Homeschool Curriculum Recap: 2019-2020

photo of sticky notes and colored pens scrambled on table
Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

I thought it might be helpful to include a recap of the resources we used last year. I’m hoping to keep this relatively brief but include insightful details.

Kindergarten

We did Bookshark’s Kindergarten (now Level A) All-Subject Package 

Pros:

  • Excellent Language Arts– user friendly, encouraged phonics, fun for the boy, etc.
  • Rigorous & interesting Science. If I remember correctly, the first lesson is about dinosaurs. If you read my post about this year, you’ll know this kid is all about dinosaurs.
  • The encyclopedia & science activity books used as the main texts for science are excellent & visually interesting/appealing
  • I loved the subject of some of the books, specifically the one about Louis Braille, although it was a bit long.
  • Loved the language arts books, including the poetry, please & thank you, and dictionary of first words.

Cons:

  • History focuses extensively on Europe, including medieval times, colonialism & knights. While interesting and important to cover, I feel Bookshark could expand this history significantly to cover other areas & cultures in the world. There are some outside of Europe, but even in skipping weeks at a time, we were still talking about England, for example.
    • The entire program could benefit from increased diversity of materials, including the read alouds. There are some great ones included, such as the 100 dresses, but the rest are from the typical Eurocentric cannon– which again, is fine, but it would be preferable to have some additional titles about/written by BIPOC authors. In my experience, the 5th grade and up reading with history programs are more diverse, it’s the K-4th that could use the most improvement on this point.
      • You can order items individually to meet your needs, and I might suggest doing that to address this particular concern.
  • The science is probably too rigorous for Kinder. However, we were able to take it at our own pace, which included me writing when it was too much for him to do on his own.
  • The science is a bit all over the place. This may have to do with the way that common core has affected science, covering various different and completely unrelated topics. It is kind of frustrating, but I wouldn’t rule it out solely on that basis.

Overall, it is a very strong and a comprehensive program, and I would recommend it. However, I would recommend supplementing it with additional titles, especially historical ones, to create a more comprehensive view of world history.

We also ordered many of the titles from Usborne Beginners  Science & Nature & Gail Gibbons Science Series. We didn’t have the time/boy’s interest to get through all of these, so we will be continuing with them into first grade. They are very densely packed with information, have great pictures, and are relatively low cost. You could easily build an entire science curriculum with either one of them alone. Additionally, libraries carry most of the Gail Gibbons titles, in my experience.

He did explode the code book 1, Handwriting without tears, and one or two other workbooks. He was reading by the end of the year, and I think Bookshark’s Language Arts program had a lot to do with that.

He was my 2nd youngest to learn to read, but his acquisition of vocabulary and the rate at which he advanced is unprecedented. He is one of my 2 gifted kids, but I do believe the scaffolding of Bookshark, and the practice from Reading Eggs, were big factors in his success.

Third Grade

This was an interesting year for my son, who went through tremendous growth in his reading and independence. I can’t even remember the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, he was able to do all of his work on his own with limited assistance. Except for the one time he did his sisters’ science on accident and was super confused about the advanced physics concepts, LOL!

Science:

Level 2 (now level C) from Bookshark. I can’t remember what we started the school year with, but we started this somewhere in the middle, and he was completely able to finish on his own.

I LOVE THIS PROGRAM. IT IS EXCELLENT & RIGOROUS. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. 

History

We started the year with Pandia Press’s History Odyssey I Ancients. I was trying to make all of my big kids do Ancient History. It was kind of a disaster. It is very rigorous and has a lot of moving pieces, and I am not the best about getting library books for each week. So it fell apart. I believe this is a classical approach, and it would probably work best for families who are committed to that style. I happen to own almost all of the levels and I believe it is a very strong program, I would recommend it with the aformentioned caveat.

We switched to Bookshark’s Reading with History Level 2 (now C). And it was good for him. He was interested in the topics, the reading wasn’t too intensive, and it went well. However, my one issue with Bookshark’s history until 5th grade, is that I feel they don’t have a built in way of measuring what has happened for the day. So, I solved that by having him write down a few things he remembered from his reading, essentially notebooking. My other main contingency is that I also feel there is an over emphasis on European centered history.

Reading:

The readers for this level are my absolute favorite offerings of Bookshark for teaching reading. He read them last year and it made him into a solid reader. I ordered the advanced level 2 readers, and they were too intensive. So, we settled for the intermediate level 2 readers. I can’t find them on the site, it looks like they might be called Level C readers, eventhough they are not a part of the Level C History program. This is confusing. The books that worked for him included: The House on Walenska Street. That’s all that I know.

We also did Spelling Workout, Handwriting without Tears, Grammar Usage & Mechanics, and various books by Spectrum. He finally finished book 1 of Song School Latin.

Both boys did Singapore Math as well as Khan Academy. I remain happy with both of them. They also dabbled in Math Seeds, although my third grader completed all of the levels in second grade.

Fifth Grade

Science:

Both girls did Bookshark’s Level 3 Science (Now level D) and it was EXCELLENT. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

From their site:

“Science D gives students an up-close look at the observable world and the forces behind what we can see. Students focus on Physics (energy, gravity, sound, electricity, and machines) and Biology (life, cells, plants and photosynthesis, plant growth, protists, frogs, butterflies, ecosystems, food cycle, water cycle, air cycle, the human body and animals).”

I wasn’t the best about the experiments, as usual, but we did get a few done. AND my girls got really into their animal kingdom projects (which is not required but listed under optional expansion activities) and other similar posterboard type projects. Maybe someday I will update this post with photos, because they were super engaged.

Very very in depth high level yet interesting to a kid content. They learned a lot about basic biology fundamentals, the ocean, food/water/air cycle, botany (which we did cover last year as well), and some physics which was great because our charter requires it (common core, blah).

History:

Again, tried to make this kid do History Odyssey Ancients, but with the level 2. It was similarly a disaster, although she did get some great & admirable work done as far as vocabulary, map work & timelines. This child only learned to read last academic year, and so I think the work level was just too intensive for her.

In April we switched to:

Bookshark Level 5 (now F) Reading with History Eastern Hemisphere, and O M G. She has been reading and re-reading the books for fun. Every night before bed she does the Eastern Hemisphere notebook assignments & map work. Her reading is now 1 year above grade level (H/T to Reading Eggspress!) I MEAN, she’s reading about Nelson Mandela, and Ghandi, and Korea, and it’s just amazing. My oldest did it last year and I was saving it until next year due to the intensity of the program (and that she was a relatively new reader) and she has just blossomed and I love it. Now I’m scrambling to figure out what to do for her next year! lol.

Description from their site of Level F:

“As you learn about countries with such different economic histories from ours, you’ll enjoy Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?, an easy introduction to basic economics. And throughout your year, timeline figures and maps pull all your learning together.

The history centerpiece is Journey to the Eastern Hemisphere, a book that combines articles and photos about various countries and regions: China, Korea, Japan, Russia, Southeast Asia, Vietnam, India, the Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Australia, and Antarctica.”

THIS IS THE NUMBER ONE HISTORY CURRICULUM I RECOMMEND. I LOVE IT AND IT’S EXCELLENT.

Language Arts

We did the Brave Writer Arrows, which she loved. She read many of the titles more than once, and it launched her into a love of Sharon Draper. After reading Stella by Starlight, she has now read Out of My Mind (5 times in a one week period), and just picked up Mixed from the library.

She also made HUGE gains through daily use of Reading Eggspress (linked above). She completed the 6th grade content before the year was over. She couldn’t even read until the middle of 4th grade, and by the end of 5th grade she FINISHED 6th. She scored high in reading comprehension on the assessments within RE & on Spectrum Reading Comprehension exercises.

My goal for this year was to get her up to grade level in reading, and since she surpassed my wildest expectations, we will be turning to a focus on writing for next year.

She also did Spelling Workout, Grammar Usage & Mechanics, and various other ELA workbooks, such as reading comprehension.

Math

She did Singapore Math & Khan Academy. She needs additional support in Math, and we will focus on that next year. Khan was very engaging for her and she spent lots of time practicing on there and perfecting her skills.

6th Grade:

History:

This girl child did TWO COMPLETE History curriculums this year. Yes, she is my other gifted child. She actually completed all of the lessons for both, like what?! When does that ever happen for one curriculum let alone two!

She did Bookshark’s Level 6 History(now level G) and lapbook. Lots of great intensive reading and the lapbook was great. Could’ve been more diverse, extensive focus on Ancient Greeks & Romans, for example, but overall some great titles included.

She also did Oak Meadow 6th Grade Ancient Civilization. It was excellent especially because of the integrated writing assignments that crossed over from the English text, which she also did. I wanted to focus on refining and practicing her writing this year, and Oak Meadow delivered! She wrote a ton of history papers and narratives, and learned a lot.

HOWEVER, there was waaaayyy too much emphasis on Christianity for my liking. It went beyond Ancients into the middle ages, and many of the assignments revolved around Jesus as a part of history. I didn’t look closely, so take this with a grain of salt, but there were several lessons in a row dwelling on this and semi bizarre vocabulary assignments, in my opinion. I went back and looked closely. It looks like only one of the lessons (out of 36) dealt specifically with Jesus. There was vocabulary that seemed strange to me in 2 of the lessons, but everyone is different.

Another positive was the cooking projects or crafts from different cultures. My daughter got really into cooking, and did the end of the year feast, although a mini version because shelter in place had started and getting specialty ingredients was not possible.

English:

She did Oak Meadow’s 6th Grade English. I was very rigorous and demanding. It required things such as defining vocab words & using them in sentences. Taught parts of speech and tenses. It is everything that I was looking for for this particular child who was ready for the push. It is likely too intensive and boring for my rising 6th grader so she won’t use it, but it’s very good.

HOWEVER, see my previous caveat about weird vocabulary. Things like the word womb. Really? Why are we defining womb here? This isn’t even a science curriculum. And it was in the context of Mary being pregnant with Jesus. I strongly disliked this whole part of the curriculum & I would have to look at it very closely before looking at it again.

She also did the Arrows from Brave Writer, which she loved, as well as spelling workout, Grammar Usage & Mechanics, and a few other ELA workbooks I think.

Math:

Fractions finally made sense to her this year. She started doing daily math practice on Khan Academy after the end of 5th grade, and it showed. She continued that in addition to Singapore. She struggled this year in Math. I am considering switching to Saxon, which she used in 3rd grade. We still have some old math to finish up, so I am waiting to order.

She was also in a middle school math class through our charter, and that went well. She had fun seeing her friends as well as being taught by another teacher who used things like candy to teach ratios. It alternated between online and in person each week. She will do this class again next year.

7/11/20 UPDATE:

Music:

I completely forgot! She started History of Classical Music in the spring, and it was wonderful. She even wrote a short paper on Chopin, which we sent to her piano teacher (she has recorded one or more CDs of Chopin). 

She has made a lovely map of Europe, listened to different composers, and it has just been a wonderful addition to our homeschool. I will likely have her younger sister complete it when she is done.

I hope this post is helpful!

Feel free to drop any questions or comments below or reach out to me through the contact form.

P.S. This post likely has typos as I wrote it as quickly as possible without another read.

One thought on “Homeschool Curriculum Recap: 2019-2020

Leave a Reply