Ahhh our favorite time of year… NOT back to school, or *new curriculum time*. Ok, it’s not our favorite time, but it might be MY favorite time! I love all of the new and innovative curriculum coming out for homeschoolers. We are secular but we’ve found a lot of value in some non-secular curriculum as well, as long as the religious aspects are easily taken out and not central to the learning process.
So what are we going with? This year the girls are actually doing two different curriculum for all subjects, although there is quite a bit of crossover in Social Studies. They are also doing music from the same curriculum, as well.
I’ve been eyeing Oak Meadow forever, and this year we are finally going for it! I found the course books used and for sale, and decided on the grade levels based on the interests of the girls. With an all-in-one curriculum like this, each subject may not be at the correct level. For example, my “fourth grader” is probably at a grade 1-2 level in reading and language arts, maybe lower in writing. But she is definitely able to do the grade 4 social studies, science, and art. So I decided to do read-alouds with the literature, and supplement the reading and writing just a little with something at her level. Our “fifth grader” is probably just below fifth grade writing, but as far as grammar and reading she is right there.
OM covers a variety of topics in science, which I felt like we will enjoy this year. We spent a year covering earth sciences, then a year doing the animal kingdom. We’re ready for a little more variety. 4th grade is very much about making observations and coming to conclusions from those observations, and 5th grade really starts using the scientific method. There is some astronomy, using a microscope, some physical science, and still quite a bit of earth and animal science which both girls continue to enjoy.
We spent a year doing the basics of government, citizenship, geography, and light generic history. Then last year we covered ancient civilizations with Torchlight, from the stone age to the Romans. I think the girls absorbed about as much of that as they could for their age, and it was very continuous from our earth science (history of the universe and earth), to ancient plant and animal life, to evolution and early human civilizations. So now we are going in the direction of local history, our state and country. 4th grade OM focuses on local topography and history, and 5th grade begins with early explorers from Europe. I do not want a Euro-centric history, however, so we are pulling from Woke Homeschooling‘s “Oh Freedom” curriculum, which tries to tell American history from the perspective of people of color, especially indigenous Americans and black Americans, although there is good focus on latine Americans later on. So, we will have our book basket time all together doing readings and activities from Oh Freedom, as well as from our local Ohlone tribe who put out their own curriculum about the tribes of the Bay Area. I’m extra excited about that, because what a wonderful thing to have access to! A curriculum for grade-schoolers written by actual tribe members, about the history of where we live! I could not believe it when I stumbled across it on the regional park website in our area. I hope something like this is or becomes available everywhere!
5th grade will ask the student to do a lot of her own time management. She’ll be assigned readings that relate to social studies, and have to read it in a certain time frame. It will be up to her to decide how she wants to accomplish that, so that will be interesting! She actually has quite a good grasp of grammar concepts, thanks to The Good and the Beautiful language arts program. She knows parts of speech, parts of a sentence, can diagram sentences, and name a lot of literary devices. A lot of it is a bit useless, honestly, so we are just going to stick with the grammar in Oak Meadow, which seems more practical to me and more focused on actual writing mechanics, which is what she needs help on. A lot of paragraph and report writing this year. Our fourth grader will be able to do the OM4 language arts assignments in the beginning (verbs, adjectives, nouns, etc) but it may be over her head after a while. I will keep using the exercises from TGTB level 1 for practice, that book is almost finished. I’ll also use Wild Reading 2 for her, for hands-on practice and nature-based reading. TGTB readers are just too dry and vanilla for me, and their coursework is so grammar heavy. I do think identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives etc is necessary, but the more advanced sentence diagramming is not so much at this age. I like the proofreading exercises, so we may ultimately try something like Fix-It grammar or something like that.
We will continue with The Good and the Beautiful Math 4 for our fifth grader, because she is a little more than halfway through and has made good progress. She has asked for a little more variety and hands-on stuff, though, so I will be adding in books and games/activities from Wild Math 4. When she’s ready for level 5, I’ll see if I want to continue with TGTB 5. I do have Wild Math 5 and can keep using that for supplementing or learning. Maybe that’s all we’ll need, since she does have the basics down at this point. For our 4th grader, we’ll keep using TGTB 3 (old version). She really enjoys the slower format, and the games like Sodoku and pentominoes. For her, we will be doing a LOT more of Wild Math 2, since she very much enjoys and needs tactile learning to be engaged.
I don’t have any particular music curriculum. I guess I’m making my own. We will start with The Story of the Orchestra to gain familiarity with each instrument, and the accompanying music that goes with the book. We’ll also read about early composers and musicians, making sure to highlight contributions by women and BIPOC figures. We’ll read some fun books about music terminology, like tempo and dynamics. Finally, we’ll keep doing the recorders and practicing reading music and keeping rhythm in that way. I myself and practicing banjo and fiddle, and we have the piano and a guitar, so if at any point the kiddos want to try those instruments, they are available.
Art is included in the 4th grade curriculum, and related to the science activities, so that is easy to do. For fifth grade, we will start off using Blossom and Root Math in Art Level 2. We did part of level 1 a few years ago, and I already own level 2, and I thought it would be a good level for her to explore different kinds of art and artists.
I’ll have both girls continue with Nessy Fingers for typing a few times a week. The fifth grader is done with formal handwriting practice, she just needs to actually slow down and make sure that her printing is legible. I’ll also have her do a fair amount of her writing assignments in cursive for the practice. The 4th grader is going to do another practice book from TGTB for both printing and cursive, and then another cursive practice book after that. She is really only just starting cursive, still.