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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Home Education Resources

Our eldest child is now almost 12, and has completed his primary education. Of course, the change from Year 6 to Year 7 will be less marked for a home educated child (though there will be differences), but nonetheless it feels like a significant milestone. At this stage, I thought it might be helpful to describe the core curricula that we have used for our primary school aged children over the last few years. 

All primary school aged now - but not for much longer!
Here are the key resources that have formed the basis for our teaching while our children are primary school aged:


Maths

Singapore Maths

We have used the Singapore Math Standards Edition since we began home educating our eldest when he was 4 (he's nearly 12 now). This has been the core curriculum we have used for all our children. It is thorough and stretching. Here are some of its main strengths as a maths programme:

  • One of the key features of Singapore maths is the way it explains concepts from concrete to pictorial to abstract.
  • It is also very good at giving students good techniques for tackling difficult word problems. 
  • I also like the way that a number of methods for tackling different questions are given, which aids understanding of the concepts involved as well as equipping the children to handle problems in different ways. 
  • Often a topic or concept is approached from a number of different angles, so that you really need to understand the maths involved, not just memorise a technique for answering a particular type of question
When we began home education, this edition was available in the U.K.. We also bought the incredibly helpful Home Instructor's Guides to use too. There is now a U.K. edition of Singapore maths (available from Icthus Resources here) which we would probably use if we were starting again now (it wasn't around when we began!).

Beast Academy 

My 8 year old is an able, and enthusiastic, mathematician, so I spent quite a while researching extra maths for him to do last year. My key criteria were that I wanted something that he could do fairly independently, a curriculum that would stretch his maths in new ways, and something that didn't involve being on the computer. Beast Academy was an expensive choice (I could only import it from the U.S. (here)- not cheap!), but it is brilliant, and he has loved it.

The guides explain the topics in a comic book form. There are then exercises to work on in a separate book. The exercises have been pretty difficult at times, but this has been great for a boy who enjoys the challenge. He has, on the whole, been able to work independently, though asking me to help when he needs it. If I can't help, then we go to Michael (PhD in maths)! The answers include explanations of how to tackle the problems, which is helpful for when we all get stuck.

Squeebles

Squeebles Times Tables is an app that we use for practising times tables. We have also used the app for addition and subtraction. It's simple, but has been very effective supplement to the maths curriculum for the children.

Maths Whizz

This is an online programme which I initially used as a supplement for my eldest when he wasn't enjoying maths very much for a while. It's quite a good extra for the children, though no replacement for a thorough maths curriculum. I only use it for the youngest (nearly 6) now, and she will probably outgrow it in the next year. It's strength is that it teaches a topic and progresses the child at their level. However, there isn't much practice at each level before you move on, and sometimes I think my children move up the levels quicker than they should! However, it is fun, and introduces lots of different topics in entertaining ways.

English

Building Christian English Series (Rod & Staff) 


This is a thorough grammar curriculum, comprising a series of text books covering grammar and some writing for Grades 1-10 (Year 2 and up in UK terms). We have begun with the Grade 3 book (Beginning Wisely) with our children once they have reached about age 7, and this has worked well. This contains clear explanations of all key points of grammar, and plenty of exercises for practice (more than we have needed, in fact).

We chose this because it is rigorous in terms of its content. As Rod & Staff is a Mennonite publisher, the examples used are often Christian. Often this is a real advantage, as Bible stories are used as examples, and there is a section in each book about using Bible dictionaries and so on, which is quite fun. However, some of the stories are a little moralistic in tone, though usually they have been fine. Sometimes the exercises assume a knowledge of farming, or an ownership of livestock (!) etc that doesn't apply to us - but this has been either informative or entertaining, and hasn't taken away from what is a good English programme.

All About Reading & All About Spelling

I started using different materials with my older two, but in the end even my second eldest is working through All About Spelling, and doing very well with it. I have written here about these resources. They are excellent phonics programmes teaching reading and spelling respectively. Although time intensive, and relatively expensive, they are very good and well worth the investment of both time and money. These resources can be purchased from Conquest Books, here.

Writing With Ease

This is a method of teaching writing outlined in The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise & Susan Wise Bauer. The book The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer outlines the principles in detail. The idea is to learn to write really well, though in small amounts, before you move on to writing more extensively.

There are also workbooks available in 4 levels, which contain a combination of copywork, narration exercises (summarising narrative), dictation exercises, and, eventually, writing original sentences. We have used the 4 workbooks with our children, which include all the texts you need and student pages for the children to write on, and is very much open-and-go. I have been able to buy these books from Amazon.

Writing With Skill

This year, our eldest began to use Writing With Skill, which follows on from Writing With Ease. Although it follows on, it is a big step up. Although it has worked well for our eldest as a year 6 writing programme, our next boy will be using Writing With Ease Level 4 in year 6, and I will be more than happy with him beginning Writing With Skill in year 7. It teaches key skills such as writing scientific descriptions or taking notes. Recently, my son has been learning how to write footnotes. We're taking it slowly, but it has been a good fit for my eldest this year. This resource is available from Amazon (you need a copy of the Instructor Text and the Student Workbook).

Bible

XTB/Discover Bible Notes

XTB works well from 5/6 up, and we have found that Discover notes have been popular with our older boys who really liked XTB, but outgrew it. They consist of simple activities focused on a number of different books of the Bible, with ideas for application and prayer at the end. We have bought these from 10ofThose or The Good Book Company.

Bible Teaching

I've written here about how I teach my way through the Bible with the children, mainly by reading chunks, asking questions, and getting the children to draw or write about what we have read together.

Morning Devotions

Each morning Michael leads devotions for the whole family. We have used a range of different materials for this, and sometimes Michael has just taken us through a book of the Bible a little at a time. When the children were younger, we have used Table Talk notes (which tie in with XTB). More recently, we have enjoyed The Big Picture Family Devotional by David R. Helm and Wise Up by Marty Machowski. We have bought these from 10ofThose or The Good Book Company.

Science

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding

I have written about this curriculum here.

This is an excellent curriculum, and science lessons are very popular. It's both hands on and highly logical and structured, which is brilliant. There are 3 volumes, and we have nearly finished volume 2 for our older two boys, and plan to use the third volume as our eldest enters year 7. The lessons follow through four different streams of scientific study in parallel (Nature of Matter, Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth and Space Science) , with each lesson building on the work covered in previous sessions. It has provided a very solid grounding in science for our children, as well as producing considerable enthusiasm for science.

Exploring Nature With Children

Exploring Nature With Children
 has been a new addition this year, and has worked well for all ages. It is a book (available as a PDF) which contains weekly ideas for a nature walk, covering the whole year. There is a helpful explanation of the subject each week, tips for what to draw or write in a nature journal, and several ideas for extension activities.


Latin 

Latin Prep (Galore Park)

This course is heavily grammar based, which is why I like it so much. A thorough grounding in good grammar is key for learning Latin. It also has lots of translating from English into Latin (as well as Latin into English, of course) which, again, helps with strong grammar. Nonetheless, it isn't a dry course, and my boys have enjoyed it. It has now been replace by a new Galore Park Latin course, which I have been using with another family that I teach Latin to, and which seems equally good. These books are available from Amazon or from Galore Park directly.


Greek

Introduction to Classical Greek (Galore Park)


I've just started using this book with my eldest this year. It's pretty good on the whole, though I would have preferred more careful explanations in places. Again, there is a good focus on grammar, a good amount of English to Greek required, and lots of practice exercises.

However, it introduces new concepts without explaining them from time to time - presumably relying on a prior study of Latin. Since I know Greek, and my son has been studying Latin for a while this hasn't been a problem, but I don't think it's ideal. There are also a strangely large number of sudoku puzzles (with Greek letters) - but I now leave these out!

These books are available from Amazon or from Galore Park directly.


Computer Stuff

Code.org

This website provides a free series of coding lessons, which a child can work through step-by-step once they have been signed up. There are lots of puzzles to solve by putting together bits of code.

www.typing.com

Another free resource, this enables children to learn to touch type as they move up the various levels available. There are also games to play which rely on good typing, which my children have enjoyed.


Art

I've written in more detail about our art resources here.

Draw Write Now

These books give step-by-step instructions for drawing various creatures or people as well as good ideas for creating backgrounds. They are particularly good for younger children (5 and up).

Usborne Art Books

In particular, The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas has been a rich source of inspiration, and a good way to introduce different art techniques.

Art Achieve

These online lessons have worked well for us, and it has been worth investing in the lessons. The instructions are clear, and the artworks the children have produced have been good.

History

Story of the World

I have written about this curriculum here.

The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer is a narrative history of the world told in four volumes, with an activity book that can be used alongside it.  It is really good for getting an idea of how history fits together. The activities have also been a lot of fun to do together. The map work that is included in the activity book has also been very good. These books can be bought from Amazon.

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