Friday, June 3, 2011

Curriculum Fair: A little of this/A little of that


For language arts this year, I have pieced together a "curriculum" that works for us. I have a first grader, a fourth grader, and a seventh grader.

All ages

English from the Roots Up Latin and Greek Root Word Cards are easy to use with all ages. These flashcards have a word root on one side along with its origin and the meaning on the reverse side along with several examples of words containing the root. We use these by taking one card a week and reviewing it every day. This is an awesome vocabulary booster, and the knowledge learned will be beneficial on future tests such as SAT (it's never too early to start, right?) They are reasonably affordable (around $18 for 100 cards.)

Early Learners

My favorite resource for my young learners has been the Explode the Code series, which is the best I've seen for teaching phonics, phonemic awareness, and for introducing new vocabulary. While the teacher's guides are not absolutely essential to using these books (other than one student page per lesson which requires instructions,) they do give suggestions for corresponding picture books and reinforcement activities. The student books are consumable, but they are very affordable, especially when compared to other phonics programs.

The Handwriting Without Tears books are also consumable, yet affordable, and they fit nicely with the Explode the Code books. You can skip around in the books to correlate the letters being taught. Their slate chalkboard, Stamp and See Screen, and Roll-a-Dough Letters are used over and over again in our house. Hands-on learners (and wiggly boys) especially benefit from these additional resources. {Update: HWT now also has a Wet-Dry-Try app!}

Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt  and Teaching Character Through Literature by Beautiful Feet Books are wonderful resources for putting together a home library of excellent reading and read-aloud books. Because of their exposure to books, my kids each always have a book beside their beds, are all writing their own books/scripts/screenplays/songs/journals/newspapers, and enthusiastically keep their own book log notebooks. We read every day.

Upper Elementary

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Sarah Buffington has been a really good fit for my 4th grader in addition to the resources mentioned above. This program incorporates grammar and compostion in a consumable student book (around $20) with a scripted teacher's guide (around $30) that includes scripted lessons and answer keys. My only complaint is that the student text is a large softbound book, and it doesn't lay flat when open, making it cumbersome to write on some of the pages. {I recommend getting the binding sliced off at a print/copy shop and putting the pages in a notebook.}

BJU Press Spelling for Christian Schools is a straightforward and fun spelling program. The student text ($18) includes 36 units, a section of Dictionary Activities, a Spelling Dictionary, and a Word Bank. Each unit covers 20 words, two pages of reinforcement activities, and a Journal Entry Idea section. My son uses a moleskine notebook to illustrate and write each journal entry, such as:

"Castles are full of adventure!  You can almost hear the clanking of knights in silver armor, the rustle of a princess in a long, satiny gown, or the singing of a wandering bard and the music of his lute.  Winding staircases lead to towers and rooms with gold and velvet furnishings--or dungeons!  Where will they lead you?"  

I use this book on its own without a teacher's guide.

Middle School

BJU Press Writing and Grammar.  Again, a straightforward, complete program for composition and grammar. The student text is all-inclusive--instructions, handbook, and work text all-in-one.  A teacher's guide is available but not necessary unless you need more help with the grammar.

Wordly Wise vocabulary. A bargain at around $10, these books teach vocabulary and reading comprehension skills in short bites. Book 8 includes words such as dissension, irrepressible, pestilence, vehement, and wrest. You can look at the word lists in the back of each book to determine which level would best work with your student, or just use the level that corresponds with their grade. We simply move on to the next book once one is completed, so my 7th grader is using Book 8. These books include the definitions and pronunciations of the words in the word lists, so no dictionary-looking-up is required.

Additional resources we like are Writers INC, A Student Handbook for Writing and Learning, The Scribner Handbook for Writers, American Dictionary of the English Language--Noah Webster 1858 Facsimile Edition, and Compact Oxford Thesaurus.

I also recommend the NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy sites for kids who love to write. My son has written both a novel and a screenplay through their novel writing month and script writing month, and their sites have tons of resources for educators.

What do you do for language arts in your homeschool?

3 comments :

Rachel E. said...

I used Wordly Wise a few times with my children. I was disappointed to find one or two lessons with a story about evolution or the earth's history being millions of years old. Clearly this curriculum was not created by Bible believers, but it was a good buy and taught vocabulary well.

learning table said...

I usually skip these selections, but sometimes we use them as a way to discuss what some people believe and how, in the context of a young-earth (and even old-earth,) creationist belief, these evolutionist views are faulty. Answers in Genesis' website has great articles and materials for educators, parents, and kids which delve into this topic more thoroughly, and we are using Apologia Science, which also handles this topic well. Because the topic is such a prevalent part of our world, I want my kids to be knowledgeable and informed about both views so they will be able to use discernment in the "real" world.

Julie said...

We use a lot of the same curriculum. Love FLL and ETC and I've been considering Wordly Wise for an extra boost this year. I saw they have free online games to play too...we'll be checking it out.