The Curriculum Choice

May 13, 2009

What Kind of Homeschooler Are You? Tips for Defining Yourself

Filed under: Curriculum choices, Homeschool philosophies, Uncategorized, Written by Kari — snailstrail @ 8:23 am

Homeschoolers are in a world of their own. To outsiders, all homeschoolers are the same…weird. But inside the world of homeschooling, you quickly become defined by your method of teaching. When you meet another homeschooler, some of the first questions asked are, “What curriculum do you use?” and “What kind of homeschooler are you?” To new homeschoolers, this can be completely overwhelming and finding your options can literally drown you in information. I know that there are a lot of moms that are just like me.

I began researching homeschooling, and how to do it, while I was pregnant with my first child. I was still teaching in a public school at the time, but I knew one day that I would have the blessing of homeschooling my kids. I am a first generation homeschooler so I had no idea that there are actual methods and theories about teaching your kids at home. I also didn’t know that there are curriculum just for homeschoolers. Almost 5 years later, I am still trying to define what kind of homeschooler I am.

Before you google your eyes out, turn off your computer and sit down and write out everything you believe about education. This is your mission statement; it will become your foundation for all of the choices you will have to make. In my mission statement, I included how I believe my children learn. I also included how I think that learning is assessed. Brenda has written a great article that can help you as you write your mission statement .

After you have your mission statement, and you feel you need to put a label on what kind of homeschooler you are, find the methods/theories that best suit you based on your mission statement. Research the homeschooling methods out there and find one that matches your core beliefs. If there are several that match you, you might be Eclectic. As you make a list, write down what you like and don’t like of each method. Here is a list of just some methods:

* Classical
* Unschooling
* Charlotte Mason
* Ruth Beechick
* Traditional
* Eclectic
* Unit Studies
* Notebooking
* Lapbooking
* Religion or Faith Based
* Virtual Schooling or Hybrid Schooling or Distance Learning
* Deschooling
* Umbrellas (your child learns under an organization, a public school, or private company)
* Montessori
* Enki
* Waldorf
*Reggio Emilia
* Delayed: The Moore Method
* Accelerated
* Principle Approach
* Thomas Jefferson
* Relaxed
* Delight Directed
* Child-Led
* Research Based
* Radical unschooling

Now that you know how you will teach your child, you have to find the tools to do this. There are so many curriculum choices on the market that there are conventions just so that homeschoolers can check them out. There are three main ways to find your curriculum. First there is the boxed curriculum. This is curriculum that covers every subject area for the entire year. Everything is mapped out for you, may even be scripted, and often comes with all the materials your child will need. Your second option is to pick and choose specific items from a boxed curriculum. You might just want to buy the math materials or the reading books. Another option is to create your curriculum from free online resources, or resources from the library. You also have the freedom to design your own curriculum.

There are three steps to developing your identity as a homeschooler. First, write your mission statement. After you have this ingrained into your heart, find a method that fits your beliefs. And finally, find curriculum that matches your foundational beliefs and method. The great thing about homeschooling is that you have the freedom to teach however you want to teach. And you can change your methods and curriculum whenever you want. Even if it is in the middle of the school year. If it isn’t working…move onto something new. One thing that can give you a concrete foundation is your core beliefs in how you believe your children learn best. In homeschooling, it doesn’t matter what kind of homeschooler you are. It doesn’t matter what curriculum you use. Because, as a homeschooler, you are doing what is best for your child.

Written by Kari Wilcher

The Curriculum Choice

April 21, 2009

Writing a Family Mission Statement

Filed under: Homeschool philosophies, Organizing, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 7:40 pm

womansilhouettesmlSomething I always recommend to new homeschoolers is to write a family mission statement. The value of a mission statement for a new homeschooling family is irreplaceable. I also strongly believe that Mom and Dad need to sit down apart from each other (or vow not to peek) and write separate lists of what is important to them. Then, convene together and take the time to discuss and learn from each other. For seasoned homeschoolers, a good idea is to go over your mission statement each year and see if anything has changed.

Below is a list of things to think about discussing for your mission statement. These are a starting point and you should certainly add to and take away as you see fit.

  • religion, will all, none or some of your books be written from your religious background? Will you expose your children to other religions.
  • budgeting, will you be budgeting school books or using the library?
  • sports, are athletics important to your family and who will be involved?
  • socialization, are you concerned with whom your children are around, and are you planning on creating the type of “socialization” that you believe is good for your child?
  • philosophy, which philosophy do you lean towards? (Do your homework)
  • college, are you raising college bound children or not?
  • involvement, who will be involved in raising and educating your children? (hubby, you, friends, family, other moms, co-ops, state standards)
  • siblings, will you be educating siblings together or separate?
  • history, history is a messy ugly story some times, how will you teach history?
  • timeframe, will you homeschool for two years, until high school or all the way through?

A mission statement may also include future goals that you want to set for each child and character traits that you want to instill in your children. Take the time to work through these issues before they become issues of contentment. Being on the same page as your husband is the best place to be when homeschooling and raising children in general and if there are things that you can not agree on, I would advise to leave it alone. Address it at a later time and be happy with the things that you have agreed on!
Written by Brenda

The Curriculum Choice

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April 20, 2009

Classical Education

Filed under: classical, Homeschool philosophies, Written by Kristen — Kristen @ 8:45 pm

Evaluating a Classical Education

It’s that time of year again. No, not spring cleaning. (although I’m working on that too!) It’s the time of year where we’re winding down and I’m evaluating. What did we learn this year? What has worked well? What didn’t work? What do we need to do better next year?

One of the things on my mind a lot lately is classical education. I was introduced to classical education when my oldest was in preschool. My husband and I were both very inspired by the research we did on classical education, and planned to implement the classical model in our homeschool.

So what is classical education exactly? That is somwhat dependent on whom you ask because there is a tremendous amount of variation among classical educators. However, there are two basic schools of thought in classical education.

On one end of the spectrum are what are sometimes called the neo-classicists. The essay by Dorothy Sayers entitled The Lost Tools of Learning details three stages of learning. These three stages she has called the poll-parrot, the dialectic, and the rhetoric stages.   Sayers goes on to suggest that instruction during these stages should match the strenghths of the children. In The Well-Trained Mind, authors Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise expounded on Sayer’s original essay by detailing educational methods that capitalize on these natural stages in students. In this book, these respective stages are re-named as the grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage.

The grammar stage is the first stage and ranges from first through around fifth, sixth, or seventh grades depending on the child. This stage is characterized by the child’s ability to memorize facts and their thirst for knowledge about many different things. The student should not be performing analysis on these facts at this point, but rather acquiring knowledge that will be used as a foundation in further studies. An excellent summary of the grammar stage written by Christine Miller can be found at Classical Christian Homeschool.

The grammar stage is followed by the logic or dialectic stage. This stage typically begins around the middle school years. You can recognize when a student is beginning to enter this stage by the questioning of the student. The logic stage is when the student begins to constantly ask “Why?”. Students at this stage exhibit the desire and the ability to understand how things are interrelated, and an increased capacity for logical thought.  Many students will exhibit some of these aspects of logical thought at an early age, but parents must be careful not to push them out of the grammar stage too soon.  A more thorough exposition of the logic stage can be found here at Classical Christian Homeschool.

The third stage is the rhetoric stage. This stage of learning usually coincides with the high school years.This usage of the term rhetoric should not be confused with the common usage of political rhetoric.   The rhetoric stage is characterized by the student learning to effectively communicate his own thoughts and ideas. These  thoughts and conclusions are drawn from the study of great literature and philosophers of the ages.

These three stages proceed in a logical fashion with each stage building on the other.  Students will be able to reason more effectively if they have learned lots of facts and correct useage of grammar in their elementary years (grammar stage).  In turn, students will be able to more effectively communicate in the rhetoric phase if they are able to quickly retrieve the correct facts, and then assemble those facts together in a logical manner. 

The neo-classicists place great value in the study of history, literature, and language. The Well-Trained Mind suggests that history should be taught chronologically in a repeating 4 year rotation. History is divided into 4 periods represented approximately by Ancient History, Middle Ages and Reformation, Colonial Times through Victorian Ages, and Modern (20th Century) History. Ideally these topics would be taught in 1st-4th grades, then repeated in 5th-8th grades, and again in the 9th-12th grades. There are many curriculum providers that have modeled their programs after this design.

Another key portion of classical education is the study of at least one classical language, usually Latin, although some people add or substitute the study of Greek or Hebrew. Many classical educators begin Latin instruction very early, in the grammar stage, because that is a good time to memorize all the various declensions, conjugations, and vocabulary required in learning Latin. There are many benefits to the study of Latin. It greatly increases English vocabulary because so much of English is derived from Latin. Also Latin is a language that requires rigorous thought and thus is good training for the mind. An excellent argument by Cheryl Lowe of Memoria Press that more thoroughly expounds the benefits of Latin study can be found at the Memoria Press website.

The study of Latin and/or other classical languages is the single biggest point in common between the neo-classical and the traditional classical schools of thought. In addition the study of logic is included by both. Another commonality is the study of the Great Books, although there is some disagreement about what is included in the list of Great Books.

In my opinion, the greatest difference between the two models is their focus. Where the neo-classicist focuses more on method in education, the traditional classicist’s focus is on content. A traditional classicist also values the study of history, but the focus is on Western History with a strong emphasis on the Greeks and Romans. The 4-year history rotation is absent from the traditional classical classroom. The use of the terms grammar, logic, and rhetoric do not apply so much to developmental stages to the traditional classical educator, but are titles of disciplines to be studied. The stages are naturally to be followed in any study independent of the age of the student. For example, a student who is in the “logic stage” according to the neo-classical model, but is just beginning to study Latin, must still begin with the grammar stage of learning the Latin language.

So what have I gleaned from my reflection on the definitions of classical education? Do I still agree with this philosophy? How am I doing in implementing these ideas in our home?

After reviewing the principals of classical education I must give a resounding “yes”, that it is still the direction I want our homeschool to take. I still lean more strongly toward the neo-classical side of the spectrum. I am particularly enamored with the 4-year history rotation. 

How are we doing in practice? On the positive side, we are completing a year of studying the ancients in history. This is the second time through this time period for my oldest child. We will be continuing on in our chronological history study next year. My two older children are studying Latin and Greek which is crucial to a classical education.

The place where I have failed the greatest is in memory work. I have not done a good job implementing memory work in all of our subjects and I have not used sufficient drill in our Latin, Greek, and math courses. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to see some of the consequences of that now. My older son is having problems translating in Latin because he doesn’t know his vocabulary and word endings as well as he should. Both of my older students need work in math computation speed. (I got a huge reminder of that last week when I administered their standardized tests.)

What am I changing for next year? I hope to implement memory work in all our subjects. Also, my oldest is soon entering the logic phase, so he will be adding logic to his studies soon. I want to add more drill for Latin and Greek so that they will better retain what they have learned. In addition, I plan to add more drill in our math program. I think I’d better get to planning!

Written by Kristen

The Curriculum Choice

March 16, 2009

New to Homeschooling?

Filed under: Curriculum choices, Homeschool philosophies, Written by Brenda — Brenda @ 6:30 pm

little_logo7The Homeschool Diner’s click-o-matic guide to choosing a homeschool approach may be just what you need if you are not sure as to which direction you need to head in.  You can click here to get there!

The Click-O-Matic approach to looking at curriculum may help you find
just what you’ve been looking for!  If you see descriptions that match your
student — take a look at the approaches recommended for that  characteristic, and then
“Click” on the ones you’d like to read more about.

The Curriculum Choice

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