Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Homeschooling curriculum

We didn't choose homeschooling, it kind of chose us. My husband, I don't think, was on board as much as I was because he knows that as a momma bear, I tend to be emotionally reactive with my children when it comes to outside interference rather than more analytically evaluative of challenging situations. However, I think that is what separates us from them. So, when the idea was planted in my brain, I prayed about it. I stressed about it. I feared it. I researched it. I searched out mentors and ideas and curriculum and on-line groups and co-ops and lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!

Initially, the one thing that was beyond overwhelming for me was choosing a curriculum. You want one that is the best. You want one that is going to turn your child into the next Einstein. You want one that isn't too challenging (so that they're not discouraged). You want one that isn't too easy (so that they're not bored.) You want one that isn't ridiculously expensive (ok, well, maybe **I** don't want to buy one that is ridiculously expensive, for others, it may be an option--it's NOT for me!) You want one that will give them opportunities that they wouldn't necessarily be afforded in the public school system. And, since we're talking curriculum -- I'll tell you, it is very hard to choose.

I went to my first home school book fair the summer after I began homeschooling. So, I felt like I was somewhat of an experienced homeschooler. Everyone is a good salesman at home school book fairs. I understand that it's their job to be convincing, but it is overwhelming and discouraging at the same time. Everyone's program is the best. ...the most thorough. ...the most complete. ...the most intense. ...the most hands-on. The people on the sales floor learn to use lots and lots of adjectives that moms like me really like to hear which makes it even all the more difficult to choose. Seriously, it was overwhelming -- exponentially squared!

However, with that understanding, that first year we did wind up settling into one of the "big names" in the homeschooling world -- Abeka. You will probably laugh to know how I chose that path for us. In all honesty, it was because that program was the most plentiful at my initial source of hands-on research -- Half Priced Books. Yep, I started my search for curriculum at Half Priced Books. I would put my purse down and pull out all kinds of books and sit on the floor and read through them for an hour or so at a time. It was informative, scary, challenging, and mind boggling but good for me because a) I knew I was getting a better deal than buying new; b) there was no home school book fair within any reasonable time frame for me to get a real "hands on" look at curriculum since we started homeschooling 3 months into the "typical" school year (I pulled him out in November of his 3rd grade year); and c) I knew that with "big name" products, I couldn't screw him up (too badly!) Ha ha! How's that for brutal honesty?

So, we started out our homeschooling "career" with Abeka. At the end of that first year, I found that there were some aspects of the Abeka program that worked well for us, and, frankly, others didn't. I knew there were certain subjects that we needed to find alternative programs for the future year(s) because the Abeka version just didn't work for Josh. Which is why I'm now not a "one box fits all" kind of homeschooler. We tend to be more eclectic in our approach now. However, I TRULY believe starting out that it's a GREAT way to go because it takes ALL of the thought out of it and lets you focus on your children than the plethora of curriculum choices out there. I think what would be best for most anyone is to figure out what will work best for their student and then tailor your program to their needs, wants and strengths rather than to what's included in a "kit." However, buy having a kit, you can easily learn what their strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes ARE so there are definite benefits to trying one out from the get go.

So, now as we are into another year of homeschooling, we are finding new challenges and I'm again, on the hunt for curriculum. I am not of the mindset to "fix what ain't broke" so for what is working for us, I will continue to utilize that but I think one thing we homeschoolers do far too often is second guess ourselves. Is there really something better out there? I'm sure there may be BUT if you're finding what's working for YOUR child, WHO CARES?!

As the summer starts to approach, the book fair fliers are coming out... the curriculum guides and magazines are being sent out for eager eyes to seek out new adventures. For us, this is our path thus far

Language Arts: we have used Abeka for the last 2 years and I'm quite happy with their approach. They are heavy in grammar, probably not as much in writing as I'd like so I may supplement with a writing program only after looking at what the 5th grade program would contain.

Spelling: We are going to stick with Spelling Power. I find that it's a good fit for Josh. The words definitely are not as difficult as the ones in the Abeka program and since spelling is not one of his strengths, this is one of those areas I've needed to tailor to his needs.

Math: Again, Abeka. I love the spiral approach because whatever we don't want to do, we simply omit from the day's lesson. However, there's ALWAYS more practice to keep skills sharp and fresh. I like the books are colorful, too.

Reading/History/Geography: Sonlight, hands down. We just began our journey with Sonlight and I am in love with the books we've been reading. They're interesting, informative, the discussions are good and Josh is really enjoying them. We won't have read ALL of the books for our Core but that is okay. It is a VERY reading intensive program and I think that is a GOOD thing.

Science: This is where I will be researching this year. We just haven't found a good fit for science yet. I have faith we will. Abeka was good the first year but only when we supplemented and went deeper into the topics covered with Lapbooks, library books, internet research and such. Otherwise, the glazing over topics wasn't really my cup of tea. Besides, I have a kid that LOVES hands-on activities. I need to find something that really forces him to THINK!

Foreign Language: We have purchased the Rosetta Stone Spanish program but have yet to use it (bad mommy)

Bible: I'm thinking we will use one of the interactive, on-line resources this coming year from Switched on Schoolhouse (Alpha Omega). I'd like there to be a few aspects of our day that are not dependent upon my time and guidance and that he can do on his own.

Extra curricular Activities: Josh takes sculpture and acting at a "school" for homeschoolers not too far away. I anticipate him staying with that program. He is involved in sports with the city's rec league. We have several art books for sketching/drawing and will continue that path -- I really like the Atelier DVDs but we didn't get through as many as I'd liked to have this year (bummer). He also takes guitar lessons once a week at a local music store so I'm sure his "program" at home is well-rounded. While I'd LOVE to find a co-op to join, I just don't see that working for us because I don't know HOW to volunteer with a co-op having a new born, keep a full program at home and also maintain some "me" time.

So, the search continues. :) I will keep you posted on how we progress with our decisions for next year.

1 comment:

Christian Mommy Writer said...

Kudos to you for homeschooling. That's a huge commitment to make. I agree with you that you need to make sure you keep your "me" time. Hope you find the perfect science program for your son!