Thoughts about homeschooling

While we have always tried to make our home a place for learning, it officially become a “home school” in 2001 when Hannah began preschool, and we’ve been working away at it ever since. It definitely has its ups and downs, challenges and joys, but one of the most profound benefits I have found is the freedom it brings. It’s true that in some senses, it may not be freeing at all (as in the my-kids-are-all-in-school-all-day-and-I-have-several-hours-a-day-to-work-outside-the-home-or-take-a-10am-Zumba-class, but schooling-wise it is there. For instance, we have had the freedom to choose what curriculum to use with our children. We also have the freedom to change it as either their needs or our goals for education change. When I began teaching Hannah in preschool, we used a curriculum called Five in a Row. To read more about it, go here. It was a great way to start with her and, in addition to phonics and writing, suited us nicely. In fact, I still use quite a few of the books from the reading list for our younger children.

As Hannah moved on to kindergarten, we made the decision to change to a different program, and moved to the Noah Plan, or The Principle Approach, a curriculum that, among other things, focuses on mastery. For information about it, click here. Todd had had past experience with this program and even attended their college for a year before moving to Hillsdale, and we both agreed it seemed to be the best fit for us. Thankfully we had the freedom to do so. Although I loved the program and the education that came along with it, with four children ages five and under, and especially once Patrick started school, we started struggling. It was almost impossible for me to keep up with the enormous amount of prep work I was personally responsible for with this curriculum on top of actual teaching and school time. Sad though I was, we needed to find a different fit for our family.

I must say we’ve never only used one curriculum exclusively in all of our years schooling, but instead have used a patchwork sort of approach. Phonics came from A Beka, math was from Saxon at first, and was added to the main program. Thankfully, I’ve had the freedom to try something and truly see if it works for my students and our homeschool. It has come in handy, especially when it became clear that my students weren’t thriving in their math lessons with Saxon. Many people swear by it, but for my youngest students, they were not doing well. A friend recommended Singapore math, and I took the dive and switched. It was ‘just the ticket’ for us and has been what we’ve used since Patrick was in 2nd grade. (Hannah only recently moved back to Saxon with her Challenge program, but I’ll get to that.) Check out Singapore math here.

When we added Andrew to our family, I felt totally overwhelmed with the prospect of homeschooling with three in school, a toddler, and a newborn, and I moved to A Beka almost exclusively. I needed a workbook year or so to get back to normal, and had used A Beka books to teach all our kids to read. We did well with their reading, science, and language programs and stayed with Singapore for math and filled in the blanks with other things. One year turned into several, one toddler turned into a preschooler, the newborn became the toddler, and we welcomed Chloe into our family. Homeschooling continued on the same path, until we found a group new to us and a method almost entirely foreign to our homeschool: Classical Conversations. For a recap on how we got to be a part of this amazing group, read this.

So now we’re four weeks away from completing our second year in CC, and it has been worth every dollar and every hour of work and stretching. It’s been a tough year for Hannah in the Challenge program, but she has risen to the “challenge” and excelled in every subject area. What a blessing to see her move into more independent work and taking ownership of her education! She’s learning Latin from books like this and studying one of her favorite subjects in human biology. With her class and at home, she is working through learning how to draw every continent, every country and its capital, and many of the land features found throughout the world. Patrick and I learned a massive (one of his vocab words) amount in his language and writing class and enjoyed editing papers together and parsing sentences (well….ok, maybe that last one was more me than him, but he’s really good at it, even if he doesn’t like to do it). The younger guys have learned many things, including facts about history from Charlemagne to WWII and beyond, Newton’s Laws of Motion, what the heck the study of thermodynamics is, and many more things. Since the four boys had to prepare presentations every week for their classes, we’ve gotten to memorize a poem by Robert Frost and a silly poem by Roald Dahl–a humorous spin on an old classic, seen here. Last week may have been one of my favorites, though, when Andrew told his class about the destruction of Pompeii in 79AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. This is what he said (more or less a quote. Remember he still has ‘twouble’ with some of his r sounds.): “Rich Romans vacationed in Pompeii near the ocean in the summer. One morning, after bweakfast, Mt. Vesuvius ewupted and more than 2,000 people got dead.” There was more, of course, but it was cute.

It’s been a noteworthy year for sure, but it’s not over yet……

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