We did it! We have officially made it through our first semester of home-schooling. This year, we have made the leap from public school to home-school, and it has been a roller coaster. There were a lot of lessons for both mom and daughter to learn, but we are slowly getting the hang of it.
We started the year enrolled in Regina Caeli Academy, a Hybrid Program that uses the Mother of Divine Grace Curriculum. In the program, the students follow a lesson plan set up by a tutor, and they join for ‘class’ on campus twice a week. My husband was very apprehensive about home-schooling, so the hybrid program was a great compromise.
Enter Hurricane Harvey. Within a week of school starting, the city of Houston was hit by one of the most devastating storms and most of the city was flooded. This included our home parish, and the home of the academy. While the academy was soon up and running again, the location and new schedule did not work for our family because we both work full-time outside of the home. So, one week into the ‘hybrid program,’ we were going it alone.
We have stayed with many of the original curriculum choices, but we have made some changes based on our daughter’s needs and our wants. Without further adieu, here is my second semester of third-grade curriculum:
A-beka Arithmetic 3, Student Workbook and Tests and Speed Drills: Before the school year started, my daughter tested into the middle of third grade at the hybrid center, so we thought about skipping her to 4th grade math. That would have been a mistake. This curriculum is very intense!
The first couple of months were easy, but as we enter the second semester it has become apparent that we will need to slow down to make sure she has mastered long division. A-Beka uses the spiral method, so there is a lot of drill and repetition. However, I think that is critical in math. We are challenging her to memorize all of her multiplication facts up to 10, and then the reverse division facts should come naturally making long division easier.
We did encourage her to watch some of the math videos on A-Beka Academy, but she finds them boring and they do not keep her attention. We tried Khan Academy for the first semester, but that too seemed slower paced and boring. So, for drills, she is using a fun app that we found on Amazon calledMultiplication Flashcard Quiz. She has downloaded it onto her Kindle Fire, and she is required to play it for 15 minutes, at least 3 times a day.
I have found that she learns the best when I sit down with her and we work long division problems out on a white board together. Math is the only subject that requires my direct support daily.
We began the year using the Writing Road to Reading which is the recommended program in the Mother of Divine Grace Curriculum. People have strong opinions on this curriculum, and I am no exception. I found it cumbersome, confusing and not worth the effort. I should add here that even though I no longer teach professionally, I am a certified English and ESL teacher in the State of Texas. I understand the importance of phonics and spelling fundamentals, however I think there are a lot better options out there that are more engaging.
In my opinion, there should be three goals in teaching Language Arts:
1.) Inspire children to want to read for knowledge and fun.
2.) Teach children to write and communicate effectively in a variety of formats (descriptive, fiction, non-fiction, etc.)
3.) Provide children with the ability to cohesively develop thoughts and arguments and present them in a way that contributes to problem solving and interpersonal communication.
Therefore, we left behind the Writing Road to Reading and took a more nuts and bolts approach that begins with novels. Last semester, my daughter readThe Courage of Sarah Noble and completed a diorama and book report based on the book. She also read Mr. Popper’s Penguins, created a large format poster board, presented an oral presentation to the family and hosted a family movie night based on items found in the book.
In addition to the novels and book projects, we use LifePac for grammar, writing and cursive. The books are not all-inclusive enough to compose an entire Language Arts curriculum, but they do provide her with an introduction to the skills that she needs to become a good writer, and we expand upon these in our other subjects and through our novel projects.
Finally, we use the Horizons program for spelling. These are her favorite, and she will actually ask to work through her ‘spelling packet.’ Each week, I pull out the lessons for the week and she completes them independently. At the end of the week, I administer a spelling test and she always gets a perfect score. The third grade level did start very easy, so we have skipped ahead and will finish this book about a month early.
Having an undergraduate degree in History, social studies is one of my favorite subjects to home-school. This is the subject that provides the most opportunity for discussion. I knew that I had made the right choice to home-school when during one of our earliest lessons about the British establishing colonies in the “New World,” my daughter asked me, “What about the people who already lived there? Did they want other people to come and set up towns on their land?” Mind blown. Where else can you have a thirty minute conversation with an eight year old about the effects of colonization, if not in a home- school setting?
For this subject, we also use A-Beka as a starting point and then expand into other books. For the first semester, we began with Columbus and ended with the American Colonies. This second semester, we will begin with the American Revolution and work our way through the Civil War.
The A-Beka social studies program is amazing because rather than having chapters about subjects, it focuses on the people (both men and women!) in History. This semester, we will have chapters on George Washington, Clara Barton and Abraham Lincoln.
You will notice that each book has both pink and green tabs in them. I received great advice from a friend (Hi Kimberly!) to mark the start of each day’s assignment with a green tab and the last with a red. One for go, and one for stop. It works amazingly well, but we opted for pink instead of red because that is what my daughter loves best.
In addition to the A-Beka curriclum, we supplement with a number of history books so that our daughter has a really good understanding of the time period. This semester, our additions will include:
In social studies, we also include the A-Beka Map Skills book. It is thin book with worksheets that teaches directions, how to read a map, identifying continents and states, etc. In addition, every other day we rotate between United States map skills and globe skills. Currently, we use a free online USA map jigsaw puzzle to learn state names, capitals and locations. We use the Oregon Scientific Smart Globe to learn continents, countries and global facts as well.
In public school, science was my daughter’s least favorite subject. So, we decided to change that! This year, we use A-Beka’s third grade home school textbook, Exploring God’s World, as a guide. We work through about a chapter a week. She will first read a section of a chapter, and then I will have saved video links for her to watch about the topic. Last semester we learned about vertebrates/invertebrates and the different kingdoms of animals. It was very easy to find educational videos online about each of these subjects.
Toward the end of each lesson, she will copy information about what she has learned into a science notebook, a simple spiral notebook used for the subject. We also use this notebook interactively to past diagrams, cut/glue items correctly classified and write critical vocabulary words.
In addition, she has a Nature Journal, a simple composition notebook. At least once a week we make time for outdoor observation. She may make a leaf sketching, observe a real insect and draw what she sees, write questions that she has or even draw a picture of something in nature she is grateful for. Sometimes I provide direction, but more often than not, I tell her to go observe the world God created and fill up her notebook with her observations.
At this age, I want her to learn the basic facts of science and the scientific process, but what I most desire is for her to develop an innate sense of curiosity so that she begins to question things. After all, all good science should begin with a question.
Latin (and a little Greek)
For our study of classical languages, we use English: From the Roots Up. The Mother of Divine Grace program encourages simple repetition and flashcards at this stage. We do use the flashcards with the program, but we have also created a Latin notebook, and our Latin study follows the same pattern every week:
Monday: Read the three new words presented for the week, and write them at the top of a new page in your notebook. Latin words are written in red, and Greek words are written in green.
Wednesday: Add three English words that are derived from the Latin/Greek word below the picture in your Latin notebook.
Thursday: Review all of the words you have learned so far.
Friday: Flashcard quiz with a parent OR written quiz once every 3 weeks or so.
This schedule has worked beautifully for us, and she is now able to truly manage her own Latin coursework.
My daughter is already fluent in Spanish because my husband is Hispanic, and my mother in law, who does not speak English at all, stays with her during the day. However, she does not yet know how to read and write it, so this year she is working through a book learn proper Spanish spelling and pronunciation. She only spends about 10 minutes per day on the exercises from Barron’s Spanish Everyday: A Learning Adventure for Young Readers. She practices reading the words, and writing specific words I have assigned that have certain spelling rules (example: words with ll or an ñ) into her Spanish notebook.
My daughter is naturally a very good girl. She thinks of others before herself, collects holy cards for fun and truly inspires me to be better each day because she is such a gentle soul. So, it comes as no surprise that religion is one of her favorite subjects. This year, we are using 3 primary resources.
The first, A Child’s Bible History, we use every other week, and we loosely follow the recommended program of Mother of Divine Grace. Our schedule looks like this:
Monday: A parent reads aloud a story from the book, and then she dictates it back to us in her own words. The parent writes the story down, using the child’s words.
Tuesday: The child copies the words of the story that she dictated the day before, into a Bible Story notebook.
Wednesday: The child finishes any copying not completed the day prior.
Thursday: The child illustrates the story in the notebook.
Friday: The child completes the illustration and then discusses the story with a parent or re-tells it to a sibling.
I absolutely love this method of teaching the Bible, because it gives her time to reflect on the story, find meaning, think about the different elements of the story and then teach it. It allows her to internalize the lessons and learn that she too is a part of the story of Salvation.
I also came across the best Catholic picture Bible I have ever seen for children at a used book store. The Bible for Young Catholics is full of illustrations, but also plenty of text. I use it to read aloud to both of my youngest children, and every other week, she is assigned stories to read. I use the word ‘assigned’ loosely, because she also likes to do this for fun!
Finally, we do integrate saints into our learning. We use the Picture Book of Catholic Saints a few times each month to learn about saints who have feasts on special days. I will also highlight special events through extra learning, as time permits. For example, last semester we learned about Our Lady of Fatima. We watched Bernadette: Princess of Lourdes together, and she completed a Marian grotto craft from IlluminatedInk.
Art and Music
Our first semester of art did not go as well as planned. We began by using the Memoria Press Art Cards for children so that she could begin to learn to identify artists and the names of famous pieces of art. This quickly became very boring for us, and we started to integrate artwork more into the work for our other subjects. Finally, we landed on a study of Van Gough where she completed a black and white coloring page of one of Van Gough’s pieces of art, read a book about Van Gough and at the end of the semester we purchased a Kidzaw Master Kitz version of Starry Night to begin working on.
This semester, I have purchased the first 5 lessons of Atelier Art Homeschoolprogram, along with the recommended kit, and I will follow up with a review of that in a few weeks.
For music, we focused primarily on Tchaikovsky during our first semester. She listened to music by the Russian composer almost daily, completed a lap book and watched stories about both The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. We will continue a similar format for music this semester, with a study of Bach. She is also learning to play keyboard/piano this semester.
That wraps up our second semester plan for third-grade curriculum. My favorite thing about homeschooling, is that if something doesn’t work, we can always change it. So far, the choices above have been well vetted based on our first semester, and we are hoping for a strong finish to the new year!
I look forward to any questions you have in the comments!