Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Homeschool Curriculum

Sometimes I cringe when someone asks, "how's school going?"  Its an innocent enough question, but if you homeschool, you undoubtedly feel the same way I do at times:  on any given day, hek, at any time during the day, the answer to that question varies in the "wince factor" it elicits. 

Well into my second year of schooling Hannah (and Abbo, now, in PK), I've edited my approach several times.  I think what I am comfortable with is an "eclectic" approach - bits and pieces, kind of like a quilt.  OK, so it looks like a crazy quilt sometimes, but its keeping us warm and Hannah seems to be thriving.

Last year for Kindergarten and for this year, I've been using My Father's World for, essentially, the Language Arts/phonics part of the curriculum.  For Kindergarten I used their math most of the way, up until about March, when I purchased Horizons K math.  Horizons was more structured, and I like its workbook format.  I didn't purchase a teacher's edition, because...well, because if I need a teacher's edition for Kindergarten math, then we're all in trouble, right?!  This year she's finishing out the second book of the K series and will start 1st grade math in January.  According to the Virginia Education website, though, if she masters the skills of Horizons K, she'll be on track for 1st grade standards.  I like that Horizons reinforces skills taught so well, in a cyclical approach that keeps skills fresh.

My Father's World has a nice Bible component to it, but I wanted more direct Scripture in our daily lessons.  So we've added a tri-weekly Bible reading, reading from the New Living Translation.  With this, I use a Charlotte Mason approach:  I read the story then ask Hannah to re-tell the story back to me, which reinforces what she's heard and helps to develop her listening skills.  The stories I'm using I found at Penny Gardner's Charlotte Mason website.  What I like about this list is that its more than Noah's Ark and th'Baby Jesus. 

I picked up a preschool series for Abigail, too ~ by Rod and Staff publishers.  This focuses on basics: numbers 1-10, ABC's, coloring in the lines, colors, shapes and matching.  She sits in on our Bible lessons as well and is learning to recite.  She is a champ when it comes to answering questions about the passage we've just read!  There is a Bible story book and a Bible coloring book that corresponds to the stories, but since we're following the list at Penny Gardner's site, I generally only use Rod and Staff's books only when they coincide with the stories we're reading.  

For Science, MFW had a set of science books that came with their first grade curriculum package, and we use them about once a week or so.  We also check books out of the library, do experiments with household tools, look at birds, take field trips, gleaning science from our rich environment. 

History is in a Biblical context for right now, except for Pilgrims and "holiday history."  Mmmm...scratch that.  Hannah is enamored by "Indians" and we try to check out books as much as we can about them, in turn learning about Native American customs, culture and history from their perspective.  We've watched several videos - good and bad (i.e., revisionist history/evolutionary perspective) that have given us plenty to talk about and learn about our country.

Music, art and crafts are much less structured than even that.  Hannah takes care of much of her own craft and art through her own independent "Indian Studies."  Music ~ they're in choir at church and we listen to classical music during impromptu dance recitals they give Andy and me.  If we were more "Charlotte Mason-y," we'd be doing nature notebooks.  I look forward to doing that in the early Spring.  Some things are just too hard to do with a young 3 year old who's war cry is "I wanna do it mineself!"

Even if we're not having a particularly successful day where Language Arts is done sitting quietly and calmly (and still!) at the kitchen table, we always make a point of reading, reading, and reading.  I've searched and complied book lists for elementary ages ~ books that pertain to what we might be doing in our more formal curriculum work and good quality children's poetry or stories.  The library is our friend!  Penny Gardner's site has a nice list of books, as does Ambleside Online.  There are also many free sites where audio books can be downloaded to an MP3 player.  Maybe someday I'll figure out what that is and be able to download to my heart's content.  Until now I'm going to stick with my library cards.

So the next time you see me and ask, "so how's school going?"  All of the above is what will flash through my mind alongside a checklist which may or may not be complete depending on the day/week/hour.  Today, for example, our day was turned upside down with a drive to Clifton Forge to bring Daddyo his cell phone, so we visited Kroger and the library.  Books to be read after lunch and then seatwork in the afternoon/early evening because Daddy is working late.  Crafts after that to finish yesterday's project.  Bible will be at bedtime in lieu of our other story books.  So the whole day is turned inside out. 

(I'm wincing as I write this!!)

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