As some of you know, the FishFam “does school” at home. It may seem odd to some, especially as three out of four grandparents were public school teachers and I, myself, earned my CA teaching credential years ago and spent two years teaching high school English, French, and Yearbook. The reasons for this divergence from the norm are varied and vast. Fodder for a future post. But I promise to share our story.
Instead, this week, curriculum is on my mind. I spent last Saturday frantically ordering books, something that I had delayed doing all summer. I knew school was starting for us on the 10th and that if I unplugged without ordering, one of us — my computer fast or the start of school — would be doomed to failure. Thankfully, I had cleaned the schoolroom and actually had a vague idea of what I needed to buy. So, placing my resource orders involved a few clicks of the mouse — and a frantic visit to twitter and a quick call to a friend for some last minute Latin advice.
The School Daze Begins: What in the World We’re Studying This Year
Overall Methodology – I read the first edition of The Well-Trained Mind when my oldest child was a mere two years old and the others were “just a glimmer in my eye.” Since we wanted a whole passle of kids, it made sense to start early in thinking and planning about our homeschool. This book resonated with me in a profound way. I appreciated the no-nonsense approach and strong academics that the authors recommended as well as the flexibility that they stressed should come with a home-based education.
A second book that really paved the way for my classical education thinking was Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson. His book provided the “why to” where The Well-Trained Mind showed me the “how to.”
Over the years we’ve tried various recommendations from the original WTM as well as much trial and error to find what fits our family. Here’s where we are today:
Spelling and Phonics – I use Spell to Write and Read loosely in conjunction with Phonics Pathways to teach reading. This combination has worked well for me to get my guys reading quickly and fluently. STWR provides the base pieces of the phonograms as well as a great spelling list. PP supplies me and my early reader with easy words and sentences to work our way through.
The boys love the silly sentences and drawings featured in Phonics Pathways. Ours is a tattered, early version that has served our family well. I’m wondering if it will last through the girls! FishBoy8 just saw the photo I loaded and said, “Phonics Pathways – that one really works.” He and his younger brother practically taught themselves to read. I just worked with them with these two resources on a daily basis, and in just a few short months they were off and reading — without me!
Reading, however, for my oldest didn’t come without a lot of tears – mine and his. Let’s face it – he’s my guinea pig! But, once we figured out the phonogram trick that STWR provided, he was whipping through books, including The Lord of the Rings, within a few months.
That said, I realize all kids are different. FishBoy5 and I will be starting with these books and phonogram cards next week. So, we’ll just see if this is the best way for him, as well. Here’s hoping so!
Math – For the most part, I am very happy with Saxon Math. All the FishBoys have done fine with this program. I really like how manipulative-heavy the early years are. My guys dig that. However, as I am now working with four students and the girls “along for the ride,” I found this past year that teaching even three math lessons a day as thorough as I wanted them to be just wasn’t cutting it. This year on the recommendation of several families, we are testing out Teaching Textbooks
. Since we needed to buy seventh grade math, anyway, it made sense to make this our new curriculum for junior high. I’ll let you know once I know how I like it. So, I’ll be teaching Saxon K, Saxon 2, and Saxon 54 as well as Teaching Textbooks 7. Yikes!
History – While The Well-Trained Mind has a couple different curriculum recs, we chose, instead Tapestry of Grace. This is our base curriculum for history, literature, world view, church history, art, and music history. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a unit-based, classical curriculum, designed to make life a little easier for a mom teaching multiple grade levels. All my kids are studying the same period of time, however, my 7th grader will be interacting with it in a much-more sophisticated way than my kindergartener. But, the commonality of subject will help all of us immerse ourselves in the topic, be able to understand one another, and not drive FishMama crazy. That last point is essential!
Science – In a similar way, we’re all studying the same general science topic, this year Chemisty. At a recent conference FishPapa found the Real Science 4 Kids program and we’re giving it a try this year with Level 1 and Pre-Level 1. There may be some trial and error to find corresponding challenge levels, but c’est la vie.
Writing – Lastly, we’re working in another new program, using Andrew Pudewa’s Teaching Structure and Style from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. While I have years of classroom experience teaching writing, both in private and public settings, I’m feeling a little rusty. I’m looking forward to a refresher course and some new techniques to get my boys writing — and liking it. This program comes highly recommended; I’ll be sure to report back.
Interested in more curriculum ideas for education at home? Visit the links that My3BoyBarians has rounded up.