Grace turned 7 in June, and we are just about to finish second grade. We continue to participate in a cyber school (here’s why we chose that route).
I wanted to quit the cyber school (and its curriculum) partway through last year, but I thought Grace and I should make the decision together. Quitting meant she would have to give up the in-person classes she really enjoys (art, music, and dance), but it would have given us a lot more freedom and flexibility in terms of day to day schoolwork.
Grace was adamant that she did not want to quit, so we stuck with it. Instead of abandoning our primary curriculum, I tweaked it to fit us better. It takes a lot more planning now, but it works much better for Grace’s unique learning style and abilities.
In the end, sticking with it was absolutely the right decision (even though we won’t finish second grade until late September or early October).
The planning and the work are tough. Homeschooling is challenging my discipline and work ethic as much as it challenges Grace. This is hard work we’re doing.
My preferred homeschool method is something between unschooling and Charlotte Mason. I really like the freedom and flexibility of unschooling, as well as the child-centered, interest-driven curriculum. On the other hand (especially as Grace is getting older), I think the Charlotte Mason method has a lot of merit – especially as she emphasized science and nature study, high quality literature, and the arts.
Our Second Grade Homeschool Curriculum
Reading – No formal curriculum. The Calvert curriculum provided by our cyber school includes a reading component, but I do not like it. It suggests reading the same story five days in a row. While I know this is a popular model (practiced in the 5 in a Row series as well as others), I think it beats the love of story right out of the written word. Sometimes we read the stories in the Calvert reader (a lot of them are solid stories by well-known authors), and sometimes we skip the reading section all together.
We read a lot of living books together, and Grace reads a lot of books on her own. Her reading isn’t perfect yet, of course, and she needs some help reading sometimes, but she tries to read independently. Here are our favorite picture books (101 Picture Books to Read or Hear Before You Grow Up) and our favorite chapter books (101 Chapter Books to Read or Hear Before You Grow Up).
Phonics - Again, there is a phonics component in Calvert, but we didn’t use it. We lazily worked through The Logic of English during the first half of second grade. We’ll pick it up again when we start third grade and work from the beginning to the end. Grace doesn’t try to sound out words at all – she has learned 100% sight words despite all my attempts to indoctrinate her in phonics instruction. I’m hoping that a second round of The Logic of English will help with that.
Writing - Calvert has a really good writing and composition component. The assignments are varied and interesting. Plus, we have to turn a lot of them in to the cyber school to get a grade, so we have to do them. I would have Grace do them whether we had to or not, though, because I like them.
One thing to note is that Grace dictates all her writing to me, and I do the actual handwriting. She has dysgraphia (diagnosed during second grade), and she works with an occupational therapist every week.
It’s really important to separate handwriting from composition and writing – especially for kids with disabilities involving handwriting. You don’t want them to think they’re a bad writer just because their handwriting skills lag. There will be plenty of time for her to learn grammar and the mechanics of writing once she’s able to do handwriting better and/or has the fine motor skills to type for herself.
Spelling - No formal curriculum. There is no room in the Charlotte Mason method for spelling lists. There is no room in my curriculum for them, either. The Logic of English uses lists of words, but they aren’t spelling lists. They’re lists of examples for how to use the rules of English; it’s a whole different scenario. Calvert does have a spelling component, but I don’t use it except for the monthly tests we have to turn in.
Handwriting - Handwriting has become scarce in second grade, as kids are expected to already be proficient in this area. We do a little copywork (à la Charlotte Mason) to help with handwriting, spelling, and mechanics, but I mostly leave this to the occupational therapist. She recommended a couple of handwriting apps (iWriteWords and Writing Wizard for printing and for cursive) that have made a big difference in Grace’s proficiency. The key to a good handwriting app, according to the OT, is that the app forces the child to get the letter correct before going on. Some apps automatically skip a letter after a certain number of failed attempts, preventing kids from getting good practice on problem letters.
French - Last summer, I bought Nallenart’s early elementary French program at the suggestion of other Charlotte Mason homeschooling moms on a message board. I HATE IT for a long list of reasons (it’s written for a classroom setting, the lessons are very poorly written, the lessons themselves are lacking, it requires elaborate bulletin boards, and on and on). Seriously, it was the worst $50 I’ve ever spent. I asked for a refund, and the author ignored me. Please, please save your money and skip this curriculum.
Bible - I really love The Bible for All Ages. We started with the Beginner lessons when Grace was in preschool. Now Grace does the Intermediate Lessons and Allie does the Beginner lessons (although she only scribbles on the pages at this point, I think she’s still absorbing some of the information).
Math – Calvert uses a version of Singapore math for its math curriculum. It’s okay. My only complaint is that it uses a spiral method (where subjects are touched on quickly year after year), and my own personal research has shown this to be an inferior teaching method. I would rather teach subjects to mastery before moving on, but we are required to submit certain math tests to the cyber school. We basically do the tests and skip all the lessons (which are too easy for Grace to begin with).
We’re also using The Life of Fred for math, and Grace absolutely adores that. After the first lesson, she complained that it was math disguised as an interesting story, but once she got into the story (in all its silliness), she asked to read it again and again.
Science - Calvert’s science curriculum uses a textbook more than I prefer (and I omit those parts a lot), but the curriculum is pretty rich and offers a variety of different topics. We have especially done a lot of the hands-on activities from the science curriculum. Of course, I (having an undergrad degree in science education) supplement a lot in science. We do all kinds of experiments, lapbooks, studies, and activities in science. We watch You Tube videos and read living books and get out into nature as much as we can.
Social studies - I’m also impressed with Calvert’s social studies curriculum. It touches on a wide variety of different facets of social studies (geography, government, history, etc). It’s a bit flat, but the topics are good.
Grace goes to an American history camp every summer, and I draw those topics into our studies throughout the year. I’ve written about Philadelphia and Washington, DC before; we live close enough to take field trips to both.
Art & music - Our cyber school offers in-person classes on some subjects, including art, music, and dance. Grace loves these classes and also takes an art class at a local art studio.
Physical Education - I intended to use Family Time Fitness but never got around to it.
© 2014, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.