Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Choosing Homeschool Curriculum & Planning for the Year Ahead

Late spring is usually the time when I start thinking of the following homeschool year. It is a good time to evaluate what works and what doesn't.

Planning for the year ahead and choosing curriculum is easier every year, for me anyway. All the choices for homeschoolers can be overwhelming, as well as being a wonderful thing! 

Each year that I plan, I keep my focus on my children and their interests as well as trying to provide them with a well rounded education.

Since I started homeschooling, I have used several books to inspire, educate, and help me in my research. The most influential books for me have been: Project Based Homeschooling, The Well Trained Mind, and The Writer's Jungle by Brave Writer. 

My most influential homeschool books

When it comes to choosing curriculum, I have a list in my mind that looks something like this:

Is this curriculum:

  • complete and well rounded
  • not filled with busy boring work
  • includes open ended questions & interesting projects
  • without a religious agenda
  • affordable
  • well organized 

Choosing homeschool curriculum takes time and research. 

Talking with other homeschool families about their curriculum favourites can be helpful, or not, depending on their choices, or it might also be too overwhelming. Homeschool parents can feel very strongly about the philosophy they follow and the curriculum/resources they use. I completely understand that, as I also have my favourites!

In the past, I have preferred to do the initial research on my own, reading reviews (Cathy Duffy Reviews is a good place to start), and asking questions on forums like the Mostly, I spent a lot of time reading descriptions and samples of curriculum and deciding for my family which curriculum to invest in. When I couldn't find what I wanted, I put our own curriculum together. This has happened several times over the years. Creating our own curriculum is also time consuming, but these often became our favourites. 

While researching curriculum, I keep in mind my own children's interests and abilities when I choose curriculum, but I also think of myself. This might sound selfish, but I will be using the curriculum too! If I don't think it is interesting, well organized, or clear, chances are my kids won't either. At the same time, if I am not completely certain before dismissing a product completely, I ask my children for their input. Over the years, they have been a big part of our homeschool curriculum decisions. 

I am keeping this coming homeschool year simple and similar to our current year. Celeste and I talked about our current choices and she is happy with them, so we won't be making many changes. 

Here is the plan I have written so far for our 2015-2016 homeschool year: 

Math ~ Teaching Textbooks 6 

Teaching Textbooks Math Curriculum

Celeste has been enjoying this curriculum and doing very well with it. We will continue with it. 

Language Arts 

Poetry Tea Time ~ Part of the Brave Writer Lifestyle 

This will be our 3rd year using Arrow from Brave Writer. Language arts with this program has been wonderful, and we will continue to follow the Brave Writer Lifestyle. We have discovered so many new favourite books and learned about so many different topics over the last years with this Brave Writer program. We both are looking forward so much to another year. Here is the list of the books we will be reading in 2015-2016: The Arrow.  

Faltering Ownership ~ Writing Program from Brave Writer

For writing, we started using Faltering Ownership, also from Brave Writer, over the last month and will continue with this writing program over the next year. 

Celeste has been interested in practicing spelling over the last few months and she has improved so much and gained a lot of confidence. We have been using Sequential Spelling, level one and will keep working through the levels at her pace. 

History ~ History Odyssey by Pandia Press

Working on a map  ~ History Odyssey 

We finished our study of the Middle Ages this year with History Odyssey, so we will move on to the next time period: Early Modern. 

This history curriculum has a long sample available free to download. 

Science ~ Elemental Science 

We had to switch curriculum half way through the year and will continue with Elemental Science, studying Earth Science & Astronomy. Once we are almost finished with it, we will decided which science field to study next. 

World Geography & Cultures  ~ Our own curriculum 

Celeste and I talked about this subject and she would like to learn more about the world and the different cultures. I am putting together a study for us. I will be using a variety of resources and projects. 

Art History ~ Our own curriculum

Learning about art history

Celeste and I enjoyed the art history study I put together so much that we decided to do it again, this time with more hands-on art projects. 

Life Skills 

Celeste enjoys cooking and helping me around the house, we will continue working together. These life skills are very important in my eyes. 

I have written about planning and choosing curriculum over the last ten years. If you are interested, here is a link to all my planning posts: 

Homeschool planning.

This post is part of the monthly series from the Canadian Homeschool Blogger Team. Be sure to visit The Canadian Homeschooler for more posts about homeschool planning and choosing curriculum by many wonderful Canadian home educating families. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Homeschool Report + Links ♥ ~ The Last Four Months!

It has been a long time since I wrote a homeschool report on my blog. I think it is time for one, before our homeschool year comes to a close! 

Having only one child at home makes it very easy to complete our homeschool routine, which leaves us plenty of time for play, exploration, and pursuing our own interests.

This past winter was harsh on Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown even broke a record of the most snowfall (see link at the end of this post). All the snow days and winter weather made us very grateful to be homeschooling and being able to stay cozy! We did take most of the snow days my teenagers had off from school, but we still accomplished the majority of what we had set out to do. 

Snow Day Monopoly with her big sister and brother! 

The highlights of the last few months would be a lot of reading. We absolutely love the books we read for our language arts program from Brave Writer, Arrow. 

Same Sun Here, one of our favourites 

I started doing book reviews for Raincoast Books and we enjoyed reading the books they sent. Lots of cozy times on our couch, reading, on all those dreary winter days.  

We worked on a few writing projects together as well, but not too many! Celeste is a late bloomer when it comes to writing, and I have given her the time she needs to get comfortable. An ongoing writing project, which she enjoys, is writing letters to her pen pals.

Writing to her pen pals

Another homeschool subject we both enjoyed these past few months is Art History. I put together a study last summer for us, based on several Usborne books and a handful of other books we had. Celeste has been very interested in learning about each artist. 

Celeste and I started volunteering at the local public library together. She has wanted to be a librarian since she was about four! It's been a really good experience for both of us! Every week, she recommends a book before we leave. It's always a book she has read and loved. Here are a few of previous weeks:

We also spent a lot of time cooking together. An awesome local chef, Chef Ilona, wrote a recipe especially for Celeste and included it in the local magazine called G! Celeste loves to play in the kitchen with me, or by herself. She makes herself breakfast and lunch, almost every day. 

Making Bhudda's Bliss Vegetable Dumplings

There was a lot of playing in the snow too, mostly for Celeste...So much snow fell and was pilled on to our front yard, Celeste had her own sledding hills where normally our yard is flat! She loved it. 

So much snow, so much fun! 

So much to write about! Time with friends, our regular poetry tea time, swimming lessons, games we played, and the rest of our homeschool subjects...If I wrote about everything, this post would be way too long! We truly love our homeschool life and we are both so grateful for it. 

Here are a few favourite links: 

Charlottetown breaks snowfall record: Total since November reaches 546.6cm, beating 539cm in winter 1971-72. CBCNews. (that's 216.37 inches, or over 18 feet!). 

Horrible Histories, Angry Azetcs ~ a favourite of Celeste. We try to match what we are learning in history with an episode or two of these! 

10 Reasons why kids need to read non-Disney fairy tales by Melissa Taylor.

Poetry resources from Brave Writer for Poetry Tea Time

Spring issue of Home School Life magazine ~ so full of awesomeness! 

Celeste and I 

Until next homeschool report, have a great week! 

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee ~ Book Review

The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Australian author Barry Jonsberg is the quirky story of a twelve year old girl who is unique and trying to understand the world around her. 

The story starts off as a school assignment, Candice's class is given the task to write an essay about something that happened to them in the past. Candice organizes her essay very neatly with chapters for each letter of the alphabet: A is for Assignment, B is for Birth, C is for Chaos, etc...

Her family, like many (including ours), has its fair share of trouble and hardship. She has a friend who thinks he is from another dimension. Candice has an American pen pal which she writes to often, without receiving a letter back. Her views of the world around her are at times different than the norm, but so accurate that we so often sympathized with her while she tries desperately to fix her world. 

Celeste and I really enjoyed this novel. We laughed often and also felt sadness for her while reading aloud this story. We didn't want it to stop! 

You can find The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee at:
and check your local bookstore!  

Disclosure: I received a sample item for review from Raincoast Books. All opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lonely Planet: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island ~ My Review

The Lonely Planet travel guides are well researched and written, filled with interesting information, they are a pleasure to read, help us dream and plan our vacations! 

Traveling doesn't always have to be to far away exotic locations. Discovering the province I live in and its close neighbours is one of my favourite thing to do. Day trips are all we have done since moving to Prince Edward Island and each has been a great adventure. 

The Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island Lonely Planet guide gives you an organized book to help plan your trip. 

The guide starts with a warm welcome and a great full colour double page map, followed by a super helpful Top 10, which includes lobster suppers and Green Gables! 

Quick suggestions (traveling with children or outdoor activities, itineraries, as well as month by month guides are all very helpful. 

I really appreciate the way the book is laid out. For each province, all the useful information, like when to go and how to get there, is at the beginning of each province's section. Each area featured includes sights, activities, tours, festivals, sleeping, eating, nightlife, entertainment, shopping...everything you might need is there! 

I've learned so much about these Atlantic provinces while reading this guide and I have added more places on my "to visit" list for this summer and beyond. 

There is one last section of the guide that is well worth reading: "Understand Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island". Learning more about the history, art, nature and more.

Travel guides can be a little dry at times, but not this one. I enjoyed reading it like a well written non-fiction book. 

Disclosure: I received a sample item for review from Raincoast Books. All opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ.