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It’s hard to believe, but Brendan is nearly done with 3rd grade. Realistically, it’s not that hard to believe, because we’ve been plowing through 3rd grade material since … last July, but it’s gone by in a heartbeat.

We’ve been doing odd-books for read-alouds (him to me) here, mostly working in the Little House on the Prairie series.  I’ve been doing an assortment of read-alouds as well (me to him), including The Chronicles of Narnia.  We’ll continue to go through the Little House series until he’s done, and the move on to the books we didn’t finish last year.

History is almost done too, which is odd, because last year we slogged through our history material.  I’m using Story of the World, and the 2nd book was a beast.  I thought we were making good time, but everything else in our core was done long before it was.  This year, the 3rd book has chugged along well – I was surprised to realize we have fewer than 20 days left until we’re done.

Math has gone really well this year, with Teaching Textbooks at the helm.  We had been using Alpha Omega’s math Horizons, not realizing that it was the “accelerated curriculum” from AO.  While it was fine to “spiral” the new concepts, there was no space to go back and review, and we found that one lesson on each concept wasn’t enough.  Brendan worked his way through it for three years, but when I showed the 2nd grade book to some friends who have older kids, they were amazed at how advanced it was.  I knew that pushing him further was going to be counter-productive, and so I began the hunt for a more workable math program.  Enter Teaching Textbooks.  It’s a computer-based program, complete with lectures and interactive work.  We also purchased the workbook, which allowed him to work the math on paper without having to write the problems down.  It allows for answers, corrections, and even provides hints – Brendan loves it.  Their website also has placement tests, which was a great thing for us.  I’ll be purchasing Math 5 shortly – Brendan informs me that he has about 10 more days left of work.  Yikes!

Science has been largely in the co-op this year, but we won’t be partaking in that next year.  I’m not thrilled with Apologia’s Botany program and the group wants to continue in the Apologia series, but I’m also going to be teaching drama, so I can’t teach two co-op classes simultaneously.  I think we’ll go back to Building Foundations in Scientific Understanding (BFSU) by Bernie Nebel for next year’s science – we weren’t able to finish it all in 2nd grade, and it’s easy enough to pick up and do on our own next year.  Dr. Nebel also has Book 2 out and Book 3 is slated for publication by June, 2011.  I’m hopeful that we can pair with another family like we did in Michigan, but that’s hinged on finding a house that is close to one of our friends.  :)

Handwriting will continue with Handwriting Without Tears, although it’s not as tear-less as promised.  At least not for my kid.  We’ll work on cursive this year, as Brendan now has the fine motor skills to manage it.  Happily, that book is already procured and I just ordered a huge stack of their lined paper, so we’re good to go.  :)

We’ll continue with Sequential Spelling, which has been a massive success for us.  Before we started this, I was really hoping that Brendan would absorb spelling like I did – through reading.  Unfortunately, he could read at a much higher grade level than he was in, but couldn’t spell crap.  Literally. C-R-A-P was a challenge for him.  This program is teaching him basic rules of spelling, word families, and is great.  :)

We might pick up grammar again next year – this past year, I bought Grammar Ace, but it became quickly apparent that the concepts were far too advanced for a 3rd grader.  I love the fact that it works in conjuction with “Schoolhouse Rock” (the DVDs I bought for myself, not for my kid!), but there are a multitude of topics that were not covered in Grammar Rock.  I probably should have purchased the instructional guide too, but I honestly thought it wouldn’t be bad.  I’m a writer and I know grammar.  But when it comes to subjunctives, participles, and more, I’m at a loss for explaining them.  I use them correctly, but ….  I will most likely end up buying the teacher’s guide and trying this one again.  :)

So that’s the report for the end of 3rd grade – clearly, I have some procurement to do.  And I’ll be selling Math4 in Teaching Textbooks – all four DVDs that work on Mac or PC.  If you’re interested in the latter, hit me up – it will be discounted from the $100 pricetag.  :)


This summer begins our fourth year of homeschooling and will find us back at lessons, revamping our previous plans for a leisurely time-off and romping in the summer sun.  Our previous plans, of course, were contingent upon staying in MI, included expanding our garden to twice its normal size, canning vegetables, and building a chicken coop.

But we’re not in Michigan anymore, Auntie Em.

Before we moved to Arizona, I investigated the important parts of family life:  homeschooling laws down here and the availability of raw dairy.  I know – corny, right?  But these are things that were important enough to us that we went out of our way to make them a reality in our day-to-day lives in Michigan.  As it turns out, raw dairy is legal here, but hard to come by (the laws involve so much red tape that it’s not cost effective for dairies to comply and most still sell privately “for pet consumption”).  Homeschooling laws are almost as lenient as Michigan – I have to provide an “affidavit of intent” to the principal of the high school Brendan would attend and nothing else.  I also discovered that many families down here school through the crazy-hot summer months (when they hibernate inside anyhow) and take a “summer break” in the late fall/early winter months when the temperatures are beautiful and playing outside makes much more sense.

Image credit: Michael R. Swigart

And so we’ll be doing that this summer.  Brendan thought about it for a bit and decided that it wasn’t too traitorous an idea (if we were still in Michigan, he’d balk at it), as long as we did cool family-things in his “off-time.”  And so we’ll plow through this summer and in to fall, taking our “summer break” from December to the end of February.  We’ll do fun things like visit The Painted Desert, Sedona, the Petrified Forest, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, and eventually, the Grand Canyon.  We’ll study our surroundings and tie them in with history lessons about the native tribes and how they were forced on to reservations, as well as study the desert art that exists in these parts.

We’re also changing up our math program.  For 3 years, Brendan has done Horizons Math, which is the accelerated math arm of Alpha Omega publications.  It’s been a challenge for him, but one that was not too hard so as to discourage him.  I heard about Teaching Textbooks from Sonlight, and when I gave my kid a chance to play with the program online, he was hooked.  The lessons are done both on computer and on paper, and it seems as though it will be a good fit for him.  I have two different tests – 3rd and 4th grade – to see where he will fall.  Horizons 2nd grade program is the equivalent of 3rd grade math in other programs, so I want to see if the next level (4th grade) is better for him or if doing a review-year of 3rd grade makes more sense.

Our studies will continue to use a classical approach to history (working on year 3 of the 4 year cycle), using Story of the World‘s Early Modern Times, continuing on with read-alouds and silent reading, improving handwriting & grammar via copywork, and incorporating art as it applies to the Early Modern Times history lessons.  And of course, starting with Teaching Textbooks math program.

I’d say we’re adapting to our new environment relatively well; at least, for having been here 2 weeks today.  We’ll join the local homeschool group in our area this month and mix in some fun with lessons at the same time, but the changes our summer encompasses are proving to be interesting as well as fun.

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