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In November, we left cyber school to see if homeschooling would be a better fit for our family. In preparing to homeschool, we recognized the stress that cyber school had caused, so we took a more informal approach to the remainder of the academic year. Here is a recap of our first official year as a homeschool family.
This year, our children were in 3rd & 4th grades. This made it easy for science, social studies, art, music, phys ed/health/safety, and life skills to be taught to both children at the same time – sometimes taught by me and sometimes worked on independently in pairs. Math typically required one-on-one time with me, but most of their language arts/literacy assignments were also independent work. We aimed to do school 5-days a week, but I realized I would prefer a 4-day school week with more time for independent projects, field trips, and science experiments.
Grammar – I picked up an inexpensive language arts workbook and we did several lessons each week.
Spelling/Vocabulary – Words Journeys by Kathy Ganske
Reading – I picked up inexpensive reading workbooks, and we used those in addition to reading in other content areas
Writing – the children kept journals, wrote responses to reading, and finished their year by writing a research report
Handwriting – I prefer Zaner-Bloser handwriting to other programs out there. Each of the children had a workbook, and they did 1-2 pages twice a week.
We use the retired McGraw Hill Math series. It predates Common Core and you can get the textbooks inexpensively on Amazon – if you buy used ones, you can get the books for under $10 a piece. I have also found them at a few thrift stores, with the largest collection being at Kemner’s Surplus in Pottstown, PA (they recently had grades 2-5 in stock in beautiful condition). If you need the teacher’s editions, you can get those online too.
This year, our science was based around various Girl Scout & Cub Scout badges/awards since my children are involved in scouts. The children are also very into electronics and worked with SnapCircuits. They would also work on Amateur Radio projects with my husband. We also learned about our pets and their needs, grew a garden, and studied living things using Interactive Notebooks as a guide.
State History – We drove across the state and visited points of interest in the Pittsburgh & Lancaster regions, as well as throughout the Greater Philadelphia area
History – watch documentaries; read about the places we were visiting for field trips; read historical fiction
Civics – worked on Girl Scout/Cub Scout requirements, learned flag etiquette, went to vote with my husband & I
Geography – Both children used the same fourth-grade geography curriculum. Ah, the benefit to having two children close in age! We used Scholastic Success With Maps which is an ebook, and we printed the worksheets and worked through that. We also had a globe, as well as a world atlas & atlas of the United States, to refer to as needed.
- attended a fire prevention week event at the fire hall
- discussed hygiene, good nutrition, and making healthy choices
- played in the yard, riding bikes, hiking, archery, boating, going for walks
- Cosmic Kids Yoga
- visited the Princeton University Art Museum
- attend live performances in the community
- went to a play at Sight & Sound Theater
- lots of crafts on their own
- listen to a wide variety of music genres
- independent piano practice using the Piano-K series
- The children really enjoy cooking & baking with me and their Nan. They have learned to decorate cakes/cupcakes, make Danish pastry, prepare simple meals, and cook on a campfire (Chocolate Lava Cake is their favorite).
- The children also have chores, including dishes and laundry which they do independently, and yard work which gets done with guidance.
- We have also practiced sewing, minor car maintenance, and home maintenance at various times throughout the year.
Pennsylvania requires standardized testing for students in grades 3, 5, and 8. There are several standardized tests we can choose from, and these are vastly different than the state testing that the public school students take each year. We opted for the California Achievement Tests (CATs). We took an online version of the test over two days and had their scores back right away. It was the best testing option for our family, plus it’s one of the least expensive options available at only $25 per test. We purchased our tests through Academic Excellence. If you use my referral link, you will save $5 off a purchase of $10 or more.