Monday, February 20, 2012

Our Curriculum Plans for 2012

Curriculum choices

Like all homeschoolers, what we will cover this year is changeable. Over the past few years I have worked out a core that we try to stick to and then the rest is for interest or decoration. I have tried to wind back our homeschooling a lot in the past 12 months. It is hard not to let things creep into the plan but I try to be firm about our core and keep it to that (mostly I just have to be firm with myself).

I'm the main teacher and I work two jobs so as much as I would like to piece things together myself, out of the box and prepared curriculums have saved my sanity. I've looked at a lot of things over time and I love browsing and looking at what other people use and recommend. I keep coming back to maintaining a core and trying not to be tempted by awesome looking curricula or cool looking education ideas. 

The biggest challenge is having bright kids with learning challenges. Vince (11) has major problems with physical writing. He has fine motor issues and poor muscle tone as well as optical focusing difficulties. We have had some great OT and, in the long run, he will hopefully do all his work orally or through voice recognition/translation software. However, a major challenge for the handwriting impaired is the need to be very familiar with letter formation and common letter patterns to facilitate spelling and grammar. We have maintained handwriting some work to help with this and it is a constant challenge to keep the handwriting up while not overwhelming/exhausting him. He even has difficulty colouring and I have to remind myself that colouring does not equal learning. So I put up with a lot of black and white pages. I am finally hopeful that we may leave some of the handwriting behind soon as Sequential Spelling is providing an enjoyable spelling method based in handwriting that is working!

Rhiannon (8), on the other hand, has perfectionism issues. For the first six months of homeschooling her we would have fall down on the floor tantrums over committing an answer to paper if she was uncertain that it was correct. We took a complete homeschooling break for three months and then, with a lot of psychological support, began again, one subject at a time. She does her maths completely online and this has helped her cope with incorrect answers tremendously (something about the impartiality of the machine doesn't scare her as much as human judgement). Now I am slowly warming her up to correction and rework in the rest of her school work. It is a very slow process and things still result in tears when she is tired or the work is particularly demanding, but overall we have made some great progress. A surprising improvement has come about since Vince moved on to the next curriculum level and they are now studying different work. She is comparing herself much less to him and is beginning to see herself as a competent learner. A huge and unexpected win.

Language Arts, Science and Social Studies
We have always raised the kids on great books so when I found Moving Beyond the Page (MBtP) it seemed like a natural choice. It turned out even better than I expected. All the books chosen for study are marvelous, even the non-fiction and the supporting texts. In Moving Beyond the Page we cover Language Arts, Science and Social Studies in two matched streams.

Rhiannon has one more year of parent-child MBtP and I am looking forward to the year as we will read many of my favorite books including The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and The BFG.

Rhiannon's Books for 8 - 10. Some are missing as they can easily be obtained form the library.
Rhiannon's Kits for 8 - 10. She is busting to open and start any one of them.

Vince is just beginning his first unit of self-directed MBtP and, despite the topic matter (poetry) is responding very well. It's been a very long time since I read A Wrinkle in Time so I'm looking forward to revisiting it. Also, if you haven't seen it, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an absolutely amazing story told in pictures and words. The movie, Hugo, is a lovely interpretation of it. You should check both out.

Vince's Books for 9 - 11. Note the audio book and novel versions of a few books. More are already downloaded. He usually reads and listens to the story to help with comprehension and fatigue.
Vince's Kits for 9 - 11. They look a bit light on but one is missing and then another science unit is space.

I have thought about putting the kids completely on to an online curriculum like Time 4 Learning but I am concerned about accountability and how to report to the HEU if using an online curriculum so I haven't taken it further. However, I have just discovered that Time 4 Learning has worksheets that fit in with the units so I will be trying to use these for Maths documentation throughout the year.

Time4Learning 3rd Grade Maths

Rhiannon and Vince both enjoy online learning but have very different tastes. Vince likes thing to be direct and instructional, Rhiannon loves animations, silly narration and character stories. Last year I started them on Maths curriculums online and things are working out very well. Rhiannon uses Time 4 Learning and Vince uses Cambridge HotMaths. Both suit them perfectly.

Cambridge HotMaths Upper Primary

Spelling and Handwriting
Lastly is spelling and handwriting. Over the past year Vince did Handwriting Without Tears First Grade and Rhiannon has just started it. I have Grade Two and we will probably start it with Vince a little further along in the year once he has settled into his new Moving Beyond the Page format. Spelling has been something we have tried to learn by context and wrote but both kids are lacking in spelling confidence. We have just begun using Sequential Spelling and they are both enjoying it. They have greatly improved in spelling confidence in just a week.


Arts, sports and hobbies are extras and when working with kids with special needs I consider these the nice to haves. I also feel that they need space for personal interests that aren't weighed down by formalising them in a school context, so what happens here is their own choice.

They both love to swim and have swimming lessons each week. Vince is/was water phobic so in the past year we have had great one on one lessons for him through the Sam Reilly Swim School. They have a great special needs programme with excellent teachers and a reduced rate for private instruction. They have been marvellous and Vince now loves to swim! We go to the community pool for a weekend swim about once a fortnight. Anni also loves to swim (she's a water-phile!) and loves going to her lessons and mucking about at the community pool.

Vince goes to art class on a Friday afternoon with a brilliant fine arts teacher. She is so wonderful and encourages and guides him just the right amount. He loves to sculpt in clay and has produced some truly wonderful pieces over the past 12 months. Anni tried these classes but they weren't a good match for her. Instead she indulges in lots of painting and drawing of her own choosing at home.

Digital Photography
Vince is becoming quite interested in digital photography and he is playing around with photos all the time. I am tempted to get him into some formal classes but for the moment he is pleased with his photos and seems to be enjoying the process as it is. I am wary of taking the fun out of it by pushing him into something formalised.

Both kids love snap kit modelling and entered a show last year where they placed. They have plans to enter in the April rounds of the same show this year. Rhiannon's latest piece was a lot of fun and a step up for her in challenge. Vince has also stepped up in detail and complexity over the past year. Jamie hopes to get his art teacher's cooperation to get him painting and detailing his models in the year ahead.

I craft extensively in many different mediums and I have a lot of stuff just lying around waiting for the kids to get into it. Rhiannon expresses an interest now and then but she is a free form artist and working to the constraints of a kit or pattern bore her after a while so she dabbles but doesn't get into any one thing. Vince has a great desire to learn crochet and weaving but his fine motor skills are slow in developing so they are quite challenging for him. Again, I just take it slowly and try not to get too caught up when projects don't get finished.

Both are interested in learning a musical instrument but don't have enough self-drive for regular practice. Anni also really resents anything that requires structure. She is so free form and will probably pick up an instrument and self-teach later on, so I leave her alone. Vince does like learning formally, but enjoys other activities more, so we haven't added formal classes to his routine with the aim of keeping things quieter and more focused on other areas. 

Both kids and I are deeply invested in Scouting with both kids in Cubs (Vince about to go up to Scouts) and I'm a Cub Scout Leader. Scouting offers a huge range of activities and we have planned for a surival style camp in March and other things throughout the year. I feel we need to start bushwalking more (I used to do it a lot when I was working at O'Reilly's as a guide) as Vince needs to build up his hiking stamina and experience going up into Scouts. I'm not wild about it but we need to get on with it this year.

Social Skills 
Both kids are down for Social Skills programmes. Anni's is going on right now and Vince will be doing his in Term 2. They will continue regular therapy in the rest of the year and I will continue to provide support at Cubs for Rhiannon. I'm trying to give Vince a more independent space to operate in at Scouts, we're yet to see how that will work out. We've also established a habit of seeing various friends regularly and these small opportunities have been great for working on skills.

Our Worldwide Classroom


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! I love learning how other families approach homeschooling... And I also love looking up links!!! I haven't heard of MBtP :)

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom said...

You are the first homeschooling blogger that I have come across that lists Cub Scouts in your curriculum plans. I think that is fantastic! I applaud you for being a Leader since you are most likely busy with other things throughout your day. I feel that both your children as well as the other child benefit greatly from your efforts and big heart. My husband was a Den Leader this past year and is now moving on to Cubmaster so I know the time commitment as well as the effort that goes into giving them a worthwhile experience. I look forward to following along with your site!

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