This is only our second year of homeschooling, so while I don’t have a lot of experience in using tons of different curricula, I wanted to just share our picks for this school year and keep you all posted on how these work out for us. The beautiful thing about God and His creativeness is that He made us all different. He made our children different, every single one of them. He made us all the way we are so that He could use us for His purpose and His glory. So I would never want to knock one curriculum choice just because it didn’t work for MY individual child. I believe there is something out there for everyone.
So this year, we are using Heart of Dakota’s Bigger Hearts for His Glory, which is meant for ages 7-9. My girls both turn 8 and 9 this year, so this was a good fit for us. I have a friend who used HOD last year, but a different grade level. I was able to take a look at everything HOD entailed and I was really impressed. The big bonus for me with this is that I can teach them together on all subjects with the exception of spelling, math, and language arts because they are at different levels in those areas.
HOD is one of those all-in-one plans that covers all subjects, but I kind of get the feeling that if you go with one of those all-in-one plans, chances are there will always be at least one thing that isn’t a good fit for your kids. We are using about half of the HOD plan, and then I had other choices for the rest of our subjects. I’ll go over those next.
But first, below are a couple of pictures of the Teacher’s Guide for Heart of Dakota. Once you open it up, you’ll see two pages for each day. The units are 5 days of instruction, with 34 units in all. So it’s one unit per week. On the two pages you’ll see one box for each subject/section to be completed each day. The boxes include History, Poetry, Bible Study, Music (Hymns), Language Arts, Reading, Storytime (read-alouds), Math, and Science. Those are everyday assignments. There is one more box for Geography, Art, Vocabulary, History Activity, and Timeline; however, those are only done once per week so they alternate. Since this is a Charlotte Mason type of curriculum, the boxes are meant to take about 15 minutes each, making it easy to just open and go, and to complete a box or two at a time throughout the day. Very easy to use. With my schedule (having a 1-year-old whose naps we try to work around), it works best for us to knock out as much as we can in a couple of sittings before and after lunch.
One of the small details I love about HOD is it has us studying hymns. There is one hymn to study every 4 weeks. This is one of the girls’ favorite parts of the day. 🙂
If you’re wondering what books HOD uses for History lessons, see below.
“A First Book in American History” by Edward Eggleston
“Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans” by Edward Eggleston
HOD also comes with several read-alouds which I read to the kids. Right now we are reading the biography of Phillis Wheatley and we are all really enjoying it.
Now, here are the areas where I chose to stray from Heart of Dakota…
I knew that I wanted a very strong science program this year because my girls love science! The science in HOD looks great, but it was very similar to what we did last year, which wasn’t as strong for my girls as we would have liked.
So this year we are using Apologia’s Zoology 2 “Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day.” Today was only our third day of reading this book, and already we have learned so much! It’s a great choice because it is very informative and doesn’t dumb things down for the kids. It’s not too hard for them to understand, yet it’s not so easy that they’re bored to tears.
I opted to go with their Notebooking Journals, but I wish I had known beforehand that when you purchase the actual book, it comes with a password giving you access to their website where you can find free journal printables. The free printables aren’t as in depth or detailed as the notebooking journal, but at $FREE, they would have done the job! We are also doing a detailed lapbook with this, so that would have been sufficient, couopled with the free basic notebooking printables. At any rate, the girls are really enjoying the journals, so it was still money well spent.
We are using Sequential Spelling this year. Last year, we tried Spelling by Sound and Structure, and Spelling Power. Neither of them were good fits for my girls, so we are hopeful that Sequential Spelling will be a good fit for both of their learning styles. I have one naturally strong speller and one who struggles greatly with spelling. It seems like this program could be suitable for different learning styles, because you get audio and visual reinforcement. I opted for the CD-Rom, which I love. The girls know how to load their CD into the computer and find the specific lesson they are on that day. They click on the folder for “Day 1” or whatever day they are on, and a video pops up where their spelling words are dictated to them. They can pause the video while they write down the word and then resume when they are ready to move on. When they resume the video, the correct spelling is spoken to them and they correct any mistakes on the spot. When they are done with their spelling list, I review their work and then they take their stuff back to their seat where they complete the backside of the worksheet, which has some type of spelling activity they can do independently.
Another reason I love this program so far is that the words build on each other, so it makes the spelling list relevant and (hopefully) easier to catch on, as opposed to having a list of 10-20 random words to spell. Here is an example of a list where you can see how the words build on each other:
You get the idea.
HOD has an optional reading program called Drawn Into the Heart of Reading. In my research, it seems like not a lot of HOD users go for this, but we are using it this year because while the kids did do a lot of free reading last year, there was no direction and no digging deep into what they were reading. So I really wanted a strong reading program like this. There is a unit for each different genre, including Biography, Adventure, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Folk Tales, Nonfiction, and Humor. The kids each have their own set of books for the year, fulfilling each genre. There are 4 weeks of reading and assignments per genre, and they will be reading 1-3 books per genre, depending on the length of the books. There is daily teacher instruction involved with this, but it only takes a few minutes and then the kids are free to do their assigned reading and occasional worksheets for the program. The worksheets are to be done on various days throughout the week, so there will be 1-3 worksheets per week…it varies.
Next is Bible Study. We are completing the Bible Study assignment with HOD every day. I like it because it is focusing on godly character traits. But since it only takes a few quick minutes to get through that, I wanted to add another strong curriculum for Bible Study, since it is absolutely the most important part of the day. I often tell myself that if all I’ve accomplished for the day is pointing my children Christ and teaching them from the Word, then I’ve done enough. Seriously, some days as homeschoolers, that’s all we’ll be able to get to. We always make sure this is the first thing that gets done in our school days, so if something goes awry with our day and we’re not able to finish everything on our plate that day, we’ll still be sure to get this part of it done first thing.
We started Apologia’s “What We Believe” series with “Who is God?” We are about two weeks into this, since we started this before our school year started. We are enjoying it so far, but it’s too early to tell if it’s something we’ll want to stick with throughout the series. Stay tuned on that.
Lastly, we are using Christian Light Publications (commonly called CLE) for Language Arts and Math. My girls are in 3rd and 4th grade, but we took things super slow in these subjects last year, so they are working at a lower level than you would probably expect this year, and that’s okay. One of the beauties of homeschooling is there is no pressure to put standards on your kids. You let them learn at their own pace, while still making sure they are being challenged at a reasonable level.
We enjoy these so far. It’s a workbook style curriculum, and if your kids are just crazy about workbooks, you can actually get a full workbook curriculum through CLE. My girls are able to work independently on their CLE workbooks for the most part. They do have to ask questions occasionally, which is fine. The work seems to be going at a reasonable pace and the instructions are self-explanatory enough that the girls are doing well with them so far.
So I believe that’s it for our 2013-2014 curriculum choices. I am currently looking for free cursive handwriting printables, so if you know of anything, please share! And if I find anything worth sharing, I will be sure to do that.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I will get back to you. Thanks for reading!