Sunday, April 6, 2014

Amazing Homeschool Curriculum

This post is a follow up to my series on the Advantages of Homeschooling, so if you haven't checked them out yet....

Now that I've detailed what I consider to be the greatest advantages to homeschooling, I will outline the curriculum I found most helpful.  I began this series by saying I really over-thought this when I began and it's true.  To get my kids ready to attend a community college (click here for an explanation of that route), all I needed to do (aside from the park days, music/art lessons, sports, etc. - and btw, many homeschool park days offer organized sports) was teach her to read well, write well, learn math and have a basic understanding of history and science.  

This ended up being far simpler than I initially thought.  Teaching kids to read is fun and easy when you work one on one with your own child.  I used a book called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  I used this book for reading only; I ignored the writing lessons.  I taught my children to read very young (My oldest was 3 1/2 when she began to read) and they just did not have the fine motor skills to write yet.  Personally, I think it's far better not to tie reading and writing together.  Read first and then write.  I only taught my oldest to read at such a young age because she begged me.  You'll know when it's a good time.  We went very slowly and worked through the lessons in "100 Easy Lessons" for about 20 minutes a day.  We also used the Bob Books series and played games to see who got to choose the book for the day.  

That was it.  We read a lot.  I still read aloud to my kids about an hour a day. We love it.  I began when they were babies and never stopped.  It is just part of our nightly routine.  Sometimes they pick the book; sometimes I do.  It opens up worlds of conversations and is one of the best parenting techniques I've used. I highly recommend it.  It doesn't seem "School-ish," but a ton of learning happens.  Once a child can read on her own, regular trips to the library are all you need.  At different ages, I can list our favorites, but the possibilities are endless.  To encourage my kids to read on their own, I'd let them stay up "late" to read with a flashlight under their covers.  When my kids were young, I was a firm believer in the 7 o'clock bed-time (Mama needs a break!) and held to that until they were about 10. But, if the kids wanted to read until they fell asleep, that was fine... they always crashed by 8:30 or so, depending on their age.  They loved it.

When it was time for them to learn to write (5-6), I began with a great series called Draw Write Now that teaches writing through drawing (which is what it really is).  The girls loved this series.  Worked like a charm.  As they got older, I moved them into the Getty/Dubay workbooks: Italics Handwriting.  We went through this entire series.  It takes just a few minutes a day.

For spelling, we used this series: Spelling Workout.  We went through this entire series as well - we did one lesson a week and my kids enjoyed the variety of games used to reinforce spelling rules.

For Grammar/Writing, I used Susan Wise Bauer's books (She wrote The Well Trained Mind --a book that was and is invaluable for me as a homeschooler. Much of this curriculum was recommended by her.  She is an amazing resource!).  I used her grammar series:  First Language Lessons and my kids now have an impressive command of language as a result.  I give her the credit for creating such a clear and easy to follow instruction book.  Her writing series is equally impressive:  The Complete Writer (Writing with Ease). It is wonderful and very thorough. 

For math -- I began by counting and naming everything.  We'd go to the market and count apples to put in our bags.  We talked about the colors of the veggies...  all that pre-school stuff:  shapes, colors, months, seasons, etc. we covered in daily life.  When the girls got to be 5 or so, we used Math-U-See (but I know Singapore Math and Saxon Math are also popular).  Check out the Math-U-See website for a full description. It starts with a kindergarten level curriculum. We moved on to private math tutors by 7th grade.  I didn't love the Algebra in this program.  My 7th grade daughter now sees a math tutor for 30 minute sessions twice a week.  My Dad and step-dad help too.  In fact, when my oldest was in 7th grade, my step-dad was her tutor.  

I also used Susan Wise Bauer's books for history.  She divides history into four periods (classically) ancients, medieval, early modern and modern.  Her series  The Story of the World is great for this.  We went through them once for 1st-4th grades (did the easier activities and quiz questions) and then went through them again for 5th-8th (doing far more advanced work).  Each book in the series has an activity book to go along with it.  These are filled with fun, hands on activities and map work:  The Story of the World Activity Book. There are also test booklets to go with each book in the series: The Story of the World Tests & Answer Key.

Susan Wise Bauer also has a series for high school level that was commissioned and published by Norton too.  The first in the series is called The History of the Ancient World and is great for adults wanting to brush up on history too.

For science, we did a lot of classes.  I also did work at home following the recommendations in The Well Trained Mind.  My kids really loved the Science-in-a-Nutshell experiments too.  In all honesty though, when it came to science, I relied heavily on homeschool learning centers in my area.  The most effective homeschooling parents know their strengths and their weaknesses.  I didn't feel equipped to teach much science.  It's not my passion either and I wanted my kids to work with teachers who lived and breathed science.  They weren't hard to find.

All of it was far easier than I initially thought it would be.  Don't be intimidated by the above list.  I just wanted to mention the things that worked for us.  Each day when they were little, we'd spend an hour or two on school.  20 minutes of math, 20 minutes of writing practice, 20 minutes of spelling, 20 minutes of grammar, 30 minutes of history or science (I switched off each day).  Working one on one, things get done far more quickly.  

Realistically, kids are learning all the time.  Everything is homeschooling.  The formal learning we did each day, was easy and fairly quick.  The big perk to homeschooling is that it allows you to spend so much more time with your child. I know my relationship with my kids is so strong today because we homeschooled.  I'm still a bit astonished that they come to me and want my opinion on things in their lives... friends, boys, things I never would've talked to my Mom about.  My 15 year old wants to know what I think.  It's strange and awesome.  I love it.  At the same time, they're independent.  My youngest, at 11 last year, spent 9 days at fiddle camp on her own.  She did great and can't wait to do it again this summer.  Roots and wings :)  Good stuff.

Anyway, if you're considering homeschooling, bookmark this post as a resource. Many veteran homeschoolers will give you tons of helpful advice.  The books and programs I've listed here are really useful and will at least give you a place to start as you continue to think over what you want to do.  Homeschooling can be very flexible.  Some people try it for a few years, then try school for a year or so, and then go back to homeschooling. Whatever works is what you should do. There are tons of homeschooling charters too that offer great hybrid programs. In California, there are many that offer both brick and mortar full time schools, and independent homeschooling with supplemental classes once a week.

If you haven't checked out my series on Homeschooling Advantages yet, take a moment and click on the links below:

Click here for Part Three:  Socialization


No comments:

Post a Comment