Monday, December 3, 2012

Curriculum ADD - Guest Post

I have curriculum ADD.  I just can't seem to stick with many things for very long.

Early on in homeschooling, one of the veteran homeschoolers in our little homeschool group told me, "You'll do things for a while and then you'll do something else for a while...and then you will go back to the first thing...and then find something different...."

This has been very true for us.  My girls started this year using Writing with Ease and Writing with Skill, and we loved the programs.  They inspired my girls to read more on certain topics that they never would have without the curriculum.  I went around telling everyone how I was confident my girls would be ready to write college-level papers if we used this program.  But my girls longed for more creative writing.  So, when my mom asked what she could get them for Christmas, I told her Tikatok gift cards.  My girls spent January writing and editing stories to have bound into books.  As I helped them edit these stories, I realized they needed more work with the mechanics of writing.  So we got out Writing Strands, which we had used last year, and we started using that program again, because I feel it does a better job teaching the mechanics of writing.

I think being open to what our children need at any given time is very important.  One of the reasons we homeschool is to give our girls an individualized education.  So, if they need help with the mechanics of writing...we can find a program or I can come up with something on my own to address the need.

  • Grammar - We use a mix of things for Grammar.  We completed Easy Grammar 4-5.  We also used Michael Clay Thompson's Grammar Island and Grammar Voyage.  Now sometimes we write sentences based on MCT grammar and diagram them.  Sometimes I assign a page in Daily Grams or Editor in Chief.  I feel that all of these programs have their strengths and ... their weaknesses.  But by mixing it up, depending on my girls' needs, time, what we are doing that day, I can hopefully balance the scales of skills offered in these books.

  • Reading - This is an area I struggle with.  My girls are both voracious readers and have started their own Book Club with friends.  There is a part of me that thinks that is enough.  But then there is another part of me that likes to have some concrete proof once in a while.  We have tried a variety of reading workbooks, but Reading Detective is my favorite.  I usually assign an activity in their Reading Detective books on days that I work.  Actually seeing concrete proof that they got all the answers correct or which areas they struggled with is very helpful to me.

  • Math - Last year, our first year of homeschooling, we went through so many math programs, I wasn't sure if we would ever finish one!  We have happily settled on a program that both of my girls seem to understand.  On Monday they would do an exercise, if they did well they could skip to the Review and by Friday take the test.  I kind of had it in my head that I wanted them to take a test EVERY FRIDAY.  Last spring I realized that rushing through was not the way to go.  Now they take the tests when they are ready.  Lately, Piper has been going back and filling in pages she skipped because she had understood the concept at the time.  I am fine with this.  I would rather they be VERY COMFORTABLE with the material before moving on, than just move them ahead to finish something.

  • Science - When we started homeschooling, I was petrified of teaching Science because I never understood science.  Our first year, I used Science kits...I didn't even both with a science curriculum.  This was a total act of God because with Science kits - doing experiments - I started to understand and LOVE science!  I could count on one hand how many science experiments I had done in school -even college science!  I am a visual learner and needed to see how things work to get it.  Since discovering this, we have not found any Science program that offers enough experiments to suit me (I know I am crazy--I will seriously spend hours and trash my kitchen to do a science experiment!).  I ended up designing my own science program for us.

  • History - We use Story of the World, which we all love.  Often we will find that we get very sidetracked.  For instance, we started Story of the World back in September and we are only on Chapter 14!  I am okay with this since we school all year round...we just keep moving forward little by little.  As I have said before, I would rather my girls understand something before moving on than just move along because the next chapter is there or it's in my planner.  After learning about Vikings, we had to call my husband's dad to talk to him about his family history (he is a descendant of Vikings) and then we read whatever books we could find on the topic.  Currently we are ensconced in Norse Mythology.  The girls read a Norse myth, summarize it and draw a picture representing the myth.  They are creating their own Norse Mythology mini-books. (I do not find it confuses my girls at all to study mythology.  We studied folk tales and folklore before mythology and my girls see mythology the same way: an ancient people's attempt to explain something.  They accept the Bible as fact and myths as just stories.

It is really important, for our family, not to move forward until we are ready.  If a particular topic that we are learning about elicits some interest in the girls, we spend as much time as they want learning more about that topic.  If the girls need more practice at something, we take our time before moving on. If we see that they are not understanding something, then we seek new curriculum or new exercises to help them develop the skill.  To us, that is what homeschooling is all about.

Theresa Bond is a former pre-school teacher who now works part-time as an assistant children's librarian while homeschooling her two daughters.  When she remembers that God is in control, her life is always much better and smoother.  You can find her blogging at Red Oak Lane or follow her on Twitter.  She is also part of the team that runs the "Look! What We Did!" monthly linkup for homeschool families.