When our family first began our “official” homeschooling journey (meaning we began a curriculum plan) we had a kindergartner, a 3 year old and a newborn.
In those days, we tried to emulate “school at home”. I set up a little school desk and even invited friends over for an “open house” so they could see the school room I had arranged and all the plans I had for the year. I wanted to make sure they knew I wasn’t just planning on keeping the kids out of school so they could bring me cold drinks while I watched Jerry Springer and smoked cigarettes all day.
Our oldest child was the only one who we felt needed an actual curriculum and we settled on The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. We liked the rigorous education outlined for grades K-12 in one book and we were drawn to the amount of materials we could check out of the public library instead of spending a big chunk of change on purchased materials.
As we added more students to our homeschool, though, it became more and more difficult to keep up with the multiple schedules and levels. At one point we had three different students studying three different periods of history at the same time.
Of course, we also had a toddler and a newnewborn, so the whole “school at home” thing was also becoming more difficult. Things were rarely quiet enough to emulate a classroom setting, and our schedule was constantly being interrupted to bake bread for new neighbors, take a meal to a new mom, or iron shirts for a recent widower.
Slowly, we were becoming more of a “life is school” type of homeschool instead of a “school at home”. I liked the freedom it gave us and the life lessons my children were learning.
This is not to say that we play all day at baking cookies and never put pencil to paper. We do, however, feel more freedom than we did in the beginning to let real life happen and use those opportunities for education. For example, during the last presidential election, we felt like it was important to halt any individual history studies going on at that time and focus on the United States Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights.
Here is a general breakdown of subjects. (Keep in mind that the younger children have a much looser schedule than the older ones.)
- For Bible, we read aloud and discuss and also do memory work. We use this ABC Memory Book for the little ones.
- Instead of using a list of spelling words that some committee in a far away place decided children in fourth (or seventh, or ninth) grade should memorize, we correct words that are misspelled in journal writings.
- We use Spelling Wisdom, which has pieces of great literature for the students to copy. After they feel that they have mastered all the words in the piece, I dictate it to them and they try to write it correctly. The piece may be a quote from Abraham Lincoln or portion of Tom Sawyer. If the child gets some words wrong, he or she practices copying the entire piece for a day or two until I give another dictation test.
- We still use the literature lists from The Well Trained Mind, and I do quite a bit of reading aloud. I then have the children take turns narrating back to me what I have just read. The younger ones do this orally and the older ones do it in writing.
- For math, we have used Math-U-See, Abeka, and Saxon. Right now, I am liking Saxon best, mainly because the older grades have CD’s available with a teacher explaining, say, the principles of Algebra 1. This takes the pressure off of me to remember everything I ever learned in 9th grade Algebra.
- For history and science, I am following the recommendations from The Well Trained Mind for the 2nd and 4th grader, except I have them on the same books. For the 7th and 9th graders’ science, I have them doing Apologia science, which I am really liking.
- My 9th grader is trying out the Sonlight history, science and literature curriculum this year, since my husband wanted her to have a more structured curriculum during her high school years. I really do like the Sonlight program, except for the part where it costs an arm and a leg. I was able to purchase some of the materials used, so it was manageable.
Basically, we are a mixed bag when it comes to curriculum. We don’t feel bound to any certain company, nor do we feel compelled to complete a list of tasks or assignments that someone we don’t know decided children should complete. We try to keep our schedule flexible and still work our way through the books we have.
Remember, your homeschool must fit your family. If my loosey goosey, mixed bag approach makes you break out into a cold sweat, then by all means don’t follow my lead. Look around. Check out what others recommend and go with what fits your family.
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