Our Homeschool Philosophy and Curriculum for 2013-14 (with a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old)
We are a few weeks into the new school year, so I thought I'd share our current homeschool philosophy and curriculum. Currently, my daughter is 6&1/2 and in 2nd grade, and my son is 3&1/2 doing preschool work.
Big Changes in our Homeschool Philosophy
Previously, we were doing a rather rigorous Classically-based curriculum (described in The Well-Trained Mind), with a few ideas from Charlotte Mason Companion thrown in (such as incorporating Nature Study for science). But I knew I needed to change something towards the end of spring when my daughter mentioned extra schoolwork as a good punishment for the kids who stole her bike. This made me realize that I was pushing way too hard, and killing her love of learning. At the same time, I was reading Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd), and a light-bulb just clicked on.
TJED is kind of like a mix between classically-based schooling, unschooling, and Charlotte Mason. It is more structured than unschooling, but much less rigorous than Well-Trai
ned Mind in the elementary years. (You can read about the 7 Keys to Great Teaching on the TJED site here.) There is also a huge focus in TJED on the parents furthering their own educations, and focusing on that, which serves as a great example for the kids to want to further their own educations. And that has really worked in our house. The more the kids see me doing my own reading, studying, and writing, the more they naturally want to do those things
themselves, without any of the pressure that I was putting on them before. They are getting to learn lots of things that are interesting to them, and I am getting to learn lots myself rather than focusing so much on their curriculum. And overall we are spending less time on school than before. It is just what we needed.
We are still using some of the ideas from Well-Trained Mind and Charlotte Mason Companion, mixed together with ideas from TJEd. Our school is now much more relaxed and the kids are getting to focus more on their own interests within that framework. We are all thoroughly enjoying the changes we've made to our homeschool.
Preschool Curriculum for 3&1/2-year-old
The methods and topics I'm using for preschool with my son are the same as described previously in this post. My son is allowed to choose whether or not he'd like to do any school work (and he usually chooses to do school once or twice a week). The specific books he is using right now are:
Kumon books are great because they use a very gradual progression to tea
ch basic coloring, pencil skills, cutting, and gluing. I love the Kumon workbooks for preschool work; I don't like them at all once they get into grade-school type work as they are too repetitive and suck the fun right out of school.
2nd Grade Curriculum for 6&1/2-year-old
We've been using these resources for a few weeks, and my daughter is really loving it all. No fighting or whining about doing school. She actually now calls it "Awesome School".
In keeping with the TJEd philosophy, my daughter is allowed to choose what school work to do (and I make suggestions each day). She (and her little brother) never say "No" to Life of Fred, Story of the World, or science read-alouds, and about twice a week my daughter also chooses to do some work on paper.
Virtues and Morals - According to Thomas Jefferson Education, the main learning focus for ages 0-8 should be learning right/wrong, good/bad, true/false. Previously, I didn't feel like I had much time to teach my daughter the everyday activities around our home, as we needed to spend so much time doing school. But now that we are focusing somewhat less on academics, it has been great for me to be able to focus more on teaching my daughter to be a helpful, courteous member of our household. She has more daily chores now than previously, and she is given plenty of opportunities to help out with other daily activities as well. This has enabled my daughter to become a nicer, more considerate person. Right now as I am typing this, both of my kids are washing up our lunch dishes with minimal adult assistance.
Reading - We are no longer doing any formal reading lessons since my daughter's reading level is well above her age. She chooses to read for 1-2 hours every day on her own. To help in learning the correct pronunciation of complex words, I allow my daughter to read aloud to me whenever she asks to (which is typically once or twice a week).
I also provide lots of varied reading materials for her through library books that relate to our history and science lessons, as well as fiction books.
Math - We are using several different resources and games for 2nd grade math.
Life of Fred - My kids LOVE Life of Fred, which is a series of math books that tell stories about Fred, a 5-year-old math genius who teaches classes at a university. The chapters are nice and short, and the end of each chapter gives a chance for us to practice math from the chapter (which we usually do on a lap-size dry erase board). In addition to teaching math, Life of Fred also teaches much more. For instance, we learned about the Orion Nebulae in Life of Fred: Butterflies. My daughter gets to choose whether or not she wants to do the problems at the end of each chapter, and she usually chooses to do a few of them.
Miquon Math Labs - Miquon is a math curriculum for grades 1-3 that uses wooden blocks of 1-10 cm to aid in learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. My kids are really enjoying playing with the wooden blocks (called Cuisenaire Rods), and my daughter is enjoying using the blocks to figure out the answers to math problems. The Miquon program includes workbooks, which my daughter can use as she chooses. Unlike most workbooks, the Miquon books are designed to be done with the parent assisting the child, and this really seems to motivate my daughter to want to do the workbook sheets. The workbook sheets can also be done in any order (rather than from the front of the book to the back), and my daughter enjoys the freedom of being able to flip through the book and work on any sheet that she wants to.
Addition or Subtraction War is a great way to learn math facts without having to do lots of worksheets.
21 (also known as Blackjack) is a great way for kids to learn addition and strategy as they try to reach 21 without going over. Both of my kids love to play this game. I've made this game even better for teaching a real understanding of what the numbers mean by using a number line. (I made a number line on the wall using painter's tape and a permanent marker.) We each select a colored token (which are really poker chips) and with some masking tape we show how many we have on our cards. As we get more cards, we move our tokens along the number line. This way it is easy to tell how close we are to 21 and also to see what happens when we bust (and go past 21).
Yahtzee is great for teaching addition, number recognition, and writing.
Monopoly is a great game for teaching larger numbers and the concepts of buying/selling. Since it can be such a long game, I typically limit the game to one hour long and we each start the game with two properties.
Milles Borne is a great game for learning to recognize larger numbers, understand which numbers are greater, and add numbers together.
Khan Academy - Once or twice a month, my daughter asks to Khan Academy. This is a free site that has short arithmetic demonstration videos and it allows my daughter to try her own arithmetic problems as well.
Writing - I've stopped requiring my daughter to do writing lessons. I can tell that I was pushing way too hard in this area because she did not want to do ANY writing at all for several months once I stopped requiring it. Now she has passed that period of high-reluctance to write, and she chooses to write about twice a week. I am amazed that, by simply letting my daughter choose when and what to write (and giving her plenty of opportunities to do so), she is writing almost as often as I was forcing her to previously. This method of letting her choose is so very powerful, as she now loves school.
I give her lots of options, such as writing in her Nature Notebook, writing letters to friends/family, and writing poems. She most often prefers to have me write out the words for her and then traces over them herself.
One writing project my daughter is very excited about is creating her own book. We have put together about 20 pages of colored cardstock paper, and she can write about anything she chooses in her book. She also enjoys drawing pictures to go along with the words in her book.
Hang-Man - One of us comes up with a word or phrase, and the other person has to guess the right letters to solve the puzzle before the man gets hanged.
Writing Conversation - We pretend we cannot hear, so that we write to each other to have a conversation. To make this work, my daughter uses a chart of words to know how to spell the words she wants to write.
History and Science - We use the 4-year-cycle outlined in The Well-Trained Mind for history and science. The cycle starts with 1st-4th grade, and then gets repeated again from 5th-8th grade and again in 9th-12th grade, with more detail and rigor each time.
For 2nd grade history, we are using the audio book of Story of the World Volume 2: The Middle Ages as our history backbone. We are all much enjoying using the audio book for Volume 2 this year (as opposed to the hardback version we used for Volume 1 in 1st grade).
In addition to Story of the World, we supplement history study with relevant books from the library. I am using All Through The Ages: History Through Literature Guide to aid in finding books that apply to the topics we are studying.
For Earth Science, we are using Usborne Encyclopedia of Planet Earth as our backbone, which is supplemented by books on specific topics of interest from the library. We are using More Mudpies to Magnets for science experiments related to Earth Science.
For Astronomy, we are using H. A. Rey's Find the Constellations plus specific topic books from the library.
Once or twice a month, we do nature study. This may be as simple as collecting and studying Fall leaves or paying close attention to the changes in our yard throughout the seasons. We also take nature walks, looking at the flora and fauna in our neighborhood as well as the nearby desert landscape. Each of us has a Nature Notebook, where we can write about our observations or draw pictures of creatures and plants we encounter.
Art - At least once a week, my daughter gets to work on art projects. Sometimes, these projects are as simple as freeform painting, and other times they are full-blown craft projects. Once a month, we have a family drawing class using Drawing with Children as a guide. This is a great activity for our whole family. My daughter also likes learning to draw on her own using Draw Write Now.
Music - At her own pace, my daughter is learning to play piano at Free Piano Lessons 4 Kids.She typically practices piano 2-4 times a month.
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