Saturday, December 20, 2008

What We're Using [FINAL UPDATE!]

Enough about First Communion gear. December is here, and that means the end of the Opinionated Household's academic year, and of course preparation for the next.

Offspring #2 just turned six, which means she's starting first grade (by our rules), and gets a formal curriculum.* For those who are thinking about their own elementary level curriculum, or anticipate doing so in the more normal summer months, I list below what I've got planned, with links and a few comments.
*All you unschoolers can just be quiet now.

Scope & Sequence: Core Knowledge Sequence: Content Guidelines for Grades K-8
This is the condensed form of those What Your Nth-Grader Needs to Know books. Where those books contain the academic material itself, Core Knowledge Sequence just lists it, and you find it using your own resources.

I'm not wedded to CKS, but it's quite useful for subjects I don't know much about (i.e. art and music), and breaks down general science and history/geography into manageable chunks for you, so you have an idea of a reasonable amount for a child of that age to cover for the year. Most importantly, it helps you spot gaps, so your child doesn't get to high school knowing nothing about the Seneca Falls Convention, or the Alhambra, or geometry.

Key to Decimals - Key to Geometry - Key to Algebra. Yeah, she's good at math.

Practice Problems
A Beka Arithmetic 4. I don't care for the A Beka math curriculum, but I like the workbooks for review and drill, as they're reasonably enjoyable, visually interesting, and less spirit-crushing than your usual stark page of practice problems.
Math Drillsters. Timed drill can, in fact, be fun.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature: The Red Book. LLATL, the best homeschool English curriculum (excepting their disastrously bad high school level books) with the worst name, continues to be our main English curriculum. Unfortunately, Common Sense Press years ago completely transformed the series, splitting one book into several, adding unnecessary readers, and hiking the price to eyebrow-raising levels. I use the older series, last published (I think) in 1994. It's getting a little hard to find: probably because the horrible spiral binding would fall apart fairly quickly. As usual, Bookfinder is your friend.

Wordly Wise. A new item for us this year, as Offspring #1 never needed any vocabulary practice.
The Golden Book Illustrated Dictionary. A dictionary you start reading and can't put down; from the Golden Age of Golden Press.

Grammar & Orthography
God's Gift of Language A (A Beka).

Literature: Poetry
Oxford Book of Poetry for Children (ed. Blishen). Wonderful collection; mostly poems not written for children.
The Golden Treasury of Poetry.
Kingfisher Treasury of Shakespeare's Verse.

Literature: Prose
The Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends, Adapted from the World's Classics. We focus on the Great Stories of western literature throughout the elementary years, and I love this compendium. Anne Terry White collects adaptations of several Greek myths, Beowulf, The Chanson of Roland, Tristram and Iseult, the Persian Epic of Kings, and the Volsunga Saga. The Greek section isn't as thorough as (say) the D'Aulaires, but it includes extensive and faithfully rendered passages from (for instance) Euripides and Sophocles.
The Iliad and the Odyssey. Illustrated by the Provensens, as was the book of myths above. Beautiful art, and an adapation that carefully preserves important passages, such as the campfires of the Trojans compared to the night stars.
Andrew Lang's Fairy Books. Skipping around among the books, reading for now just the stories that have become cultural touchstones.
Aesop's Fables for Children.
The Golden Children's Bible. I put this in the literature, not faith, section because it does the best job of any children's Bible out there of both (a) including as much Biblical material as possible, including some fairly obscure stories, and (b) preserving the sonorous language of the Authorized (King James) Version that has become integral to English literature. The editor's goal is not doctrinal but literary.
The Canterbury Tales. Again, from Golden Press.
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. And again ... Notable in these early '60's Golden Press books, besides the confidence that children should be read the classics of western literature, in suitable editions, with outstanding illustrations, is the confidence that difficult language can be used without confusing or putting off the young readers or listeners. There are words in these books I didn't know. And given the controversies over the vocabulary capabilities of modern Americans (Google "USCCB" and "ineffable" for some inside baseball here), it's interesting to see what levels children were, not so long ago, thought capable of rising to.
D'Aulaire's Book of Greek (Norse) Myths. Classics, and rightfully so, with abundant detail, though with less faithfulness to the literary sources than the Golden Book versions.

Rosetta Stone. Only the 'B' exercises, so she never sees how the words are written. Oral only. Fortunately we got Rosetta Stone back when you could get used copies on e-bay.

The Core Knowledge curriculum says we're supposed to start with animals and their habitats, which seems as good a subject as any. We'll be using different resources for different science subjects as the year progresses, of course, but I can't be bothered planning that far in advance.

Who Lives Here? Animals of the Pond, Forest, [etc.]. Gentle little introduction to critters and the swamps they live in.
The New Golden Treasury of Natural History.
About Animals. This is where I put in a plug for the 1975 edition of the Childcraft children's encyclopedia. It's a huge educational bargain; it's interesting, full of good information, recent enough to not have been made irrelevant by later events and discoveries, and book sellers can't get anyone to buy them. A nice set languished on the shelf of our local used bookstore for weeks recently, and was finally broken up and sold as individual volumes for 50 cents per.

History & Geography
A Child's History of the World.
The Golden Geography: A Child's Introduction to the World.
Through Golden Windows: Stories of Early America. As with the Childcraft volumes above, an example of an excellent, engaging, and educational book that, as part of a children's series, is dirt cheap as a separate volume.

Piano lessons. From someone who is not me.
Wee Sing (various) and the Adoremus hymnal.

Art Adventures at Home 1.
Look Again. Another reason to find the 1975 Childcraft. As far as I can tell, it's the only edition that includes this marvellous introduction to art and sculpture, both classic and modern.

Maria Montessori, The Mass Explained to Children.
Baltimore Catechism #1.
Little Visits With God.


Blogger mrsdarwin said...

Heck, I don't even know what the Seneca Falls Convention is.

I think the Core Knowledge series is a great idea. Most of the time I just want to know what my children should have learned at a certain level; I can find ways to teach it to them on my own.

7:16 AM  
Anonymous entropy said...

These are great suggestions. what are you using for your oldest?

1:38 PM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

That will be the subject of an upcoming post.

7:40 PM  
Blogger mrsdarwin said...

I missed the piano lessons the first time through. Are you getting a piano?

10:28 AM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

No, but we have a small keyboard that I inherited from my dear departed grandmother, which is adequate for introductory lessons. I can get her through the very introductory stuff, and am handing her off to a more qualified person after.

12:25 PM  

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