Thursday, August 4, 2011

I frequently have people ask me "how" I homeschool. Sometimes they mean, "I can't imagine how hard it must be, HOW do you do it?" But often, they want to really know HOW. How do I decide what to teach? Where do I get curriculum? How much does it cost? And some who may be a little more homeschool savvy may ask "What's your homeschooling style?"

Honestly, if you want to know my heart, I think I might be a closet "unschooler". I truly do believe that we all learn best when we are interested in what we are learning. I love the idea of my kids exploring subjects and ideas of their own choosing, and learning about them out of a thirst for knowledge, rather than just completing an assignment. I would rather them press to learn more because they want to know more, as opposed to suffering through just getting done with whatever I've told them they need to know. But, alas, I stand in fear and trepidation of ending up with children who, when left to their own devices, will end up knowing nothing more than how to build an alternate Lego universe, or the intricate details of the battle habits of a killer squid, or how many fingers the characters on Phineas and Ferb have (anyone?). So, year after year I research curriculum. I ask friends what they are using. I try to figure out what will interest my children the most and keep them enjoying learning. And I buy what appeals to me. Now, I can't promise that we will finish what is intended to be a half year of math in an entire school year. But, by golly, it's here in the house if we decide we want to use it. And we do, when there's nothing better to do. ;)

So, in our sixth year of homeschooling, here are a few of the vehicles of our academic pursuits....

We begin each day with chores. When they are completed we meet in the family room for Bible lesson, scripture memory, and prayer. After that, on designated days of the week (and when the mood is right), our school day begins!

Each school age child has their own "school bin". All of their workbooks, reading books, CDs, and writing paper is in these bins. Each child has a different color. They can stay in the school room with their bin, or they can pick it up and carry it wherever they want to settle in to work. And for anyone who might be curious, Ethan's is gray, Julia's is green, Asa's is blue, and Astrid's is pink.
For language, we use Primary and Intermediate Language Lessons by Emma Serl. These were recommended by the box curriculum we used last year (My Father's World) and though we are going back to a more eclectic approach this year, we loved these books so much that we are sticking with them. They were written in the early 1900's so they have a sweet vintage charm to them. The old fashioned language is simple yet rich. Throughout these books you will find life lessons, creative writing opportunities, exploration of the intricacies of grammar, picture studies, and vocabulary lessons. Of all the language curriculums I have used in home education, this is by far my favorite series!
This will be my 6th year with the Explode the Code series. Just last year we discovered Beyond the Code and added it to our study. It's a wonderful spelling curriculum. Each of my kids have really loved working through the Explode the Code books to learn phonics and rules of spelling. The artwork is by children, and the lessons build on each other. Each lesson follows the same format beginning with introduction to a group of words then slowly and effectively leading to the final page of the lesson where the kids must spell the words themselves. Beyond the Code is a supplement to Explode the Code and it focuses more on the rules of spelling, reading comprehension, and building sentences. There is even an Explode the Code series for pre-readers that Astrid will be working on some this year. We just got some new books in the mail today and Asa actually cheered when he saw his new Explode the Code book!
Ethan has completed the Explode the Code series and now uses Building Spelling Skills by Christian Liberty Press. This is last year's book but we got his fifth grade book in the mail today and he was excited to look through it. There are great lessons in these books teaching spelling and vocabulary. It's also written with the Christian family in mind and often includes Bible verses and encourages kids in their faith.
For the first time this year, Ethan will be using Notgrass America the Beautiful for his independent study of American history. This curriculum was introduced to us by another homeschooling family. They are starting it for the first time this year too, but after hearing the mom talk about it and looking through her copy, I decided to try it out. It seems to be a very comprehensive curriculum with opportunities at the end of each textbook lesson for kids to go further in their study through Bible lessons, Timelines, Map Study, related literature, and creative writing assignments. We won't do each of these after every lesson. But I like the opportunity to choose from a variety of activities. Asa and Julia will be using the Christian Liberty Press History for Little Pilgrims. We read through this history book together year before last, but this time they will be reading it independently.
We have been all over the map with math curriculums. We have tried Horizons, Math U See, Saxon, Singapore, and Time for Learning. This year, after hearing several people sing the praises of Teaching Textbooks, we decided to jump right into math on the computer! Ethan began his Math 5 a few weeks ago and is loving it. Asa and Julia started Math 3 just this week and have also been enjoying it. In comparison to other math curriculums we have used, I would say that Teaching Textbooks is a little more basic. However, I see this as a positive thing because it's giving my kids more confidence in their math abilities and helping them establish a stronger math foundation before moving ahead. Each Teaching Textbooks lesson consists of a lecture, practice problems, and graded problems, and the program keeps a gradebook for parents so you can see how your child is doing and go back and review the things they may be having trouble with.
Just like her siblings who have gone before her, Astrid hopes to learn to read this year with the help of BOB books. These are simple books, with simple drawings, but the kids love them. They are a great introduction to the world of reading and the kids feel such a sense of accomplishment because they books are quite short and they can finish a whole book even in the very early stages of learning to read. We have Set 1, 2, and 3 of the BOB books. After completing Set 3 I find that my kids are good enough readers to then move on to real storybooks and "readers".
For science this year we will be doing Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. This is a Christian and creation based science curriculum and is just one in a series of amazing books. They are full of wonderful information, experiments, activities, and projects. I can't wait to really dig into this science and enjoy learning with my kids.
Reading plays a huge part in our home education! The kids are required to read 2 chapters a day of whatever book we have chosen as their school reader. They can range from biographies, to missionary stories, to historical fiction, to classic literature, and everything in between! Usually, they each have a recreational reading book going just for fun at the same time as their school reader. They also each have one book in the Christian Liberty Nature Reader series that they read a small section from each day.

There are so many wonderful resources available to homeschooling families nowadays. These are just a few that I have found that get me excited and keep my kids engaged. We take our time in getting through each book and enjoy fun times, breaks, and relaxing days of child directed learning (also known as play) along the way!

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