When the new school year began I was over the moon to try out new curriculum. I had researched it, watched an excessive number of YouTube reviews, and was ready to commit to what I believed would be best for my learners. Now, 10 months later, I’m thrilled to share those curriculum choices were exactly what we needed.
Reading: All About Reading
I have absolutely fallen in LOVE with the All About Reading program. While this was a switch from our previous “all inclusive” Language Arts program, I know it was the right move. AAR is an engaging, solid, and in-depth study of decoding skills and reading for both understanding and enjoyment. The creative activities were perfect to engage my learner as she developed her reading skills. I’m looking forward to continuing this program next year! To solve the problem of needing additional Language Arts support I added in a couple other activities, resources and curriculums. I was nervous it was going to be too much, but as it turns out, it really wasn’t. While Language Arts wasn’t as “open and go” having to add in extra things, I genuinely believe they learned more and retained concepts much better. Another virtue was that I could do the additional components of Language Arts- writing for example, whole group style with all three of my children. I know we all enjoyed that too.
Writing: Institute for Excellence in Writing- Bible Heroes
To expand on Language Arts we added in a writing program. We began Bible Heroes from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Don’t be intimidated by that name. For a mama who wants excellence for her children but also lives a life filled with medical needs, therapies, and….is currently homeschooling three in elementary school there’s only so much I can do. While IEW sounds intimidating, we found it to be refreshingly simple and easy to incorporate. This year we learned how to make a KWO (Key Word Outline), dress up our writing, and to edit it to create something special. We probably took longer that what is scheduled to move through lessons but we went at our own pace and the girls both wrote several really special pieces. I’m excited to continue the program next year.
Language Arts: Vocabulary and Grammar
I also added vocabulary to her daily activities this year. We worked on establishing dictionary skills at the beginning of the year and she’s become a pro at tracking down vocabulary words. I have LOVED seeing her vocabulary both written and spoke expand. She had to look up and write the definition for just one word a day. The festive printable each month also made it lots of fun- she likes coloring in or checking off the graphics for each word she searches. For grammar review she used either an activity set or the daily language arts pages from my resource library.
Math: Teaching Textbooks
This was my first experience out sourcing lessons. My friend Sarah told me about Teaching Textbooks and after giving the trial a go, I knew it would be a perfect fit for my big girl. She LOVED getting to do her school work on the iPad and I loved that she was getting math instruction from a different point of view. Sometimes with math it takes hearing it a different way for it to click. 🙂 The only hang up we found with TTB was multiplication. The introduction and subsequent lessons/practice for multiplication were insufficient for her to fully grasp the concept. We paused the program for 3 weeks to master multiplication. To do that I used a program I remembered using in the classroom (they have a homeschool option- yay!) We used the Times Tales program to develop mastery. I can’t say enough good things about the program. She adored the stories and they really stuck. Once she was firm on her multiplication facts she went right back to Teaching Textbooks to complete the level.
This is a quick look inside what times tales looks like. Mnemonic device stories make memorization easy and fun. If your child loves stories, they will LOVE learning their multiplication facts this way! I will have an affiliate link and hopefully a code to share soon. Check back for more on that soon!
Science: Discover + PLAY Science (and a crash course in T1D)
Science……ok, to be very honest- we did one organized science curriculum unit this year and….that’s it. BUT I like to think for our family in particular we are still very much learning ALL ABOUT living with and caring for a Type 1 Diabetic. We know all about carbohydrates, healthy snacking, blood sugar levels, healthy exercise….. the list could go on. We were very much of the natural led learning for science this year. They were curious about birds in the Fall and we studied them with books, you tube videos and birdwatching. They were curious about kitchen chemistry- read baking soda/vinegar reactions, what happens when you freeze various liquids, etc. So we did several experiments that ended in lots of messes but also lots of learning. I know in the coming year this is a subject I would like to look into improving upon. Having a curriculum to follow (not necessarily strictly abide by) does make me feel like our learning is mapped out and intentional.
Bible: Community Bible Study
The Bible study we use throughout the school year is connected to our local Community Bible Study. Once the children are in 1st grade they begin studying the same passage as us mamas study. The program is written specifically for kids. MJ moved up to the Junior class this year (4th grade-6th grade) and I was impressed with all the detail her study went into. Together we all studied Daniel, Joshua, Job and Colossians this year.
Community Bible Study is an international program with groups all over. If you’re interested in participating, be sure to look here for a class local to you!
Social Studies: Our Star Spangled Story
Our Social Studies curriculum this year was something new and we have really fallen in love with it. Even when it’s not our normal morning reading time they ask for me to read it. As some one who loves history, I love how they love it too. This is a subject we do all together as a family (kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade.) We began the Our Star Spangled Story by Notgrass History and it’s been a lot of fun. They pages of the book are filled with pictures of artifacts, artwork and maps. I love how each section includes questions for review, a suggested book to read, and hands on ideas. Every lesson ends with scripture and is written from a biblical worldview. It doesn’t shy away from calling out the wrongs done in history but it also highlights the good as well. There is a balance of both. It frames hard and sad parts of American history in a way that helps our children to recognize it was wrong and how we did and can learn from it. We certainly haven’t arrived and there is much to learn from in our recent and not so recent past. I highly recommend this curriculum and look forward to continuing with part 2 next year.
You can imagine how much my craft LOVING precious people LOVED the suggested project at the end of every unit. How CUTE is this one?
Handwriting: Cursive Penmanship
She learned cursive writing in 3rd grade so for this year she did a lot of practice copy work. My themed scripture copy work has been a perfect way to practice truth we’ve been studying together with her penmanship as well. I simply printed and assembled a new “book” each month and she was set to go doing one copy work page per day.
Field Trips & Extra Curricular Programs
Field Trips with my crew are some of my favorite parts of homeschool. Adventuring together is just so fun. A lot of our “field trips” are just day to day life – dentist, doctor, eye exam but we take a few real field trips too. This year we visited the state house, a marionette theatre, an orchestra performance, a ballet performance, we even counted dinner at Cracker Barrel as a field trip because the style and decor matched our current history study. 🙂
I like to think we’re pretty conservative on extra curricular programs. Joshua and I see the value and virtue of them but we are adamantly opposed to being ruled by them. At least at this point it’s easy to maintain our conviction. They can not interfere with family dinner together or our commitment to worship together on Sunday. They are purely for character growth and development (learning to be part of a team, listening to instruction, learning new skills, etc.) And last but not least they are for a short time commitment (a season or a 6 week commitment- something like that) It keeps the activities fun without becoming consuming- an easy temptation to fall into. This year MJ did gymnastics in the fall, soccer in the spring, and American Heritage Girls throughout the year one night every other week. (Side plug: We LOVE AHG, if you have a local chapter we definitely recommend it! It’s just so SO sweet!)
I know the gentleness of unhurried days is good for their hearts, minds, and souls. It’s just plain good for all of us. So our extra curricular are limited and for now we think that’s best for our crew.
At the end of the day- setting aside any and all of the curriculum, I am so very thankful for the gift of teaching my precious girl at home. 4th grade was a JOY and spending my days loving her, teaching her, shepherding her heart was a blessing and delight. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for us next year as we venture into 5th grade!
So there you have it, our 4th grade year in a nutshell. Have a question or curious more about a specific curriculum, don’t hesitate to ask! Stay tuned for my next post reviewing our 2nd grade curriculum picks from the past school year!