Life. Love. Family. Our Perfect Imperfection. Living life as a Catholic, homeschooling family with three amazing, unique boys, a too-oft serious, frustrated and anxious but also loving momma, and a fun-loving, hardworking dad.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Our Curriculum Plans for 2016-17

This year, we are keeping some of our favorites from our first year, adding in some new subjects, and changing out some things that weren't a good fit for us.

For starters, we enrolled Ethan and Alex in Kolbe Homeschool Academy using their homeschool courses. With the flexibility they offer, we will be using some of their courses and some of our own choices, while also taking advantage of their transcript services and future use of their diplomas. 

Ethan's officially a high schooler now (we basically repeated 8th grade last year to give him a chance to mature, hit some areas where he struggles and find our groove since we were coming from a public school setting.) I felt it would be good to have some guidance on certain courses, a way to track his grades and write a transcript that would be from an accredited school since he will - hopefully! - be my first homeschool graduate in approximately 4 years, and I am a bit nervous about the transcript portion. We will be starting to do career and college research this year, and look into PSAT/SAT/ACT testing as well.

Alex did almost all 6th grade work last year, save religion and wordly wise which he did at the 5th grade level. Since he is officially a middle schooler, and starting 7th grade, I thought it would be good to also use Kolbe to have some guidance in courses, and tracking grades. Plus if he takes Algebra 1 in 8th grade, I believe he can get high school credit on his transcript! He will be doing 6th grade religion and possibly level 6 of wordly wise.

I didn't enroll Jackson in Kolbe this year as he won't be 5 until January and even then I will likely wait to enroll him until he is in 7th grade if we go that route. However, he has really surprised me the last few months with the amount of learning he has done and continues to want to do, without formal schoolwork! We will be doing K4 together this year - basically preschool/kindergarten combo - and then K5 next year, unless he seems ready to just dive into 1st. Jackson is able to write letters and number fairly well, attempts to spell simple words by sounding them out and asking for help, and can write his name. He is trying to read words by sounding them out. In addition, he can draw and identify shapes, add 1+1 and can count to 20 consistently. We won't be doing a really formal curriculum this year with him.

English Language Arts
Since Ethan and Alex are both naturally good spellers, there's really no need for them to use a formal spelling program anymore.

We will continue to use Wordly Wise 3000 online for vocabulary. We purchased a yearly subscription through Homeschool Buyers' Co-op a few months ago, and the boys really like it. Ethan will be doing level 9 and Alex will do level 6.

For our grammar lessons, we will continue using IEW's Fix it Grammar books. Last year, we used book 1 and about half of book 2. This year, we will finish up book 2 and move on to book 3.

We decided to try something new for composition and writing this year with all three of the boys. WriteShop 1 will be used by Ethan and Alex for their main English curriculum. If you are able to print, and have more than one child using it, or have other children who will use in the future, I highly recommend buying the workbook in e-book format. You can print as many as you need for single-family use!

Jackson will be using WriteShop Primary A over the course of the next two years.

Although I like IEW's Student Writing Intensive B, it didn't feel like a great fit. We may revisit it later in the year to continue to glean more from it. It did help the boys learn how to pull out key words and take notes, as well as expand their word usage by giving them the banned word lists.

For additional essay topics, I plan to use the 100 philosophy questions from Westvon Publishing, as well as history essays.


Alex will be using Kolbe's Junior High Literature Course over the next two years, and has already planned out which books he would like to read for both years! There's always the chance he'll change his mind for next year, but there are plenty of wonderful options.

Ethan will be using a number of selections on the book list from the JH Literature even though he will not be taking that particular course. The choices are just that good!

Ethan and Alex will both be reading the following (as well as several other books that are history related):
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson 
  • Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha by Evelyn M. Brown
Alex's list also includes:
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • St. Benedict by Mary Fabyan Windeatt
  • Short stories
    1. The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry
    2. The Last Leaf by O. Henry
    3. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
    4. The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke
    5. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
    6. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
    7. The Red Headed League by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    8. The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet
    9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Ethan will also read:
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Little Women by Louis May Alcott
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway 
  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
Jackson and I are going to be using Five in a Row Volume 1, as well as using it for inspiration to "row" other great picture books. It really covers more than just reading for him. It also gives science, geography, social studies, etc suggestions.


We really enjoyed RC History Connecting with History Volume 1: Ancient History and the Old Testament and have decided to stick with it. We have one unit left from last school year that we will start with. It's a chronological program so we can just continue right on into Volume 2, which is Early Medieval history through 1066 AD, the New Testament and the Early Church.

The book list for RC History is extensive and includes many non-fiction and historical fiction selections.

Ethan will mostly use the Logic level books, but will also use a couple from the Grammar level. Alex will use a mix of Grammar and Logic level books. Jackson and I will read a few of the Beginner level books together as well.

We also have some hands-on books about castles and the Middle Ages and animated versions of Ben-Hur and The Odyssey that we will use to enhance our studies.


Geography is a new addition to our home school this year, even though I've had the curriculum for about a year. Using GeoMatters Trail Guide to World Geography, Ethan will do the Secondary level, and Alex will do the Intermediate level, and both will use the student notebooks.

To enhance our geography study, and to include Jackson, I purchased Give Your Child the World. There are so many great books listed in it, and I'm currently matching up different choices from the age groups to the places from each week of our formal curriculum.


Ethan finally seemed to find his groove last year once we switched to Teaching Textbooks. He'll be doing the Algebra 2 course this year.

Alex finished the year with Saxon 7/6 but found it boring. He practically begged to use Teaching Textbooks like his brother, so he'll be using their Pre-Algebra.


Ethan will be doing Kolbe's Introduction to Physics and Chemistry (Physical Science) course, which uses the Prentice Hall Physical Science textbook.

Alex will use the Life Science course from Kolbe, that uses Holt Life Science short courses A,B,C and E.

We will likely do some nature study as a family as well.

Foreign Language

Ethan and Alex will be learning German, using Kolbe's German 1 course. Jackson will learn some simple German words, like colors, numbers, animals, and food. Things that I remember from my high school German classes ;)


Ethan is going to be confirmed in the Spring of 2017, and has chosen his Confirmation Sponsor, and Patron Saint. Our Parish requires that he use the same religious education curriculum that they do, and they would like him to attend the classes as well as the youth group meetings. I don't believe they can require the class/youth group portion though, and I explained that as homeschoolers, we have the chance to do religious education daily, just as a private Catholic school does. The new DRE said that we can do the classwork at home, but she didn't seem extremely pleased about it. The class is on Wednesday from 6-7:15pm, then a quick snack that they provide (that he won't be able to eat due to the Feingold elimination diet we follow), followed by the mandatory youth group meeting from 7:30-9:30pm. I know my kiddo, and there's no way he could handle basically a 3 and a half hour class in the evening, starting right at our dinner time, and ending after his normal bedtime. All of our kids are in bed by 9 or just after, with Ethan usually being the first one choosing to go to bed! He is an early riser, and is usually quite tired by 9pm. In addition to the Parish's required Confirmation Religious Ed text, Ethan will be working through the Didache Series' Introduction to Catholicism, which we may break into a 2 year course. It's a fairly thick textbook, with an in-depth study of Catholicism, and since he's going to be doing double-duty for formal RE this year, I feel it's only fair.

Alex will be using Faith and Life 6: Following Christ this year, following Kolbe's 6th grade religion course.

We are planning to start attending daily Mass on Wednesdays for a couple of months, and transitioning to going on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They will also be reading several books about Saints throughout the year, incorporated into History as well as just extra reading assignments.

Also new for this year, we will be using the free Virtues in Practice from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia - Nashville starting with the Faith year. Ethan and Alex will both be doing the 6-8 grades level, and Jackson will do the Pre-K/Kindergarten level.

Life Skills

Having finally decided that they really need to learn HOW to clean and cook among other independent living skills, I've purchased and printed out both the Complete Girl's Guide to Home Skills and The Boy's Guide to Home Skills: The Young Man's Handybook as well as the lesson plans for each. Some of the skills overlap, and some we may not use at all (building a cabin or hosting a dinner party, for example), plus they are a bit "old-fashioned" in a sense, but we'll use what we feel will be useful. The whole part about one being written for girls, and one for boys doesn't really fit us, hence the reason we will use a combination of both.  They need to know how to keep a clean home, cook, and manage a budget, among other skills to run a household after they move out and I hope that any possible future daughters-in-law will appreciate that I tried to teach them these things.

In regards to managing a budget, Dave Ramsey has a financial literacy program called Foundations in Personal Finance. He's written a curriculum for both high schoolers and middle schoolers, both of which we will use. Ethan will start the high school one this year, and I may have Alex start the middle school one next year, after I get a chance to really read through it. For Jackson, and possibly Alex, I also bought Financial Peace, Jr, which is for ages 3-12.

In an effort to really help them, and make it fun, we also chose to buy the Act Your Wage board game at the same time as the above. Homeschool Buyers Co-op had a fantastic deal on all of them, so it was definitely worth it.

The best laid plans. We'll see how it all plays out. Two 18 week semesters, broken into either 9 week quarters, or 6 week sessions. I really need to write down our weekly lesson plans in my book for at least 6 or 9 weeks and see where that leaves us. I'm starting to, but keep getting distracted!

I hope everyone has a great school year, whether your kids go to public, private, or charter schools, or are homeschooled! They all deserve the very best, and it isn't going to be the exact same for any child.
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