Yesterday I mentioned the curricula that we began with when we first started homeschooling. Please go and read for a better understanding of our philosophical approach to learning as well. This post isn’t a neat and tidy list, though I tried. It’s hard when what I’m trying to show is how different things we did all worked together in harmony with each other. There are no walls between one subject and another. They all work together.
The first year we just used
An early reading primer: Explode the Code. The boy still has three books to go in this series. At the end of which he should understand all of the pronunciation and spelling rules at least. Each of these books costs about $7 US. And I splurged on the $20 or so dollar flashcards as well.
Early math that continues into a full k-12 Singapore Math curriculum: Early Bird Kindergarten Mathematics I also inherited a big box of math manipulatives from a home school family that was finished using them. I pull them out every time I’m explaining a difficult concept.
You should understand that learning was happening in much of the rest of our day as well, outside of the half an hour we spent with curricula, but I have found them to be a good guide for me, and useful in making sure we cover specific subjects.
The second year we added history, and Bible.
For history, if you can afford it, I covet Tapestry of Grace. But I don’t have a $1000/year school budget even if you can reuse it. I usually get by on $200 or less, and a lot of that is school supplies. I love Tapestry because it’s a history based program and it centers around reading real books. All the subjects except math are incorporated into the study of history.
However, I can’t afford to buy Tapestry. So here’s what I do. We started out reading Story of the World. It’s an adequate introduction to history for small kids. We just read it, and avoid the endless busy work involved in the activities you can get to go with it. I don’t want them to be bogged down with busy work.
I also found as many books as I could at the Boy’s reading level that were about the same historical era. The tapestry website has a book list that you can look at, even if you don’t buy. Or it used to. It uses real books, that you can find at the library. I picked up some second hand Veritas Press readers that went nicely as well. The Boy read these during reading time and often interrupted me as I read Story of the World to them to tell me all about something in one of his books that related to what I was reading. Remember, it’s really about the conversation you are having. Don’t rush along past these moments when they are connecting the dots in their head and want to tell you about it, just so you can finish reading a chapter. Pause and talk about it. This is what learning is all about.
Here is a really good example of a literature based curriculum that two homeschooling moms put together for their preteen daughters to accomplish specific teaching goals.
Along with that we were keeping Biblical Feast Days and had been for a few years. (If you click that link please understand that while I consider it a good information source, though it’s occasionally wrong, I’m not a totally rabid, this is the only way to do it ever, person like they can be.) I realize many people probably aren’t interested in doing this with their families, but I include it in order to demonstrate how much of what you are already doing with your kids can be a natural supplement to what you are trying to teach them. We were learning about what it was like in ancient Israel at the same time as we learned about the the rest of the ancient world, it overlapped nicely. What keeping feast days also taught me was that kids learn by doing. “Why are we doing this mommy?” is the greatest lead in to an educational moment ever.
At the end of the Feast of Sukkot (you can look it up) there is supposed to be a celebration of the Torah, and the completion of the year long reading cycle. My MIL once wrote a year long Sunday school curriculum, inspired by the book, 30 Days Through the Bible. It has 52 different coloring pages, one for each week of the year that cover a sequential overview of the entire Bible from a historical perspective. We had the kids glue each of these onto long sheets of newsprint and rolled them up like Torah scrolls. That has been our Bible curriculum for the past year. They color, I read the corresponding passages and we talk about them. I was surprised at how much I learned along with them.
(I keep telling my MIL she needs to publish it somehow, and I think I’ve convinced her, provided the publisher of the book that inspired her doesn’t have a problem with it, to upload the whole thing as PDF files and allow people to download it for a small fee. In fact, I may have talked her into blogging too about teaching children. Stay posted.)
I would like to take credit for how well everything meshed together like that and played out like a fully integrated schooling program. But honestly, at least half of it was an accident. Now I try to do it intentionally.
The other thing about Tapestry that I like is that it’s cyclical. Every four years you start at the beginning of history again and go through to modern times in 4 years. This adapts really well to homeschooling with several different ages. You can be sure they will all get it by the time they graduate your school, and 4 years is enough of a gap that their ability to understand and deal with the subject matter will be much more advanced. The books the Boy will be reading on ancient Mesopotamia in 3 years time will have a lot more information in them. And he will be interacting with the material in very different ways.
(This is an aside, probably more for me than anything else. I wrote at Easter about the traditional church calendar making more sense after keeping feast days. And so I want to keep the church calendar this year. I intend to cycle through, keeping feast days every two or three years perhaps, so the younger kids get the benefit of them and then the church calender the other years. I’m still figuring this one out. So I’m not sure if it will work yet.)
So that’s it. I used some cheap books, a whole lot of free resources, (Join a home school group, if only so you can share and borrow tools and stuff. It helps.) and I adapted everything to fit the needs of our family.
But what about science, spelling, music, and art? That was on Fridays. Well, Music and Art was.
I’m teaching them piano, voice and music theory using the Alfred Piano Method. This was my favorite curriculum when I was teaching piano for a living. Honestly, you don’t need to know how to play to teach out of these books. They explain EVERYTHING! You could probably get your kid to level 4 all on your own, learning along with them.
I really like the book Drawing With Children as an approach for art. Though I’m frustrated that I have to come up with my own lesson plans because I don’t want to take the extra time. I’m looking for a supplement that makes lesson planning easier. But the warm up exercises have been effective for my kids. I also take them through the big grownup History of Art texts that I have and we look at art from the time period we are studying. As well we use the internet to find art images, which is a great resource and doesn’t require storage.
We listen to music from the time periods as well. I knew I kept the History of Music CDs I bought in university for a reason.
Spelling isn’t a big deal for us yet. And Explode the Code explains a lot of the spelling rules as we go along. This year I will add two identical spelling tests per week on the new vocabulary and spelling rules to help. In a few years I intend to use Spelling Power.
Science continues to be learning about things that interest us. This year we’ve covered the solar system, the earth-physical properties, weather, geology, volcanoes, birds, wasps, life cycle of a seed, tide pools, sharks, the ocean floor, etc. I also give the boy old appliances and a screw driver so he can take them apart, figure out how they work, make new stuff, etc. He dismantled a blender, to a point, and then managed to put it back together again so that it still worked. This is how I teach science.
Finally, I can’t post this without telling you that at least half of the curricula I’ve mention here were recommended by my MIL who successfully home schooled 8 children. When I started homeschooling I went to her and asked, “If you had to do it all over again, what would you use to start with?” So it’s thanks to her that I know these things. She did all the work.
Coming tomorrow-What our day actually looks like.