05 November 2010

Curriculum Talk

~I admit to being a slacker when it comes to promptly getting back to the email questions and comments that are sent to me. Mostly they are in regards to homeschooling, large family logistics, and all the things that go along with that. There can be questions/comments anywhere from marriage through nutrition to disciplinary issues and laundry. And anything in btween!! Normally I simply answer individual emails thereby repeating myself often. My husband suggested to me that perhaps I should combine similar inquiries and turn them into blog posts so I can share with my readers the many years experience I've had of being a wife, mother, homeschooler, cook.............and so on and so on! I pray that despite my many weaknesses and failures that there just may be some spark of light somewhere in my life that may bless the lives of others.~

Question~What curriculum do you use/that you have used in the past and have you settled into any particular one for the duration of your schooling?

When I began homeschooling over 20 years ago selections and ideas were limited. So with our oldest daughter and son we used Alpha Omega, then switched to Rod and Staff, and then onto Abeka. So they were mostly textbook students! They were both very good readers and spent much of their time reading during their free time. By the time the next few children came along I found that my time was limited and really and having 3 or 4 children in structured curriculums plus a baby and probably a toddler I simply wasn't able to keep up on the much required paperwork that went along with boxed textbook curriculums. After searching the library for anything I could find on alternative curriculums I landed upon the idea of whole, living books. Fast forward to now! (and another question)

Once your children have graduated, how confident have you become in the choices you have made for their education? I was brought up in the traditional style of using textbooks, cramming for tests and not really learning knowledge. Which to me is facts/verses knowledge. I want my children to have knowledge and not just cram facts into their heads. I know there is a difference, I just can't seem to lay hold on it.

First, let me say that a method or curriculum doesn't necessarily make or break your child's future. Is there one curriculum "above and better" than another? What exactly DOES work? I can't answer that. Maybe what it might boil down to is "What do YOU do in your homeschool that you have found brings academic learning and discipline, while at the same time making it a joy to learn.
For us that has been the living books. Having begun with a more structured textbook approach and switching to whole books has brought us into a new freedom! Now that I am on the "other side" of kids having graduated my homeschool and kids still in. Living books does work! In the beginning I was nervous about it. But here we are after many years of schooling with living books and I've SEEN it work. But, success has come to all my older children, whether it has been from the textbooks or the living books. I am only advocating living books here because it has been this method that has brought the joy back into our homeschool. I personally, really did not like the textbooks. I found them boring, dull, and void of real life. Thankfully, all my children have been avid readers so the textbooks weren't the only books in which my children were free to 'chew' on!

At this moment I have 2 girls in college. Both of them are carrying high GPA's as well as my textbook kids! (again, it's not so much the choice of methods, but it's the joy you find in 'what' you have chosen) These girls were fed whole books. And thrived on them. Here is a summary of my children's educational upbringing.

Reading~I compiled long ago a 'list' of books I wanted my children to study. I use selections from~
A Thomas Jefferson Education
Old Fashioned Education
The Robinson Curriculum
Charlotte Mason/Ambleside~Ambleside online we use as our core and the others I draw from for free reading. They are sorted into 'grade levels' and we simply go down the list. Beginning from a young age there is usually something 'visual' I like to see from their reading. Usually a drawing or a written narration. Something to show me that they actually got something from the book they've read. I've also found basic book report outlines online that we use to measure comprehension. Since, comprehension is our ultimate goal.
Writing~Another must. For grammatical, academic, and imaginative reasons. Once they are around 13 I like to see at least a page of writing once a day. I give them the choice of what to write about. It usually ends up being thoughts from a books they've read. But they have to write. For the reasons listed above. This is normally what I do to begin grammar. Is have them write. After a year or so of writing we will have some formal grammar lessons and learn the 'science' of grammar.

Arithmetic~This goes without saying. Undoubtably my favorite is Rays, but, and it hurts to say this. I don't have the time to use Rays as much as I would like. Rays is wonderful. The reasoning skills taught are not surpassed with any other curriculum. Reasoning, as we all know is KEY in getting through life in all areas. Not just arithmetic. If a child can reason, well, what more can I say. So my second choice is Saxon. For the younger ones I prefer Singapore simply because they do offer much reasoning exercises plus they are in workbook form which little ones like.

Latin~Another must in our home. For my reasons, you can read HERE.

Copywork~Simple! They get practice in manuscript, PLUS, they get to feed on the thoughts of brilliant minds of the past and present. We also do our memory work from our copywork selections.

And last but definitely not least we add to the above core subjects...
First and foremost is the study of the word of God. And not just reading His word but applying His word in all our areas of life. The scriptures have/are used in our home as a resource in teaching copywork, memory work, grammar, spelling, and most of all, for teaching moral absolutes. The ideas are endless in our homes for putting these in use. The very best living books we have on the planet are found in the pages of the scriptures.
Spelling using McGuffey
McGuffey Readers
Nature Study
Geography~from living books, maps, and globe
History~Living books
Science~Living books
And of course the Arts~Hymns, piano, drawing, painting, etc. artist study, picture study and listening to the great composers as well as studying them. Add in a few life skills and handicrafts you and your family agree is best for your family and you can have a well rounded curriculum.

As you can see, our main core of curriculum is the 3 R's. The same ideas, methods, and for the most part, the same readings our ancestors used. It definitely worked for them and it can work for us. It really is a leap of faith. That is, to throw out those boring textbooks and jump into and trust in living books methods of educating our children. It brings both joy and a simplicity into a homeschool. Not to mention high excellence in academics.

HERE are some literature suggestions I have found to be very helpful and encouraging to me to make the plunge into using living books as our main curriculum. To these I would add one more HERE.


Mrs. Trixi said...

Thanks for sharing all of your ideas here. We have been homeschooling for 9 yrs. but I still love to see what others are implementing in their home.

Pam said...

Wow. Good thought in compiling this information vs. continuously answering it. Very informative!

Mountain Home Quilts said...

I didn't get a chance to take all of that in because I'm cooking dinner and helping my daughter out but this looks incredibly helpful and I can't wait to come back and read through it thoroughly!

Anonymous said...

This is a very helpful post for me. Thank you so much for writing it.


Alexandra said...

Just what I needed for validation. I've been thinking the same - that there is no magic bullet in regards to curriculum. We are just about to transition to literature based learning after having almost finished Rod & Staff(K-8). Many thanks - this was very helpful :)

Cinnamon said...

Such treasures in what you wrote....It really is the JOY of learning that is the key to education. I have children who thrive on learning -anything- and with that joy they are able to thrive whether they learn from a textbook, great reading materials, a DVD or talking with adults. As long as they love it they'll find a way to absorb it :-)


Blessedmom's Simple Home said...

I love seeing what others are doing, even after all of these years. It reminds me of things I may have slacked off on. We don't do enough writing, but I love your ideas on this. Homeschooling is such a blessing, isn't it?

dggp said...

Very informative Tricia. I think I will forward this to my husband's sister. She seems to be jumping ship with her current curriculum.

Chris in FL--Joyful Mother said...

Thanks for all the great answers. I love to read up on how others do it. Especially large families.

Chris xoxo