8 entries categorized "education"

An Open Email on What Curriculum We Use in Our Homeschool

Q: Could I ask one question of you? I know you have at least one older kid--how much online-type curriculum do you do, or are you the primary teacher? If you're using an online school/curriculum, which one(s) do you like best?

A: I think you'd say I'm the primary teacher of our kids (grades 1st, 4th, 6th, 8th), although to be honest, I'm learning right alongside them!  I try to seek out the "masters" of whatever we're studying.  Instead of learning from a textbook or a computer curriculum written by somebody paid to write it, we want to learn from someone who is passionate about the subject.  The passionate "teacher" might be National Geographic or Mythbusters as well as Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Amelia Earhart. 

Ambleside Online is the place I go when I want a laid-out list of what to study, especially for history and reading/literature books. 

I don't follow the Ambleside levels, though, because it made me crazy when I tried to teach 4 different levels at once.  So we study just one level each year, together.  And we veer off from Ambleside a bit because of finances.  If I can't find the book free online (to read off my Kindle), or at the library, I look for an alternative that's free, either through searching online for a good book or by looking at a different Ambleside level. 

For Math, we use Khan Academy, which is an online program.  This month, I've been printing off the math drill sheets at Donna Young's site, since the kids need to work on speed.
For Science, it's Mythbusters and gathering all sorts of kits and supplies and gadgets (rocketry, electronics, chemistry by baking, etc.).  Science is a natural around here -- we're curious, experimenting folk.
The 8th grader needed to start Grammar (online program) this year.  I felt like he was ready (but don't think it's needed in younger years).
Our 6th and 8th graders also needed some Current Events.  I like Izzit for that.
For Art, the kids have the freedom of using any supplies they like when they like.  But this year, to give them some information on drawing basics, we're using Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes.

Oh! I nearly forgot writing.  For writing, we do a lot of copywork (copying high quality literature from their reading books and often the Bible).  Dictation once a week (I read a passage; they write it down.  We then go over it together, discussing spelling and punctuation).  I find that it's best to learn spelling from words you're already using or reading, instead of from spelling lists, so the above methods (copywork, dictation) work well for us, but last year our then-5th grader was having a hard time because she was so-very-phonetic, that after reviewing All About Spelling, I started using it for her (here's a post on why).  I have our 8th grader "teach" it to her (90% of what you teach, you retain, so I've heard).  It's made a difference, but honestly, I think reading great books is making the biggest difference  of all. 

 We have friends who only do co-op classes, a friend who uses a full computer curriculum, one that uses only Sonlight (literature-based boxed curriculum), and ecletic friends like us.  I think we're all going to end up in about the same place. But you want to enjoy the journey, so find what works best for your personality. 

And, since you're a Christian, too, I'll add that a key for me is remembering not to rely on my own strength.  People are continually saying to me, "I don't know how you do it!"  But I'm not.  Not by myself, that is.

Okay!  You ask me a little question, and I fill a page!!  I hope that wasn't too overwhelming; I can get carried away about education. 

p.s. Listen to this sometime, if you can: Sir Ken Robinson speaks on education for TED Talks 

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 He's 10!  Our little guy has finally (in his opinion; it was too soon for me) reached the double digits.

For his birthday, we let him choose what we did with our day.  The beach? The bay? The movies?  He chose: home

He said, "Why should we go anywhere else?  We have everything I want right here."

Why, indeed?  He'll never know how much his choice warmed my mama-heart. 

He then gave me a list of all the yummy things he'd like me to make....such a big list that we had to spread it over 2 days.  That choice didn't warm my mama-heart so much - it was a daunting list!

After plenty of Xbox 360 and before Monopoly and brownies ("not cake"), we took a walk up the hill to the abandoned farm field where the straw blows in the breeze as beautiful as a rolling ocean, sounding like gently rolling waves. I know that sounds like an over-the-top-metaphor (yeah, okay, it is), but I really do think of the ocean every time I see and hear a field of wheat or straw. 

The kids - 3 of them - sat down for a bit of nature journaling, drawing Pnut, our obviously-staying-stray, and the wheat.  Our big fella and Daddy explored further down the field and through the woods to the river.

I hope our little guy will always remember his 10th birthday as a warm, happy day.

That would warm my mama-heart, too.

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Flat Broke

Our kids, when feeling too much cloth and too little cash in their pockets,  know what to do.  They think I don't know what's going on when they say,  "oh, we're just playing store, that's all.  Just for fun.  It's math, you know.

After a little play with fake money, I hear, "So...mama, do you want to shop in our store?"  Uh huh.  I thought so.  They need a customer with real change.  I have that.  But my change jar is not very full, since the-Person-who-fills-it-up has been away on business the past two weeks.  Oops, we depleted it while he was away.  Oh. Apparently we did add fingerprints aplenty.  Who ever thinks to clean a change jar?!

dwindling shopping funds


The prices start at just 3 cents per picture from our Little Guy (he's 8). That's my price since he offers a "Mom Discount."  His drawings would cost you 5 cents each.  

Of course, our Little Guy accepts tips, too.  So do the girls. 


tips accepted


The girls' drawings are priced by our 11-year-old ballerina who understands that a quarter is what you really want, since you can't buy anything for less these days.  She prices her drawings at 50 cents and our Little Gal's at 25 cents.  At this point, their logic is cracking me up, but I'm a good customer and pay up (and I also mosey on over to our Little Guy's tip jar to add a few more quarters to it.  He'll figure out pricing soon enough, but for now, he keeps repeating, "I have a Mom Discount.  The girls don't."). 


for sale


Our ballerina also offers a "free gift with purchase."  The free gift?  Chocolate Cake.  Oh, my.  She's a smart one, she is. She sells out and has to create more drawings.  I slip a few more quarters into Little Guy's tip jar.   It's not like he can bake a cake yet.




Meanwhile, our 13yo big fella, who thought he was too old to play "store," suddenly realizes that money is being handed out.  He works ten minutes on a drawing - several mini drawings on one sheet of paper, actually - and offers to sell it to me for $5.00.  As if.  "I can buy a picture from him for 3 cents, you know, " I say. He has a Mom Discount."  Little Guy beams. 

"Okay, two bucks, final offer," our big fella says.

I can't resist such an excellent offer for such fine drawings, so I pay up. 

And then I add a bit more to our Little Guy's tip jar.  He'll learn.


p.s.  Um, hey, Babe, if you're reading this, please do come home with really full pockets.  Our change jar is so empty it's gone through the dishwasher and sparkles.  Really.

A Little Time Alone

at the bay by you.

"[Children] must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this––that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder––and grow." 

~ Charlotte Mason in Home Education, 1886 (p. 44)

Occupying Toddlers

Do you get the Above Rubies magazine?  I got my copy in the mail on Saturday.  If you have one, flip through to page 23 and you'll find a familiar name.  It's under an wee little snippet of an article I wrote ages ago.  It was in response to a question I'd gotten through an email list from a mama who wondered how to teach (homeschool) the older ones with toddlers underfoot. 

Here's my reply and the little bit they published (along with dozens of tips from other mamas):

I’m right there with you, girl!  Things have gotten much easier since I was introduced to the assumption that 95% of what we teach is remembered.  With that in mind, I make it a point each day to have our 9yo and 7yo teach our 4yo and 2yo so I can have time with the opposite (older) one.  The Teacher of the Preschooler pulls out a drawer full of all sorts of preschool “teaching” objects like an abacus, flashcards (picture, number, and alphabet), blocks, and much more.   I often purchase items for this drawer, to keep it interesting.  There are also lots of writing utensils (markers, crayons, watercolor paints) and papers and child-safe scissors and glue available.  The older children concentrate on “teaching school” to only the 4yo since our 2yo is at the copycat stage and will just do what they do (or she’ll hang out with me).  



We’ve done this for a full year now, and it’s amazing how much the older children have taught our little guy.  They’ve pretty much given him a full K4 education!  The older ones have benefited not only in their own learning but also in good habits such as patience, perseverance and helping others.    

When they do not need my help, the older children do their schoolwork independently (such as reading and copywork). This frees me up to do housework with my toddler following after. Our K4 child is well old enough to know how to respect the work of others, so I expect him to be quiet and read or write or else he needs to go play in his room while they work.

Teaching Them to Love Learning

I've had some awesomely thought-provoking email conversations with a couple of gals lately.  We've been discussing education, and the how and why of it.

A few years ago, I was introduced to a new way of thinking about education that shook me up and left me feeling dizzy with glee: Instead of teaching the children everything we think they need to know by a certain age, why not teach them to love learning?  If they love learning, and know how to learn, then they can continue their education far beyond K-12 and even college. 

Children are born loving to learn, don't you agree?

Unfortunately, much of modern academia strips children of this gift, leaving them disillusioned, listless, frustrated, and bored.  They can't wait to put down those school books at 18 and never pick one up again.   Or they leave college frustrated that they wasted all that time and money on a career they've realized they dislike, but don't think they can do anything else.  This is not just "regular school" specific, of course.  Many homeschoolers leave their home school and never look back at books or learning again, too. 

Why?  Because the learning process, as they knew it, was absolutely boring.   

Letting go of the textbooks and the "shoulds," we can instead notice education as it shows up in real life...


...as well as through great literature, well-written music, inspiring art, and through many other mediums.  By offering up an interesting education, learning becomes fun and the child keeps his gift from God: a love of learning.   

I was going to add a bit more, telling you how our family implements this into our days, but I'd first like to get your thoughts.  I love this article, and particularly this page, about actor Will Smith's thoughts on education. Read that, then let me know what you think.

~ Lori