I'm not too concerned about grade levels as we just try to keep things moving and keep learning all the time, but basically Joshua and Abigail are doing 5th grade work, Esther 4th, Hannah starting with some review and then doing 3rd soon, Noah 1st, Joseph preschool, and Peter and James trying their best to make messes. :)
A very strict schedule worked great for us for the last two years, but I felt like we would probably need something different this year. Peter and James are a bit more rambunctious and in need of more direct supervision than Joseph was at their ages. I have to be more proactive in keeping them constructively occupied, otherwise we'd end up with all manner of messes and disasters! At two and one they are not quite to the point of being able to sit and work on something for 30 minutes at a time without a good bit of attention from me. I've re-vamped our preschool activity list, which I'll share here as well.
We love Saxon Math! Joshua and Abigail are doing Saxon 76, Esther is doing 65, and after doing some review Hannah started 54 today. After several years of using Saxon for 1st and 2nd grade I got frustrated with it. It took so much time from me and I felt like a lot of the time was not used as productively as it could have been. Busy work. Anyhow, I decided to buy Horizons Math for Hannah (Level 3) and Noah (Level 1) to work through over the summer and it turns out that we all really like it! I plan to stick with Horizons through the 2nd grade level and then switch to Saxon when they hit 3rd grade. I have Saxon Teacher for 3rd and 5th grades, which is nice. I keep on top of what they are doing each day and I'm usually the one that teaches the lesson so I can be sure they understand what is going on, but having the Saxon Teacher CDs is great for those times when one child is ready to start math but I'm tied up with someone else and unable to stop and teach the lesson. It's a little pricey, but I highly recommend it if you are trying to teach several children/grades at once.
We are using the Veritas Press self-paced online history again...Explorers to 1815 this year. Adam does this with the children in the evenings, which is really helpful and saves me time during the day. We all enjoy it! I love seeing how much the younger children pick up. Just the timeline song alone is great for them to have in their heads and is something that they will remember and be able to build on as they get older. Noah and Joseph were pretending to be Prince Henry the Navigator and Magellan circumnavigating the earth outside last week. :)
Joshua, Abigail, and Esther are doing IEW. I think this is a great program and I tried teaching it myself last year, but I felt a bit lost and just didn't feel that I was doing things quite right. This year I bought the Student Writing Intensive Level A DVDs, which is Mr. Pudewa actually teaching the classes. It's been so helpful for me so far and I think it will boost my confidence to where I can teach it myself next year. Or maybe I'll buy the Level B DVDs to make my life a little easier. :)
We use SWR for spelling and grammar through 2nd grade. I feel like this gives them a really good foundation and understanding and gets them reading well. Starting in 3rd grade we use Phonetic Zoo and Easy Grammar. I really like the Phonetic Zoo because they can do it completely independently with just checking on my part and because it's been very effective at teaching them to spell well so far. Bad spelling really gets on my nerves, so I'm very happy with this program. My mom used Easy Grammar with me and my brothers and I like it because it's very straightforward and easy to understand and use. The children memorize a list of prepositions, which eliminates a lot of frustration when trying to identify parts of speech later. This is also something that they can do mostly independently with minimal instruction from me. We are not currently doing a formal literature program. All of our reading children have their nose in a book every time they get a chance, so I'm just trying to keep them supplied with good reading material. Honey For A Child's Heart has been helpful in that regard.
I bought the Bob Jones 5th grade science book for Joshua and Abigail this year. They are enjoying it, but they honestly haven't learned much of anything new yet. Adam is really good about explaining things to them in general conversation and our membership to a local science museum last year combined with some DVDs that we own exposes them to plenty of science. I don't feel the need to have a formal science curriculum for 4th grade and under. More busy work. :)
We use Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, which the oldest four children can do on their own on the computer. They love doing it and the little ones really enjoy watching. Hannah is especially excited about being able to start typing this year.
I've been so sporadic with piano over the past few years. I want to do it, but it just falls through the cracks and seems to be the first thing to go when our days get busy and school takes up so much time. I've created a space in our schedule for it this year, but I don't plan to start until after the baby arrives.
Speaking of schedules, I've gone from having a strictly laid out schedule with time slots to having more of a checklist of things that we need to get accomplished each day. The children enjoy being able to check things off and it seems to motivate them to work more quickly. Adam gets them up before 7:00 to read the Bible with him. After that they have a morning routine that they follow and have to accomplish in a certain order. I made these Pinterest inspired flip charts for them to help keep them on track.
After breakfast everyone has an assigned meal chore. Currently everyone clears their own dishes, Joshua wipes the table, Abigail sweeps the floor, Esther sprays and wipes the glass tabletop, Hannah sweeps the kitchen, and Noah and Joseph just do whatever little jobs I decide to give them. After meal chores are done they start on folder work. I bought one of these on Amazon and Joshua down to Joseph each have a file folder that I load the night before with some sort of independent school work that they can accomplish while I clean up the kitchen, start laundry, etc. I'm loving this system! It eliminates goofing and mess making and the children like having something specific and productive to get done. One day I decided to let Joseph pick a page out of a coloring book instead of picking out something for him and having it in his folder. He was less than thrilled. :)
After folder work is done we get cracking on the rest of our work so that we can get as much done as possible before lunch. I try to keep things simple. Anyone who works diligently and doesn't daydream or get up and do other things is free to take short breaks with my permission.
Joseph is four and still does a lot of playing while the older children are doing school, but he desperately wants to be included at the table and have some sort of work like his big siblings as well. I have the Horizons Preschool books and Horizons Kindergarten Math and I sit down with him and do those every day, which he loves! I also have a list of preschool activities to keep the little boys constructively occupied, but I will make that the topic of another post.
I think that pretty much wraps up our plan for this year. I'm so grateful for the opportunity and the freedom to teach our children at home. I'm thankful for a husband who works incredibly hard to provide so well for us so that I can stay at home, and I'm thankful for eager and teachable children who love being homeschooled!