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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015

Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}

While I'm not an advocate for hopping from one curriculum to the next in a speed-dating dump-and-move-on style, I do believe that sometimes what seems like the "perfect-for-us" curriculum in September, shows itself to be not-so-perfect by late fall. Often tweaks need to be made and in rare cases, a PLAN B needs to be purchased. 


(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

To be honest, I don't think I've ever had a curriculum that needed to be completely scrapped. I've always tried to at least salvage parts. This year, proved to be a first however...I pretty much abandoned an entire curriculum...well, most of it anyway.

Midway through the year, I've made one major change and a few minor tweaks. And here they are...

Bible

Greased Lightning received the Jesus Storybook Bible for his Gift of Myrrh this Christmas and both he and The Newbie have been using it for their morning devotions ever since. The older three children and I each take turns throughout the week to read them one story from this new Bible at the start of each day.

Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}



Morning "Circle Time"

What we were doing

We began the year diligently learning sign language during our morning "circle time" using several books that we rotated in and out from the library. But, after awhile it just seemed like our time would be better spent elsewhere. 

What we're doing now

We still continue to do all of the other activities that I had originally planned for our morning time, but we end our "circle" slightly sooner. Then, we all grab our current "just for fun" book, spread out around the living room, and read...including momma. (I realized that if I truly thought reading was important, I needed to give it an important time slot in our day. I didn't want "extra" reading to be delegated to "extra" time. I felt that was giving reading a not-as-important ranking. Reading for pleasure shouldn't be an add-on to the day. It should be the core of the day. If I can ignite a love of reading in each of my kids, they will be able to learn with or without me. And isn't that one of the primary goals of home education? To breed life-long learners?)

We usually read for about fifteen minutes and then go around the room and share a little bit about the book we are currently reading or decided to read THAT day...the characters, the plot, the themes, the genre (We've had great discussion about what the word genre means and were able to add it to our GREAT Vocabulary Challenge just before Christmas.)

Quick side note: In addition to this early morning reading time, the kids still have to read a "Mom-assigned book" sometime in the day. You can learn more about how I select the books and what this reading time looks like here>>>

Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Science

I breezed through our first-semester of Creation Science: Dinosaurs. Then, I was faced with the mammoth (no pun intended) task of teaching Simple Machines using a homespun unit of living literature-style books, videos, and Lego Eduction: Simple and Motorized Mechanisms.

The books, I understood. The videos, I completed had a handle on. The Legos? Sadly, as the mother of five Lego-loving kids, I have no idea how to build anything...as in A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G...out of Legos. I didn't have them as a kid. I've never played with them as an adult. Sad, but true.

When faced with the thought of not only having to help my kids build things out of Legos, but also help them build moving mechanisms out of battery-operated Legos, I panicked and differed to the master lego builder...The Hubs. It was decided in a very democratic, "Here! You do it!" kind of way that The Hubs would spend every Monday night doing the Lego project activities with the kids. I host a women's prayer time/Bible study at our house each Monday night which provides the perfect time for the kids to have dad time. He loves doing it. They love doing it. And I absolutely love NOT doing it!



History

What we were doing

As was my original plan, I started the year with Tapestry of Grace Year 1, Unit 4 (Roman History). This was a brand new endeavor for us. (Up until this year, we had always used Truth Quest history and had loved it!) In an effort to find a curriculum that would grow with my children and be a bit more multi-level-learning-friendly, I decided to try out TOG.

I wanted to love it. Honestly, I did. 
But, I just couldn't. 
We struggled through it for about a month until one day I had a what-was-I-thinking moment and decided to pull the plug.

I still believe it to be a really good curriculum. It just wasn't good for us. At least not in this season. I've kept the rather pricy teacher's manual and will maybe revisit the idea in a few years when I have high schoolers. (Please see my full review of TOG for further details of its pros and cons.)

What we're doing now

I spent the better part of a weekend in late September writing out my own Ancient Rome unit study that will take us all the way through the end of the year. With the help of The Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, I divided Ancient Rome up into the following six time frames:
  • Early Rome
  • The Roman Republic
  • The Birth of an Empire
  • Everyday Roman Life
  • The Birth & Life of Christ
  • The Early Church
  • The End of an Empire
I used the Truth Quest Ancient Rome guide, the TOG Roman Unit guide, and a handful of resources that we already owned and compiled a list of books, videos, and projects in chronological order. We have been slowly working our way through my homespun history guide and are loving it! 


Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Art

We spent the first half of the year doing weekly art projects from my Art Ideas Pinterest Board and working our way through a few of the video lessons on my Art Tutorials youtube Playlist. That was working just great! But after viewing a few of the free lessons offered by Home Art Studio, I decided to try out the entire third grade course. Since we do art together, I thought the third grade video lessons would present a nice middle-of-the-road skill level. And they have. 


PLAN Bs are always difficult. Change is always difficult. But, in the end, each one of the changes I've made to our curriculum, no matter how great or small, have helped to create a more perfect-for-us school year. 

19 comments:

  1. I'd be interested to see what your pros and cons for TOG were. We are cycling through a 4 yr look at history, using A Winter's Promise but our main spine is Mystery of History with tons of add on books and activities. I had looked at TOG for when we finish our cycle in another 3 yrs, when my kiddos will be 8th/9th grade.

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    1. I look forward to writing it. I've heard of A Winter's Promise, but have never looked at it. Glad you are liking it!

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks. Our previous couches sat broken for over a year. It was past time for them to be replaced.

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  3. We had to rethink reading to make it a priority too. It was a good choice and has helped ignite a love of reading.
    Blessings, Dawn

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  4. I'm sorry to hear TOG wasn't a good fit for you guys. It has been great for our family....but it took us a solid year to figure out what to do of the buffet of choices and what to leave off. For us we didn't do the timeline, but did do all the mapping work. We choose 1 read aloud (mainly our dialectic option) and the younger ones listen in while looking at their books. We added dover colouring sheets :-) and found some kid appropriate dvds (drive thru history) to watch on weeks when we were a bit burned out. We also skip all the writing aids stuff since we use BJP for English..All that being said - good for you for seeing it wasn't working and switching :-) We are trying this year to do a scrapbook along with TOG and that is proving to be too much..so I have to figure that out!

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    1. As I will mention in my upcoming review, I do think TOG is a great program for many reasons. It just wasn't a good fit for us. I have a couple of friends who have used it for years and have loved it. I will be holding on to the parts and pieces of it that I have as I think it might work for the high school years.

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  5. Any thoughts on what History curriculum you might use next year? Are you thinking about going back to TruthQuest?

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    1. We absolutely loved TruthQuest American History, but their Ancients guides all proved to be lacking resource for my younger kids. Next year, we will be moving into medieval history and I haven't gotten a chance to look through their guide for that.

      All that to say, I would love to do TruthQuest next year. I just have to be sure that my littlest ones won't get lost in the mix.

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  6. Your living room looks ADORABLE!
    Totally not what your post was about, but hey, it's super cute so I had to mention it. :)
    I hear ya about curriculum that you REALLY TRY to like, but it just doesn't work. That happened with us last year with Trail Guide to Learning. A friend of mine loved using it with her 3 girls, but it just didn't work for us with so many boys. Or maybe it was something else, but either way, it didn't work and we sold it after giving it about 6 weeks. Freedom!

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    1. Thanks, friend. I don't usually have much to contribute in the way our our decor...mostly because I've never really cared too much and have always just let my artist husband put it all together. For whatever reason, when our last two couches broke, I had the urge to put the room together myself. Pinterest to the rescue!

      Yes...freedom! I love that what works for some, works great for others and vice versa. It just proves the uniqueness of homeschooling.

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    2. Way to go! You have a knack for it. :)

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  7. Jamie, I feel your pain in regard to building with LEGOS! My almost-3-year-old loves them and my husband can help him build things for hours. Then my husband goes to work for a 24 hour shift at the fire station, and my son disassembles everything and wants it "fixed". That is daddy's job! I am a complete klutz with Legos!! My little guy has to either figure it out on his own or wait 24 hours for daddy to get off work! I wasn't into them as a kid either. Thank goodness my hubby was!

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    1. Between my five kids and the huge collection we inherited from my in-laws attic, we have an entire dresser filled with baskets of Legos. Nothing but Legos. That is all my boys want to play with. All. Day. Long. I should probably learn to enjoy their passion. But, in the end, I kind of like how it links them to their dad so often.

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  8. We are embarking on preparations to pull our kids out of school at the end of this year and begin homeschooling in the fall. I cannot tell you how appreciative I am of every single one of your posts and videos!! Thank you!!!!!

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    1. Thank you for the encouraging message, Julie. Glad to know my blog has been helpful.

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  9. I totally understand having to tweak some things from time to time. I try to do reviews for Currclick (www.currclick.com) from time to time. A couple months a go I got asked to review some Live Science Classes. We have one more class about Magnetism. My daughter has extremely enjoyed it and I have enjoyed not having to be the only teacher!

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  10. Where do you start when writing your own unit study? Do you set objectives? How do you make it work for different grade levels?

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