Friday, March 9, 2012

Re-Vamping Homeschool

Recently, Cameron and I sat down and prayed and decided to make some changes in our children's homeschool curriculum/schedule. This has been slowly coming about for a couple of years as I have become more confident in my abilities to homeschool my children. I have also become more comfortable in who I am and what my bents are, as well as my children's strengths, and as I have seen the fruit of particular homeschool choices. As my children mature, I have witnessed that homeschooling really works! My children are not only thriving academically, they are really intelligent and knowledgeable. I have also been able to glean much wisdom from listening to Victoria Botkin and her practical homeschooling advice. Backing up her choices are 7 children, who are all not only successful academically, but more importantly walking with the Lord. It is likewise my goal to raise children who love God and obey His Word and who are able to think critically and engage the world around them instead of passively coasting through life.

Therefore, as a result of Cameron's and my discussion and prayer, and in light of our homeschooling goals, we have decided to abandon most of our homeschool curriculum. Before you wonder if we have gone off the deep end, allow me to detail our homeschooling content.

So, here is what we are doing:


Saxon Math 6/7

History--she reads a nonfiction book that I assign pertaining to the particular time period we are studying. Currently, she is reading about famous men of the Middle Ages and the Reformation.

Writing--Anna writes a report each day on what she read in history, or a science topic. At first, she was a little dubious about this, but she has since told me not only how beneficial this is to her writing skills, but also that it helps her to read so much more comprehensively. I check her report each day for grammatical, spelling and textual errors and she corrects it. Instead of using Spelling Power, Anna's writing will provide her spelling words. Anna's reports will replace Rod and Staff English grade 6 because we had begun to feel that diagramming sentences on such a detailed level was not a good use of her time. It has also become very repetitive, teaching many concepts from earlier grades again, as well as going into such detail about other concepts that we thought that it wasted time more than it provided benefit. We may pick and choose some assignments from Rod and Staff English, but it will be minimal.

Vocabulary--Anna keeps a journal and lists words that she doesn't know as she reads. She then defines one word each day and uses them in a sentence.

Literature--Anna reads each day from a book we choose together. She is currently reading "Little Women". These books may or may not be relevant to the time period we are studying.

~Jonas does the same as Anna. :) He recently read "The Red Pony" by Steinbeck.

That's it. No more copywork, journal, spelling, English, Daily Grams, etc.

Katria and Elyse have a very similar schedule--Saxon math, Rod and Staff 2nd grade English, and they read a chapter from a book each day and then must tell me what they read in their own words. I copy down their summary and then they copy what I wrote.

We also enjoy listening to a myriad of sermons, books on tape and other teaching materials in the car. Currently, we are listening to An English Family in the American Wilderness. It is a true historical account read aloud by Victoria Botkin, and it is amazing! We also enjoy listening to Jonathan Park, an adventure series that teaches creation science, as well as the Lamplighter Theater dramatized stories and Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre cds. Our favorites include: At the Back of the North Wind, Les Miserables, The Secret Garden, and Anne of Green Gables.

The book choices I select for our history readings are all from the excellent resource, All Through the Ages. It lists chronologically non-fiction and fiction books that pertain to each historical time period. It has been invaluable for me as I have left all formal history and literature curriculums. I have used Sonlight, My Father's World, and Tapestry of Grace. While all these were helpful, I honestly found that the books listed in the curriculum to be the meat of these resources and my own discussions with the children to be even more helpful than questions listed in teacher's guides. We keep a globe next to our dining room table so that we can readily find countries as we read about them.

At dinner each night, I ask the children questions about the material we have read that day. This serves not only as another opportunity to cement what they are learning through recalling the information, but it also enables each child to practice putting together their thoughts and presenting them orally. In addition, in this way we are able to keep Cameron up to speed on what we are learning. He is able to ask further questions and the result is often great discussions!

The longer I homeschool, the more I realize what a journey this is! As my children mature, so do I! I have learned to depend more on God and trust Him to teach my children what they need to know in order to fulfill the purposes He has for them. I have also learned that I can't teach my children everything, but I can teach them HOW to learn, which is way more important anyways. I have learned to teach them to be active, instead of passive, learners. I was a passive learner, and simply fulfilled the requirements given me in order to get by, get the A, and move on. I didn't always learn, I regurgitated. I didn't care about what I was learning because not only was it not presented in an interesting way, but nobody took the time to explain WHY we were learning things. It was sort of like I was on auto-pilot during my school-age years. Things were also presented in a disjointed fashion that had no relation to real-life. I don't want that for my children. For me growing up, learning was something you did during school hours. I had no interest in learning anything in my free time. My book choices reflected this as I devoured "junk-food" books. As much as I read, I could have filled my mind with all sorts of amazing literature. It wasn't until I was a senior in high school that I discovered that I had a passion for classic literature!

Homeschool has given me the ability to teach my children the way I wish I had learned. I don't want my children to recite a bunch of facts or diagram a gazillion sentences, checking out on auto-pilot so that they can get to the "fun stuff" of life. No, I want them to think critically, to care, to analyze, to read, read, read, to be challenged, to think, and to enjoy school! Workbook pages and Rod and Staff lessons, for me, were a way for my children to be a passive learner like I was. Yes, we are doing less homeschool, but to me it is MORE. We are not box-checkers, nor do we learn material for a test. We do not fill in maps, spelling pages, or handwriting books. It took me 6 years to be able to feel comfortable to get to this point, and believe me I am still a tad nervous. No spelling? What if they can't spell? Well, I realized that people become good spellers by READING. A lot. We learn to read by being read to. We learn to write well by reading and writing. We learn to have good penmanship simply by writing reports each day.

So, that's where we have arrived. I have so many friends who such an array of homeschool curriculums and all of it is good. It is okay to use curriculum. It is okay to have it all spelled out for you. Even to use workbooks. Just make sure that you know why you are using something, and that your children are learning and are actively engaged. Don't use something simply because it gets the job done, so that you can say you did school for the day. And, doing more is NOT always more. I am getting better quality work from my children now that we have scaled back because they don't feel stressed by the amount of work they have. Jonas told me that he is spending MORE time on his subjects, giving more effort, because he is not rushed to get so much done. Just in the few weeks we have started this--what a change in my children, what an improvement, what learning! And that is such a blessing! My children continue to blow me away by how much they know!

Again, I highly recommend Victoria Botkin's cds entitled "She Shall Be Called Woman", as well as her cds called "Curriculum Advice" Volumes 1 and 2.

In Christ, Laura


Kendra S-L said...

As a university professor, words cannot describe my joy in reading this. I applaud you for stepping out in faith to make these executive decisions (as ordained by a close prayer life with the Almighty Executive) for your children's curriculum. I obviously meet "kids" when they are in their late teens and early twenties. They have been conditioned to regurgitate. I tell them that ends here. I am not a ventriloquist and they are not my puppets. I do not want M&Mers (memorize for the moment students). The world does not need men and women who recycle information without questioning it. We need critical thinkers, people who will stand up for what is right, who will recognize wrong for wrong, right for right, as well as the shades of gray.

And yet! I am encouraged by my administration to give "many quizzes" so that the students will know their grade status at all times. I understand that higher ed is a business (even at a Christian university), but it is also a ministry of education. I refuse to give "many quizzes." I engage my students--they constantly present in class and work only on projects that I believe will benefit their holistic understanding of the material and the place of the material in the world.

All of this is to say, Be encouraged, sister. Continue to fight the fight. Although I am trudging along in a formal 'system,' I am of a similar mind and consider this my burden and battle, as well.

Shonni said...

Thanks for sharing this. I am needing some “encouragement”, even though I have been doing this for 16 years - LOL
I ordered the cd and look forward to listening to it.

laura mouro said...

Kendra, That's awesome!

You are the kind of professor that scared me! LOL! I was so trained to not think, to just trudge along, to just figure out the right answer that when I was put on the spot and had to give my opinion--engage--I froze! I didn't want to really work, but just get by doing what I could to get that 'A'. I always got excellent grades--graduating from U of M with high honors, but at what cost?

This is exactly why less is MORE--esp. if that "less" is meatier, weighter and more engaging.

Thanks for your encouragement! I am still learning how all this works. It is SO much better to teach our children to love to learn than to teach them all the information. Information we forget, life-long learning is a passion!

In Christ, Laura

His Hands His Feet Today said...

This looks very similar to our home - but different :). I will look up those cds you mentioned ... look at this site as I think it's what we're both aiming for!!!

Jen said...


We have found the same thing over the years and have moved more and more toward a lifestyle of learning (not unschooling) that truly promotes our children's love of learning, develops their tools for learning (basic math, reading, and writing skills), and maintains family closeness all while providing us time to truly disciple our children in the Lord and to each according to his/her bent.

One resource that has been EXTREMELY helpful to me in reforming my thinking in this area is Marilyn Howshall's books Wisdom's Way of Learning and others - most recently, Developing a Lifestyle Routing and Empowering the Transfer of Moral Values - all very good resources for changing our thinking from the secular school system to a more godly whole model.

Also, I thought you might be interested in something for Anna and Jonas that we are doing with our oldest. We are having them go through Polished Cornerstones/Plants Grown Up (girl/boy) from Doorposts. They just move through the book at 1 chapter per week and choose 3-5 different projects to complete and then meet with either Jeff or I at the end of the week to share and discuss the projects. It has been incredible! This allows for them to use the tools of learning (writing and reading and some math skills) to do something that is greatly encouraging their spiritual growth.

Loved to hear about your changes. I'm going to order the Victoria Botkin CDs!

Jenny said...

I listened to Victoria's CDs this winter, and they had a big impact on me, too. Homeschooling has been a journey for me, too. I suspect it always will be. I actually can't imagine NOT homeschooling because I would really miss the learning...even the math lessons are a brain workout that I've come to enjoy. It's the housework that I could live without! : )

laura mouro said...

Kim, I will check it out! :)

Jen, I will check out those books, and I have heard of Polished Cornerstones/Plants Grown up and I have got to order them!

Jenny, YES! I have found the same thing to be true. I LOVE homeschooling because I feel like I am in school, too, learning so much for the first time! Never too late, huh? ;)

houghslife (how's life?) said...

Wow. I was googling for suggestions on how to manage many little ones shoes and a link to your blog came up. I was checking out a bunch of links but for some reason I started searching around your blog and let me tell you, thank you Lord for the encouragement I needed tonight! I read your about page and that really struck a chord and then this post and I had to comment! I would love to know more about how you school multiply children w/ all different ages. I will be searching your archives some more! Thanks for sharing :)