Random Homeschool Thoughts Part 3: Where to Start

I got a call this week from one of my best friends. She wanted to know where to start. She thinks she is going to homeschool, but how do you decide on a curriculum. She told me that some other friends told her that you just jump in and figure out what you like and what you don’t. It is true, that will work, but first, you have to have a goal. What is the reason you are homeschooling, or more importantly, what do you want for the lives of your children. I recommended this article, because it helped me more than any other to determine my priorities. Of course, it worked its magic on me as well, because I use Sonlight, mostly anyway. But before I decided on Sonlight, I did write out a philosophy. Some of the things I care about most (in no particular order)…

A Global Perspective--Americans are not the only people God cares about. I don’t know where in the world anyone in my family will end up, so I feel it is irresponsible to spend most of our time learning about he United States when we only make up a small corner of the globe.

Natural Learning—Learning is easier and more effective when it is engaging, hands on, or in the course of everyday events. Books that engage are more memorable than textbooks that give facts. Dissecting an animal makes reading about its innards relevant. And using math skills in the kitchen is better practice than writing answers in a workbook. And most importantly, most of the knowledge used as an adult will be in a natural environment. I don’t remember anything about Calc 3 because I haven’t used it since I took the class. It was worth taking the class, but it wasn’t as memorable because I don’t have cause to use it yet. It will come back to me when I need it, like many other facts I learned in school. That is why I am not a believer in un-schooling. I think there are many things that should be taught that will maybe never come up in everyday life or used, and I don’t want to decide my daughter’s fate by not teaching them. Which leads me to my next goal…

Love for Learning--I won’t be able to teach everything that my girls will need to know the rest of their lives, but I can allow a love of learning to develop but giving the girls a high quality of materials to work with, and allowing freedom in exploration. Again, there are some things that are easier to do by rote memory, but my goal is to keep those things to a minimum.

Humility/Focus on Relationship—If these were in order of importance, this one would be at the top. I wish I could sear this one in the front of my mind, but it is the one, though the most important, that gets forgotten about in the day to day. In choosing a curriculum and setting up a schedule, I have tried to give this first place. First of all, humility and focus on our relationship with God…then our relationship with each other. We do our Bible reading first, so it doesn’t get left out because of time or any other excuse I can think of. The one thing that separated Sonlight from every other curriculum was their focus on understanding people. Below is a quote from their philosophy that shares my objective exactly:

Sonlight actively seeks authors who can speak authentically and authoritatively for other groups whose perspectives are different than our own. Why? Because we can only speak persuasively to members of other groups if they are convinced that (1) we have listened to them, (2) we have understood what they are saying, and (3) we have empathized with their perspectives. Then, if we still hold a different perspective, it is despite our obvious understanding of and empathy with who they are and what they have said.

Open-minded Scholarship
—Throughout my adult life, I continue to become more skeptical, as I feel more lied to by teachers from my past. Most of the teachers did not intentionally lie, and of those that did, I am pretty sure they were thinking it was in my best interest. But now that I feel lied to, I strive not to lie to my children. I personally don’t think that God needs to be defended. He does a pretty good job of that Himself. So if I can’t explain dinosaurs in the context of Genesis 1-2, I am not going to say they don’t exist. I will leave that without opening any more cans of worms. I also want the girls to have exposure to death, cruelty, and other truths of this world that hopefully they will never have to deal with first hand. I am not going to leave out the part about how we (meaning white North Americans) massacred Native Americans and forced them into the most desolate part of the entire country. On that note, I also hoped to find a curriculum that was Christian based that did all of this…maybe not an easy feat, but after reading this article by the founder John Holzmann, I realized I was on the same page as him.

High Quality Materials--As I said earlier, I wanted to give the girls the best start on life long learning, and the best way I could see to do that was to give them materials that started that spark. I do some research, but I don’t have the time to research every single book, workbook and program out their. Sonlight highlights quite a few of these in their catalog, and I have found some from other sources as well, but it was important for me to go with tested, well researched materials.

Flexible Schedule—This is the only area where Sonlight didn’t do it for me. Their instructor’s guides are laid out in a daily format with a week on each page. Here is a sample. I like the freedom to not do something one week and do twice as much the next. I don’t know why I am like this, but I get claustrophobic when I think of doing it just like someone has lined it up. So I use a checklist where I just list the whole year of all the books I want to read, the workbooks I want to finish, the activities we would like to do, etc. I check and date things as we finish them. Then I have a daily schedule. I stick to it more often than not, but I like the fact that I can take a day off and not be in-between pages on a schedule or on Week 10 on history and Week 5 on literature. That completely has to do with my undisciplined personality though. I have just learned to accept it.

I really hope all of these ramblings have helped someone besides me. I enjoyed going back through my priorities and motives. Thanks for listening!

Hannah's Seventh Birthday

A very belated Happy Birthday to Hannah. Here are some pics of the Peter Pan/Tinkerbell party (there were boys invited, so Tinkerbell had to share the stage). It was lots of fun, and Hannah had a great time...no blizzard this year.
The mass of kids in our living room is Peter Pan Bingo (thanks to Megan the Kindergarten teacher for that idea). Then the kids tried to find each others shadows, which were outlined in butchers block paper on the wall. Hannah and Stephanie were the only ones to guess all of them right. And I had fun making the most elaborate cake yet...which really turned out pretty well. Lots of friends and family made it an all around great day.

Quick Employment Update

Last time I wrote, Dave had started a temp job. After about 6 weeks it became clear that it was not a good long term option for us or them, and so Dave has been home for the last few weeks looking for jobs, doing interviews, watching the girls so I can go into hiding and read the Hunger Games (and the sequel). Stephanie recommended this book, and I, knowing full well that it was fiction, started it on Thursday night...finished it on Thursday night, and started the next book, Catching Fire, on Thursday night, and actually took a break to do school on Friday (that is quite an accomplishment with my track record), and finished it last night. All of that to say that my husband is wonderful to let me read for 2 days straight, and I feel much more relaxed (but no more fiction till this summer). In fact, the whole household feels much more relaxed since Dave doesn't have a job. Since it has now been 5 months, we are all getting very used to it, and it is going to be tough when he goes back...well not financially, but I and the girls will miss seeing him so much.

Actually, I can't complain about the finances, because God has provided just what we need when we need it. I can thank Jeana and this post for reminding me that God has provided enough. But He has actually done way more than that...He has provided more than enough. We continue to think about what things we should cut out, some things were cut immediately, but we keep saying that Homeschool PE for the girls will have to go next. But the budget keeps saying we have enough to continue. It makes me feel so loved and cared for. I am not sure why that particular thing is such a big deal, but He knows just what I need, and the reminder that He does is very welcome.

So I guess the only update is that Dave continues to have interviews each week, and we will let you know as soon as something pans out.