Thursday, February 12, 2009

Home-school Series Part 4

Most days, "book work" will take 1 to 2 hours to complete. I've heard that home-schooling is much easier without little ones underfoot, but since I have always had a little one hanging around, I have nothing to compare. It is a challenge to work it all in and out! Last year, James was hard to deal with, as he was whiny and in those "terrible twos." I would put him in his high chair while Dori and Micah sat at the table with me and I would try desperately to keep James quiet and occupied long enough to read instructions to the kids. Playdoh is indespensible for this, as are the "special" coloring books that only come out during school time. This year, I have noticed that James is more into sitting down at the table with us and actually likes to color and pretend that he is having lessons, too. He learns peripherally this way, but I do get frustrated with the constant interruptions.

Math is easy for the kids to do on their own (I check answers), and only when new concepts are taught do I come into the picture. Micah loves math and Dori does not like it at all! She is like me. I usually try to get her to get it out of the way first and then she can enjoy the rest of her work.

There are so many choices out there for home-schooling curriculum. At first I found it overwhelming and had not a clue where to begin. I asked veteran HS moms and researched on the net, reading reviews and looking at catalogs and websites. My criteria for a HS curriculum was simple: inexpensive and easy to use. I really, really liked Sonlight, which is reading intensive and gets awesome reviews. However, we felt that it would be way too pricey since we would have to purchase several "core" programs. I do receive a catalog from Sonlight, yearly, that I store with my home-schooling materials, as it contains yet another fantastic reading list.

I know a ton of folks who use programs like A beka or Bob Jones with great success. This is more of a textbook/workbook approach and I have been impressed with the quality of the few materials I have used (workbook here and there).

I also like the philosophy behind Classical education. Here is a definition of classical education taken from "The Well-Trained Mind" by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer: Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.

I researched Tapestry of Grace, a classical curriculum that gets rave reviews, but decided against it for now, even though I absolutely love the concept and material covered.

I decided against it mainly because I know myself, and know that I would struggle with the amount of teacher prep work involved. From what I can tell it is extremely labor intensive on the mama--not what I need at this stage in my life!

So what did I settle on? A little Mennonite company called Rod and Staff.

Someone gave me several Rod and Staff English books when Dori was about 4, and to be honest, I thought they were sort of boring looking and old fashioned. I kept them, though, and one day while I was cleaning out the "homeschool cabinet," I noticed them and really took a good look at it. It was sweet...and also thorough. I mean, there weren't any colorful graphics or really any bells and whistles, but I was intrigued. I began to research reviews online and discovered that for the most part, all sorts of folks were happy with this company. Once I realized that the entire 1st grade package was cheaper than the teacher guide for Sonlight, I was sold. We use Rod and Staff Phonics, English, Math, and writing. It is extremely simple and so far we are really happy. I have to plug Rod and Staff's "kindergarten" curriculum, because it is so awesome, in my opinion. I bought this for Micah last year and he absolutely loved it.
I think the whole thing is about $20 and you get the sweetest little workbooks that are so much more than a glorified coloring book. These workbooks really helped Micah with his motor skills and the basics of writing. He didn't even want to pick up a crayon until he was 5!

In addition to Rod and Staff for math and language, I have used Oak Meadow this year to supplement where I see a need.
Oak Meadow is a secular holistic curriculum, loosely based on Waldorf education. Now the Waldorf stuff is out there. I love the emphasis on limiting screen time, using natural materials, art, music and including children in your daily home upkeep (like cooking and cleaning). But...and this is a huge BUT, lol, all the fairy stuff and weird anthroposophical stuff is totally contrary to our Judeo-Christian belief system. I will probably not purchase Oak Meadow again next year, but I'm glad for the experience we've had so far this year. Things I like about Oak Meadow: Weekly assignments as opposed to daily assignments; helps me with coming up with crafts; strong emphasis on art; laidback and not academic intensive. I skip all the weird stuff, and pull from it what I think will work for us.

Finally, as I mentioned in the previous post, I am a big fan of At first I guffawed at thinking of using a free online curriculum. I mean surely that must be sub-par, right? But I have since waken up to the fact that it is solid and thorough. I am *very* loosely using this, and did the same last year, but suspect that I will probably rely heavily on this curriculum next year. I am still new to home-schooling and getting my feet wet, but I think if I'm honest, I would love to use this curriculum exclusively.

Some pictures:

This was taken a couple of weeks ago right after Micah lost his front tooth. He has since lost the tooth next to it, as well.

This is a picture of Micah doing his phonics lesson from Rod and Staff.

This is a picture of Dori doing her Rod and Staff Math. It looks like we forgot to brush hair this morning!

This picture cracks me up. This is James' spot while we home-school. He usually colors, but many times "builds towers" with these homemade crayons I made melting broken crayon bits together in molds. James builds the tower and then knocks it down and starts over.

1 comment:

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