Hill Preparatory Academy for Girls: Curriculum Choices

At Hill Prep we are gearing up for another year of teaching little girls at home. This year Mary Anneliese is going to be in third(ish) grade and Patterson is two. Now that we have finished two years of educating at home, I feel like we will be making a few changes for the coming year.

Patterson is now old enough that she is no longer content to watch movies and color while we “do” school. She wants to be involved. And so I will step up the activities I have her do while we are doing MA’s lessons. Pitter Patter will get her own books from the library, and we will do corresponding art projects. She will be involved in her little music class again (sort of a Kindermusik-type class done at our church), and this year she will start a Mommy and Me gymnastics class. She will still be involved in a missions class at church on Wednesday nights and church on Sunday mornings. The rest of her time will be spent playing, napping, eating, and doing whatever else her two-year-old heart desires. I have tried very hard to keep her engaged in learning without overscheduleing her time.

Now, for Big Sister. We are starting on our third year of home schooling MA, and I have finally begun to relax a little. In the past I have felt the need to prove (by mountains of worksheets and projects which I have stored and can pull out at any moment) that we are indeed learning something. I felt like over-documentation was a necessity. The problem is, no one ever really needed to see all that work. I was just wasting time that we could have spent reading or taking lessons of some sort or writing creative stories. This year I will change things a little.

We will still do plenty of school work. However, I have given my girls much more freedom to choose their extra-curricular activities, and they have chosen many. I’m okay with that. Mary Anneliese is doing a ballet class two days per week. She began gymnastics today, and it is her new favorite thing! She will do soccer in the fall and spring and cheerleading in the winter. We will again do choir and missions class on Wednesday nights at church. It’s definitely going to be a busy year, but I can’t wait for it all to start.

But we will do school work, too! And lots of it. For those of you who are interested in our curricula specifics, here we go…

Math: We have a few lessons to finish in Saxon 3rd Grade, and then we will start Saxon 54. There are differing opinions on Saxon. Some people think it’s too boring because it’s so straight-forward and the worksheets are plain black type on a white page with no illustrations. That happens to be exactly why I love it. It is very teachable and very learnable. Since it is spiral, it repeats concepts throughout the year so that the student doesn’t forget them. The worksheets are indeed plain, but MA gets distracted by too much fluff. If I give her a page with pictures, she will spend fifteen minutes talking about the pictures before she ever starts on the math problems. The to-the-point Saxon pages work well for us.

Bible: Last year we read Genesis-Joshua straight out of the Bible. We used The Message translation so that MA could understand it better. Our daily format was for me to read aloud while she followed along in her Bible. She was free to interrupt at any time and ask questions. I stopped often to make sure she understood the deeper meanings of scripture. At the end of the reading we talked about why the passage was important, how we could apply it, what God was trying to show us, etc. I wouldn’t trade that time with her in the Word for anything. It was one of my favorite, most special things we did. This year we will pick up in Judges and go through maybe Job. We’ll see how far we get. Since MA has not made a profession of her faith in Jesus, we will also use a workbook called Now That I’m A Christian that our church provides. It discusses several elements of the Christian life and why they are important.

History: I’m a big, big fan of Story of the World. We will start Volume Three this year, which will take us from the Renaissance through the early modern times. I use the activity book that goes along with it for discussion questions, maps, extra reading suggestions, narration, and other activities. I make my tests from the review questions. We usually read one chapter each week aloud, then I have MA read it the next day by herself, we do review questions, maps, and narration. On Friday we do our history test. This format works well for us and she has always done well in history. We usually check out DVDs from the library that go along with each week’s lesson, and we look for story books that reinforce what we are learning.

Reading: We are frequent visitors to our library. We go at least once, sometimes twice, weekly. I don’t allow a lot of “fluff” reading, but rather require most chapter books to be classic literature. We often read biographies or historical accounts that go along with our history text. We always have a read-aloud book going. It is a book above MA’s reading level that I read aloud to her. I believe this teaches her how to read and understand texts above her current reading level. It teaches her to understand complex sentence structure. It also teached vocabulary skills.

Spelling: I have considered All About Spelling, and in fact had decided to use it when my friend let me know that she had written a spelling curriculum. I am going to review it to see if it is something from which MA could learn the spelling rules well. I did not really do a very good jobwith spelling last year, so I have a lot of ground to cover with spelling this year.

Grammar: We used Shirley last year, and I really do not like the outcome from it. I feel like we spent a LOT of time with Grammar, but don’t really have a good understanding of the ocncepts. MA can sing the jingles beautifully, but she has a disconnect between what she sings and how to identify parts of a sentence. We are on the lookout for something different this year. Suggestions? We used Jessie Wise’s First Language Lessons in first grade and thought it was too elementary. I need a learnable middle ground in grammar.

Science: We loved Considering God’s Creation last year. It can be used as a two-year curriculum, and since we didn;t finish last year, we will complete it this year. It is a creation-based science book, which gives scripture references for each chapter. LOVE THAT! I found some of the vocabulary to be over MA’s head, but I supplement a LOT with books and DVDs from the library that are more on her level. Science has turned out to be a very fun subject for us, and we enjoy adding in the extra material from the library.

Fine Arts: We will once again be participating in Briarwood Ballet. This year we will be doing two classes weekly. We will be attending several theater productions at the Birmingham Children’s Theater and at the Riley Center in Meridian. I would love to add in piano lessons, but will first make sure our schedule will allow it. We have added a lot more outside activities this year, and I want to be careful not to over-commit. However, I feel like music is one of the most important subjects she can master, so I will definitely look for piano lessons if at all possible.

PE: I am very emphatic about my girls getting an hour of exercise each day. (I wish I was so emphatic about exercising myself!) We will have ballet and gymnastics, which will cover three days. The other two days we will play outside, jump on the trampoline, ride bikes, roller blade, play at the park, or play on the church playground. PE doesn’t have to be structured or tedious. Play can and should be fun at this age.

Home/Social/Service: I require my girls to do chores around the house. I believe that this teaches them responsibility. It teaches them to be grateful for a clean house. It teaches them how to organize, de-clutter, and keep only what is important. I monitor their social activities to be sure they are engaging with other children often enough. I also expect them to be good servants of other people. We look for opportunities through our church and other places that they can minister to the needs of other people. We have cooked food for our friend who has a ministry to the homeless in our city. We have raised money for Sweet Sleep, an organization that provides beds to orphanages. We have visited with elderly people who don’t get many visitors. Without being purposeful about our service to others, we tend to get distracted by busyness. I have to make it a priority or it will not get done. I’m trying to teach my girl that serving others is indeed a priority, and we need to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

** (Edited to add) Memory Work: Memory Work is a big part of our curriculum. We memorize scripture passages and classic works of poetry. I try to make our memory work fit in with the time period we are studying in history, but that doesn’t always work out. We will memorize several Psalms, as well as poetry by Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Christina G. Rosetti, and Robert Louis Stevenson. MA doesn’t love memorizing things, but she does love it when she sees it in a book and she can repeat it from memory. I have written previously on why we memorize and how we memorize, so I won’t repeat all of that in this post.

Educating my children is one of my highest priorities, second only to being a good daughter of the King and a good wife. I take it VERY seriously, but we have a ball doing it! It is something God has definitely directed us to do, so much so that we would be disobedient if we chose any other path right now. We love the fact that we can teach our children at home! We realize and respect that this calling is not for everyone, just as the calling to public or private schooling is not for everyone. We are glad to have the option, and we will continue on until God tells us otherwise. Blessings to you as you begin your school year, in whatever form that may come!

I’m linking up with the Not Back To School Blog Hop at Heart of the Matter and also at Angie Smith’s post Learning on a Quilt at Bring the Rain. If you are visiting from these, you can click on the “schooling” tag at the bottom of this post to view other posts about home schooling. Thanks for visiting!

Not Back to School Blog Hop


  1. Connie Jean says

    Hi! I found you through the HOTM blog hop. I so know how you feel about the over-documentation. I did it as well. This is my fourth year schooling and I'm *finally* feeling relaxed enough to just let it go and enjoy more. As long as my children are learning what needs to be learned and having fun learning things they want to know about… it's all good. Right ? ๐Ÿ™‚

    We love Saxon math as well. The no illustrations were a bit difficult at first but they have done so much better with it than the other choices we've had. In fact, I had to do some back tracking since the other choices were not up to par with Saxon. So my daughter is doing "catch up" before she can head into her current year. Story of the World ROCKS and my kiddos also love the activities that go along with it.

    Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed reading your post.

  2. this will be our first year doing considering God's creation, I was looking for something I could use for 8,6, and 3 year old hoping I'm right on with our choice. have you ever heard of the International Children's Bible? Once my kids are confident readers, we switch to that translation and then they have to learn all their AWANA verses using this translation. It is written on a 3rd grad level. And truth be told when I'm not understanding a verse in NIV, I will look it up in my boys bibles, lol. But shhh that's just between you and me. Have a wonderful school year!!!!

  3. Our Family says

    Hi! I found you through the blog hop too! Sounds like you have a great plan in place! I, too, get anxious about making sure everyone know we are learning (but we are just starting!)… good advice to not put too much pressure on any of us at getting all that extra "busy-work" done.
    (I love the mommy & me gymnastics class idea- sounds fun!)
    Have a great day!

  4. I skipped over here from Angie's blog, and I just love the way you're doing things! I plan to homeschool my children (once they get here), and you've given me some great ideas. Thanks!

  5. Stephanie says

    It looks like you have a rich educational year planned. Enjoy! By the way, I really like Story of the World too. I wish my kids liked it as much as I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Joy Jacobsen says

    Its my homeschool planning day.. my parents are in town and out with the kids. Something told me to visit your blog today, glad I did! love, Joy

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