Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Why We Will Be Switching Curriculum Next Year

Let me just say, this has been a great school year for us thus far. Making the decisions to wait another year for Big Brother to jump into "official" 4th grade, to change to a more relaxed year-round schedule, and to use a fun, history-based unit study curriculum have all worked out well this year. I would not change anything about this 2016-2017 school year.

But changes are coming next year!

I think most of us by about mid-March (if not sooner) start taking an honest look at where we are and pondering on our plans for the next school year. And one of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that you can customize your children's education and make necessary changes as you go. I love having the freedom to do that!

We are still somewhat in the pondering stage at the moment, but I think I have a pretty decent idea of where we are headed.

And to be honest, I never thought we would go this route!

Next year we will be switching several subjects to...

Drumroll please...

Accelerated Christian Education (ACE)

I used a lot of ACE growing up, my husband graduated from an ACE Christian school, and I used to work as a part-time monitor in an ACE school when Big Brother was in Pre-K/Kindergarten. He even went through all the 1st level Science and Social Studies PACEs for extra reading practice that year in the school's K-1st Learning Center while I was working.

I still never really imagined us using ACE in our own homeschool.

But in about an hour, Big Brother is going to be taking the ACE Diagnostic Test to find out exactly where he should start in their curriculum.

Right now, I am thinking we will be switching him to ACE for at least Math, English, and Literature/Writing; and we may also plan on using their Science and Social Studies in addition to reading ABeka's textbooks and adding in some unit study fun

So what brings about this switch? Several things really.


Big Brother will very soon be 9 years old. Like it or not, he's becoming a "big kid" now. (OK, if you know him, you know he's already a "big kid!" He's about the size of an average 12 year old and he is so strong, too!)

So as a boy coming up on his pre-teen years (did I really just admit that?!), we feel he is ready to start learning to be more independent and take more control of his learning. With its simple goal setting system, ACE is good for fostering some independence.

Another reason he needs to be a bit more independent is for me to have a little more time to do some other things during the day. Little Brother needs more interaction from me than what he is currently getting, and our house needs a bit more of my attention as well (ahem).

While I had hoped Little Brother would just join in with what we were doing in our unit studies this year, that just hasn't happened as much as I had envisioned. He will soon be turning 3 (where did my baby go?!), and he is ready for more learning time of his own.


As you may recall from other posts, Big Brother has some struggles with focus, attention, and auditory processing. We have never sought any formal diagnosis, but his struggles are pretty obvious.

In the past we have had great success using written instructions and a workbox system to help Big Brother get through his academic work each day. ACE is perfectly suited for this kind of system. He will know exactly what he needs to do each day, and he will even be involved in making those decisions.

And when we have those days (oh we have some days, folks!) when I am either not feeling well, or Little Brother is being himself, or I just really need to get other things done: his ACE PACEs will give him a predictable, familiar structure he can be reasonably expected to follow on his own.


I know I have talked a lot about how much we love mastery-based learning. We have used Rod & Staff math for the past 3 years and loved it's mastery approach. Rod & Staff is a WONDERFUL curriculum, and I still highly recommend it; but ACE also teaches for mastery, so we will not be changing methods.

We are simply switching to ACE Math because it can be completed a bit more independently than the Rod & Staff we are currently using. Rod & Staff uses a textbook that problems must be copied from by hand. This has become rather difficult for a boy who struggles with the physical process of copying problems correctly from one book to another. So I have been writing out all his problems in a notebook for him each day. ACE will eliminate this time-consuming step so he can simply focus on working the math problems (which he is amazingly good at doing!).

The entire ACE system, not just their math, is based on teaching for mastery. Students work on one concept until it is mastered, and they do not progress to more complex concepts until the simpler ones have been grasped. This is a natural, and even Biblical, approach to learning.

My plan is to allow him to spend an hour each morning reading, practicing music, exercising, and enjoying hands-on learning together before he completes his independent work each day. Then if we still have time after his goals are completed, we will continue with more interest-led learning. He will NOT be sitting at a desk staring at a wall all day, as some have imagined the ACE system being used.

And I can hardly wait to share with you my plans for learning over the summer! Stay tuned for that post soon!

How many times have you switched curriculum or methods in your homeschool? Or have you always used the same? Talk to me in the comments!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Where Have We Been?

I apologize it has been a while since I have posted any updates. Little Brother recently developed metabolic acidosis and dehydration after contracting a virus, and that put him in the hospital for a few days. Thankfully, he is much better now, and things are starting to get back to some resemblance of "normal."

I have started doing some freelance writing from home, started up a home business, and begun taking violin lessons; so "busy" is understatement right now. But I really miss posting here, so I am hoping to get back to sharing on this blog at least weekly. I hope you will keep joining me here!

We finished up our Middle Ages & Botany unit study last week. Big Brother has really discovered an interest in herb gardening. In fact, he just recently won a champion ribbon for demonstrating how to plant an indoor herb garden for our county 4H demonstration competition.

Our local library offered to give us a special tour of an engineering exhibit they are currently hosting, so we took advantage of that. The boys had fun building everything from gliders to robots to catapults.

Big Brother is still very involved in the local 4H program here. He's recently done everything from taking first aid & CPR certification training to making clay masks as part of 4H. He is hoping to get to attend 4H Cloverbuds Camp this summer, too.

He is looking forward to attending Kentucky's One Day Teen Pact Leadership Class in April. (He had earned enough 4H Bucks to pay for his class tuition.) My younger brother and I participated in Teen Pact when we were young, and it was a great experience! Check out their website for details. Participants learn about state government in a very hands-on, Christ-centered way. I am so excited for Big Brother to have this opportunity!

Today we begin Unit 5 of A World of Adventure: Renaissance & Reformation/Astronomy! We kicked off the study this morning with the boys watching a short cartoon video about the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. I am hoping to take field trips to an art museum and the Creation Museum planetarium during this unit.

We are still enjoying working through A World of Adventure for Bible, Social Studies, Science, Literature, and Language Arts this year. We are continuing through Rod & Staff's 3rd grade math, and Big Brother is still going to my mother's home twice per week for spelling tutoring using the Barton Reading & Spelling System.

It is hard to believe March is already here, and we will be finishing this school year in just a couple more months! Time flies when you're having fun (actually it flies whether you have fun or not...but we might as well have fun along the way!)

Thanks for joining us on this journey, and please stay tuned for more adventure and inspiration... homeschool style!