Our Relaxed Classical Homeschool Curriculum – 2017/2018 Picks!
This coming year’s homeschool curriculum choices have been the hardest by far for me. I pretty much had first through fourth grade mapped out in my oldest’s kindergarten year! She was an eager learner and I had myself a trustworthy guide in The Well Trained Mind. Pretty much all of the resources we used I found in the WTM grammar stage recommendations. We don’t log nearly as many hours daily as the schedules in the books suggest, and I definitely fall into the relaxed classical homeschool camp.
This year, however, we are entering the next cycle of recommendations, and that involves leaving some of our tried and true resources from previous years and moving into some new, uncertain, and exciting choices.
Besides struggling to plot out curriculum choices for my fifth grader, I’ve also had some bumps and hiccups planning for my second grader. It should be easy, right? Just repeat exactly what I did with when my oldest was that age and I should be done.
That’s actually what I tried this past year and it didn’t work out quite so well. Amazingly enough, my first and second born actually have very little in common when it comes to their development, attention spans, interests, and level of co-operation.
It turns out there isn’t a perfect homeschool formula after all! Who knew?!
So after getting my hands on the newest edition of The Well-Trained Mind, searching online, and consulting with like-minded friends, I’ve finally got my selections made and my year planned out.
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Our Curriculum Picks for Fifth Grade:
- Writing – Student Writing Intensive A from Institute for Excellence in Writing
I’m really excited about this selection! We’ve completed the first 3 levels of Writing With Ease (which I highly recommend) and are ready to move on! We’ve had some trouble with the increasing difficulty of the dictation exercises in WWE 3, so I wasn’t anxious to continue with Level 4.
I’m looking forward to moving on to having a video component and writing lessons not be completely dependent on mama. I can’t wait to see how she what she comes up with without my constant hand holding.
I was going to skip a formal handwriting workbook with my oldest from now on, but I’ve noticed some sloppiness and problems with letter formation in her work creeping in during the year. I’m hoping one more year of Handwriting Without Tears will do the trick!
She will also continue to practice her cursive writing using lots of copywork — I use free copywork pages I find online along with those from Homeschool Copywork and NotebookingPages.com (I can actually make my own beautiful, custom pages using their Web-App).
- Grammar – First Language Lessons Level 4
We are about half way through FLL 4 and I was really unsure where to go from here. There is some talk of Susan Wise Bauer’s newest grammar program coming out in the fall, and if that is the case I will purchase that, otherwise we will just slow down grammar studies and stretch the rest of our lessons out over the next year. I’m not too worried about “falling behind” in grammar because I’ve seen the firm foundation that has been laid with this program over the last four years. Honestly, if this were the only grammar program my daughter completed, she’d still be miles ahead of where I was when I graduated high school!
- Math – Math-U-See Delta & Gamma
Math has been a challenge for a few years for my soon to be fifth-grader. She’s had trouble mastering her multiplication facts, and we really ran into problems about 3/4 of the way through Gamma with the multi-digit multiplication. I finally decided to skip the last 5 units of the book and move into Delta to work on simple division. We will cycle back to the tougher multiplication units when the work in Delta starts to get more challenging. I know this totally defeats the purpose of Math-U-See’s mastery system, but my daughter just wasn’t mature enough to deal with so many numbers and steps and teaching the same lessons over and over again (and failing) certainly wasn’t helping her any.
- Spelling – All About Spelling Level 5
We had a slow start with spelling, but once we found our way with AAS, it has been smooth sailing ever since! I love this program! I bought just the teacher’s guide this year as we hardly use the letter tiles & cards anymore, and I’m going to pass the review box on to my newest spelling student. I think I’ll just keep track of spelling rules and trouble words on a small notepad this coming year.
- Informal Logic – Building Thinking Skills Level 2
Our Curriculum Picks for 2nd Grade:
The learning to read process is going much slower this second time around, but I still find this particular resource effective and adaptable to my student’s needs. It may take us twice as long to get there, but we are making steady progress!
Because it is taking my little learner so much longer to master her phonics, she’s also getting frustrated and discouraged that she’s unable to read “real books”. I picked up some All About Reading readers that seem to correspond to her current reading level and where I anticipate she will be headed in the coming months. They definitely qualify as “real books”!
- Writing – Writing With Ease Level 1
While I started this program in first grade with my oldest, my current first grader just wasn’t ready for it this year.
- Grammar – First Language Lessons Level 2
Level 1 has been going really well for my first grader this year — she actually had all the parts of speech (and prepositions!) memorized from listening in on her sister’s lessons for the last few years.
- Spelling – All About Spelling Level 1
I’m excited to start this program again next year, I think my younger learner is going to have a lot of fun with the letter tiles and the “jail” for the rule breakers!
- Penmanship – Handwriting Without Tears Printing Power
I may have joked this year that the program is called Handwriting WITH Tears since our penmanship lessons often resulted in frustration and crying, but I still think that HWT is the best option for students that struggle with writing.
- Math – Math-U-See Beta
We’re just a few lessons away from finishing Alpha, and there have been minimal bumps and hiccups in our math hiccups thanks to Mr. Demme and his wonderful little blocks!
What We’re Doing as a Group:
We used this 24-week devotional/discipleship resource when my older children were 6 & 3 and I think we could all benefit from reviewing the important character traits and qualities that it highlights. It’s great for use with multiples ages and has memory verses, discussion questions, and stories.
We still haven’t found our groove with Science and I’ve tried a handful of curricula over the years. I hear a lot of “I hate science!” around here.
One thing that DIDN’T work was having my girls use separate programs this year. Although my oldest did most of her work independently, it was still challenging to be pulled in two directions.
This book looks super simple, and may actually be a bit too basic for a fifth grader, but for this coming year, I’m just hoping for a positive experience!
This will be our fifth year with this program. This past year I increased the workload for my oldest by having her write out her narrations on my SOTW Volume 3 Notebooking Pages and next year we will add in a Timeline (which I am super excited about!) and of course SOTW Volume 4 Notebooking Pages. My first grader didn’t keep a history notebook this year, I only required her to sit and listen in with our lessons. She enjoyed some of the colouring pages from the Activity Guide, and in addition to that, next year I’ll print her off a set of notebooking pages and write narrations for her. I’ve got lots of ideas for supplementing Story of the World that we’re excited about!
We really enjoyed Song School Latin 1 this past year! We don’t use the workbook (they’re too easy for my fourth grader and my first grader isn’t able to read them), but watch the videos, sing, practice, and play the games during our Morning Time.
I know that Song School is not a particularly challenging program for a fifth grader, but we love it and are having fun. There’s lot’s of time later for more formal Latin learning and at this point, I’m happy to be cultivating an interest through enjoyment with my children.
- SQUILT Volume 3 (Romantic Era)
My kids just love their SQUILT lessons! Music is definitely one of those areas where I am unqualified to teach, and the SQUILT open & go format is perfect and lets me learn along with my children.
- Picture Study
We’re still using the Usborne Famous Paintings Art Cards along with some supplemental resources and trying to cover art appreciation in roughly the same timeline that we are studying history and music appreciation.
Extra Curricular Activities
I won’t be able to iron out the details of what extra-curricular activities we will be participating in during the next school year but I am planning on signing my children up for piano, gymnastics, and swimming lessons. We hope to continue with our local homeschool co-op (once per month), and field trips with homeschool friends.
This is the part of my planning that I’m the most excited about. I’m going to be upping my game in the self-education department this fall!
I’m a firm believer that homeschool mama’s need to be involved in lifelong learning themselves if they aim to pass that quality on to their own children. You can’t give what you don’t have, right?
In addition to my commitment to further my education by reading regularly, I’ve also gotten my hands on two “professional development” resources that I can’t wait to get started with: IEW’s Teaching Writing Structure & Style and The Center for Lit’s Teaching the Classics.