Showing posts with label homeschool. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homeschool. Show all posts

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Our Homeschool Curriculum 2016-17

Our school year officially starts on Monday so I thought I would share our curriculum choices for this year.


No surprise here. I love TOG. This is our main curriculum. It covers history, literature, geography, worldview, vocabulary, and some grammar/composition.


I still love this simple approach to math for the boys. I love that it is DVD driven and gives plenty of opportunity for mastery.

This will be our third year to use Noeo Science. I like the simple notebooking approach to science. I was on the fence about buying science curriculum at all because I think my boys learn so much more by doing our nature walks and just by exploring and learning about nature in general. But I do like this curriculum and the books are vibrant and informative.

This is a relatively new curriculum and this will be my first year using it. I saw it at a homeschool convention over a year ago and I loved it immediately for Benjamin. It's a very simple, workbook based program. I'm excited to try it.

I mostly wanted this for Benjamin but went ahead and got the cursive book for Caleb. Again, a very simple approach to handwriting. I think it will only take a few minutes each day which is perfect. I've not used this before but I think it is going to be great, plus it was very affordable. 

While Tapestry of Grace does have a grammar/composition supplement called Writing Aids, it doesn't really teach. We still use Writing Aids through TOG because I like some of the activities and suggestions but I wanted something that would actually teach the different parts of speech, grammar, and composition. I found this curriculum at a homeschool conference and I love it. It is DVD and workbook driven. I use this for Caleb only at this point but will likely use it with Benjamin next year.

I'll be using this with Benjamin. I used Level 1 and 2 with Caleb and again...I loved the simplicity. I think simplicity is my goal for our school year! This will cover parts of speech, dictation, grammar, and memorization. These are great books, and very inexpensive. I've only used Level 1 and 2 so I can't speak for the upper levels. I switched Caleb to Essentials in Writing after 3rd grade.

And that about covers it. I'm really excited about our choices for this next school year. I love watching my boys learn and grow. I can't wait to see how they mature over this next year. 



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How I plan Tapestry of Grace

Tapestry of Grace can be a very intimidating curriculum at first glance and it does have a learning curve. But once you have a unit or two under your belt, planning is a breeze. After completing two years of TOG, I have perfected a system of planning that works great for me. I thought I would share it here in case it could help some other folks considering or using TOG.

When you purchase a year of  TOG you have the option to buy the printed version, the digital edition or both. I like to have both the digital and print. I like having the actual paper in my hand instead of on a screen but the digital version is nice for easy printing and can be updated easily if needed. There is no right or wrong, it is just whatever works for you.

A year of TOG comes in 4 separate units. The first thing I do when I get my new year of curriculum is do a happy dance and then put each unit into its own binder. 1 1/2 inch binders work great for me.

Some folks like to plan for the whole year but that overwhelms me greatly so I focus on one unit at a time. Because TOG cycles through history, I know we will come to each year at least 2 or 3 more times. For this reason, I like to protect the pages. I go through the Unit we will be studying and pull out the pages that are relevant to my boys. TOG separates things by learning levels, Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. Benjamin is Lower Grammar and Caleb is Upper Grammar with some overlap in between. So I only pull out the pages that are for Lower and Upper Grammar, I ignore the rest.

TOG color codes the pages so you know which pages are for your child's learning level. After I pull out the pages for my boys, I also pull out the teacher's notes for me. I do this for each week of the Unit. Each week is about 60 pages but I can reduce it to about 30 after I pull out the pages I need. I then put each page in a sheet protector. It is a tedious process but it works for me. I like the sheet protectors for several reasons. First, it keeps the pages clean and perfect so they hold up over time. Second, it allows me to take notes using a dry erase marker directly on the sheet protector.

After I sheet protect all the pages from that Unit, I start printing out the Reading Assignments for that unit. I use this to check for books at my library. I look at the Lower and Upper Grammar books recommended for each week and check to see if my library has that book or a very similar book. I also check Amazon to purchase only those books that I can't get from my library and that are used for several weeks or more. I do not buy books that I will only use for one week. TOG also has Bookshelf Central where they sell every single book that is recommended for that year. This is handy when a book is out of print and/or your library doesn't have it. I usually compare the TOG price against Amazon before I make a purchase. There is a lot of wiggle room with Lower and Upper Grammar. It is okay if you can't find or buy all the recommended books. I have learned that finding a similar book works just as well for these lower grades. TOG also gives you a list of alternate reading resources that can be used if you can't find the recommended books. I usually try to get 3 weeks of books at a time from my library.

The next thing I do is print out the Planning Aids for the unit. This is a relatively new service that TOG offers and it is awesome. If planning TOG scares you to death, then Planning Aids is the answer. Planning Aids can be purchases separately for a very small price and they will lay out a schedule for you so you don't have to worry about planning each day. The work is already done. I use the Planning Aids as a basic guideline. They do save me some time when planning our week.

Left-the recommended reading assignments for the Unit. Again, I only look at the books for Lower and Upper Grammar. Right-the Planning Aids for Lower and Upper Grammar.

While I don't plan for the entire year right off the bat, I do get some things organized for the whole year.
I number 36 file folders to cover each week of our school year. As I plan each week, I put everything we need (maps, worksheets, lapbook inserts, math, etc) in the corresponding folder.

I also get the Lapbooks separated by week and put in the numbered folders.


All of the Lapbook pieces separated and ready to go into the folders. This just saves me time throughout the year and it is one less thing that has to be done. I love the Lapbooks and highly recommend them, especially for the lower grades. 

I also print out any maps that we will need for geography during the unit and put them in the appropriate weekly folder. I make copies of any student worksheets we may need as well. Again, I only do this for one unit at a time.

They each have their own binder for the entire year. Everything goes in here. I have dividers for math, science, literature, handwriting, geography, etc. I used to do separate binders for different subjects but that just got ridiculous. One big binder it is! It works perfect and takes up less space.

I have Monday-Friday pocket dividers in each binder.  That way they can open it up to the "Monday" divider and pull out their assignments for that day.

I use Homeschool Planet for planning. I love it (although it also had a learning curve and took some time set up). It costs about $6 a month. You can try it for 30 days for free.  On the left is Caleb's plan for the whole week. This is for me so I have a visual of our week and I can mark things off as we do them. On the right is his daily assignments. These are for him. He can quickly see what needs to be done for that day.

His daily plan goes with his assignments in the divider folder for that day.

Benjamin has the same system in his binder.

Because I plan my units ahead of time and I have the numbered weekly folders, I can just pull that weeks folder and put the assignments in the boy's binders. The upfront planning before the Unit does take time but my weekly planning is drastically reduced because I put in the time beforehand. I usually take about an hour each weekend to read the Teacher's notes for the upcoming week and make sure we have everything we need for the week ahead. It makes for a much smoother year.

So that is how I plan with Tapestry of Grace. It is a system that has worked for me the past two years. If you have any specific TOG questions, feel free to ask. I'll do my best to answer them. I am passionate about this curriculum and I am happy to share our experience.

TOG has several resources on their site to help you learn more about the curriculum and some strategies for planning. 

Some helpful links:


TOG Year Three Pinterest Board (I just started this one)

There are also Facebook pages for each year of TOG. These are great resources and I highly recommend them. 




Friday, June 24, 2016

Why I love Tapestry of Grace

Since we just wrapped up our second year of Tapestry of Grace, I thought I would share why I love this curriculum so much. I remember when I first started researching TOG, I scoured the internet looking for blogs and reviews from real moms that were successfully and happily using this somewhat intimidating curriculum. It seemed like real, personal reviews were hard to come by...so I want to share mine.  And here is why I love Tapestry of Grace.


1. History is presented as a series of interconnected events.

Tapestry of Grace submerges you into history. Year One of TOG begins at the beginning, with Creation and then moves forward through the Ancient World, all the way to Modern Times in Year Four. No event is studied in isolation. As you study history you see how everything is connected and how the events in one part of the world can and do impact the events in another part of the world.

(While studying the Ancient World we made a Ziggurat)

2. The curriculum can be (and is intended to be) used for multiple grade levels.

This is a benefit that I am just beginning to appreciate. I've pulled Benjamin into many activities over the last two years but TOG wasn't his main curriculum in kindergarten or first grade When we start Year 3 in August, Caleb will be in Upper Grammar and Benjamin in Lower Grammar. Even though their learning levels are different, they will be studying the same things. We will all learn alongside each other.

(Shields and daggers, weapons of ancient warfare)

3. The hand of God is all over history.

This is probably my favorite thing about TOG. We tend to view historical events outside of God. We don't see the forest for the trees. When you pull back and look at the whole picture and how events are connected, you can see how God orchestrates His purpose. TOG does a great job of pointing that out. A quick example would be the invention of the printing press during the Renaissance. The printing press helped power the Reformation, which led to the people standing up against the misuse of power in the church, which ultimately lead to the spreading of the Gospel. I love learning history in the light of God's plan. It's amazing to learn and study how history just lines up perfectly with the Bible. The two are not separate.

(Priestly turbans and breastplates)

4. Freedom to plan what I want.

It's ironic because the freedom to choose and plan my own schedule was the thing that scared me the most about TOG and now I love it. TOG does a great job of giving you a huge buffet of activities and books to choose from. I get to decide what we do and don't do based on the choices I'm given. I love that.
(We made Shofars while studying Jewish holidays)

5. Books!

TOG is rich with books. Good books. I love that we are exposed to so many books that I would never think to check-out on my own. We read together every single day. We read great historical fiction, non-fiction, and biographies.

(Roman soldiers carried a standard into battle)

6. TOG covers numerous subjects and areas of study

While TOG is not a complete curriculum by itself, it does cover a number of subjects. With TOG we cover history, geography (as it applies to the events we are studying), literature, worldview, vocabulary, and writing/composition (if you get the optional Writing Aids supplement). I still have to add science and math but that is about it. I love that everything is tied together in TOG. If we are studying the 13 colonies (history) then we are also working on a map of those colonies (geography) and we are working on a newspaper with articles that cover some of the main events of that era (writing/composition) and we are reading a fiction book that takes place during this time period (literature). Everything makes sense together. 

(A Viking longship)


So there you have it, you now know why I love Tapestry of Grace. If you want to know more about our journey with TOG you can click here to see every blog post I have written about this curriculum.

Stay tuned because I'm working on a "How I plan with Tapestry of Grace" post now. I know that planning TOG scares a lot of people off so I want to share the system that works for me. Look for that post in the next few weeks.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 4

I loved Unit 3 so I was so excited to dive right in to Unit 4. This Unit did not disappoint, it picked up right where we left off in Unit 3. We spent a lot of time reading about Benjamin Franklin, learning about his inventions and his huge involvement in the starting of our country. I really had no idea he played such a huge role. We also spent time on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. I loved relearning all of this. I'm certain I studied all this many moons ago when I was in school but it just means so much more now. Plus, I love learning alongside my boys.

For some reason I have very few photos to share. I've noticed that I take more photos of Hallow these days and less and less of the boys! I do have a few to share so here goes.

We attempted to make our own letterpress but it wasn't as successful as I had hoped. I bought alphabet pasta letters so we could spell out words, ink them, and press them on paper. But the pasta came with a very limited selection of letters. We had M, T, H, N, A and I. It is really hard to spell words with just those letters ya'll! Caleb managed to spell MATH with his letters and Benjamin did I AM MN (I am McLelland). This is proof that sometimes crafts just don't work out.

Caleb drew a picture of Washington for the cover of his lapbook. He used the Draw, Write, Now books to do this.

The completed lapbook. 
I love these and plan to use them while the boys are in the grammar levels.

We had one ongoing project throughout the unit. We worked on newspaper articles each week. By the end of the unit we had a newspaper with stories from that time period. We did articles on Boone, Franklin, and Revere. Of course, Caleb had to have a Bird of the Week column. 

We wanted our newspaper to look old so we crumpled it up and soaked it in coffee. I put it in a low temp oven for a few minutes to dry it out.

It came out awesome!

We just had so much fun with this unit, with this whole year really. I love this curriculum and I can't wait to dive into Year 3 in August. 

While this is a TOG post, I do have to share one of my favorite things Benjamin did this year. He did My Father's World for first grade. Each day he had to read a story from his Bible reader and then write a summary about the story. He loves Minecraft right now and his passion for it was reflected in his drawing.

See how the pillars and trees look like Minecraft? So cute. I love that kid.




Friday, June 17, 2016

Last day of school pics, homeschool style


Today was our last day of school. Of course, I had to get some "last day" photos. The boys hate this but I force them to humor me. It's the least they can do, right?


The boys fill out this questionnaire on the first day of school, then again on our last day. They love comparing their answers and seeing how they have changed.



Look how much his handwriting has changed!! I love it!


I make the boys a certificate every year...because I'm a dork.

As a reward for all of their hard work this year, I let them spray me with silly string. Caleb loved spraying me while Benjamin chose to save his string for another time (he's a saver hoarder ya'll).


Yay for another successful year of homeschooling! I can't believe this was my third year to homeschool. It goes by so fast ya'll. I'm so blessed to be able to do this. It isn't always easy and I get frustrated and question my ability to do this. But then I remember that God called me to do this. And I do believe He called me to do this. Homeschooling was an answer to prayer, an unexpected answer, but an answer nonetheless. Since God called me to do this, He isn't going to just let me fail. When He calls us to do something, He gives us what we need to do it. I have to remind myself of that often. I truly feel blessed and grateful for this time with my boys. I love that I get to spend each day with them, teaching them and learning along side them. I love that we get to have conversations all through the day that I might miss out on if they were in public school. It's a good gig this homeschooling thing.

With another year behind us, we will take the next 6 weeks off and then start back up August 1st. This is my first year to follow a more year-round, flexible schedule and I think I like it. I just felt less pressure to get it done by a certain time. I love that we can take a week or two off when we need to. I love that we can take all of December off. October is a crazy month for us, so it is nice to know I can take time off if needed. Flexibility is freedom.




Sunday, April 17, 2016

Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 3

We just wrapped up another TOG unit. This was my favorite unit by far. It covered Colonial Times, so we learned all about the founding of the 13 colonies. We managed to squeeze in a number of activities during our studies.

We learned about the paper art of quilling. Quilling involves spiraling thin strips of paper and then shaping them. Appently this was a popular activity in Colonial Times.

Caleb found it cool but tedious. It requires a good amount of fine motor.

A quill heart.

Benjamin loved quilling and made several shapes. 


We planted seeds in an attempt to grow our own food, just like in CT. Several colonies planted and grew tobacco...we planted cantaloupe seeds. Seemed more appropriate.

Caleb worked on a 13 colonies book throughout the unit. 




For language arts, Caleb had to write a short play with a colonial times theme. 
We chose Legos to act out our play. Clearly Benjamin played a role in this project.

Basically Derick (left) is the leader of a new colony and Dekemunbo (right) is the leader of a local Native American tribe. Derick comes over to make peace and Deke agrees but while they are chatting, a fight breaks out between the two sides...

...and it ends in a blood bath. Only Derick and Deke remain. Clearly this play was written by 2 boys.

Caleb also wrote a fable. It was about a horse and a macaw who go head-to-head in a slam dunk contest. Writing and creating stories is not easy for Caleb so I was tickled at his progress during this unit.


Since cameras weren't invented yet, the colonists relied on silhouettes. The boys thought these were so cool! Obviously they should have been smaller...but oh well.

And of course, we completed another lapbook. Still love the lapbooks.

Benjamin joins in on some of Caleb's activities but also does his own curriculum, My Father's World 1st grade. Benjamin will be a full-time TOGer next year. He's doing well and making progress. Reading is a challenge but he gets better every week so I'm not too worried. 

Only one unit left to finish out this year. I think we will take our time getting through this last unit, take a couple of breaks during, and finish up at the end of June. My plan is to take all of July off and then start back up August 1st. I think I like the year-round approach to homeschooling. It allowed us to take as many breaks as we needed throughout the year. October is always a crazy month so we need time off then. I also like taking all of December off. Plus, we travel throughout the year so it is just nice to spread our school year out instead of trying to follow the public school schedule.



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