It all started way back at 5:15 a.m. when NORMAL people are doing things like sleeping... I was sleeping. My husband on the other hand needed a ride to work, so I woke the whole bunch up to pile into the car in our jammies to take him. When we got back home, I decided that there was no need to waste time, so we got to work getting the school room organized and ready for the day (we just returned from an out of town trip, so there was luggage strewn about.) We got started with school around 7.
The first thing I did was start explaining the new process for this school year. I've done an overhaul on our schedule; where last year we did each subject daily, this year we are spreading our lessons out a bit more so that the kids aren't being bombarded each week. I wore myself, and goodness knows, the kids, out last year with tests and paperwork, so this year I've improved on that. I went over the new schedule, grading process, test schedule, and any other notable changes that had been made. Once the kids had become acclimated with the schedule, we moved on to a short overview of each subject. I had them get each book as we went, so they could flip through them and look at the contents while I talked about what we would be learning from them. The kids were very excited about the new books, notebooks, and subjects.
When I finished with the preliminaries, I had the kids pose for their "first day" photos, and I filled out their new school year form. I measured them and got their weights, asked them a couple of questions, and filled them in to compare to the end of the school year. This is the first year I have done this, and I am excited about it! I was surprised to find out what each of them were looking forward to most. I was equally surprised at how tall they all are! Where are my babies??
The first actual class we worked on was cursive penmanship/Bible memorization. We are using Intoxicated on Life's Write Through the Bible, Phillipians 2:1-18. This is our first year using cursive, and I must say, cursive is NOT dead in this house!!! At least two of the three are happy to be doing cursive, and the third hates writing in general, so it is nothing unusual. After penmanship, we moved on to Bible. On the first day of our school week we read from the Old Testament, on the third day we read from the New Testament, following the Calvary Chapel curriculum (we are continuing from last year, beginning lesson 70 in the OT, and lesson 179 in the NT). On the second and fourth day we read one lesson from Route 66, which is a tour of the entire Bible, the history behind the times, the chronology, the Greek and Hebrew meanings of words, and the authors of the books. On the final day of the week, we read a cute little devotional called Sticky Situations, and we listen to this song to learn the books of the OT. It sounds like a lot, but really we just get a lot of ground covered in about 20-30 minutes a day, five days a week. I like this method better than last year when we only did Bible reading because the activities we were doing with them with monotonous. This approach helps us all to stay out of a boredom rut and helps us all to learn a lot more. We do no testing in Bible or Handwriting, and grading is based on participation and grasp of concepts.
The next class is Grammar, and we are continuing our use of Houghton Mifflin English (4). Last year we used the 3rd grade book, and I liked it because of the ease of transition from one topic to another, as well as the amount of review work. Grammar is one of those subjects that comes easy to some, but has to be drilled and drilled for others, and we really have one or two who need constant reminders! I am currently angry at two of the publishers that I once admired because they have switched to Common Core alignment, but these books are older versions, and not in the CC. If I cannot find old versions online for 5th grade next year, I will have to find something else. We also used HM for Reading this year, using both the textbooks and the workbooks. This year is the first year that we have used a full Reading Comprehension course, so I will have to update as we go.
Once we finished Language Arts, we moved on to Science. We are using Pearson Science book this year. So far, we have not had a very strong science curriculum, so I'm hoping the fact that we are using a textbook, we will be able to learn more while staying entertained. I also bought the science experiment kit that goes with the book, meaning we get to do the fun, hands on stuff! We quickly reviewed our Spanish lessons for this year after we finished Science for the day. I had my college Spanish book handy, so I decided to use it as a basis for our Spanish this year. Last year we used Mango Languages, which is a free program available through many libraries, but because it is meant for business travelers and adult vacationers, the topics are sometimes sketchy for kids (like ordering alcohol), and can be tough at times to maneuver through.
Before we stopped for our lunch break, we worked on Typing and Math. I purchased Teaching Textbooks 4 for this school year. I have heard so many good things about it for elementary and middle school math, and I like the fact that it is computer based, which means less paper waste and more to keep the kids interested. I decided to leave Math somewhat in the children's hands this year- they can work on as much as they want each day, as long as they do four lessons per week. Already, one kid decided to do three lessons today, meaning only one more is required for the week! This gives them the freedom to work on things as they feel like it or they can move ahead faster. If they finish the whole grade level, I will move them on to 5th grade Math. Because I bought only one copy of TT, only one kid can use it at a time, hence combining Math with typing. We are using Typing Instructor for typing, and the kids (and I) really like it! I never took typing because I was homeschooled in high school, using a packaged curriculum that did not include any types of computer classes. So while one child works on Math, the other two can work on their typing.
The last two subjects are History and Spelling/Vocabulary, and for both of them we are continuing the series we have used the past couple of years. In History, we are on book 3 of The History of US. We all love the story-like feel of the series, imaginative descriptions mixed with anecdotal facts and images of real documents, it makes reading history a lot more fun. For Spelling/Vocabulary, we have been using Wordly Wise 3000, and we still love it. I have been so impressed with the level of difficulty in the word lists, which is the biggest reason I chose the series. There are words on the tenth grade and up lists that I don't even KNOW, let alone know how to spell! I like to think that by using this series, the kids will get a good start on their SAT vocabulary scores!
The whole school day took about 6 hours, including the time spent going over the subjects, books, and schedules. I think we can safely get through a school day in 3-5 hours this year, depending on how much effort the kids want to put into the day. At the end of the first day, the children and I are all still pumped for the school year, and that is a good thing!