Making Plans :: 2011-2012

by | Jul 22, 2011 | Curriculum, Home Education, Spelling | 18 comments

I never did get around to posting the list of curriculum that we used last year, and now, I am not even going to try… Instead I will mention (mainly for my own reference) what worked for us, or didn’t, as I share our plans for this coming school year.

This coming year our oldest boys will be going into 5th and 4th grade, the girls will be in 2nd and 1st.   Snuggles (who just turned 4) is still Pre-K.

I am not quite finished finalizing our History plans, and then I’ll still need to update our weekday schedule, but at least it is a start!  Here is what we are planning for the year:

.: Religion :.

We have been using the Baltimore Catechism to teach our children the Catholic Faith since our oldest was a toddler.  Another one of our favorite resources is My Catholic Faith.  Usually my husband is the one that does most of the formal catechism “classes” with the kids, and I focus on teaching the kids through celebrating the liturgical year in our home, leading Little Flowers for the girls, Lap Books, etc.

.: Math :. 

Towards the end of our 2009-2010 school year, I ended up switching Math programs yet again… Even though we loved Right Start Math, with so many little ones, I just wasn’t able to keep up.  At that time I switched the older boys to Teaching Textbooks, and the girls to workbooks that I already had on my shelves – still supplementing with the Math Games from Right Start.  I think we have finally found the perfect fit for our family!

.: Language Arts :.


This past year Twinkle Toes completed Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and is reading splendidly!   She breezed through the Faith and Freedom Readers for Grade 1 and is reading all sorts of books now.   I plan to use the same for Chiquita this coming year.   For additional phonics practice my girls both really enjoy the Explode the Code books.   Last year I did the online version (I purchased our subscription at 50% through Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op), but this year we will be going back to the printed workbooks, since my girls need all the practice they can get with handwriting.


In 2009 we also switched from using Seton’s spelling workbooks to All About Spelling.  Shortly afterwards I attended a seminar, on “Dyslexia: Symptoms and Solutions” that was given by Susan Barton, and learned that children who are dyslexic learn the best using Reading and Spelling programs which are based on the Orton-Gllighmam method of teaching.    Sure enough, it has been a perfect program for my boys!


Now that they are getting a little older, I have been searching for a program that they can complete a little more independently (freeing up more time for me to spend working with the younger children), but still includes a multi-sensory approach.   After discussing it with a friend, I think that The Phonetic Zoo from The Institute for Excellence in Writing is just what I have been looking for.   It is designed for children ages 9 years old and up, and I was very happy to see that they suggest beginning with All About Spelling.  Perfect!!


We were also very happy with our choices for Grammar last year, and will be continuing on for this school coming year.


This will also be a continuation from last year.   The only thing I am going to do differently, is make sure the boys each have their own workbook.  Last year I tried to save a little money by photocopying the Student Pages for the boys, which is allowed within your own family.  However, it was just not worth my time, not to mention the cost of paper and ink!  ðŸ™‚


Last year Captain used Word Study and Rascal used Wordly Wise.   Captain hated vocabulary and it was one of Rascal’s favorite subjects.   This year they will all be using Wordly Wise.  ðŸ˜‰   The only thing that I haven’t decided on, is whether to continue using the old editions, or try the Wordly Wise 3000 series…  (Update: After a couple emails mentioning that the new editions contain some stories with a liberal slant, I think we’ll stick with the old editions.) 


This is the one subject that I haven’t made a decision on yet. . . The girls will be continuing on with Handwriting Without Tears, but I am torn whether to continue using the Handwriting for Young Catholics series for the boys, or to switch to something a little less expensive.  In the meantime I have been watching for the Handwriting for Young Catholics books on Cathswap… We’ll see!

.: Science :.

Ever since switching to the Exploring Creation series, my children have really enjoyed Science.   The boys didn’t love Botany nearly as much as they loved studying Astronomy, but they still learned so much and had lots of fun in the process!

If by chance we finish early, we will move on to Zoology 2:

Chiquita always loves to just listen along whenever we are reading aloud from the Exploring Creation books, but she also enjoyed Science and Living in God’s World 1A last year, and will continue on to Science and Living in God’s World 1 this year.

.: History :.

For the past three years we have been using, and loving, Connecting with History!  We are never able to get to quite as many of the hands-on activities and other projects as we would like, but my children (the boys especially) love the book lists and reading assignments.   This past year was a little harder than usual. . . I ordered all the books on the book list, but I kept waiting to order the completed teachers guide (which was originally scheduled to be published last summer) instead of downloading the units as they were available.  (I really prefer having a hard copy and didn’t want to spend the money on the downloads, if I planned to purchase the print edition.)   Anyhow, we did the first three units and then continued with just reading assignments from the book lists for units 4-8, skipping any of the books that have to do with Early American History.

Since Volume 4 of Connecting with History has not been published yet, and since my boys have been begging, we will be revisiting American History this coming year!   It will be the perfect opportunity for the boys to focus (and hopefully complete) their State-by-State Scrapbook for Geography as well.    Over the past week I have been working on creating plans for the year,  which makes me even more thankful for the wonderful resource that the Connecting with History Books have been!

I’ve decided to use From Sea to Shining Sea as a spine for the boys, and America, My Country along with American History 1 for Young Catholics for the girls.    At this point I am looking at breaking the year into 6 Unit Studies, including: New World Explorers, Colonial Life, The American Revolution, The Early 19th Century, The Civil War, and The Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression.   I’ve been working on coming up with book lists, reading assignments, lap books, various projects, and timeline dates to add to their Record of Time Timeline Notebooks for each unit.   It still needs some work, but so far the plans are coming together nicely!

UPDATE:  I’ve posted our unit plans and booklists here. 

.: Geography :.
.: Music :.

Music is something that has been put off for way too long (at least formally), and so this year the kids will hopefully begin piano lessons, in addition to starting a study on composers which will include creating a “Composers” lap book.  Here are some of the resources we will be using, most of which we already own:

As a few of the new school books arrive, our children are already getting excited for “school” to begin again!  


  1. fadfd

    I love the choses Jessica. There are a lot of matches to what we used last year and will continue with this year.

    I didn't have success with Teaching Textbooks with my eldest :-(. I really liked the program but she didn't. Now my 5th grader WANTS the program but we (tutor, hubby & I) think Saxon is the best fit for him. I wish it was more lively like TT.

    Once I'm done with the lessons I may post on the blog…we'll see.

    Summer is going by much too fast!

    God bless!

  2. Erin

    Thank you so much for your blogs. I am in the process of discerning our schooling options. Your posts are an inspiration to me. I have 3 little ones (4, 3, 1). kindergarten starts this fall. My husband is pretty set on sending our daughter to a wonderful charter academy and I have homeschooling on my heart. As I look through your cirriculum, I am a bit overwhelmed and wondered if you did all 11 subjects as formally when Captain was 4/5? I was planning on the following: Little Flowers, Saint days,Liturgical celebrations, etc., HWT, Saxon Math, 100 Easy lessons and maybe Abeka K5 Social Studies, then filling in the rest with informal fun library, craft, and outing activities. Do you remember what life was like when you weren't planning cirriculum for 4 kiddos?

    Thanks and sorry for the long comment.

  3. Jessica Gordon

    Erin ~ Please don't feel overwhelmed! Homeschooling is so very rewarding, even if it is challenging at times!

    Captain has actually been the most difficult of all of my children to teach, and figuring out which programs worked best for him was overwhelming at the time – especially since I started out using Seton curriculum and he just doesn't learn well with most workbooks, needing a multi-sensory approach to learning. It wasn't until he was in 2nd grade that we learned that he had an Auditory Processing Challenge and that there was no way I would have been able to teach him to read with out the assistance of a special program. The tutor we hired was amazing, and within 70 lessons (along with swimming lessons, which also help develop that specific part of the brain) he was reading wonderfully. She said he progressed at an unbelievable speed, and credited that to homeschooling along with all my efforts to try and teach him as well as his perseverance. He still struggles, but it is now so much easier! Homeschooling has made it possible for us to create a program that is perfect for his learning style.

    Anyhow, since I spent SO much time with him, Kindergarten was extremely laid back for my next couple, and included living the liturgical year (as a family), HWT, learning to read, some math, and TONS of picture books, crafts, etc. If you look at this old schedule of ours you can get a good idea of what Kindergarten looked like for my girls – as well as by scrolling through our Alphabet Path posts. That was one of our best years of homeschooling for the younger grades! I plan to do the same with my youngest ones.

    It isn't until they are a little older that I add in grammar (which is mostly just copywork and narrating in the younger grades), spelling (once they are reading well), vocabulary (the Wordly Wise books are really just extra "fun" using crosswords and such), etc… And History and Science are just lots of picture books.

    I did recently ask my husband what I would possibly do with all the extra time if I wasn't planning curriculum and homeschooling the children… But, to be honest, when that day comes I am sure that I am going to miss it dearly!

    I'll say a little prayer for you and your husband as you discern what direction is best for your family. . .

  4. Sarah


    I kind've feel like Erin! I was home-schooled for high school, and all of my siblings were in Elementary/middle. But I can't even begin to figure out what we're going to do! Granted, my oldest is only 4, but she is definitely ready to start school (to the point of where she is begging me to take a bus), so I REALLY want to start with her. What kind of things will you do with Snuggles? Or will he "tag-along" with the others? She really wants to read, and I've been looking into CHC Little Folks program, but am not sure, because she still doesn't even know her letter sounds. I was a 3rd grade teacher pre-kids, but I never had to learn to "teach" phonics, so I'm totally lost. Most of the home-schoolers in my area are Protestant-Christian, so it's hard to really get an idea of what to do.

    I plan on doing the alphabet path (we started last year, but are going to "re-start" this year), but I tend to get really overwhelmed with all of the ideas. LOL. I want to do so much of it, and end up not doing enough. Ha!

    Anyways, I REALLY love your blog. Everything you do/write is such an inspiration to me. Thank you for all you do!

    God Bless!!


  5. Robina

    great post. I'm sure i'll reference back to it many time.s Thanks.

  6. Sarah

    How did you decide which parts to purchase from HWT?

  7. Anonymous

    This is so great! I am getting so excited for school. I know the kids are too.

  8. Amber

    Thanks so much for sharing all this! I particularly appreciate the link to the timeline notebook – I have been looking for just that sort of thing but hadn't found it.

    I'm considering using the My Catholic Faith Delivered online program for F&L too, for much the same reasons. I have only run across one person who has used it and she liked it… but that's not much to go by! But it looks like fun and a nice way to reinforce the material in a new fashion. And since I only have one old enough for it (a 4th grader) it isn't nearly such an investment! I used part of their program for adults to finish up some coursework for a catechist certificate and I was pleased with what I experienced.

    I'm hoping to finish (or at least get to a much better place!) planning next week, but we'll see!!

  9. Jessica Gordon

    Sarah ~ I am just now having a chance to get back online to answer a few emails. 🙂 I hadn't put too much thought into what I will be doing with Snuggles this coming year, but it has been on my mind a little more since reading your email yesterday. I'm not sure he is ready to do much organized learning yet…

    However, I am considering purchasing the new All About Reading Level Pre-1 to try with him, which focuses on pre-reading skills. I was pleased with the Spelling programs written by Marie Rippel, and this program sounds great too.

    I also plan to order a few workbooks (Get Set for School-HWT, Cutting, Tracing, Mazes, Numbers, etc) along with some various Catholic Coloring books, for him to work on, mainly to keep him occupied while I am working with the older children. He will also be listening in to the History and Science Read Alouds, in addition to celebrating the Liturgical Year as a family (as always).

    As for which of the HWT materials we have used, let's see… Our favorite and most essential is the Wood Pieces Set for Capital Letters (you can find a economy version on ebay if the cost is an issue), Mat for Wooden Pieces, and the Capital Letter Cards. We also LOVE the "Stamp and See Screen." I bought a couple of the Slate Chalkboards, but we rarely use them. That's it… I haven't purchased any of the others. 🙂

    Hope that helps!

  10. Jessica Gordon

    Amber ~ I'm so glad you liked the timeline. I remember how excited I was when I finally found it from Homeschool in the Woods a few years ago! 🙂 It's a bit of an investment, but worth every penny!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on My Catholic Faith Delivered!

  11. Magdalena

    Dear Jessica! Every time you write about homeschooling I am fascinated by your knowledge and discipline! Here in Germany homeschooling is forbidden by law (they even send people to jail who homeschool…) – it is a shame that we are the only European country which is so stubborn on this subject.
    I just wonder what you do with Rose during schooltime – does she too have her "curriculum" or is she trying out this and that from her older siblings?

  12. Jackie

    Hi Jessica, thanks so much for this post and your blog! I am always inspired reading it! I had a question about First Language Lessons – I am thinking about using it for my 1st and 2nd graders. I see they have an audio CD to go along with it. Since you have used it before, do you think it would be helpful to have this? I also have a 4 year old and am pregnant, so I'm thinking about how to streamline things. Thanks so much and God bless! Jackie

  13. Anonymous

    It is so wonderful learning what has worked for others. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  14. Jessica Gordon

    Magdalena ~ I couldn't imagine not being allowed to Homeschool!! How sad!

    No, I do not have a specific curriculum for my youngest children on school days, but I do have special toys that only come out during school hours. I posted more about that a few years ago here: "School Time" Toys I probably should re-visit that topic and post an update! Maybe this fall. . .

    The rest of the time the babies are either sitting on my lap, playing or napping. It usually works out, at least most of the time. 😉

  15. Jessica Gordon

    Jackie ~ I wasn't aware that there was an audio CD available to go along with First Language Lessons!! I just looked into it and, after reading the reviews, it sounds great! What a perfect way to help reinforce the memory work for the early grades! I am going to pre-order the second edition CD that is scheduled to be released on Sept 1. Thanks for bringing it up!!

  16. Anonymous

    Jessica- I was just curious how Phonetic Zoo and Wordly Wise are working for your oldest? We also started out with Seton for my son, who has ADHD, and I believe he will do better with a more hands-on approach as well. I am definitely thinking about Teaching Textbooks next year as well. This is my first year homeschooling so we are still finding what works and what doesn't. Thanks for any updates on your curriculum!


  17. Jessica Gordon

    My boys love love love the Phonetic Zoo! It is a great program and they are really enjoy spelling. (Spelling and Math are the first things they do every morning) I love that it doesn't take the one-on-one time that All About Spelling did, which I am (and will continue) to use with my younger children. I have been very happy with it and plan to look into EIW's Writing programs next year as well. As for Wordly Wise, I liked the books we used last year, but I'm not that happy with what we are using this year and the boys don't care for it either.

  18. Matthew


    Instead of mycatholicfaithdelivered, I'd like to recommend has been producing childrens and adult faith formation programs and Sacramental Preparation online study programs for 10 years. They partner with a number of parishes and dioceses and offer programs all in accordance with the Catholic Church's teachings. Their children's programs are fun, interactive, and place a strong emphasis on the Baltimore Catechism and the timeless prayers and treasures of the Catholic Faith.

    God bless,



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Hi! I'm Jessica, a Roman Catholic wife and home educating mother to our nine children. I was home educated myself, along with my eleven younger siblings. I have a special devotion to St. Therese, through whom I have been given much help and many blessings--the beautiful "Shower of Roses" that she has sent my way! Here I will record a few of the blessings I treasure. Please remember that what you see here is just a little glimpse at our lives, so please say a prayer for us, as we continue to strive for holiness.

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