Sunday, July 27, 2008

SSA '08-'09 School Year

This is a post I have eagerly anticipated writing because it represents the completion of many hours of hard work! Research for second grade started not long after first grade began. All year I kept a running list of ideas, curriculum and interesting books (for the boys and myself) I heard mentioned on the Well Trained Mind Curriculum Board. Then in January research began in earnest. I spent most of the spring asking questions and viewing curriculum. By the start of June I was ready to place my orders. The hunt is one of my favorite parts of not using a pre-boxed curriculum. I get to make what we do custom fit my learners. Yet at the same time that's the hard part, too. There is so much quality material out there that you can lose your mind trying to make the "perfect" decision. It's impossible so I decided to try and take that pressure off myself from the start. I am thrilled with our choices but if something doesn't work the way I think it will we will make changes and move on without missing a beat - hopefully ;) !

Math: We are sticking with what has worked so far - Horizons 3. My only regret with Horizons is that I have not used more manipulatives along the way. This is my fault, not the result of the program; they actually encourage lots of manipulative use in the Teacher's Guide. Math has come relatively easy to Thatcher so far, but I think he would have benefited from slowing down and building that concrete knowledge base with the use of hands-on manipulatives. This year I added this set of interlocking base 10 blocks to our math order to help remedy this:
Later I think I may want to add Cuisenaire Rods and this Idea Book - or one like it:
Logic: Last year I was thrilled with Mind Benders Beginning Book 1. Each day we started our school day by completing one puzzle. It was our "warm up" to get our brain ready for the day's thinking! We will start this year with Mind Benders Beginning Book 2 and then go right into book A1. I also purchased Logic Safari Book 1 (which has puzzles similar to Mind Benders) and Primarily Logic. I love Primarily Logic because it introduces several new logic activities like analogies and syllogisms. We will finish the year with Mind Benders A2 if we have time.
Handwriting: To teach Thatcher cursive I have chosen to use Classically Cursive by Veritas Press. We will use Bible Primer Book I and Ten Commandments Book II. This series starts with a review of each manuscript letter before beginning cursive. The book shows modern manuscript and I taught Thatcher using Zaner-Bloser (Manuscript). We will do the review and simply have him copy the letters the way we learned them. Then once all cursive letters are introduced, students practice their new skill copying books of the Bible, Bible facts, the Lord's prayer and other verses. Then Book II will follow up with a review of all proper letter formations followed by practice copying all 10 Commandments. I would much rather have Thatcher practice cursive copying God's Word rather than, "Sally sells seashells by the seashore." :)

Science: This year we will be covering Earth Science using Jessica from Trivium Academy's custom-made plans following guidelines listed in The Well Trained Mind. Her Earth/Space/Geography plans are only $5.95. Included are lots of suggested books to complement each lesson as well as videos from Discovery Streaming , which we already use for Spanish. You do not have to have DS to use her plans though; they are still terrific without them. Also, here is a link to a post on Jessica's blog that has copywork to go along with each lesson. One thing I have done differently this year than last is to purchase more books and not depend on the library as much. The town I live in has one library and the selection of books is not great. I can use the Harris County Library System (Houston) but even if the libary has 30 copies of a book you are fighting with literally 1000's of homeschoolers who may be also using inter-library loan to get the same book(s). Last year we ended up without the best or just without. I decided that putting only the very best books in front of my boys was too important to leave to chance. I ordered over 60 books just to go along with science this year. The great thing is that I have two more boys behind Thatcher so these great books will be used again and again!

History: We loved SOTW Volume 1 so much this year. I learned right alongside Thatcher, and I am looking forward to delving into medieval history with him next. There are a few lessons learned from our history studies last year. First, this year I ordered the SOTW audio book. I have a few ideas of how I will use this but may have to try a few different things before I settle on what works best. My initial thought is the first day of history I will read the chapter to Thatcher. The next day he will listen to the CD independently as a quick review before starting the lesson. Next, similar to science, I chose one or two main books to go along with each chapter and ordered those books for our personal library. Last year I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to search books through our library system only to find they were reserved weeks ahead, unavailable, lost or simply our library didn't carry them. I felt like these supplemental books are really where some of the very best learning takes place I spent the money and ordered what I felt were the must-haves. I used recommendations from the Activity Guide, my own research and suggestions from moms on the Well Trained Mind Curriculum Board. I will still try to get even more books through our library but I won't worry if my attempts turn up unsuccessful. I will list the books I chose in a later post if anyone wants to peek.

Another lesson learned is that I need to have materials ready for projects way in advance. I will plan ten weeks of lessons at a time. With that I will not only chose the projects I want to do for those weeks but I will gather all necessary materials and put them together in a designated milk crate ready for the day. Last year we mainly stuck to reading the chapter, doing the color page and mapwork a
nd completing a narration. That was because I do not have time to run to the store, dig for or spend time gathering materials the night before a project was to begin. Hopefully this will help solve the problem and allow us to do more of the really fun stuff! :)

If you need copywork to go along with SOTW 2 Jessica has it all laid out at her blog. SOTW 1 users, see this blog post of mine for copywork as well as aligning History Scribe pages for narrations.

Spelling: We will be using Spelling Wisdom this year. We tried Spelling Work Out per WTM recommendation and it wasn't horrible but it wasn't great either. So much of it was busy work and for a natural speller, I wanted so much more for Thatch. Here is a quote from the Simply Charlotte Mason site that explains this program much better than I could:

Learn today’s 6,000 most frequently used words presented in the writings of great men and women of history! Now you can have the confidence that you’re teaching the words your student needs to know, using the superior method of prepared dictation that Charlotte Mason endorsed.

One of the only things I will add/change is to incorporate some of the activities like in another great Charlotte Mason spelling program, Simply Spelling. The programs are very similar in many ways except Simply Spelling incorporates a short activity each day that focuses on some aspect of the passage. Monday the child may be asked to divide a few words in the selection into syllables. Tuesday they may remind the child that the word in the selection, lillies, is spelled that way because if a word ends in "y" you must change the "y" to 'i" and add "es" to make it plural.

Grammar: This has been a 13th hour addition to our second grade curriculum. We did not like First Language Lessons 1/2 ultimately because it depended almost completely on auditory learning which is not a strength of Thatcher's. We both do better if there is a blank sheet ready to be filled in for a lesson. Then I feel the obligation to teach it and Thatcher has the visual and tactile input to learn more effectively. I had decided to shelve grammar for awhile but have felt recently that I should not do that for him. FLL 3 came out last year and it has a workbook component for each lesson. I loved the "what" of FLL just not the "how". I think level 3 will be a much better fit for both of us. Several moms shared they jumped right into FLL 3 without completing (or even starting in some cases) FLL 1/2 and have had no troubles other than needing to take a few of the lessons at a slower pace. The Peace Hill Press website says as much but it was still good to hear from some moms who have done it and experienced success.

Spanish: We will continue using Discovery Streaming's Elementary Spanish. We loved it last year. It is great to "out-source" something. We aren't involved in any co-ops or regular homeschool groups. It is great for Thatcher to listen to someone other than Mommy and it gives me 30 minutes in our day to focus on the little ones. We bought our subscription to DS through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op (look under "Group Buys") for only $129, a 51% savings over the regular price. This is only good through July 31st so if you are interested hurry and sign up. You can go to the DS site and sign up for a free trial but know that what they offer in the trial is a more expensive version that is not available for homeschoolers to purchase. Still I have been thrilled with not only the Spanish available but the 1000's of videos that enrich all other areas of our curriculum!

Fine Arts Fridays:This year I am determined to add art instruction to our weekly schedule. I am one of those people who truly cannot draw much more than a stick figure. I thought that art was either something you could do or not. I've been happy to learn that while true most of us will never produce a masterpiece worthy of the Lourve, we can all learn to draw - even as adults. I have chosen to use How to Teach Art to Children. If you click here you can see a good chunk of the book. I like that it teaches the seven elements of art (line, shape, color, value, texture form and space) and has lots of fun and simples activities to go along with each section. Also we will work through Draw Squad for our actual drawing instruction. I think it will be a great fit for Thatcher and the combination of both books will provide a solid start to our future art endeavors.

For Art Appreciation we will read a book from Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series each week. We will also use some of the books from the Come Look with Me series.

For music appreciation we will continue listening to our Classical Kids CD's and other classical music CD's we own. I've been very happy with the Naxos collections we've purchased. Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers will be a regular addition to our Fine Arts Fridays.

Well how's that for a long blog post. If any of you made it this far, bless you! :) I needed to post this so that in a few years when Haddon comes along I can remember what I did each year and why I made the choices I did. I don't trust my memory to these sorts of details anymore. Hopefully this nay provide one of you a place to start when you begin your own research!



Makita said...

What a wonderful resource! Thank you so much! I purchased the science plans from Trivium Academy, too! Thank you for sharing the links! It is a great help!

Thank you, too, for the great copywork ideas! I've been struggling with that and know that we'll get more accomplished now! :D

Life With My 3 Boybarians said...

You highlighted what I love most about homeschooling, but also what I find hardest, too... hand choosing each element along the way. I have a post like this coming, too. And like you... I just added/tweaked my LA choices in the 13th hour.

I think your choices are brilliant and lovingly researched and chosen.

As for Haddon - it'll be a great reference, but the one thing I have learned is that what works brilliantly for #1 may be a total fop for #2. It keeps us on our toes!

I wish you and yours a fun, productive and successful school year.


ByHISgoodGRACE said...

Hi there,
love your "list." We're beginners and I'm using Trivium Academy's first grade lesson plan as well as part of her third grade science.
I love SOTW but wanted more bible to coincide. I did find charts, but prayed for something more specific. I came across Biblioplan which is a year long lesson plan that incorporates SOTW and Mystery of History as well as scriptures to coincide. A great find.
Prayers and Best Wishes for your new school year.
I appreciated your previous post on not being able to do it all. I struggle with wanting to post more, but just not finding the time.

Jenny in Ca said...

Wow, good for you to have gotten it all planned out and ordered!!! I am not even close yet, but I do have my main thing- TOG already from last year, the other stuff I have been thinking hard on, but haven't ordered yet. We love Story of the World, and are going to keep doing that as a spine to our TOG.

Where did you get logic safari??

great post, thanks for sharing.

Jennefer said...


I got Logic Safari from Rainbow Resources. I only order from them when I have enough to qualify for free shipping but this year there was more than enough! ;)


Anonymous said...

I love posts like this!! I love to see what people are using, but more importantly WHY! I'll be interested to see your book lists that you purchased. We have a fantastic library which I really love (and is a lifesaver), but I really would like to buy more good books. I'm just never sure before we start, say a history year, which books will be keepers. I hope you'll let us know so I can add to my wish list. :)

Sounds like a good year you have planned! I'm almost to the point where I can do my post like this.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your plans. I always like to see what others have chosen. I hope you have a wonderful year and everything goes as planned!

Have a great week!

mom24 said...

Looks like you've got a lot planned! I get so freaked out by having to research and choose each item. We'll see how this year goes with two students though.

For math, I have found that the manipulatives are CRITICAL to establishing a very good mental foundation for math (I didn't realize this for Kindergarten and skipped most of them until 1st gr, where they worked wonders)! Good choice for you to use more this year!

I am using SOTW 2 but am stressing right now since we start next week and I haven't planned out the extra projects or even the books! Yikes - I really want to go further in depth with that this year. You're a good motivator though! :-)

Thanks for the cursive info - I think I will use the same thing. I was looking for something that was scripture based. I wasn't planning to start until later in the year though - too many new things on our plate this year.

Your science looks wonderful! I'll be sure to check in to see how it's going and if you have an cool ideas!

Gotta go continue to custom work our plans too! Thanks!

mom24 said...

Didn't know about the FLL3! I was not really enjoying FLL last year. But instead of doing something totally different this year, I just decided to add more right-brained activities to it (illustrations, colored words for diagraming, songs for definitions) as well as taking it easy and slow so that it doesn't seem ad tedius or boring.
I'll look into FLL3 though - J loves workbooks too (he seems goal oriented)!

Mom of Three said...

Wow! First visit to your blog and I learned so much! I am new to home schooling this I read a lot of your stuff! I am going to look into that Cursive in Veritas. Thanks for sharing all your wealth of info!
Deb at

~Java Mama~ said...

Our 2nd grade curriulum choices are very similiar. I looked at the Spelling Wisdom and Simply Spelling, why did you choose Spelling Wisdom over SP? I am considering Spelling through Copywork right now, I haven't made a decision yet but better soon we are expected to start September 8th around here!

JOYfully in Him,

JOYfully in Him,