I think the biggest thing I've learned in my first two years homeschooling is that it is an ever changing process. Our space is constantly evolving, our cirriculum is tweeked and our schedule is never consistant, all because our kids are growing. The difference between when I first started to now is that I currently don't fight the natural flow of things. This is part of the process. It's actually turning into the best part about homeschooling. I can adjust to the specific needs of each child and since they are constantly changing and learning and growing- I need to too!
In an effort to document where we're at right now I thought I'd share with you the different curriculums and resources that we have use this year. At this point we're 3/4 of the way through the year and I am already starting to think about next year- knowing what I'm keeping from this year and what I'm letting go of. I knew that being a beginner homeschooler I'd need something to give me direction but, I've learned this year to let go a little of the pressure of fitting in their individual learning into a textbook. This is just what we do- as of now and I an guarantee that it will be changing in the future.
Our basic schedule is simple.
7:45-8:30 Morning Wake up - we're all up by 7:45 and if anyone gets up before the others they can quietly play or read until the rest of the house gets moving. They have to get dressed before they eat breakfast (otherwise the temptation for PJ day is too great.... for all of us!) and they need to get hair/teeth brushed and morning chorse done so that they're ready to start the school day around 8:30.
8:30-9:30 Daily Drills. We start the day off with Handwriting, Scripture Reading and then Math. If it's a good day we can get all this done in an hour.... if Math turns tricky it can take us all morning to get it done but I've found we have to do it first or else I've lost the patience to even attempt it by lunch.
9:30-Noon Thematic Learning - This is where we do our reading, our history and geography. We sometimes go to our backyard classroom space, we sometimes get to watch documentaries but mostly it's going through the next page in our workbooks.
12:00-1 Lunch - I usually am done with my portion of direct involvement at this point. I make lunch, I read with Owen and the older kids finish up their morning work or start on Piano practice/independent work.
1 - until done Independent Work - This is when the kids do their reading and their computer learning. If they've been on task all morning they can usually get everything done by 1:30 but it often gets to 3ish when they're finishing up.
Once a week we have an INDEPENDENT DAY or READ-A-THON DAY
This is Mommy's day to be a MOM instead of a teacher. I clean my house, I get to quilt, we may plan a field trip but the intent is to give them more independence. They do their morning work then read to eachother or by themselves, they work on their book reports or they'll do computer/iPad learning and if they're able to do that quietly/independently (without arguing or distractions-ha!) until noon they can play games the rest of the day.
SCIENCE- I use Apologia Exploring Creation for Science. That being said, I will be the first to tell you I am not a 'creationist'. I teach evolution and the scientific method and tell them to use their science to back their beliefs not the other way around. So this program is very religious and in some parts, sugar coated BUT this series has a lot of good. I try to teach my kids the religious teachings of the bible but I also bring facts and science into the discussion and we talk a lot about stories being symbolic vs. factual. Last year a good friend recommended it and we did Anatomy and Physiology and the kids loved it. They liked the activites, worksheets and diagrams and I really liked how in depth it was. I can use the same lessons and programs for my toddler/kindergartner as I do with the 4th graders by using different workbooks. So this year I let them decide together what topic they wanted to do and they opted for Zooology 1; Fly Creatures. This one is not as engaging and the whole creation thing is over the top in this one compared to Anatomy- overtaking a couple lessons. That being said there were some amazing lessons and activities and it was relativly easy to pull in what I wanted and to skip what I didn't think was pertanent. The kids learned all about nuances of birds and feathers and color and flight... again, more in depth then they would have in other programs I've looked into and they have a new love/fascination of birds so it was an overall win. They would call their aunt in Florida to take pictures of birds she has living on her ranch. They would go to the park and grab my camera to capture it so they could look it up at home later. All year they collected feather they found to study and become obsessed with paper airplanes and flight. I have all the books in this series so next year we'll probably do another one (the kids have their eyes on Zoology 2- Ocean Life). but, as the years go on and they get more advnced (ie; high school) I doubt I'll continue to use it but, it's perfect for us now (under 7th-8th graders) We don't do this science every day- but when we need a break from regualr schedules we'll switch it up and pull it out for a week and do an entire unit. It's the perfect, non-stress, no prep, yet still in depth curriculum and it gets the kids outside observing nature more, which I need reminding to do.
HISTORY, READING, GEOGRAPHY?SCIENCE/ART- I use Geography Matters - Paths of Exploration- Volume 1 for English/Reading/Geography. This type of all inclusive/thematic learning Ethan did when he was in his private school and he LOVED it. Ethan's best friend also did this program a year before us and they loved it at their house. Since we are planning a big family trip to Washington DC and Wiliamsburg,Jamestown this year we thought it'd be perfect to have them become little experts on it before we go. This program is great for an 'everything' approach. I like that the books/literature they're reading goes with the geography they're learning and the vocabulary/spelling words are in the books they're reading. I like the science/art activites it puts in that relate directly with the lessons and I love, LOVE how it makes the kids look things up and come up with their own answers to things. Owen does a littler version of what the big kids are learning, making lapbooks, I print our coloring sheets and we learn letters of words instead of spelling. This teaches them how to learn and HOW to think... not nessicarily WHAT to think so it works for all ages. It has picture books for Owen, my Kindergartener, along with early readers that are on topic, it has intermediate novels that are set around the location/time period but the one thing I wish it has was better biographies by more historians. It's a sugar coated version of history- and while I think it's important to learn about Columbu through the eyes of a Kindergartener- It's also important to realize the evil he did, the problems he created and the pain he caused... because if we can't learn from the people that went before us we're doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. But, realizing the flaw in the lessons is easy to overcome by having the kids do a little research/watch a few documentaries or reading an extra biography. I have them compare/contrast the legends w/ the facts and then we talk about what we can learn. Since this programs includes everything (except Math) you could do it- and nothing else BUT since I suppliment it with LOTS of extra reading, and I add on a more comprehesive art program and we do extra Science and we do computer programs our time is stretched thin and we probably won't get through the entire program this school year. But it's written for 1st-5th graders so we're going to use the second half of this unit next year as well. It's been a blast and even I have learned soo much. We've talked about Columbus, Jamestown, Pilgrams w/ book 1 and next year will be Daniel Boone, Lewis & Clark and the westard movement in book 2. It's very organic in it's timeline and fits perfectly with our upcoming travel plans. (driving across country). I'm really looking forward to use everything they've learned in this program and see it come to life through our traveling.
*when I say I suppliment this one it's w/ reading and documentaries. I have the kids read an extra biography per unit that they compare/contrast and then teach/share with the other kids what they learned. Then I have each child read one classic book a month and do a report on it. When we do classic books, I try to get stories set in the same time period they're studying or the same location (Robin Hood when we talk about pilgrams/sepratists).
MATH- This is the hardest subject in our house and causes the most tears. The kids do Harcourt Math daily for now w/ Kahn Academy lessons but I think I'm going to switch to an online self-taught program for next year because I can't be the bad guy anymore so, if you have any suggestions, let me know!
HANDWRITING- There was never a question about what we'd use here. Handwriting without Tears is my handwriting curriculum and it is the BEST. Owen uses the early stuff, and the older kids have now graduated to Cursive Without Tears but every level is amazing. They alos have an app that you can use on iPads and other handheld devices that helps to switch things up a little.
ART- This is the 1 area that I know I'm doing right and giving my kids way more then they would get in public school. I came up with my own lessons that include art history, classic art, principles of art and exposing them to lots of mediums/styles and artists. They love doing it and they are begining to apprieciate art and see the world through different eyes. I love that! You can see my lessons and get the free downloads HERE.
APPS and COMPUTER PROGRAMS- Everyday after the kids do their regular lessons and daily reading they have 30 minutes of learning games they can play before they're allowed to do any other video games/tv time. We use ABCMouse and Teach Me Kindergarten for Owen and Cameron. Teach Me 3rd/4th grade for Lorali/Ethan. It's the most used app at my house, I like it for reviews/drills and giving me the reassurance that I've covered everything they would be getting in public school. On the computer they also do Typing Tournament to introduce typing to them but up until now this has been an extra-non focused on skill. Next year Ethan and Lorali will be doing this daily- just as often as math drills. We do games like Stack The States, almost every puzzle app or e-books on the iPads as well.
So there you have it. This year's work- we've been busy and we're frantically trying to get to our goal point before I have to have a surgery that will slow us up but, it's been a fun year and the progress that the kids have made is amazing. Most days I love homeschooling but, I'm always open for tips on how to make it better. Thanks for stopping in.