Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How I Pick Our English Curriculum

Two weeks ago I began a series on how I choose which curriculum (for each subject) for the following year. I started with Arithmetic, you can find the post for that here . This week I'm going to attempt to explain my thought patterns when it comes to picking our Language Arts curriculum. Language Arts is really a bunch of different subjects wrapped up under one title. You have the study of English which consists of grammar, sentence structure, parts of speech, and so on and so forth. You have creative writing, handwriting, and all other things concerning writing. There is spelling, reading, and the study of literature. Not to mention the fact that somewhere along the line teaching your children how to properly take notes should happen. That's a lot of planning for "one" subject.

I could do what many other homeschool parents do and buy a boxed curriculum for this subject so that I knew that every bit of it would be properly covered and I wouldn't leave anything out. However, there are some things about some of those boxed curriculum that I do not like, mainly the price. We've been using A Beka Language books and really enjoying them. We only use a few select books from them, however. This past school year we used Language 3, Language C, Creative Writing (penmanship), and part of the curriculum for K4 that included some of the first readers that we purchased.

Next year from A Beka we'll only be purchasing Language 1 (first grade), Language A and Penmanship Mastery I (fourth grade), and Grammar and Composition I (text and answer key) (seventh grade). I normally do not buy the answer keys for anything to do with English. However, for seventh grade with grammar and composition I believe it will be a good resource for us to have.

We already own a copy of their Handbook for Reading Phonics Textbook so we will not be purchasing that again. Phonics work we'll be doing through Starfall and Reading Eggs , Reading Eggs for both girls and Starfall for Peanut. Along with that we'll be working through several early readers for Peanut, which we'll actually be beginning shortly. I purchased all of the different sets at Barnes and Nobel earlier this year. We're also using the free app, Eggy 100 , for the first 100 sight words and will upgrade to Eggy 250 when we feel that Peanut is ready. YCJ is also having fun playing with this app, most of the words she already knows but the practice is good for her.

For writing practice for the girls we'll be using mainly McRuffy's handwriting flip books and some of their supplemental sheets. They'll still be doing copy work, but the McRuffy flip books don't flip left to right they do so up and down so that the binding is kept out of little arms way. ECJ will be continuing with copy work and reports for us on the books that he'll be reading.

Reading wise we'll be following a pretty much classical approach to literature. I'll be reviewing several different lists and choosing our literature books sometime this summer. ECJ's reading level is far above his "grade" level so I must compensate for that and some of the books on many of the lists that I've looked at so far he's read this past year. YCJ's books will also be chosen mainly with her reading level in mind, there will be a few books that will challenge her mixed in as well. Peanut will begin with the beginning readers that we have now and McGuffey readers (YCJ will probably work through a few of these as well). Most of the books that I plan on purchasing will be through a site named after a rain forest, due to the amount of money we'll be able to save doing so.

There was a lot of thought that went into this plan. It almost matches last year's plan barring a few simple changes. The use of Reading Eggs will be new, though we did a five week free trial on it earlier this year. McRuffy will be new to us next year and we'll also be using it for Peanut's math, I've heard good reviews on it and their full color options show to be visually stimulating which is a plus with Peanut and may help YCJ be more interested in practicing her handwriting. I know that this is a very eclectic plan for our Language Arts lessons (and I had failed to mention that we'll still be using the Complete Curriculum books for extra English practice for the girls, they do not make one for 7th grade). However, with our needs and abilities so vastly different between the three children I needed to individualize this subject as much as possible for each of them. 

Honestly, the planning for this subject caused me the most stress (and I love English) simply due to each child needing to be challenged in their own way. 

You may ask what we'll be doing for spelling, well for the girls that will be covered in their "big books" (Complete Curriculum) and for ECJ I simply haven't decided. But, the main idea for him is that we'll use words that he does not know from his reading to be his vocabulary and spelling words so that not only will he learn them, he'll also retain them. We're thinking about getting Spelling You See for the girls as well and having them work together through the books.

Tweaking your choices for curriculum can always be exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. Will these new items work? Should I really be switching to something else at this time? Am I investing money that could be better spent elsewhere in our curriculum? As I said with our Arithmetic choices, there are certain subjects that we'll invest a little extra money in. Language Arts happens to be one of them. We'll be pushing our budgetary limits this year (perhaps a bit more than we would wish) simply because we have chosen to purchase some of these items brand new. A few of them aren't cheap.

Language Arts total cost (all three campers): $130.19 *if the majority is bought new* we'd save $27.75 buying mostly used with what's available right now
Total cost so far on curriculum: $263.19 (but will be less if some of the Language Arts materials are bought used) buying the used would take our total down to $235.44
*Note: None of these totals include shipping costs at this time.*

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