handwriting without tears

At Home with the Editors: Shelli's 3rd Grade

Shelli's curriculum and resources for her 3rd grade homeschool

Every year, Shelli and Amy open the door and invite you to step inside their homeschool lives. (Please ignore the mess!) We talk about the resources we're using in our own homeschools and how we structure our days. There are lots of ways to homeschool, and we don't think our way is the best—just the one that happens to be working best for our particular families at this particular time.  If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!? Today, Shelli's talking about how she homeschooled her 3rd grader this year.

This has been a busy year for my nine-year-old son, and for me, I’m a little in awe with the changes I’ve been seeing in him. He’s becoming more mature and disciplined, yet he’s just as creative as ever.  

Last year, I wrote more about his building projects because he was a “little engineer.” This year he surprised us by becoming interested in playing the piano, and through the year, he’s slowly shifted all his attention to learning about classical music. I don’t think his building tendencies have stopped, but they’re definitely on the back burner for now. His piano playing has become a big part of all our lives, so I’m giving it a heading all to itself! (See below.)

I should also note that this year has shown me how the flexibility in homeschooling is a huge asset. As my son’s interest in piano and classical music took center stage, I was able to let go of some curriculum ideas I had for the year. For example, we have put off foreign language, some Art Fridays, and just general “busyness” that I might have filled our time with, if my son didn’t become so engrossed in his new project. It’s been great to be able to do this, and I feel it’s given me the opportunity to give him what (to me) is more of a priority: time to play and be a kid.

Here is what we’ve accomplished during my son’s third grade:

Language Arts

My son wanted to work on spelling, so we completed Level 1 of All About Spelling, which I thought was a great program. He didn’t particularly like this program, but I think it gave him confidence that he can spell. He is not a child that is going to write anything voluntarily; it’s just not his thing. So we’re moving slowly in this area.

To improve handwriting skills, I have used both Handwriting Without Tears and a calligraphy set.

We are getting ready to do a standardized test, which homeschoolers in my state (Georgia) are required to do in the third grade, so I’m using a test prep book to review, and we’re also using some posters I have to learn the parts of speech. 

We’ve done a lot of reading this year. My son loves reading Calvin and Hobbes, and he’s enjoying reading the Battle Bugs series to himself. A few books I’ve read to him this year include My Father’s Dragon, Charlotte’s Web, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Story of Dr. Doolittle, and On the Shores of Silver Lake among others.

 

Math

Math was a priority for me this year, and I feel we have made great progress in it this year. We completed four more Life of Fred books, which brings us to a total of seven books in that series. Right now, we’re reviewing math in our test prep book.

I have also begun to require that my son memorize the times tables, and we started with the three times tables. I put a little chart of “the threes” up on the wall, and I covered the answers. We go over it every time we do lessons. To make it fun, I began timing my son on how fast he could recite the 3 times tables, and I got him to try to beat his last time. My six-year-old has joined in on the fun too!

You can read about some of the other math games we’ve played this year here.

 

Science

My son loves science, and he’s ahead in this subject, so I haven’t made it a big focus this year. However, he attended a homeschool chemical engineering class during the fall, and everyday we watch nature and science documentaries. This summer we’re going to begin using a middle school level science curriculum, which my son can’t wait to try. I’ll write about that at a later date.

 

Social Studies

I don’t do a lot of formal work in this area because we learn so much through our daily routine. Occasionally we watch history documentaries, and my son keeps up with current events with the New-O-Matic app. I also did a short study this year on the Cherokee Indians because there are so many local attractions in our home state of Georgia with historical references to the Cherokees.

Last year I made a Big History Timeline for our wall that we update whenever we learn something new about history, and we’ve made good use of it.

 

Art

During the fall, my son took a pottery class, and we’ve done some art lessons at home. I usually do art on Fridays, but I let it slide for a while. Now I’m getting back into that routine again. We also visit our local art museum regularly to see new exhibits.

 

Piano

As I mentioned above, this has been my son’s big focus this year. He will have been taking piano lessons for one full year at the end of May! When he started, my husband and I casually said we’d be happy if he lasted one year since music is part of a well-rounded education. We had no idea how far our son would take it! Here’s a more specific list of what we’ve done this year:

 

  • Because our son progressed so quickly in his lessons, we went from a digital piano, to an upright piano, and now to a grand piano! Crazy, I know! But we feel it’s very important he has the right tools to work with to accomplish his goals. We have all enjoyed learning about how a piano works and the different brands of pianos, etc.
  • When we met a piano teacher whose knowledge and focus better matched our son’s goals, and he expressed an interest in working with our son, we took the opportunity to switch teachers. (Though I’ll ever be grateful for his first teacher who helped instill a love of piano playing through her warmth and enthusiasm.)
  • My son has begun studying the great composers. We use Meet the Great Composers, Greene’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers, and the Internet.  My son watches many classical performances on YouTube.
  • At two nearby universities, we are able to attend faculty and student recitals for free, and some of the bigger student performances are inexpensive to attend, so my son has attended 10 performances this year!

 

What are some of your favorite curriculum, resources and accomplishments that you have made this year?


At Home with the Editors: Shelli's Kindergarten

Welcome to Shelli's kindergarten: a hands-on, project-based environment where learning is all about fun. #homeschool

Every year, Shelli and Amy open the door and invite you to step inside their homeschool lives. (Please ignore the mess!) We talk about the resources we're using in our own homeschools and how we structure our days. There are lots of ways to homeschool, and we don't think our way is the best—just the one that happens to be working best for our particular families at this particular time.  If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better! Today, Shelli's talking about how she homeschooled kindergarten this year.

This is my second time homeschooling kindergarten, and I can assure you, it’s so much easier the second time around! I know without a doubt that as long as I’m spending quality time with my son, reading to him, letting him explore, and most importantly, giving him free, unstructured time to play, I can’t go wrong with kindergarten. 

The nice thing about being a younger sibling is that you pick up so much information just by watching your older sibling. My six-year-old watches and sometimes participates in his brother’s lessons. He hears books read aloud that are well above his level. He can help out when we do a science experiment, and he loves art day, too. With my first son, I didn’t know any other homeschoolers until he was four or five, but my younger son has been going to play dates since he was a baby. 

My older son was in the third grade this year, so his work was harder and more structured than any year thus far. As a result, my six-year-old had much more structure to his days than his older brother did at six years old, but the upside to this is that he still had lots of time to play by himself while I was working with his brother. I think letting children learn how to play by themselves is so important. Not only does it give them important skills that they will need in the future, it is also very helpful to their parents in the present moment!

 

CURRICULUM

Language Arts

This year I’m slowly helping my son with his reading skills. I have tried a variety of resources (just like I did with my older son), and thankfully, I am much more patient than I used to be. We spend about 30 minutes on language arts three days a week. I don’t worry about whether he’s keeping up with his peers because I know from experience that it’s better to let children learn how to read at their own pace.

Here’s what I’ve used and will keep using for the foreseeable future:

In addition to this, my six-year-old has enjoyed listening to My Father’s Dragon, Charlotte’s Web, Calvin and Hobbes and a variety of storybooks this year.

Math

I use Life of Fred with my older boy, but that curriculum just didn’t seem right for my younger son. Instead, I’m using Singapore’s Primary Math Textbook 1A with Home Instructor’s Guide (U.S. Edition) with great success. Actually, I’ve been using it much longer than this school year. We do lessons three days a week, and I am carefully going through every worksheet, game and activity with him.  When we finish this set, I’ll move on to the next level.

I don’t worry about completing any curriculum in one school year. For me, I am more concerned about making steady progress at my son’s pace.

My six-year-old seems to love math. If you ask him, he would say he didn’t like math, but actions speak louder than words. This kid is always asking me math questions, he loves to count things, and he’s always noting the time. He even wanted to join his older brother in learning the multiplication tables! 

All other subjects

At this age, I don’t do any formal lessons in science or social studies. I am confident that through our daily life and major interests, he is getting all the instruction he needs for these areas. We watch nature, science, or history documentaries every day, visit museums frequently, and he attends classes and camps at the local nature center and botanical garden. 

I try to make every Friday “art day,” and we have read about artists, the history of art, and visited the local art museum. For history, we read books and watch documentaries. (My husband is a history professor, so I’m not worried about history.)

My six-year-old loves birds, so we have spent a lot of time observing birds, reading about them, drawing them, and listening to the sounds they make on our bird guide app. 

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that if you are curious, engaged in life, and open-minded, your children will learn so much through their daily life. Very little instruction is needed. (Of course, for unschoolers, they feel no instruction is needed at all, and that works for many families too.) 

I do teach my children certain subjects, but mostly, I try to fill our house with books and tools, and I give them plenty of time to play and ask questions. Especially for kindergarten, this is all we need.  

Please offer your kindergarten tips in the comments section below.