Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Homeschool Part II: Curriculum

Welcome back for part II in my series on Homeschool!

My middle two kids 'playing' sequencing from Family Math :0)

In my first post on homeschooling I shared a little about how I got started homeschooling, and some general information about some of the different homeschooling philosophies.  For this post the plan was to highlight some of our curriculum choices, talk a little bit about scheduling, and answer some of the questions I am most frequently asked.  However, the post was getting REALLY LONG, (which explains why it has taken me so long to post, sorry!), so I will break it up a bit more and post them in sequence :0)

As I mentioned in my previous post, it is common among those that homeschool to worry (incessantly, perhaps), about whether or not they have the right curriculum.  I think this is due to the fact that we worry about our children lacking in their academic skills, more specifically, are we teaching our children enough to be competent in college, and more broadly, society?  It is a bit ironic, since the parents that are actually worrying about it are usually doing enough for it to be fine, lol!  Instead of worrying about ‘keeping up with the public school system’, it seems it would be more appropriate to identify your goals in homeschooling.  For example, are you wanting to present advanced academia, alternate materials (creationism vs. the big band theory), or have a specific influence (such as including moral instruction)?  Whatever curriculum you decide on, i.e. purchasing a complete curriculum set, compiling an assortment of styles and brands, or something in between, it is interesting to note that one-on-one tutoring is still the most effective tool for learning (see this golden quote on schooling).  While I love the ideas of Charlotte Mason and classical education, I find myself having a more relaxed approach to homeschooling than I would have expected, since I think of myself as having more of a Type A personality.  I guess I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with organized chaos, ha-ha! 

My major emphasis is on the 4 R’s: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Religion.  In theory we also cover science, social studies / history, government / U.S. Constitution, Spanish (foreign language), art, music, P.E., and “life skills” (which can range anywhere from computer literacy, cooking classes, field trips, cleaning, etc.).  I say in theory because we do not have a formal schedule for these subjects, but rather we cover them more periodically: some weekly, some bi-weekly, some as time permits, and some as the occasion arises.  For the most part I don’t stress out too much about not covering all of these subjects too intensely, since for the most part they are not all covered intensely in public school until at least 4th grade, if at all.  Even so, ideally we would have a routine schedule for these subjects, but for the last few months since we have had the baby we have been a bit more relaxed in these areas.  While I do look forward to a bit more consistency in covering these areas after the holidays, I confess that I am enjoying the flexibility that homeschool offers for now :0)

A few ways you can approach homeschool:

·     Check out your state’s homeschool convention (it can be exciting, but don’t get overwhelmed!!)  There are usually lots of vendors and you get the opportunity to check out the materials first hand, plus there are sometimes promotional offers for those attending the convention.
·     It is good to have a homeschooling mentor.  Find someone ahead of the game from you that you can ask a zillion questions and get reassurance that you are not crazy, and have fun doing things together, even if it is just school stuff with all the kids.
·     Likewise, a partner in crime can also be helpful, as you can be a support for one another.  I have a few moms that are in the trenches just like me that I get together with on occasion just to brain storm, exchange ideas with, and just get some moral support.  We get together for activities, field trips, and to swap ideas.  I also have a few moms who are down the trail so to speak, with kids a couple years older than mine, so I can pick their brains when I am in need of a different type of help and support.
·     While some parents worry about not being a “professional teacher”, it is important to see that you are a teacher – your kids are constantly learning from you!!  Charlotte Mason, as well as Dorothy and Raymond Moore, indicate that the best learning is when the child finds that subject come to life for them (my daughter’s math amazingly improves astronomically when M&M’s are used for the integers!!!).  If there is something you are not as confident in teaching, you can always seek mentors and tutors from different fields to inspire and teach your children.  Enlisting the help of others in a co-op setting or other venue can also be beneficial.  Identifying learning and teaching styles for you and your children can also enhance your teaching abilities.

At the end of the day, it is important that my children are learning what is necessary, but spending time together bonding, making meaningful memories and teaching them what is truly important in this life, about God, family, and character, is my highest goal.    Having said that, here is a summary of what we are currently using the most in our homeschool for our daily academics, as well as the resources for those areas we cover less periodically (weekly, bi-weekly, special occasions, etc). We tentatively schedule curriculum materials so that we can ‘pace our work’, however I allow my children to go through them as quickly as they are ready. 
·    Math: Math-U-See and math games (i.e. Monopoly Jr., Skip Bo, Sum Swamp, Family Math for the pre-schoolers, etc.)
·    Phonics: Explode the Code and phonics games
·    Journal Writing (until the student can write, the student dictates while I write, then they draw a picture to go with it)
·    Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears and A Reason for Writing
·    Five in A Row – Books / reading list that integrates science, social studies, math, art, & language arts activities
·    Reading - mom (or sibling) reads to student
·    Once a week Co-Op or homeschool Group
·    Science: Real Science 4 Kids, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, & Astronomy by Dr. Rebecca Keller.
·    History:  Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer
·    Creating your own Handwriting Worksheets
·    US Constitution: I Love America, by Julianne Skousen Kimber (this is sold through and recommended by Love to Learn, one of my all-time favorite homeschool websites!)
·    Art: Drawing with Children: a creative method for adult beginners too by Mona Brooks
·    Foreign Language: Complete Book of Spanish, Grades 1-3 by American Education Publishers - can be found online from Amazon or Target :0)

Additionally, here are some programs, homeschool resources and ideas I am really excited to learn
more about but have not fully implemented into our homeschool:

·         Better Late than Early by Dorothy Moore and Raymond S. Moore, (the Moore Formula for   
·         A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille
·         Homeschool Series by Charlotte Mason (all 6 books can be found online here)
·         All About Spelling
·         Reading A-Z

Do you have a favorite curriculum or something special you use to cover a particular subject?

In the next edition, Scheduling!!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I love the idea of journal writing with my kids. We are always trying to encourage Simeon's communication skills and I think this could be good for him. We've done "writting letters to grandma" which is really just drawing pictures, but I love the idea of dictating. Thanks for sharing!

    My SIL uses Thomas Jefferson Education to home school her kids and loves it. I've always thought it seemed like a great program.

    I like http://www.preschoolexpress.com/ for preschoolers and toddlers. It has some great ideas for easy everyday activities for those age groups. Simeon's school also uses http://www.starfall.com/ for phonics. Simeon loves the games and it helps him learn the alphabet and practice basic computer skills at the same time :D

    We also bought a book called Musical Improvisation for Children and it is a GREAT book for promoting creativity and introducing young children to playing music.