I’m finding this subtle balance in our school days as we are almost at our halfway mark in the school year! I’m finally finding a balance! I want to comply with State laws (PA is a stringent state with their homeschooling laws, in my opinion, they are *too* strict and overbearing, and in their over regulation they limit the parent’s ability to school their child as the child needs. But that is for another post!) I also want to teach Sarah on her level, at her pace, and in a way that reaches her experiential knowledge, instead of just giving her a lot of useless facts to memorize and then forget by the time she turns 16, or 18, or 23. Useless facts can be good for cognitive function, memory development etc. but I want to teach her things she can apply to LIFE!
In trying to strike a balance between curriculum and life, we’ve found that we can hit all “curriculum” areas, and easily log them, if we make sure to emphasize certain concepts.
Formal Curriculum Use:
Each day we do at least two ‘formal’ curriculum activities. We do a formal math activity, which is a written math exercise. I like to do 2 pages for Sarah. She blows right through them, even with the difficult concepts! What a Math centered child she is! We also do a formal Reading/Writing exercise. Which usually includes one of these, a book read aloud, a writing exercise, a journaling activity, a McGuffy’s Primer Lesson, Or a Reading Comprehension exercise. We do mostly the McGuffys, but on some days we stop to do a Reading Comprehension, and often when we do a HUGE science project, we journal about it, and practice 1st grade science related Vocabulary words.
Several days a week we do other formal Curriculum activities. For Science we use “The World God Made” By Edward J. Shewan, and “History for Little Pilgrims” by Christian Liberty Press. These have overarching themes and build on prior knowledge.
Every day we try to do a Bible activity. We use the Bible itself, studying passages that apply to daily life, such as Eph. 6, Matthew 18, and whatever else we deal with daily that we need scriptural exegesis to find principles to live by. If we aren’t having a day where that is the focus, we may review Proverbs (we try to listen to each Proverbs every day, so that by the end of the school year they are at least familiar, if not memorized.) We also supplement with a Catechism Book called “Small Talks on Big Questions” which is a classical catechism approach. On most days we also study AWANA verses.
This is the fun aspect of homeschooling! The unschooling doesn’t mean that they aren’t schooled, but that concepts and ideas are reinforced in everyday life, and not JUST in curriculum activities. It is a philosophy of purposeful living, catching those “teaching moments” in the act, and using them as a moment to encourage thought, skill building, or the forming of good habits. For instance, We don’t just do a formal review of the Bible, it is mentioned, quoted, referred to, spoken of, and lived by in every aspect of daily life. For instance: If somebody is being mean to the cat we discuss what Leviticus has to say about animal cruelty. Or If someone throws trash on the floor, and is asked to “think of others needs higher than self.” so that they learn to be considerate and consider the need to keep our home tidy!
- Math: this is reinforced in things such as cooking, portion sizing, dividing up legos fairly when playing, setting a timer to clean up the toys, figuring out how long it will take to drive to Grandma’s, counting out coins for a grocery store purchase, choosing how many potatoes to bake for dinner (if there are 5 of us, and everyone gets 2 how many should we bake?) Organizing toys for put away, how much can I fit into that bin? etc.
- Reading: This one is my favorite! Reading a headline on a news article, the words in their favorite cartoons “Hey MOM! That says DANGER!EXPLOSIVES!” A funny picture on facebook with a caption, trying to decipher what that sign says, how much those peanuts cost at the grocery store, what does this book say? How do I navigate the menu on the DVD player and/or Netflix? Who is calling us on the phone? The possibilities are endless and change daily. It is just a matter of noting, and making the most of, the use of text in our daily lives. Fluent readers don’t even realize how much we read, until you have an inquisitive 6 year old beside you saying “Mom? What does that say?”
- Science: This one is a whopper! Things such as cleaning out a pumpkin to cook, picking apples, caring for the garden, finding a caterpillar, discussing the pregnant cat’s gestational cycle, why the woodstove makes our house warm, how to prevent a fire, how to start a fire in the stove safely, why ice cubes freeze, melt, what happens when we mix a batch of wet ingredients, add heat, then they are done? Making Christmas presents for relatives, etc etc. Collections in the backyard (Hey Mom! I found 500
rocks!) (Hey Mom! I brought in a WHOLE PILE of leaves!) (Mom! Look! The cat killed this mouse and ate half of it! What is THAT?!) It can be gross, difficult to explain, but terribly fun and adventurous, if you’re willing to stop the gag reflex long enough to explain!
- Social Studies: The
outright lieerm… myth, that homeschoolers are socially inept is just laughable. The opportunities for social development within a homeschooling framework are much more rich and diverse than the day in and out peer dependent framework of a traditional school setting. On a regular basis homeschooled children can participate in church services, group functions (of ALL ages! birth to 100!) donation efforts for Christmas, emergencies, etc. They can, and do, interact with that lady at the store, my co worker and employers (I clean homes on the side, and sometimes they come with me.) cashiers, teachers, our Pastor, their friends on play dates, special events such as plays, gatherings, etc. They know how to interact with new babies, young toddlers, other children their age, older children, teenagers, adults, etc. They talk to the friendly couple at the restaurant, manage the business interaction at the grocery store, post office, gas station etc. They also join me at the bank, when meeting with our tenant, viewing our property, and other business activities. They see, learn, and participate in many different social situations as they grow, and mature into new roles and opportunities.
- History:This is just a regular thing for us. I am SUCH a history buff it isn’t even funny! We sew costumes, attend the Ren Faire on occasion when the wallet allows… Or we watch movies with a historical setting (I am a HUGE Jane Austen Fan!) We discuss the differences in social niceties, items available (Mom! What DO they do without TV?!) food preparation… etc etc. I am also a huge fan of museums, field trips etc. It is HIGHLY likely that we do more field trips than most folks. I just LOVE them! I also have become quite adept at finding free/cheap places to go
- The Arts: This is also something I am vastly interested in. The children are always on the lookout for new ballets available in full online, or on Netflix. The Nutcracker and Swan Lake are the current favorites. They also enjoy local band and orchestra concerts. We make it a point to find out when and where we can attend those. Each time the kids give their own pop quiz on instruments, their sounds, uses, and distinctive qualities. Hopefully, as God provides, we can add into that a bevy of personal music lessons. The dream right now is for a violin. We’ll see! 🙂
- Documentaries:This has a category all of its own! The girls are avid fans of Dirty Jobs, How Its Made, MythBusters, Discovery Channel Documentaries, The Creatures That Defy Evolution series etc etc. They are more likely to request these things than Superman, (1942 cartoons, I’m SO into classics!) Rocky and Bullwinkle, or PopEye. If they want to spend an hour a day watching documentaries on Ancient Egypt rather than Blue’s Clues, I’m totally cool with that!Overall this combination of Curriculum led activities and “unschooling” methods with purposeful teaching has led to some pretty fun “ah HA!” moments, and an education that isn’t just a passive submission to a plethora of facts being stuffed into one’s brain, but an experience that lasts a lifetime, and teaches an application of theory that has more longevity than any test, quiz, or other paper and pen application of education! And, it starts long before any of the children are “of school age.”