The Plan: homeschool journey part two
Ever since announcing our decision to homeschool, so many other parents have expressed a desire to do the same, or at least a curiosity about the whole thing. It's been pretty awesome to see so many people choosing to educate their children at home. Homeschooling is definitely gaining popularity and becoming a much more "normal" thing to do. The stigmas and misinformation about it are thankfully (gradually) disappearing as well. I've been asked about curriculum and materials more than anything else, so I thought I'd share a bit about what we're planning to do.
As I began to research the "how" of teaching my kids, I found a wonderfully diverse range of philosophies and approaches. One of the very best aspects of homeschooling is that you have the freedom to choose only what works for your family and each individual child, and to change at any point according to their needs. Some families choose one of the many boxed curriculums, with textbooks, workbooks, and lessons plans ready-to-go for each subject and each grade. On the other end of the spectrum, some choose to "unschool", using no (or very few) formal teaching materials, but rather allowing real life experiences to teach and the child's own interests to guide them. I knew early on that I would fall somewhere in between. I wanted instruction that fit my kids' personalities and learning styles, along with generous bits of the unschooling life. I read about various educational philosophies—Maria Montessori, Reggio Emilia, classical education, Charlotte Mason, and many others. I decided to take what works for us from each rather than following any one of them completely. For Seth this year, some of our plan is based on the Charlotte Mason method. She believed in teaching through "living books" and spending a very good deal of time in nature, both of which I love. You can read more about her methods here, and several of aspects of our plan are from CM curriculums found on Ambleside Online and Charlotte Mason Help. Another large part of our homeschool plan is Classical Conversations. I knew from the very first moment of seriously considering homeschool that if we chose to do it, we had to join a group. Seth is a very social child, and thrives on spending time with other kids. He is not even the slightest bit shy, and will go up to any child of practically any age on playground, and ask them to play. If we spend too much time at home without seeing friends, he gets restless and acts out, and then I react, and he reacts to me, etc. Not to mention the bickering with his little brother, which of course I react to as well. It's not pretty. So a group was a must for us, and I knew several homeschoolers who were involved with Classical Conversations (referred to from now on as CC). I read a bit about the classical model of education (The Well-Trained Mind is a great resource for this), and attended an informational meeting about CC. We decided to try it out this year. We'll spend each Tuesday morning with the group, basically working through a timeline of history. There is memory work (which we'll also review at home), and each weekly class includes a science experiment and a fine art lesson. I hear that families in the group often arrange field trips together on other days as well. I'm definitely looking forward to being part of this community, and I know that Seth will enjoy it. We also have a few close friends starting homeschool this year, with kids of similar ages, and we're planning to help one another and do projects and outings together frequently. I believe in the "village" model of raising children, and I'm convinced that it will be key to our success and happiness in our new homeschooling lifestyle. (side note: a great article I read recently about the village)
So for those interested, this is my basic plan. It is probably going to change and evolve throughout the year. In kindergarten, they are still learning so much through play. Some philosophies instruct parents and teachers not to push a five or six year old into formal reading or math instruction quite yet, but to wait until they come to you asking to learn these. We've decided to start (he has already asked me to teach him to read), but we don't plan to push him if he doesn't seem ready either. This year will be a lot of learning as we go, but I wanted to have a starting structure of some kind, so here we go!
Our Kindergarten Homeschooling Plan
Classical Conversations: as I mentioned above, we'll attend this group once a week. I'm still figuring out how the program will fit into our everyday life, and will probably have a better idea of this once we get started. I expect that we'll review the weekly memory work somewhat casually throughout the week- there are songs that help them learn the material in a fun way.
Math: We chose the Math-U-See curriculum because it seems to be well-loved and pretty hands-on. Many parents reviewing it online said that using this program with their kids helps them (the parents) understand certain concepts clearly for the first time ever, especially in the older grades. I was always more of an art, language, and history type, so this sounds great to me.
Reading and Phonics: A friend gave me a copy of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which many families love, so we're going to see if it works well for Seth. I wanted to supplement this with phonics, so he's been working through the Hooked On Phonics app on the iPad. We may add more phonics resources later, but it's a wonderful (and massive!) app and he's really enjoying it.
Handwriting: We'll do Charlotte Mason-style copywork, starting with going through the alphabet in upper and lower case (he did this in preschool but I want to review it), and then moving on to copying out short poems, etc.
Art & Music: This is, of course, one of the things I'm most looking forward to. In CC they do visual art lessons half the year, and then learn to play tin whistles during the other half. On other days, I plan to incorporate a lot of art into our lives. The boys already enjoy painting and drawing, but I want introduce various new materials (clay, pastels, etc.) We'll talk about and experience the work of famous artists and composers, and probably choose projects that tie in with that. Pinterest is full of wonderful art ideas, so I know it will be a valuable resource.
Foreign language: My husband's family is Cuban, most of them fluent in Spanish. My mother-in-law will be helping us learn to speak it, and we'll work on it together at home in between). It's been a goal of mine for quite some time now, and I'm excited to learn alongside my kids. It's already clear that their pronunciation will be more authentic than mine!
Science: A huge part of our science work will be just spending time outdoors- hopefully every day- and doing what Charlotte Mason referred to as "nature study". Allowing children to explore and notice the details teaches them so much about the world. I've purchased laminated pocket field guides as well as a larger Audubon guide to Florida wildlife, to help us identify what we see. Seth and I have little sketchbooks which will serve as nature journals, to sketch and record our discoveries and collect pressed flowers, etc. We'll also study science in somewhat informal "units", based on interest. For instance, my husband loves astronomy and this has rubbed off on Seth, so we'll spend some time learning in-depth about space, searching the library for books and documentaries, going on a field trip to a planetarium, taking the telescope out to a field at night, etc. Other units this year might include weather, or specific animals of interest, etc. For now, I won't plan these in advance but will choose them together as we go along.
Literature and Poetry: We will spend time every day reading aloud- I think this is one of the most important aspects of any homeschool. We've built a small collection of staples for the home, including Aesop's Fables, a Mother Goose collection, A Child's Garden of Verses, and a collection of classic fairy tales. Much of other material will come from our weekly library trips. I'll use Ambleside's recommended book list as a guide, because it's full of wonderful classics that I want the kids to be exposed to anyway. I'll ask Seth to tell stories back to me in his own words, and sometimes draw a scene from what we read (CM refers to this as narration). We will likely use some of our poems as copywork as we go along.
Life Skills and Family Values: Another thing that is so important to me is that my kids learn to help maintain our home and carry out daily age-appropriate responsibilities, help care for the garden, and learn useful real-life skills as they grow. Kind of like nonstop home-ec class ;) We'll also read from the Bible together daily, memorize a short verse each week, and look for ways to help others and give to our community.
After typing all of this out, it seems like a lot. I have no idea if we'll find it's way too structured, or not enough. As I said, I'm sure we'll make adjustments as we go.
For keeping track of it all, as well as to have a record of what we did, I wanted some kind of planner. Kristin Rogers' Little House Homeschooling blog has been a great source of information and inspiration to me, and she so generously provided a PDF download of her basic homeschool planning pages. I customized this according to our subjects, etc. (shown above), and added some pages of my own in the back (some lines pages fro recording the books we read and the special trips and activities we do, an outline of all our planned resources/curriculum). The chalkboard quote cover page (photo at top of post), as well as several reference pages printed in the back of the book, are from A Simple Homeschool Planner. I made the whole thing into a PDF with 50 of the weekly planning pages, and had it printed at FedEx Office for about $25.
As for Isaac, who turned 2 in March, we will sort of be doing preschool at home. He'll be around for so much of what we do with Seth- music and art, stories read aloud, nature study, etc. I plan to prepare some basic activities and materials specifically for him, based on Montessori and Reggio Emilia philosophies. I love "real" materials: non-plastic, tangible items: wood, stone, and cloth; small but functional tools to learn to carry out actual tasks with, etc. There are so many awesome Montessori activities in this book, which I found at the library and immediately decided to purchase.
And finally, some of my favorite sources of homeschool inspiration:
And some awesome homeschool moms on Instagram: