Phonics: Teaching My Kids to Read

Phonics: Teaching My Kids to Read

Abeka. It’s one of the most widely known curricula. It’s used extensively in the homeschool community as well as traditional schools. When we decided to homeschool, I knew Abeka was going to be one of our resources. Teaching our kids to read can be one of the most overwhelming this about homeschooling. It was to me at least. This was heightened by the fact that one of my children was struggling with their phonics, but I was told over and over again how great Abeka would be for that.

And it’s true. Abeka has a strong phonics based Language Arts approach. So, I bought some of the workbooks and flash cards. I chose not to buy the complete Language Arts bundle, because I didn’t think we needed it all and it overwhelmed me. I definitely wouldn’t put them in the “budget friendly” category, but every product is bright, colorful, and has excellent quality. Because Abeka has such a traditional approach, I knew I didn’t want to use it for every subject all the things. We are in the eclectic lane of homeschooling, but I do try to limit the amount of worksheets my kids have to do.

First the pros. My kids are learning. My struggling reader has learned confidence in herself. She’s gained patience to sound out words, and she has already progressed to the next reading level. I am so thrilled with her progress, especially since we had to start from the beginning (she was previously being taught a whole language approach in public school). Also, my new reader is actively and steadily learning her phonics. She has just started reading level A books, which is so fun. And, her favorite thing in our homeschool is her letter sound book.

Ok, now the cons. Despite all the progress my kids have made, I just don’t love it. It’s repetitive and boring, especially for my oldest. She basically has to complete the same worksheet every day, just with new information switched out. There is a lot of testing. Like weekly. We don’t even do the tests, because I already know how my kids are preforming. Also, it’s important to know that Abeka is basically a grade level ahead of public school. Because my oldest came right out of public school, she is having to do first grade work in Abeka, even though she is in second grade. She doesn’t really have an issue with this because I explained to her why, but I know things like that can be upsetting for some children. Abeka also moves through material very quickly. Our math curriculum is very traditional as well, and two traditionally taught subjects seems to be too many worksheets for our family.

Right now, my plan is for us to complete the Abeka materials I’ve already purchased. However, I will to switch to another phonics based Language Arts program once we are finished with it. All in all, I don’t regret reaching for and trying out Abeka for our Language Arts. It’s helped my kids learn and progress. It was so nice having an “open and go” option when we were first making the switch to homeschooling from public school. But, it’s not something that will work for my kids long term, and I am happy there are so many other options out there.

Tell me, that are you using for Language Arts this year? Have you ever started a curriculum, then decided it wasn’t the best fit? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Helpful Links:

Our Favorite Early Readers: https://amzn.to/3aSXntY

Read About Our Math Curriculum here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/08/19/math-love-it-or-hate-it/

Math: Love It or Hate It?

Math: Love It or Hate It?

Either way, we have to teach it. Hopefully, we can teach our kids not to hate it. I actually really enjoyed math in school. It was my favorite subject. Side note: I’m a child of a math teacher…so maybe it’s genetics? Math made sense to me. It was like solving puzzles, and my Type A personality savored the fact that there is always a right answer. I’d probably still do Algebra problems for fun. Joking, not joking!

When it came time to choose a math curriculum for my early elementary aged kids, I was here for it! However, I became quickly overwhelmed. There are a LOT of choices out there, and there are a lot of different methods for teaching math to kids. I googled, I polled Facebook groups, I asked friends what they were using, and so on. A few curricula were mentioned over and over again, so I did a deep dive.

I was all set to spend a bunch of money on a super trendy program. It looked so fun, but I hesitated. It was a really expensive curriculum, and I was having to make a choice with never seeing the books in person. I decided to poll my homeschool mommy friends one more time. See, I already learned math. I am good at it, and I one hundred percent did not want to have to learn new methods for myself. I wanted a curriculum that taught to “carry the one” in addition. Did you know that’s not taught in public schools anymore?? At least it’s not in our’s. So, come to find out, the curriculum I was about to buy did not teach the 90’s way of math I was looking for.

When I told my homeschool community exactly what I was looking for in a math curriculum, I had one sweet mama recommend Christian Light Education. It is definitely in the Traditional category of homeschooling. You can tell parent book is made for a teacher in the classroom setting. But for math, I feel like that is okay. We don’t need a lot of fluff. Best of all, my kids are learning to carry the one! Added bonus: this curriculum is pretty budget friendly, which is so nice when having to buy for multiple grades.

I can only speak to their math program, but Christian Light Education is simple and straight forward and has a spiral approach. This means that the child learns a new skill with the parent, then reviews previously learned skills independently each day. There are ten units per grade level, and each unit includes quizzes and a test. We use these just as an indicator as to what we need to continue to work on. There isn’t a dedicated Kindergarten math level with this company. It starts in grade one, so your child has to have a basic knowledge of numbers and counting. My kindergartener learned a lot of basics in preschool, so I felt comfortable starting her in grade one for math. She has done really well with it. My second grader is right on schedule with grade two, and she tells me that math is her favorite subject. She especially loves the Speed Drills. Child after my own heart!

Helpful Links:

Christian Light Education Website: https://www.clp.org/store/browse/31_curriculum

Math materials we use:

Unifix Cubes: https://amzn.to/2Q6pYlP

Unit Books Organizer: https://amzn.to/2EjXouz

Learning Clock: https://amzn.to/3hcjhuv

Play Money: https://amzn.to/3iWWCTz

Rulers: https://amzn.to/31cPMU1 and https://amzn.to/34dhbXE

**Some links are affiliates which helps to support my little passion blog here at Intentionally Well. Thank you for your support**

Having a World View

Having a World View

When we first decided to homeschool back in January of 2020, I did what any mom would do. I joined as many local homeschool Facebook groups as I could, so that I could learn all the things from other moms who were actually doing the things. It was in one of these groups where I first heard about the curriculum I want to talk to you about today. It’s called Torchlight, and it is our social studies and geography curriculum. Guys, I love this thing so much. It’s my favorite thing we do, and I am learning just as much as the kids are some weeks. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Torchlight? I’m not surprised. It seems to be a newer curriculum, that is also secular. Let me tell you about it.

Torchlight is in the Charlotte Mason lane. You learn through books. The author (a homeschooling mom!) grew up reading with a flashlight (torchlight) under the covers every night after she was supposed to be asleep. Her heart is for kids to love books. This is what first peeked my interest. I want my kids to love reading. Up until earlier this year, books have kind of been take it or leave it for them. That broke my heart, because I love reading, and I want my kids to also love reading. The next thing that got me really excited about this curriculum was that it covered everything except math and language arts. That meant I could use the same level for both of my children, even though they are two grades apart. Torchlight covers literature, science, geography, cultural studies, and art. We are nine weeks into using the curriculum and have decided to not use the science aspect, but that is only because my kids had some specific unit studies they wanted to do (more on that later).

Let’s talk about the geography and cultural studies aspect of this curriculum, because that is what sealed the deal for me. When looking at other curricula, I honestly found a lot of them to be very ethnocentric and white washed. I don’t mean that to sound harsh, but it is just a fact. And let me be clear, I do not judge anyone for choosing a different program for their kids. Seriously. We all have our own priorities, and different things are important to different people. This is something that is important to our family. It is important to us that our kids realize that we live in a great big world with billions of people who all live and believe differently. For example, when we learned about the formation of Central Park in New York, we also learned about Seneca Village. Have you ever heard of it? I definitely hadn’t. When we learned about Nepal and Bangladesh, we read a story about a little girl who worked and saved all her money to buy an oil lamp for her home, because her family didn’t have electricity.

I chose to do Level K with my kindergartener and second grader. Torchlight tends to run older in its themes and books, so this is a really great fit. I can scale things up and down as needed for each child very easily. For Level K, we learn about a different country or small group of countries each week. Last week, we learned about Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, and Zambia. We read various books about the country and its people. We also do an art project and read a piece of literature, usually an early chapter book. It has been so.much.fun.! Next year we will start learning ancient history with Level 1. I really like the idea of teaching to have a world view, then diving into the actual history of the world.

The fact that Torchlight is a secular curriculum is a nonissue for us. Before homeschooling, our kids were enrolled in public school where they were receiving a secular education. We are also doing our own Bible routine, which you can read about here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/08/12/our-bible-curriculum/

If you are interested in Torchlight, you can check it out here: https://torchlightcurriculum.com/torchlight/

Here in the inflatable globe (aka space saving and cost effective globe) we are using: https://amzn.to/2DYHZjF

**Some links are affiliates which helps to support my little passion blog here at Intentionally Well. Thank you for your support**

Our Bible Curriculum

Our Bible Curriculum

I use the word curriculum loosely here. The word routine might be more appropriate. However you phrase it, I want to share what we are doing for our Bible lessons in our homeschool this year. Our faith is part of our daily life. We are a Christian family, and my husband is actually in vocational ministry. We talk about God and the Good News in our daily life often. With that said, I have chosen to do some intentional instruction on the Bible this year. My school aged kids are still young, being only in second grade and kindergarten, so I really wanted to take that into consideration when deciding what our goals would be. I decided that rather than focus on scripture memorization, I wanted my kids to learn the narrative of the Bible. I wanted them to learn and have a better understanding of the people and stories of the Bible, and how they reveal God’s love for us.

I am using a children’s Bible as our main source to accomplish this. About 3 mornings a week, we read a selection out of The Big Picture Storybook Bible (linked here: https://amzn.to/31wJgpK ). Guys, I love this children’s bible so much. Each story is so beautifully and clearly written on a child’s level without sounding babyish. The corresponding chapter and verses are always given if you want to go even deep with your learner. At the end of each story, there is a section called Christ Connection, and this is where the story (whether taken from the Old or New Testament) is brought back to Jesus and the gospel. Lastly, the passage ends with a comprehension question for the learner. This bible isn’t particularly meant for schooling, but it so beautifully serves that purpose for our family.

This set up has worked really nicely with my girls. The “lessons” are short and engaging but also very meaningful. We are focusing on the New Testament for this fall semester. We are going to learn all about the life and work of Jesus, which will culminate with celebrating His birthday at Christmas.

Also, can I just say how much I miss in person church?! Man….anyone else? Okay, thanks. I just needed to put that somewhere.

**Links are affiliates which helps to support my little passion blog here at Intentionally Well. Thank you for your support**

Sending My Child to Preschool

Sending My Child to Preschool

But wait a minute….Didn’t I just write a whole post about our decision to homeschool? Yes. Yes, I did. We are homeschooling are kindergartener and second grader. However, we decided that our almost three year old will still attend his preschool this year. He will be going to school two mornings a week starting mid-August.

There was a lot that went into this decision, and it wasn’t easy given the current state of the world. Some of the main points in choosing this route were acknowledging that what’s best for one child in our family might not be what’s best for another child, and that is okay. Our preschooler needs some more opportunities to be around a group of peers. He needs to learn that he can have fun with other people rather than just mommy and daddy and sisters. He needs some more practice in following rules in a more structured environment like a classroom. Are you catching a theme? We really feel that the social skills he will gain in preschool this year will be a huge benefit for him. Teaching those types of social skills at home can be really difficult (although, definitely not impossible). He also has a minor speech delay. We are confident that preschool will continue to propel his speech forward. And lastly, he LOVES his preschool. He loves circle time and singing songs and dancing and all the things. He thrived last year in his little class, and I have no doubt he will do the same this year.

Now, what about the Big C? The Corona? This is where I am just going to have to trust and rely on God. I have His peace right now. If something changes, then we can always reevaluate. The school is putting procedures in place to keep staff and the kids safe, without being too over the top. Kids will still be able to be kids. Our family has already had Covid19. And even though the whole immunity situation is still a big question mark, we are confident that if/when we are exposed again, that our bodies will know how to fight the virus.

There are no easy or clear answers for anything these days. We are all doing the best we can with the information we have. And that is okay. Our kids are going to be okay. Mama, your kids are going to be okay! What is best for us this year might not be what we choose for the following year. Just like everyone else, we will take things day by day, week by week, and month by month. Tell me more about how your kids will do school this year. Are all of your kids on the same path? Or are different kids doing different things? Do you have peace about your decisions?

We’re a Homeschool Family Now

We’re a Homeschool Family Now

Yep, we have made a change. Like every other family in America, school is going to look different for us this year. However, our switch to homeschooling was not a reaction to the Coronavirus. Homeschooling has been on and off our hearts since forever. When we lived in the south, I had many friends who homeschooled (how many times do you think I will type this world out in this post? haha!). I was so intrigued by it. But my oldest is an extrovert, and I felt like our personalities clashed often when I would try to teach her things or switch to “school mode” at home. So, I doubted myself. I doubted my ability, even though I taught preschool before kids.

Fast forward a couple of years, and our kids were thriving in their preschools. They were learning, having fun, and I was enjoying those few hours of separation (having littles is tough, guys). Every time homeschooling started to creep back into my mind, I would push it out with all these positives. Then came Kindergarten for my oldest. I was dreading it. It was SUCH a long day, and i knew that a lot of that time was filler. She wouldn’t get home until about 4:00 and would be utterly exhausted. And that’s exactly what happened. I really felt like the long school day was stealing our family time. Because my husband works in ministry, our weekends are often busy. Homeschooling, again, started to weigh on me, but I put a pin in it.

Then came first grade. We loved her teacher, but the school wasn’t meeting some specific needs my child had. When I would bring this up (over and over again), I was met with a lot of explanations but also a lot of resistance. My middle was in pre-k, and the thought of her having to deal with the long day of public school kindergarten made my brain hurt. And so in January of 2020, we once and for all decided that public school was not working for our family. We knew then that we would be homeschooling the following year. We told the kids our decision (they were so excited!), and I started dabbling in researching homeschool methods and curriculums (curricula?).

And then the world as we knew it came crashing down. When schools closed in March of 2020, my oldest was sent assignments to do at home, and she would upload her work for her teacher to see. It was here that I got a really good sense of how she was being taught, and I was like no wonder! Neither of us had much fun with this e-learning. It was a chore. I had already ordered some homeschool materials, so we withdrew our oldest 2 kids from their perspective schools and started our homeschool journey right then and there.

It was so great! Even with having to take breaks as I recovered from Covid, the kids really learned a lot. Best of all, we saw them grow closer as siblings and have FUN with school. We did school until the end of May and took a break in June to enjoy the summer. It was really nice to have those weeks to slowly ease into what homeschool would look like for our family.

The week after the Forth of July, we officially started our new homeschool year. I have a second grader, a Kindergartener, and a toddler (who will still attend preschool two mornings a week). We are about three weeks in, and so far so good….I think. Just kidding! It’s good. We are learning new rhythms and routines. Learning to give and receive grace. Learning when to push through and when to take it slow. Learning how to balance all the things and not feel stressed or overwhelmed. I’ve loved all of it. I love seeing my kids learn new things and know that I was a part of that.

School is going to be different for everyone this year. Some families are homeschooling, some are choosing virtual school, some are choosing in person school (as much as the districts will allow). There are no easy or clear answers for any of us. I am here for you. I support you. What works for our family might not work for your family, and that’s ok! Share with me what you and your family will be doing this fall in the comments.

It's a New World

It's a New World

WOW! My intention was to write more often than I have, but it seems like the entire world has changed in just the last 10 days. Everything is canceled. All the things. We are having to adjust being at home at.all.times. This has been hard, even for me, a self identified introvert! Our best laid plans have been thrown out the window.

How are you handling it all? If you’re like me, you’re having good moments and hard moments. Good days and bad days. Days where you think, “I’ve got this!”. And other days where the enormity of the uncertainty feels so overwhelming. So, what are we to do?

There is no shortage of advice on how to fill your time at home. Countless companies are offering free resources. You can easily pull up hundreds of options on Google. To me, it’s too much. I do not have the mental capacity to sort through everything. My advice is to start small. Start with implementing and STICKING WITH an attainable daily routine. Have different routines for your weekdays and weekends. Also, get dressed. I read a quote that said, “Flannel starts to feel like depression after about 3 days.” It’s so true. I am used to wearing make up every day. When I don’t, I feel lazy and unmotivated. So, I’ve been wearing my typical make up almost every day. It has really helped my mentality in approaching the day. Below is the weekday we are using in our family (2 parents at home barely working with 3 kids):

*8:30-9:15 (this is the only time we go by the clock): Every one gets dressed

*Homeschool my two older girls, while hubby take the toddler upstairs for some gross motor play

*Morning snack/break from school

*Finish school while toddler does a puzzle (or some other simple activity)

*Lunch

*Nap/Quiet time

*Afternoon snack while watching TV

*Get out of the house in some way (play outside, go for a walk, take a drive)

*Follow typical night time routine of dinner, baths, after dinner snack, and bed

I hope this helps bring a little intentionality to your day. We’ve been following this routine for about 4 days now, and every day it feels a little more normal. We can do this. We ARE doing it!