So here is an overview of those first 12 weeks! The headings correspond with the headings in my Sonlight instructor's guide.
~ Bible ~
Each day has an assigned section from the Bible. We skip both this section and the memorization suggestions. He is reading the The Awesome Book of Bible Facts however. I waffled a bit on using it, but I am glad I did. The book is set up in two page spreads with titles like "The Exodus", "David & Goliath", and "Stories Jesus Told". Now, if you don't want to include any religious books, obviously you should skip this one. But I am a big fan of having the kids get very familiar with the Bible stories, and this book is a neat way to do that. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what is in the book.
In the "Stories Jesus Told" section, there is an explanation of what a parable is and then a parable about a pearl. Following this there is a short blurb about gems, pearls, and the invention of coins. On the next page there is a parable that includes the word leaven and a blurb about what leaven means. There is also a list of coins (shekel, drachma, mite, etc.) and how much they were worth.
In the "Esther" section we are told who Ester was in the Bible and introduced to some of the customs of royalty (like the use of signet rings). There is also a section about makeup and beauty products in biblical times.
This book contains lots of interesting facts and colorful illustrations, all linked with a section of the Bible. I did not find the tone to be preachy.
Our history spine and read-aloud is A Child's History of the World. I believe this is my third time reading through this book and I still find the narrative appealing. Other books that have been heavily used include The Usborne Book of World History, The Explorer's News, and Time Traveler. He enjoys all of them. I have him read these on his own, so he can take his time looking at all of the pictures. Then we discuss.
We are using Sonlight's timeline book for the first time this year and I wish I had gotten it earlier. The book comes with stickers for many of the events and people we read about. Throughout the IG there are timeline symbols to alert you when there is a sticker to go along with a reading. The sticker just needs to be cut out and affixed on the correct page.
We are also using the markable map sold by Sonlight this year. He does most of the map assignments on the map using dry-erase markers. In previous years, I would just have him look up the locations on our wall map, but now he needs and enjoys the challenge of a blank map. Geography Songs is another big hit. We received a CD of songs about different geographical areas, plus a workbook that includes the maps and verses. I started out having him color the maps but he didn't enjoy that, so now he just listens and follows along in the workbook. We skip the assigned "test" sections, mainly because he still struggles with handwriting. Instead, he listens to the song an extra time.
Under this heading we have also been assigned other shorter books here and there-such as Eric the Red and Maps and Globes-which breaks things up nicely and help us dive in a bit deeper.
Each week we work on one main read-aloud and these have all been great so far. We are also assigned several tales from Aesop each week, but he reads those on his own. He also reads Cornstalks: A Bushel of Poems on his own. The major modification we made to this section was to replace Windows on the World with A Life Like Mine.
The readers are easier books assigned for independent reading. James has been using the Grade 4-5 readers with this Core. They alternate between very easy and just right, which is fine by me. He tends to fly quickly through the easier ones and "forgets" to stop reading, which of course is wonderful:). He has enjoyed most of the readers. The ones he did not like were More Stories from Grandma's Attic and Betsy and Tacy. However, I think it was because he felt they were too "girly" more than anything.
We are using Science C this year. The first several weeks rely on The Usborne Book of Knowledge and don't include very many hands-on activities. He enjoyed the reading a lot, but would have liked more hands-on stuff. Sonlight does include some ideas in the IG each week. These have varied from being a bit young for him (he doesn't have much interest in jumping around like a kangaroo) to being pretty big hits (making a cloud in a bottle). This is more reflective of the IG trying to cater to a range of ages than it is a flaw, however. Lately we have been assigned experiments one day a week from a science activities book. We usually watch a few segments of our Discover and Do DVD, then do the related activities. He very much looks forward to these days. We have been doing the worksheet questions too, and I find them helpful in assessing what he has learned. I often have him dictate answers to me when a lot of writing is required.
We are using Language Arts for Grade 4-5 readers. Each week we are assigned several spelling words, which I have him write out on a whiteboard. I make up a silly sentence to go along with each word to make this more interesting. If he gets all the words right, we skip spelling the rest of the week. Usually there are only one or two he needs to work on, so we review just those daily until he knows them. Once a week, usually on Day 1, there is a short activity to do with the spelling words, such as alphabetizing them or dividing them into syllables.
In addition to spelling, there is a writing or "creative expression" assignment each day. The first day is always copy work, which he doesn't care for, but I think it is important so we struggle through. I do frequently let him write a shorter version of a sentence or do just part of the assignment. We often modify the LA writing assignments because he still struggles with the act of handwriting. Sometimes we just do them orally, other times I act as his scribe. We also modify assignments that call for writing he just isn't ready for. One week he was asked to write about someone he admires, but he found that way too overwhelming. I had him write about a favorite video game character instead. The writing assignments are often spread over two days, with the first day serving as a preparation/note taking day, and the second day as the writing day. On Day 5 there is an optional assignment, often creative writing. If it interests him, we do it, if not, we skip it.
I will say, as a former First Language Lessons user, that there is a very different approach to grammar here. There really hasn't been much grammar at all, and there is little review of concepts that are introduced. Prepositions, for example, were introduced in week 8 but we have not discussed them again. However, I feel okay with this approach for now. I don't really think a 3rd grader needs a whole lot of grammar and the laid-back-exploring approach suits us just fine. Sonlight does recommend using a grammar program for 4th grade, so he will get plenty of it then.
We also use the MCP Word Study and Wordly Wise books, scheduled as optional for this Core. I like both of these, though sometimes they can feel a bit too "workbooky". If there is a lot of writing involved, I act as his scribe or we do the assignment orally. I often modify the assignments to cut down on the busywork factor.
We are using How Artists See Feelings right now. I took the time to schedule out the electives in my IG so that I will remember to do them. For Artists, I just divided the number of pages by 36 weeks. Once a week or so we study a painting from the book and read the accompanying narrative, which asks us to look at the painting and discuss certain aspects of it. This is a very enjoyable and quick way to do picture study. We have also been using the Classical Kids CD's. I also wrote these down in the IG, spreading them out over the 36 weeks. He likes to listen to these on a portable CD player with headphones, preferably on his bed, and preferably with the cat!
Well, I think that's everything! I'll be back with an update once we hit week 24!