With school, that is - we've nearly finished everything I wanted to accomplish for the 2011-12 school year. This year was essentially PreK-4 for Sophie and kindergarten for David, though I think we're actually a little ahead, particularly in math.
Last year, I really only did "school" with David, as it was his PreK-4 year and my experiment to see if I could handle homeschooling. I attended a seminar on homeschooling preschool, and instead of purchasing a packaged curriculum, I bought Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to use for phonics and Math-U-See's Primer books to use for math. We also did a minimal amount of handwriting using worksheets I printed off the internet.
I loved both the math and reading that I did with David, so this year I repeated them with Sophie. To save a little money, I pulled the pages out of the MUS workbook and put them in sheet protectors; David did the problems using a dry-erase marker, which I then erased, so Sophie was able to use the same workbook. I also realized that a four-year-old has not quite mastered the fine motor skills needed for successful handwriting, so I didn't do much of that with Sophie this year (though she can write her name).
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is fantastic. I love that it is scripted, so you know exactly what to say to encourage the child as they learn - which is not to say I never got frustrated with the kids while using this system; we certainly had challenging days, but overall it was a great experience, and I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a reading curriculum that is very easy to implement.
Sophie finished Lesson 100 last week, and yesterday she read P. D. Eastman's Are You My Mother? to me with minimal help. Not bad for a child who's not even old enough for kindergarten yet!
Math-U-See is fantastic. I was worried at first that it was a little too simplistic, but then I realized it was just that I had no idea what an early mathematics curriculum should look like! I do think I've gotten both kids a little ahead of grade level, though that wasn't my intention. It seems that most people do Primer in kindergarten and Alpha in first grade, but I did Primer in PK-4 with both kids and Alpha in kindergarten this year with David with no problems. Just to test his knowledge, I gave him the Saxon placement test and with his scored he could start Saxon Math 2 next year if I was inclined to switch curriculum - which I'm not, as we both just love the MUS manipulatives! The only thing Saxon covers that MUS hasn't so far is money (values of coins, etc.), and we'll get to that eventually. I may even work on it with them both a little bit over the summer.
We just completed Lesson 29 (David in Alpha and Sophie in Primer), so by next week we'll be done with all our math - though I'm sure we'll do some worksheets or flash cards over the summer just to keep it fresh in David's mind!
The only problem with using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is that I didn't know where to go from there. My sister-in-law recommended The Writing Road to Reading, and I bought all the materials that Spalding offers hoping to implement that in kindergarten; but though the system made sense to me overall, I could not for the life of me determine how to implement it on a daily basis at a K level. After a few frustrating weeks, I ditched it (thank you, homeschoolclassifieds.com!) and went searching for something else. I ended up buying McRuffy Press' Phonics and Reading package, and that's what I used with David this year.
I have mixed feelings about the McRuffy materials. The handwriting book was excellent, and gave David plenty of opportunities to learn and practice each of his letters - though I do wish it had included a section on numbers, as I had to supplement with sheets printed off the web to teach that. The phonics/reading program was a little too basic for his skill level, and we ended up skipping through many of the early lessons. He enjoyed the readers, even though some were so simple that they didn't challenge him at all, but I was a little frustrated that some of them had errors (a few spelling errors, and even more binding errors) - but nothing was impossible to fix. It's a very reasonably priced program, and I did get another workbook so I can use it with Sophie for kindergarten next year, but overall it's not everything I'm looking for in a language arts program.
And of course we use Classical Conversations materials for history, geography, science, Latin, English Grammar, and more math. Those are the best materials of all, and I look forward to getting my new timeline cards next week so I can see how different they are from the Veritas cards!
Tomorrow I'll talk about what I've got planned for the summer, and next week after we've wrapped up our official school year I'll tell you what we're going to be doing in the fall!