Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thoughts on curriculum

People always want to know about what curriculum we use.  Honestly, when someone asks me this, I often stumble for an easy answer, because we are pretty eclectic.

Over the seven years we have spent homeschooling, we have done a lot of different things, and some have worked better than others.  One thing they have all had in common is that what you are seeing in the picture above doesn't usually happen!  There is probably a reason I thought to take a picture of it...it might be because it looked so cute, so scholarly, so quiet.  So...unusual.  Not that the little ones are often to be found stampeding to and fro during a lesson, leaping off of furniture, attempting to raid the fridge, doing somersaults off the stairs, swinging from the chandeliers...ok, ok, some of that is exaggerated.  Slightly.  I'll let you try to figure out which parts.

I started my homeschool journey when Erin, now nearly 12, was turning 5.  I picked up some McGuffey readers and a Ray's arithmetic and we were off!  Back then I only had two kids, so things were comparatively quiet, and it all went pretty smoothly.

It took a good few years to really figure out that we don't really like McGuffey and Ray's.  If you're a fan, more power to you, but they're not for us. That is how I learned what is probably my number 1 rule of homeschooling:  if it isn't working, CHANGE IT.  Now I know people can get carried away with this idea, and waste a lot of time and money swapping curriculum.  I don't mean that; I do think it is good for learning discipline and perseverance to have to keep at something and not just drop it because it's difficult.  I try to stick with something for at least a year (or half a year if it's just awful!), but eventually, if you hate it, your kid hates it, it's so hard to use that you find yourself skipping it too often, or so painful that you can no longer remember why in the world you decided to use it in the first place - CHANGE IT.  Find something new, sell off the old, and don't look back.  One of the best things about homeschooling is being completely free to do what works, and not waste time beating your child over the head with a system that doesn't fit either one of you.  So we've switched to Math-U-See instead of Ray's, and it is working enormously better.  None of us are math people, and it gets us through without undue trauma and with a lot of learning.  I also (and this is hard to admit) dropped Latin this year and have started them on Spanish instead.   We loosely follow a Classical model, and we'd done Latin for about four years.  Both of my daughters old enough to study it hated it.  I figured eventually they'd get over it, but this year my husband and I decided that they had picked up enough to get on with, and let it go.  They are loving Spanish - probably in part because there are a lot of Spanish speakers in our area, Spanish billboards on the freeway - they can use it in a more immediate and rewarding way.  These are just a couple examples of the flexibility I try to practice. 

This year, my oldest is in 7th grade, so we've started a lot of new material.  The most exciting to me is Omnibus I from Veritas Press.  It is very heavy on reading, which suits Erin, and very comprehensive in history, literature, and theology.  We don't like everything in it; I went through with post-it notes to cover up nudity in the classic art and to cover up violations of the 2nd Commandment, also in the classic art.  Mostly, though, we really like it.  She is also studying formal and informal logic, and taking General Science with Apologia - we got the CD-ROM version of the course, so she completes it on the computer in a website type format. We still do catechism all together, as we have done since day 1.

Second to learning to fear God and understand His Word, one of the most important parts of their schooling is having time to pursue and develop their own unique gifts.  For Erin, right now that is working with her rabbits.  She has a strong agricultural bent and hopes to start a bona fide rabbitry!  Anna is crafty and loves to work with her hands.   We try to be careful to leave them time for these kinds of things, in hopes that they will be able to use those gifts for the good of their future families and in service to our Lord.






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