Homeschool Curriculum at the FishHouse

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As some of you know, the FishFam “does school” at home. It may seem odd to some, especially as three out of four grandparents were public school teachers and I, myself, earned my CA teaching credential years ago and spent two years teaching high school English, French, and Yearbook. The reasons for this divergence from the norm are varied and vast. Fodder for a future post. But I promise to share our story.

Instead, this week, curriculum is on my mind. I spent last Saturday frantically ordering books, something that I had delayed doing all summer. I knew school was starting for us on the 10th and that if I unplugged without ordering, one of us — my computer fast or the start of school — would be doomed to failure. Thankfully, I had cleaned the schoolroom and actually had a vague idea of what I needed to buy. So, placing my resource orders involved a few clicks of the mouse — and a frantic visit to twitter and a quick call to a friend for some last minute Latin advice.

The School Daze Begins: What in the World We’re Studying This Year

Overall Methodology – I read the first edition of The Well-Trained Mind when my oldest child was a mere two years old and the others were “just a glimmer in my eye.” Since we wanted a whole passle of kids, it made sense to start early in thinking and planning about our homeschool. This book resonated with me in a profound way. I appreciated the no-nonsense approach and strong academics that the authors recommended as well as the flexibility that they stressed should come with a home-based education.

A second book that really paved the way for my classical education thinking was Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson. His book provided the “why to” where The Well-Trained Mind showed me the “how to.”

Over the years we’ve tried various recommendations from the original WTM as well as much trial and error to find what fits our family. Here’s where we are today:

Spelling and Phonics – I use Spell to Write and Read loosely in conjunction with Phonics Pathways to teach reading. This combination has worked well for me to get my guys reading quickly and fluently. STWR provides the base pieces of the phonograms as well as a great spelling list. PP supplies me and my early reader with easy words and sentences to work our way through.

The boys love the silly sentences and drawings featured in Phonics Pathways. Ours is a tattered, early version that has served our family well. I’m wondering if it will last through the girls! FishBoy8 just saw the photo I loaded and said, “Phonics Pathways – that one really works.” He and his younger brother practically taught themselves to read. I just worked with them with these two resources on a daily basis, and in just a few short months they were off and reading — without me!

Reading, however, for my oldest didn’t come without a lot of tears – mine and his. Let’s face it – he’s my guinea pig! But, once we figured out the phonogram trick that STWR provided, he was whipping through books, including The Lord of the Rings, within a few months.

That said, I realize all kids are different. FishBoy5 and I will be starting with these books and phonogram cards next week. So, we’ll just see if this is the best way for him, as well. Here’s hoping so!

Math – For the most part, I am very happy with Saxon Math. All the FishBoys have done fine with this program. I really like how manipulative-heavy the early years are. My guys dig that. However, as I am now working with four students and the girls “along for the ride,” I found this past year that teaching even three math lessons a day as thorough as I wanted them to be just wasn’t cutting it. This year on the recommendation of several families, we are testing out Teaching Textbooks
. Since we needed to buy seventh grade math, anyway, it made sense to make this our new curriculum for junior high. I’ll let you know once I know how I like it. So, I’ll be teaching Saxon K, Saxon 2, and Saxon 54 as well as Teaching Textbooks 7. Yikes!

History – While The Well-Trained Mind has a couple different curriculum recs, we chose, instead Tapestry of Grace. This is our base curriculum for history, literature, world view, church history, art, and music history. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a unit-based, classical curriculum, designed to make life a little easier for a mom teaching multiple grade levels. All my kids are studying the same period of time, however, my 7th grader will be interacting with it in a much-more sophisticated way than my kindergartener. But, the commonality of subject will help all of us immerse ourselves in the topic, be able to understand one another, and not drive FishMama crazy. That last point is essential!

Science – In a similar way, we’re all studying the same general science topic, this year Chemisty. At a recent conference FishPapa found the Real Science 4 Kids program and we’re giving it a try this year with Level 1 and Pre-Level 1. There may be some trial and error to find corresponding challenge levels, but c’est la vie.

Writing – Lastly, we’re working in another new program, using Andrew Pudewa’s Teaching Structure and Style from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. While I have years of classroom experience teaching writing, both in private and public settings, I’m feeling a little rusty. I’m looking forward to a refresher course and some new techniques to get my boys writing — and liking it. This program comes highly recommended; I’ll be sure to report back.

NBTSbloghop Interested in more curriculum ideas for education at home? Visit the links that My3BoyBarians has rounded up.

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  1. Thanks for showing us your curriculum choices for this year. I'm teaching my third child all alone this year since his sister and brother graduated from our homeschool in 2007 and 2009. (His brother actually went to public school for his senior year by his request…Honors Physics you know.) He's in 2nd and I'm struggling since he learns differently than his siblings. Things that are working are Sonlight History and Reading,Saxon Math and we're going with Apologia Astronomy this year. Our homeschool group offers the IEW seminar and I'm loving it! Wish I had taken it with my older two. I'm seriously looking at the Spell to Write and Read book you listed. I have Spelling Power. Have you used that?

  2. So you really recommend those book for phonetics? The reason I'm asking is I have a friend who only has a basic grasp on reading and writing etc and he has expressed an interest in trying to do something about it!

  3. Thanks so much for posting your experience and advice with regard to homeschool curriculum! Our son is only two, but we are trying to think ahead in regard to his (and his future siblings':))education. It is wonderful to read your recommendations and to develop an idea of what homeschooling would look like if we do indeed take that path. Please continue to share your advice on your blog!

  4. Southern Gal, good for you! I love hearing about great success stories. Honors Physics sounds like a success to me. I have not done Spelling Power. STWR is very intensive if done as they recommend. I don't. My kids know the phonograms which helps for reading fluency. We use the spelling lists and diagnostic tests. But, we rarely, if ever, do the underlining that is recommended.

    Katrina, your friend might do really well with Phonics Pathways. The author has used it in remedial settings with excellent results. I don't think STWR would be useful to him, but Phonics Pathways definitely would be.

    Hattie, now is a great time to think through your philosophies of education. All of life is learning, so enjoy good books and experiences with your little guy, too.

  5. Well this yr I will have a 9th, 6th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, K4, and 2 yr old. My oldest 2 have graduated from our homeschool. 🙂
    I do history all together with the 7 youngest. We use a combination of Truthquest and Beautiful Feet. I like the assignments that BF gives, and the read alouds from TQ.
    For Math, we all use Mastering Mathematics, whichever book the kid is in. There are 6 workbooks: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Percentages/Decimals, and Fractions. My oldest daughter(9th) is using Chalkdust Basic Math.
    We too love Phonics Pathways, and I have one little fella still working thru that. The others(except for the 4 and 2 yr olds) are all reading fluently.
    For Science, we are doing Apologia Flying creatures of the Fifth Day together. Older daughter is doing Apologia Physical Science.
    She also does Progeny Press Study guides for part of her English requirement.
    We do Bible study together. And I guess that's it. Oh, and music. My 3 girls take piano lessons, and my boys learn all sorts of little songs from them.
    Bikes, baseball with your siblings and running around with the dog will cover P.E.
    Now, if we can be consistent, it looks to be a GREAT year!!
    Dawn in SC

  6. oh please do share your homeschooling story! if you open it up for questions you will get inundated. I would love to read it.

  7. I am homeschooling my 3rd grader this year…this is our first year, we are so excited! My 1st grader is still going to public school and my 3 yr old is starting preschool. We also have a newborn & a 15 month old…so we are starting with one homeschooler at a time, adding number 2 next year. I hope this works out for us!

    We decided to go with the Trail Guide to Learning, Paths of Exploration. My boys are in Cub Scouts and seems like a great fit for our family, this comprehensive curriculum includes everything except math, which we chose Horizons for. We are also doing the Science-4-Kids because I think it will work out best for my son and we added a spelling workbook too.

    We still have a few more books to order for the Paths of Exploration and the Biology books, but I have 10 more days to do that!

  8. We simply love the Gravitas Press Science! Our older two (6 & 4) used the pre-level 1 Chemistry last year and couldn't wait for science at the end of every week!