by Janny Jackson
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My third grader is my oldest, and the guinea pig of our homeschool journey. It’s true.
Not only have I learned so much about him in the past three years of us homeschooling, but he has watched me grow and evolve on this journey as well.
He is a laid back, go with the flow, never met a stranger, fun loving kid. He is a social butterfly and a hands-on learner.
If you read about our homeschool origin story you would know that I wrestled a lot mentally with making sure I was doing enough for him. For some reason I assumed I would be able to jump into homeschool, educate him well, and cater to those amazing personality traits that I love about him, all at the same time.
Three years later, I’m thrilled to be able to say that I think we have found a happy medium. I can confidently say that I am educating him well, and as he continues to socialize in various environments, those personality traits we all love about him have continued to blossom.
As I have mentioned before, I did a lot of research before this school year. We were doing okay before. He was learning, just not at the level I knew he needed to be at, or rather, the level I knew he could be challenged at.
First, let me start with curriculums that we used in the 2021-2022 school year (we did use an extensive list of curriculums) and decided not to use again :
This curriculum is excellent for reading comprehension and dictation, however what was lacking for me was a more in depth understanding of a particular writing, verses only the snippets of books, poems etc. that are in this curriculum. Although we did finish level 1, I felt that it was surface level busy work, and my son did not enjoy it either.
The Good and the Beautiful math and language arts.
Disclaimer: My experience with TGTB is with the older, discontinued version of the curriculum. I do not have any experience with the newer, updated version.
If you are new to homeschooling, USE THIS CURRICULUM!!! I have absolutely adored using TGTB in our homeschool. It was an excellent curriculum for a beginner like me, it is very visually appealing and interactive, and is open and go. Leaving this curriculum this year hurt a little, to be honest, because I have truly cherished using it, up until my son’s second grade year.
Math: It wasn’t until his second grade year that I realized how wordy it is. The math lesson portion teaches in a story format that would often take up 2-3 pages with a lot of wording and just a few examples. Each lesson had one worksheet, and one review sheet. Because it is a spiral program it does not go into much depth on each subject, because of the vastness of information it presents. I did not see how these qualities were problematic for my son until his second grade year, and I realized two things:
1. I was spending more time teaching the lesson than he was practicing it, and
2. that there were lessons I would almost completely skip over entirely and be able to explain what he had to do by just reviewing the worksheet with him. It wasn’t enough for him, and I had to come to the realization that no matter how much I liked the curriculum, it wasn’t his learning style and it was time to move on.
Language arts: I really like TGTB language arts curriculums as well. They do a WONDERFUL job at teaching the basics , and I think the way that it teaches those fundamentals has greatly impacted my kid’s education. The cons to this program, in my opinion, were that it covers so much material so quickly that there was not enough time spent on perfecting the skills taught, and I would have preferred there be more writing involved. We have only gotten to the second grade level so I am unsure as to whether or not these things change as the levels increase. At this time, with my son, I needed to take a step back and focus on honing in on the skills he has already been taught before presenting more information to him. I am not opposed to returning to this curriculum in the future.
One last con, and this one is big to me, was the lack of diversity in the lesson books and readers. My kids are brown, and that was not represented in any of the stories they read. Not only that, but the style in which the characters of the stories were designed seemed to glorify a 1950’s way of life and dress. It is not at all the way our world looks today and really made me despise exposing my kids to these portrayals. Remember, I have only used the old, discontinued version of this curriculum. From what I have heard this is specific to the older version and the newer version is more inclusive and well rounded.
SO, now that I’ve shared what we won’t be using again, drumroll please, now presenting our 2022-2023 third grade curriculum choices:
I chose to have my son do a writing copy-work workbook this year for the sole purpose of improving his handwriting. To get him to slow down and really focus on each letter as he writes it. This book also has a lot of fun animal facts and coloring pages, so I knew it would be a good motivator for him.
I did this last year with my son for the first time and we both absolutely love these workbooks, so we are doing it again this year. It pairs spelling words in groups according to spelling rules and sounds, it isn’t randomly curated lists. Each week (every 5 days) is a new list and each day is a new activity or way in which you can practice using those spelling words, including analogies (my son’s favorite), fill in the blanks, alphabetical order, and writing complete sentences (my son’s least favorite, ha!)
Another returning workbook we also did last year. This is more busywork, so he only does it 3 days a week. It’s focus is reading comprehension.
We switched from TGTB to Math Mammoth this year and I don’t think we will ever switch again! Well, at least until we can no longer use it anymore, it only goes up to a certain grade level. It is everything I needed for my son. No stories, no extra unnecessary wording, no fluff. You have 2-4 pages of JUST math problems for each lesson. A small example box, and LOTS of practice. NO TEACHER GUIDE! At this time we are 3 weeks into our school year and I’m already so impressed with the amount of work he has done in such a short time.
A big thing I wanted to start enforcing this year was more independent work, and with this curriculum my son can go over the lesson and work by himself, to an extent of course. I am always available, but I wanted to give him the opportunity to take some of his learning into his own hands to start teaching him responsibility and discipline with his school work.
And did I mention how affordable it is? It is everything we needed in every way.
One of the main things I KNEW I wanted to do more of this year was READ. I wanted to read more with my kids and I wanted them reading everyday. I found that Memoria Press has individual literature studies and I knew this was exactly what I wanted for my son. It’s reading, reading comprehension, vocabulary, copy-work, and more all in one. I am very impressed with how this study has already challenged my son and exposed him to a wider variety of vocabulary in such a short time. We do this study two times a week.
I tried an all-inclusive science curriculum last school year that we were not a fan of and did not finish. I knew this year I wanted to do unit study based science lessons, and I wanted their science to be interest-led, so I created a list of topics and let my two learners each choose a topic. My third grader chose Marine Biology. I already had the curriculum (yay, free downloads) so it worked out perfectly that this was our first science unit for the year. The experiments are fun and easy, and, again, it is very visually appealing.
This is a brand new curriculum for us this year. I had never heard of Shurley English until a couple months ago, and once I looked into it I couldn’t see anything else. I was really impressed with the jingles used to help memorize concepts, and the amount of information it teaches. It’s a little intimidating, but once you get started and have fully prepared for it, it is completely doable. I am so excited for what my son will learn using this curriculum this year.
Beautiful Feet Books US Geography Through Literature K-3
Like I said previously, I knew this year I wanted to include LOTS of books, and what better way to learn about geography than through books? This curriculum also comes with a large blank map of the united states that the kids will fill in as we go. We have not started this curriculum yet, as I am still waiting on materials that were backordered, but I am very excited about it.
Blossom and Root: A River of Voices, History
This was a subject I did a lot of research on. I wanted a curriculum that told the REAL American history, not the whitewashed version that can be represented in many that are out there. That was my priority in choosing a history curriculum, and I believe I found just that. The creators of this curriculum made sure to consult the professionals of each field in their research as it was written, and the realness and diversity that is represented throughout is evident.
It has three levels for different aged learners, minimal required spines, suggested parent reading, video links, book basket suggestions, and provides an education that I can be proud to teach and discuss with my children.
My son is like me in the sense that he loves a good schedule and checklist. I knew this year, as I introduce some independence to his learning, that a personal planner would be perfect for him. I found a free printable planner online that is in checklist form and it has been working beautifully for him so that he knows the order of our day and can check off what he has done.
Personalized Individual Reading Book List and Book Reports
I LOVE BOOKS!! It’s an obsession. I created a list of chapter books personalized to my son’s interest, based on first-hand reviews, for his 30 minute individual timed reading everyday. He is already on his second book of the school year and so far he is loving his picks. I also decided I would have him fill out a “book report” sheet after he finishes each book that way he can tell me, in different ways, things about the books, and I can know about what he was reading, and that he comprehended what he read. And how neat is this bookmark timer? My son loves it. It’s fun and practical. At the rate at which he is reading his books, I anticipate having to add more books to his list, and I’m not mad about that ; )
The 180 Days of Spelling Workbook has a new list of spelling words each week. Each day I write down three of those words in a journal and he has to find the definitions of those words in this dictionary. I feel like learning how to use a dictionary is an important skill to have, just like cursive, another subject we will cover this year. Not only does it help him with alphabetical order, but it is copy work and vocabulary.
What I love most about this year’s picks is, not only that I know they are specifically catered to my son’s level and learning style, but that he is being challenged where he needs to be, and that he is enjoying it.
Another important thing I wanted to do this year for our homeschool was add in subjects that my kids can do together. They have their individual curriculums at their own grade level, but incorporating family learning was a must for me, which is where science, history, and read alouds come in.
Last thing I want to mention, when it comes to socialization, I do not believe that it is necessary for my kids to be signed up for any sport or group to receive socialization. They get plenty of that with their siblings, family, and the neighbor kids. I am also not the mom to be out and about with my kids. I am most comfortable in my home, and I want my kiddos to be content just staying. That being said, we did sign our third grader up for fall ball (baseball). He gets to do it with a neighbor kid and he truly enjoys it, so as long as it doesn’t become a financial burden or he becomes uninterested, he will continue to do that.
Thanks for being here! I look forward to updating you on how our year is going using these curriculums as we progress in the school year.