My Curriculum Choices 2012: 7 year old doing Third grade work

In this first part of a two part series I'm sharing my curriculum choices for our 7 year old who is doing 3rd grade work.


"NIrV Read with Me Bible" Illustrated by Dennis Jones: I want to instill in my son the daily habit of reading his own Bible. I feel this Bible is written at the right reading level for my son’s current reading ability. 

A Beka Book "Readers": These readers progress with difficulty at the same pace as the A Beka Book Language book that we are using. I like the Biblical characteristics and morals that are woven into the stories. 

Classic Books such as The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Warner: I have selected a few classic books for my son to read this year in addition to the A Beka Book Readers. I want to expand his reading styles and introduce him to some classic literature. 

A Beka Book "Read & Think 3": The goal of this book is to improve my son’s reading speed. I like this book because the stories that it uses are often historical.


A Beka Book "Language 3" workbook: We have used A Beka Book "Language 1" and "Language 2" in the past. They seem to work well for my son. I like the convenience of having a workbook that he can write in. I like how it explains the language rules and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.


Alfred's Basic Piano Library: All-in-One Course for Children-Book 1: I introduced the keyboard to my children last year with this book. I plan to make it a weekly experience this year. I like how this books combines lesson and theory into one simple book. 


A Beka Book "Arithmetic 3": We used A Beka Book "Arithmetic 1" and "Arithmetic 2" in the past and they seem to work well for my son. I like the convenience of having a workbook that he can write in. I like how it explains things simply and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.


Apologia "Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day by Fulbright: We used Apologia’s "Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures" by Fulbright last year and it was a good fit for us. This series is written from a creation perspective and I can use it with multi-level teaching. It is more in-depth than many other science books I have looked at which works well for my analytical son and it has lots of simple hands on experiments and activities for my more hands on son.

History & Geography

"All Through the Ages" by Christine Miller: This is a resource guide for me from which I plan to select books on Greece and Rome, and obtain them from our library system. This guide makes it easier for me to select quality books from these historical time periods for my sons that are safe from non-Christian biases. This is a multi-level teaching approach. I used this guide book last year and it worked well. History become one of my sons’ favorite subjects. 


A Beka Book "Health Safety and Manners 3": I like the Christian perspective and short, simple approach to this topic. 

You may have noticed that I skipped a few subjects like Spelling & Geography. It’s not that I’m not teaching my children those subjects, it’s that I don’t have specific text books for those subjects. Instead, I’m choosing to design my own plan for those subjects. For instance for Geography I’m planning on using a computer game called Seterra for part of our curriculum. My son will also be writing reports about different states he studies. I’ll even incorporate current global events and ethnic nights into our geography curriculum. So even though I haven’t listed a text book, those other areas certainly aren’t forgotten.

Next week I'll tell you about my current educational plan for my 4 year old who's doing first grade work.

Have you started your school year? What is your favorite subject to teach and how are you teaching it?

The Miracle of Birth: Guppies and Purple Finches

Recently one of the female guppies in our fish tank gave birth to a school of fry (baby fish). Guppies are one of the few species of fish that give birth to live young instead of laying eggs. She started delivering during lunch (our fish tank is next to our dining room table), so we noticed right away. My children were able to watch the miracle of birth. I must admit that I was fascinated myself at how a fry can be born curled up and start swimming before it even completely unfolds after birth (a few seconds). 

A few days after our fish gave birth, I noticed a purple finch building a nest in a hanging flower basket on our front porch. I took the basket down once a day to show my children the progress-an empty nest on day 1, a nest with 1 egg on day 2, a nest with 2 eggs on day 3, and so on. When the hatchlings (newly hatched baby birds) started to hatch, I was amazed to see the changes in them daily!

My kids learned a lot about life in the real world. More than they could ever learn from a book. I was amazed at how much I learned from watching these two miracles of birth this spring. What a blessing from God for us to be able to witness both of these miracles of birth so close together!

We live in town, so we are not allowed to own many animals. One of the reasons that we have guppies, is for this very reason-so that our children get to witness the miracle of life in the real world. There is nothing that compares to witnessing this first hand. If your children haven’t seen the miracle of birth in some form in real life, I encourage you to find a way to give them this opportunity. Here are a few ideas of how to facilitate this:

  1. Get a pet that is capable of giving birth. This could be a cow or a dog or a mouse or a guppy fish. Taking care of an animal is also a great way for a child to learn responsibility.
  2. Build a habitat for an animal in your yard. It could be a bird house, or an area for a rabbit to make a nest. This could be a research project as well to determine what a particular animal likes to encourage it to build its nest where you want it too. 
  3. Cooperate with a friend that has animals. See if they will notify you when their animal is about to give birth. Even if it’s in the middle of the night, it could teach your children that birth is not something that we can control and sometimes isn’t convenient.
  4. If it doesn't conflict with your values, have your kids present when you give birth (if you’re still having kids). This is something I have not done as I have three boys and my daughter is just too young.

For those of you that have witnessed the miracle of birth with your children, how were you able to give them the opportunity? What is one thing they learned from it?

A Report That’s Not Necessary?


In my state, Minnesota, writing a year end report of my child’s yearly progress is not a requirement. So why would I do it?

  1. Review and Encourage
    My year end report is a way for me to review my year and track my child’s progress. See what worked well and what needs to change. I can refer back to last year’s report when I’m having a rough day and be encouraged with all that I have done in the past with that particular child. It helps me know that I am doing something productive with my child’s and my time throughout the year.
  2. Spouse involvement
    My year end report helps communicate to my husband what our child has learned this year and what level he is currently at. It is a nice summary for my husband to read that makes it easier for him to participate in decisions regarding the upcoming school year. 
  3. Documentation
    My year end report is a great yearly summary for my child’s educational file. It is easily accessible for any future reference. It helps make it easier for me when I am trying to recall details about that grade for the next child that I am teaching. It’s a nice documentation of “just in case”. Having it in a file helps put my mind at ease should a “just in case” day ever arise. 

What I include:

I list the curriculum I have used throughout the year. I list textbooks and workbooks, but not library books that I have check out throughout the year (I actually record those separately throughout the year).

Minnesota requires instruction in eleven subjects, so I make sure to include a few sentences or a short paragraph for each required subject. I also include a few extra subjects such as religion or foreign language. I include what they learned (Reading-Child can read and write ABC’s. or Math-Child can do 2 digit multiplication.), what they did well (Science-Child enjoys science projects and conducts them well. or Art-Child can draw detailed nature pictures.), and what they need to work on (Writing- Child often forgets to punctuate his sentences. or Physical Education- Child has trouble catching a baseball when thrown from a distance of 10 feet or more.). I often use “Home Learning Year by Year” by Rebecca Rupp as a guide for what to include in my report for subjects like Language Arts and Math. For other subjects like Science or History that may not follow the typical course of study for other children my child’s age, I often use the Table of Contents or book summary of the textbook we used. 

Sample paragraph:

Writing - Child can write upper & lower case letters and numbers. He occasionally writes some letters backwards, or uses the incorrect case. He can write short letters (such as thank you notes) using inventive spelling. Some improvement is needed with holding his pencil correctly and forming some letters in the proper stroke sequence (such as starting at the top when writing an L). 

I also include a list of the field trips the child has taken throughout the year. 

I like things to be neat and tidy at the end of the year before I start the next year. This makes it easier for me to decide what documentation to keep and what to purge. It helps me when I plan for following years. Staying organized helps me stay less stressed, makes things in our home run smoother and allows us more time to focus on the things that are more important in our lives. 

How do you organize at your year end?


Useful Junkmail-An Oxymoron

I hate wasting things. I’d probably be a hoarder if I didn’t hate clutter so much. Because of my unique combination of personality traits that God has created me with, I try to find non-traditional uses for things that I would otherwise just throw away (If I can’t find an alternative use for something I still throw it away, so in case you were wondering, no, I don’t have a big ball of dental floss hidden in a cupboard somewhere in my house). One of the items that keeps coming into my house, that really has no traditional usefulness, is junk mail. Since we have such a plethora of it, I have through the years come up with a few creative, educational uses for the junk mail I am constantly receiving.

The Unusual Pursuit of Squirrel Trapping

We have an abundance of squirrels in our yard. My six-year-old son really wants to catch one. He says because he wants to provide food and leather for our family. We have never used squirrels for these purposes before, but this is my son’s pursuit regardless. I think fun is the more likely reason for this pursuit, but the reason is not the point.

The point is that even though this is not a typical pursuit for a six-year-old (or maybe it is, I have no comparison since he is my oldest), I am not only allowing it, but encouraging it because he has exemplified several good qualities through this pursuit.

Homeschool Doesn't End When Summer Starts

If you are like me, you probably recently finished your school year or are almost done. I admit I’m calling it the end of the year. My children are excited to be promoted to the next grade (before they even put down their pencils after the last assignment), but we aren’t really done. Learning is such a part of our lives, that I just can’t stop teaching them. We enjoy it. I see summer as a wonderful opportunity to do more hands-on-learning such as field trips and science experiments and math games. I feel like we have more time for fun learning during our summer days because we aren’t doing as much book work. Yes, I meant to say “as much”. 

Death and Thankfulness: Our Dog Molly

We had our dog, Molly, since before I was pregnant with our first child. She was a good dog and we miss her. My children haven’t know not having a dog because she has always been around since they were born. She was gentle with them and they loved her. Because of her, they don’t fear dogs.

Molly helped teach my children responsibility. My six year old son has learned the responsibility of taking care of another living creature. Feeding her every day. Washing her dishes and kennel. Cleaning up after her. Bathing, and grooming her. Even my four year old has had his turn at taking care of her. 

Molly helped show my children what obedience looks like. “Molly come!” and she came with no questions asked, no arguing, no dawdling, no tantrums.

Molly had been sick for several weeks when one day, my husband and I sensed that it was getting close to the time of Molly’s death, so we had the children go outside and spend some special time playing with her. I’m so glad for their sake that we did, because she died the next day. 

My children have been sick lately, which is very frustrating to me at times. Yet, our dog reminded me in the midst of this, to be thankful in all things, even when my children are sick; I can be thankful that they are still alive. 

We never know how long we will have someone or something in our lives. I want my children to be constantly thankful; Especially thankful for the time we have with loved ones. I am trying to convey this heart of gratitude to my children in the midst of their mourning. I think mourning has it’s season, but gratitude should still be found among it.

Even through Molly’s death, she was still teaching my children. She taught them about sickness and dying. Death is a part of life. I believe that we shouldn’t shelter our children from it, but help them mature through it. Death is as much a part of life as birth is. Everyone is born and everyone dies. What a great opportunity to talk to my children about our Loving Creator. 

Thank you God, for the seven years we had with our dog, Molly; And thank you for the time I have now with my family

Weather Awareness Week

Severe Weather Awareness Week caught me a little off guard this year. I didn’t know that it was tornado safety day until I heard the sirens in the middle of nap time. Typically on this day each year I practice a tornado drill with my children and discuss other severe weather situations in detail with each child at his level. This year, three of my four children were sound asleep, so I decided to postpone our drill.

In our area, the civil defense sirens are tested monthly. Because of this, I discuss tornadoes with my children every time we hear the sirens being tested but only practice the drill on this day each year. I make sure to explain each time the difference between the test and a real warning. Since they don’t know the difference, they must always assume it is a real warning unless I tell them otherwise.

One Benefit of Illness

My family has been going through some sicknesses lately. As my oldest son (six years old)  lay on the couch staring out the window because he was too sick to do schoolwork, I realized that he was still learning a lot. Because he was doing this for an extended period of time, he noticed a lot of things about nature that he wouldn’t have otherwise taken the time to notice and therefore learn. One of our bird feeders happens to hang outside of the window that my sick son was staring out of. He was excited to see so many birds that he doesn’t normally see because he just doesn’t spend the time observing. He starting recording details about their feather patterns and behavior in his nature journal.  

For science this year, we are using Apologia’s “Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the 5th Day” by Jeannie K Fulbright. It covers a lot about birds, so these moments that my son was observing the birds on the bird feeder, meshed so well with what we have been covering in science lately! How perfect is that?

While my oldest son was sick, he started writing in his journal (or dictating for me to write when he was really sick) several times a day! Previously he hadn’t been writing in it very often at all. He was also asking for me to bring him our bird field guide and encyclopedias so he could look things up that he wanted to know more about. Of course no one wants to be sick, or see their child sick, but I was glad that even in the midst of this yuck, there are still some positives. This was yet another reminder that even when I’m not doing school, my kids are still learning.

What have you noticed your kids learning when they are sick? 

How I taught my son to read at Four (and a little writing and spelling)

I don’t know how to teach your child to read. Every child and parent is different. You as the parent know best how to teach your individual child how to read. I will tell you how I taught my son to read at four (I’ve used this same method with my oldest two sons) and hopefully that will give you some ideas how to start teaching your child to read (though not necessarily at four). Don’t worry about doing it the wrong way, there are many different methods of teaching your child to read, some may work better for one person or another, but as far as I know, they all do work. I learned how to read phonetically, whereas my husband learned how to read whole words. You can’t get much more opposite approaches, yet as adults we both know how to read well.

Initially my husband and I wanted to incorporate the best of both worlds, and teach our oldest son to read primarily phonetically but also learn the DOLCH sight words so that we would be able to read more rapidly-we thought. However, he really didn’t get the sight word approach, it just kept frustrating him. I ended up dropping that approach altogether. He is only 6 yet he is able to read most of the words on the DOLCH word list without a problem after learning them phonetically.

My second son’s brain works differently than my oldest son’s. My second son learned many sight words on his own after I read them to him just once or twice in a book. Sight words come very naturally to him. I am still teaching him phonics in the same basic steps that I taught my first son, just tailoring it to fit his style a little. This approach seems to work just as well for him as it did for my eldest son, even though they seem to learn a little differently.

Read on for the basic steps I used to teach my child to read and some ideas on how I did each step.


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