I should start by saying that here at the Amaro Academy, we are a mixed bag when it comes to curriculum.
When we were just starting out, I felt like having a solid curriculum was a necessity – turns out it was just a confidence builder. I hadn’t learned yet that my instincts were strong or that I knew my kids as well as I actually did. I thought the “experts” were the only way to go. Looking back over the past few months, I realize that I knew more than I thought I did – or more accurately, God was ready to equip me beyond what I was expecting.
After a few months of adjustments, here’s where we have landed for our first year of homeschooling:
DANIEL (age 5/grade K) and VIOLET (age 3/Preschool)
Sonlight Core A – This was designed to appeal to Daniel, but Violet hangs just as well in almost every situation. These books cover a large range of subjects (geography, world culture, history, Bible, read alouds/chapter books, language arts, some science). I cannot say enough about the reading list – excellent (and surprising!) choice in what we’re reading together. I will just say this: Prior to this, we had totally underestimated what our kids are capable of learning/retaining/enjoying.
(We aren’t using absolutely 100% of this curriculum. We are picking and choosing as we go, and changing the order as we see fit. Their daily planning is very detailed and that doesn’t work for the way we do life. The material is excellent with one exception – the Language Arts sheets are BORING. We do better glancing at the content they suggest covering and doing it in some other much-more-fun way.)
Sonlight Science Add-On – The children’s encyclopedia included in Core A has become Daniel’s favorite thing in the world, and includes quite a bit of science (the way we use it, anyway). Daniel’s appetite for science just seemed insatiable so just after Christmas I ordered another set of science books. I ordered “down” a level to make sure Violet could enjoy them too, and it seems to be appealing to them both.
Letter of the Week – We started using this concept for Violet (as mostly a collection of worksheets/coloring sheets/pre-writing practice) but realized it’s larger potential quickly. Daniel loves brainstorming activities and ideas for each letter – “to help Violet”, of course. We spend about two weeks on each letter and it basically becomes a lens through which to view the world. It guides the kinds of books we check out from the library, the conversations we have in the car, the art projects we embark upon and yes, some of the worksheet games we’ll end up doing. But mostly it just opens the kids’ minds a bit each week to some big ideas and obscure things they wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise.
REGULAR PARTS OF OUR WEEK
- Something we are calling “Today Books” – they are binders we made for each of the kiddos that we do together about every two days. They feature a fun assortment of laminated pages about the weather, the month, some calendar pages, some creative pages, a memory verse page, writing practice, USA map practice, etc. It is a bit much for every day, but every two or three days has been a good balance for us. (The kids especially love running outside and checking the thermometer!)
- Books galore. We read sometimes for hours a day. The kids love the library books, their own favorites from our collection, and a new addition since August: Chapter Books. It has been a crazy discovery – reading aloud to the kids – just how much they are able to retain, absorb and process. We have plowed through a dozen hefty chapter books this year and the kids beg for more. Their favorite gifts at Christmas were boxed sets of books.
- History is a delight (how could it not be?) and the books provided by the curriculum are a great launching pad into various pieces of history. There is a children’s encyclopedia that we peek at each week, learning about broad periods of history (the Greeks, the Romans, etc) but the actual books do more to let the kids feel immersed into other worlds (Chinese story books about a duck who lives on the Yangtze river, a chapter book on Mary Breckenridge written from the point of view of patients she helped, etc.)
- Poetry. Usually at snack time, this tends to be a highlight of the day. They just adore all types of poetry – and the cadence and rhyming exposure turns into their own attempts at creating poetry. So fun.
- Geography. We are constantly finding countries on the globe, doing USA puzzles and playing an extremely addicting game on the iPad about USA geography. It’s amazing how much they are absorbing and learning about the world.
- Bible. They learn a bit from church on the weekend (regular Sunday School type lessons) but it’s absolutely wonderful to finally be able to say that the vast majority of their Bible education is coming from home. We memorize a new verse weekly (set to music – they love it) and every night, Fernando reads to us from a chronological family Bible. We have been charting our progress with name magnets on the wall – we have just begun the adventures of Elijah. This component is far and away my favorite thing about homeschooling. The constant presence of Biblical foundation in their lives (and mine), the ability to point them to the verses they are learning when we are having to discipline or address character issues (good and bad).
- Science. Science Experiments happen as the topics present themselves. We do have a cute little science kit for the kids, and they enjoy doing experiments (like cleaning pennies in lemon juice, theorizing about what household objects will float or sink in a tube of water, etc) but really, science just kind of happens in the world of a kid. Constantly. So we are just watching and ready to provide more information when questions (inevitably, daily) pop up. The kids and I are growing a bunch of potted plants in the back yard, feeding hummingbirds and other birds and dreaming about our own herb garden this Spring.
- Math. We have a series of game-oriented workbooks that cover logic and foundational math skills. Both kids enjoy doing these much more than a series of drills/equations. We have a silly math video that Daniel enjoys, and a number of iPad apps and computer games that cover the necessary skills. For math, it has been much more about me learning to identify the necessary foundation (and when they have learned it) instead of expecting rows of equations completed daily. Two very different things. In general, real life has been the best teacher for all things math-related: Telling time, Counting money, Measuring tape play, Addition/Subtraction in the real world, Patterns/Geometry, etc. Both kids help me in the kitchen with cooking projects and have recently gotten a decent grasp on units of measure and basic fractions.
- Handwriting. The kids do something involving writing each day, but it’s not based on a curriculum/program. As long as they are having fun with writing letters, I’m happy. For example – If Daniel decides to create a book about robots just for fun, he ends up writing the names of different kinds of robots, the title of the book, page numbers and “By: Daniel Amaro” at some point. As far as I’m concerned, this is enough practice at his age. Violet enjoys dry-erase letter practice, and copying her name as best she can.
- Art and Music. We paint. We draw. We craft. We study famous artists and artwork and play with the concept. We listen to music CONSTANTLY and learn about the instruments as interest arises. We play on the piano together and I think Daniel is pretty close to starting to learn the basics of playing. We dance. We jam.
- Field Trips. We are constantly out and about in the world, learning as we go. We frequent the Phoenix Children’s Museum and the White Tanks, but also make our way around to more obscure museums and exhibits. Some favorites have been the local junkyard, Trail Dust Town in Tuscon, the Hall of Flame fire truck museum and the dinosaur exhibit at the Natural History of Arizona museum.
I realize this post is scattered and incomplete. The more I type the more it feels like the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other nuanced part of our day and things we love doing but this will at least provide a basic idea behind what our homeschooling world looks like right now.