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2nd & 3rd grade curriculum - will this work?

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Kristan asked this on my Facebook wall. I'm answering here because it's an easier format (for me) for longer answers (and because then it'll be available to others with the same question):


I am trying to get my curriculum together for my daughter for 2nd and 3rd grade please let me know if any of these books will work.

-Read and Understand Science, Grades 2-3 by Evan-Moor Educational Publishers

-Getting to the Core of Writing: Essential Lessons for Every Second Grade Student by Richard Gentry

-Core Skills: Spelling, Grade 2 by Steck Vaughn Company

-Steck-Vaughn Core Skills: Language Arts: Student Edition Grade 2 (Core Skills Lang Arts)

- Steck-Vaughn Core Skills: Mathematics: Student Edition Grade 2

-Steck-Vaughn Core Skills: Reading Comprehension: Student Edition Grade 2 Reading Comprehension by Martha K. Resnick

-What your Second Grader Needs to Know (Core Knowledge Series) by E.D. Hirsch Jr

-Core Skills: Social Studies, Grade 2

I am just starting home school, and any help would be appreciated!! Thanks!!!

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Kristan, I'm not familiar with any of these resources except a passing familiarity with the "What your ____ grader needs to know" series. So I can't help you with those specific titles, but I can share with you what I do for my own children in the lower grades.


We tend to use fewer textbooks and workbooks, and more real books (fiction, non-fiction, biographies, historicals, and other literature appropriate for their age level), documentaries, videos, educational television, field trips to the zoo, museums, etc., hands-on projects and experiment kits, etc.


For reading - I used a basic phonics guide (AlphaPhonics - an old edition... not sure if it's still being published or what the current edition looks like, if it is), to get basic phonetic skills and letter blends down, then moved to beginning reader books like the Bob Books, then beginner books (I Can Read books, for example), then to the beginner chapter books, and progress from there. You can get a lot of beginning and early reader books that focus on non-fiction topics (science, history, biographies, etc.), so they play a double role in learning - you can document it as reading and science, or reading and social studies, etc.


For writing - we focus on handwriting skills first, then move to writing sentences, and punctuation. We fold grammar, vocabulary, spelling, etc., into their writing projects (for the most part... will explain more in a minute). For example, if they write a note to me or a letter to grandma, and I notice some words that are misspelled, I'll explain what the proper spelling is so they'll know how to spell it next time. I explain the spelling rules that are specific to that piece of writing (i before e except after c; or whenever there's a "f" sound in the middle of a word, usually it's a "ph" instead of an "f", etc.).


I don't make them rewrite the note or letter... that'll just kill their joy in writing. If I notice a grammar mistake, or a word that's not used correctly, I'll point that out, too, as well as any incorrect or missing punctuation. If there are a lot of errors in one piece of writing, I don't point it all out at the same time, because that will also kill any joy they had in writing... just a few things at a time.


Reading a lot will automatically take care of vocabulary (we don't study that at all). And usually they'll absorb spelling rules and grammar (for the most part) from reading. If your child is an intuitive speller (some of my children are, some aren't) they may not need any extra help spelling at all. If they aren't, you can get a separate spelling program, if the approach I described isn't enough.


For grammar, I've found that a little extra instruction is good. Not absolutely necessary if your children read a lot and absorb grammatical principles that way, but when I taught online Latin classes, I found that students who had grammar instruction had it much easier than those who didn't. For that, I recommend Rod & Staff's English grammar series. You can start that in 2nd grade, but it's not necessary. I usually wait and use the 5th grade text once they're in 5th grade and use it over two or three years. We don't use any other grade level because we've just found that it's not necessary. Once they finish that 5th grade text, they have more grammar knowledge than most high school students (and adults), from my experience. (We skip the writing sections - they're dry and there are better resources out there.)


When they get older, and are ready to focus less on handwriting skills and more on composition skills, I use a variety of resources, none of which are perfect, so I use a little of this and a little of that. (I used to teach writing classes online, too... I'm thinking about teaching both writing and Latin next year because I miss doing that.) Anyway, I'll let others recommend writing resources since I use such a mix and match approach.


For math, we love Miquon for the younger grades, and I stretch it out to grades 4 or 5 if it's what's best for that particular child. My youngest had a hard time with Miquon when she was younger (it's a very conceptually based resource... great for really understanding the why's of math). So we stopped and used Rod & Staff math because it's a very, very simple, basic, repetitive approach. They learn a skill, and practice it to death until they get it, then review it to death, too. And she actually thrived with it (none of my other children would have) because she finally got the basics down and was ready to move to a conceptual understanding. Once that happened, she flew through (still flying through) the Miquon series and is really enjoying it now. After that, we'll work through the Singapore Math series (recommended for grades 3-6 or you can stretch it out through 7th or whenever they're ready to study pre-Algebra). For my youngest, I'll let her work through those books until probably 7th or 8th grade (regardless of the fact that they're listed as going through 6th grade), because my experience has been that after those, students are ready for pre-Algebra.


For science and social studies, we use good children's books (both fiction and non-fiction), Netflix videos and documentaries, science or history shows on the various learning channels (Discovery, Animal Planet, etc.), and streaming that we get free from ETV StreamlineSC (for SC educators and homeschoolers), see http://www.carolinahomeschooler.com/alinks2.html and scroll down to the "Libraries, Lending Programs, and Other Resources" section. We also do a lot of field trips to museums, zoos, etc., as well as educational trips (see my Group Trips section of my website http://www.carolinahomeschooler.com/atravel.html). Children also love hands-on activities, projects, and experiment kits, which fit in great with both science and social studies.


Documenting your progress and keeping a portfolio without using textbooks, workbooks, and ready-made tests is a little different. See the record-keeping and testing section of my FAQs for more info: http://www.carolinahomeschooler.com/afaq7.html


Okay, I've probably overwhelmed you with all of this, and I apologize. The bottom line is that you can use the resources you mentioned above, and if they don't work, don't feel locked in. You can always donate them to another family and try what I mentioned above, or use a different structured curriculum. I hope others who've used the resources you listed jump in to tell you about their experiences, too.


Let me know if you have any questions.




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