Thursday, January 24, 2013

The 4-year History Cycle

I've been contemplating history curriculum for next year and beyond. For this year, I've been reading out of Hillyer's A Child's History of the World, doing some Intellego unit studies (we finished government for K-2 last semester, and plan to do economics choices and resources for K-2 this semester), and we've just added an Evan-Moor History Pocket for Ancient Civilizations. We've added in a few other books here and there, like Archaeologists Dig for Clues. Oh, and we've just finished up Evan-Moor's Beginning Geography for K-2.

This year has been loosely based on Sonlight's Core B, but I didn't want to buy and do a full-blown history curriculum with just my oldest. I figured I'd wait until the 2 younger ones are ready to do more listening as well, like 1.5 years from now, when my middle child is almost 7 and the youngest is almost 6 (but technically, probably, in K still). I figured we'd start with ancient history again that year, when my oldest is in 4th grade. So this year, I thought I'd try to read through Hillyer's ancient and middle ages time frame, and continue with early modern and modern times next year.

Well, now I think I'm going to stretch it out even another year, and wait to do a full-blown ancient history study until the kids are in 1st, 2nd/3rd, and 5th grades (not sure yet what grade I'll technically call my middle child, since she may be a bit ahead of her age).  Looking back, I suppose I could have started my oldest on ancient history last year, done middle ages this year, early modern next year, and modern the year after, and be ready to start back in ancient her 5th grade year.

But, of course, I didn't do that. I wanted to try Sonlight Core A last year, which is mostly cultures. I'm still glad we did, since she learned a lot and had fun. Plus, I don't think she would have retained too much of ancient history last year. I might have been surprised, but I'm beginning to think that it's probably not necessary to spend too much money on a history curriculum for these first few grade levels. I do like the idea of a 4-year cycle, but I don't think it's necessary to start in 1st grade and do the cycle 3 whole times. I know other people say that too, and that even if you aim to do it 3 times, you probably won't make it completely, and the repetition means that you'll at least get some of each time period by the time you graduate.

So we're not even going to aim at doing the cycle 3 times. I do like the way we're doing a "light" version now - just reading through Hillyer. I'll continue doing that through the rest of this year, next year, and the year after - however long it takes to get through it. I will supplement with the craft projects in the History Pockets as appropriate (she really likes those), and with some readers or read-alouds that match, but not as many as might be listed in a Sonlight Core or some other such curriculum. I just want to do enough to have an underlying background for my daughter, to have some sense of world history as a baseline in the first few years. I don't see us ever using history as the core for all our other studies, but just as another subject.

I also want to do Beautiful Feet's History of the Horse next year. My daughter loves horses (as do I), and I think that will be a perfect fit next year. It might be more natural science (animals) and art (drawing) than history, but still good. I also like CLE's 3rd and 4th grade social studies programs. 3rd grade is only a half year, and covers communities, mostly Biblical and Israeli. I think I would like to do that as well as the horse study next year, considering that the CLE study is somewhat of a geography and Bible study too. I know - it may be overkill for 3rd grade, but if we have time for it, I think they will all be fun choices. Then for 4th grade, we'll continue with Hillyer, but add CLE's 4th grade course, which is mostly geography. Maybe we'll add in the Evan-Moor Daily Geography workbooks too, mostly for terminology.

Then, in 5th grade, we will do a full-blown ancient history course. Right now, I'm thinking I'll use History Odyssey, Level 2. At the same time, I can do Level 1 with the younger two. I do also like the Beautiful Feet history courses, so I may change my mind. Despite my love for Sonlight's philosophy, their courses just don't line up exactly with how I want to do things. I do really want to do their Core F, Eastern Hemisphere, program though, so I think I will slip that in between Middle Ages and Early Modern. My oldest can do Core F in her 7th grade, while the younger two can do the CLE 4th grade geography course. I'll have the younger two do Core F a few years later, when my oldest will be more independent. Throwing in Core F means I won't have time to do even 2 full 4-year cycles with my oldest, and we may shrink the final cycle to 3 years, but we'll see. If we continue on through summers, we may still have time for it all!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Teaching Myself

You know, I think I am learning more by homeschooling than my kids are. Not just about educational methods and curriculum choices and how old a skunk has to be before it can spray. But about priorities, and faith, and obedience. I have to admit that I came to homeschooling kicking and screaming. Not literally, but I really did not want to homeschool. I am not a teacher, and I'm not even really a "kid" person. It took God to change my mind. I still don't think I'm a teacher, and I still don't like it a lot of the time. I still often wish that I had more time to myself. I still think about sending them all off to school.

But the more I reflect on what I should do, the more I acknowledge that home schooling is best for us. For all of us. Even reading through my daughter's 2nd grade spelling (from Rod & Staff) and math (from Christian Light Education) workbooks tends to convict me, to inspire me, and to show me how wonderful it can be if you are surrounded by Christian material - material that reflects on God all the time. Reading the amazing testimonies of missionaries and others has an even more profound effect on me. Reading the thoughts of other homeschoolers also helps me to clarify my own thoughts. My priorities are changing, and becoming clearer. My obedience to God is becoming stronger. My faith is growing more real.

I attended public schools almost all of my life (except 1 year in a private school), and while I came out of it with a strong Christian faith, I can see how some of my long-standing assumptions are not really very Christian, mostly due to being around so many others who do not put Christ at the center of their lives. I am learning how important and critical one's worldview can be, and how easy it is to substitute a non-Christian belief for a Christian one here and there. How easy it is to substitute an "American" belief for a Christian one. Or a "church" belief for a Christian one. They are mostly subtle, seemingly unimportant beliefs, but they add up. I am seeing how 2 people with different worldviews have an extremely hard time communicating. It's like we live in 2 different worlds. And I guess we do.

I have several reasons for homeschooling - shorter hours, less peer pressure, better academics, safety. I have always had a spiritual reason too, to be able to teach my children more about God, but that reason is becoming more and more important as I progress through this homeschooling journey. I want my children to have God as their focus, as their strength, as their highest priority. And I want that for me too. And I truly believe that homeschooling is the way for us to obtain that goal. So we continue...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten

Today, my middle child returned to preschool. She went to preschool from about 18 months old until just after turning 3, when I pulled her out a few weeks after pulling my oldest out of kindergarten. I've been teaching her at home since then, using a variety of things - educational computer programs, some BJU K5 material (both video and non-video), Rod & Staff preschool/kindergarten books (A-B-C through G-H-I books), CLE Learning to Read material, and things I've pulled off the internet.

She's been doing great with all of it really, but gets tired of it after a while, and I haven't pushed her since she only just turned 5 last November. I just give her something from my "curriculum stash" whenever she asks. Still, she's already reading simple books, can blend 3-letter words, and knows quite a few addition and subtraction facts. On DreamBox (web-based math program), she's already doing some 2nd grade math. Based on what the public school expects kindergartners to learn by the end of the year, she's already beyond kindergarten level in most areas (her handwriting could still use some work, though she is almost as legible as my 2nd grader).

So, originally, I hadn't really thought about putting her in school this coming fall, when she is officially old enough for kindergarten. I figured she'd be too bored unless they let her skip to 1st grade, at least, which no place around here, public or private, seemed willing to do. But I had begun to realize that she really would like to be in a class with other kids. She is my most social child, and she thrives in an environment with lots of others. I knew that I really would like to give her a chance to experience a classroom setting, at least for a little while.

I looked into various schools in the area - several Christian ones, and a new university-model school that just started in our area (where the kids go for 2-3 days a week, and complete their work at home the other days). But then - I don't know why it took me so long - I remembered that the preschool where I'm sending my son right now (the same preschool my girls both went to earlier), also has a private kindergarten program. Kindergarten, not first grade. But when I looked into it more, I realized that, being Montessori-based, they let the kids progress at their own rate, and they even advertise that graduates of their kindergarten program will have completed a 1st grade level of work.

I talked with the teachers some more, and it really sounds like they will be able to provide my daughter as much stimulation and advancement as she wants, and will be able to start her at whatever level she currently needs. It's a small school, with probably only 6-10 kids in her class, and it's extremely close to our house. And my son already goes there. And it's not too expensive. And my daughter has been begging to go there.

So I signed her up to start today, 3 mornings a week, just like my son, in their accelerated pre-K program. Then next fall, she can attend their kindergarten, 5 days a week, 8:30-2:30.

She absolutely loved her first day today. Her teacher said she's going to speed her really quick through the first levels of the readers they use, since she had no problem at all reading the ones she started her on today. She also will get her a 101-200 number chart instead of the 1-100 one she started her on today, since she could point out any number she (the teacher) called out with ease. Made me proud!

We'll see how things go the next few months, but unless my daughter blows through all the material they have before the fall, we'll probably be sending her there to kindergarten.

I don't want to send the kids to a public school, and I know we can't afford a private school for all 3 kids (or even 2) every year (and I don't even like most of the private schools and their curriculum choices anyway), but this seems like a good thing to do this year, especially for my middle child. When she finishes their program, I can just resume homeschooling her at whatever grade level (2nd?) she ends up needing. My oldest will be quite independent in many areas by then, so I can spend more time with my middle, and my youngest - well, maybe then it will be his turn to try out a private kindergarten.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Internet Connection Fixed

We finally got our internet fixed, after getting a new DSL modem. It still seems a little sluggish at times, but at least it is consistently on.

I have been busy trying to organize/schedule our school days for the near future. I am changing a few things for Rebekah. I'm adding Winning with Writing 2 to our schedule, to try it out, since I think we need to work on more writing. Copywork might eventually work to produce a good writer in many children, but I prefer teaching more specific tools for how to write, instead of just mimicking other writing, and I think that will work better for Rebekah too.

We are doing good with Rod & Staff spelling right now, so we will continue that, perhaps adding in some games with Her reading skills are very good, and we are doing good with a mostly Charlotte-Mason approach to that - reading on her own and then narrating it back to me. Her grandparents were amazed at her reading ability over Christmas break, as she chose a difficult, small-print, non-fiction book about horses to read at their house. Narration proved to be useful in a discipline matter recently too. She did not seem to be paying attention to me, so I told her to "narrate" back to me what I had just told her.

I may eliminate much of the cheap English workbook we've been doing the past few months, in order to have room to add in Winning with Writing. It has some good parts, but I don't think is really too necessary right now. We have a few more phonics pages to do, so we may do those, and then skip the other reading comprehension, grammar, test prep, and other odds-and-ends worksheets. I think we may wait on much more grammar until next year. 3rd grade will be soon enough for that. I'll write more later on my thoughts for next year, but it may involve Latin, Rod & Staff, and/or Growing with Grammar, depending on how well she likes Winning with Writing.

Well, I'll write more later, as the other grandparents are about to come over. Next time - preschool plans.