Saturday, March 16, 2013

Curriculum Outline for 2013-2014 (Preschool and Kindergarten/1st Grade)

In our home, we do not adhere to a specific educational philosophy or curriculum package. I tend to pull from various methods, including unschooling, leadership education/Thomas Jefferson Education, Waldorf, and interest-led learning. (Check out these great blog posts (Part 1 & Part 2)  for an overview of popular educational philosophies and methods.)

I worried for a long time about finding the perfect curriculum, but the truth is, it doesn't exist. I'm not good at following something day by day, and neither are my kids. My oldest might be in love with math one week and reading the next. I don't want to quell her excitement, so if she wants to focus solely on math one week, that's what we do. I also have a list of things I'd like to eventually cover, so 2-3 days a week, I will suggest things for us to learn about and I'll have materials ready. We do not structure content each day (because life isn't always structured each day!), but we do structure time. We have "learning time" or "school time," but what we study may change day to day or week to week.

Most important in our educational philosophy is the idea that education begins at home and is self-directed. Both my husband and I want to model life-long learning and we try to fill our home with music, television, books, opportunities and attitudes that support an atmosphere of education.

So, here is the basic outline of what I'd like the next phase of learning to look like in our home. We don't follow a "school year" time-frame, but we learn all year long and take breaks when needed. Most everything is geared towards our older daughter (who turns 5 next week!), but our younger daughter is a part of everything. If my oldest is watching a video, the youngest is sitting right beside her. If my oldest is doing a worksheet, my youngest has a worksheet that is easier, but covers the same idea. Our youngest is only 3.5 years old, so she doesn't have to be doing anything yet. But you can be sure she's soaking up a lot of the same information.

  • What I Want Them to Learn:
    • Whatever they progress to! It's as easy as that.
  • What I Will Use:
    • Singapore Math books and workbooks (1st)
    • Khan Academy (FREE) (1st)
    • Brain Pop Jr. videos
  • What I Want Them to Learn:
    • Basic handwriting skills (PreK)
    • Improvement of numbers and letters (1st)
  • What I Will Use:
    • Various handwriting workbooks, including Handwriting Without Tears and Getty Dubay Italics
      • These workbooks will be made accessible to the girls at all times and will not be considered a "lesson." 
World Study (mix of culture, geography, history, and social studies): 
  • What I Want Them to Learn:
    • Ancient cultures
    • Continents, countries
    • Economics (bartering, community resources, natural resources, using money and making choices)
    • Good citizenship
    • Holidays and inspiring individuals (these will be covered as they arise)
  • What I Will Use:
    • Story of the World Volume 1
    • Story of the World Volume 1 Activity Book
    • "Usborne Internet Linked Children's Encyclopedia"
    • Brain Pop Jr. videos
    • "Horrible Histories" episodes
    • The Library
  • What I Want Them to Learn:
    • how things are made/how things work
    • the human body
    • scientific inquiry
    • anything else my kids feel drawn to!
  • What I Will Use:
    • "The New Way Things Work" by David Macaulay
    • "The Usborne Internet-Linked First Encyclopedia of the Human Body" by Rachel Firth
    • Brain Pop Jr. videos
    • The Library
    • Magic School Bus episodes
    • School House Rock episodes
Foreign Language: 
  • What I Will Use:
    • Japanese lessons on-base 1x/week
    • Flashcards
  • What I Will Use:
    • Explode the Code series (1st)
    • Get Ready for the Code series (PreK)
    • "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" by Siegfried Engelmann
    • Read alouds as a family
    • Easy-reader books
Language Arts:
  • What I Want Them to Learn:
    • Language Arts
      • Parts of a Sentence
      • Punctuation and Commas
      • Types of words (nouns, verbs, adjectives/adverbs, synonyms/antonyms)
    • Reading Skills
      • Using the Library
      • Choosing a Book
      • Reading Non-fiction (glossaries, table of contents, index, etc.)
    • Writing
      • Story Elements (character, setting, plot)
      • Book Reports
      • Sending a Letter
      • Poems
      • Dr. Seuss
  • What I Will Use:
    • Corresponding workbook pages
    • BrainPopJr. videos
    • The Library
Religious Education: 
  • What I Want Them to Learn:
    • Awareness of Unitarian Universalist principles
    • Awareness of world religions
    • Sex-education, respect for their bodies
  • What I Will Use:
    • Our Whole Lives curriculum (sex-education curriculum)
    • Monthly resources from the Church of the Larger Fellowship (a UU online congregation)
Art Education: 
  • What I Want Them to Learn:
    • That it's great to be creative!
    • Introduction to famous artists
    • Introduction to various art materials and methods
  • What I Will Use:
    • Khan Academy resources
    • "The Usborne Children's Book of Art" by Rosie Dickins
    • Hands-on art activities
    • Perhaps an art class at the elementary school?
Music Education: 
  • What I Want Them to Learn:
    • Knowledge of various instruments and their sounds
    • Basic knowledge of notes
  • What I Will Use:
    • Self-motivated piano practice
    • "Disney Music Activity Book: An Introduction to Music" by Sharon Stosur
    • "Teaching Little Fingers to Play: A Book for the Earliest Beginner" by John Thompson
    • Perhaps a music class with friends?
Life Skills
  • What I Want Them to Learn:
    • Healthy relationships (bullying, friendships, etc.)
    • Safety
      • Who to call when there is an emergency? What do you tell them?
      • Internet Safety
      • Fire Safety
      • Road Safety
      • Tricky People/Stranger Danger
      • Earthquake Safety
      • Medical Emergencies/First Aid
      • Kitchen Safety
    • Cooking basics
    • Taking care of a home
    • Using Money
  • What I Will Use:
    • BrainPopJr. videos
    • The Library
    • Allowance and family contribution lists
    • Involvement in household tasks

Out of everything listed here, and everything I've used this past year (including an Oak Meadow 1st Grade curriculum package), the three things I find most useful are:
  1. Brain Pop Jr videos
    • Videos cover a wide range of subjects and are no more than 5-7 minutes long. They explain things in incredibly age-appropriate language and offer games, lesson ideas, activities, and even quizzes with each video. If I'm unsure of how to approach or explain a concept, I go here first.
  2. Worksheets and coloring pages at
    • The best selection of worksheets and coloring pages that I've found to date. You can search for things by keyword, grade, and subject. Often, we'll watch a Brain Pop video, and then head to for a worksheet that supplements what the girls just learned.
  3. Our public library
    • I think my girls learn best from reading, so the library is always a fantastic resource for our family.

I'll be checking in later with an update about how our year is progressing and whether or not we've been following this outline. The good thing is, nothing is set in stone (nor should it be!).

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