Review of California History Curriculum: California Out of the Box

Review of California History Curriculum: California Out of the Box

California Out of the Box, an interdisciplinary California history curriculum, uses story as a platform for history study and exploration. There is a big hole for a cohesive California history curriculum, so I am delighted to share with you more about this holistic approach with a strong literature component. If you love Story of the World, then I think this may be a good fit for you.  1726672271

It is a 36-week study with 3-5 lessons/activities each week based on 4th grade California state standards. However, it is designed with 3rd-6th graders in mind. While it was written for homeschoolers, it could be easily adapted for public/private schools. Additionally, I think it would work great for a co-op setting. The curriculum book is also the teacher’s guide.

California Out of the Box is an interdisciplinary curriculum. Your children will make connections as various aspects of learning are woven into the curriculum including:

  • Literature
  • History
  • The arts
  • Life and earth science
  • Social studies
  • Folklore and mythology
  • Geography
  • Poetry and literature
  • Research

I like that there is a strong emphasis on quality literature.  Five historical fictions books are used:

Three other resources used are:

It’s easy to use:

  • Reproducible sheets found at the back of the guide are easy to find and photocopy
  • Teacher’s don’t have to dig for maps; they are in the book.
  • Answer (keys) make grading/discussions easy.
  • Activities are geared for multiple learning styles.
  • Suggestions are made for further study.
  • Picture book list included to engage younger siblings.

It’s engaging:

  • Students will enjoy the links to videos, etc.
  • Visual learners will enjoy looking at images on Google Earth/Images and drawing their answers.
  • Interesting websites are mentioned such as the David Rumsey Map Collection.
  • Historical fiction books contextualize the time period quickly and create memorable learning.
  • Reflection questions encourage older students to draw inferences over time periods and their own lives.

It’s complete:

  • The curriculum covers prehistory through the 1930’s
  • Timeline activities help students place events in historical order.
  • Review activities are interspersed throughout book.
  • Students will explore the land and habitats as they study about the history of that particular area.

Some unique moments:

  • Exploration of the pygmy mammoth skeleton on Santa Rosa Island.
  • After a discussion about migration to California, students will explore requirements to be a US citizen.
  • After studying the San Francisco earthquake, students will explore a unit on geology where they will conduct rock tests.
  • Students will create models of a Gold Rush town or a “Come to California” poster while studying the Gold Rush.
  • Las Posadas and Dia de Los Muertos as cultural traditions are explored; students will learn how piñatas are made.
  • Students will read stories about ways kids have advocated for natural places and explore issues they are passionate about.
  • Habitats such as the coast, chaparral, oak woodlands, Sierra Nevadas, coniferous forests, salt marshes, desert, and grasslands in California are explored (throughout curriculum).

This is a secular curriculum, so you should be able to use charter school funds.

As I am a big fan of homeschooling with lots of great living books, the author sent me a free copy of the curriculum to review. I hope you found this review helpful and enjoy California Out of the Box!!!

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How We Homeschool 4th & 5th Grade

How We Homeschool 4th & 5th Grade

Are you looking for homeschool curriculum ideas for your 9-11- year-old? We are eclectic homeschoolers and try to pull from the best of each homeschool philosophy as well as the best publishers.  Because homeschoolers often don’t fit into just one grade level at any given time, you may consider the curriculum below for your 4th/5th grader and even 6th grader.

Math

We use two math programs because they are completely different offering my daughter alternative ways to look at arithmetic. She does two pages of Math Mammoth and one page of Horizons Math each day.

Math Mammoth, by Dr. Maria Miller, is a mastery-based curriculum that focuses on conceptual understanding, number sense and mental math. While mastery- based is excellent so the students can explore a concept in-depth, I do not feel comfortable without the repetition of a spiral program.You may consider purchasing the color version for just a few dollars more.

Horizons Math is more traditional. I like that is a spiral curriculum so concepts continueB0021KTP2Q to be reinforced.  Each set of exercises are in short chunks, so it does not feel cumbersome like some other more tedious math programs. Additionally, the colorful pages and puzzles make it very visually appealing.

My daughter uses MobyMax as an online math supplement. About 3 times per year, she cycles through XtraMath to ensure she remains fluent in math facts. She sails through it faster and faster each cycle.

Language Arts

We use IEW’s U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons. While enjoying tea together, I sit down  with my 10 and 11-year-old children and do our IEW. You kill four birds with one stone using this program as it covers history, literature, grammar, and writing composition. IEW develops strong writers. I have spoken to multiple homeschool kids who have found writing in college a breeze, and they attribute that to their IEW training. It is scripted making it easy for parents to teach.

NaNoWriMo Junior Writer’s Program provides resources and B008GU1DD4encouragement for young authors to pen their own novels. I taught this class at co-op with the free curriculum during our fall semester. This spring, I am using the IEW Student Resources Notebook to help the writers edit their novels.

My kids love to read and spend a great deal of time engaged in pleasure reading. However, I do have a bookshelf from which they can choose for their 25 minutes of daily required reading. I load up on great books at the library, so they always have many choices. After completion, they email me a summary of what they read. It is only about 4-5 sentences. It also serves as a record of what they are reading. 

Daily Grams are an efficient and painless way to learn grammar. It is short and to the point. There is a corresponding text to which you may want to consider alongside your Daily Grams called Easy Grammar. However, my children do not enjoy it. I feel our time is better spent with me editing their writing as well as using IEW.

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is reading aloud to my children. It is a tremendous bonding activity for our family as we go on so many book adventures together. During snack and meal times, I read from a variety of great books. The morning includes most of our non-ficton.  Later in the day, we shift to novels.  map-pics-002

For spelling, we are using Spelling Workout D. However, my kids also love this well-done spelling website.

History

We are big fans of  living books,  field trips and travel for our history studies. We follow1933339179 the classical method of studying history chronologically. I highly recommend Story of the World audiobooks.  Additionally, I appreciate the many wonderful book lists from Charlotte Mason inspired groups.

Science

We explore science out in the world. We are in a nature group that gets together weekly and learns from experts such as park rangers, naturalists, marine scientists,  and farmers. Additionally, my daughter takes a physics/chemistry class at our co-op, and we all read the material together during the week. Co-ops are great because they can spend the entire class period doing experiments to reinforce what we learned during the week from our reading. My kids also took marine science at a facility on the Pacific Ocean for the fall semester.  Hands-on is best, in my opinion.

 

Extracurricular

We believe music and sports are important aspects of education. My kids race sailboats, and we play basketball together as a family every Saturday morning. They also play woodwinds and piano.  We do other extracurricular activities but believe at least one sport and one instrument are non-negotiable.action kate

I hope you found this post useful if you are homeschooling or considering homeschooling your 4th/5th grader. You can see that you can give your child a quality education spending very little money.

Note: My daughter is actually in 4th grade by her birthday. Due to homeschooling, she has been able to accelerate her learning and use 4th-7th grade curriculum.

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You can sign up to follow The Contemporary Homeschooler via email by clicking on the Follow button. Also, join our community on Facebook.

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How We Homeschool First Grade

How We Homeschool First Grade

Are you looking for curriculum ideas for your 6, 7 or 8-year-old? After homeschooling her two older siblings, I am now homeschooling my youngest with curriculum I think is well-done and a good fit for her. Additionally, it costs less than $100. We are eclectic homeschoolers and try to pull from the best of each homeschool philosophy as well as the best publishers.

  • Writing with Ease Workbook: Level 1 is a favorite of my daughter’s. It provides 1933339268copywork, dictation and narration assignments as well as reading passages from classic children’s literature. I like that it is also entirely scripted so that I do not need to prepare. The publisher states the workbook lessons “are the only materials you’ll need to provide your student with a complete first year of writing instruction. ” Tip: If your child doesn’t remember a detail from the passage you read when you question her, you may gently give her the information and allow her to answer the question back to you in a complete sentence. 
  • Spelling Workout A is a phonics-based program with a variety of activities including riddles and puzzles. I do not buy the teacher’s manual, and she is able to do most of this independently.
  • Reading for Comprehension: Level B is full of short, fun, non-fiction articles and questions to reinforce reading skills. My daughter enjoys this book a lot, and it builds her confidence. She works on this independently. 
  • Math Mammoth by Dr. Maria Miller is a mastery-based curriculum that focuses on conceptual understanding, number sense and mental math.  It is largely self-teaching and requires little involvement from me. I do not find it necessary to purchase a teacher’s manual for this age. I pay a couple dollars more for the more visually-appealing color version instead of just the black-and-white.
  •  Reading–We do not use a reading curriculum or sight words flashcards. Rather, we go the library often and pick out loads of fun books. We snuggle together and she reads to me. Learning to read and enjoy books organically is so beautiful!
  • Science–We explore science out in the world. We are in a nature group that gets together weekly. Additionally, my daughter takes a physics/chemistry class at our co-op as well as marine science at a facility on the Pacific Ocean.  Hands-on is best, in my opinion.1933339179
  • History–We are big fans of  living books,  field trips and travel for our history studies. We follow the classical method of studying history chronologically. I highly recommend Story of the World audiobooks.  Additionally, I appreciate the many wonderful book lists from Charlotte Mason inspired groups. nice kas sarworkmar sarapple hq mom and kidssweeney ridge sdadbehind
  • Literature and Read-Alouds–One of my favorite things about homeschooling is reading aloud to my children. It is a tremendous bonding activity for our family as we go on so many book adventures together. During snack and meal times, I read from a variety of great books. The morning includes most of our non-ficton.  Later in the day, we shift to novels. map-pics-002

I hope you found this post useful if you are homeschooling or considering homeschooling your first or second grader. You can see that you can give your child a quality education spending very little money.

An upcoming blog post will reveal the curriculum used in our home for our 10 and 11-year-old children.

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You can sign up to follow The Contemporary Homeschooler via email by clicking on the Follow button. Also, join our community on Facebook.

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Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!

 

 

How Much Does it Cost to Homeschool?

How Much Does it Cost to Homeschool?

Did you know you can give your kids an exceptional and customized education for less than $400/year?

Homeschooling is the epitome of personalized education tailored to your individual child. You don’t have to be wealthy to provide a cutting-edge education for your kids. Many families of modest means around the country and even the world are part of this exciting movement!

As parents, we know our kids better than anyone and also have the greatest vested interest in seeking out the best curriculum and programs for them. In addition to individualized one-on-one teaching, we are fortunate to live in a time when some of the best teachers in the world are offering content online for free.

Homeschool families also recognize the value of libraries. The famous line from Good Will Hunting is not lost on homeschool families:

“You blew $150k on an education you could have gotten in $1.50 in late fees from the library.” — Good Will Hunting

Here is a typical homeschool curriculum for a 4th/5th grader. The cost is around $250/year and would be about the same for most elementary-aged children. Furthermore, many of the purchases can be used again for siblings. Even if you hire a private tutor or outsource a subject to a group instructor, the cost is still significantly less than paying for private school.

I try to buy used curriculum on Amazon when possible. Additionally, Rainbow Resource usually has the cheapest prices for new items.

Experiential learning is one of the most meaningful and memorable ways to learn. We go on a field trip just about every week as well as engage in extremely hands-on learning activities with our weekly co-op. Homeschoolers should make the most of their homeschooling freedom and deliberately seek out experiential learning opportunities. Spending $250 for the year, you could engage in so many wonderful types of experiential learning and could even do it for a lot less. Nature is free. Many organizations and companies offer free field trips, tours and programs.

A big component of homeschooling is customizing to your child’s passions and interests. Sports, music, technology, and music are a few examples of a program each family can uniquely design for their own children.  You will want to factor those costs into your child’s educational plan.

With some research and effort, you can provide your child a cutting-edge, customized education! The homeschool community is extremely generous in sharing information and support. Join our movement. We want you to succeed and are here to help you!

Would you like to share some tips about homeschooling on a budget? How much do you spend homeschooling your kids?

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You can sign up to follow The Contemporary Homeschooler via email by clicking on the Follow button. Also, join our community on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/TheContemporaryHomeschooler/

Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!

Fun Ways to Teach Writing Without Buying a Curriculum

Fun Ways to Teach Writing Without Buying a Curriculum

There are many so many wonderful ways to teach and foster a love for writing without purchasing curriculum. I have taught writing classes at our homeschool co-op and created writing curriculum. Here are some ideas for your home or co-op: 

Many students feel it is more meaningful to write when they are writing for more than just their parents or teacher. You may consider a blog for your student or a shared, private site with a group of friends like MeWe.

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  • Blogging–Your kids can write their own blog. Each student is an expert on something. This is an excellent outlet for them to write about what they love and share about all their wonderful homeschool experiences.  Here are my son’s and daughter’s blogs. In The School Revolution, Dr. Ron Paul writes:

“If a student develops a blog with hundreds of pages of essays, plus links to videos, he will have a tremendous asset when it comes to looking for a job. How many job applicants have this kind of publicly available evidence of their competence?An employer will know that the student is capable in two crucial areas: written communication and verbal communication…The student will go to the top of the pile of job applicants.”–Dr. Ron Paul

  •  NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program–I am going to teach this at co-op in the fallImage result for image student writing public domain to 4th-8th graders. It can also easily be done at home with just your children. “National Novel Writing Month happens every November! It’s a fun, seat-of-your-pants writing event where the challenge is to draft an entire novel in just 30 days. For one month, you get to lock away your inner editor, let your imagination take over, and just create!”  You are able to print out the teacher’s manual and student workbook for free! We will spend September and October using the curriculum to spark imagination with exercises to help create characters, build settings and hatch plots.
  • Wordsmithery–This is another free writing curriculum you can do with a co-op or at home with your kids. I taught a creative writing class several years ago to 2nd-6th graders and used much of this as the foundation. Image result for image student writing public domain
  • Writing Prompts–Writing prompts are an exciting way to motivate your kids. I have found they are even more eager to jump in when you tell them they only have 5 minutes to write.  Try setting a timer and see how much quicker they jump into the challenge.
    • We are fond of visual writing prompts. When using those, you may consider giving your kids 60 seconds to formulate a story in their head before the writing begins. I also suggest they write down 5 key words during their 60-second planning process.
    • Scholastic offers First Writing Prompts, a free online tool with over 200 days of starters. They correspond to the school year with prompts that reflect the holidays and seasons.
  • Reading Response Journals–After my kids complete their daily reading assignments, they write a paragraph about what they just read. It can be done in a notebook. However, my kids prefer to do it in Google Docs. They simply send me an electronic invitation, and I am able to view and comment. Every few days, I sit down with them to review what they wrote and help them to find any grammar errors in their writing. Over an extended period of time, this Google Docs file will showcase a vast array of books they have read. 1482532743
  • Books–I have found these books to be masterful with inspiring and fun writing activities: Games for Writing and Write Outside the Lines.
  • Here are some more fun ideas to get your child writing:
    • Movie reviews
    • Restuarant reviews
    • Field trips and vacation recaps
    • Wikipedia entries
    • Books reviews
    • Product reviews of their favorite toys/games
    • Create FAQs about something she is passionate about

I hope you feel inspired to create a writing program for your children that makes them love writing! Also, please share in the comments below some of your favorite ways to teach writing to your kids without purchasing a writing curriculum.

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Join my Facebook page to receive every update and post from The Contemporary Homeschooler. I post many articles and thoughts to the Facebook page that are not on my blog.

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Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Reasons We Homeschool Year-Round

Six Reasons We Homeschool Year-Round

Let me just start with the fact that I don’t enjoy hot, crowded places or wasting time.  As a homeschooler, I am free to schedule our year in a way that is most desirable for our family without any concern for adhering to the traditional, nine-month school year.

Look at the beach images below. I have a strong preference for the experience on the left over the one on the right.  How about you?

 

 

 

All right, let’s move onto the reasons year-round schooling is a great way to make the most of your freedom and flexibility as a homeschooler.  Here are the top six reasons it works for our family.

  1. Experiential Learning–Instead of tying ourselves to workbooks and a curriculum every day, we like to be out in the world exploring. Knowing we have plenty of days throughout the year to complete our school work, it takes a lot of pressure off of me.  So many wonderful opportunities are open to homeschoolers from September through May that I don’t want to miss.
  2. Summer Slide–The “summer slide, which occurs when kids fall behind in reading and math over the summer, is well-documented” according to U.S. News and World Report.  Forbes asserts performance falls by approximately a month and is cumulative over successive summers. Additionally,  with respect to public school, they point out “reteaching forgotten material when students return to school after the summer costs more than $1,500 per student each year, or more than $18,000 over the course of a K-12 career.”  I don’t like to waste time or money.  By keeping skills fresh throughout the summer, we actually have more time for things we love to do. We don’t have to do buckets of work over the summer to retain skills. Just a little bit of academic work steadily spread throughout the summer can make a big difference.
  3. Summer HeatI don’t enjoy being out in the blazing heat. Rather, I have a strong preference for the more moderate temperatures when most kids are back in school. In fact, on days that are real scorchers, I’d much rather be inside our air-conditioned home doing academics.  I’m grateful I don’t have to cram in all our fun during the 3 months of summer.
    heitsler park with grands
    We take off when Grandma and Granddad come to visit from Louisiana!

     

  4. Crowds–As homeschoolers know, our favorite places are packed during the summer. It is quite a nuisance to many of us. Instead of fighting the parking and throngs of people, I prefer to make progress on our school work during the summer months so we can go back and enjoy those places when the crowds die down.
  5. Structure–My kids do great with a couple hours of structure in the morning.  I hear so many families talk about their kids fighting with one another or complaining they are bored.  This is something we have never really experienced much as a family. I think the combination of structured and unstructured time is helpful.
  6. Vacations--We often take our family vacations in early September. The masses are back in school and work. This means fewer crowds and much cheaper prices. I don’t need to stress out about taking off a week or two from academics since we were diligent over the summer. 

While we don’t do a full load over the summer, we continue to plow through on and off June through August. Sometimes we take off a full day to go have fun. Additionally, we’ll nix school for a week or two for camps, vacations, visitors, etc.

For the days we do school, math is non-negotiable. My kids love to read, so I don’t need to assign that. We alternate between other subjects like grammar, spelling, and writing. A natural and enjoyable part of our lives is the reading, discussing, and experiencing of science and history together. This is a year-round pleasure and does not feel like school work.

It takes discipline to school during the summer.

It takes discipline to school during the summer. Knowing that so many people are off relaxing and playing all day makes it tempting to slack to off.  However, I know well the reasons we make this choice. We push through, and it pays off.

Do you school year-round? How does it look in your family?

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You can sign up to follow The Contemporary Homeschooler via email by clicking on the Follow button. Also, join our community on Facebook.

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If You are New to Homeschooling or Thinking About It….

If You are New to Homeschooling or Thinking About It….

For those of you thinking about or new to homeschooling, I know it can be overwhelming. With a huge smorgasbord of curriculum and activities to choose from and all the information about homeschool philosophies, there is so much to consider. This is a good problem to have.  In this post, I’m going to let you in on some things that I wish I had known when I started homeschooling .

person thinking 2Many of you are spending countless hours researching different homeschooling philosophies and think you have to settle on one. I want to tell you to relax. You will probably start with one and then morph into something else. While there are some purists to a single philosophy such as Classical and Charlotte Mason, I know very few. Most people pick and choose what works best for them. For instance, I like many aspects of Charlotte Mason but not all. One example is that my kids hated copywork. So, we let that go a long time ago.  In fact, we are a hodge-podge of many different philosophies from the homeschooling world.  There are things we like and don’t like from each one. That is okay. You don’t have to follow a philosophy 100%.  Additionally, I mix it up further by adding in ideas from business and technology leaders.

Also, I know many of us have researched curriculum for hours and hours –particularly math curriculum. I wanted to let you know there is a good possibility you are going to change your math curriculum after a few months or a couple of years. Just pick something that seems like a good fit and get started. You are not locked into it. If your child absolutely hates it and is crying all the time, then it is time to change it up. You can either pick a new math program or simply let them do every other problem if it is super repetitive.

You have probably heard it said that you do not need to recreate public school at home. It takes many families 1-2 years to figure this out. Because so many of us were raised in a conventional classroom, it is surprising when we see how quickly are kids are able to complete their work.  You may look at public school state standards and think you aren’t doing enough. I can assure you that many of those standards are taught at a very surface level.  Another important point is you have the benefit and flexibility to make the world your classroom. Learning is not contained within the walls of a classroom. In my opinion, the most memorable and joyful learning takes place exploring out in the world.

Questions, Demand, Doubts, PsychologyHomeschooling is a joyful and sometimes challenging journey. The beauty is you are at the steering wheel. You are the entrepreneur in charge of your family’s upbringing and education. During this journey, you can be agile and change to what best suits your family. You are not locked into any philosophy or curriculum. You do not require the approval of a teacher, principal or school bureaucracy to adapt to the needs of your family. Please make the most of your homeschooling freedom by changing things up as needed.

I’m glad to have you here on my blog. I also have a Facebook page where I frequently share articles and ideas to help you on your journey. Please join us and feel free to chime in with your questions and thoughts.

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Join my Facebook page to receive every update and post from The Contemporary Homeschooler. I post many articles and thoughts to the Facebook page that are not on my blog.

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