Sunday, May 4, 2014

Homeschooling

{Part of this post was written from a trampoline, the other beside a four year old who was wishing an inch worm back to life, the third from bed late at night and the fourth during Sunday afternoon quiet time. Forgive me if it's a bit muddled.}


First off, let me echo the good advice I've heard from other families. Every child and family is different. For some a curriculum can work wonders while for others it won't work at all. The following mix of curriculum is what's working for us right now. There's really no formula. Homeschooling is a mix of fun and discipline. It's not about laziness or aiming below national standards. It's actually the opposite just tailoring learning to the individual needs and passions of the student! Some days for us are exciting and fun. I'd been lying if I didn't also add that some days we barely make it through without strangling each other. We're all learning in this new process! Although I graduated several years ago with a degree in early childhood and elementary education and taught for a year overseas, I still consider myself a complete novice in the world of homeschooling and curriculum. Homeschooling from kindergarten up seems daunting enough so the situation we find ourselves in starting with an older child who is just learning English with lots of gaps in all subjects is a true challenge.  

While I agree that starting children with a rigorous curriculum can challenge kids to excel above and beyond, it can also swing the other way and bring great discouragement. Very quickly into this adventure I decided that while I want to challenge Reshma to learn great things and make great progress, seeing her light up when she succeeds is much more important than learning right now about Ancient Rome or Latin or even Astronomy for that matter. We're laying a firm foundation and that's starting out really simple, brick by educational, phonetical brick.

Starting out this year I visited this site and printed off several grade levels of standards. When it became apparent that so much of the information was beyond us with Reshma's growing English vocabulary, we moved back to the basics of phonics, reading (a lot of reading to and shared reading of stories), writing (learning to construct simple sentences), math, science and history. We started informally right after she came home with 100 Easy Lessons to Teach Your Child to Read but when we reached a level of frustration with the book and it quit working for us, we moved to Explode the Code booklets. Reshma went from dreading language time to loving it. That is success! However, we've only been using the books for a short time so time will tell if this love continues. I've also been eyeing the highly acclaimed All About Reading and may look into that curriculum too just to make sure we are laying the strongest, best foundation possible. For now though both Levi and Reshma are enjoying their individual books and Reshma even asks to do her lessons.  That was not the case toward the end of our 100 Easy Lessons so we are thankful that this season of phonics can be fun and enjoyable.

For writing we've worked on writing prompts I and her tutor give her and I've even been interweaving a bit of content from First Language Lessons in our writing projects. Paired with her writing, we've been working through Dolch sight words using ten per week for spelling words to increase her vocabulary and word recognition. The website www.spellingcity.com has been a great help with learning the words along with a tic-tac-toe sheet that lets her chose spelling word activities. When we finish our Dolch list I anticipate looking into All About Spelling for continued spelling work.


For Math I was looking for something to cover the basics that had color and character. While many recommend Saxon or Singapore (I don't have experience with either) the bland layout of the books scared me away. Reshma loves Math...and I wanted to keep that love. We settled on Math Connects by MacMillian/McGraw-Hill. We mix some concepts from Touch Math (this has worked wonders) and Math-U-See. Already, with great help from our tutor, we've seen gains in Math and a continued love for the subject! 

For History and Science we're trying something new. After trying my hardest to make A Child's History of the World work for us, I gave in and decided it was too much for where we are currently. Comprehension was way down and the content, though facinating, seemed so impractical and disconnected from the information Reshma already knows. So, instead we restarted with a two-fold approach. For continued learning about India we downloaded Voice of the Martyrs free series on Bold Believers in India. About three times per week we're looking up places and things in India while hearing stories of great faith. As a bonus we're talking a lot about the differences between religions. It's been so good! Simultaneously, while building on her understanding of the different Indian states we're diving into American history with Abeka's Our America. It's simple yet thorough enough to give her a better understanding of national symbols, national leaders and the formation of the country in which she now lives. So far this has been an excellent launching point. For Science we also chose the same strategy of covering a variety of topics and opting to dive deeper into subjects as her vocabulary improves. Abeka's Enjoying God's World is proving to be a great fit right now!

Finally, my most exciting find is the one that we incorporate every night at bed time. Often, after our game of in-the-dark hide-n-seek, snacks and teeth brushing, we read a book together like most families do. We've read lots of different books and series but have really wanted to find a Bible that captured the attention of both our kids. After searching Amazon I picked one and have been SO, SO happy with the choice. Once, after accidentally leaving it in a hotel room, we all talked about how much we missed reading it together and ordered another through a friend with two-day shipping so we could get a new one as fast as possible.



With 500+ pages this one gives a thorough look at the Old and New Testaments, has great illustrations which include darker skinned characters and is worded perfectly for both our four and nine year old to understand. They look forward to reading what happens next and don't let us forget that we have to read before bed. I love the discussions we're having from this children's Bible!

And there you have the simple version of what's working for us in this season. Next year's schooling choice is still up in the air...we know there are many advantages to home and public school and we're weighing all the factors. For now, though, the right choice for us has been school at home and I've been so thankful for all of the great curriculum finds. 

How about you, homeschooling families? What curriculum jewels have you found or do you plan on trying? 

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