Math, Language Arts, Science and Social Studies are the four core subjects to cover every school year. Let’s call them the “biggies” as in BIG, as in stuff you have to do. They require careful curriculum selection and your full planning attention as you begin the new season. Then there are the others: fine arts, enrichment, sports, foreign languages and other electives. If you didn’t start these topics along with the “biggies,” it’s not too late. These are topics you will probably do 2-3 times a week, and there is less of a time crunch to finish them. Ironically, these are often the courses the kids look forward to every week! If you are starting these a bit late, here are some of my faves that come in an easy-to-get-going format.
Everyone I have spoken to about foreign language this year knows how much I like Breaking the Barrier> for French and Spanish. It starts both grammar and conversation from the beginning, is appropriate for a 1st year language student, and includes all the pieces you need at an affordable price. Each level is a documentable credit for a high school student, and I think that you could even split Level 3 in half and get two years from it. Middle grades can look at Spanish for Children or French for Children which are also available in convenient bundles. For the little kiddies, I love the Whistlefritz bundles with lesson plans in Spanish and French. All of these are for students just starting a foreign language and do not require parents to be fluent at all.
Art is another area where if you yourself are not artistic, you may not know where to begin with an art program. I am a big fan of ARTistic Pursuits. Lessons are short, manageable and flexible. Students learn art principles like line and composition, how to use various materials and they even learn art history and appreciation. The books are divided into age groups: K-3, 4-5, Middle, and High School. What’s makes this program even better are the ready-to-use supply bundles for every book! This is a time vs. convenience question. It is pretty nice to know you have everything on hand for your children to do a program.
A musically talented parent will have no trouble working in some music appreciation or instruction to their schedule, but if you are like me and can’t play anything beyond Heart & Soul on the piano, there are programs made just for us! Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades can be used with children grades K-6 and covers six composers. There is a student book and a set of music CDs and you can opt to add a coloring book or Lapbook CD-ROM as well. Another for the less-than-musically-talented parent is Bowmar’s Adventure in Music Listening. There are three age levels each with a teacher book (with CD) and a student activity book. These song selections have a mix from classical composers to regional folk music.
Critical thinking can be built in to your curriculum, or you can add it above and beyond with a simple supplemental workbook. There are so many good ones to choose from, but a few of my favorites are Think-A-Minutes for grades 2-8, Perplexors for grades 3-12, and the One-Minute Mysteries for grades 2-12. Use one of these puzzles as a daily warm up over breakfast, or before you start your math lesson. They are fun to talk out and reason, all the while exercising those thinking muscles!
Just because you started the “biggies” a month ago, doesn’t mean you can’t begin some of the electives now. You might even start them at the semester! It’s always a good idea to get into a good routine with the basics, and then work in the extras. If you’re looking for a subject area that I didn’t mention here, or you have a specific need that none of these options will address, don’t forget that you can always call, email or chat and talk with a curriculum consultant about what’s available!