I realize that it's really not necessary to purchase a pre-packaged curriculum. With the availability of what's on the internet (a lot of it free), a few trips to the library, and some creativity, it is very possible to come up with your own curriculum and unit studies.
That said, I've chosen not to take that route this year. I want to ease into this and my hope is that by having curriculum and lesson plans already laid out for me, I'll be able to focus more of my time on learning, teaching, and interacting with the boys in general. However, I did not purchase a full blown curriculum from a single vendor and I also only purchased enough curriculum for the first 9 weeks (when possible) to make sure I like it and Will likes it before I purchase a year's worth.
As far as my "teaching philosophy" goes, I want to focus more on the love of learning and understanding instead of test scores. Granted, test scores will be important in the future, but right now I really think that if there is a firm foundation of understanding, that the test scores will come.
So, after swimming in the sea of curriculum for many months, I found a couple of choices that really excited me. The two that really made my eyes sparkle are Moving Beyond the Page and RightStart Math. What I find interesting is that both of these are teacher intensive programs. I was surprised to find how much I was drawn to that.
Originally, I chose to place Will in the ages 7-9 curriculum (and I had purchased that at a convention for the first 9 weeks of study). Even though I think he would be able to cover the material, I wanted to back up a little and get a better foundation for his reading skills. So, I kept the 7-9 and then ordered the first 9 weeks of ages 6-8 to use first instead. This comprehensive curriculum incorporates language arts, social studies, science, math, writing, spelling, and art. It does not teach these subjects, but uses them throughout the study.
My first introduction to RightStart Math was from Moving Beyond the Page, as they recommend it for a math curriculum. It uses an abacus as well as several other manipulatives. The more reviews I read the more I was hooked, but the price was a little steep in comparison to other curriculums. Then I found out that a friend (Heritage Academy) used this curriculum and loved it. She also told me that she could easily see herself using this program with all of her kids (which have VERY different learning styles). That's what got it for me. :)
It appears that there are also a lot of phonics programs out there, too! I wanted something simple without too much busy work for Will. He has the type of brain that once he gets it, he gets it... and he doesn't see the point in the extra practice. As long as he is compitant and progressing, I don't see the point of busy work either. I decided on Alpha-Phonics for their no frills approach, especially that there are no pictures to "give away" what the word is that they are trying to read. They either read it or not... no hints. I think this type of oral work will be a great way to see the boys' strengths and weaknesses. In addition to the Alpha-phonics book, we will of course be reading lots of books, too... probably about trains. :)
Side note: I hope to start working on Phonics with Nathan(age 4 in Novemeber) as well this year. He knows all of his letters and the basic sounds for each. He even hears me say a word like "tent" and he'll ask, "Is there an "n" in it?" So he's hearing the words and starting to disect them in his brain already.
Here's where I'm probably going to throw a few people. My intention for 1st grade is to begin cursive italics. This writing does not have "loops" so it is easier to transition to the cursive portion. Secondly, Will has a real desire to learn it. He wants to "write like mama does".
We aren't going to go straight into the cursive connections, though, as he has some modifications that need to be made in the way he writes his letters. For instance, when writing a lower case "l", he starts at the bottom and goes up. So, we'll begin slow.
I chose Getty & Dubay Italic Handwriting Series. From their website:
This writing program was developed by experienced teachers Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay, in response to the difficulty many children encounter in the transition from the ball and stick printed letterforms to the looped cursive. The child initially learns the basic italic printed letterforms followed by the cursive italic through a series of joins, eliminating the need to learn two distinctly different types of handwriting, as is the case with the ball and stick printing and looped cursive most often taught in schools.Bible
I chose Bible Study Guide for All Ages. I love that the whole family can study the same subject within age appropriate parameters. (I ordered for both Will and Nathan.) I'm excited that it is an in-depth study of the entire Bible. I'm excited about the time line. I'm just really excited to learn more about the Bible and have it be a part of our studies. Nothing is more important. I also whole-heartedly appreciate this statement on their website:
We seek to present the Bible and the Bible alone.
I don't want to tread through denominational doctrine; I want to teach the word of God.
IT FEELS SO GOOD TO HAVE THESE DECISIONS BEHIND ME!!!! :) Deciding was a lot rougher than I thought it would be!
Now, it's time to enjoy the summer with lots of good books!