Thursday, 23 August 2012

Our 2012-2013 Homeschool Curriculum

When it comes to curriculum planning for our upcoming year of homeschool I have been a busy bee. I have made up and changed my mind so many times. As soon as I think I have decided on the best course to follow I see something else and my interest is peaked. I have waffled between the shiny boxed curriculum and bare bones style single texts. I have had to keep my addiction to books in check. 

I have read and dogeared the pages of 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum and Home Learning Year by Year. In doing so I believe I have come up with some great ideas and plans for the upcoming year. Throw in a dash of ideas from Pinterest and I have high hopes for us.

Language Arts
Canadian Handwriting Workbook
Letter of the Week (from Confessions of a Homeschooler) *For Max
Phonics Pathways
Assortment of Readers (UsborneBob, and any other books that interests the kids)
Dolch Word Lists
First Language Lessons

Picking Language Arts curriculum has by far been the most challenging. I found it difficult to find things that would fit together right. First off there is just so much. Secondly there are a few different elements to Language Arts that needed covering yet no program would cover everything, and some only parts of things. At first I had two reading programs, a composition program, and a spelling vocab program picked out. I really thought about my own philosophies and decided to separate the wheat from the chaff. The above was what I came up with. 

I personally believe that the mechanics of writing followed by the mechanics of reading then the mechanics of the English language are the basic foundation to everything. Reading and writing are vital and critical. That being said I don’t think anyone requires fancy and fangled bells and whistles. I plan on us doing A LOT of reading and writing. Not just reading and writing associated with LA but in all subjects. I plan to draw on much of that for expanding our LA skills. Spelling, vocab, composition and reading comprehension will continue to evolve naturally as they already have. I just need the Phonics Pathways to guide me in teaching the phonetic code and the Dolch Word List to cover sight words and the First Language Lessons to give a foundation for Grammar. 

Math U See Primer & Alpha

There is a great deal in the Primer level that Viktor knows. There are also a few things that need some tweaking and a few things that need introduction. The plan here is to blast through the Primer level between September and December and then move onto the Alpha level in January. This also means that I will already have the teacher’s guide and manipulatives for when Max moves up and so on. 

Social Studies
Canada, My Country
Personally designed curriculum 
Variety of Usborne Books

This is totally my thing. History and geography have always been right up my alley. World cultures? Anthropology? Bring em on. Had I actually finished my first degree (instead of all those humanities electives) and actually gone on to being a teacher this would be my subject area. With that in mind I think I have written out some pretty awesome plans for History and Geography. 

Seeing as how we are only looking at grade one right now we need only scratch some surfaces and introduce ideas (same thing for Science). I have broken down what students in grade one “should” learn and then based my plan on that. To enhance that we will be ordering a variety of Usborne books. I purchased a bunch of books from this publisher last fall and I fell in love. They are bright, big and my boys LOVE them. Plus I love the idea of using real books vs. texts for teaching. This way we can colour, read, build models, etc. Prior to each unit the boys and I will sit down and choose 3-5 books together that we will use. 

The reason I have chosen an official text for Canadian History and Geography should be obvious, it is our home after all, so I want to go just a little deeper. The Canada, My Country text will also be useable for future years and we can choose what to spend more time on and what activities and backup resources we want to use. 

Personally Designed Curriculum
Usborne Books

Just as in Social Studies it is all about introducing concepts and building on current knowledge. Just as I have done with Social Studies I have looked at what we “should” be learning and planned out my units throughout the year. We will do a similar thing with the Usborne books as we will be doing for Social Studies. 

I hope to also do lots of little experiments to reinforce our learning. For that we will look at a variety of experiment kits and the boys can help choose what we do (just like with ordering the books). I really want them to be a part of that process. They will become more excited than if it is “just something mum picked”.

Health/Phys Ed.
Personally Designed Curriculum

I know I don’t specifically want a text for this. We are already currently garnering an interest in healthy food and healthy activity. At this level all I am looking for is a little honing of the skills and ideas. I am in the process of making up our own unit studies and outline for this. 

Personally Designed Curriculum

Another one of our strongest points. We are musicians. Daddy is also an artist (added bonus). I have some similar ideas on planning out our Music and Art units. The first part of the year in each subject will be introduction to the elements and parts of Art (colour, shape, texture...) and Music (rhythm, temp, pitch...). The second part of Music will contain a unit on instruments followed by a unit on a selection of composers. The second part of Art will be choosing a variety of mediums and then studying within that (famous artists who used that medium, creating our own works of art, etc.).

When it comes to Music and Art I also have a few field trip ideas in mind. Such as a trip to the Symphony and a trip to the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery).

Faith and Life Series
Kids of Integrity

The Faith and Life Series is the same Catechism series I learned from. I’m not entirely sure if it is the best but it is familiar and when starting something new, having something familiar is always good. It’s fairly simply set up. Teacher’s guide, student book, workbook. With the exception of the workbook I can use the other books in the future. 

Kids of Integrity is a study of character and a few manners. We will alternate between that and the Faith and Life Series and a Bible Study (which I am still in the search of).

Additional Resources: 
i Homeschool Network e-books Omnibus

I follow a few different homeschool blogs. These ladies are tight. They are pro. The resources and blogs that have are top notch. Many of them also posted recently about the iHomeschool Network e-books Omnibus. It is a collection of some the best homeschool bloggers resources/e-books. Supposedly a $350 value for only $25. Included were a handful of resources I already wanted that for even just those few came to more than $25. I am not 100% sure how all of them will integrate into our curriculum but whether we use them now, next year, the year after, I already appreciate having them. 

I am a major believer that life and experience is a huge teacher. I have pinned so many activities and experiments. I was going to link a few of the ideas but figured it would just be easier to link my Homeschool pinboard instead. 

*A few words on Max:
Max is 3 1/2. He is at a preschoolish age and level. He has an interest in saying the alphabet, counting and pretends to read. He is ready for more learning. The only thing specifically for him is the Letter of the Week. I will be on the search for some very primary math resources but I anticipate that in Max fashion he will want to play with the Math U See manipulatives along with Vik. In addition to that he will be present for anything else otherwise going on. Without any prodding or pressing he has already absorbed a lot, this year he will sponge up even more. Even now he keeps trying to push his way into our soon to be school room telling me he wants school to. 

To conclude:

In reality I think this is a very simple and basic way to go about things. Real books. A few guiding texts. Mostly reusable and multi level books. No major investment up front (only a few minor ones). Gradual buildup of our personal library. Children’s involvement in the choosing of the books, experiments, experiences, activities, within the units I have laid out. Travelable resources. I don’t think I can go wrong with any of that. 

Side Note
Some Learning for Mum

Do you think I would let my kids have all the homeschool fun? I don't think so. I love learning too. I love reading. I love expanding my mind. I also feel that there is no better way to lead my children to study than to do some for myself. Monkey see, monkey do. No reason why when they are doing their quiet studies that I can't do so alongside them and vice versa.

I am feeling a pull towards some personal and faith development. I plan to rev back up into my Catholic Home Study and will finally begin the Woman of Faith Study Guide Series (first is about Balance, fitting eh?).

I also said to myself, "Jessica this is a perfect time to Teach Yourself German". I have this course from when I went to Germany 7 years ago and it is begging to be picked up again. I know a lot of basics but need a lot of review. Plus I don't think it hurts to have the skill of speaking German in my back pocket.

Lastly, I do have some areas of study which I would like to expand on. I am doing some further research regarding Health and Fitness. I am not at a point where I can or want to formally go back to school but if I can find some free resources out there (which the internet is full of) I will take full advantage of them. I would also like to work on my classical piano chops a bit more. While I play music daily and am composing a lot these days my technical abilities have slipped in some areas (while furthering in others). Areas of interest here would be theory, harmony, and technique. 


As you can see we are going to be busy. I know it seems like a lot crammed in but luckily we have the luxury of time. The children and I aren't confined to regular school or work hours. We can back off on some things and focus on others as required. This is also a plan to go over the full year. While we will take certain times off for holidays, birthdays, sick days, etc. we will be spanning our studies over 12 months instead of the typical 10. 

Wish us luck and say a little prayer for us and our year of homeschool and I will do the same for you, whatever you endeavours may be. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Macs Back


Happy Dance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My Mac is back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Complete with new hard drive?

Cue sad face :(

Yup, it was the hard drive (which as we well know means loss of what? Data).

 I have a brand spankin' new hard drive in my MacBook (at least I'm pretty sure it's not just refurbished). They also kindly gave me back my original hard drive so I could have it undergo some data recovery. I'm realistically optimistic in that future venture.

I have had my MacBook back for just about a week now and I've loaded and reloaded and  downloaded. We are just about nearing normalcy. I have also begun rewriting some of the many many documents and spreadsheets I had. I am finally realizing how many lists and plans I had typed out. My file saving was in a bit of a jumble so at least I am saving and creating folders in a much more organized way.

So, is there a lesson in all this? Yes. Back up my shiz. Like, all the freaking time. On various sources. I still have to do a transfer of things from my old external drive to the MacBook and once I am finished I will wipe it and then do a full time machine backup. After that I think I may procure myself some USB sticks and start saving things to that (especially homeschool and traveling docs) and it was suggested to me to save pics on DVDs so I need me somma those as well.

So all is not lost. And what is lost may be found. And what is not found I will make peace with. In reality with pictures it is pretty much only the last year that is gone (but it's been a big year with Evelyn, ya know?). The external drive should have about up to last May on it, if it doesn't I may have a heart attack then.

There ya have it. The trials and tribulations of my MacBook.

Oh, and I would like to add that the folks at the Apple store were amazing. From booking my appointment online, to being checked in as soon as I got to the store, to the assistance and reassurance of the tech, to the speedy repair and finally with the whole pick up experience. Everything ran quickly and smoothly. They are efficient. I was also very very pleased (and redonkulously lucky) that my warranty covered the cost of the tech service and new hard drive and will continue to cover the replacement drive in case it blows.


In other news, I am rewriting great deal of blog posts and I am behind in writing so many things. I have a few topics I really want to write about coming up as a catch up:

-Our ongoing Nature Project (lack of technology leads to more nature, go figure)
-Homeschool Plans for 12-13 (and hop on the blog linky up thingy from iHomeschoolnetwork. I have a few posts to do to get caught up on all that business)
-My weight loss journey to date (going really well btw)
-Mo Music, Mo Music, Mo Music (I have little vids I want to make and upload, plus I just found out about GodTube)

I hope to inundate my blog with a flurry of posts in the upcoming days/weeks.

Mac is back. For that I am UBER happy!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

One Sad Mac

So here I sit, typing this post on my iPhone. My MacBook has crashed and I am crushed. So many pictures are gone. I'll have reload so many CDs. I had a number of posts I was in the middle of working on. Spreadsheets. Documents. Videos. Aaaaarrrrggghhhh. 

Despite some top notch effort my defunct hard drive yields no salvageable material. I am hoping my warranty will cover a new hard drive and I can have my dead one undergo some further data recovery. 

Let me just say too that no computer gives me just a touch of anxiety. I am a mild technoholic (mostly with my Mac). I have Wifi for my iPhone so I'm still "connected" but it isn't just that. I use my computer for writing out charts, agendas, plans, lists. Not to mention my curriculum plans. Oh and some new music I've been writing. 

Overall it sucks. Big time. I am however looking at the big picture. Some time away from my computer can be good. Letting go can be good. Re-prioritizing can be good. I'm scratching away the dark clouds of hard drive failure to reveal streaks of silver lining. 

Oh yes, there are lessons. How about BACKUP your shiz yo!! Yeah, I'll be doing that. I'll be setting time machine backups plus additional copies of important stuff from now on. Lesson learned. 

So now that leaves me slightly in a blogging bind. Posting from a phone is a bit slow and tedious. With any luck the repair will be swift and I'll be back in business. I can then worry about data recovery while having my techno baby back. Then I'll be back to happy. No computer makes me a tad less sunny than usual. Not for long though. Not for long.