Saturday, 7 February 2015

Our Curriculum and Plans for 2015 - NBTS Blog Hop

This is the week 2 topic from the Aussie (Not) Back to School Blog Hop.  Thanks to Our Worldwide Classroom and Every Bed of Roses for hosting.

2015 for us = Grade 5.  Our first year going it alone and being registered with HEU (The QLD state Home Education Unit for those not in QLD or Australia).  I've been deciding what to use for Warrior Kid over the last 2 years when with Distance Education but they also had influence, monitoring and often final say if needed.  So this has been great to have complete freedom. 
Our style of homeschooling is a combination of many, so quite eclectic. I use traditional bookwork but have a bit of a Charlotte Mason approach as well.  I use Secular materials where possible but I get my wonderful literature units from a lovely Christian Homeschooler.  When it comes to subjects he loves we are very interest led. We do notebooking and lapbooking as well as use workbooks and textbooks. We use online learning and do unit studies. Each style I read about had elements I liked and things that would work for my child - and things that wouldn't.    

We use workbooks in some areas to appeal to my son's need for planned layouts and to see how much work is expected of him. It reduces his anxiety to know where to write his answers, how much writing is expected (due to the amount of space given), how it's expected to be laid out, examples to copy from when his perfectionism kicks in and he can't get his letters to look the right way (in the case of the Handwriting book) etc. This style works well for things like Spelling and Grammar lessons as well as Mathematics. Too many workbooks however is an overload and he will refuse work altogether so it is definitely a balancing act! 

A themed unit study approach to various subjects works well here also. We tend to do our work in blocks rather than multiple subjects a day/week.  A block for us can be a week, a fortnight or a month.  A theme can run the whole year.  It really depends on his enthusiasm and grasp of the work being learnt.  Each block of work will have a theme or topic. That can be an area of Maths like multiplication or for Science it can be an Inventor.  Topics like Science and History blocks include English work adapted to suit the block. For example a Science Inventor unit will have a report to write, we will use spelling words that correlate to the work being learnt.  So despite having workbooks for many things, they get used as part of themed unit blocks. This keeps my son focused and the more time spent on a topic the better he retains the information.  He needs day after day repetition and proficient recall to be able to build on the topic.  Multiple subjects a day or week simply cut his concentration, heighten his anxiety (he feels pressure to rush to fit things in), reduce his comprehension and confuse him. In the past we have done year long themes for History.  Countries of the World in one year, Australian History in another.  This year there will be two 6 month themes running. One for History and one for Geography. 

Supports put in place to help with his learning disabilities include using scaffolding and partnership writing (see Brave Writer program, blog and podcasts) have been the secrets to our success so far. These involve supporting each step in the process of writing work, whether that be a word, sentence, note point, or a story or report.  We use desk top whiteboards where I will write the answers he gives me so that he can then copy them down.  He cannot give the answer and write it simultaneously.  A longer piece of writing like a book report or story involves him dictating to me while I type in a word document.  It is then printed in large text for him to edit and check spelling.  I then correct as per his edits.  It's printed again and he then copies it with handwriting on paper. It's a long process but due to a combination of learning disorders, his motor planning and executive functioning skills are much lower than a child of his age despite having a very high IQ and knowing the work/answer. I modify work to exclude a lot of drawing and art as this is a huge anxiety trigger. His reading is done in partnership with me.  Not only does he struggle with comprehension when reading himself, but his attention span and interest needs to be held while he overcomes frustration. His comprehension from a verbal delivery is outstanding however.  So reading a chapter of a book means we alternate paragraphs or pages and re-cap at the top of each next page. This keeps his interest, allows great comprehension and retention, while giving him the much needed practice to read.  Huge anxiety over a science experiment meant that he feared the subject.  So his work is structured around learning science theory and content and then watching either a DVD, documentary, science show (like Scope or Backyard Science) or you tube clip to cover the experiment and practical element.  Taking him out of the equation when it came to an experiment allowed him to be more 'involved' as we can watch, pause, discuss, predict etc without the panic of a possible failure or danger.  All these steps mean that work for us takes a lot longer than it would for other students without these limitations.  Lots of breaks are factored in, lots of planing to allocate enough time but not push too much in a day, yet still get through everything in a year.      

As part of our learning we also plan and go on an Educational Adventure trip each year. Just teacher and student aka mother and son.  We've been out to Longreach on the Spirit of the Outback train in 2013.  In 2014 it was a long road trip to Ballarat (Sovereign Hill) and back home to Brisbane learning about Australian History (Bushrangers and the Gold Rush in particular) and much more along the way.  It always fits in with our studies that year and really gives my son a hands on grasp of the subject and cements the work we have done at home. We always find there are so many other things you learn about on each trip.  In Ballarat we planned to pan for gold at Sovereign Hill and instead got snowed on and experienced that for the first time, learning all about environments and geography and climates while we were at it!  We went to The Dish at Parkes and covered Science along the way. I have found the expense and exhaustion so worth it for that real life experience of 'doing' rather than reading.  Having said that, I feel we need to cover the work via reading and school work first for him to connect what he is experiencing. This year, 2015 has a trip to Canberra on our wish list.  To coincide with his Government Studies this year in particular.  

We have weekly Horse Riding therapy at Riding for Disabled again this year. Something that not only gives confidence, therapy, exercise, riding skills and happiness, but that gives a continuity to his routine that he craves. Hoping to add other things like junior league bowling and self defence classes over the year as well. 

Other exciting things booked in for the year include getting to see 'Wicked' at QPAC in March, going to the Abbey Medieval Festival again this year and things like Museum visits, excursions, social events and fun stuff of course! 

Our Curriculum List:

English (Spelling & Handwriting)
English (Grammar)
  • Targeting English Upper Primary Book 1 from Pascal Press
  • Most grammar will have practical application in the Literature Units listed below.
  • Macmillan McGraw Hill English (online print worksheets).
English (Reading, Comprehension, Text Types)
  • Literature Units from Confessions of a Homeschooler based on Classic abridged novels from the Classic Starts series.  We also have DVD's for the books to be able to do comparisons.  The units will be done via notebooking rather than lapbooking (which we have used in the past).
  • Books planned for the year: Treasure Island, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Tom Sawyer, The Three Musketeers, Gullivers Travels and The Wind in the Willows.  We have plenty more in the series and the Literature Units and DVD's to go with them but I am being ambitious with 7 books for the year considering I have a child who is a struggling reader. 
History (Theme for the year = Australian Government and Civics studies)
Geography (Theme for the year = Mapping Skills)
Art / Music / Drama
  • Artists Unit Studies from Confessions of a Homeschooler (blog & store) using more books from Mike Venezia's Artists series
  • Warrior Kid has a huge aversion to art which has been something we've worked on over the years and this year we hope to be able to do a little - but it is something that I won't push on him, it will be a case of following his lead when it eventually happens. 
  • Learning the Recorder for Music
Physical Education
  • Sports - Horse Riding, Occupational Therapy, Hydrotherapy, Bowling & Self Defence classes.
  • Health - We are using the Australian Organic Schools website for their units on Organic gardening. So we are starting those units and combined with Jamie Oliver DVD's, learning about how to grow our food, cook our food etc. 
Of course, once you get into a workbook, curriculum and subject area, you can find it's just not working for you.  So you put it aside and find something else ;)  If you got through this very long post congrats and thank you for reading! 


  1. You will love Canberra, we had a fabulous time. I blogged our trip too if you wanted to see any details of specific places. I'd go back there again tomorrow! :-)

  2. Oh thanks! Will check it out :) When I have more time on my hands I am going to blog a review of our Longreach trip and our Ballarat (Sovereign Hill) trip. I'd go back to those too.

    1. oh very keen to read about Longreach...I'm working my way through our Ballarat trip but over on my other blog

  3. I loved reading about how you handled writing problems. Something we struggle with in our house too.

    1. Thanks :) I hope it helps. The mini desktop whiteboards are our saviour they really are! He is not as reliant on them as he was 3 years ago so I know we are making progress, even if it's slow.