Thursday, November 13, 2014

Our 2014-2015 School Year

We've finally been into our school year now since the end of August. So  I thought I would take some time to share with everyone what we decided to go ahead and use this year in our home school.
   First off, my children are growing up way to fast for my liking. My oldest daughter will be 17 years old in a few months and my youngest is 8 years old. Yikes!!!  Before I know it they will all be off to college!

Okay, back to reality.  This year I decided to try something very different. In the 12 years I've been homeschooling we've tried  a lot of different curricula out there. Some worked well and others not so much.  We even tried cyber schooling and though most of the girls did well with it. Katie really struggled to keep up.  So back to traditional homeschooling and back we stay. Cyber schooling really wasn't the good option it used to be for our family.  I've decided the one tried and trued way that works for us is traditional homeschooling.  

So many have asked. What are you using this year? Well, I wanted something that will bring the love of our faith to our children. I wanted something that was heavy on the Language Arts because as we all know, there is a lot of writing when you go to college and I wanted something that has a proven track record in providing a solid Catholic education that will prepare my children not only for the academic world outside of the home, but for life with God in it. So drum roll , please,.... we chose Seton.  

This year I am teaching 10th, 8th 5th and 3rd grades.  Though we are not enrolled with Seton this year, due to tight finances. The medical travel we've had to do the past several years with our youngest child really left us with with tighter finances now, so don't have enough this year to enroll. 

What I will do here is start with the lowest grade I'm teaching and work my way up. 

What can I say about Seton's 3rd grade? So much actually.  Compared to last year when we were doing cyber school. This level has been a breath of fresh air.  Last year was full of tears from my youngest daughter. Everyday was a struggle to get the work done. With the advent of Common Core, the work was completely not at all age appropriate for the 2nd grade level we were using last year with the cyber.  The curriculum had children writing a 5 page report  at the end of the year for second grade.  T We had many days were my daughter said she was ' stupid' because the work was to hard. 
 Fast forward to today and my daughter gladly takes out her books.  Just the other day Maggie told me, " Mom, I love my books from Seton. Can you get me more? "  What a HUGE turn around from last year. Last year whenever I would get her school books out  she would just cry and cry, and try and run away.  That says volumes to me that's for certain.  Not to mention my other girls are not complaining either. 

Reading-  This is our Valley, The Story Tree and This is Our Town.  
These books are wonderful. Honestly, you can't get any more wholesome with  stories than with the Seton readers. These were stories that were written most likely back in the 50's and 60's . These are stories that actually have a plot that children can actually learn from. Characters in the stories display virtues that people should still have in this day and age.  We love, love , love these stories. The first book, This is Our Valley, follows a story line with families, neighbors and townspeople of  Timber Town. Everyday we love to listen to the next story to find out what is happening in Timber Town .   We both look forward to getting to read the other story books this year.   I will say if your using Seton, and are not enrolled  with this grade level,  the story books do not have questions at the end of the stories like most readers.  So if your the type of person that would like to have a list of questions to ask about the story on hand , you won't have that, but you can get that if you enroll in their program. I will say I'm kind of in that category where we're not enrolled , but in the same breath I really don't find it to difficult to come up with questions about the story as we read along . 

Next onto the Seton 3rd Grade English. This is Seton's updated version of their grade 3 English.  This by far as been the best English program I've used in a very long time.  Last year my daughter had very little English instruction with the cyber school. What we did get was far over her head that she retained nothing from it.  So this year having the Seton English  book , again was a breath of fresh air. My daughter is learning English and in a way that  is age appropriate. Meaning there was real instruction in the book that she could look at , we could read together, see examples,  and she could practice with. 
The content in Seton's English 3 is exactly what I think a 3rd grade English program should have. Not to mention it is challenging at the same time , adding in skills like sentence diagramming, and even important skills like writing a letter.  It also includes how to address an envelope. Believe it or not today this is  becoming a lost skill on how to do that since ,so many people do so much of their interaction by email  and pay bills online. Its almost becoming obsolete.   
Another nice thing I like about this book is you can pretty much go in any order you want with the book. No need to start with Chapter 1. The only chapters I would say that would need to be done together, and after learning some grammar before ,  are the two chapters  that introduce diagramming sentences. Since you really need to know what a noun, verb, adjective etc. are to be able to do that. Other then that the other lessons do not rely on the other. 

 The first two chapters start with learning to write. I love the way Seton teaches writing and its been what I've been looking for all these years.  For years, writing has been such a difficult subject for me to teach. I'm a natural writer, and to think of the steps involved, had really been difficult for me , until now.  Seton's English 3  is very methodical and gives you what you need to do step by step. Starting with : 1st, Pick a topic. 2. Write down or make a chart of the things you know about that topic. Pick three of the things you listed in your list, then write them in the order you want to write it about. Then start with your beginning sentence. If your enrolled Seton has that provided for you to give your third grade student. If your not enrolled like we are , you can make two beginning sentences up yourself and have your student pick out the one they want. If you have a student that is a natural writer, challenge them with coming up with one of their own. Then, they go on to write three sentences with the three things they chose from their list and then end it all with an ending sentence. Then last but not least come up with a title for their paragraph. When I came across this , I thought, " Wow,this is genius!"  All these years I had used curricula that would tell me to: let them copy stuff down, do dictation, let them just write (regardless of mistakes), or it would teach you to chart ideas but never told you how many sentences really made up a paragraph , or that you needed to start with a good beginning sentence. I would get bits and pieces.  Seton truly put it altogether in a way that makes sense to me.   
I will say for Maggie that writing is a very difficult subject for her to do physically because of her hands , but we do a little at a time and break it down so its not so daunting for her. 

Next, is math. We chose to use Saxon math. This works well for Maggie. She needs the constant repetition that Saxon provides for her in math. Its not a subject that comes easy to her. Sadly, the math we used in the curriculum we used last year was so poorly put together I would have been better off going to Walmart and buying a cheap workbook . There had been no drill in the math book we had. It  was so all over the place with the  topics ,with no review that she learned almost nothing from it.  So we are using Saxon 2 right now.  Though she is actually getting close to completing it. We started working on it during the summer and I think she will be done with Saxon 2 at least by December. Then we'll move on to Saxon 3.    Seton does have their own math and it goes from K-4th grade. I'm not sure if Seton will be  going  any higher than that or not? So I figured since we will be switching to Saxon when she hits fifth grade I'm just going to stick with Saxon. Not to mention I may throw in Life of Fred for fun.  

My daughter is also enjoying spelling as well. We like how each day is separated on each page. Labeled with Day 1 , Day 2 , Day 3 and Day 4.  Day one has a short activity , it usually has them divide words into categories of some sort.  Activity two has fill in the sentence with the word, day three has them putting their list in ABC order.  With that activity I've had to get a bit hands on with that to help my daughter see what she is putting in order. 

I've  added in other activities to make learning to spell her words fun.  I'll share more about that in a different post, but it works for us. On Day 4 they have a pretest to get them ready for their Friday test, and this works really well. I keep our cards I make for our games and we review them often.  After each quarter( which is about 8 lessons in the book) there are two pages devoted to practicing all 8 lessons. They can write out their words, you can play games with them , or whatever you need to do to review those words. So its not taught and just forgotten.   
Seton handwriting is a beautiful book. For this grade level they have letters and words typed in with the light grey so that your student can trace the words. Of course there is plenty of room if they don't need that type of reinforcement but I think it really helps children to learn how to form those letters the proper way.  This book uses words that start with each letter of the alphabet and that includes Catholic words too. There are also some exercises in there like: match the manuscript letter to the cursive letter, copy a poem or a prayer, fill in the blank to put the days of the week or months of the year in order. It also has a manuscript practice at the end of the book for practice should they need it. I love this book as its something my daughter can pick up and needs no assistance from me to do. Of course I check in the book to make sure she is forming them right later on in the day. But this is something I can hand her when I'm working with one of her sisters on something. 

Though I have this listed as last , this by far is not at all the least in the Seton program. Actually this is one of the best parts of the Seton program. My daughter absolutely loves this book along with the First Communion Baltimore Catechism book that we have. This book follows the Catechism. Each day we start with Religion. Its the most important subject of the day.  This book is beautifully put together. I honestly can't say enough wonderful things about it. 

Each page is divided into days just like the spelling book. In this book lessons are about a page long for each day. We sit together , and either she or I read the pages and we discuss the questions at the end of the lessons together. We are only on week two and she has learned more than she has had having three years of Religious Education class.  I also bought some of the St. Joseph picture books that go along with some of the topics to reinforce what she is learning and she absolutely loves them. So much so, I plan on getting her some more for Christmas.  If you are Catholic and you use anything out of Seton , I highly recommend their Religion books. 

We also have the History book for 3rd grade. It's small enough that we can go over it about once a week or so. This makes me feel like if we don't get to it , its no biggie because we have plenty of time in the year to finish it. As well we are using Apologia Elementary science. This year we are finishing Astronomy. This was a shorter book and we also worked through some of it through the summer so we are actually close to being done with it. 

Now there are some books I don't have at the moment. Like the Vocabulary book, or the Reading Comprehension book and Art book. We're  getting there in our collection of school books though. But this has really kept us busy that its very easy to get them when we need it and just add it in. 

Grade 5 
Here H is working on her Vocabulary 5 book 

I'll go ahead and spare you pictures of all of the books for 5th grade. There are just so many of them.  

Of course we love the Readers. The nice thing about the 5th grade readers is they actually start to have questions at the end of the story to reinforce what they've read.  There are two readers : These are our People and Book of Gratitude. The first book has those wonderful wholesome stories that I mention just like in the 3rd grade reader. Stories that children this age level can relate to . along with stories about Saints as well. The Book of Gratitude is a book full of poems about Saints and barefoot summer days. Makes an excellent study of poetry for this grade level. This book does not contain a questions and answers. I imagine lessons for this book are in the Seton lesson plans. 

 The English is a little different than the third grade in the fact you do have to go in order. It expands on learning how to write and teaches a lot more diagramming. Its a large book with about 212 lessons. It provides plenty of practice for kids who need it, and parents can skip things that children know and move on. 

  The history is very interesting and even I've learned a thing or two about American History. Though I do need to find a way to make history a bit more interesting for my 5th grader as its not her favorite subject. 

The handwriting book for 5th  has them writing in smaller spaces and they get to write facts and Catholic facts about each state in our glorious United States. I've even learned a few things just by sifting through the pages of the book. 

 The Vocabulary book has been a bit of a challenge. Its not quite set up like the 3rd grade vocabulary from what I can compare online ( since I don't have the 3rd grade vocab yet).
 The book is divided by days so the child does one page per day. The first exercise has them looking up definitions of words in a dictionary, but they don't exactly match up the same as the rest of the exercises. So to remedy that I'm going to pull out the middle page and have them match up the definitions from the crossword page that way they can do the day two lesson.  Its just a little backwards in that way. If I had my own way I would have them match up the word to the definition given by the book as not to confuse them. Not to mention we're still working on the exercise C that seems to be trumping my 5th and 8th grader up a bit. They'll get it, it will take time. Its something new to them so they'll get it. 

The Spelling is set up the same as 3rd in the way its divided up by having one exercise to do a day. Instead of having a pretest like third grade does at the end. It concludes each lesson with a story about a Saint  using the words with the same spelling rule.  

 As always the Religion book is beautiful. Each lesson is about 2 to 3 pages long with a few questions or crossword puzzles to go along with it. Again its something we sit and do together. I'll admit being a convert to the Catholic faith, and having had grown up in Catholic schools , I've learned more about the Catholic faith in these books then I have in quite some time. Even grown ups need to learn the basics and this truly sets a very good foundation for children in their Catholic faith. I've also found that the 5th grade expands even more on what is learned in the 3rd grade. So my 8 year old will try and gladly answer some of the questions she already knows as she is a little bit more ahead in her book than her 11 year old sister is in her book.  Call it a little bit of girl  competitiveness if you will, but it also shows me , when they answer each other's questions that they actually have been listening even when I think they haven't at all.   We also have the Concise Bible History which we read. Its a short book about the stories in the Bible and we use the Baltimore Catechism to go along with it. This makes an excellent religious education program. 

Grade 8 
Grade 8 is pretty similar to grade 5 with the books. Many of them are set up the same way.  

Though the English is broken up into 2 Semesters. With the first focusing on English skills and the 2nd on Writing.  

The  American History book for grade 8 is more than excellent. I've found myself picking it up and just reading it the book is that good. 

Spelling is set up pretty much the same as 5th grade , but the words are far more challenging. I even bought my 10th grader the same spelling book to do her spelling along with her 8th grade sister as the words are very challenging and I KNOW she doesn't know how to spell them. 

 We use Saxon for math, Apologia Biology for 8th and the Vocab is set up the same as 5th but of course with harder words.

 The Religion course for 8th is Witness of the Faith and is the  history of the Catholic church from the beginning of Jesus Christ to modern times. Its a good book but packed full of information that can sometimes be hard to absorb at times. We are working through this very slowly. 

 Reading is the same , set up just like the 5th. With wonderful stories with moral values, and Catholic stories spread throughout ending with questions for each story. 

Grade 10 
If you've managed to make it this far we are also using parts of their 10th  grade. This year my oldest is taking a few classes at our local high school ( Health Tech course, and Algebra 1 and Geometry). We are using Christ the King Lord of History, we are also using the High School Grammar book, which is a nice review of the stuff that was taught in the 8th grade book. And the literature from Seton as well. Right now we are getting ready to read Animal Farm. I haven't decided what to use for Religion as Seton's religion seems to be a bit dull for the High School  levels. I do have the Understanding the Mass book. I may go ahead and get the Seton books but the Didache series seems far more appealing than the Fr. John Laux books they use. 

All in all I am extremely happy with Seton. So much so I plan on using nothing else now. I will admit I wish we could have enrolled with the school. I believe it would make my life much easier as far as that is concerned having four children.Its very difficult to keep on top of everything without lesson plans.  Especially with Writing, Reading and Religion. I wish I had the lesson plans and guidance for some of that. Hopefully ,with more praying, God will provide in that area.  I believe I have finally found my happy place with Seton after all these years. I will admit that I wish I would have known about Seton sooner because I like the fact that the curriculum focuses first on Christ. They also focus a lot on the importance of language arts as well and that will take them far into future as far as college goes. Honestly though, you can't get any better with a curriculum that was created to prepare children not just for the things of this world ,but for life in the next world with God.   

So if you use Seton, what do you all like about the curriculum?  Post in the comments below. 

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