Friday, July 12, 2013

School-Year in Review: 5th grade

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Tyler was a 5th grader during the 2012-2013 school year. It was a great year for him and we used a variety of materials. We used some books we already owned, and then during the second semester we used several provided by the TOS Review Crew. He finished all of his work right around the 1st of May (started on Labor Day), and I couldn't be more pleased. This summer he has been doing a few review products for the Crew, but otherwise just enjoying the local library reading program. :) Click any image to view it on Amazon!

Here's my review of the 
books we used this year:

We have always liked the Spectrum Grammar books, and we liked  Spectrum Grammar, Level 5 as well. It is laid out in a manner that is easy to accomplish in a year's time (176 pages). My son does not like to write a lot, but we enjoyed this book without any tears.  The final section of the book covers a painless approach to writing a research paper. I'd buy it again, and in fact, I likely will for Emma this fall. At $8.96, I couldn't beat it. 

Steck-Vaughn Spelling 5 was one I received when a school was closing, and was cleaning out books. It was straight-forward enough focusing on both vocabulary and spelling. The lessons are broken into three parts: a story where the student fills in the missing words of the story using the spelling list, a vocabulary page where they practice dictionary skills, and a page where they analyze the special spelling rules that apply to each word. We liked the spelling structure pages, and the story pages, but he dictionary skills pages were strange and awkward. We ended up skipping them. Overall, I was not impressed with the progress Tyler made in this subject. There was no drilling or testing provided in the book (unlike others we've used), and he didn't retain much. We will be shopping for a new spelling curriculum next year.

I've always loved Saxon Math (with the exception of grades K-3rd), and even used it when I was a homeschooled student. I felt it did a great job getting me ready to take college math, and I didn't have to take a make up class like most of the freshmen there. Saxon Math 65 is about $65, so it's a bit of an investment, but the textbook can be used again and again. You can even find used copies. It is intended for re-use and the answers are to be written in a notebook. We also used the teachers manual and tests. We were able to do one Lesson per day to complete the 140 lessons in our school year. Each lesson has 25 questions, some with the newest concept and some looking back over previous lessons. With this constant state of review, it all stays pretty fresh. The tests are pretty easy to add in as well. Tyler will be using Saxon Math 76 this fall.


For the first part of the year Tyler and Emma shared A'Beka Books Investigating God's World. I've always like the A'Beka Sciences. The chapters are easily read and there are regular question boxes to answer together. The illustrations are colorful and interesting as well. Tyler also briefly used Rod and Staff's science, but it was a 1975 edition, and really wasn't what I was looking for.

Early in the Crew year we were offered Apologia's Zoology 2 to review and I jumped at the chance. We received it in January and really enjoyed it. Here's my summary of that review:

  • It knocks it out of the ballpark when it comes to retaining the information, especially if you invest in using the notebooking journal.
  • It was fun and easy to do the experiments with everyday household supplies.
  • My kids were excited to do it every day. 
  • It covers the subject material completely and deeply.
  • The lesson schedule in the front of the notebooking journal, the planning was done for me.
  • With all that depth, I did not feel it explored the broad range of the sciences in a very clear way, or in a way that identified the different scientific arenas. This is important to me for the upper grades as they prepare for high school. 


Tyler played baseball for PE this year, and it was a blast! We also used the A'Beka health curriculum: Choosing Good Health.  I appreciated the Christian perspective of this book and the price was right too: I borrowed it from our local homeschool library. It covered sensitive topics in a healthy and respectful way, and I strongly encourage you to check this one out.

 photo Geography1-CompleteSet_zps84b09173.pngWe had the pleasure of reviewing Memoria Press' Geography I late in the year. We finished up the Middle East and will cover the rest of the book this fall. 

Geography I: Middle East, North Africa, and Europe Student Text (103 pages), is a student text for daily reading. It begins with a page of teaching guidelines, which recommend covering 2-3 countries per week. This book goes well with the Geography I: Middle East, North Africa, and Europe Student Workbook (90 pages). As they read the one page in the text on each country, they can test their knowledge by filling in the blanks in the workbook.  If you have more than one student, you can share the text and purchase extras of the consumable workbook. I think they are very reasonably priced for this!

 This year both Emma and Tyler shared A'Beka Old World History and Geography. It was a great overview of world history, and while the book we has was a bit dated, it covered the different regions thoroughly and had plenty of review by way of question boxes. It has plenty of maps and even encouraged the kids to memorize many historical works. You can hear them reciting our National Creed here

We supplemented it with the History curriculum we were reviewing with the Crew, including Homeschool in the Woods: Great Empires, a unit study. There are 14 empires covered by the Activity Study, and we chose to work on these seven for the review period:

Russian Empire
Chinese Empire
English Empire
Egyptian Empire
Viking Empire
Roman Empire
and the Greek Empire

For each empire we studied, we had a map with important cities and boundaries marked, a blank map to fill in, a project sheet giving instructions and links, several craft template masters, and a recipe sheet with two recipes unique to that region. We also had a text portion to read aloud while working on the projects.

For the first part of the year, we focused on reading through the Usborne Children's Book of Art, in preparation for our trip to the Denver Art Museum's "Becoming Van Gogh" Exhibit. As a world exclusive exhibit, it was an awesome thing to have an opportunity to see. Given the long lines and the crowds we encountered, I'm amazed we got in at all. I'm so thankful for my friend arranging it! Tyler loved the Van Gogh painting Sunflowers, and even made a sketch of it for me. Considering how much Tyler struggles with artistic pursuits, I was seriously impressed. 

The second semester we used the book from the Crew, ARTistic PursuitsElementary 4-5th grade, Book One: The Elements of Art and Composition by Brenda Ellis. We went though the first four units: Space, Line, Texture, and Value. With each one the kids enjoyed reading the lesson together with me, and working on the specific assignments. This week we took our various sketches and visited my grandma, and the kids told her all about what they had been studying. She, being an avid painter, looked over their work with a careful eye. then she turned to me and asked if I'm going to keep using this curriculum after the review. "I hope you do," she said. I was so excited that she liked what we had done so far. We do plan to keep going with it this fall.

AWANA stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, taken from 2 Timothy 2:15:

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

I want my kids to have a good base knowledge of Bible application in every day life... this is why I LOVE AWANA! Having two kids in the Truth & Training program, one in Sparks, and one in Cubbies... I get to memorize a LOT of Scripture with them.

The best part of the Awana format is that it teaches Biblical truths with Scripture memorization to back it up.  In Cubbies they do it with a story and a simple verse to go along with it. Since this is geared for ages 3-4, it's pretty simple. In Sparks (K-2nd grade) they memorize a verse that backs up a Biblical statement. I want my kids to know what they believe, and the Biblical basis for "WHY?" as well.

Overall it was a great year for Tyler, and his summer has been filled with learning as well. He is now preparing for the 4H fair, where he will show chickens and a few photography projects. Homeschooling is a lifestyle for us, not a time of just bookwork, but of enjoying the adventure of learning together. Next Friday I hope to share Emma's school year review. You may find  it is very similar to Tyler's considering they share several subjects. 



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  1. Looks like you all had a good year. We'll be using Memoria Press for geography next year.

    Thanks for sharing. I love taking a peek into other homeschooling mama blogs.

  2. Looks like a full year! I am loving Memoria Press too!! We are getting the Famous Men Series for my oldest to go through with this for next year. I love seeing what works and what doesn't for other families. I am posting my review Thursday of our year! Stop by and see ours!

  3. I love that you could combine these kiddos for so much! We are continuing with the Memoria Press Geography with my 8th grader--it's just so matter-of-fact and yet interesting. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

    1. If I couldn't combine subjects, I think I'd go crazy. It's the upside to having kids only one year apart, and in pairs like that. lol!


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