Our History/Lit for 2015-16

I’ve been meaning to share my curriculum choices (and the reasons for choosing them) for this year for a while, but alas, I have been too busy starting school. Or finishing school. Or doing summer school. Not sure what we’ve been doing, but it’s been school this summer for us.

I chose months ago to work with Skylar (5th Grade) on Sonlight’s Core F, Eastern Continents and Cultures, and to add age-appropriate readers and work for Devin (1st Grade). We do the read-alouds together, I add in fun picture books from the library for Devin, and we do some non-fiction reading as a family as well. Skylar does age-appropriate readers on her own, and notebooking pages that come from Sonlight to add some writing and research in the mix.

6 weeks in and (I think) we are all enjoying it. It is challenging to get it all in, especially in our shortened days, and we are only doing a bit of the curriculum so far. I plan to take the next few weeks in slow-mo to get her caught up on her Bible Psalms study and finish up the reading. We have done a few fun projects and have a few more to do before I would call it finished, but for the most part, we are all up-to-speed on Ancient China, with a little bit of modern China life thrown in for good measure.

 

I chose Sonlight this year because I have this curriculum challenge: We have bounced around so much between curriculums that I couldn’t find one that would hit us where we were in history at the proper grade levels for my kids. My biggest innocent/newbie mistake in homeschool so far is that I haven’t really had a long-range plan. I’ve been trying to find a program within the curriculum spectrum that works for us, but still feel a little bit lost on that regard. I see Core F is a good break. It stops the sequential history cycle by focusing more on cultures than history. After a couple years of in-depth history, my kids were eager to take a break and to try something new. It’s written for a 5th-8th grade student, so we are definitely on the young end, but I’m lightening the reading load and pre-reading all the book choices to be sure I find them appropriate for Skylar to read alone, or for Devin to listen to with us.

I’m loving Sonlight’s Core F book selections for the most part. Some are a bit on the dry side and I’ve tried to cut a few of those out for her.  Some books are a bit on the violent side, but I’m tempering those with discussion on how blessed we are to not be living in a war zone. Some are just WAY too long to even consider me reading them aloud. (Young Fu, ALOUD? Really Sonlight? It’s an excellent book and great for historic China lifestyle but long even to read myself for this speed reading mama.) I have been able to find a few of the read-alouds on e-audio or books on CD so that I can save my sanity.

I have also added regularly scheduled readings from Usborne Book of Peoples of the World, Children Just Like Me, and Children Like Me: Our Favorite Stories, Usborne Stories from Around the World, Around the World Art & Activities & WeeSing Around the World. A few hands-on note booking activities from A Trip Around the World 1 & 2, and Around the World Coloring pages for each country.

Core F add-ons

I’m adding in some FIAR book selections for Devin to read with me, some used book finds to be done FIAR-ish, and a hefty use of library resources, at least one movie per country unit & our year is quite full!

I’ve planned to do about 4-6 weeks per country or region, to shorten the year a little, and to prevent boredom. I find with my kids (and myself) that we really can’t go over the 6 week mark on any given topic before we really start to become stir crazy and bored, so I’ve edited Sonlight’s calendar to fit our families needs. I’m trying to get into the mindset that I rule the curriculum and it doesn’t rule me! I think I do okay with that for the most part. But once I plan it out, it drives me nuts to miss and skip things and I want to get it all in! Letting things planned go is still difficult for me so we’ll see how we do this year, long term.

I’m pleased with how it’s going so far, the kids seem to be enjoying the change from ancient history, and we’re all excited for our trip around the world!

Shira

 

 

 

Staying on Course…

Wow! I thought I would enjoy blogging and started off strong. Then I came to a screeching halt as I got overwhelmed with the reality of homeschooling, planning, learning, teaching, scheduling and trying not to sink!

I have been wanting to get back at it, and have decided it is not so much about the quantity of the writings but the content, getting my thoughts out and not worrying about what others think. I was putting too much pressure on myself to ‘be godly’ and evangelize in a way obviously not comfortable to me. Instead, I am now choosing to just write, hope that something I say matters to someone, even if that someone is just myself!
So here goes!
In yesterday’s conversation with God, He made clear to me that I needed to not worry about being judged, instead to just think about the message He wanted for me. I was reminded that He had earlier told me to study Psalm 119 this year (which I must admit has been seriously underlooked by me.) I have recently bought a bible in The Message format, to perhaps enlighten my study in a new way, so I am choosing to begin my blog today with Psalm 119 alpha (vs 1).
He says:
     “You’re blessed when you stay on course, 
          walking steadily on the road revealed by God. 
     You’re blessed when you follow his directions, 
          doing your best to find him.” 
WOW!
How pertinent is that passage to this blog! I don’t know why, but I am still amazed at just how clearly God can speak to us through his word. I feel that I HAVE been working to “stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God,” in our homeschooling journey. I have been steady in this oh-so-hard learning curve. This so challenging beginning phase where our whole lives have been changed and turned around in a whole new way.
A few times in these past 6 months I have really had to THINK about whether or not this is what we need to be doing. Tempted to just call and send her back to school on the bus. To throw in the towel and return to the old public school life!  But my initial desire to homeschool, was not by my choice, but by God’s nudging. Or maybe not nudging, but pushing, or even shoving us to do it. He ‘revealed the road’ to me, about a year  ago, during our then study of Revolutionary Parenting. It was clearly said to me that I needed to work on the relationship with my children, particularly Skylar, and the way to do that was by homeschooling her. I could not get the idea out of my head or my heart, could not find any reason NOT to, so we researched and learned and here I am, working hard to ‘stay on course!’ We committed to trying it for 2 years at the beginning, so 2 years I need to stick with it. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love it, but it is SO hard!
I started by creating my own curriculum, focusing on a sort of unit study based on the days of creation. I planned and re-planned, researched and worked. I thought I had it figured out! I was pleased with the plan, feeling strongly that it was shown to me by God several times in the planning process. But in the day to day reality, the plan was just not getting followed thru. We were behind before we really got started, things were thrown in, and I never seemed to have the time to really get it together. We would skip things, postpone things and all around drop things. I wanted to make it work, but we were both getting frustrated by the length of our days and the lack of continuity.
After a particularly horrific day in January, I felt a change needed to be made. One big reason I felt drawn to homeschool was to NOT be constantly fighting with Skylar. I felt that our relationship in public school was a rotation of reprimands and hurry-up we gotta go’s! Go to the bus, go do homework, go to the activities, go to bed. No time for cuddles or loving or enjoying each other. And here we were, fighting non-stop all day! Do your math! Do your spelling! Do your writing! It was worse than before.
Now, as an mature Christian, I know that this was the work of the enemy. Trying to get us to quit. Trying to make us more miserable at home than we were before. Trying to tell me I was incompetent, we were failing, I was doing her a dis-service by teaching her myself.
I named that discouragement as the work of the enemy and sent it packing! I don’t have time to be discouraged! I need to be encouraged! To be filled with hope and peace, not despair and rejection. When that down in the dumps feeling hits, I remind myself to remember where each of these come from and immediately turn back to the Word!
So, after that awful day, I retraced my steps back to the original path. I found my pile of brochures from the homeschool conference last year, and started looking through it. I had honestly not even looked at it since I got home last March, and was wanting to just go thru to get rid of the junk. But this one program really got to me. I started looking, researching and learning about it. After about a week of late nights, comparing info, reading blogs and praying, I made the choice to try Heart of Dakota. I closely compared Sonlight, My Father’s World and Heart of Dakota, and really, I just liked the heart (no pun intended) of HOD, the reading list really appealed to me, and I thought it would for my daughter as well. It is full of classics like the Little House Books, Helen Keller’s biography, The LittlesMisty of ChinoteagueGinger Pye; a lot of books we already had on our shelf, waiting and wanting to be read. And best of all, it gives me a framework within which to read them, discuss them and apply them to our schooling. It was just what I needed to breathe some life into our classroom day!
I am hoping we have taken a good turn with this program. After about a month of researching, decision making, searching for books, we have just begun the new HOD curriculum for both Skylar and Devin. We’re using Little Hands to Heaven for Devin, a light pre-school program that begins to teach letters, numbers, counting with a healthy dose of Bible reading. One baby Bible story (or part of one) daily, enough to begin to get those stories into his consciousness, to get a familiarity with the Words of God! Both kids listen, sing the songs and do the action verses, so it has been a fun time for us.
For Skylar, I chose Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, a package geared toward 6-8 year olds. It also has a strong bible component, great integrated history lessons (beginning with the Discovery of America) and light science. Choose your own math and phonics programs, so we can continue with our Singapore Math which is a good fit for Sky, and a reading program focusing on good classic (living) books. We are one week in, and enjoying it so far, maybe a little behind, but I think but we will be able to shake it out.
I hope to continue to plug away at my original science plan, using creation as our units. We are beginning Day 4 this week, Planets, Sun and Moon. We are quite a bit behind, but I think we can continue along and just spend less time on the animal units than I had originally planned, hoping to go more in depth on them in the next several years using Apologia science to beef up the HOD science (really because Skylar LOVES animals and currently wants to be a vet, so exploring that in depth will be great for her.)
So as we begin this week, I pray that I am “walking steadily on the road revealed by God.” As in the past, I have looked to Him in times of trouble and discouragement and am graciously rewarded by His revelation of exactly where He wants us to walk and how. I don’t think that we were straying, because I had His conviction that we were beginning correctly for us. I think that we needed to get some of the rough edges smoothed, the initial growth pains eased, the transition completed before we could really open our hearts to this program. I needed to know that I did not have to do it all alone, that I could not do it on my own, that others with more knowledge and experience have good material I can rely on to help me teach my children. Now our school room is finally that, a school room, it is (mostly) organized, calm and hopefully a place for fun and learning and loving. A place to love learning, love each other and love God!
My prayer for today is that we will be blessed in this new phase of our homeschool journey, as Psalm 119 promises.
     You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
          doing your best to find him.

I am re-dedicated to “doing my best” to find Him in our homeschooling, following His directions and walking along His Path. We are, after all, called God’s Path School!

Now, to hit those great books!
Shira