Want to add more current events to your homeschool? The News-O-Matic app is an easy way to help your kids plug into what's happening in the world.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Perhaps the best part of this time of year is seeing all the critters around our house make homes and raise families of their own.
Right now we have a cardinal mama sitting in a nest right outside our living room window! When my eight-year-old discovered her making the nest, we got all giddy! I'm going to post whatever pictures I can on our Facebook page, so be sure to follow us there for updates.
Around the Web
Speaking of music, my husband has been talking up the Songza app, and I think it's pretty cool too. It has some ready-made playlists for all your listening preferences! I only wish I had more time to listen.
My five-year-old loves dinosaurs. Does that surprise you? My husband has been telling him stories about Dig Dig the Dinosaur every night for about two years, but lately he has found some relief by showing my son these funny dino comics instead. (Only one year and 360 days of reading these every night to go!)
As I've written before, everyone in my family is a documentary junkie. These past few weeks we have been enjoying watching a wonderful set of documentaries on Netflix that are produced by Off The Fence Distribution. We have enjoyed Wildest India, Wildest Indochina, Wildest Middle East, and Wildest Islands, just to name a few! They focus on the wildlife of each region, but the shows also touch on history and the intersection where humans and animals meet. They are very unique and have shown us places that we have never seen before!
Also on Netflix, we've been loving Modern Marvels. Who would have thought that learning about food trucks could be so interesting?!
For a long time, I was wanting to find a way to introduce current events to my eight-year-old in a way that he would find engaging. Luckily, I found News-O-Matic in Apple's app store (it's also available in Google Play and on the Kindle). We have been experimenting with the free trial version, and it took awhile for it to become habit, but finally I found it worth it to purchase the unlimited version. ($19.99) The best part of News-O-Matic is that kids have the choice of reading articles or having it read to them. There are also slideshows and videos attached to some stories, and plenty of other ways to interact! The articles are kid-friendly while also covering important topics of the day.
I just finished reading The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash to my eight-year-old, and he and I loved it. It does have some issues, though, so be sure to read my (forthcoming) book review before you buy it for your children .