I wanted to tell a little about our homeschool journey on this page, and share some interesting and fun things we have done this year.
When we started out last fall, I decided to create my own curriculum, based on the Charlotte Mason philosophy. A little bit of a wide range of subjects, is what Charlotte Mason popularized. She pushed lots of “living books” (basically good, solid reading with lots of meat), short lessons, nature studies, narration, music and art study, home ec, and handicrafts. She also lived in the late 1800’s and had no children of her own! That said, I think her ideas are valid, but perhaps a bit hard to implement in the real world of 2013.
But I liked the philosophy, so I pressed on. Found some math, some phonics/spelling, and decided to tie my stuff together with a creation-based science program using a great experiment book I found, and a nice biblically based creation science book. I planned and I researched. I had Bible based copywork planned. I had science lessons planned. I had songs planned. I had it all figured out. Or so I thought!
We started our homeschool year in Vermont, on our extended “vacation,” light and easy, with a nutrition unit. It went fairly well, other than trying to wrangle my 7yo to do her reading while her new friends were knocking on the cabin door to come and swim. We visited a cheese factory, milked cows, milked goats, bought fresh vegetables at the farmer’s market to prepare for dinner. On our way back south, while visiting friends in Cape Cod, we toured the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory, watched fish come off the fishing boats, and ate fresh seafood from a shoreline restaurants. It was going pretty well, I thought. Then we got home.
Trying to implement my plan was difficult. The days were long. The fights were big. The work itself was fine, but it became tiresome to her. Especially when her little brother got to watch tv and she was doing math. We read and spelled, did math and science. Looking back, I think it actually went pretty well for our first few months of homeschooling, and first year of not being in public school setting.
But then my plan sort of ran out. We finished the grammar & spelling I had laid out. We never did do much writing (bc I never fully thought it thru). We quit doing science because it was easily dropped when busy, and we never started art. I didn’t have time to finish planning where I had left off, and things started to go downhill. One thing I had not counted on in my plan, was the amount of TIME it took to get thru our day. Sky needed me at her side or in the room all day long or she was distracted and off playing. I couldn’t go do laundry. I couldn’t go answer the phone. I couldn’t work with D or she was wanting to do that. It was very frustrating to me after a while.
So I started to re-think the process and plan. Perhaps not a great idea, but I realized that I needed something that was completely planned out, or we would be swimming against the current of disorder! So I dug out my pile of stuff from the homeschool convention & started reading, trying to get some ideas, find some help! I found my catalogs including those for Sonlight, My Father’s World, and Heart of Dakota. Christian Light Education was interesting, worksheets, like she enjoyed, but seemed a little lacking. Sonlight looked good, but that catalog is so overwhelming and confusing, I didn’t know where to begin, what I’d need or where to put her! My Father’s World really seemed intriguing, but when I had seen them at the convention, I remembered that I felt their early program seemed so light, so easy that it would probably not work for my bright kids. I liked the rotation and ability to combine the kids, but that wouldn’t start for another year or so, and again, I just didn’t fully understand what I’d be getting into. Then I opened the Heart of Dakota catalog. Right away, it seemed calmer, more easy to understand, more suited to our family. I spent a lot of time comparing the programs (Sonlight vs. MFW vs. HOD) made comparison book lists, grade by grade comparisons, and cost comparisons. They all really seemed similar, but the bloggers and reviews seemed to lean toward HOD. So I dug more fully into the HOD & MFW catalogs, having ruled out Sonlight (really for cost and confusion). What really made me choose HOD was the book lists. I KNEW the books on the list, I had READ many of the books on the list, I HAD many of the books on the list, and finally, I thought my children would ENJOY those books more than those of the other programs. And, it went with Singapore Math, which we were using, and Apologia science, which we wanted to try. It seemed like a good choice.
So, as I debated on what to do, I found support groups online, and luckily found a used Beyond guide at our local homeschool consignment shop. I got it, mainly to look at it, and really fell in love. The more I looked, the more I liked and so we pretty much dove in head first. I left my made-up curriculum behind (for the most part) and started out with Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory. We both enjoyed it, liked the readings, the poetry and bible. But, after a while found it to be too easy for my mid-year 2nd grader. We pushed thru with the history, bible and poetry, did pretty much 2 weeks in 1, hoping to get thru the guide by fall. But after a few months, (13 units) and the end of May approaching, we decided to just ditch it. I had thought to run thru it to do Bigger in the fall, but once I got my hands on a Bigger guide, I realized that we didn’t need to finish Beyond to start Bigger. Some kids might, but for us, it was not a necessity.
Our big downfall to Beyond was doing history reading about the Mayflower, while reading Little House in the Big Woods. It was confusing to us to have 2 so different historical periods in our brains at once. And having done some great work on pilgrims in the fall on our own, pilgrims were getting a bit boring. Settlers were much more fun, but we weren’t getting to them for quite some time! So we decided just to ditch the guide. And since Bigger is another round of US history, I was okay with that!
Now, I must say, I really think that the proper placement for my rising 3rd grade, advanced reader, is in Preparing Hearts for His Glory, but she voted to stay on American History again next year, so we will. My plan at this point, is to start Bigger in the fall, add in the extension readers, and try to coordinate the independent reading with the history timeline. I’ll be going against the grain for the storytime readers, but feel that I can quiz her on the reading by genre rather than by the guide questions. I was having a hard time making the questions of the guide fit the book anyway, so this might work out better. Everything will hopefully fit together a bit more tidily, which will make our brains a little happier. I then plan to do Preparing in 4th grade, if we are still happy with the overall format. After that I will re-evaluate. Really, (who am I kidding), I will re-evaluate constantly, because that is what I do! ; )
I am also planning to beef up the science using Apologia Swimming Creatures and Flying Creatures. This might not be necessary, but Skylar really wants to study animals more in depth, has consistently said she wants to be a veterinarian, so I think the extra animal studies will be good for her and interesting to her. I think these books will go well along with the listed science in the guide, or we can drop the guide science and do just the Apologia.
So that, in a rather large nutshell, is the curriculum path we have walked. I feel that even though I know it is not a perfect fit, it is acceptable. I think that fitting an all-in-one curriculum to my children will be hard, because they are advanced in some areas and on par in others. I am still working on trying to find a spelling and grammar program that is at her level, challenging her without being boring, but haven’t settled on one yet. And Devin will be his own little challenge, trying to find a pre-K program that will entertain and stimulate him without being too advanced in writing and math. He is on the brink of reading so I plan to work with him using Veritas Phonics Museum as my reading program with the Little Hearts for his Glory (K) HOD program. We’ll see how it goes, but I have found that work that is too easy (boredom) can create as much drama as work that is too hard!
Making my own way is okay, and now looking back, I believe I was doing a decent job in putting together a program, but it was so time consuming that I just got tired and overwhelmed! And looking forward to next year, teaching 2 kids, I need something easier to rely on, when my creativity and knowledge are lacking. I am excited about the plan, and am really enjoying the challenge of teaching my kids. I feel blessed to be able to homeschool, and hope we will be able to continue it for years to come!