I've had a few questions by e-mail and in my comments section about our homeschool that I thought would warrant a blog post.
Does the School Give You Your Teaching Items?
I seem to get asked this from the therapists who come into our home to teach Woodjie. They must think I'm accredited or something LOL. Answer: Nope. I buy all the stuff I feel like teaching my children from wherever I feel like buying it. Yes, that means that I could be teaching a lesson on "how to name everyday objects" with a seven-year-old later. Don't make me cry... Woodjie still hasn't said "Mama" yet. Hey, if he still hasn't when he's seven, that's English class. We move on when you've mastered the basics.
(I appreciate that the law is broad enough that such things are possible in my state. Places like Vermont, you might as well forget it. They OWN special ed kids there, baybee. And I have a lot of mixed feelings about special ed. SURE, there are great specialists in public school. But have you read my "Why We Homeschool" post lately? They're closet-lockers here. Better just to have a little inferior education in the "how to say everyday objects" department than everyone having to deal with Post-Trumatic Stress Disorder and let the kid be able to name all the everyday objects he was beaten with during psychological therapy. I jest, but only a little. I'm NOT a specialist, and I'm sure there are some things speech therapists can do that I'm not as good at. I'm just not sure that sending my child to public school later on is going to be a net benefit. Cross that bridge later. :])
So... thankfully, I'm not "accountable" to the state for reaching certain levels of achievement with the children. I look ahead to teaching Woodjie all that he can learn, and I am very glad for that.
In teaching Elf and Emperor presently, I like to use mostly Bob Jones stuff just because it is so ordered and seems to present things from a worldview identical to my own. God is not separated from the textbook, and the Gospel is presented unapologetically as the ONLY way to heaven.
I read a review posted by a Wiccan on a Christian curriculum (yep, I was doing a search on a certain curriculum. I'm pretty decided on what I like but I enjoy browsing. I'm too fat to look at clothes, so here's what I do.). She said she uses (name) curriculum, it's true. But it's ok, she tells her fellow Pagan and Whatever readers. You just leave out the "God" stuff in there and it works just fine. Wow. Ok, you could NOT do that with the Bob Jones stuff. It just isn't possible. The book would wind up looking like some serious semi-released CIA document with black marker everywhere if you played that game. And you'd get all the "Jesus is the only way to heaven" type questions wrong on your Heritage Studies tests, too.
And, you know, I like that. Since I'm the one spending the cash on it, I get to pick. Too bad if you don't like it. I've already paid for the secular humanistic stuff your kid learns in public school. You're welcome.
Let's Start Our Day!
Generally, we're up and ready to start homeschooling at 6:45 a.m. We usually start with maths. Currently, our curriculum is Singapore Maths 4A, and we're learning to add and subtract mixed numbers and improper fractions. We sometimes need to convert these fractions so that they have common denominators. Emperor does all this stuff in his head and drives me crazy. About half the class time, he is squeaking and hopping like a frog, trying not to give the answers. The other half, he is giving the answers away and/or I am handing him his Game Boy and telling him to go away for ten minutes.
Then I break lessons in each subject up not by what the book seems to teach, but by how LONG it takes children to get a reasonable effort in on a subject. I don't want things too easy or too overwhelming.
Somewhere around 8:30, we're ready to move on to the next subject. Yes, we spend about two hours on math each day.
Next up: mmm... whatever. Usually it's whatever has not been done in the previous day or two. Sometimes it's grammar, other days it's spelling or social studies. I tend to want to STICK with a subject for a while. I like to spend, say, two hours on social studies and skip English one day, and spend several hours on English some other day and skip science, etc.
Unfortunately, this leads to a tendency to get way ahead in one subject at a time. But if I have all my books out right then and we're concentrating well, why should I stop just because there's a "Lesson 2" heading in my book? Conversely, I'm stopping smack-dab in the middle of a lesson if we get too bogged down. We'll come back again to it some other day with a clear brain if we're having too much trouble.
What We Use for Homeschool.
I'm pretty sure that since most of our curriculum is Bob Jones stuff, it all should coordinate. Um, if we were doing the same grade level in all our subjects. And if we were to begin curriculum in early September and do one lesson per weekday. Wouldn't it be nice to do the "Christmas" stuff at Christmastime in all our subjects? But the way it works out, we do some Christmas stuff in March, some in September and some (like our entire Bible subject unit) we can actually save for Christmastime.
But I just cannot follow these silly weekly planners companies put out. They assume children will learn one lesson per day in each subject. Sorry. I have the Bible books out now, and we're going to do maybe three or four lessons depending on how long they are. Tomorrow, I may have several Social Studies texts out and neglect the Bible completely.
(Go ahead and call me a heathen, but there it is. Incidentally, I do see a general principle in the Bible for some sort of daily communion with God, but not necessarily a Bible-reading time to keep one spiritually in shape. I don't know where that idea got started because I don't see Paul mentioning that he "needs" 15 minutes of scripture-reading time or he just doesn't feel spiritually recharged. I suppose if I didn't dust my Bible off for two weeks, that *might* say something about my spiritual life. But I think it says something more about my lifestyle and attention span that I can devote an hour here and nothing for several days, and then maybe half an hour another day... Ok, I wonder how many Christians out there REALLY have half the "quiet time" they should anyway? If you want to do all that time on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I shouldn't think you're less spiritual... you know, like me... :] And what does it say about you that you keep reading my blog if you think that? Just sayin'. :p)
By ten o'clock, the littler children are really ready to do something different, even though I do try to vary their toys and play a game occasionally with them. It's time to start throwing worksheets at Emperor and Elf, or handwriting, or something easy-to-do. It gives their minds a break and me a chance to reconnect with little ones and/or make lunch.
Lunch is usually at 10:30 because the small children get grumpy around then. By noon, the children are settled, S in her playpen upstairs for a nap and Woodjie on the chair by the tv. (He doesn't sleep every day at naptime.) That's when I eat lunch and say HELLO to all my blog friends.
Then it's back again for an easy subject or for listening to cd's or something like that for a couple hours.
About Hours and Recordkeeping
Usually our school day lasts for about five or six hours and we could technically be on vacation from March through July each year.
Missouri mandates that I teach 1,000 hours each year, 600 of which must be in the "core" subjects of communication arts, mathematics, science, social studies and reading. I'm not required to register with anyone and no "nationally normed" tests are necessary unless I jolly well feel like it. Which I don't. I think that a well-educated child is more testimony to the fact that I've done my job with him, but I do keep the records I'm supposed to in a 50-cent "composition book" pictured in a lower post.
The law demands that I record the hours spent, a portfolio of work samples and a description of the stuff I'm doing. Ok, that wasn't a very legal description of the stuff I have to do. For that, go here.
This is not a very restrictive demand in the upper grades at all; however, I found it a bit tough to record all the work we were doing when I first began to home-educate Elf. He was six at the time, and while I feel that 1,000 hours per year is NOWHERE near enough for a high-schooler, it's a bit much for a six-year-old. I think this is why only children seven and older are required to do these things, although we have to be vigilant that the state doesn't try to apply these standards to younger and younger children. Better to think of beginning a child's formal education at eight and leave the wonder intact than squelch him with his ABC's at two if he's not interested. I think that requiring younger children to be educated would be difficult for parents and children and work against the more unstructured and free nature of young childhood.
(Or better still, how 'bout not requiring anything of me at all and letting me decide what my children will learn when they're ready? Ok, just me daydreaming again. There's a group of about seven families out there, I think, who are determined to ruin things for everyone. They're not going to educate their children. They'll feed them Jell-o all day and/or sell them to the neighbours as sex slaves. Not to mention the "letting outside to play on sunny days" horror! I know this fact because the commenters post about this group on almost every news story. They all seem to know the same "lady up the street" or "coworker's brother's family" who did this and this with her children and how's the law going to help them?? Ok... anyway...)
I really do feel that Emperor and Elf would not be nearly so happy in homeschool had they been "pushed" academically at a young age. They simply were not ready.
How I Decide What to Buy for Homeschool.
Ok, marketers. Listen up. When you make a kit, make sure everything but the pencils the kid needs is in that kit. Or even include the pencils; I don't care. But I HATE to find out I need a supplemental flip-chart or whatever to teach a lesson. I'm a poor planner. That's why I buy the kit. I want YOU to plan FOR me. If I need to read a book to the children as part of the lesson, include the stupid book in the kit. I'm not chintzy in my homeschool spending. Make the kit as big and expensive as it needs to be. Then I'm able to really compare apples to apples when I look around at other places. Be sure to tell me about all the kewl bells and whistles in the kit, too, so I'm duly impressed. You're proud of what you've created, and you want me to be happy with it. Well, I can't be happy with it if I never buy it. Impress me BEFORE I spend my money.
And I don't go to conventions. I look at "samples" online and that's how I got into the Bob Jones stuff. Right now, I don't really want to do too much changing. Maybe when my children are older, I'm going to want to get something else that's less teacher-intensive. There. I said it. It will be hard to say goodbye or even taper down.
But I don't want to commit to an entire "package" from one company and then find out I hate it. I don't even want to buy all Bob Jones stuff in a mega-package because we're about a year and a half ahead in some subjects than others. Drives me nuts that I can't pick and choose fifth-grade Bible stuff instead of fourth, and fourth-grade stuff instead of seventh in a package...
As I said before, I'm always looking around. I like to visit other homeschoolers on the web and see what kinds of curriculum might be available. I think I can be happy with what I have and still be glad for you that you have stuff you like. Every once in a great while, I'll even change. It was hard to change over to Singapore Maths, I'll tell you. But I kept reading blog after blog. Teacher after teacher wishing he could teach this type of math. I'm not saying that having a public school credential makes you smarter than me, but guess what? I'm humble enough to tell you that I really don't know that much math. I'm listening to the opinions out there and thinking about them. That's what helped me make the switch. I think we're adjusting "ok" now, but wish we had switched either earlier or not at all. I think we lost about two months trying to figure things out. Maybe that time is not wasted, but it seemed like that's about how long we were spinning our wheels and getting acclimated.
I do define a good education as being ready to serve God and your fellow-man as well as being a responsible citizen. I guess what I would look for in a high school curriculum would be very different than for a seven-year-old. That's why I don't object to the teaching of evolution in high school. I DO object, however, to the inability of public schools to air all sides of the debate, however. I'm not even sure that evolution "needs" to be taught at this level as not too many kiddos will move on to being paleontologists or archaeologists or anything of that sort. How many accountants really draw upon that information each day? I think it would be a better idea to teach some of these young people more valuable and applicable lessons such as "how to write a check" or "how to answer the phone" or "how credit card companies make money on YOU" or "100% of the people who lose their homes qualified for a mortgage. Think before you buy."
All of these may be included in our homeschool later. :]