Homeschooling research

This year has been a bit frustrating with regard to Princess Trouble's experiences in public school. Her teacher is good - albeit strict - and I'm pleased with the school overall...


We are seeing weaknesses in the curriculum. There are concerns over the behavior of other children in the class. Princess Trouble's boundless enthusiasm for school and learning isn't so boundless anymore. And I do not feel that, if left in the hands of the public school system, she will live up to her full potential. Little Man is another concern. If he takes after his father (which is almost a sure thing, given the fact that he is a clone of my husband), I suspect he will do much better in a one-on-one, tailored setting rather than a classroom with 20+ other kids and an inflexible curriculum.

The irony is that I am a public school teacher. I am certified K-12 in Health and PE with endorsements in math and science. I've taught, full time, in public schools (CO, CA, and AK) for 5+ years. And now I sub in the public schools here. I've seen what works and what doesn't work and the sad thing is that, overwhelmingly, there is more of the "doesn't work" out there. I don't want my kids to fall into that category. And these days, when we're pumping more money into the public school system yet seeing a negative return on our investment, it is obvious (to me) that the public school system is about as broken as the health care system.

So, here we are. More to the point, here *I* am. I have known for several years, that homeschooling is in our future. Logistically, it's going to be necessary. Once we leave this island we will be in a state of limbo for many months - MacGyver has a school he will need to complete en route to our next duty station. And, while we *could* go on ahead of him to our next duty station and wait for him to join us, that is not something that we are willing to do. Military life separates our family often enough so, when things like this come up, we will work to find a way to stay together.

Rather than have my children attend 3 different schools in one school year, we will homeschool during this upcoming adventure. If we find that homeschooling works for us, then we will stick with it. I suspect it will. We already do some informal homeschooling as it is - during school breaks/vacations, weekends, etc. Often, Princess Trouble's classwork/homework isn't enough to truly cement a concept in her brain so we will do extra practice at home. My kids love learning at home - they are homebodies just like their parents.

Kim du Toit has an incredible article - her magnum opus - "Educating Your Children" series and it has been wonderful in terms of helping me to identify our goals and objectives for our children. I am in the process of soliciting information on curriculum from several homeschooling families we know and admire. Our broad subject areas are (and you'll notice that these pretty much reflect Mrs. du Toit's categories):

Arts: art/crafts, dance, music

Letters: English, literature, grammar, foreign languages, history, social studies, civics/government


Science: including health, gardening

Life Skills: including household skills, religion

Extracurricular: clubs, volunteering, hobbies

I've already heard from several friends as to the curriculum(s) they use for these subjects. And WHY they use them. That's key. My kids are alike in many ways but different in how they learn.

Princess Trouble is like me: loves to read, good with memorization, easily frustrated, good with detail, creative (not like me on this one). She'll be in 3rd grade next year.

Little Man is the epitome of his father: prefers to work with his hands and learn things by DOING as opposed to reading about it. Likes to read but only books he has an interest in (PT will read the cereal box if there's nothing left to read, even if it's not interesting). He's much more persistent than she is and his tolerance for frustration is higher.

I would love to find curriculum for each subject that is multi-level but I'm not adverse to using 2 completely different approaches if necessary. I am also not adverse to essentially creating my own courses from a variety of sources/curriculum. That is pretty much how I ran my classroom when I was teaching - the text/curriculum left so MUCH to be desired so we used it as the framework of the class (per state guidelines) but I created my own lesson plans for each topic rather than strictly adhering to the text. In some instances, I had classes with distinct "personalities" and would create individual lesson plans for each class based on what worked for THEM. So I have no qualms doing the same for my children.

I suppose the point of this long, rambling post is to ask my readers that homeschool what curriculum(s) you use and WHY. What works for you? What did you try that DIDN'T work for you? What advice would you give with regard to structure, record-keeping, etc. I'm looking forward to hearing it all! Thanks!


- hfs


Sheri Payne said...

You're right, multi-level curr. is the best bet. One that would work for both of their styles is Tapestry of Grace. It is a complete humanities curriculum, K-12, containing history, art history, science history, Bible, writing, geography, etc. (basically everything except math and hands on science). It is meant to be a pick and choose curr., as most could never do it all, so you can concentrate on reading for the one and hands-on for the other. Check it out!

Homefront Six said...

I've heard of ToG. I had forgotten about it though. Thanks for the info - I will definitely be checking it out. I like the idea of a "pick and choose" curriculum. Thanks!

Leigh said...

I'm a cherry-picker kind of curriculum junkie. However, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the book "The Well-Trained Mind" by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. And I almost exclusively use their recommendations as I cherry-pick. You should be able to get a copy from the library.

I'll have to send a separate e-mail later if you want to know the specific curriculums we've used this year for 1st grade. We're in the middle of moving chaos here and things are more than a little nutty.

Homefront Six said...

Leigh ~ they are going on my list for the library. Thank you!

airforcewife said...

I use Sonlight, with supplements.

We're all readers in my house, so Sonlight is perfect for us. I love the way the books line up with the subjects being taught, and I love the subjects that the curriculum touches on (for instance, grade/level 5 is a survey of Africa/Asia/Oceania and grades/levels 3 and 4 are American History, but divided in half to cover it all more in depth).

Sonlight can also be adjusted for multi-level, and you can get the gist of it prior to the rather large outlay of $$ if you check out their website and use their reading lists for a bit.

I adore seeing the books that I learned so much from as a kid (Johnny Tremain, White Stallion of Lippizza, Across Five Aprils, Old Yeller) in my kids' curriculums and I also think it teaches them an appreciation of good literature.

For math we use Horizons in the younger grades and Teaching Textbooks for the older (I HATE teaching math).

April M. said...

When we were living in Las Vegas, Aaron started Jr. High - in 6th grade. We kept him in for about a week, then I pulled him out and enrolled him in a public charter school. He worked at home on the computer during the week, met with the teacher weekly and attended optional science and math labs. It wasn't perfect, but it was what we needed at the time. I was afraid of going solo with homeschooling, so I leaned on the charter school. The first year was great. If you didn't understand one subject, you could spend more time on it. You could spend one day just on Math and Science and another day Reading and Art. The following year, the school was trying to become accredited, and it was back to the public school politics. Sorry if you don't understand, it's time to move on.

Once we moved to a smaller area, we went back into public schools. 6th grade is still in elementary school and they have some great programs. It's still not perfect...but what is? I keep thinking that there has to be a better answer. Maybe you are just the person to find/create a better way.

Anyway, I don't have curriculum advice for you, but I do have a fun and educational website that we used as a break now and then. It's called Brain Pop - which is funny because when the kids were little, we referred to gas as "pops". There is a "free movies" area that you can go on to see what it is like or just to have a little fun if you don't want to sign up and pay for it. http://www.brainpop.com/

Good luck!

Annie said...

I have always been on the pick and choose side when it comes to deciding what I use for Junior and The Diva. They also both have different learning styles - care to guess who is like which parent?

One book I loved for The Diva when she was about PT's age was a whole year's worth of lessons based on the Little House books. She loved it because she got to read the books and do all the "fun" stuff Laura did. I can't remember the exact name of it now but I've still got it around so if you want the name of it, let me know.

As for record keeping, just be your usual full-steam ahead self, learn each state's rules as you move and don't ever let any school official tell you that you don't know what you are talking about when you quote the state law from memory. I'd pity the poor school official that ever tried to tell you that anyway.

Leigh said...

We love Sonlight for Literature and History, too. The Read Aloud selections have been fantastic.

Another great resource for getting your feet wet is "So You're Thinking about Homeschooling" by Lisa Welchel (sp?). She does a great job of describing the different styles of homeschooling. Once you find a style that resonates with you, you'll be better able to find curriculum that meets those objectives.

FYI - Well-Trained Mind (and Sonlight) both fall under the Classical Education model of homeschooling.

Thought about you a lot. Will write more later.

Sheri Payne said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cecilykg said...

I've heard of ToG but with what you've written I must, must review it! On the subject of kids and learning, i had the worst time having my children do their chores and have a good attitude at the same time (ha! I know perhaps I'm insane) but I found a website: www.kids-save.com and it is DIVINE! It's both parent/child involved and it is smooth, easy and efficient in teaching my boys to understand what's expected of them daily (their list of chores), upon completion of the chores they can track how their money is earned and enjoy the satisfaction that comes with hard work and pay. They accrue points while doing this and it enables them to build an online kingdom. So, based on their work habits, financial planning their city thrives or declines. This is absolutely a must!! Its kids-save.com and it's perfect for teaching every child the basics of planning and understanding the importance of using money wisely. www.kids-save.com


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