If I had only known…

This is day 4 of The Back to Homeschool Week.

If I had only known… 

…that I don’t have to follow the book. It’s okay to customize.

…that I don’t have to buy everything.

…not to bite off more than I can chew. I am an all-or-nothing person, so I tend to get in over my head. A LOT.

…to pace myself. This hearkens back to the last point.

…what the real point is. (Hint: it’s NOT academics!)

…how much fun it was going to be! Being able to reason with your kids, seeing them “get it” is way more fun than the few hours of free time when they would be at school.

My 2007-08 plans

Well I sort of hate to do this, because as soon as I post it here, it probably won’t get done as written. ha! I am looking forward to this year more than I have in a while. I have renewed vision and I have studied hard to prepare myself. Also I have accumulated many resources so I have enrichment activities at my fingertips. (I am NOT going to get into a lecturing rut this year.)

Our over-arching principle is the Christian Principle of Self-Government. All we do this year will focus on being more self-governed in our spiritual lives, in our lessons, in our chores, in our personal lives, in our speech and in our service to others. More than anything else, I want us to increase our self-government this year. If this time next year we are more self-governed, I count the year a raging success.

As for our actual lessons, I have taken a decidedly low-key approach. I am not going to overplan and overschedule. I am planning less material so we can actually savor the material, and work on doing an excellent job as we increase our capacity for Christian self-government. I am tired of rushing from thing to thing. We will do less to do more. What I mean is we will get more in-depth with the principles and not just stick to the surface with facts. Here is our schedule:

  • MWF: Bible, literature, science (M and W), math, Princess G will do this reading program
  • TT: Bible, HisStory/geography, art, math (reinforcement)
  • daily: creative writing, reading aloud, family altar, Spanish

This is very manageable for our family. I try to do Bible and academics in AM and enrichment in PM (after lunch). Science works well for us in the afternoon so we have more time for experiments and walks. Art and writing are also good in the afternoon when we have time to enjoy them. Spanish will move to the evenings so we can do it as a family.

Bible: JBC–love this curriculum, but it is an investment of time, because you have to do the work yourself. There is a support group too.

HisStory: my own plans with the help of Lisa’s Freedom and Simplicity in HisStory materials (although I do love Mrs. Smith’s HisStory books for kids too!)

Science: Dr. Worthington Hooker’s materials

Literature: my own plans, lots of good literature, main study will be Bach (I think!)

Geography: various stuff from HomeschoolEstore and other sources

Creative writing: this book

Reading aloud: many books, along with some help from this book

Art: various sources, including this excellent book. Also we will make many books by hand, along with ATC’s and other various paper arts. Also I like to use art cards, so we will work them in somehow.

Read this post about how I actually plan my lessons with the help of Mr. Rose’s book.

One book I highly recommend is Managers of Their Homes. I read it often for help with ordering our days.

Please leave a note if you’d like me to list the resources I use to enrich my lessons. There are so many great books out there and they are so much fun!

Teaching writers

I am reading this terrific book about children and writing. I literally stumbled across it at a used bookstore and instantly fell in love. One thing jumped out at me right off the bat. I am not teaching writing, I am teaching writers. That little semantic shift made all the difference to me. The Lord has been dealing with me about adding more writing to our home education. Well this book will show you how to spark a passion for writing in any child. We all long to be understood, and good writing will satisfy that need.

My English goals for this year are to start a writing portfolio and to write something every day. And not only my children, but me. We are going to play with words every day–definitions, poetry, essays, read-alouds, word games, lots of good literature and more. They must not only learn to reason, but to articulate their position intelligently. And I want them to enjoy the process. I think my renewed excitement for language will do just that.

Thoughts concerning unit studies

I am not crazy about the term “unit study.” I much prefer “integrated study” but it’s really just semantics, so for the sake of the search engines I will use unit study here.

As I was considering again this whole idea of unit study, related to Principle Approach and most importantly to my little lambs, I had some thoughts. Unit studies can be enjoyable. They can also take over your life. If you are not careful they, like anything else out of balance, suck every ounce of enjoyment out of education. I came up with a list of things I am printing out to keep in my teacher’s notebook concerning this.

Education is not about the activities but about the learning. More activities does not equal more learning. Simple is almost always better.

I want my unit studies to be:

  • not fun, but interesting (Ps. 16:11, Prov. 2:10, Ps. 145:18, 19)
  • not complicated, but complete (Mt. 11:29, Job 37:16, 2 Tim. 3:16)
  • not only temporal, but eternal (2 Cor. 4:18, Eph. 5:15-17)
  • not fact-based, but based on Biblical principles  (Is. 28:10,13; Ps. 119:40,94)
  • not standard issue but customized (Prov. 22:6)

When my plans are led by the Holy Spirit and based on the Word of God, they will do all of that and more.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Is 55:11

Individuality comes out of the closet

When we did our study on homekeeping in October we reasoned from one scripture each day as we colored from this book.  Each day they delighted me with their insight and we enjoyed the study very much. We simply read a scripture and talked about it while they colored. The girls they colored in their books had rainbow hair many days and we had a great time gently reasoning from God’s Word together. I came across some notes I had made while we were talking, my beautiful daughters and I. They are 8.5 and 5.5.

The scripture for that particular day was Proverbs 31:22 and they were reasoning about clothes and why we need them. This is their list.

Clothes:

  • protect us (like a coat or protective gear)
  • cover us (first by God in Genesis)
  • keep us from getting embarrassed (when we are modest)
  • get us certain things (like wearing a uniform)
  • make us unique

I could not have done a better job myself. As for the last one, my oldest daughter has quite a unique perspective on fashion. I love it because she’s comfortable wearing what she likes and not what’s necessarily trendy. You never know what she will come out of her room looking like. (Don’t get me wrong. She’s not a clown, but rather, um, eclectic in her choices.) But she thinks she looks good and her grace and confidence help her to carry off an outfit I never could have worn at her age.

She’s a modest young lady as well, so if I want to question her fashion sense, most times I just smile and let it go. She’s happy being her own person–and that makes me happy too.

Blessing our home: week one

Well I’m late with a recap because I have been pretty ill with a respiratory thing. Here’s what we did last week in our unit on homekeeping.

We defined keeping home. We looked up scriptures and discussed things needed to keep home–diligence, organization, etc. We discussed what it means to “bless” your home. 

We learned about the history of cleaning through the ages with Cleaning the House by John Mala and 300 Years of Housekeeping Collectibles by Linda Franklin.

We drew our unhappy (messy home). We will finish the unit with drawing a happy (clean home).

We read several cleaning books: Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do, In a Minute!, Spring Cleaning, Boo and Baa on a Cleaning Spree and Home Tools among them.

We are coloring a picture each day from Doorposts’ coloring book on Psalm 31.

We memorized Psalm 31:10.

We made a kid-safe cleaning solution with baking soda, Borax and water. Now they have a special spray they like to use.

They did worksheets for math. 

And more…

It was a fun week. We learned a lot about cleaning and God’s idea of home keeping and blessing. This week we will continue, but my health has put things on a bit of a hold so far. We will start to work on a schedule and lots more that I will post next week.

Coming home

In my last post I talked about the latest turn in my journey. I am venturing into unit studies and already I am more at home than I have ever been as a home educator. I have come home in more ways than one.

You may be surprised to learn about the topic of my first unit study. It is home keeping. You read right. (It is called home education, right?) That may seem a strange place to start, but you haven’t been to my house. It is a struggle for all of us to stay organized and orderly and it stops here. Now. Here is a snapshot of how this will work at our house.

We will begin with God’s design for women, using a concordance and Webster’s 1828 dictionary. We will also see how God intends for us to live, as children of God. We will note principles, such as God’s orderly nature, God’s Principle of Individuality and Christian self-government. These principles will be the over-arching themes throughout this study. They will reason from God’s Word for themselves what their unique roles as children and as young women are, liberating them to be what God intended.

Once the foundation has been laid and they know why we need to keep a neat home, we will move to the how. This will be things like the history of cleaning around the world, lots of children’s books (fiction and non-fiction) about the topic, samples from literature like Little House on the Prairie. We will mix our own kid-safe cleaning solutions, sew aprons, create charts, estimate task times, and by the end of the month we will have created a chart to keep a neat home together.

After this month is done, we will continue this training. Each Monday will be a sort of “Home Economics” day. We will learn all the things it takes to manage a home well, and do it with Joy. This will include meal preparation and food safety, sewing, cleaning skills, budgeting, shopping and making menus and time management. The other four days will fall into our usual lesson routine. As my son grows older we will teach him these things as well, along with some “manly things” that he will need to know.

It seems strange to say, but I am so excited to realize that it’s okay to teach my kids what I think they should know in this area, and that it can be a part of learning, just as math or history. So I feel the liberty to learn along with them as we start this new life–at home. I hope you will follow along and offer any insight you may have.

Realizing a dream

In this post I said that as a home educator I hope you are always evaluating what works. To me this is one of the best things about what we do. We are free to try new things and evaluate what works–and what doesn’t. For us a struggle has been the whole idea of separate subjects. I understand that the BPA philosophy keeps the subjects separate so they retain their distinctiveness. They have a reason for the traditional “school” model and I have no problem with that, in general. However it has not ever worked so great in my home. (see Dee’s post on BPA unit studies)

So I was at my local used homeschool bookstore the other day when I came across a book that describes how to create your own unit studies. A bell went off. I have wanted to do unit studies since my oldest was in K (we even used FIAR before moving to BPA). My heart leapt. Could I really do unit studies with BPA? I never really thought I could, so I kept on with what I knew. It was great and things were pretty good, but something was missing.

Now that I have added my 5dd, I really want our lessons to be interesting and educational and engaging. I want them both (and my ds as well) to love learning. (see this post) The best times we have had were little types of unit studies, with Benjamin West and other topics that I sort of tied together.

But the rest of the time has been “regular”. It was not making me happy as a teacher. I do not want to focus on academics per se, but on the rudiments, the first things to know. What we have been doing is not really engaging, at least for us. Everything is disjointed and unrelated. So I took the unit study book home and looked at it. I was so glad I did!

As I read through it a light bulb came on, I realized that BPA and unit studies are very compatible. Here are some reasons why:

  • unity with diversity: subjects flow together naturally, nurturing a love of learning, but still distinctive.
  • As the child grows, they are able to see the 4-R’s process more clearly, so they are able to move to independent study naturally.
  • You are able to relate a principle to the whole topic, as well as to individual subject, so it will flow well.
  • It is easy to include multiple grades and tailor learning to each individual’s level.
  • It provides opportunity for family to learn together, strengthening relationships and providing an environment for each person to learn from one another.

Personally, I believe that this method is more like real life. They can master the subjects as they relate to one another, as opposed to disconnected “boxes” of subjects.

These were my two dreams in educating my children: BPA and to use unit studies to do that. Now I can do both. Praise to God for the journey I am on. Each step I have taken has led me to the next. I don’t regret anything I have done to this point because each was a necessary step to get me here.

In my next post I will go into detail about our first unit study, which may surprise you!

First day excitement–or the lack thereof (and cool math revelations!!)

We started back to school today. We go year-round and will finish up next July. My Princess S was terribly excited about the whole thing. Today we covered Bible, literature, math and English. We discussed scriptures and reasoned why we should study these subjects. Then we created cover pages for each subject. After a while of this Princess S (who is 5.5) was bored and wanted to do math. It reminded me of K with Princess G and she was bored too so I didn’t get upset because I now understand that learning is not always about being entertained.

In math today we were discussing that mathematics is God’s language. While we have been discussing that for a while now, I saw it in a new way. When we read Job 26:7 it clicked for me. Math is the language of God because everything is held together by math, and God spoke all things into being, so math is His language. WOW! He holds the Earth in space by math (His Word). That is amazing. Princess G thought it was “cool.” This is going to be a great year!

Oh, and I have to say that I’m already glad I decided to challenge Princess S because she is such a fast learner and catches onto things so quickly. We both would have been frustrated without more structure and substance to her lessons. 

Kindergarten surprises

Okay, I know I said in the lesson plan post that we were just coasting in K this year. Well, Princess S is not a “coaster.” She’s more a force of nature. The more I pondered it the more I came to the conclusion that she would not be happy to just putter around. She needs structure and she needs to be challenged–and she lets me know that quite often.

So the Holy Spirit reminded me today that in Mr. Rose’s book there is a section just for K (starting on p. 165). This section is complete with principles, overviews and lesson ideas. They even included a resource list for each subject. (Math is even planned daily, in chart form, for the first 9 weeks!) And there are gentle reminders about pacing and scheduling the K day (p. 192). I know much of that is for schools, but there is much to be said for scheduling the home school day as well.

I am VERY excited about this because it is exactly what she needs (even though my lazy self wants to take it easy!). And it’s all laid out for me, so I just need to break it down into weeks and with a little preparation I’m ready to go!

The kindergarten curriculum is important because once the child enters the first grade there will not be the same opportunity to lay the foundations in such a full, unhurried and enjoyable way.

James Rose, pg. 167