Wonderfully Chaotic

Monday, October 5, 2015

Curriculum Choices: 2015 - 2016


I'm getting to this a bit late but better late than never, eh? Sure, that's what we'll go with. :) This year Zeke is in 4th grade and Ellie is in 1st grade. We also have Zac, who is a toddler; Hezekiah, who is a baby, and I am pregnant. (Just sharing that because that factors into our curriculum decisions somewhat too!)

History - We are using Story of the World for History this year. We got Volume 1: Ancient Times and are about 5-6 chapters in. I am really loving the way SOTW is laid out and how I can use it with both kiddos together. I got the textbook and the activity book which has lots of neat crafts to go along with whatever subject/time period they're studying. It also has some great book lists in it - our libraries haven't had all the books but they often have similar ones. And it has tests over each chapter which Zeke really enjoys.
Science - Both of my older kids are studying the human body this year. I'm honestly just mish-mashing things together that I find online and utilizing (again!) our local libraries and their wide variety of different textbooks. :)
Phonics/Reading: Ellie - Ellie is using our sets of "I See Sam" books from Academic Success for All Learners. We're also utilizing the Starfall website - the games, books, and printable activities they have on there - and I have downloaded several of their apps to my Kindle.
Reading/English/Grammar: Zeke - Zeke is finishing up an English & Grammar workbook I bought on Amazon and for Reading is working his way through an older set of Scott Foresman texts and workbooks I also bought on Amazon.
More Reading: We visit the library once a week or every other week and check out a giant stack of books. Zeke and Ellie are both also participating in the Pizza Hut Book-It program (from October to March) and have started working towards their monthly goals. Zeke has a goal of a certain number of chapter books each month and Ellie is working towards reading a set number of Sam books independently.
Math - Zeke is using A+ Interactive Math from Tutor Soft. Ellie is currently using a variety of different First Grade workbooks I picked up at the local dollar store or was given.
Handwriting - We are once again doing Handwriting Without Tears.
Bible - The kids and I have been doing a Bible Study each evening with "Our Daily Bread for Kids." It's actually just a sample version that someone gave me but they have really been enjoying it so I think we're going to purchase the full one.
Homeschool Groups/Co-Ops/Social Activities - I've helped to "lead" a homeschool support/social group for several years now and this year I've taken a huge step back. We are still going to the occasional field trip or park day but I realized I was wearing myself out helping other people when my own family was right there in front of me, needing my attention. I can't be everything for everyone and my own family has to take precedence. So I took a step back and reevaluated our social activities. We've been meeting up with a smaller group of just 3 - 4 families for a very informal co-op as time allows. The kids like the smaller and quieter atmosphere and I enjoy not having to run around like a crazy woman. They enjoyed a book club in September and presented posters at the end of it about The Hobbit (Zeke) and Pinkalicious (Ellie, of course). Ellie has been enjoying fall soccer (which is almost over now) and Zeke is looking forward to baseball again in the spring. They'll both be signing up for 4H within the next month or two, although it won't start up again until next year.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Planning Our Homeschool Year with LessonTrek

In the 6 or so years we've been homeschooling, I've tried a variety of different planners to keep track of the kids grades, classes, and assignments. I've had some that worked out okay and others that didn't work at all. I tried buying them online from homeschool companies, assembling my own with a store bought planner, or piecing together printable ones from online. So many of them were filled with all sorts of extra pages that were overwhelming or that I didn't even use. I needed something simpler and easy to use.

When I began gearing up for this year I found an online lesson planning tool through a Facebook group I'm in. I thought eh, I'll sign up for it and see what it's like. I was very pleasantly surprised! LessonTrek is a very easy to use online lesson planner. It's available for Chrome, Safari, Firefox or IE 10+. In addition to yearly lesson planning, it also comes equipped to record grades and assemble transcripts. I plan out a week or two weeks at a time and then print off a copy of the week's assignments for the children to attach to a clipboard and mark off assignments as they go. It gives them a little more freedom and responsibility and lets them know exactly how much they have to get done that day.

Adding and arranging subjects is very easy. LessonTrek uses a very simple drag-and-drop interface that gives you room to put information about the assignments and different types of tasks - tests, workbook pages, reading, etc. You can also copy and paste whole weeks at a time - which I've found to be helpful since we do the same subjects each week. I can fill in all the subjects and then just copy it to the next month or two and then fill them out as needed.

Grading subjects is also very easy with LessonTrek. You can use percentages, incomplete/complete, points, symbols, or leave the subject ungraded. Field trips and extracurricular activities can also be added in. I added our weekly Book Club and then in the blank space underneath their assignments the kids will fill in other tasks or events that are happening throughout the week.
I sent a message to the people who created LessonTrek and let them know how much I loved it and asked a few questions about a few different features. They were quick to respond and let me know that one of those features in particular (sharing subjects between students) was in the works and would be available soon. Very quick and helpful customer service!

They also very generously gave me information about a current special that my readers could use! LessonTrek has a 14 day free trial and normally costs $6 a month or $60 a year. (Still really good for all the stuff it offers!) But by using the special code below, you can get 50% off for 2 years. Just enter code HC243 inside the Monthly Code section Discount Code box in all caps. You'll only have to pay $3 a month for 24 months! That's a really great deal.

Disclosure: I emailed LessonTrek of my own accord to tell them how I liked their service and to ask questions. I also told them I was a blogger who thought her readers would also like their service. They offered my readers a discount code. I received no compensation and these opinions are all mine!