I’m happy to share our curriculum picks for 2015-16 with you today! This year, in addition to homeschooling my five-year-old and seven-year-old, I will also be teaching my nieces, who are 8 and 10!
I’ll start with my kiddos. They are 21 months apart but are basically on the same level. For them I will be using:
Math- Harcourt Grade 1 Math. I found this at a thrift store for $3.99! We used Harcourt kindergarten last year and they enjoyed it.
Reading- The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and Explode the Code. My son is a kinesthetic learner so he does great with Explode the Code!
Handwriting- Draw. Write. Now. My kids LOOOOVE to draw, so I thought they’d enjoy this program.
For my nieces we will be using:
Math- Christian Light. The straightforward, no-frills approach was appealing to me.
Grammar and Writing- BJU English. I like that the chapters alternate between grammar and writing, and build upon each other.
Spelling- BJU. I looked at a bajillion spelling programs and this one impressed me most.
Reading- Christian Light
The subjects that I will be teaching to all of the kids together are:
Bible- Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool (New Testament). I wanted something simple, and Lee over at allinonehomeschool.com offers a daily reading with some discussion questions. I also like that her Bible teaching philosophy is similar to mine, which is to read the Bible with the students, help them to see the big picture, and teach them to study the Word to develop their own understanding of topics that are often debated among Christians.
Science- Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology. I don’t necessarily agree with Apologia’s young earth stance, but this particular course doesn’t include any references to the age of the earth/universe. It looks like an awesome curriculum!
Geography- Galloping the Globe and some other mapping/atlas books. This is my favorite subject so I’m looking forward to it!
The only other item I need to find is a good beginning cursive workbook. Anyone have any suggestions? I’m looking for one that includes a lot of practice.
We begin school September 1st. We were supposed to start this month, but my family caught a stomach virus. I'll let you know how the curriculum is working out for us. I know it will be a challenge- especially with a cute, cuddly, curious six-month-old who’s almost crawling! But I know it will be fun too! I love learning along with my kids!
Our curriculum for next year (next year is just a month away!) has arrived and I'm super excited to share that with you. I plan to take lots of pictures of our daily lessons and activities! But before I share my curriculum picks for next year, I want to review what we used this past year.
My kids were four and six this year so we stuck with the two most important subjects at that age: phonics and math. With bookcases full of quality books and videos in our home, I know they are learning plenty about science and social studies, so I didn't purchase any sort of curriculum for those subjects. For phonics, I have been using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading as my guide.
This book is as simple as reading instruction gets. It contains 231 scripted daily lessons that take about 10-15 minutes each day. I don't actually follow the script, and I don't do any of the recommended activities either. I simply use it as a reference guide, so that I know which types of words to introduce next, and so I don't forget to teach any irregular spellings. I also have to change many of the practice sentences because they are weird and make little sense. Take this story, for example:
The van ran in the mist.
It got stuck fast in the mud.
The van had rust on the fan.
A dent is in the tan van.
The van cost a lot.
Fix the van.
It will not just sit in the mud.
Some of the practice sentences are like tongue twisters: "Brent did not drop and drag his big drum on the fast drill up the hill." My kids read these sentences and then look up at me like, Did I read that right? Because I have no idea what I just said. So I write my own sentences on the Magna Doodle for them to read. They like that much better.
There are a few other resources I use in addition to The Ordinary Parent's Guide. One of them is Christian Liberty Press's Adventures in Phonics. I love this book, and it can actually be used as a complete phonics curriculum. For only about $10 I really can't understand why more people don't use this. It's a solid, sequential program. I just prefer the phonetic sequence in The Ordinary Parent's Guide, so I pick and choose worksheets from Adventures in Phonics that correspond to the lesson we are working on in The Ordinary Parent's Guide. One thing I love about Adventures in Phonics is all of the handwriting practice. It has really helped my kids to develop neat handwriting. I also purchased the Christian Liberty Press readers. These are nice little stories that my kids are able to read on their own. And they make sense. :-)
We also use Explode the Code workbooks and Explode the Code Online for extra practice. If you're going to buy Explode the Code Online, buy it through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op because it's almost 50% cheaper than buying it directly from the publisher. What I like about Explode the Code Online is that it tailors assignments to the student, making adjustments to move ahead or review a lesson. I also give credit to Explode the Code Online for helping my kids dissect the different sounds in words, through activities like this one:
For math, I found a couple of kindergarten Harcourt workbooks at a thrift store for just $4 each! They are decent, but most of our math lessons don't come from a workbook. We use an abacus and hundred chart to practice counting and number sense, a clock for telling time, flashcards for number identification, and I have them go to the bank (the coin jar) and get money to buy their food from my restaurant (the kitchen). Oh how I love teaching math at this age...I'm sure I won't be saying that ten years from now!
Well, the 2014-15 school year is over. It's been a good year. I've seen a lot of progress and learned so much about my kids' learning styles. I can't wait to tell you guys about our plans for next year!
How did your homeschool year go? What worked and what didn't?
Happy mother’s day mamas! And it’s an extra special day for me because it’s also my birthday! This makes a great day for sharing a birth story, don’t you think? My third little bunch of sweetness was born almost three months ago now. Her birth story is a bit different from the other two’s (which I haven’t actually shared on this blog, but will definitely have to do soon).
For starters, she was born during a snowstorm. My other two were born in the summer, which I much prefer! And she was also my first that was not completely natural. To give you a little background info: my previous two labors and deliveries were AWESOME. All natural, no medication, 12 hours start to finish, just a few pushes, and bam. Baby. My second was almost born on the way to the hospital even! It was wonderful to be able to labor at home and have no intervention once I got to the hospital. I expected this time around to be the same but that was not the case, unfortunately. This labor was different from the very beginning. First, my water broke before any contractions began, which I hadn’t experienced before. I felt a big pop and had no idea what it was, until a few minutes later amniotic fluid was all over the floor. About 30 minutes later I had a contraction and I was thrilled! The contractions were getting stronger and closer together too. But after a few hours of contractions that were 5 minutes apart, they became less frequent and less intense. This was heartbreaking. My midwife recommended I try walking a lot to bring on contractions. After hours of walking, climbing stairs, and even doing squats, that didn’t work. In fact, the only time I would ever get a contraction was when I was lying down, although they were still irregular. I decided to check in to the hospital and have my midwife check my cervix. I had only dilated 3 cm after 16 hours. This was heartbreaking too. I was used to coming to the hospital and being 8-10 cm. After I had been in labor for about 18 hours (I don’t know that I would call it labor though, since my contractions were so few and so mild), the hospital staff told me that at 24 hours post water braking, they would need to administer antibiotics. I was not about to let that happen. This baby would have to come out NOW. I had spent my entire pregnancy making sure I was taking probiotics every day so that the birth canal would be full of beneficial bacteria for my baby. I was not about to just wipe them out with antibiotics right before my baby was to be born. So I decided to get started on Pitocin, hoping it would help get this baby out before 24 hours came around. Of course, this was devastating to me, and I cried. I mean, Pitocin is a crunchy mama’s worst enemy, right? Not only did I not want drugs in my or my baby’s body, but I was also afraid that the Pitocin would make the contractions so bad that I would be begging for an epidural. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. My midwife told me that my body was already doing a lot of the work, so I would probably only need the smallest dosage of Pitocin to help my body finish the work. She was right. After about two hours on 2 units (an extremely small dose) I was at 6 cm. Then I told her she could turn the Pitocin up to 4 units. After just a few minutes on 4 units of Pitocin I was at 10 cm and ready to push. I went from 6 cm to 10 in just a few minutes! And just a few pushes later I was able to look at my beautiful baby's big bright eyes.
All in all, it wasn’t that bad. Sure, I would have preferred to go the completely natural route again, but it was nice only having regular contractions for just a couple of hours. And while the contractions on Pitocin were intense, they weren't much more intense than what I had experienced toward the end of my labors without Pitocin. I never felt the need to ask for an epidural either. So, to all you crunchy mamas out there, I’d like to say that if you’re ever in the same situation as me, where your labor is just not progressing, please know that using Pitocin doesn’t have to mean it’s the end of the world. And if you can’t do anything about it, you can’t do anything about it, right? So just try to relax. Once I decided that I was going to try Pitocin, I prayed and accepted that whatever the outcome was, everything would be okay, even if that meant I would have an epidural or a c-section. It would be fine. I’m also thankful to God for my experience because every new experience teaches me something I didn't know before and makes me a more understanding and compassionate person.
Well mamas, what about you? Did your labor and delivery go as planned? I'd love to hear from you in the comments area below!
I’m always thinking worst-case scenario. It’s probably not healthy, but that’s what I do. I like the feeling of preparedness. So with the birth of my third baby approaching, I've been asking myself, What would I do if for some reason I couldn't breastfeed? Now, I've never had a problem with breastfeeding before, but I did have to wean my daughter earlier than I wanted to in preparation for a radiation treatment for thyroid cancer that would have put radiation into my milk. I ended up not doing the treatment though, but had already weaned her. So you just never know. Luckily, she was 14 months old so I didn't have to switch her to any type of formula. We just gave her goat milk, along with her solid foods and vitamins.
Some moms who are unable to breastfeed opt to use donor breast milk from a milk bank. I wouldn't recommend this because there’s no way to know about the diet of the mother, or what medications she could be taking, or what toxins she may be exposed to. Also, the milk is usually pasteurized, which means that many of the nutrients are destroyed.
So I've looked at different recipes for homemade infant formula and I've found quite a few. Of course you could drive yourself crazy trying to find the perfect substitute for breast milk because nothing compares to the milk of a healthy mom. But if I needed a formula to use full-time I would purchase this formula-making kit from Radiant Life Company. The recipe comes from the book Nourishing Traditions, which is largely based off of the nutritional advice of Dr. Weston A. Price. The kit is expensive up front, but in the long run, it ends up costing about the same as (or even less than) commercial organic baby formulas. Plus you need to buy your own raw cow’s milk for the milk base, liquid whey, and cream. Check out realmilk.com for information about how to obtain raw cow’s milk near you. The reason I like this formula is because of the high-quality, real-food ingredients. Nothing is synthetic. Here’s a quick overview of the ingredients in this kit and what nutrients they provide:
Bifidobacterium Infantis- This is a probiotic that promotes proper digestion and absorption and encourages the production of antibodies.
Acerola Powder- This is one of nature’s highest sources of vitamin C.
Lactose- This is an essential addition to cow’s milk, since mama’s milk is higher in lactose than cow’s milk. It’s especially important for proper nervous system development.
Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, and Cod Liver Oil- These are oils that, when used together, mimic the fatty-acids in mama’s milk.
Nutritional Yeast- This provides important vitamins and minerals.
Gelatin- This improves the digestibility of the formula and lactose.
Now, if I just needed to use formula for a short while (like if I had to take medicine and was required to pump and dump for a few days) I would go with a commercial baby formula. But it would definitely have to be organic, to avoid GMOs, and traces of pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and other contaminants. There are five organic formulas that I know of, which I've listed below, providing a little comparison.
Parent’s Choice Organic Infant Formula. This is Walmart’s brand. It’s a good option if you’re looking for something inexpensive, but still organic. However, the oil that is used in this formula is palm oil. Research has shown that infants do not properly absorb palm oil, which means that overall fat absorption is lower in infants who consume formula containing palm oil (source). Researchers also believe that the unabsorbed palm oil in the gut may react negatively with calcium, since babies who are fed formulas containing palm oil also have lower bone mass (source). I also don't like that the carbohydrate sources are glucose syrup solids and maltodextrin. I think I would prefer just lactose, since that is the carbohydrate found in mama's milk.
Nature's One Baby's Only Organic Formula. Nature's One is the only organic infant formula company that is family-owned. I like that. And if you take a look at their website you can see that they are dedicated to nutritional research and providing a high-quality product. This is the only company that states that they offer a non-hexane method of extracting their DHA/ARA (fatty acids). Other formula companies derive their DHA/ARA from laboratory-grown algae and fungus using hexane, which is a neurotoxic chemical (source). Nature's One derives their DHA/ARA from egg phospholipids without the use of chemicals. And they are also the only company to offer the option of a formula without DHA/ARA. This formula also does not contain palm oil. At first I didn't like that rice syrup is the carbohydrate source. That was concerning to me because there have been reports of high arsenic levels in rice. However, they do state on their website that their rice syrup is purified, tested, and consistently tests undetectable for arsenic. It's nice that they take that extra step.
Earth's Best Organic Infant Formula. What I like about this formula is that one of the carbohydrate sources is lactose. However, they seem to be moving away from lactose, since in the past it was their only carbohydrate source. Now they also include glucose syrup solids. This formula also contains palm oil.
Similac Advance Organic Infant Formula. Similac does not specialize in organic formula, but they do offer an organic option. Similac is manufactured by Abbot, the same producers of popular nutritionals like Glucerna and other products for people with diabetes. Interestingly, the carbohydrate sources used in this infant formula are some of the worst - maltodextrin and sucrose (plain old sugar). This means that it's really sweet, and possibly addictive. In 2009 the European Union banned the use of sucrose in infant formula due to rising rates of childhood obesity and concerns about overfeeding (source). One would think that a company who manufactures diabetic products would be more careful about carbohydrates in their infant formulas, right? One thing I do like about this formula is that it does not contain palm oil.
Vermont Organics Infant Formula. This formula contains palm oil, and the carbohydrate sources are glucose syrup solids and maltodextrin. Nothing about this formula really stands out to me as being any better than the others. A little interesting fact about this company is that it is owned by Perrigo, which is one of the world's leading manufacturer of pharmaceuticals.
So, if I had to choose a commercial baby formula, Nature's One Baby's Only Organic would be my choice. I would also add infant probiotics and probably also a digestive lactase enzyme to help with the digestion of lactose. And if I were using formula full-time, for a long period of time, I would make my own, following the recipe mentioned above.
How about you? Have you ever given your baby formula? If so, which one did you decide to use? Did you like it?