We homeschool year-round, but each August we officially start our new school year. It is a fun and exciting time when we dive into our new school supplies and books. This post will detail our curriculum and resources for the 2018-19 school year.
Character Comes First
One of the foundational aspects of our homeschool philosophy is the focus on building good character. I believe that teaching my children to be honest, responsible, kind people is more important than the acquisition of academic knowledge, so I focus quite a bit of my efforts on character development. Household responsibilities, read-alouds, and relationship development are just some of the ways I focus on character development.
My post about Core Phase delves deep into this subject and gives lots of examples of how I work to develop good character in my children, so check out that post if you want more information about how I purposely focus on character in our homeschool.
An important part of encouraging my children to love learning is allowing them to pursue their own interests. One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is that my children have as much time as desired to follow their passions. I'm supporting my children's current interests as follows.
My daughter started her own small egg business a few years ago, and last winter my son saved up enough money to buy-in as an equal partner in the business.The kids work together to take care of the chickens daily, and they each earn a small amount of money for each dozen of eggs that are sold. Owning their own business has given my kids the opportunity to learn much about raising and caring for animals, handling and saving money, profit vs. loss, the value of hard work, and long-term commitments. They're becoming experts in management of the flock, and they make the hard decisions about keeping their business viable throughout the productive and unproductive egg laying years of their hens.
11-year-old daughter Alina
Besides chickens, Alina's other primary interest is horses. I support her in this interest by:
Taking her to visit the horses at the local university and museum several times each year,
Continuing to find more books and videos about horses, horse care, horse breeds, horse training, etc., and
Making sure she has plenty of craft supplies for creating horse-inspired artwork.
Since Alina is getting older and is now moving through puberty, she is starting to transition into Scholar Phase. Currently, this looks like playing at being a Scholar, such as periodically asking to have "Scholar Time" wherein she spends a few hours in self-directed study. I'm supporting Alina in this time of transition by:
allowing her vacillate back and forth between wanting to be more independent and wanting to just stick to our usual routine,
helping her set goals for her learning, and letting her determine the best ways to meet her goals, and
giving her extra one-on-one time to talk through the unaccustomed emotions and changes that are happening.
8-year-old son Ian
Ian is very interested in cars and machines. I support this interest through:
Letting him (and helping him) disassemble things that break (old electronics, broken lawn mowers, etc.),
Getting him involved in household maintenance (such as showing him how plumbing works, letting him help wherever possible such as screwing things in, using the manual staple gun, etc.),
Doing car maintenance so that he has a chance to be involved,
Taking the time to stop and let him observe construction sites and vehicles in action, and
Checking out books about machines and cars from the library.
I do not push my children academically, but nonetheless I do give them exposure to plenty of academic subjects and pursuits. My kids are not required to do school; nonetheless, they love engaging with our different curriculum options. You can see an overview of our daily homeschool routine here.
I read aloud classic books to my children daily. These include both picture books and chapter books with beautiful language, engaging storylines, and memorable characters. My children also participate in a Read-Aloud Classic Book Club, wherein they discuss books with their friends once a month.
Because I've been reading-aloud classic books to my kids since they were very young, they have progressed to the point that they enjoy listening to adult classics as well. A new tradition that developed over the last year is that everyone in our family listens to an audiobook version of a classic book independently, and then we all watch a couple movie adaptations to compare with the book. Thus far, we've read-and-watched Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Jane Eyre. This has been an excellent way to get my husband involved in our homeschooling, and I foresee this tradition continuing as our children get older.
I help set the stage for reading proficiency by reading-aloud often. This allows me to show my children what a wonderful world is hiding between the pages of books. I also make a point of reading on my own frequently; children naturally emulate their parents, so it is important for them to see me engaging in reading and discussing books as part of my own lifelong education.
My 11-year-old daughter is an advanced reader who reads voraciously, so I don't do anything in particular to help her with reading. For the last few months, she's enjoyed reading aloud chapter books to my husband a couple nights per week at bedtime.
My 8-year-old son seems to be right on the cusp of really taking off with his reading skills. I'm letting him take the lead in determining when and how to practice reading, and he is making noticeable progress over time. Currently, his favorite resources for reading lessons are:
We don't use a formal writing curriculum. Instead, I encourage my children to write in the following ways. There is more information about writing in our homeschool here.
I make sure that my children see me writing in my own notebooks on a regular basis. This makes a huge difference in the amount of writing that they choose to do themselves.
Since their writing skills lag behind their composition skills, whenever they ask I will write or type poems, stories, or songs for my children.
My children have a few Pen Pals. My children love receiving letters in the mail, so this has been a big motivator for them in practicing their writing frequently.
Inspired by Alcott's Little Men, my kids and I decided to start a monthly Composition Day for local homeschoolers for Fall 2018. Once a month, all of the kids (and parents) will have a chance to read-aloud something they have written to the group.
I am not using a traditional math curriculum for my children. Rather, they are learning math in the context of everyday life, through games, and through math read-alouds. For more details of how I teach math without a formal curriculum, check out this blog post.
Currently, our favorite resources for math study are:
Penrose the Mathematical Cat, which is a math chapter book that weaves all sorts of math concepts into the story,
Settlers of Catan, which teaches addition, skip counting, strategy, and risk management while "players collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements and cities on their way to victory",
Monopoly game, where we buy and sell properties, pay rent, manage our finances, and try to accumulate the most wealth (we play a shortened version of this game where we play for 1.5 hours, starting the game with 3 properties per player),
Life of Fred books, which tell stories about Fred, a 5-year-old math genius who teaches classes at a university (there is a detailed post about how we use Life of Fred books here),
Milles Bornes card game, where we race our cars to see who can reach the 1,000 mile finish line first, and
Uno card game, which we usually play as Add and Subtract Uno such that players can combine two cards through addition or subtraction to match a number being shown.