not seen a program do a better job at teaching math concepts in a way that’s very relatable and easy to understand. Initially, everything is modeled with hands-on manipulatives, which the program relies on heavily. The core manipulative is the abacus. Students are taught numbers based on patterns of 5 and 10. Until a child is comfortable adding or subtracting without the abacus, it can be used as a sort of calculator to imprint a visual number picture in the child’s mind. I think I rushed Bri through this stage a little bit, which I regret. I think she needed more time with the abacus before we tried not using it, but I was trying to “keep up” with the program.

My mistake.

If you move at your own child’s pace you will get much more out of this program. I’ve had another mom, who was presenting this curriculum at a homeschool conference, tell me the same thing: she wished she hadn’t tried to stick to the program schedule but had moved at her own children’s pace. I decided it was worth spending a little extra time with the curriculum instead of trying to rush Bri through at the (sometimes) mad pace the program pushes. The curriculum itself is so good it’s worth taking extra time to get through (and sometimes skipping over a few things they may not be ready for to revisit them later) instead of switching to an “easier” program.

Bri finished Level B and started Level C shortly before Christmas. So here’s a sample lesson plan, and how we do it each day:

(This is Lesson 94 in the teacher’s manual from Level B, which has 106 lessons)

We start with a warm-up: today she counts by 10’s backwards from 100, counts by 2’s backwards from 20, finds “how much more” (how much more is needed with 65 to make 70? with 39 to make 41?, etc.), and mentally adds some numbers (24 + 24, 37 + 37, etc., but in this case I give them to her as 24 + 20, etc. because we are still trying to sort value places of numbers and sometimes when mentally adding them she confuses the ones and tens places).

Now we move into the actual lesson part. This is where new concepts and problems are introduced and/or new techniques practiced. Many times various manipulatives will be used in the presentation of the lesson (items needed are listed at the beginning of the lesson). Today we only use the abacus and a part-whole circle set to help us understand subtraction by finding the missing addend. 20180416_131818 

The first problem is given: “Little Bo Peep started out with 9 sheep in the morning on the day she lost her sheep. Five of her missing sheep arrived home at 2:00. How many more sheep must still come home?”

We write the 9 in the large circle and the 5 in one of the smaller circles: we know the “whole” amount of sheep Little Bo Peep started with was 9, and we know the “part” that she found was 5. We write the equation as a missing addend equation together: 5 + ? = 9. Now we have to discover what the other “part” is.

We can do this by starting with 5 on our abacus and adding on from 5 to reach 9. So she enters 5: 20180416_131829

Now she enters the remaining beads needed to make 9, leaving a gap between them: 20180416_131838

So now we can visually see that the parts 5 and 4 make 9. She writes this equation down both ways as we stress which is the whole and which are the parts: 5 + 4 = 9/9 – 5 = 4.

After several similar problems are given, a worksheet follows for practice (note that the worksheets are purchased separately from the teacher’s manual). With the book of worksheets, I tore the individual pages out and slid them into slipcovers and kept them in a three-ring binder so they could be written on with dry erase markers and erased. This way I was able to have her revisit and practice old worksheets and practice sheets as we went (and I won’t have to buy a new workbook for Marcus). If you feel you need some proof/documentation that the work was done, just snap a shot of each worksheet as it’s completed and save these photos in a file on your phone or computer.

The warm-up, lesson, and worksheet usually take us 20-30 minutes. If it looks like it’s going to take longer than that I split the lesson up and we do part of it the next day: keeping lesson time short and sweet—especially for young ones—is a good idea. We split our math time up into 2 to 3 short study periods each day. The warm-up/lesson/worksheet is our morning study; during afternoon quiet time I send Bri up to her room with an old worksheet or a simple facts practice sheet for her to complete on her own; then in the evening we will sometimes play a math game.

This math program relies heavily on games…and Bri loves them! We play addition war (we each lay 2 cards down and the person whose cards equate to the higher number takes all 4).

We play addition coin war (when adding two coins became too easy, we added 3 and 4 coins at a time, etc.). 

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When she was learning addition to 10 we played Go to the Dump. It’s played similar to Go Fish, except you are trying to match numbers that add up to 10 (if you have a 7 you ask for a 3, etc.). She would laugh hysterically whenever she was told to “Go to the Dump.” I guess that was funny, lol.

One of the games we’ve played the most is Corners: when you lay a card down on your turn, the two numbers that touch each other must add up to 5, 10, 15, or 20; you then add this to your total score. Throughout the game as the score is kept Bri has to mentally add the numbers in her head. We usually play to 100 points. 

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I laid these out hastily just for the picture.  When I was looking at it later, I realized I’d put a black 4 and 3 together.  Don’t even know what happened.  Oops.  😉

 

As for Marcus, instead of buying Level A for kindergarten I’m using Level B—and just introducing him to the first few lessons which deal with learning numbers and addition facts to ten (the first part of Level B is simply a review of what was taught in Level A). He’s five. So we keep it short and simple—probably 10-15 minutes/day.

So there’s a glimpse into our math curriculum. What program are you using? What have you found that works for your family?

School Curriculum Part 4: Of Leaves and Lichens

Science!  Brianna tells me this is her favorite subject.  🙂

We’re working our way through the Young Explorer Series by Apologia. Very much based on a Charlotte Mason style of education, this curriculum does not include any tests or formal reviews. Instead, copywork, narration, and journaling are relied on to help the student learn the material—and remember it. 20180325_154558

All the books in this series are written for 1st through 6th+ graders: you can use one science book to teach any/all of your children in this grade range (makes it super nice and saves teaching time if you have more than one child—plus the siblings get to be studying the same cool stuff together).

This series takes an immersion approach to science: instead of briefly sketching the surface while covering a broad range of subjects each year (spiral approach), one subject is made the center focus for the whole year. 20180325_154642

Last year we studied astronomy. This year we are delving into botany. Exploring Creation with Botany is divided into 13 lessons. Each lesson introduces a new topic related to the main subject, followed by science experiments, project and activity ideas, and journaling suggestions (note: this is not all meant to be covered in a mere 13 lessons; rather each lesson is split up over multiple days—generally a couple of weeks). After each short section is studied, narration prompts are given in the textbook. The chapters are as follows:

Lesson 1: Botany

Lesson 2: Seeds

Lesson 3: Flowers

Lesson 4: Pollination

Lesson 5: Fruits

Lesson 6: Leaves

Lesson 7: Roots

Lesson 8: Stems

Lesson 9: Trees

Lesson 10: Gymnosperms

Lesson 11: Seedless Vascular Plants

Lesson 12: Nonvascular Plants

Lesson 13: Nature Journaling 20180325_154125

Every textbook has a corresponding, spiral-bound Notebooking Journal (purchased separately). You have two choices here: the regular Notebooking Journal, or the “junior” version for beginning writers (if your kiddos are still pretty young/in the earlier grades). I bought the junior versions both last year and this year and they include Scripture copywork, coloring pages, more project ideas (and sometimes templates for the projects in the main textbook), nature journaling pages, space for making notes on experiments, reproducible material for making matchbooks and minibooks, references, labeling pages, and a suggested reading list for each chapter. 20180325_154116

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The Journal is a very convenient and attractive way to not only provide extra activities but to showcase the student’s work. However, not wanting to have to buy a separate notebook for each student (they’re around $20/each), I ended up buying My Nature Journal by Cheryl Swope, and having Brianna record her work there while keeping the Apologia journal for reference, but free of markings. 20180325_154405

For Marcus I bought a small, hardcover, blank book set for him to draw pictures in. 20180325_155504

A couple of the little projects we did this year included making a light hut (in which we grew basil), and learning about taxonomy by going through the shoes in my closet and classifying them into the categories of kingdom, phylum, class, and order respectively. As far as the text was concerned, since they are still pretty young I sometimes skimmed/summarized the lesson, using it as a basic outline rather than reading the entire chunk of text word for word (although in other sections we did read it line by line like any other book). 20180325_154722

Nature walks are obviously an integral part of this study course, so we headed out with Backyard Explorer: Leaf & Tree Guide by Rona Beame. After we were well into the school year I came across another handy little reference at a bookstore, from the Fandex Family Field Guides, Trees: North American Trees Identified by Leaf, Bark & Seed. Dozens and dozens of trees are presented with photos and descriptions of their leaves, bark, seeds, flowers, and fruit.

If you are into nature journaling, you may enjoy a closed Facebook group called Charlotte Mason Nature Journaling. Here you can see and share ideas and photos with other fellow nature enthusiasts.  20180325_154304

As we worked our way through the course we borrowed books from the library to go along with whatever we were studying. We watched documentaries—from the library and from our own creation science collection. I also found short videos related to our subject on YouTube.

For instance, when we were learning about the life cycle of ferns, we watched this animated presentation. There are a lot of high-quality videos on YouTube that correlate well with science studies. Often after we read our text the kids will beg for a video so they can actually see the principle in action or pictures/footage of the subject. YouTube is practically limitless here. I’ve even seen my kids sit through very dry scientific lectures on YouTube—and stay more or less engaged. 20180325_154233

As another little fun “extra,” we put together a 4D plant cell anatomy model.

I’m saving a surprise for the kids for the end of the school year: I plan to take them to visit Wichita’s Botanica gardens (30 gardens covering over 17 acres) for a fun conclusion to this year’s botany study. One area—Downing Children’s Garden—is dedicated specifically to children.

Looking forward to it! 🙂

School Curriculum Part 3: Reading and Language Arts

Here’s what we’re using for phonics/reading, grammar, and spelling.  🙂

Phonics/Reading 20180314_155054

We use Phonics Pathways for our core reading program. This is an all-in-one, kindergarten through second grade program-in-a-book. While Marcus is just starting in it Bri is hurrying to finish it up. It also includes simple games (which both of my kids thought were a lot of fun). It’s not divided up into specific lessons; instead you move at the child’s own pace, whether that means completing half a page or two pages/day. There’s a lot of helpful instruction for the parent as well.

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For reading, I have used the Amish Pathway readers with Brianna (Marcus isn’t ready for them yet). Bri started out in the 2nd grade readers this year and zoomed through all of those, then completed the 3rd grade readers as well, so that she has now graduated to other chapter books. She reads a chapter in her Bible each day and has started on the Boxcar Children series.

A site we’ve used for reading and phonics fun is Starfall. I never paid for the full version, but we’ve just used what was available on the free version for a little extra math and reading fun. 🙂

Grammar 20180314_155050

 First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind takes a Classical/Charlotte Mason approach to language study. I think one of the best words to describe the approach used here is “gentle.” Copywork, dictation, poetry memorization, story readings and discussions—as well as the technical side of learning parts of speech, diagramming, etc.—all play an integral part in this language program. Each lesson is scripted for the teacher which makes it very easy to use (books 1 and 2 contain 100 lessons each). Lesson time will vary from child to child, but we probably spend about 10-15 minutes a day with it on average (minus copywork time). Although Marcus isn’t technically at the grammar level of study in these books, he memorizes the poems with Bri. 20180314_155349

It’s easy to teach, easy to use, and we plan to work our way through the whole series of four books.

Spelling

We’ve started with a program called Spelling You See. I love, love, love everything about this program…okay, except for the price tag. It is a little pricey (as in $40+ to $50+ per grade level), but I use these consumable/non-reproducible books in a way that will make them last through every child who will use them, so I feel like the cost is at least somewhat justified (I’ll explain in a minute). 20180314_155457

Copywork and dictation are the foundation of this course. However, its real strength and unique quality lies in its highly visual approach to learning. No tests are ever given or required (though you can do this for your child yourself if you feel it’s a must).

Bri started out in Level B this school year (technically about a first grade level) and it includes two student workbooks, a handwriting chart, and the instructor’s handbook. The books contain 18 lessons each for a total of 36 weeks’ worth of lessons. In the first book, she practiced copying a new poem each week (so in Lesson 1 she copied part of “Jack and Jill” every day for a week). Then she practiced tracing letters and/or writing some words from dictation (week 1 included 3, three-letter words, but towards the end of the first book she was writing up to 15 words/day from dictation, and words with up to 5 letters each). 

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The second student workbook is where she began to really get into the core of the program: color “chunking.” As with the first book, she copies a poem each week. But first, she reads the poem, then gets out her crayons and “chunks” it (we use dry erase crayons on a sheet protector into which we slip her page for the day, so it’s erasable and reusable).  20180314_155728 

Yellow is used for “vowel chunks.” Purple for “bossy R chunks.” Blue for “consonant chunks.” Pink for “endings” (like ed, es, ful, ing, ly, etc.) And so on (initially, only a couple of colors are used as children get practice with the concept). By color coding each of these “chunks” in her poem each day, she is creating a visual memory of the words. The reason this becomes so important (especially later on) is because many English words are not phonetically spelled, and cannot simply be “sounded out.”

So after she “chunks” her poem, she copies part of it (in a separate notebook; I don’t let her write in the student workbook). She then chunks the poem (this time handwritten) a second time before finishing up her lesson. She is then to read what she has written. 

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So read, chunk, copy, chunk, read. That’s the order. Then at the end of each week instead of copying her poem, she writes it in its entirety from dictation/memory.

I can see the program helping her already. When I’m dictating a word in her poem I’ll ask, “What vowel chunk (or what bossy r chunk) did you color in this word?” The light will go on and she’ll be like, “Oh, I colored ‘ou’ in ‘spout’”; or “Oh yeah, I colored the bossy r chunk ‘ar’ in ‘cupboard.’” 20180314_095612

She’s usually able to complete a lesson in 15 minutes or so, depending on how much she piddles. 😉 And most of her lesson can be completed independently, so there’s very little teacher time involved and practically zero prep time with this course (after the 1st book of Level B, that is).

It’s a win-win for Mom! 😉

Around the World in…Four Semesters: School Curriculum Part 2

My son is obsessed with all things maps. If you didn’t think someone could actually love geography, well…

He collects maps the way some kids collect coins or stamps. Family, friends, and acquaintances have supplied him with maps galore, and I’ve bought him a National Geographic book of our National Parks—just because the thing is filled with maps. When a friend sent me a homemade apron made from atlas print material, Marcus went bananas over it.

“Hey! It’s got a map, Mom!”

We’re not doing a formal geography curriculum this year. It’s more like a little bit of this and a little bit of that. To me, geography is a subject that would be incredibly boring in a vacuum, divorced from its bigger (and much more interesting) brother, History. So I tacked some of it on to our history lesson: after listening to our lesson, we simply find the place the events took place in on a globe and/or map, and we might look up pictures of the country on the internet.

Then we fill the cracks in with bits and pieces here and there.

My favorite discovery in this department for this year has been the Draw ____ series. Each book focuses on a different country or continent, teaching you to draw and label it in its entirety, step-by-step. 20180127_130916

I intend to slowly collect the series over time. This year I bought Draw the World and Draw Europe. Bri was able to follow the simple directions on her own to complete both maps. She’s already drawn Europe a couple of times, and I plan on having her periodically get the books back out and draw through each one multiple times as she gets older to help her memorize the layout in her mind.

While I originally only planned to assign a few steps a day, she ended up enjoying it so much she finished a map in one day of her own accord the first time I gave her the book!

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This was her drawing of Europe.  🙂

 

Puzzles are another great way to help kids learn geography painlessly. While we have various geography puzzles, my favorite set would be the Geo Puzzles. What makes these different is the fact that each piece is cut out in the shape of a country, state, or continent.  

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Finally, there’s media/internet. In my history post I mentioned we watch “Are We There Yet?” videos from the National Geographic Kids channel on YouTube.  (Another article I linked to in the history post also lists various other history and geography YouTube channels for kids.)

A couple of websites we use for learning and games include National Geographic Kids, and Ducksters. I also found a closed Facebook group called Learn Around the World which I joined. Members post a potpourri of neat ideas, games, projects, books, etc. related to geography. It’s a fun group to follow, so if you’re looking for ideas in this department join up and check the group out. 🙂

When I was a kid one of my favorite computer games was DK’s World Explorer. Having fond memories of this, I looked it up to see if I could find an updated version for my kids. Sure enough. With few changes, it’s exactly how I remember it. There’s a LOT of geographic information packed into this colorful game. To this day I still remember facts I first learned from it. Good memories!  Screenshot_20180312-151337

How about you, Mamas? What are you using this year for geography?

Dashing Knights and Fair Damsels: School Curriculum 2017-2018 Part 1

20180120_121541Viking raiders, daring knights, and damsels in distress—it’s the stuff of medieval legends. Making our way through a four-year tour of chronological world history, we’ve found ourselves in the Middle Ages this year. From St. Patrick to John Huss, King Alfred the Great to Joan of Arc, this time period holds many captivating stories.

We’re using The Mystery of History series by Linda Lacour Hobar. This year we’re in Volume II: The Early Church and the Middle Ages.

I enjoy this series because it covers much more than western history. This year we get to learn about the Maori in New Zealand, famous emperors and empresses of China, the great Zimbabwe of Africa, the Samurai of Japan, etc., right alongside classic western history. It’s fascinating to learn that about the same time as Leif Ericsson was discovering America, a great civilization was arising in Zimbabwe. Did you know that about the same time the Inkan empire was emerging in South America, the Turks were engaged in the conquests that would establish the Ottoman empire?

It’s captivating to watch all the pieces fit into the story together. And through it all, Hobar points to God’s sovereign plan through history in the lives and events of man and time.

Volume II contains 84 lessons, and begins in the year A.D. 33 with the disciples at Pentecost, ending in 1456 with Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. The text for each lesson is usually 2-3 full textbook pages in length. This year I bought the set on CD so that we could listen to the lessons while we’re eating breakfast. (I love this option and wish I had taken advantage of it the first year!)

Hobar provides the teacher with lots and lots of extras. She stresses that there is no reason to try to do everything she suggests. Pick and choose. (Volumes I and II both contain the text and all the extra resources and activities in one book. Volumes III and IV each include a set of books which can be purchased separately or together.) I didn’t actually make a lot of use of the “extras” this year, but I’ll run through them so that you have some idea what the program offers.

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She suggests doing a timeline and explains how to make the figures for it. The first year we made a timeline, but I bought pre-made figures to save time. It still felt like a good bit of work and with the kids being quite young I wasn’t sure that it was worth the extra effort. So we didn’t do a timeline this year, although when the kids get older I want to have them do something at least similar.

Then there are the memory cards. Each week, a few sentences summing up people and events from the lessons are written on a card and periodically reviewed. Again, I did this the first year, and got lazy on the second. I’ll wait till the kids can write out the cards for themselves. ;p

A student notebook, divided into sections by continent, is kept so that work pertaining to the lessons can be filed under the appropriate geographical sections. 20180120_120740

Her lessons include map work (all maps and templates for projects are included in the back), and we did a little bit the first year, but I decided to wait on that this year until they’re a little older. For now, I toss them an inflatable globe and we find the country we’re studying on the globe and/or map each morning.

For activities, each lesson is followed by one or more suggestions under three different categories corresponding with different age groups: younger, middle, and older students (this program can be adapted for use for 1st grade through 12th grade).

For example, after reading about the great Zimbabwe of Africa, younger students might go on a gold hunt or play gongs; middle students might visit a local craft shop, buy glass beads and string them together in honor of this ancient African tradition, or find and photocopy of picture of Victoria Falls and file them in the student notebook; and older students might research African countries and write about their basic facts (type of government, capital city, population, language, religion,). etc.). 20180120_121726

Then there are plenty of tests, quizzes, crossword puzzles—you name it. This woman has thought of everything. It would be overwhelming to try to use all of it, so you customize the program for your own family’s use.  20180120_121643

After listening to the lesson in the morning I usually try to find a brief documentary clip (or on rare occasion a full one), or even a cartoon short that sums up the story again. Just by doing a search on YouTube I can usually find something—I’ll put in the name of the person or event followed by “for kids” (you’ll see as I do this series of posts that YouTube is my best homeschooling friend, lol). You can find plenty of History Channel videos and other similar documentaries. 20171213_091806

One channel I like is Extra History (from Extra Credits): bright, peppy summaries of historical events in a sort of fast-paced, comic-book style. The overviews are really pretty good. These aren’t necessarily geared toward children, but my kids really liked the videos. 20171213_091706If we’re studying a particular country, I turn to the National Geographic Kids channel “Are We There Yet?” series: seven-minute overviews of the land and culture of a country from the perspective of kids.

When we were studying ancient history last school year and going through Bible history, a really good channel I stumbled onto was The Bible Project, which gives very solid and succinct outlines of books of the Bible, summarizing their message with personal application in 5-12 minutes’ time.

Here’s an article listing geography and history channels for elementary students on YouTube.

With the exception of The Bible Project, I can’t vouch for the appropriateness of the content of all the videos of these channels, so view with your kids at your own discretion. 😉

For a hands-on activity we’ve been using the Famous Figures series by Cathy Diez-Luckie. Each book contains 10 to 19 historical figures to cut out and put together. At the front of the book there is a short biographical section for each character, and then there are two sets of each figure printed on heavy cardstock: one in full color, and one in black and white which the student can color (we’ve just been using the colorized version). The costumes are carefully researched and historically accurate, so this is a very nice addition to a history program. 20180120_12132920180120_121254

After cutting out the pieces you attach them together with brads so that you now have a moveable figure. The kids play with them like puppets. The Famous Figures of Medieval Times include Justinian I, Theodora, Charlemagne, Leif Eriksson, William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, Genghis Khan, Francis of Assisi, Marco Polo, and Joan of Arc.

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We couldn’t study medieval times without making a castle, so I bought Easy-to-Make Castle by A. G. Smith and we cut out, folded, and glued the pieces to make our own cardstock castle (or rather, we all cut them out and I folded and glued them together). 🙂 20180120_121203

Dover Publications makes some very accurate, detailed, and informative historical coloring books. I bought Medieval Jousts and Tournaments and Life in Celtic Times, thinking the kids could color in them while they listened to the lessons. But we ended up listening to the CDs during breakfast so I had to find other times to use the books here and there. (Note: in Life in Celtic Times there was a page depicting gruesome religious practices that I chose to remove.)  20180120_121039

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Okay, that all sounds very time-consuming, but really I’ve just kept it pretty simple this year. This is what our basic history time looks like Monday through Wednesday:

We listen to the lesson during breakfast.

We find the country the story is about or takes place in on a globe and/or map.

We watch a brief video (if I can find one; also, last year we would briefly “re-enact” a scene together).

Throughout the week during our reading time (when we read storybooks, poems, etc.) I will sometimes include a book from the library on something that corresponds with our history subject.

And that’s pretty much it.

I don’t really do anything for history on Thursdays, but on Fridays we may cut out a character from Famous Figures. Haven’t done any full documentaries in awhile, but I try to schedule these for Fridays if we’re going to watch one.

And—oh, did I forget to mention History Day?

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Every once in awhile we do a themed “History Day” just for fun. We drop our other subjects for the day and do activities, read books, make projects, and even watch movies that have to do with our theme. Last year we had a history day with an ancient Egyptian theme: the kids dressed up and had a “feast” on the floor with some traditional Egyptian foods, reclining on cushions while listening to ancient Egyptian music (thank you, YouTube), etc.

This year we had a medieval-themed day. The kids dressed up, we read/looked through lots of books of castles and knights (from the library), cut out and made our castle, listened to medieval-style music (again, thank you, YouTube), had an archery contest with homemade bows that Cliff had made for the kids, read the story of Robin Hood, and to top it off they got to watch a cheesy old medieval movie: Prince Valiant.20170929_161446 20170929_160221

More for fun than for historical accuracy or academic value, History Day is still a hit in our family.

But as some say, “Play is the highest form of research.” 😉