Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Want to Homeschool; Now What? Schedule

"The effort of decision, we have seen, is the greatest effort of life; not the doing of the thing, but the making up of one's mind as to which thing to do first." 
 ~ Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, p. 119)

Make Your Schedule

You've made your curriculum choice based on your method, and now you are ready to order your day.  There are about as may ways to schedule a school day as there are persons in the world.  Some people are very relaxed and just choose that morning the books to read for the day or simply pick up where they left off in math.  Some make a list of what they want to accomplish that week and mark it off as they get it done.  Some people schedule every day of their week.  And I've heard tell of those who schedule the very hours and minutes of the day.  There are also curricula that make a schedule for you and homeschool scheduling/organizing apps that you might find useful.  This will be another area of research for you because there are to be found excellent tips and tricks and plans for every personality.

Knowing that my personality will not work for everyone's way of scheduling, I'll share the procedure I've settled on for planning our school year.  It takes a bit of work on the front end (around June/July for us).  I started the different documents to satisfy our state requirements, but I kind of like having all the info printed out, so I'd probably make them anyway.   They help my brain figure out what it's thinking.

Curriculum Guide ~ First I create a guide for each child.  It includes every subject we will cover that year and what books or materials we'll use to cover them.  I won't have a totally completed guide until the end of the year because I add in memorization, handicrafts and various things that are decided on as the year progresses.  A lot of it is copied and pasted from the Ambleside Online site since they are our main curriculum.  I also spend time researching any new add-ons/changes such as musical instrument or handicrafts.  So this part can take several weeks to complete.  I'll share sample screen shots of documents for our Year 2 child, Jonathan.

Book List ~ Next I list all the books we'll use for each child.  Lots of copy and paste and rearrange here, but it doesn't take a ton of time.

Schedule ~ I've done many different versions of schedules, but I really like what I'm doing now.  Each child has a term's schedule made up (a term for us is 12 weeks).  Every subject/book gets a separate row.  Each week gets a certain number of circles next to each subject/book.  Math gets 5 circles since we'll do math every day; Latin gets 3 circles since we do it 3 times a week, etc.  I count up the circles for the week and divide by 5, and we check off the circles as we complete them each day.  So I make 3 schedules per child per year (but I only make the term as it comes up; I don't make all three terms at once since I like to evaluate how things are going and tweak things for the upcoming term).  This can take several hours to do, but I used to make a new schedule every week, so this way is much better!

Can you tell this is one of my favorite parts about homeschooling? ......the planning, research and scheduling.  If any of this is helpful, feel free to use it.  You definitely don't have to do all of this documentation ~ it is simply the way I've processed our school year.  But do find a way of organizing your homeschool that works for you.  

Go to Method
Go to Curriculum

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Want to Homeschool; Now What? Curriculum

"Multiplication is vexation,
Division is as bad;
The Rule of Three doth puzzle me,
And Fractions drive me mad." 
                                                ~ Mother Goose

Choose Your Curriculum

Believe it or not, school does not have to be forced drudgery.  We have choices now, baby!  Once you know what method of homeschooling you prefer, start researching all the available curricula for that method.  Ask friends, troll conventions, browse catalogs, google it (example: "Charlotte Mason, homeschool curriculum").  There are usually several choices for each method.  Your trouble will likely be narrowing them down and then not fretting that you chose the wrong one.

These are some of the factors you want to consider and check on when choosing curriculum:

1. Do they provide all books and supplies?  Do they offer choices for only core subjects and leave other subjects such as Math or Art to your choosing?  Does it all come to you "in a box" or do they provide the schedule and guide and let you purchase your own necessities? 
2. How does the total cost fit into your budget? 
3. Do they have a discussion forum, Yahoo group, co-op or some other like-minded support of any kind for when you have questions or want to share joys? 
4. Is there a faith element that matches yours? 
5. How accessible is it?  If it's internet based and you are on dial-up, you may have a little trouble getting school done every day. 
6. How well do they carry out the method you chose?  Do they seem to have a firm grasp of its principles? 
7. Is there a trial period where you can return a product if it doesn't work for you?  Can you borrow from a friend to try it out? 
8. Are the books consumable, or can you resale them or use them for your other children? 
9. Is it scheduled and planned out for you already? 
10. Does your child have special needs that are addressed? Does it work with your child's learning style? 
11. Does it cover all grades or just a certain age group such as preschool or elementary?
You will usually need to find a main curriculum that covers most subjects and then also find a math program, reading program, spelling program, etc.  A few states require that you cover certain subjects while some states don't specify.  Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a great site for checking on your state's homeschool laws.

If you are just beginning your homeschool journey, you may want to start with core subjects and add on extras like art or music later.  Buying the right curriculum can be overwhelming, and you don't want to rush into decisions that are disappointing.

Finding a confident fit involves a whole lot of homework, a little bit of trial and error, and a little bit of stick-to-itiveness.  You will be disappointed in some of your choices.  There is no perfect curriculum for your family!  If you love it, but your kids hate it (or vice versa), give it some time and perseverance. Pray, seek guidance, tweak it, and if you still don't feel something is working, change it.  Too many change-ups can confuse, cause gaps in learning, frustrate, and be expensive; so try to minimize damage.  Don't worry though, public and private schools can't tailor curriculum to fit every child's needs either.

I was overeager when first beginning with Charlotte Mason and didn't want to miss any of the great books recommended by different CM curriculum sites.  So I combined two of them.  And guess what?  It was way too much!  (Shocker.)  I finally settled on using Ambleside Online for my main program and using Simply Charlotte Mason for the extras that AO leaves open to choice.

Friends, co-ops, catalogs, blogs all pop new and shiny choices in front of my eyes on a regular basis.  But I am confident in the path we've settled on, and, after a little research, I rarely switch up.  That's not to say I don't recognize a less-than-stellar approach in some area and change it for the next year or next child.  We always have something to tweak for the next school year.

Once you've chosen and ordered, the fun part begins: Wait for your packages to arrive and have fun opening them up and thumbing through!

Go to Method
Go to Schedule

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Want to Homeschool; Now What? Method

"I thought we'd have a little supper and talk some philosophy."   
              "I don't know a philosophy."  ~ Lonesome Dove

Choose Your Method

Growing up, there was only one curriculum to homeschool with that my mom was aware of, and it was in the textbook genre.  Fast forward 15 or so years and I assumed that same curriculum was my only choice for my children.  My world was simple.  Then I discovered the internet and all its research capabilities, and I immediately didn't have a clue what I was going to do for homeschooling.  I felt the textbook method was a little boring and wanted a more interesting path.  I dabbled with unit studies for the preschool years and did a year of eclecticism (what does that mean?!!).  This was a bit better than worksheets and fill-in-the-blanks, but I still wasn't satisfied.  One day I came upon a website that laid out several methods for homeschooling.  An epiphany!  I didn't realize there were more than two! Reading summaries of these different methods and seeing right away which one seemed to most fit our family was a breath of fresh air to my info-drowning mind.

A method of homeschooling is kind of its philosophy of education.  It's the thoughts behind what you do.  It answers the why questions.  ("Why do we do it this way?")  There are only a handful of educational methods that I'm aware of (and I'm not an expert, by any means).  Most of us probably have very distinct thoughts on our preferred method and don't even realize it.  We may recognize what we don't like, but have no guidance as to what we believe is good.  Some of us just use a curriculum peers are using without thinking about it.  

Choosing the right fit is important because school should be an extension of your life.  If you love sitting on the couch reading with your kids, choosing a self-paced curriculum where your child sits at the table with little input from you will shrivel your spirit.  Curriculum comes out of someone's thought process.  So before you choose curriculum, choose your method.

So what methods are out there from which to choose?  Some that I've heard of are Textbook or Traditional Method, Waldorf, Eclectic, Unschooling, Literature, Classical, and Charlotte Mason.  There are many sites that provide brief summaries describing each method, but a few that I found simple to use were:
Simply Charlotte Mason  
Successful Homeschooling
A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling  

Be aware that any person who wrote these summaries will have a personal bias (as we all do) and may not represent all the methods adequately.  But by reading several sites, you should get a basic idea of the methods.  Read the summaries, see what clicks with you, and then do more research on your top two or three choices.  

I right away recognized that the Charlotte Mason method was the fit for our family.  I had never heard of her before, but I felt at home with her ideas.  From there I read all I could about Charlotte Mason homeschooling and was able to narrow down my curriculum choices.  Which brings you to the next step:  Choose Your Curriculum.

Go to Curriculum
Go to Schedule

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Liberty Lee's Tail of Independence"

"There are times, 'in the course of human events,'
People want to create their own governments."

 Liberty Lee's Tail of Independence by Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Shaw Barnes covers the Revolutionary War time period guided by a patriotic mouse.  It is geared toward ages 5 and up.

There are a couple of sections to this book.  The first is the rhyming story in the voice of little Liberty Lee.  Colorful illustrations are detailed.  Several of the maps were helpful for giving an overview that my 10 year old had not grasped from our previous year's learning of this time period: one map shows the original 13 colonies and another shows where 19 of the battles were fought.  My 8 year old son caught that one of the pictures was a replica of a painting we have on our wall: John Trumbull's "Declaration of Independence."

While the illustrations seem geared toward a younger readership, the text seems geared toward an older one.  Many words and phrases such as "separate and equal," "self-evident," and "Continental Congress" won't all be grasped by a young child, but hearing them will help familiarize your child with the vocabulary of our founding documents.  My 6 year old has made her own "De-clo-ration" since the reading of this book.   It consists of her name written over and over again and the sheet of paper scrolled on the top and bottom.  She is treating it as a Very Important Document.

The second section of the book is called "The Tail End" and provides extra material for parents and teachers to use in presenting further topics from this time period such as "The Signers: 56 Men" and "Boston Tea Party."  It contains many facts that my 10 year old was constantly checking ("Mom, is this true?").  It was useful for reminding me of dates and details I've forgotten and for giving a quick overview of the subject.

Our homeschool chooses living books with which to learn.  (You can read more about that here.)  While I wouldn't label Liberty Lee's Tail of Independence a living book, I would use it as a supplemental extra to our current school choices.  It's a level or two above a DK children's book but not as living as something like "Paul Revere's Ride" by Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand.  Some parents will enjoy the great synopsis of facts describing how and why America became an independent country.  My 6 year old narrated back to me that it was about "a president" and "our country" and "We won!"  And she was very excited that we had won.

This review is a part of a TLC Book Tour where many bloggers give their opinion of the same book.  You can find more reviews of this book here at TLC Book Tours.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.