Thursday, August 29, 2013

3rd Grade Curriculum Choices - Science

Our science picks for this year are Spectrum Science, Christian Kids Explore Biology, Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space and Health Science (by Edward Shevick).

I have a kid who loves science.  I'm a mom who isn't great with science.  About all I have going for me here is that I'm really good with researching, but that still doesn't make me a science teacher.  Not only do I have a kid who loves science, I have a kid who passionately loves two completely different areas of science:  marine biology and astronomy.  That led me to the decision to knock out some of the physical science he needs for the year and then let him focus on his two favorites for the rest of our year in science. 

That's why I again chose Spectrum.  The low cost and the fact that it covers the majority of the physical science areas we need allowed me to spend more of our budget on his areas of interest.  I'm also using Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and other internet sources for supplemental ideas with Spectrum, but we're pretty well covered here.  (We used A Reason For Science last year and learned that it is not a good choice for homeschooling.  It was way too classroom-oriented and very difficult to adapt to homeschooling one child.)

We'll also need to cover some health science topics this year.  Along with our Health Science book, we'll use library resources and the internet for this.  We'll also see how Sid the Science Kid and The Magic School Bus can help. 

I really fell in love with Apologia's Exploring Creation series and knew that it seemed perfect for our in depth studies of sea life and astronomy.  However, I knew I'd need to spend big money on math. I also knew that these textbooks were $26 each (I needed two: one for Swimming Creatures and one for Astronomy).  Add that to the corresponding journals for both subjects at $20 each.  I just couldn't do it, so I kept looking.

I ended up choosing two books we'll be able to use quite a bit.  When I found the Christian Kids Explore series, I felt so relieved.  I knew that I found the perfect fit for us.  After having time to look through both books, I know we'll get plenty of use out of them and we'll be able to use them more flexibly than the Apologia series.   I love the biblical vantage points, the hands-on activities, and the notebooking instructions.  We'll probably spend a month, maybe two, going through parts of Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space and a month or two on Christian Kids Explore Biology.  Both will allow The Boy plenty of insight on his favorite topics.  I'm looking forward to teaching this and exploring The Boy's favorites with him.  If we fall in love with these -and I expect we will- we'll purchase the Physics book in this series next year. 

Lastly, I was able to find all of these for a reasonable cost.  Although I linked all of these through Christian Book Distributors*, I didn't purchase them all there.  I was able to get both of the Christian Kids Explore books used on eBay.  Since neither are workbooks, buying them used doesn't hurt anything.  Also, with the exception of Spectrum Science, all of these books can be used again and again.  I'll still be able to use both of the Christian Kids Explore books next year (and maybe even in 5th Grade) with The Boy and I'll be able to reuse those and Health Science with Prissy in a few years.  If I'm going to spend the money, I at least feel I'm being a good steward by buying materials that can be reused down the homeschooling road. 

*I link through Christian Book Distributors because they generally show page samples on their site.  It's very helpful when making curriculum decisions. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

3rd Grade Curriculum Choices - Language Arts

Picking up where I left off, for Language Arts I chose Spectrum Language Arts, Spectrum WritingA Reason for Handwriting Transition, and A Reason for Spelling.  There's no huge explanation for the grammar and writing portion of language arts.  Although the Spectrum books are basically workbooks, they're pretty thorough and provide a good foundation for us, but we'll supplement with internet resources that build on the lessons.  We'll see if I'm wrong and correct it next year if needed, but I really feel that we're in good shape here.

We used Spectrum Spelling for the last half of our 2nd Grade and it fell flat for us.  It just wasn't enough reinforcement.  He was memorizing the spelling words just enough to take his test each week instead of learning them.  He also started the year as a total perfectionist- freaking out if he missed his bonus word and only made 100 on a test.  By the time it was over, he didn't care how he scored.  He was disengaged. 

We've used the A Reason For series for in a few areas thus far and I decided to give this a try for spelling this year.  After reviewing the provided lesson plans, I feel making a move to actual spelling lessons is a good move for us.  What Spectrum Spelling lacked, A Reason For Spelling more than makes up the difference.  I look forward to seeing the difference in these approaches.

Another reason we love A Reason For is the unchanging, unabashed Bible references and emphasis.  That alone is why I chose A Reason For Handwriting for our transition to cursive writing.  It has well over 52 weeks worth of lessons, so it will last us into our 4th Grade year.  I love, love, love the scripture copywork at the end of each lesson and I love how it encourages the student to consider sharing those verses with others.

Lastly, there are several books we're reading this year, some I've chosen and some he has chosen.  We'll also be reading some poetry selections from Homeschool Creations.  I think it's going to be a great year for Language Arts! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

3rd Grade Curriculum Choices - Math

For Math this year, I went with BJU Press Math 3 for The Boy.  I really searched and considered lots of different math options for us this year.  I noticed last year that The Boy was not thriving in math.  He still came out of the year with a B average, which is totally fine, but I noticed that he simply wasn't retaining the different foundational math concepts the way I expected.  I could also tell that he wasn't enjoying it at all.  His goal each day was just to get done with it.  That's how I knew I needed to up my game in math.  I realize that everyone isn't going to love math.  I don't even like it, but I don't tell my kids.  I just feel that 2nd or 3rd Grade is just too early to begin loathing a subject. 

I knew I needed something that would really guide me and give me the tools I need to best teach math this year.  I'm still so used to having a minimal budget for materials, so I did lots of research before making my purchase.  I looked at so many well-known math curriculums like Saxon, Teaching Textbooks, Math U See, and Horizons.  I looked at everything that had sample pages on Amazon and Christian Book Distributors.  After much thought, I went with BJU because I find the teaching book to be so helpful.  I also particularly liked what I saw of the sample pages.  The fact that BJU teaches kids to think about math the same way I was taught is really helpful to me.  They've helped me articulate the very principles I've known all my life.  The Boy and I have also already enjoyed the manipulatives. I've learned the value of visual learning in math in this month we've used BJU. 

Will we use it again next year?  We started Chapter 3 today.  It's still too early to tell, but so far, so good.  I will say that it's been an adjustment to spend an hour and a half on one subject, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I will also say that it's by far the most I've ever spent on materials for one subject. I had to buy the worktext and the manipulatives brand new, but I was luckily able to find the teaching book, tests, and answer keys on eBay for a good price.  That helped quite a bit.  The good news is that I'll be able to reuse the teacher's guide, answer keys, and manipulatives again with Prissy in a few years.  That would mean we'd only need to buy a new student worktext for her. 

3rd Grade, We're here!

I can't exactly say that we had an official Back to School Day or 1st Day of 3rd Grade.  We're pretty much always in school and there's often not a defining end of one grade and start of another.  That doesn't mean The Boy and I haven't been excited about starting 3rd Grade.  After all, these are exciting times.  He has grasped some pretty important educational foundations over the last couple of years and it's cool to see those becoming a part of his everyday life.  It's also great because we can now build on these foundations and explore lots of new things. 

With that said, I knew I needed to make some curriculum changes this year.  I get asked fairly often what curriculum we use, but it's not an easy or quick answer.  At no point have I ever used only one curriculum or publisher throughout a homeschooling year.  Even though we've been homeschooling since 2009, I'm still learning too. I'm always looking for ways to expand and improve. There's a lot of thought that goes into lesson planning, just like any school environment. It took a couple of months to shop around, but I'm really happy with our materials for 3rd Grade.  Keep in mind that I always use Rebecca Rupp's Home Learning Year by Year as a guide for what we should cover each year. I build my lesson plans around this book each year.  I also use portions of the What Your Child Needs to Know series for each grade.  Both of these have been great in helping me decide what to look for when choosing materials. 

The next few posts will show you what we're using and why.  Hopefully someone will find it helpful. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You Might Be Nursing a Toddler If...

World Breastfeeding Month is going strong.  I'm seeing lots of breastfeeding support among social media outlets and I'm really grateful for that.  As noted in my post a few days ago, I've had plenty of negative comments thrown my way because I breastfeed.  It's not all bad though. I have also received encouragement about our choice.

There are really sweet times between Prissy and me that I wouldn't trade for anything.  There are also some really funny times too.  I mean, why wouldn't I love a toddler with an armful of toys squished up against me while nursing?  Maybe you'll only find this humorous if you've breastfed before.  I just know that there are plenty of times I find myself snickering about the things Prissy does while she's nursing.  So many, in fact, that I've compiled a short list.  Maybe you can relate. 

You might be nursing a toddler if:

5. Your little one hands you a nursing pad when she's finished. "Here, Mama..."  Isn't it sweet to have them help you put yourself back together? 

4.  Your sweet kiddo stops mid-feeding to tell you, "Good Mama," while smacking her lips.

3.  Precious tries to watch TV while nursing.  Who doesn't love dinner and a show?

2.  Your little one has tried to nurse while showering with you. 

(Insert drumroll) And lastly, you might be nursing a toddler if:

Your little one has stopped mid-feeding to let her stuffed Grover doll have a sip.  (Sharing means caring!)

Friday, August 9, 2013

You're Still Breastfeeding?

So, it's National Breastfeeding Month and, for anyone who doesn't know, I'm an advocate of breastfeeding.  I'm just going to throw this out there:  I'm still breastfeeding our 20 month-old. I know, I know, many of you think I'm crazy.  Some of you are downright baffled by this.  I started receiving social pressure to wean as early as six months.  Six months!  That's just unreal to me. Here are some examples of the less-than-encouraging words* I've heard:

"That baby is too old."
"That's just gross."
"If they can ask for it, it's time to stop."
"But formula is so close to breast milk now, why would you want to blah, blah, blah?"
"Once they get teeth, it's time to stop."
"My pediatrician told me to stop at fill in the blank months and all of my kids turned out fine." 
"You're still doing that?"
"You need to give that baby some formula.  She can't be getting everything she needs."
"Can you go somewhere else and do that?" **

What's extra-awesome is that all of these lovely statements were totally free (completely unsolicited). These comments came from my family members, friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers. Not once did I walk up to another mom and ask "Hey, what do you think about me breastfeeding my daughter?" Not once did I ask another mom, "Hey, what do you think about the fact that I'm still breastfeeding my daughter?"  I got so used to the negativity that I now offer justification for breastfeeding my toddler in anticipation of the remarks. Isn't it just amazing how we can bring someone down with our "advice?" 

Well, here's the thing.  Breastfeeding isn't about opinionated family members or friends.  It's not about precious, yet nosy, church people.  It's not about anyone who asks you to leave because they're uncomfortable with it.  It's not about anyone who can't separate breasts and sexuality.  It's not about anyone but you and your baby.   

Don't get me wrong, I didn't take any of it to heart.  After all, I was (and still am) committed to breastfeeding.  Prissy's 20 months-old and has no desire to wean.  I was obviously unaffected by the negativity. Unfortunately, my time breastfeeding her is coming to a close and I'm brokenhearted.  You read that correctly.  I'm brokenhearted about weaning her.  I hate the fact that I can't let her dictate the weaning.

I'm going out of town without her in a month and a half and the pressure is on.  I've pinned all the pins, I've read all the blogs, I know what to do.  I just hate that I don't have a choice.  This time has been beyond amazing for us.  I never really thought about when and how I would wean her.  It's been so good -and so easy- that stopping hasn't been something I thought about.  It's been more than nourishment; it's how she gets to sleep and how she's comforted.  It's all she knows.  She quit bottle feeding at two months. I'm not exaggerating; it really is all she knows.  I hate the fact that I'm about to rock her world. 

So, amidst all this rambling and ranting, what I'm saying is that I'm so glad I've been able to do this for 20 months.  I'm glad I was able to breastfeed and pump for The Boy for seven months.***  I understand why some choose formula, but I also know moms who switched to formula simply because of the lack of support when it got challenging or time-consuming.  To any of moms out there who are currently breastfeeding and moms who are expecting, remember that your choice is only about you and your baby!  I don't know any moms who breastfed and have said they regret doing it.  It has given me time to be with my kids -in a way completely orchestrated by God- and I wouldn't trade that for anything.  I'd endure all the comments and eye rolls all over again.  It's been that good for us. 

*We moved a few months ago and I'm happy to report that the nastiness happened before we moved.  Maybe the haters are concentrated to certain regions. 

** I don't nurse uncovered except in my own home. I've nursed in all kinds of places, but have only been asked to leave a few times.  All of those occurred in a church and more than one of them happened while I was nursing in the church nursery.  Sheesh!

*** The Boy was 3 months premature and was bottle-fed due to his prematurity and NICU stay. I pumped for 7 months with him, but he was only physically able to breastfeed after he was 4 months old.  Because he still used bottles while I was at work, he was so acclimated to the bottle that weaning him wasn't an issue.