What should I teach and how? (not necessarily what you should teach and how)

Some of the best advice I got when I had committed to homeschool was to read a lot of books about homeschooling. There are a ton of books out there. It is helpful to read a lot of books because there are a lot of different philosophies to education and a lot of different ways to educate. Some books I read made me think, quite literally, “blah.” But then there were other books, well, one other book, which kind of meshed with what I had been thinking and feeling about the whole idea. This book is called “The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling” by Debra Bell. I liked her book so much that I photo copied a bunch of pages (like maybe 150 pages!!) and filed them away in my desk just knowing I would use them to reference later. I have actually referenced them twice: the first time because a friend asked for a list of homeschooling books to read, and the second time so I could remember the name of the book to stick into this post. Still, that book was extremely valuable to me because it made me feel like I could definitely do this.

My other favorite homeschooling book made me feel like there was no way I could do this. But I liked how she laid everything out for me. I knew what do to and when to do it and what books to get and what order to read them in. I didn’t have to think, but it was going to be a lot of work and take up a lot of time. AND she said I should start the kids in Latin by third grade. That kind of freaked me out. Still, that book gave me a pattern and I needed that. The book is called “The Well-Educated Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. I really do love that book, although I don’t the particulars of her plan. It sounds like she only had one child and I have, well, many, and I just can’t do it how she did it. Plus it’s been many years since the book was first published and there have been a lot of changes.

BUT if you are interested in classical education hers is a good book to pick up. Since the publication “The Well-Educated Mind” the authors have come up with a whole slew of textbooks, some of which we use and some of which we don’t. (I use the history and the grammar.)

Be prepared to be overwhelmed in your reading and wonder if this is really possible and if you will ever have any free time ever again, and then come check out the blog and see that it is ok to adapt and alter and sometimes just ditch someone else’s ideas (gasp!) and do things your own way. You can use the books as a pattern to create your own plan, and then use this website as a loose measuring stick – because none of us are going to look as perfect as those books, no matter how much we love them.

OK – this is what I use for curriculum

Math – Saxon (we are currently on 4th and 2nd grade math) I really like Saxon a lot. I started with Singapore, which ALSO is beloved of many, many people, but I felt like my son wasn’t getting enough practice or drill. The pictures were cute, but I wanted to solidify the concepts and have him practice. Saxon has A LOT of practice and math definitely takes up the most of our “morning school” but I like it a lot (plus, I have figured out over 2 years that I don’t have to have my child do EVERYTHING the books says  EVERYDAY – if you want more explanation on that I can give more elsewhere..

Grammar – We use the “First Language Lessons” series from the Well-Educated Mind people. Shirley Grammar is another grammar curriculum that seems to be the favorite of serious grammar people, but it costs more. I like this grammar series just fine (although I would probably skip 1st grade grammar and just start grammar study in 2nd grade with the 2nd grade book. Grammar, I have found, is actually very important and I am glad we are studying it (I never learned what a predicate nominative was in school but I seem the wisdom in my 3rd grader knowing it.)

Handwriting – We use Zaner-Bloser workbooks. I don’t love them. I don’t hate them. They are fine. What I do like is that they teach cursive. Cursive is important to me and so my kids are going to learn it, no matter what the public schools decide in the end.

Spelling – This is the hard part. I don’t know. I don’t know how to teach spelling. As a child I didn’t have any issues with spelling at all. I figured the more you read, the more you see the words and know how to spell them. But I am learning that is not always the case. I have some very avid readers who still aren’t the best spellers. And that is fine. I have learned that at least. As a recommendation from a veteran homeschooler who was presenting at a homeschool conference, I have ditched the spelling workbooks and we go through McGuffy’s Eclectic Spelling Book, one list at a time, and also practice with “The 70 Basic Phonogram Cards” by Wanda Sanseri. In the words of the conference presenter, “Spelling is a beast! Stick with it.”

Latin – Spelling is my least favorite but Latin, of all things, is probably my favorite! I have discovered Classical Academic Press and have fallen in love! (I wish that had a language course for German, but that is for another post.) I read a bunch of reviews online for different programs and all the reviews said just get over the cost and buy this system. I am so glad I did. $100 is a lot, but I think it is worth it for these. I also just have fallen in love with the CAP people in general and their Facebook posts and links to articles are right up my ally. (I know, I can’t believe I am teaching my kids Latin! That is so weird.)

History – Here again we are going with the Well-Educated Mind group. They have a series called The Story of the World and it is broken down into 4 years. You are supposed to repeat the series of 4 years 3 times. I think I will only do it twice (I have other plans for my kids for high school – although still not in public high school).  We do go through all the chapters in the book but some sections we spend more time on and some sections we just read through and move on. For instances, Catherine the Great of Russia. Very interesting. However, there just aren’t many children’s books on her. Plus, in my opinion, that is not a high priority topic. So we read the chapter in the book and moved on. The revolutionary war, however, different story. And actually, I’m not sure we even read the chapters in the book, but we did spend almost 2 months studying it – and it was so fun! I do like the history books though because it gives me a timeline and basic information about a lot of different events throughout the entire world (although obviously not all -inclusive) and then I can pick what I want to focus on and make my own schedule.

Science – For the last two years we have been using R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey books from Pandia Press. These books follow the 4 year rotation that is typical of classical education schedules. I had a hard time at first finding age appropriate science books for little children and science was one of those that I didn’t want to have to make up my own curriculum (like I kind of do for history) so I was overjoyed to find Pandia Press. And luckily for me they have just come out with their physics manual which I will be getting for next year. I was getting a little nervous about that. I didn’t do so well in physics in high school (ok, I got a B, that’s not horrible. But we all know high school grades don’t perfectly equate to actual understanding of a subject.)

That’s it. That is what we do.

Well, I consider private piano lessons (from my friend and neighbor who gives me a great deal!), music class for the preschool/toddlers (same friend and neighbor! she’s awesome!), swimming lessons in the summer, soccer and sports camp through the city, and now 4-H after school groups (yea!) all part of our homeschool too. I like to call it a “whole” school. Remind me and I’ll post about Whole School later.

Also, later I will get into scheduling and planning (it’s keeps getting easier and easier, don’t worry!)