As I get ready to go to the FPEA conference next week I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking about curriculum for next year. I have planned and replanned and read so many reviews my eyes hurt. (and then, of course, there’s the budget to think about!) So far, I’ve got a good general idea of things for most subjects, although I am wavering back and forth on a few:
Math: For my 7th grader, I know I need a program with support, because upper-level math isn’t my best subject. After looking extensively at a whole bunch of programs, I felt BJU Press had the curriculum that was closest to my state standards. I want something that will line up with what my kids would be learning in public school, as we plan for both of them to go to college. After comparing the scope and sequence of several programs (Abeka, CLE, etc.) I found that BJU’s lined up most closely with Florida math standards. However, the price for the DVD program is very high ($399) and you don’t even get to keep the DVD. Next, I looked at Teaching Textbooks, as math is not my oldest son’s strong suit either. I thought the program looked like something he would be able to do, but, after reading numerous reviews and comments, and looking closely at the table of contents, I am concerned that the program seems to be far below grade level compared to other 7th grade programs. Now I am seriously considering Chalkdust. I know it is expensive too, but on the WTM boards, I found a post from someone who has the ISBN numbers for the texts and videos. Having the ISBN allows you to order each part seperately, and the cost is MUCH lower!! I am thinking we will go with CD and perhaps add some Life of Fred fractions and decimals to give my son some extra help and add in some fun. These are at the top of my list to look at next week.
For my younger son, I have almost settled on Math Mammoth (the light blue series). Both of my children need a mastery type program, spiral does NOT work well in our house. I have read good things about this series, and I am thinking I may add in the Chaldust 4th grade math (which is computer based) for fun a couple of times a week. My younger is very strong in math, so he could use an additional challenge!
Reading: Again, I really like the looks for BJU reading. The literature teacher in me loves the story selections, and the color (don’t discount that as unimportant, it does help draw kids into the text), however, the price is again an issue. We are on a tight budget, as are most of the people we know, and so I am trying to be very cautious about what I spend. We used a few lightunits of CLE reading this year, and I have to say, from a teacher standpoint, they are exceptional. They provide a wealth of instruction in reading and literature, moreso than I’ve seen in most texts I’ve used in the classroom. They are also easy to use, as they are written very clearly and in a way most children can read and understand on their own. The only drawback I have with CLE (and this is just personal preference) is the black and white text, and the fact that the stories, while wholesome, are a little dry. However, we generally only read from our texts two days per week, and spend the rest of the week reading novels, so I think I can work around that! CLE is very cost effective, and the instruction is top-notch, so I have a feeling we will be going with that again next year.
Writing/Grammar: I managed to get Rod and Staff grammar sets for an awesome price at a used book sale, so both of my boys will be using them for grammar next year. Are they exciting? Not really, but I’ve taught language arts for years, and I can tell you that making grammar exciting is very difficult. Rod and Staff is thorough and complete, which is what I am looking for in a grammar program.
Spelling/Vocab: My younger son really needs to work on spelling. Although he is going into 4th grade, I am seriously considering doing AAS with him. Our old school used the Spalding method for spelling and phonics, so he is familiar with the rules. I figure we can go through levels 1 and 2 next year. I am also hoping the phonics portion will help him in his reading, as this in an area he needs help in as well. For my older, language is his strong suit so we will be using CLP’s Building Spelling Skills. I feel it is a good old-fashioned program that provides practice with harder words at his level (7th grade).
For vocab, I plan to use Wordly Wise. I used this in my classroom and feel it is a solid program. It does a good job of teaching the defintions, as well as teaching kids how to use the words in context. Personally, I think building a strong vocabulary is one of the keys to success in reading. I plan to have my boys alternate spelling/vocab weekly.
At my school, we used IEW for our writing program, so I have had extensive training with it. I am going to go with some of their theme-based writing lessons next year for both of my boys. I plan to use the US History based writing lessons for my oldest son (to tie in with our history studies) and All Things Fun and Fascinating for my younger. I feel IEW is a great program for helping kids to master the mechanics of writing as well as note-taking (which seems to be a lost art in classrooms these days!)
Science: I want to combine my two for science and history, so next year I plan to use God’s Design for Chemistry as my “core” and add in extras to give my older son some challenge. We chose chemistry because my oldest asked to study it. I plan to add Exploring Chemistry (also by AIG) for him to read as well as Exploring Earth (to go along with the ecology part of the program). He will also be checking out library books and biographies to go along with that. For my younger, I plan to add DK Eyewitness Chemistry and Ecology as well, since God’s Design will probably take about 3 days per week and I want them to do science every day.
I am also looking at ASK (Academy of Science for kids) kits on matter, polymers and ecology. A hsing friend of mine used one of these kits last year and I got to take a look at it, and it was wonderful! They are pricy (about $89) but they include EVERYTHING and they are lots of fun. In addition, when we study ecology, I plan to have my boys do a in-depth study on an ecosystem of their choice from our state. They will present some kind of project about it at the end of the year. I am hoping one of them picks the Everglades so we can do a field trip there!!
History: We are sticking with TOG. We will begin year 2, unit 3 (Early American) this summer, and will hopefully move into Unit 4 by the end of September. This is one thing I am positive about! We are loving this program, and I cannot tell you how much I love how in-depth it really is!! I am planning to add in the Time Travelers CDs from Homeschool in the Woods. I already have the first one, and it looks great. My kids are really into crafts and lapbooks etc, so this will be fun for them. If all goes well, we will do the Revolutionary War CD with Unit 4. I also plan to use their timeline book (on CD) as well.
Extras: I am thinking about Artistic Pursuits for art, possibly adding in Latin and/or Spanish and doing some poetry study. I also want to include Apologia’s Who Is God for a devotional a few times a week. I need to look at something for handwriting, and I have a few ideas for logic (which I do believe is important) but these are all extras, which will only be added if we have the money.
I will update on this once I’ve had a chance to get my hands on some of this stuff at the conference next week!