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I did it! I’ve planned out my upcoming school year for 3rd grade and for 6th grade!
Just as a heads-up, though this covers only core subjects, this post is packed with advice. I promise, it’s worth it to make it all the way through! 😉
This is actually a big deal for me. We are entering our second full year of homeschooling. (Rosie has been at it since March of 2016, while Ladybug joined us in July of that same year.) For this past year, I had a rough idea of which subjects we wanted to tackle. I had spent time making a folder for each subject with an out-line of activities, books, and videos. [For an idea of the type of unit studies we did, head over to my Ocean Studies post.] We made it three-fourths of the way through the year and then we moved. And the wheels fell off of the school train. We did get through another topic or two after we got settled into the new house, but all momentum was gone. Mid-way through May we called it done. A few weeks later, I was ready to look ahead to the new year.
I’m old-fashioned in that I love planners. I love paper and pencils and all different colored pens. I love office supplies of all kinds. Seriously, I think it borders on addiction… Anyway, I digress. I knew to come up with a plan that I would stick to, I needed a super cool, super fun planner. But not just any planner. It had to be a homeschool planner that I didn’t have to wait a month for. (No joke! I went on Etsy and found some cool ones but I’d have to wait almost a month to get them! Gah!) I’m impatient and needed my planner tomorrow. Hey, I had a plan and couldn’t delay! To solve this quandary, I went to a homeschool store in a nearby big city (seriously, we moved to the middle of nowhere!) and found a super cute, super fun planner. (I’ve actually included an affiliate link for the same one through Amazon. You don’t have to go anywhere to get yours!)
I love that this planner starts out with the year spread out over 2 pages; and I’ll tell you why in a minute. I love the big monthly
calendar pages that are followed by weekly pages that I can get more detail in. The best part about the weekly grid pages are that you can use them any way that works best for you. I’m trying out with the days of the week across the top row and my kids’ names down the side column.
So I had my planner. What’s next?
Timing-How long do you go at a time?
I sat down with the determination of having a more thorough school year planned out for the next year. Our first year was pretty relaxed. I wanted this year to have more structure; especially since Rosie is going into 6th grade. (It may be a way off, but I’ve got my sights on high school and getting her ready for it.)
The first thing I did was to decide how our year was going to be divided. We all need breaks within the year, and after trying to go 7 or 8 weeks before breaks, I learned that the uneven timing doesn’t work and the on-off schedule needs to be regular. After looking around for advice, I settled on school for 6 weeks, then off for 1 week.
Here in North Carolina, we aren’t required to have a certain number of days of school; it is suggested that we go for 180 days. So, at six
weeks at a time, I needed six “sessions”. That divided itself up pretty easily with 3 “sessions” before Christmas, 3 “sessions” after Christmas, and the whole month of December off. Using my fancy new planner and working backwards from Christmas, I landed on July 17th for our start date. [Since planning this, we learned we have an upcoming family trip and have thus moved our start date up a week–much to the excitement of my kids. Seriously. They are really excited to get started!]
Subjects-How to decide?!
I’ve got my timing laid out. Now, which subjects are we were going to focus on this year? I did know that there were some subjects that we needed to focus on, regardless of how my kids felt about them. Our core was going to be made up of math, language arts, spelling, handwriting, and Bible verse memory. Math and Language Arts were my husband’s non-negotiables, with good reason. I chose to have separate spelling and handwriting curriculum because my kids sometimes need extra practice. [Hey, no judgement here, seriously. I still ask my husband, an English major, how to spell stuff. Frequently.] Finally, I had started working on getting my girls to start memorizing Bible verses and they were doing well. I wanted to keep going with that and introduce some activities to help solidify their memory.
We had done some science and history this past year and I honestly couldn’t leave one of the subjects out but I struggled with how to get it all in the year. Since my year is already broken up into 6 sessions, I decided to have each session cover a different subject: Session 1 Science, Session 2 History, Session 3 World Geography, Session 4 Science, Session 5 History, Session 6 Science. To help get Rosie and Ladybug to be a party of the planning so that they could also be eagerly anticipating the upcoming year, I asked my girls for their input as to which topics they wanted to learn about for science and history. I definitely took that into consideration. Here is what I came up with:
I had my outline of extra subjects and topics. Add that to the core subjects I was planning on teaching, and I felt like I was headed in the right direction. But now it was time for curriculum. I don’t know about you, but that part overwhelms me. So I turned to my homeschool Facebook groups for advice.
Curriculum- Help! There are so many choices!!
I turned to other moms for help. I got an overwhelming amount of responses to my pleas for help from a local group. I needed a way to sort through it all and keep track of what I was researching. I grabbed three 5 subject spiral notebooks: 1 green for Rosie, 1 blue for Ladybug, and 1 purple for subjects they are doing together.
I sorted through all of the responses and listed all the language arts choices in one section, all the math in another, spelling in another, and reading lists/ideas in yet another. After gathering all of the helpful suggestions, I began researching each one and settled on my favorites. It took some time because except for math, we had never used a structured curriculum for anything. Also, since having tested my girls in the spring, I needed to adjust grade levels for different subjects. Of course, and I’m sure you can relate, we aren’t exactly able to go buy brand-new everything plus all the kits to go with them. (Thankfully there is a store about 40 minutes away that sells new and used homeschool curriculum. It’s a life-saver! And a penny-saver too. 😉 )
Spelling – I found a spelling curriculum that both girls can use, despite being at different levels.
That was one of my favorite things about Spelling Power: both girls can use 1 curriculum (it does accommodate a range in grades). I was able to buy my main book used (for only $30) and then I had to buy 2 of the student books. I did only need 1 box of the task cards though. So by having both girls use this, I didn’t need to buy 2 of everything.
Language Arts – I went back and forth on this one. With this subject I was going to have to buy a curriculum set for each girl because they are at different grade levels. So having to buy everything new and online limited my choices (because of course the more expensive ones had to be my top choices). Fortunately, I was able to find Learning Language Arts through Literature (which happened to be one of the more expensive books online) at the used book store – used! It was wonderful find. What I liked about this particular series was that it covers grammar, reading skills, vocabulary, spelling, creative writing, library skills, and research all in one book. LLAtL has 4 book studies that go along with the lessons so it all seems to go together and seems like a more authentic way to learn the necessary skills.
For Rosie, I picked:
For Ladybug, I picked:
*I realize these are affiliate links, and I do make a small commission if you choose to buy through these links, but I had to say that the prices for the language arts books beat my used prices at the bookstore.*
Math – This one was tricky. My husband came with me to the bookstore to compare some of our options. I’m pretty sure we spent a couple of hours there that day. (No, our kids were not happy campers.) Our girls have different learning styles and I think they approach math differently. I wanted to pick one for each of them that would work best. [We had tried Saxon last year for both girls. Rosie and I would go head-to-head and there were tears. Ladybug would fly through pages and lightning speed. It just didn’t fit our family.] For Rosie I chose Math Lessons for a Living Education. I liked this one for her because it puts math into everyday circumstances and seems to flow easily. I think if she can see how to apply it in everyday situations, it’ll stick better. Ladybug is going to try out Singapore Math, the standard edition. She seems to have a mind that gravitates towards numbers and sees things more black-and-white. This curriculum should be able to challenge her more.
Handwriting – Both of my girls want to learn cursive. This works for me because I wanted to make sure that they still focus on their handwriting skills. I had picked out a cursive workbook from My Father’s World for both girls, but while at the bookstore, Ladybug found Handwriting Without Tears Can-Do Cursive. It looked appealing to her and she wanted to give it a try. Rosie is going to give My Father’s World Handwriting 3 Cursive a try.
*Whew* That was a lot! Thank you if you stuck with me through all of that! I wanted to share as much as possible about these core subjects since we are entering middle school with Rosie and I know I’m not the only one. In my next post I’ll dive into the subjects that my girls will be doing together; the ones we’ve divided up by our in-school sessions.
In case you missed it, last time I talked about the Top 10 Things My Homeschool Can’t Survive Without. Seriously, all of things are a must-have for us.
Next time, I’m going to go over the subjects that my girls will be studying together.
Was this helpful in directing you which curriculum choices to look at? Do you use a different one that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!