You guys, I am SO excited about starting school back up with my son! We’ve had a nice summer break just hanging out and visiting family, but it’s time to get back to the grind and get organized!
This semester my four year old will be in two different preschool programs, so I am not doing too much with him besides playing dinosaurs and cuddling! He will continue on with the same amazing teacher he had last year and will also participate in another half day program in the mornings. The social time and structure made a huge difference for him last year, so I have no doubt this will be great for him as well. I am not sure what things will look like once we move in December-ish, so I am okay with him getting a bit of extra structure these next three months.
I re-did my monthly planning form to reflect the changes in our schedule. I listed the days I would have my son home all day and then left a space open for the extra days where my youngest would be home. I can still get a few things done during that time, but I wanted to save the larger spaces for the more in-depth lessons. This just keeps me organized. I usually just fill in one week at a time in case we don’t get to something one week. I’m not super strict about our schedule, but I do like to have some kind of plan. I just printed this out, so it’s not filled out yet:
Okay, so on to my 9 year old. In May we started American History so we could push through the American Revolution by November, which would be a good segue into U.S. Government around election time. We got through up until the Jamestown settlement, which is where we will begin this semester. I wanted to go a little bit into the planning process I use for thematic units like this, as I do not like to just use a set curriculum. I never have, even when teaching in public school. It is boring for me to stay strictly to textbooks, so I pull resources from various places to reinforce the topics I am teaching. For American History I knew I did need a curriculum as a foundation. I did a lot of research on history curriculums and decided on All American History by Bright Ideas Press. It came with the textbook, student workbook and teacher guide. I didn’t use the student workbook for every single lesson. It is rather monotonous work, but it is good practice at referencing the text, so he does do it for some. My only complaint thus far is that it doesn’t provide a vocabulary list for each lesson, so I’ve gone through prior to teaching and made lists so I could introduce them before reading. There are quite a few new words in these lessons, so reviewing the words first is important.
To be able to organize all of my resources, I broke the textbook down by unit and created a table that included the topics in each. This gave me space to go through all of my resources and fill in what I had. This was a necessity because I had PowerPoints, games, videos, books, worksheets….all kinds of various resources that I had pulled. I always create a pinboard on Pinterest for the unit we will be doing so I can save all of the resources in one place. But having this table helped SO MUCH because when I was finally ready to start planning, I could see everything I had related to it. The pinboard itself is nice, but I had to organize it even further to really see what I had. I put the table into a binder and behind it put in any worksheets or recording sheets that went with the resources.
The first unit in this book is over the Age of Exploration, which obviously discusses a TON of explorers. So I broke it down by explorer and did the same thing, and it really helped me see which ones I had enough resources for and which I needed more of.
So this is my method for each thematic unit or subject I teach. I re-do the table to work best with the unit we are starting.
I want to mention some wonderful resources I found to spice up our lessons over explorers! One of our favorites was this Marco Polo’s Silk Road Game by Rebecca Reid! This game uses real items such as aluminum foil for “metal”, coins for the money, felt for “rugs”, pieces of tile for “porcelain” and swatches of shiny fabric for “silk”! Y’all, as a teacher I LOVE this stuff! My teacher heart soars when real items get tied into learning. It makes the experience SO much more fun and meaningful for kids! This game requires a printout of the game board, and she provides three different sizes. I chose the largest size and just taped the pieces of paper together. We had so much fun doing this and still play it today!
These CSI investigations by History With Mr. E were a great way to get my son thinking critically about some of the explorers he learned about. They read through and look at various sources and make conclusions based on them. It was a nice variation to the workbook!
Mr. E’s Columbus investigation was very interesting to go through. It raised good questions about who he was based on the historical sources we have. It has my son examine some primary and secondary sources and after doing so, take a stand on Columbus’s legacy. I thought this was great because there is so much more to Columbus than what we learned in elementary school. His story is surrounded by controversy, and this activity allows students to explore that while forming their own opinion by the end.
Now we are working into the American Revolution, so once we finish that I will post more great resources I found!
This is what my son is looking forward to most. He is still very much interested in chemistry, but since he is so young I have decided to expose him to different sciences before he chooses one he wants to pursue more seriously later. Plus, there is some chemistry in biology, so I think he will like that, and it will give him a chance to see how the sciences relate to one another. Science is where my boy’s heart is. He loves it more than just about anything (except Minecraft lol), so I want to make sure that he has a lot of interactive, hands-on experience with it like we did with chemistry. I pulled so many resources and still felt very scatterbrained, so I looked into curriculums to give me a foundation like I did with history. Thinkwell has a reputable online biology course. Their AP science courses are what Johns Hopkins CTY program uses, which was a plus to me. After searching many different options I ultimately went with them, so we will see how it works out. It includes over 100 instructional videos and assessments to go along with each section. It’s $150 for the entire course, which is a bit more than what I wanted to spend but still less than other curriculums I researched. So I will let you know! If you would like to use Thinkwell, please use my email as a referral: arieleishen(at)gmail(dot)com. You will get $10 off your first purchase!
I am still going to pull from other resources I have found. We will be making animal and plant cell models and doing various experiments, so I will link those in future posts after we actually do them!
Grammar & Vocab
We have already finished middle school grammar and are on to high school grammar, but I wanted to share the middle school grammar notebook we used because it worked out wonderfully for us. It took quite a bit of prep to put this together, but once it was done, we were good to go.
Lovin Lit is one of my very favorite Teachers Pay Teachers sellers, and I have been using her interactive notebooks for a bit. For this I picked up this Interactive Grammar Notebook AND her Practice and Assess Grammar Printables. I decided to stick them both into one notebook: interactive lesson first then the practice sheets to go with it. And it worked out GREAT.
I didn’t use every practice sheet, but the ones I did use I had to cut down a bit to fit in the notebook, so it took some time to put it all together. But once he finishes it I can file the entire notebook away instead of a bunch of loose papers.
In addition to this I made a cheat sheet notebook for me so I didn’t have to keep referencing the PDF as to what to do for each lesson. She includes some tips on how to introduce them and even links some instructional YouTube videos she uses for them. I wanted all that info in one place, so I printed out the sheets I thought would be helpful and stuck them in a folder.
For high school grammar it is a bit different. I’m using worksheets in a binder this time, not an interactive notebook. I found this Simple Steps to Sentence Sense by Charlene Tess that we will work through when we have time. I’m not being super strict about integrating this, but I figured we could work it in on the days my youngest is home, as it is fairly self-sufficient.
One page of the Table of Contents:
Vocabulary is embedded throughout our units, but I will also be implementing short mini lessons using this vocabulary pack by Laura Randazzo. Laura creates exceptional products for secondary and high school and is one of my go-to sellers when looking for supplemental resources for our units. Each mini unit covers five higher-level vocabulary words. It comes with a PowerPoint and PDF of each word and we will focus on one set a week. Here is a pic of the master list:
Of course, Khan Academy is still our #1 resource for math instruction. My son is now close to finishing Algebra 2 and will be on to Trigonometry soon. You know, sometimes I wonder if he is really taking all of this in and able to apply it to real life situations. I mean he is 9 years old, after all. Khan Academy’s practice questions are almost all real-world word problems, but I wonder sometimes if it is really sinking in. Well, the other day a situation came up and without pondering my son busted out an equation on his paper to solve it. I was amazed, but I don’t know why. This kid is always surpassing my expectations. I get a lot of joy out of watching the gears in his mind turn! So we will continue on as we are doing and before we move we will see if we can get him to clep college algebra.
I think that is about all. Writing will be integrated throughout the units we do, especially history and government. Looking forward to getting started!!