Grade 4 Curriculum Choices

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I can’t believe my baby is going to be a 4th grader this year. Tater turned 9 a couple weeks ago, and I’m kind of in a permanent state of denial about it. At least she still calls me “mommy” and enjoys being around me. Sigh.

It’s always so much fun to choose curriculum, so I’m excited to start the school year! Here are our curriculum choices for Tater’s 4th grade:

Bible: We are not using a formal curriculum for Bible, but will read Bible stories, study heroes of faith as well as biblical character traits.

Math: We are continuing with Horizons math this year.

Science: We enjoyed Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy last year, so this year we are using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics. Tater’s choice…she loves doing science experiments.

Language Arts: We are doing daily Reading Comprehension worksheets, Latin Roots of English, and vocabulary.

Handwriting: No formal curriculum here either…just copywork from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Spelling: We have loved All About Spelling for Tater’s dysgraphia, and will be continuing with the program.

History: Last year I wrote my own World History curriculum using Living Books. We read almost 900 library books last school year and did corresponding crafts and hands on activities. I will be doing the same thing this year except with US History. I’m really excited!

Literature Read Alouds: All our read alouds correspond with our US History lessons. They will be:
-The Matchlock Gun
-Calico Captive
-Johnny Tremain
-By The Shores of Silver Lake
-Rifles for Watie
-Caddie Woodlawn

Art/Music:
We will be studying US Artists, popular time period music, and will be doing a lot of arts and crafts.

PE: Tater will continue in karate. She loves it and has shown quite an affinity.

Also, Junior will be starting Preschool work this year. We aren’t doing anything formal unless he wants to (I bought him an Apologia notebook to follow along in science), but he is already an eager learner and will be joining us for history, read alouds, and whatever else he wants!

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10 Children’s Picture Books About Italy

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This year we’ve been studying World Cultures and History in our homeschool. I wrote the curriculum, which is mostly a ton of library books, a bunch of hands on activities, and thoughtful open ended discussions.

I have checked out nearly 900 library books since September, so I have been able to read and narrow down my favorite books from each country and culture. We had a lot of fun studying Italy. We went to our favorite Italian restaurant, we built the Trevi Fountain out of LEGOs, and we did several art projects and listened to classical composers. These were the top 10 picture books we read about Italy.

1. Madeline and the Cats of Rome
Written by the grandson of the original author of the Madeline series, Madeline and the Cats of Rome follows the charming little French girl and the other 11 girls in her home plus Miss Clavel as they take a spring trip to Rome.

2. Pizza for the Queen
This is a really cute picture book based on a true story, about the origins of the Margherita pizza: when a pizza maker wanted to impress the Queen of Italy. This was a fun read and made us hungry!

3. There’s a Dolphin in the Grand Canal
This book takes place in Venice, and follows the young Venetian boy Luca as he tries to convince his family and friends that the dolphin he claims to see in the Grand Canal is not just a imaginary story.

4. Gabriella’s Song
Gabriella hears a beautiful melody in everything, including her everyday tasks, and it inspires a classical composer to write a new masterpiece when he hears the rhythm.

5. Vivaldi and the Invisible Orchestra
Cute historical fiction about a young orphan girl who transcribes Antonio Vivaldi’s music into sheet music, and how she inspires him. Based on true characters.

6. Strega Nona’s Gift
Fun and whimsical series about Strega Nona, the Italian grandmother who has magical powers.

7. The Famous Nini: A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star
A fun little book about a stray cat that becomes a celebrity.

8. Blockhead-The Life of Fibonacci
Probably one of the best books we have read this entire year. Informative, interesting, entertaining, and engaging. My 8 year old was inspired to write the Fibonacci sequence out as high as she could. The story of the mathematician who found number patterns in nature.

9. Italy ABCs
An ABC book that explains Italian words and famous locations.

10. You Wouldn’t Want to Live in Pompeii
We have LOVED the You Wouldn’t Want To… Series. It is written almost in comic book style and gives a lot of information while still being a lot of fun. The series includes other events, such as The Great Wall of China, the Hindenburg, and the Travels of Marco Polo.

This post contains some affiliate links if you order through Amazon, but these are all books we have read and enjoyed as a family and I don’t have a vested interest in any of them.

Why We Homeschool: 5 Reasons to Teach Your Kids at Home

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Homeschoolers get a bad rap sometimes. People think they’re weird (some are, most aren’t, just like the general population.) People think they’re unsocialized (studies have shown that homeschoolers are more well socialized than typical school children.) People think that you have to wear a denim jumper and cut your own hair and own a 15 passenger van in order to homeschool (just no…to all of that.) So, in defense of homeschooling, I want to share my top 5 reasons for choosing this for our family.

1. They Grow Up Too Fast
If you’re a parent, you don’t need me to tell you that time goes by too quickly. We all know that you blink and they’re grown. Let’s look at a typical school schedule…6 hours a day, 180 days a year. That’s 1080 hours every year that my kids would be away from me. From kindergarten until 12th grade it adds up to…wait for it…over a year and a half away from my kids. 14,000 hours…585 twenty-four hour days…18 months.

They grow up fast enough without my only seeing them on evenings and weekends. Last week Tater told me that she loves homeschooling because “We get to spend all day together.” These are moments I can never get back and wouldn’t trade for anything.


2. I Can Teach Individually to My Children’s Strengths
Each kid learns differently, but in a classroom setting with 20 or 30 other kids, there isn’t time to cater each lesson to each child. At home, I can tailor each and every lesson to my children’s unique learning style. They end up retaining more and enjoying their lessons instead of just trudging through the school day. This enables them to be lifelong learners instead of just doing their work so it can be done and over with.


3. I Know What They’re Learning
Most parents take great care in making sure they know what is going into their kids’ bodies and minds…we feed them good foods, limit their sweets, moderate the shows they watch and the video games they play. But, with 30+ hours a week in an environment I’m not in, I don’t know what they’re hearing or seeing or learning from the other kids who don’t share our same standards.

Now, I’m not “wrapping them in a bubble”, but at such impressionable ages, I want to do my best to shape and mold them in a way that reflects our values, not their peers’ values.

4. We Can Travel
Our family really enjoys traveling as a way to make school more hands on. We love taking long weekends to the National Parks. Our kids learn so much about science and history from these trips, and I love that we don’t have to “take them out of school” to go places…those places become our classroom!

5. We Can Learn Beyond the Curriculum

Sometimes we will learn about something, and the kids will take a real interest in it. Homeschooling gives us the opportunity to really explore beyond the original curriculum. For example, we have been studying world cultures this year. Tater wanted to learn everything she could about Russian history, so we did extra art projects and checked out a bunch of books at the library and really delved into it instead of just glossing over it. So far this school year we have checked out over 400 books from the library!

Those are only five of my reasons for homeschooling…there are many more, like not having to endure school traffic, not having to get everyone up and rushed and ready by 8am every morning, going to our favorite field trip locations when it’s least crowded, etc. In short, we love homeschooling and while it’s not easy, it is definitely the best choice for us, and I’m so proud of how much my children are learning and what kind and thoughtful little people they are becoming.

Our 3rd Grade Curriculum Choices

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I just can’t believe that my little Tater is in 3rd grade. We are in our second week of school, and she has told me that she LOVES third grade. I think much of it has to do with our curriculum choices. I am actually writing my own Bible/history/geography/social studies/art/music curriculum this year, and I have a lot of fun stuff planned!

Here are our curriculum choices for Tater’s 3rd grade year:

Math- Horizons 3
Langauge- Abeka 3 and Latin/Greek Root Words
Spelling- All About Spelling 3
Science- Apologia Astronomy
Handwriting- Handwriting Without Tears Cursive

The history, etc., I mentioned I was writing is World History and Cultures. We are studying every country. We are studying the history, geography, art, music, and languages of each country using a lot of craft projects, hands on activities, and TONS of living books. I am checking out about 30 books a week from the library.

I’m excited for 3rd grade, and I can’t wait to share some of our activities from the year!

Homeschooling a Child With Sensory Issues

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Tater is in 2nd grade now, and while some of her sensory issues are improving, she can still have a hard time focusing, which means I need to get creative in our homeschool so she can reach her full potential. Homeschooling is an ideal environment for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder because you can teach exactly how they learn best, and tailor the curriculum to their learning style. There’s no “falling through the cracks” in the homeschool setting because of the one-on-one attention they get.

Since Junior’s sensory issues are worse than Tater’s because of his hearing loss, I know I’ll need to adapt even more once he starts doing school, but here are some tips that have helped me keep my sanity and Tater keep from getting (too) frustrated.

1. Create a Peaceful Space
Kids with sensory issues either get overstimulated and out of control or completely shut down if there is too much stimulation. It could be in the form of visual, auditory, or tactile stimulation. Between the constant sounds of Junior being a loud 3 year old, the dishwasher and washing machine running, and the visual distractions of cars driving by, birds flying by, and neighbors out walking, Tater sometimes struggles to focus. Hearing protection Headphones (we have a pair like these) have been great when she just needs some quiet in the midst of everyday noises. Too much visual stimulation can be a problem too. I make sure all the cabinet doors in the school room are closed and that she’s facing away from the window, so a car or bird flying by doesn’t distract her.

2. Make Movement Part of the Lesson Plan
Movement is important for helping sensory kids become stable and grounded because they need that Vestibular or Proprioceptive input. I try to add in movement into our lesson plans as much as possible. Sometimes we do Math Obstacle Courses…I’ll create an obstacle course in the backyard, and she will have to answer a math problem at each obstacle. I also do scavenger hunts…I write out her math problems and place one inside of a plastic Easter egg, then hide them around the yard. She runs around finding the eggs and does the problems.

When we’re studying music (lately we’ve been studying Tchaikovsky), I allow her to dance to the music. For history, sometimes she will act out a scene from our history book, or she will just take a break every 20-30 minutes to go do some laps or jump on the exercise trampoline.

3. Let Them Focus on Something Else
I used to make Tater give me her full attention whenever I would read aloud. I didn’t think she was paying attention if her eyes were not focused on me. Well, after some challenges with recalling what I read, someone mentioned that if her hands were otherwise occupied, she might be able to focus better. Wow, what a difference that made! She needed the Tactile input so she could focus auditorily. She plays with LEGOs, draws, plays with Kinetic Sand or Play-Doh while I’m reading aloud to  her, and she is able to repeat what I said verbatim. (I always ask some comprehension questions while I’m reading.)

4. It’s Okay to Take a Break
Sensory kids can easily get burned out and shut down. When we’ve hit a wall and she starts to shut down, we just stop what we’re doing and take a quiet time break. Sometimes 15 minutes of going to a quiet place to read or do a puzzle is all it takes to calm her down and allow her to focus enough to get back on task.

5. Create Hands On Learning Opportunities
For all kids, but especially kids with sensory issues, utilizing all their senses is one of the keys to their academic success. Some of the things we regularly do in our lesson plans to encourage sensory input are:

-Creating Lego models of what we’ve learned
-Doing a science experiment instead of just reading about science
-Acting out a chapter from a book, including dressing up as the character(s)
-Aforementioned “Movement” activities
-Field Trips to local museums, hands-on Children’s Museums, state parks and National Parks
-Cooking or baking a recipe from whatever area we’re studying in Geography

Remember, homeschooling doesn’t have to look like regular school. As long as your child is learning the concepts they need to, you can present them in whatever way they will learn best. And sometimes that means doing math problems upside down while working on a LEGO masterpiece :)

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