Sunday, September 24, 2006

Resources we use here at Aquinas Academy

Like I mentioned before, though I have a lot of unschool-ish tendencies, I just really feel more comfortable having some sort of curricula spine to base our studies upon. I look at our curricula as sort of the push-pins in our learning bulletin board. The curriula is not the entire picture, but they help us hang up the pieces, know what I mean?

I pick a gentle curricula for the early years - we really like Catholic Heritage Curricula. This year I am using their 4th grade lesson plans for J1, and A2 and S3 are using their 1st grade lesson plans. I don't follow the lesson plans by the letter; in fact, as you'll see, I take bits and pieces of several things and create my own weekly plans. But I do think of CHC as my "base", the one that is the core of what we do.

In addition to CHC, I also use a great many materials from Sonlight Curriculum. I feel that CHC is too light in History in the early years, and my oldest son loves the literature-based history studies found at Sonlight. I don't use their entire curriculum, they are a Protestant company and I love and need the Catholic basis found in CHC. But the reading lists at Sonlight are a boon for me, especially with my oldest, a voracious reader. I will probably use some of my earlier Sonlight books for A2 and S3, too, especially the reader and read-a-loud books found in levels 1 and 2. In addition, I picked up some of the books recommended for SL's science level 5 (their study of human anatomy) to add some detail to CHC's "My Temple of the Holy Spirit," our study of human anatomy. J1 is a child that craves detail and information, so some supplementation is definitely needed, and SL's books provide a lot of that detail he needs.

Finally, I use a few materials from Seton . I really prefer CHC over Seton in most things (at least so far, in the early years), but I do use Seton's American History Spine for J1's history study last year and this year ("How American Began" and "How American Grew"), because with using a protestant curricula for our history program, I feel we need to see the Catholic perspective on history, and these books fit the bill for us just perfectly at this level. In addition, this year I felt J1 needed a lot more practice on his cursive handwriting, so rather than go with CHC's calligraphy handwriting book for 4th grade, I decided to get Seton's "Handwriting 4 For Young Catholics". I am very impressed with this book, it is just what J1 needs to improve his rather poor cursive handwriting.

I also use other materials from CHC besides their lesson plans. For J1's "4th grade" year, we are using My Catholic Speller Level C, Language of God Level C, some of their reading materials, such as "God's Little Angeles" and "Rare Catholic Stories", 1001 Facts for your Catholic Geography Bee, and their Learning to Appreciate Art supplement. We are basing our science this year on their "My Temple of the Holy Spirit" appendix in the 4th grade lesson plans, studying human anatomy, health and nutrition, and basic first aid. For my boys using the first grade plans, we are using CHC's handwriting books, and possibly their "Easy as 1, 2, 3" for science, though I'm still deciding on that, I might use SL's science level 1. Science isn't a focus with them this year, so I might just not worry about it at all, and use our backyard instead! :-) Also, once A2 and S3 are reading, I will start them in CHC's My First Catholic Speller. Hopefully that will happen sometime around Christmas. For all of them, I'm using CHC's Art Pacs. I tried it with J1 last year, and he hated it - he is just not an artsy kind of kid. I am going to keep at it, though, as I believe he needs a bit more artwork to not only learn about drawing and such, but also to improve his fine motor skills. But I won't make it a miserable experience, either. I think S3 will absolutely love the art he'll be doing, and the verdict is out on A2. Another place where we'll just "wing-it".

Finally, for math, we use two different programs. I really like Singapore Math, it has worked well for us in grades K-3. In grade 3, like I mentioned before, J1 and I ran into great difficulties with long division. After much work, breaks, and frustrations, we finally switched over to Saxon 5/4 last year, with great success. I think J1 just needed a different approach, one more methodical than Singapore. The thing that I like about Singapore is that it really teaches you to think about math, and doesn't waste time with a lot of needless repetition. However, it's strength is also its weakness, and we have definitely benefited from the switch. I haven't forced him to do every single last step in every single last problem in Saxon - that would be overkill, IMO. As long as he was understanding the concepts and getting over 85% of so of the problems correct, I let him just do "odds" one day and "even's" the next. He got about halfway through that book last year, I think we will finish it by around Christmas this year, and move into Saxon 6/5. J1 continues to struggle with careless mistakes, but I will willingly admit that is completely hereditary, something his mom struggled with for years, too, so I have a lot of sympathy and understanding over these tendencies. :-) A2 got about 1/3rd of the way through Singapore's 1st grade math last year, so I expect he will start Singapore grade 2 sometime before the end of the year. S3 did quite well with MCP's grade 1 math - though I didn't really like the program much, so he will start in Singapore's grade 1 book this year.

In future posts, I will write out a detailed plan for each child for the upcoming year, listing every book we will use, our goals and expectations. This is more for me and my record-keeping than for you, dear reader, so feel free to skip over those posts unless you're really fascinated! :-)

But do look for the upcoming post on homeschool planning. I learned a lot last year, and am eager to share it with ya'll (my southern heart comes through!)

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