Saturday, April 30, 2011

Curriculum: The Choices are Mind-Boggling

Back in the mid 1980s when my parents decided to homeschool me and my two brothers, there weren't a lot of choices of curriculum for homeschoolers.  My dear mother pieced together all our math, science, reading, spelling, geography, etc. lessons from a few sources.  She tried to pick out the best books to fit our needs, but her choices were limited.

Now it would appear that I have the opposite problem.  The choices presented to me are myriad.  And varied!  I can go classical education.  I can go unschooling.  I can go traditional schooling.  I can use online courses and videos.  And and and....

My recent venture to a local homeschooling convention really drove the point home about how many choices there are out there.  The only limit is how much money you want to spend.  In my case, not much.  I'm starting with Kid A, who turned five in March, and frankly, I just don't think I need to spend +$400 on a complete curriculum for kindergarten / 1st grade.  I know how to read.  I know how to spell.  I can do basic math.  I certainly do not need to shell out hundreds of dollars for lesson plans and teacher's manuals on how do to these things.  So I wandered through the vendor hall and let myself just absorb (or be assaulted by, it's all how you look at things) all the choices out there.  I took notes on what I liked.  I jotted down the cost.  I quickly became confused because there was just so much to choose from.

In the end, I came away with a list of books I wanted to get to help me on my way with teaching Kid A the basics.  (And somewhat of a headache.)  Back home, I went online and ordered up the books necessary to begin the "beautiful learning journey that is homeschooling."  Okay, that's just me being sarcastic.  As a homeschooled kid, I have a certain amount of skepticism on how romantic these homeschooling conventions make homeschooling out to be.  All sunshine kisses and rainbow smiles.  All deep learning and understanding and bonding.  They never bring up the tedium.  The work.  The trying and the failing.  I feel somewhat sorry for these young mothers desperate to "do the right thing" for their children who are given this fantasy version of what homeschooling is like.  So they try it only to discover it takes a lot of work and there's more trial and error than they were led to believe.  But I digress...

I am using what is called the "eclectic" approach to homeschooling.  Pretty much, I take what I like from each style of homeschooling and just swirl it all around to together.  For grammar, reading, history, and science I am following the suggestions of a Classical Education as outlined in The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home.  I like the circular nature of this approach so if I miss anything the first time around in grammar stage (K-4), I know we'll cover it again in the logic stage (5-8 grades) or rhetoric stage (9-12 grades).  For math, handwriting, and spelling, I'm just going with the traditional approach of getting a text book and going through it.

Here's what I've come up with for Kid A's kindergarten / 1st grade curriculum:
  • Grammar:  First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 1
  • History/Geography: The Story of the World - Volume 1: Ancient Times
    • Supplemented with age appropriate (i.e. picture) books from the library that cover what subject/era were are studying
    • Blackline Maps Of World History: The Complete Set 5000BC-Present (which I foresee using throughout my entire homeschooling career)
  • Handwriting: Penmanship Grade 1 Student Book (Horizon)
  • Spelling: Worktext Grade 1 (BJU Press)
  • Science Topics to be covered: The Animal Kingdom, The Human Body, and Plants using these resources
    • The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia
    • The Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia
    • Green Thumbs: A Kid's Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening
  • Math: Singapore Primary Mathematics 1A and 1B Workbooks and Textbooks (my husband who was never particularly fond of math thought this program would be the best, especially since we're homeschooling boys)
And if Kid A shows a more than passing interest in any of these subjects, we can always slow down and do a more comprehensive survey of what he's interested in.  My main goal in these early years is just to help my son love learning and reading.  I don't want him to hate school, so I'm not going to push too hard at this point.  He's young.  He's active.  He has many years ahead of him to study.  Let's make it an enjoyable experience!

And so, we anxiously await the arrival of all these books and resources so we can start learning.  Fortunately, I've already been teaching Kid A on the sly.  He knows how to read and he also knows some basic addition.  I did this just in our normal daily life, so I'm hoping I can expand this teaching to be a little more structured and daily.


  1. Asher can already read!? You are awesome!

    Can I share too?
    I also am a home school graduate who is home schooling my 5 1/2 year old daughter. We started our school year on 3 January; our calendar takes us to mid October. We're going to take the holiday season off instead of the summer.

    I have spent $0.00 on our school this year. I have one goal: learn to read. If Anah can read in October we've had a successful year. I'm following the ideas presented by Ethel Boulding in "An Acorn in My Hand". We explore number concepts informally throughout the day as it pertains to what might be going on at the moment.

    Our formal lesson time consists of 6 assignments:
    1. pray - I have found from experience that this is not an option. It calms, centers, and focuses us. Definitely me. And it is superb practice for my student to learn how to talk to Jesus herself. First I pray out loud and then she prays out loud. One week, during a head cold she prayed, "Jesus, I don't need all the booger gone, I just need my nose to feel better."
    2. Bible reading. I read to her the old and new testament passages from a Daily Reading Bible. The point here is a.) for her to hear scripture and b.) to practice sitting still and listening. My husband reads us the Psalms and Proverbs at bedtime.
    3. Practice our memory verse. We're learning Psalm 25. She can already say the first 9 verses.
    4. Practice reading and writing.
    5. Practice our memory verse again.
    6. Pray. Again.
    Then Anah is excused, we have a hug, and we go on with our daily chores.

    This takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours right now depending on how often I have to correct her during the Bible reading. Informal learning throughout the day is just as vital as formal study time. Our formal time will increase as Anah increases in learning and maturity. Which, interestingly enough, are co-related.

    I'm having a BLAST!! I don't remember home school being this fun when I was a student.

    If you ask me I'll tell you our school name, motto, and Scripture verse. =D

  2. Sarah,

    Of course you may share! The reason I started this blog is so we "newbie" homeschoolers can share what we're doing, what works, and what doesn't work.

    And I'm asking: What's your school name, motto, and Scripture verse?

  3. Jess, your Mama would be proud! I had a wonderful and free source for homeschooling materials. Bob Jones, ABeka, Saxon... The Schneider kids and Hill
    kids can attribute their great brilliance to those materials :)

  4. Our school is called the Rimrock Academy of Life Sciences - Rimrock Academy for short. =D

    Our motto is from the Jungle Books, "Run and find out!" It's also the motto of the mongoose family...

    Our scripture is Deu 6:4-9 "Hear, Isra'el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one; and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates. (The Complete Jewish Bible)

  5. I almost forgot - our mission statement:

    When we pray, we speak to God. When we study, God speaks to us. My mission as a teacher is to teach my student how to learn so she can learn how to study.