I’ve been spending a lot of time the past couple months making plans for our next school year, deciding which programs we will continue and where we will be making changes. Here is the link to our original Curriculum Plans :: 2012-2013.
Let’s start with Language Arts… So far we have loved everything we have used from the Institute of Excellence in Writing! The oldest three just completed (yes, completed!!!!) the Student Writing Intensive, Level A and it has helped them incredibly with their writing. Next year we will either move on to either the Continuation Course or perhaps the Ancient History Themed Writing Course to go along with our history studies. Or maybe a combination of both? I haven’t decided yet.
We have also completed Latin, Handwriting, and Vocabulary for the year. (Prima Latina was a little too difficult for my 2nd grader, so we dropped it early in the year.) We will also continue with Fix It! and all the children have been working on memorizing poems from Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.
Phonetic Zoo and All About Spelling continue to be the perfect spelling programs for our family. The oldest two are currently working on Level B of the Phonetic Zoo and Twinkle Toes is in Level A. Chiquita will spend another year using All About Spelling before she moves on to Phonetic Zoo as well.
Snuggles started the year with the Alphabet Path and the writing portion of Primary Arts of Language. I was so happy with PAL that I purchased the reading portion as well. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep up with all the extra fun activities for him with the Alphabet Path, but between the Primary Arts of Language and his Math he has continued to learn so much each week. I am still hoping to add my posts from C and D weeks soon and then return to the Alphabet Path over the summer and continue next year as I originally planned.
Moving on to Math… Bleh! As much as I have loved it in the past, I am not happy with Teaching Textbooks…
I’ve mentioned before that last year we enrolled our children in a local Charter School. The benefits of the Charter School, in addition to still being able to choose my own curriculum, have been that I have an “Educational Specialist” (who is a Catholic friend of mine) come to the house each week and spend one hour working with each of my children enrolled (5 hours on Thursdays, which has greatly helped keep me on track). I receive an “allotment” that can be used towards purchasing some of our curriculum, paying for music and sports, or used towards extra tutoring, etc. Some of the “drawbacks” are that I have work samples and reports to turn in for each quarter and we have extra testing throughout the year. (When we were exclusively homeschooling we were required to test in 3rd grade, 5th grade, etc. Not every year.)
Anyways, back in March my oldest three children had to take the state tests. It didn’t go well. My oldest (who struggles with Auditory Processing Challenges and is currently a 6th grader) failed both tests – Math and Language Arts. Our 2nd son, who is in 5th grade, passed the Language Arts and Science, but failed Math. Our oldest daughter in 3rd grade passed both the Language Arts and Math, but just barely on the Math. (I thought for sure she would “exceed” since she is nearly a year ahead in Math.)
Over all it wasn’t too bad – collectively they passed 4 of the 7 tests they were given. I felt a little better once I had a chance to see how the whole school had tested. Twinkle Toes (who I thought would exceed expectations) was the only student who passed the 3rd grade Math test. The boys, did not pass the math tests, but only 16-19% of the students in their own grade levels actually passed. (Many of the students in the charter school also use Teaching Textbooks for math.)
Is it the test? Or is it the programs being used to teach Math? I’ve been spending many hours the past couple months trying to figure it all out. I’ve been talking to friends, comparing programs, and reexamining my decision to continue with Teaching Textbooks.
If you asked me a few months ago I would have told you that I love Teaching Textbooks. Originally I switched to Teaching Textbooks out of necessity. With a large growing family and babies arriving every other year I just wasn’t able to keep up with the other programs we had been using. I figured that the math they would get with Teaching Textbooks was most likely more than they would have been getting with me each day… It really did help get me through some challenging times. Yet, now it seems that it has given both myself and the children a false sense of accomplishment. How can the kids score 90-100% on all their lessons and then fail standardized tests and placement testing for other programs? And it isn’t just the tests (I’m not a big fan of the tests to begin with) there are so many concepts that they just haven’t learned or do not understand.
Last month I hired another tutor (a friend of mine who has been teaching High School Saxon for the past 6 years) to start working with my older boys for Math, to prepare them to retake the test, and we started realizing just how far behind they are from Saxon Math. Even after a couple months of tutoring and lots of extra studying the boys still were not able to pass the math test on the second attempt, though both of their scores did increase and Rascal “nearly met” the requirements.
All along I’ve been under the impression that Teaching Textbooks is a little behind and have been trying to compensate for that by having them try to get ahead in the program. (Chiquita just started TT 4 at the end of 2nd grade and Twinkle Toes should finish TT 4 soon.)
My long term plan has been to switch back to Saxon for High School. We have a co-op here that I hope to join for a few subjects, which uses Saxon. After discussing it with the boys’ new math tutor, and having her compare programs, we realized just how much Teaching Textbooks is missing. It seems to start out about 1/2 year behind or so, but by High School it seems to be about 2 years behind!
Needless to say we will be switching back to Saxon next year, at least for the oldest two. After taking the placement tests my soon to be 7th grader (who just completed TT 6 and has been tutored with Saxon to help catch him up the past couple months) will still be going back to Saxon 7/6 (6th grade math). My plan is to put both boys in the same level together and have a tutor come once a week to help with any challenging areas.
I still haven’t decided what to do with my girls. Twinkle Toes, who is going into 4th grade could move right over to Saxon 5/4. This would probably be the ideal thing to do for her. Chiquita who is just completing 2nd grade will probably continue with Teaching Textbooks 4 and move on to Teaching Textbooks 5, keeping her ahead a couple grades until we are ready to switch her back over to Saxon as well. Decisions, decisions…
As for Snuggles, he has been using Singapore Essential Math which he has enjoyed. I never did get to much Calendar Work with him and he definitely needs some practice there… (That is one thing I’ve missed from the Elementary Saxon books! I’m actually considering going back to Saxon 1 with him next year, now that I’ve sold all my old books! lol I think he’d really do well with the program.) I’ve also been happy with Times Tales, as well as a couple math apps recommended by Charlotte: Speed (definitely a favorite with my kids!) and Dragon Box. For next year I am also planning on purchasing the actual Speed Card game for the children to play against each other as well, since they enjoy the app so much.
Maybe it was because of the accident in the fall, but we were all ready for a change from Exploring Creation… The older boys were also ready for something a little more challenging to prepare them for High School so we switched them half way through the year to Concepts and Challenges in Science Book 1. They have just completed the sections on Biology and Chemistry. I have been very happy with this change and they will continue using this series next year. (Note: If anyone out there has hardcover versions of Concepts and Challenges in Science Book 1, 2, or 3 that you are interested in selling please contact me! These books are so hard to find…)
The girls are still working on completing Exploring Creation With Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day and their Notebooking Journals, but I will be switching programs for them next year too. At least for now… We will probably go back to the Exploring Creation Series again at some point.
Anyways, I just purchased Focus on Elementary Chemistry and Focus on Middle School Chemistry for next year. I have a few more pictures to share, but you can also read more about these books on the publisher’s website Real Science 4 Kids or at Emmanuel Books.
The boys are still working on completing our American History Studies for this year. You can see our Election Study here and I still need to post the pictures from our Civil War Unit Study. The boys have also nearly completed their Industrial Revolution to the Great Depression Unit Study. So that just leaves World War II which we might try and study over the summer going back to Ancient History in the fall.
The girls have also continued to enjoy their American (Girl) History studies! I still need to post pictures of their Kirsten and Addy Lap Books and they are currently working on Samantha and Kit.
Everyone has completed their Maps Charts and Graphs workbooks and I’ve already ordered the next in the series for the fall. We’ve also continued to make very slow progress through our State-by-State study. Whenever things get too busy this is the first to get set aside…
I’m sure the kids will all want to continue making their way through the states, but next year I’d like to move on to World Geography. That reminds me of a question I have for all of you… I’d love to hear any thoughts you all have on Classically Catholic Memory. Has anyone used in in a home setting, and if so how have you liked it?
In addition to our usual Baltimore Catechism studies, the children all just about finished with their Living In God’s Church textbooks and their various assigned stories from Young People’s Book of Saints, Golden Legend of Young Saints, Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls, and More Tales for Boys and Girls.
Throughout the year we have studied a couple composers, though piano lessons needed to be put on hold for now, to spend the funds (from our charter school allotment) on extra tutoring. We also had to take a break from organized sports. On the plus side it left lots of family time and afternoons and weekends spent playing outside in addition to a couple little road trips. It has been such a great year!
The other things we weren’t able to get to included Blue Knights and Little Women Hospitality. It is so much harder to “make the time” when it’s not done in a group setting. I am thankful that we were at least able to still have a Mother-Daughter Tea Party! I’m still considering if I want to coordinate actual groups again next year or not… We’ll see.
I’ve been trying to get all my plans for next year finished by the end of the month and start creating new color-coded checklists for next year. The checklists were such a blessing and really did help keep us on track!
I may not have gotten to everything I had originally planned, and we may be struggling in a couple areas, but over all I think it was a very productive and successful school year.