Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Back to School - Our Curriculum

It's back to school time! Well. For the most part. As homeschoolers we really have never stopped. Josiah and I have been doing a lighter and breezier form of school this summer. We are still working on reading and math everyday or nearly every day.

This is actually the first time I've posted anything on my blog about my curriculum choices. Probably because I spend much of my time in angst about them. It has been a rough road. And I have traveled many miles. Sounds like a good ole country song, huh!

When I first started homeschooling (Josiah was in the 1st grade - He is now in 4th) I gathered around me my tried and trued schooling methods. I dusted off a few of my college education projects and got a workbook or two that was colorful and systematic.

But here's the thing. Even when I taught I disliked the workbook. With a passion. Personally, I enjoy working through good workbook. I love tasks that I can systematically check off and have something to show for it in the end. Not that I've learned a great deal. But for most kids it is just busy work. There is nothing that really cements those concepts into their little brains. I also found that parents liked worksheets. At least with a worksheet there is the appearance of learning and progress.

What I did do right in the beginning was to create games and hands-on activities for Josiah. We had a lot of fun. But the older Josiah has gotten the more I've tried to implement things I think need to be in our homeschool...with varying degrees of success.  That's the problem. Because it looks good in somebody else's homeschool doesn't mean it's going to work. I am bringing the games back, baby!

One of the challenges is Josiah is a very unique learner. He is dyslexic and dysgraphic and has all the issues that go along with both.  He struggles learning math facts, but understands the process. He knows when something he has read isn't right, but has struggled with knowing how to fix it. We tried a number of tried and true reading programs. How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 lessons, The Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading, Abeka, Bob Jones. We did Saxon Math, Bob Jones Math, Mammoth Math and Math-U-See.

He is also a busy and active learner. He has almost a photographic memory and is extremely detailed in his thought processes. His vocabulary is out of this world (it always has been).

Also, I've struggled with my own visions of how schooling should look. Even though I feel like I am a very holistic-minded teacher, I was educated formally as a teacher...with all of the boundaries and boxes that go with it. In the back of my mind I still think "this is what 3rd grade needs to look like." Does that make sense? Maybe not. I like the idea of a good number of homeschool philosophies, but it is finding what works for our needs and particular challenges that has been the issue at large.

So I've had a big heart-to-heart with myself and here's my epiphany. Our homeschool doesn't have to look like anybody else's (no-brainer). And...(big moment) I need to chill out. My homeschool resource library is extensive. Not only do I have all my teaching days resources, but I have collected so much since. I am embracing my Eclectic nature with gusto this year and I'm going to focus less on what I think our school should look like.

Here is my plan as I see it right now.

Math
Math-U-See. We are still going to use it. It is a great hands-on curriculum. Daddy has been setting aside time doing practical math every day with Josiah. I think that has not only been a great help to me, but it also reinforces all those concepts we have worked so hard on. The deal is to incorporate math into every day life as well. For a kid like Josiah it helps if he can see it in action and apply it. Otherwise it is just a bunch of numbers.

If you want a curriculum that spirals (which is a more traditional method) I would suggest Saxon or Horizons math.

Reading
Click N Kids. I love, love this program. It is an online program that leads Josiah through the lessons and keeps track of his progress. There is no way we could afford the specialized curriculums that are out there specifically for kids with dyslexia. Another great free online reading program is Starfall. It is not as interactive as Click N Kids...nor does it extend much past kindergarten, but it's still pretty great as a supplement.
As far as a formal reading program I am letting it be for a while. We are seeing Josiah's confidence level rise with the Click N Kids program and for now I am good with that.

I also like Explode the Code. While we have only used it sparingly (workbooks), I like how it gives lots of practice to work with what is being taught. And it's easy to use.

I do need to point out that we read all the time. Books are a big part of our daily life. We read every night before we go to bed and he is required to read in a reader every day. It might be challenging, but we are moving forward.

Spelling
I purchased All About Spelling last year. I still haven't used it yet. Instead I have been using Dianne Craft's methods . I was blessed to listen to one of her talks this past year and it really encouraged me. Look her up here.

Handwriting
I love the idea behind Handwriting Without Tears. But, Somehow along the way I have had to give up the dream of the perfectly formed letter. We are working through cursive right now. I have read that kids with dysgraphia find cursive easier to learn because of the curves. I'll let you know how it works out. We also encourage keyboarding in our house. He manages pretty well.

Grammar
Language Lessons.
I love Susan Wise Bauer. If I could homeschool in my style of choice I would go Classical all the way (with a little Charlotte Mason thrown in for good measure.) Language Lessons are very easy to use and I love using the classic literature.

We did use Writing With Ease for a time (also Susan Wise Bauer). It was a little torturous for Josiah at the time to write so much.  We might pick it back up again, though. He has definitely improved.

Science, History & More
I am getting ready to try Konos. Konos is a character-based unit study curriculum. I have actually had this particular volume of Konos for a year or so. I picked it up at our local used Christian bookstore, but didn't ever actually make up my mind to use it until now. Unit Studies are the best kind of learning for Josiah in my opinion. Not only are they hands-on, but everything connects. And Konos reinforces those very valuable character traits we want to instill into our little man.

I will continue to use lapbooks and notebooks in our studies. And I am not afraid in incorporate bits and pieces of other curriculum and programs I have. I have lots of already prepared unit studies (from the Mailbox and others). It will be nice to put some of those to work.

I also love Story of the World (Susan Wise Brauer) and Apologia Science. But I feel that Unit Studies are a better fit with what I want to accomplish this year.

We have also used Five In A Row with some good results. I am intrigued by Beyond Five In A Row so we shall see.


Foriegn Language
I was blessed beyond measure to win a Rosetta Stone Spanish program last spring at a online homeschool convention. It is pretty awesome. Josiah thinks he can already speak Spanish so we will see. He also things he can speak Russian and German, too (thanks to Indiana Jones)

P.E.
You better believe we have got our P.E. on. Not only are we enrolled in our local Y Homeschool program, but we also attend bi-weekly class at Evangel University here in town. This program uses students to teach a full P.E. curriculum to homeschool students. It is one of the best things we do. Last year not only did they learn about the usual sports (soccer, basketball, etc.) but we went fishing, bowled and danced! Big fun.
Josiah is quite the golfer. If we could swing it we would love to get him some golf lessons...but that is a big if.

Arts & Music
My mom is an art teacher. So this has been an easy one for us. I have also used the Charlotte Mason method of Artist Studies. I like the whole idea of this and might try and implement it again.
Music is another story. You might not believe that I actually taught music in a public school. Which is a whole lot different that teaching music to your only child. My ideas of what I think he should learn and what is viable for us are two different things. I only got to teach music in school for a short time...I was involved in a major head-on collison that about killed me...During my recovery process I gave private music lessons. But enough about that. Josiah has a guitar and we really need to be working with him. What I would really love to do is get him some lessons...but I don't know if he is that interested. So is it my dream or his? That is the question.

A couple of things to keep in mind when working through your curriculum choices is to 1) be prepared to deal with trail and error. 2) Don't be afraid to teach within your child's learning style. This has been a big one for me. My learning style and Josiah's are pretty different. He needs to be able to experience it, feel it, do it. I fought against that for a time because it was 'high-browed' enough.

And the most important thought I could pass a long is to let God guide you in this process. I need to remember that, myself!
Rebekah

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing all of this!! I'm still trying to figure out a lot of this homeschooling stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are going to do an awesome job. Just be sure not to place overwhelming expectations on yourself. Homeschooling is about so much more than education.

    ReplyDelete

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