Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Curriculum course change

Homeschooling, I am finding, is really just a lot like parenting.  You pick and choose and figure out what works.  Everything is a bit of trial and error, no matter how much you plan.  Things sometimes go awry, and sometimes things go better than you'd hoped.

So even though the year is already partially over, we are making some changes to our days in the areas of Literature, History, and Religion.

Basically, I have been feeling overwhelmed, burdened by the nagging thought in the back of my mind that I need to be doing this or that, and it's been hard to stay on track.  We have, for example, been using Story of the World Volume I for our History curriculum.  And, I LOVE Story of the World.  Truly.  BUT, I feel like maybe we need something a little more scheduled...that incorporates some other things.  I'm finding that I just don't have the mental or emotional energy to come up with stuff on my own to supplement what we're doing.

Now I do own the Story of the World activity book, which has lots of hands-on suggestions.  But I never do them, because I despise hands-on activities.  I mean I like my kids to do them, but I don't enjoy them.  So I avoid them like the plague.  (Yes, I am that mom.  My kids have never taken a dance class, either.  So sue me.)  The activity book IS great for additional reading suggestions, supplemental encyclopedia work and comprehension questions (not to mention there are fun coloring pages and such, which I DO enjoy utilizing).  BUT, I feel like a bit of it is over the kids' heads...sigh.

SO, I began looking more into...Sonlight Curriculum for our History and Literature.  Which I'd previously ruled out for four main reasons.

1.)  The cost. 

2.)  The schedules.  I thought it would be incredibly stressful feeling like ev.er.y.thing. was scheduled out for me.  And what if I don't WANT to read one of the stories?  And do I NEED someone to tell me when to read Charlotte's Web?

3.)  The fact that really Sonlight boils down to scheduled reading of other peoples' books.  Which is great, but everyone calls them "Sonlight books", which bothers me...because other people wrote them.  I know, I'm weird.  I actually LOVE the idea of using actual literature for school, but it drives me nuts that Sonlight seems to get the credit for the good books.

4.)  There is somewhat of a missions emphasis reflected in some of the book choices.  I know, I know--first I tell you that I refuse to lead my kids in fun-for-them hands-on activities, and NOW I say I don't want my kids learning about missionaries?!  Well, the reality is that I find many missions materials to be racially insensitive and approaching salvation in a way not keeping with my own personal views.  There have been many amazing men and women of God who have served as missionaries, don't get me wrong, yet there is also a lot I disagree with when it comes to the overall movement. 


--A dear friend happened to have an additional Sonlight Core 1 instructor's guide (!) sitting around, and she has generously loaned it to me for the year!  Wow!  Another dear friend had two of the books I'd need, and offered to ship them to me (all the way from Washington)!  Yay!  I'm finding that I can obtain the other books from the library, and from half.com, and I already own several of them.  SO, God has given us a way to do Sonlight this year on the cheap.

--I'm discovering that I'm WANTING and NEEDING more structure.  I think at this point I'd feel LESS overwhelmed if I had a daily schedule layed out for me of what to read.  And, if it's really just good books that we're reading, it wouldn't necessarily feel contrived.

--And I won't call them "Sonlight books", I will say I'm using Sonlight Curriculum.  I still feel a little silly needing someone to tell me what day to read this or that, but I also kind of love it.  Okay, I MOSTLY love it.

--Don't tell, but I've decided to throw out most of the missions books altogether.  Unfortunately however, NOT before I'd ordered one of them from half.com...and was appalled by the language and the way things were portrayed.  Referring to a particular culture as "stubborn and ignorant", insinuating that Africa was a dark and spiritually lacking place.  Ugh.  (Crazily enough, this book was written in 1993!  Sheesh!) 

SO, we're going to go through this book instead, The Children's Book of Saints.  Because I LOVE the idea of my kids learning about various heroes of the faith.  I want them to know about believers who dedicated their lives to the poor and the helpless, motivated by their love for Jesus and their love for man.  I'm really excited about it. 

Religious Instruction.  We will continue plugging along in the Jesus Storybook Bible.  Love it.  We have also begun attending Mass at our neighborhood parish with some friends on Friday mornings.  It's super kid-directed, because the students from the parish school are involved in the service.  My kids really enjoyed it last week, and so did I.  What better way to start the day than going to worship the Lord?

Math.  Anna will continue in her Singapore Math book, and I'm working with the boys on Saxon Math (lots of manipulatives, so super simple.) 

Reading.  Yosef and Biniam are still learning to blend words together, and to be honest, we're taking it slow.  While I enjoyed the book The Well-Trained Mind, I think their whole "reading is easy so get kids reading early" philosophy is short-sighted in that it doesn't take into account that kids develop at varying rates.  It doesn't work for all kids.  Even Anna, my crazy early taught-herself-to-read reader, was not interested in systematic phonics instruction and would not have benefitted from this either.  So I'm chucking that idea out the window and going more with the Better Late Than Early thing.  Before I lose (the rest of) my mind.

Handwriting.  This is something I'd really like to start up sometime soon.  Again, I think something developmentally sort of "clicks" with kids at some point.  Yosef, while often writing a letter or two backwards (Anna does it too), is somewhat strong in this area.  Biniam struggles a bit.  It's the whole fine motor skills thing, and I'm not in a hurry.

If you couldn't tell, I love me some laid-back unschooling with a bit of structure too.   Ultimately I'm wanting to raise Jesus-loving children who know how to learn and who are passionate about living a life of service for God.  I want my kids to appreciate good books and good relationships.  I want to build up their self-confidence and help them to explore their interests. 

Those are big goals, and I hardly feel up to the task, but the one thing on our side is that God designed families, in part, to fulfill these very things. 

How blessed are we??!!


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