Homeschooling appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about homeschooling is that it is FLEXIBLE! I love that one day we can do back to back doctor appointments, and another we can stay home and learn there. My children’s learning doesn’t suffer from this, in fact, it often benefits! They have the benefits of multiple social situations and master teachers. (Who better to teach my children about the structure of the eye than our Optometrist?) But they also have the benefit of relaxed days, and a comfortable classroom. I want my children to think that although we must be diligent in completing our tasks, we can be creative in completing them too! Who says I have to wash the dishes grimfaced and snarling? I can sing and dance instead! Who says we have to do school uncomfortable and forced? We can have fun and explore instead!
One of the first places to start in this, something I am still tweaking as we go, is the area of curriculum! Some parents thrive on routine and predictability, and if that is the case, I would recommend a boxed curriculum with a teacher’s manual and lesson plans. I am the opposite. A seat of the pants kinda gal. I cobble together curriculum until I get everything just right. I am not a fan of across the board choices. So I find what curriculum I like in one subject, and supplement it with something fun. I prefer basic and thorough curriculum that uses a mastery concept. This way I can apply it in real time using real life situations and experiences to reinforce what they are already learning in their books. I’d rather be done with book work by lunch, and then spending the rest of the day learning incognito, than spending all day with our noses in books, tears pouring out in frustration!
So if you don’t want to go the boxed curriculum way, and you’re a seat of the pants kinda Mom or Dad, how can you cobble together a curriculum? Simply stated, do your research. Find out how your child learns, take your schedule into consideration. Do you need a mobile curriculum? Do you have a LOT of outside opportunities set up for your kids that can supplement something basic and simple? Or do you need a curriculum that covers everything in one book? After you’ve determined what kind you need, go for it! Ebay has a lot of books for good prices if you can snag them. We gambled on McGuffy’s Readers and bought a WHOLE set on there for a steal of $30ish dollars! But, now we have chosen that as our reading curriculum for several years now. At least for 6 years, maybe longer! Understand that if you choose this route, you may or may not have access to teacher’s manuals, you may have to plan lessons to fill in areas you feel are scanty, or in areas that your child needs extra instruction and reinforcement. Also know that you may have to tweak things year by year until you find things you like. We may have McGuffy’s for reading, but we will be adding Easy Grams, and perhaps English From The Roots Up. As the children grow older, so will our curriculum. We will add and adjust with them. It can grow in books, or experiences, or in any way that it works! That is the beauty of customizing!
Here is how our curriculum looked this year, and may look next year, with a few adjustments:
For reading, we use McGuffy’s Readers for formal instruction and supplement it with books or phonics programs (Dr. Suess, Little Bear, Peter Rabbit, Starfall website for phonics support.)
For Math, we are currently using an online website called IXL, but I am not satisfied, so next year we may just do Horizons. After 3rd grade, we are considering The Life of Fred. For now we’ve been supplementing IXL by applying the concepts we’ve learned online with in home situations. Measuring fractions for cooking, using an abacus to add, subtract, or make calculations for home needs, like how many grapes each child should get, etc. Also, paying for and calculating the price of objects when shopping.`
We are really liking “History for Little Pilgrims” for our history this year. We supplement this with social studies situations,
such as watching Rand Paul Filibuster in real time, or taking part in a community service project etc. We also do a geography element to this, learning about our state, our country, and using real life experiences to educate the children about other cultures and languages. This multi-cultural experience is organic and natural.
For science we are members of the Da Vinci Science Center, we can go there any time for hands on fun, we also use the book “The World God Made” by E.J. Shewan. We also supplement by going to any seminar we can find that includes our children’s grade levels.
Another way to apply science year round is our plethora of pets to care for (rabbits, cat, and fish) and our organic vegetable garden, and mini fruit orchard in our backyard.
For health and wellness, we use doctor’s well checks as unit studies. We pick body parts and study how they function and what they do. We’ve enjoyed opportunities to do so in depth with Da Vinci Center’s Bodies Revealed exhibit. One of the girls also received a really cool body toy that one can remove the internal organs and replace them. It came with a booklet that describes the functions of each organ. Of course, a lot of outside play is involved, and this year, since I was pregnant, we did a constant study on how Mommy’s body works to bring life into the world. We studied how the baby grew each month, watched videos of what was happening in the womb, and learned all about the miracle of birth. (Age appropriately of course!) This will have a more formal curriculum as they grow, but now while they are young, visiting our doctor, and talking about how our bodies work, spending time daily to discuss nutrition and healthy practices, in hygiene (brushing teeth) or in diet, or in activities, we make this a part of everyday life.
For music and art we do a variety of projects, crafts, (all by the seat of our pants!) Lots of play doh play, We have a series of CD’s on the classical masters, each has examples of their most famous music, and a narrated biography fit in throughout the CD. We also do field trips like the Lyons Fiddle Festival, and Band or Orchestra concerts. None of this is from a formal curriculum, it is just LIFE! I love that.
We do not use a formal Bible program. This is something we do on our own too. Sola Scriptura is a great way to go! We take times to memorize scripture together for AWANA, and every day we review the Proverb of the day. (We use this website, and often listen to the devotional of the day, but I don’t like how they cherry pick scripture for the devotional, so we don’t use that every day.) The goal is that within a year of doing this, each child will know the Proverbs well, or perhaps even by heart. This is an excellent character building program, as throughout the day we apply the Proverb we read! Next year we may do something else, like a daily reading of the gospels, or a jaunt through Genesis. The point is to have them reading scripture. We are strongly considering a program of reading the Bible in a year, to expose them to the whole work of God. I have yet to find a program that suits my idea of doing so chronologically, but that is not overwhelming for little ones to sit through. (All of ours are 6, 4, 2, 1 month, presently)
It is very easy to cobble together your own curriculum if you choose. It can be cheaper, and more eclectic! This way you can customize it to meet your child’s needs, and to educate children of multiple ages at once. We LOVE field trips, because each child, no matter their age, takes away an age appropriate experience. Same thing with Bible programs, or Home Economics.
The best part is when the whole family participates side by side,the older ones helping the younger, and the younger’s questions challenging the older. Homeschooling just naturally provides a multi faceted approach to learning.
This time of year is perfect for considering curriculum options. Better to prayerfully consider now, than to have to change mid year, or have to buy things last minute during the summer. Once we buy programs we like, we will probably use them for child after child, handing them down as each child reaches the next level. Buying new books for our oldest at this juncture is also handy, in case she finishes her current book, and still needs to continue on.
Happy Curriculum hunting!