Friday, March 4, 2011

New Vocabulary

I learned a whole new set of vocabulary words after delving into homeschooling curriculum. What kind of curriculum to use, and what approach to take? Spiral learning, mastery learning, the Charlotte Mason method, literature-based studies, the Well-Trained Mind approach, classical education, university model schools, co-ops, unit-studies, notebooking, computer-based, online public school, textbook-based, workbook-based, student-led, self-learning, teacher-led, unschooling - I'm sure I've forgotten more than a few.

Since I took my daughter out of public school halfway through kindergarten, I didn't want to invest in a year-long curriculum right away and end up only using half of it, or risk boring my daughter to death by repeating what she'd already learned. Kindergarten skills are pretty basic, and there is actually tons of free material online you can use and print out or just use on the computer. I found one site, Lesson Pathways ( that had an extensive listing of what to teach in kindergarten, organized by subject in a weekly lesson format. So I used that as my framework, going through each lesson, discarding items I knew she'd already learned, and picking and choosing among the activities listed for each week, until I had an approximately 20-week long course of study in math, language, science, and history. The lessons have a combination of hands-on activities, suggested books, and website links. It took me a long time to develop my plan, since I went to each website that sounded interesting and made sure it was good. Quite a few were out of date, so I had to search around to find alternates if I really wanted to use that particular concept. But by early January, I had a pretty good plan worked out, so I was ready to take her out of school.

It's worked pretty well so far, though some items have proven to be too simple, or too complicated. I'm learning a lot about what level of learning works for a 5-year-old! Sid the Science Kid online videos are actually really good for science lectures, for instance.  I've also used resources from her old school - I had gotten quite a few website references from them over the first half of the year, mostly to reading sites with free printable booklets, like Hubbard's Cupboard ( I also had the list of sight words her school uses for each 9-week period, and some leftover workbook pages they sent home with her.

For first grade, and later grades, I had originally thought I would use an online distance-learning program, such as A Beka Academy. I was still coming to terms with not having much time to pursue my own interests, and this seemed like a perfect compromise - set her in front of the computer for a few hours a day and we'd be all set! We were also still considering private school, and the one we were interested in used A Beka curriculum, so it seemed wise to have her study the same material at home so that when or if we enrolled her in private school, she would be on the same page as the school. Also, I got pretty tired of developing our kindergarten lesson plans, and knew I really wanted a more developed lesson plan purchased ready-to-go in the future.

Things continued to change however. We decided we really couldn't afford private school, especially not with 3 kids. And I continued to research curriculum and ask others for advice, and came to the conclusion that A Beka Academy probably wouldn't be best in the long term, and probably not even the parent-led A Beka textbook/workbook material.

There are several reasons why (more about that in later blogs), but one turning point was when I read about the Robinson Curriculum, which emphasizes teaching the student to teach themselves, using classic literature. Having the kids teach themselves sounds good to me! It's probably quite useful for them too. ;-)  And the list of literature suggested by Robinson included so many books that I want to read myself! Being an avid reader and an aspiring author, anything related to literature will probably grab my attention. Anyway, I'm not planning on using the Robinson Curriculum as is, but the concepts helped change my thinking a bit more, and I've decided on a more eclectic approach, picking and choosing from a variety of sources. I am leaning toward more literature-based study in science and history, with workbooks and online resources for language arts, Saxon texts for math, and a few other odds and ends.

After all my research, I'm tempted to go out and buy everything I want for the next 12 years right away, but I know I shouldn't - not quite yet!  What seems good right now may not turn out to be so good in the future. It's not just about what I think sounds good, but about what works well with my children. So, I've limited myself to buying only 1st grade material so far (mostly), and we'll see how it works!

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