How one conversation led to peace, rest, and the right curriculum.

Remember when I mentioned my conversation with Sarah McKenzie?

Well, she doesn’t know this yet, but her advice to me personally changed the course of our decision entirely (for the better*). Let me explain…

I went to the Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) with 4 companies in mind as possible curricula for the next year. I was openly leaning toward Classical Conversations and away from Memoria Press with Tapestry of Grace and Veritas Press nestled in the middle. I didn’t even take the time to research Classical Academic Press because I was under the misconception that they didn’t put together a “whole grade” package. (And remember what I said I needed? Hand holding.)

Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)Photo credit. An inside look at the fun that happens at conventions (you should definitely check one out!)

So, here’s my process of research and decision.

Veritas Press: First Impression – confusing lesson plans without a clear instructor’s guide (each subject has it’s own lesson plan without a clear agenda and without a checklist). I would have to read separate plans for every subject. Very expensive. For one of my children I calculated an “at least” total of $1,300.

Tapestry of Grace: First Impression – too much work. As much as I appreciate the value of their history and Bible program – the 4 year cycle, the cool map, the whole family integration – I just felt like I would have to do so much more work to pull together all the other subjects to create a whole plan for my children’s year. At this point, I didn’t know what Latin, Language Arts, etc. to use, and by choosing Tapestry I would have to find all of those for myself. And it is also very expensive: $300+ for just the Instructor’s Guide. I would have to find and purchase all of the other resources in addition, along with finding and buying all of the other subjects we want for a whole year.

Classical Conversations: I have already experienced this curriculum, and I wanted badly to like their co-op. But the week of the GHC, I finally felt peace that the co-op would not fit our family. So, I wanted to use this program as just the “spine” for all our subjects. The Foundations Instructor’s Guide (IG) would be our hub for what to learn in all the subjects. We would use the history cards and memory songs, but all the additional resources I would have to find on my own. 

Memoria Press: First Impression – Great packaging. The resources were grouped by grade on one side of their booth and by subject on the other. It was easy to find and become familiar with what would be expected for a year using their products. They use a lot of workbooks (it’s kind of what they are known for) and they put a high emphasis on Latin. Talking with their representatives made me feel confident that we would be able to utilize their tools and teach our children in the classical model with their products. The cost for two students in the same “grade” was just over $700. This includes all subjects, even science and math.

By the second day of the convention, I felt convinced that Memoria Press would have to be the company for us. They offered everything I wanted most: convenience (hand-holding), confidence (full-curriculum IG with checklist), and relatively lower cost.

If left to myself, I would have grabbed the cute basket of goodies labeled with the appropriate grade, headed to the checkout, and breathed a sigh of relief that I would be all set for next year. Even though I wasn’t quite convinced that my kids would love all the workbooks, and even though the read alouds for the year were books we had already read.

Thankfully, I’m not left to myself. My husband was so supportive of my preference and even asked good questions of the representatives while we together looked over their products.

As a caution, he said: “I just want you to pick a company that we can stick with for the long haul. I don’t want to jump from company to company each year. Like Memoria this year, and Veritas the next. Whichever company we pick, I want to stick with them for the duration so that our kids don’t have gaps in their subjects.”

For example, if Memoria teaches biology for 3rd grade and Veritas teaches biology for 4th grade, then switching like this would mean 2 years of the same subject and we would miss other subjects.

I took his caution as a healthy burden. One that was wise and helpful in slowing down my desire to just pick and be done.

But the burden created conflict within me. I wanted to pick Memoria, but I had no peace about committing to use it for the long haul. I kept going back to their booth between sessions. I looked and looked at all their resources while praying. I did the math between Veritas and Memoria, which made me feel even more pressure to pick Memoria. Even so, I still didn’t have peace. I told my husband that maybe we should just wait and not buy our curriculum like we always do.

Used with permission from CAP.

Used with permission from CAP.

Finally, feeling at a loss for what to do with my urge to buy and my burden to wait, I saw Sarah McKenzie at the Classical Academic Press booth (which I still {wrongly} viewed as more of a classical model resource booth and not a “curriculum booth” – they have great curriculum!). I mustered the nerve and went over to talk to her.

I felt silly, but I laid out my situation for her and asked for her opinion.

She wisely gave me her advice to carefully listen and apply my husband’s advice, and she used her own experience of listening to her husband and how much of a blessing it was to her. I know she really listened to me, and even positively commended Memoria Press, citing a friend who uses and loves them. She joked that their packaged baskets are so cute, it just makes you want to go get your grade and take it home all nice and neat.

I had a red flag here, and thought “oh no, I don’t just want their product for the cute baskets!”

I thanked her for her advice, noticed she had more women lining up to speak with her, hugged her and thanked her for sharing herself and her work with all of us. I picked up a Classical Academic Press catalog just for reference and left the booth.

The next morning, I still had no peace. I realized that the red flag was really a stop sign. I did just want a cute basket to take home. 

So, I sat down and prayed. I had my bag with all the catalogs, so I opened up the Classical Academic Press catalog just hoping for some direction.

What I saw surprised meA chart of their products across all grades. A map for a “whole grade” curriculum. (You can view Classical Academic Press’ whole catalog for yourself by clicking here.)

I was hooked. I read every word in the catalog that applied to my children’s ages and grades. I liked everything I saw. I was able to connect the dots between the program and our life. I felt like their program was both full of integrity and academic excellence, yet their approach was gentle and restful. (Scholé, right?)

I was beginning to feel passion for this company, excitement that this could be truly what I was looking for. I started to pray. Then I started to do the math.

It’s true that they don’t have “bundles” for each “grade.” You can’t just drop into their booth, say I want 4th grade, and walk away with your cute basket. So, I used their map and the catalog to piece together what I would need for two students. The total calculated to approximately $400 for everything minus science and math. (They do not offer a science nor math programs.)

I sent a feverishly excited text to my husband proclaiming that I was changing my mind about Memoria, including what I had just found out about Classical Academic Press, and asking him to pray!

There are more pieces to this story: attending Dr. Christopher Perrin’s session (with my husband) titled “Classical Christian Education 101,” talking with (asking questions of) representatives at the Classical Academic Press (CAP) booth, and lots more praying. One of the fun things that felt like a treat to me was that CAP uses Veritas Press’ history program, and I loved this program. I wanted to use it, but I didn’t feel confident to pull that program out of the whole of Veritas. CAP did that work for me.

So, we picked CAP and I was so very blessed in the process. They told me at check out that they were offering a special 20% off discount because of an anniversary they were celebrating as a company, and we were going to get free shipping on anything not available right then.

Ready to see what we bought?

(Pictures, links, and product descriptions used from the Classical Academic Press website with permission. To find CAP products that would best fit your child’s age, go to ClassicalAcademicPress.com, at the top there are 2 navigation bars – the purple bar contains their “Products” and you can research their offerings by grade, subject, series, or online course offerings.)

SSL2-Program

Song School Latin 2: Student workbooks, flashcards, teacher’s manual, and DVD Weekly lessons include songs, chants, new and review vocabulary, an introduction to grammar, and derivatives, all without leaving behind fun illustrations, stories, games, and activities. Song School Latin Book 2 will more than prepare students for their journey on to Latin for Children Primer A. They will surely continue their love of learning Latin with Song School Latin Book 2!

W and R Fable

Writing and Rhetoric: Fable including the MP3 files of the stories being read. The Writing & Rhetoric series method employs fluent reading, careful listening, models for imitation, and progressive steps. It assumes that students learn best by reading excellent, whole-story examples of literature and by growing their skills through imitation. Each exercise is intended to impart a skill (or tool) that can be employed in all kinds of writing and speaking. The exercises are arranged from simple to more complex. What’s more, the exercises are cumulative, meaning that later exercises incorporate the skills acquired in preceding exercises. This series is a step-by-step apprenticeship in the art of writing and rhetoric. Fable is the first in a series of twelve books that will train students over six years, starting in grades three or four and up.

Well Ordered Lang Lev 1

Well-Ordered Language Level 1A & 1B student books, teacher’s manual, and MP3 files of the songs & chants. What if the study of grammar could harness a child’s natural curiosity? What if it could be a source of delight to children? The Well-Ordered Language curriculum presents the study of language in a way that appeals to a child’s inborn curiosity and desire to collect, gather, and order.

VP OT History Cards

Veritas Press’ History program for Old Testament: Ancient Egypt with teacher’s manual, flashcards, enhanced CD for homeschool, and the memory song CD. Thirty-two major events chronologically from Creation to the fall of Egypt to Rome.

Gods Great Covenant OT

God’s Great Covenant, Old Testament 1 student workbooks, teacher’s manual, audio files, timeline, and map.  A Bible Course for Children teaches the biblical narrative from Genesis to Ruth, including the book of Job, at a third- to sixth-grade level. The overarching Old Testament themes of the promises and power of God are presented in simple weekly stories. Students will follow along with God’s people, see how He leads them and keeps His promises, and learn how the stories of God’s people begin to point us to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ.

Reasoning and reading

Beginning Reasoning and Reading student workbooks and teacher’s guide. The Reading & Reasoning workbooks develop basic language and thinking skills that build the foundation for reading comprehension. Exercises reinforce reading as a critical reasoning activity. Many exercises encourage students to come up with their own response in instances in which there is no single correct answer. In other cases, exercises lend themselves to students working collaboratively to see how many different answers satisfy a question.

Student Guide to CE

A Student’s Guide to Classical Education (K-12): this is a guide to which classics are appropriate reading for each grade. (Find it on CAP’s site: Our Products>By Subject>Educational Resources)

For Science and Math: We chose Apologia Astronomy and we stuck with Horizons math workbooks.

So, there you have it. The whole process of choosing curriculum for next year with our 3rd and 4th graders. I hope this encourages you to pray through the process of decision making for your family, to ask for advice (you never know how God will use others to help and guide you), and to trust His leadership when it comes (and to wait if it doesn’t).

I will be continuing to get us all set up for next fall now before our little one arrives (5-7 more weeks!). 

To read more about how I prepare check out these links:

Thank you for reading this lengthy post! I would be more than happy to start a conversation with you regarding what curriculum you are interested in trying for your family. I don't claim to be an expert on your needs, but I would love to listen and pray with you over your decision. Homeschooling is best in community! Also, if you're a Holland Local, let me know if you would be interested in joining a Scholé group. Contact me or leave a comment. Thanks again, and may your homeschool path be full of rest and peace!

For your personal education, I recommend the course I’m currently taking: Make Over Your Evenings by Crystal Paine. (Afflink)

Prepare to be productive like never before!

*I highly recommend Memoria Press – the company and their products. I just know that my children wouldn’t be served best by their products at this time. To learn more about their products for yourself – visit their website!

The Burden of Comparison: Part 1

Even if you’ve never wanted to homeschool, you’ve probably heard or asked these questions:

What do you teach?

When do you do it all?

How does that work?

Homeschooling can seem like this nebulous thing that only a few seemly, well-put-together families have figured out while the rest of us have to bust our rears on a daily basis just to make sure each child has clean underwear.

This is why I’m writing this mini-series on comparison. Good can come from comparison if it means that you learn more about yourself and if that knowledge helps you move forward. Comparison isn’t about discovering what is illusive about someone else, but it’s useful for learning what you don’t know about yourself.

Thomas a Kempis quote for comparison

At the beginning of my homeschool-motherhood, I was constantly hungry with questions for any other homeschool mom. I wanted to know what they had tried, what they had researched, and how they structured their day.

I didn’t do a lot of comparing because I had only just begun, and I hadn’t done enough to weigh myself to their standard. So while comparison can hide discontent in its wake, I was met with a different setback.

I took it all on.

If one program worked for this family, and another for that, then I should try both! My hunger for understanding the inner workings of homeschooling in each family, quickly became a hunger to do-it-all.

Thankfully, I have since dealt with this in my own life, and as a positive side effect, this hunger led me to write the Educational Theories Defined series because I wanted to know more about the camps that the curricula I was hearing so much about were coming from. Knowing the theory behind the resource helped me to quickly judge if it was worth my consideration or not.

As you can imagine, taking it all on led me to great failures. Here are some but not all:

Financial stress. I bought way more than we needed or could even use.

Physical stress. I have now moved whole boxes of unused curricula 7 times. (Let’s chat about my need for Marie Kondo some other time.)

Personal stress. Buying something and not using it is poor stewardship. Taking on more than I am able to bear is burdensome. These may seem like no-brainers, but I didn’t just fall into these poor choices – I ran head long into them – and it hurt.

Relational stress. I subconsciously held my kids and husband to blame. (Sin nature is so gross sometimes.) I wanted to do this “good thing” for them by leading my family on the educational path, but as I cluttered the path with so many resources and choices, we all stumbled and felt confused.

All this stress took its toll on me, and I slumped into homeschool-mom-failure-mode. I thought (wrongly) that I would never measure up, that I wasn’t disciplined enough for this lifestyle, and that I was ruining my children. Stress has a way of preying on weakness (and having a weakness isn’t a bad thing).

Through this process of coming to terms with my weaknesses and trying my best to forge on, I learned from other more wise homeschool moms that I needed to separate my times of planning into seasons, and that the bulk of my efforts on a daily basis should be put into just doing the next thing.

What I lacked most was experience, and I couldn’t get that experience by avoiding the daily work. In effect, I was hiding from the doing by staying in planning mode. My fear of failure tricked me into thinking that I was engaged in a good thing, when really I was avoiding the best thing.

Want to know what I learned next about homeschool mom comparison? You’ll have to come back later this week. For part two: The Freedom to Compare.

Did you see the discussion going on about accountability on my personal Facebook page? Click over and read it all, then let me know what you think.

Don't miss a post - subscribe to The Home Learner for more real life conversations on the learning journey. Coming soon: An Accountability Solution (per this post). You won't want to miss out on finding out what it's all about.

Curricula: What We Use, Part 2: 1st & 2nd Grades

I knew I needed to switch things up for my daughter from Sonlight’s PreK to something else when half way through our year she started writing “No mommy” all over her language arts worksheets. (Notice the common thread from Part 1. Worksheets are not her favorite.)

Then My Father’s World was “boring,” but there was a bigger problem that year which caused the negative feelings from my daughter.

Up until this point, I was trying to do all our learning time together. Both kids at the table, all the resources handed out at the same time, and I tried to keep things relatively at the same pace. I was completely unfamiliar with learning styles or teaching styles.

And my son’s learning style was driving my daughter capital-C: Crazy.

She couldn’t stand it that he would interrupt the best part of a book just to ask a question about how that would work, or why it would be that way and not another way.

She gave him I don’t like you eyes whenever he would blurt the answer out loud. She knew the difference when I asked a question that I clearly wanted them to raise their hands for. (See the Traditional Model in action here? Yeah. I didn’t know better.)

Then when she saw that he was clearly excelling at all things “school,” it was as if she had had enough of being taught in a way that clearly was missing the mark and thought I don’t like school.

So the biggest change we made before starting the next learning year was to separate some of the subjects to give them individual time with me. Subjects that were separate were: Bible, math, writing, spelling, calendar time, and reading. Subjects that we kept together were: Science, read alouds, and history. By having the kids separated, I could focus on presenting the materials in a way that supported their learning style.

This was also the year that we lived with my parents. We faced atypical homeschooling challenges. I wanted to keep my focus on creating routines that were simple and not too demanding as far as projects went. We did a lot of reading together.

What we used for 1st and 2nd grades:

Bible

  • All the kids attended Bible Study Fellowship and the older two also attended AWANA. We worked on their lessons and memorization work during the week. This is my favorite Bible for kids to read on their own: Curricula What We Use Part 2 1

History

      • Diana Waring Presents “A History Revealed” Ancient Civilizations Elementary Activity Book with CDsCurricula 1st 2nd History
            • The CDs are a mixture of Waring teaching chronologically through the sections of the workbook but also lots of interesting facts or probing questions about the way the secular worldview understands a certain portion of history. These CDs are intended to supplement the textbook which is written for older elementary, so even though we listened to them while building Legos – I had to interpret or repeat a lot of the information to my kids at ages 7 and 5. It wasn’t intended for their ages, but it wasn’t bad for them either.
            • This package for younger elementary does not include the history text that goes along with the CDs for older kids, rather it includes a list of recommended books for each section. We really enjoyed:


Science

      • Dr. Wile’s Berean Builders Science: In the Ancient World – This is over my kids’ heads because it is written for 5th/6th grades, but I love it and it’s worth keeping around for later elementary years. Plus I can summarize and teach the concept without reading word-for-word.
        • We didn’t make it through the whole year with me summarizing each lesson. It was the hardest topic to keep my daughter’s attention, and with our other homeschooling challenges – by November I was completely ignoring the Science drawer in our subject cart. By doing this, I realized by January or February that my son was deeply interested in science and missing it greatly.
        • We also invested in Jonathan Parks Volumes 1-2: these are great audio dramas for the whole family.  Some of the action can be intense. The episodes are focused on creation science and the evidence that proves the young earth position and the Biblical account of the flood.
        • For my son, I continued to take the time to simply answer his questions: How does electricity work? What is lightning? And lots of listening to his connections between cause and effect. This year revealed a heavy interest in science. He really enjoyed watching the Science Channel at my parents’ house too – “How Things are Made” and “Outrageous Science” were his favorites (with adult supervision though – episodes are rated differently based on content of individual shows.) Curricula 1st 2nd Science

Math

      • Horizon’s Math
        • We started with Horizon’s with our Sonlight PreK package. At first I chose Singapore Math, but it was way too colorful. The pages were in full color, no white space. We were able to return that and switch to Horizon’s for level K. We used the teacher’s manual for a quarter of the way through and then stopped. The rest of the book was basically practice. For 1st grade, I did not buy the teacher’s manual and it’s been fine.
      • Life of Fred for 1st grade – 3 books – It recommends that the student “take out a sheet of paper for practice” at the end of each chapter, and sometimes my kids would do this – but since we were already doing Horizons for practice I did not require them to. Reading the Life of Fred was more for the enjoyment of the story and exercising our brains to think about how things work mathematically in everyday life. Both kids loved Life of Fred.

Language Arts

      • Institute for Excellence in Writing: Primary – Reading and Writing
        • The letter stories and games made this curriculum worth the expense. Each letter has a “story” and an image that resembles it. Like “c” is a cookie with a bite taken out of it. In the games, the kids learned about “helpers” – 2 letter combinations that make certain sounds. For instance, “ee” is called “squeely e’s” because when 2 of them get together they are so excited that they say their name – like in the word green.
        • This has taken us 2 years to go through – there is so much here and so many resources that the slow pace has allowed for much deeper appreciation. DVD/CD-ROMs are included with the package so we print the resources. The games, however, come in a spiral bound book to cut and assemble. There are readers, lesson sheets, poetry pages, craft pages, etc. on the CD-ROM for printing. The kids are in the “All About Spelling” part of the program (included with the package) right now and close to being finished – then it’s on to the 3rd student book. Curricula 1st 2nd LA

Calendar

      • We also do The Confessions of a Homeschooler’s Learning Notebook for our “caledar time.” The kids loved this, especially when we celebrated their 100th day of school with 100 tokens at Chuck E Cheese. Curricula 1st 2nd Calendar

I buy Dollar store reward charts and they earn 3-6 checks per day. There are 25 boxes per sheet so they earn rewards every 10 days or so. Rewards like time on the computer or a Dollar Store toy are huge motivators to be disciplined daily.

The kids have kitchen timers (isn’t that one super cute?) that they set for 20 minutes to read after they’ve finished their work which earns them another check mark on their reward charts.

And one more tip – for me, going to the Homeschool convention is always way more helpful than any “curriculum” has been. I’ve learned more about how to parent and train them through the teaching and sessions there that I can apply to any “subject” – that has been way more valuable than trying to force a boxed program to work.

I have had to work through major insecurities in order to do this thing called “homeschool” and the homeschool convention has been a major part of the process of change for me.

This past convention, I learned most from Steve Lambert (mentioned in this post – your child’s fav teacher, this one – brains & books, and this one too 10 tips) but I think this quote from him struck a cord within me that confirmed that God is using this process to mature me into the woman He wants me to be. Yes, it is for the good and growth of my children, but it is also for the good and growth of me. Nothing is wasted – especially the hard things.

God invited us to work on an area of ourselves; we refused. God invited us into marriage to deal with it; we refused. God invited us into parenthood to deal with it; we refused. So God invited us to home school – and this is where we deal with it. – Steve Lambert

I hope this helps and doesn’t overwhelm. If it does, just read it again in chunks. Don’t try to take it all in at once. Give yourself time to process and pray. And ask any questions you’d like. I’m not shy.

Further Reading:

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

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Curricula: What We Use, Part 1: Preschool and Kindergarten

Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1There are times when I am overwhelmed by fear because of the pressure I put on myself to make sure that our lifestyle choice – to homeschool – is always successful. I try to hyper manage all the details of our outward expression of home to comfort myself that my children are learning, thriving, and growing in the right direction.

Until I try something for myself or see it in person, I think I have a fear of failure that I won’t be doing the best or the most I can for my children. I know that’s an elephant I bring into the room when I ask what someone else is using with their kids.

One huge point of growth for me each year is in the process of choosing a curriculum. It takes so much faith to put off the desire to have something “packaged and perfect” that guarantees my child’s success in order to put on prayer and faith that God will lead me every single day in teaching and training the persons He’s gifted to me for this season of motherhood.

So I grow in baby steps.

This year I wanted to know more about educational theories and the “why” behind the “what.” There are so many philosophies out there that it can feel burdensome to try to find the best one for your family.

Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1 3

Let me be quick to say 2 things before I even share what resources we used for preschool and kindergarten:

First, even if you never purchase an official curriculum – God will provide all you need to teach your children at every age.

Second, if a curriculum feels too expensive or too strict – then it probably is. Don’t get caught in the trap that you need to have an impressive curriculum to prove you’re doing the right thing for your family.

And I want to be clear that I’m not sharing what we’ve done as a prescription, but rather for review and as a history of our family’s growth in owning this homeschool lifestyle. I started out wanted all the impressive packages and gold-stars; I didn’t even know I was operating from the Traditional theory. I’ve had to change a lot of my behavior to align with our philosophy and I hope you will too.

Curricula we used for preschool and kindergarten:

  • Ages: 2-5 – We did the PreS and the PreK of Sonlight, a literature-based curriculum that is known for having some of the best reading lists.
    • For the PreS I just bought the Instructor’s Guide (IG) and picked up the rest of the books as we went along. We bought some and we borrowed some. The Harper Collin’s Treasure of Picture Book Classics was our family’s favorite.
      Since we knew early on that we were going to homeschool, this curriculum was a great way to build our children’s literature library. On my own, I didn’t know the best books to read at these ages. I really enjoyed the IG for the PreS package because it was filled with fun, easy activities to do with young children.
    • For the PreK we purchased the whole package new. We didn’t like the schedule for the reading portions in the IG (really choppy and too many books going on at once). So around October I scrapped the IG and just read through the books on our own. The down side of that was that we didn’t get through all of the books because we lost interest or just forgot. Also, we missed out on the overlapping effect of having the subjects line up across multiple categories of stories. Overall, we had polar feeling about this package – some books were amazing (Robert Wells books, all the History & Geography books, and Uncle Wiggily’s Story book) and some were duds (A Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes, The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book, and Stories from Around the World). For us, we felt like the dud books taught a underlining principle that we didn’t agree with. Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1 2
  • Supplements: because I struggled to feel like I was “doing enough” just reading to my children I spent a lot of time and money on printing and following 1+1+1=1 resources. We purchased the PowerPoint and set up the whole system for the Raising Rock Stars Preschool – complete with poster board for changing weekly units. (Side note: I now see that my feeling like a constant failure was due to simply trying to do all the “good” things and not being content to just stick to the best. Burden lifted.)
  • Ages: 4-6 – We moved over to My Father’s World for Kindergarten.
    • My oldest thought this curriculum was boring and monotonous, but that’s mainly because at this point she was completely sick of worksheets (again, here’s where I saw I was operating out of the Traditional theory). The style of this package is unit studies that focus on an animal or something in creation (sun, moon, water) and a character quality that can be seen in that animal or created thing that points to God. The student worksheets in this package are good and it is not meant to be a worksheet driven curriculum. They are included in order to round out the materials and to create a notebook for memory.  My daughter (at age 6) reproduced the whole sequence of units just for fun, drawing the picture and writing the character sentence. I think she did enjoy it. My son (5yrs at the time) loved the worksheets and looked forward to each day’s work. Curricula What We Use PreS and K Part 1 4

In the spring of 2014, I was really thinking we were going to do Sonlight’s Core B for “1st grade” for both kids and supplement material for my daughter (7yrs) to be classified as “2nd grade.”

But while we (my husband and I) were at The Great Homeschool Convention we didn’t like the Sonlight science when we saw it in person. They use mainly “Usborne” books – which are beautiful and informational – and we own many books by Usborne already, but they do not hold to a “young earth” philosophy. And we felt like that was a deal breaker for us. I didn’t want to have to “unteach” what the book said about dinosaurs living billions of years ago.

SO we prayed a lot and trusted God’s leading – and He was so good to us! We are loving this year’s resources – and we had to piece it together ourselves (something I thought I would never be able to do)…To Be Continued

Further reading and resources:

2016-HOMESCHOOL-CONVENTION-DATES

 

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

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10 Tips for Choosing the Best Curriculum (& 6 Encouragements)

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

I was naive when I started to formally homeschool.

I followed 2 almost disastrous thoughts:

  1. To lay the best foundation, start the child in academics as early as possible.
  2. To properly educate a child, you must use a packaged curriculum.

So, I did both. And my poor daughter. She may be the firstborn, but she hasn’t any of the stereotypical “follow the rules,” “check all the boxes,” or “color in the lines” qualities in her. I look back on our time together those first few years, and I see her beaming at me for the engaged time together at the beginning of the “lesson” (at 2- and 3-years old for heaven’s sake). Then she would lose interest before the worksheet was finished – and I would panic. Oh goodness, how silly I was in feeling like a failure because an almost 3-year old didn’t want to trace all the circles.

I set aside a lot of workbooks in favor of saving my child’s spirit. Sure, I have felt like a failure more times than I can count because something we have committed to isn’t 100% finished.

I’m learning to compromise.

Now, she’s going into “3rd grade” by the age and educational standard so a lot more is expected of her – and me. I know I need to have a framework for our year in order to keep me accountable to explore, discover, and learn. If I let myself, I would pick the curriculum with all worksheets and DVDs so they could do their thing, and I could do mine. I’m not saying there’s anything innately wrong with these packages, but for me it would not be in line with my Parenting Purpose Statement.

I need to learn, to continue to grow, and to be teachable myself. In order to do these, I’ve written a list of things to look for when choosing from the thousands of educational options for curriculum.

10 Tips for Choosing the Best Curriculum:

  1. Consider the cost. Some companies are very expensive – this does not mean that the products guarantee success. The way I’ve observed the relationship between cost and curriculum is – the more it costs in dollars the more it will cost in time to accomplish. Set aside 30 minutes each day for 10 days, and just focus on learning the basics of one curriculum, company, or subject at a time – putting this investment in before you commit to a scope and sequence will give you confidence that you made an informed choice.
  2. Find out the educational theory of the curricula. Each theory promotes a certain learning style and teaching style. It’s important to first identify the strengths and weaknesses of how you operate and then find a curricula that compliments you. (I’m writing about each theory in this series, check it out if you want an overview of some of the most popular styles.)
  3. Map out the subjects appropriate for your child(ren). If it’s important to you for your child to remain nearly at the same academic level as children their age in the public school, then Google what the recommendations are – or better yet – call the local public school and ask for their standard. Then once you know the subjects and the goals, start looking for ways to overlap materials. Contrary to curricula companies – you do not need separate books, texts, or products to teach all the subjects.
  4. As the parent/teacher, the Instructor’s Guide needs to be easy to read and apply quickly. Most companies provide a “sample” of their curriculum for this reason. It’s so important to choose tools that you can easily and comfortably use – too much money goes to waste when the resources just don’t function the way you thought it would. Know in advance what will be required of you in terms of preparation, presentation, and processing the materials.
  5. Prioritize your relationship with your child. It’s important to maintain this bond as a positive focal point of everything you do. It’s about building this bond in the environment of learning. While academics, information, books, and resources are valuable – they can become so burdensome that natural learning is crushed under the pressure of it. Don’t choose a curriculum that sets your relationship up for failure. While one child may thrive on checklists, another’s spirit may be crushed simply by the thought. Be sensitive to their personalities.
  6. Notebooking, scrapbooking, and lap booking all create tangible evidence of the learning process. The best curriculum is one that makes memories that everyone can see and share.
  7. Just because it’s a new “school year” does not mean you are required to purchase a new grade level or curriculum package.
  8. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The best curriculum is the one you’re already using successfully. Even if you didn’t finish on time, and you stopped using it for the sake of summer break – by all means, pick it back up in September. Kids lean into familiar when learning; you don’t have to have something new each year.
  9. The best curriculum may not be something you buy, but rather a commitment to lay a foundation of good learning habits and to continually build upon it by supplying your child with as many of the resources necessary to satisfy their curiosity. “All you need to successfully homeschool is: a library card and a comfortable couch.” – Steve Lambert of Five in a Row
  10. Don’t think in terms of pass/fail when judging your choice in curricula. If you weren’t happy with your choice from last year, attempt to discern why. Learn from the experience and move on. And if this is your first year of formal homeschooling, then do not let the intimidating amount of information scare you away from your commitment to education of your children. Just take it one day, one layer at a time.

I know it can be core-rattlingly-scary to take responsibility of your child’s education, especially when it seems impossible to know what choice of curriculum will be best.

Consider these points of encouragement:

  1. From birth to 3rd grade, it is most important for your child to see you learning. Invest time and energy into your own education.
  2. Reading living books and classics aloud feeds your child’s brain and will help to form them into responsible, compassionate, observant, and curious kids.
  3. It just takes time. Hurrying the process of learning or fretting about which curricula to choose will not create a calm environment.
  4. It’s perfectly OK to start with only one subject and build from there. You do not have to begin the school year (whatever that looks like for you) with a full-on 8 subject day. The younger the child, the more important it is to ease into creating a habit of engaging with materials in order to learn. Remember the greater goal to lead them to love to learn, while it takes work and effort to get there – demanding that a child complete all 8 worksheets on the “first day” of school at your home isn’t a good experience for anyone. I think of subjects as layers – adding the next one when the first have become routine.
  5. The little things your child wants to know about today truly matter. You will never have this day to do-over. Use what you have and what you know to engage in learning along side your child. “A child who asks fewer questions at age 6 than they did at age 3 has learned that their desire to learn doesn’t matter. They will be harder to convince that curiosity is a good thing as they get older.” – Dr. Kathy Koch
  6. If you don’t know what they love, you won’t be able to engage their mind. Take time to study them as your primary curriculum. After a little careful observation, it may become clear what tools you need to build a curriculum for them that is the best.

Something stuck with me from the Great Homeschool Convention this year: a story Steve Lambert shared.

In 1981, when we started to homeschool it was much harder than it is today because companies wouldn’t sell textbooks to them. They found it difficult to piece together their options. So Jane prayed, and God revealed to her that she should read aloud to her kids. She obeyed, and Five in a Row was written in the wee hours of the night while Jane stayed on her knees in prayer. Now, Steve sees that it was easier back then because there weren’t hundreds of homeschool companies coming at them trying to sell them their child’s education. You can’t give an education, you can only fan the flame.

Articles for further reading:

Planners and Printables:

Resources:

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Educational Theories Defined: Series Intro

Educational Theories Defined Series Intro

I made the rookie mistakes.

We decided to homeschool our children when we were pregnant with our first child. When she was approaching preschool age, the questions began.

Will she be going to preschool this fall?

No, we are going to homeschool.

The conversation left me feeling insecure. I knew the why, but I didn’t know the how.

I was not relaxed about the whole process. I bought way too many workbooks – out of compulsion and fear, and because – really? – Target was selling them for a dollar. I gave into the fear that I didn’t know how I was going to actually teach my child. Buying gobs of colorful workbooks and lining them up on our shelves felt like the responsible, confidence boosting thing to do.

Rookie mistakes.

Those workbooks only mocked me because my daughter has never enjoyed them.

Instead of looking into educational theories or questioning my methods, I jumped into a box curriculum. (Do not read that box curricula are bad. They can be wonderful!)

I bought cute little desks. I wanted to sit down with my kids and teach them at the same time. I wanted order and timing. Defined roles of teacher and student.

Rookie mistakes again.

I could not box in my daughter. The more I tried to define learning and make her want it, the more she wanted her freedom and the more we disconnected.

So we stopped, took a break, and found out that she couldn’t see.

Literally, she needed glasses.

2013 was a major learning year for me. I remembered that before I can homeschool my children – I must first homeschool myself.

It was the first year I went to a homeschool convention. I went because I just wanted to feel like I wasn’t as isolated in this whole homeschool thing as I was feeling. I went to gain tools in parenting and for teaching reading. I went to learn and to stop being afraid of being a rookie.

I came away with a whole new appreciation for learning. I had so much to correct in my own behavior, but I was hopeful that all the changes could be made.

One of the biggest changes I knew I needed to make was in my educational theory. Without even realizing it, I was trying to impose a traditional view of school onto my children because that was all I knew. Sit in desks, listen to me teach, perform, and receive a grade.

Rookie mistakes.

Slowly, I branched out. Learning little by little everything I could about other methods and philosophies on teaching and learning styles. Thankfully, I have some very great friends who also homeschool and they have exposed me to other theories in a relatively painless way.

I realize now that my focus in the beginning on the what and the why wasn’t enough. I needed to learn the how in order to truly connect with the natural gifts and talents of my children.

Because the goal isn’t just to get through a grade or even a book, it’s for my children to develop and enjoy the fullness of life.

So this series is dedicated to defining the how’s behind many of the different educational theories.

I aim to answer 5 questions within each theory and they are:

  1. Who originated the theory?
  2. What problem is solved or what need is met?
  3. Who has adapted it?
  4. What companies function from this theory?
  5. Who are the critics?

List of theories:

I will also include a whole list of teaching resources for different methods and organizational strategies to aid you in suiting your personality style to your homeschool style.

I’m here to help.

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