Homeschooling has gained a lot of traction in the past few decades, which means there has been a huge leap in the number of choices for curriculums, programs, tools and schedules accessible to homeschoolers. For me, the sheer number of options is incredibly overwhelming. I’ve realized recently that part of my personality is always looking for the “next best thing.” Something that is better, easier, faster, more efficient. I like to take what I call a “sampler plate” at potlucks and buffets—a little bit from each dish. I want to try EVERYTHING. Makes for a fun plate at a party, but isn’t so great when you’re talking about putting together a comprehensive educational plan for your children.
The biggest problem in narrowing down my choices was not having a concrete goal of where to go. After two years of homeschooling, I think we’ve nailed down the important things that we hope to get from our school journey. In addition to raising our children with a strong faith, the overarching goals we hope to achieve through the entirety of our home education are:
1. A good foundation in both academics and life skills
2. Foster a positive attitude towards learning
3. The capacity to be able to continue to learn independently throughout their academic and adult life.
After chasing a few of those curriculums I’d found during my many hours of perusing catalogs, browsing websites and scrolling through homeschooling forums, we purchased an awesome science curriculum and a highly recommended history program. Guess what? We’ve hardly touched them. That’s not to say we don’t learn science or history—on the contrary, those are the things the boys love the best! They are a veritable fount of information, facts and (occasionally useless) tidbits on all kinds of animals and bugs. They have enjoyed spending time identifying the various types of trees on our property, and it’s not uncommon to hear one pipe up “That’s a sycamore tree like ours!” or “This is definitely a maple tree, but it’s not a sugar maple.” They love talking about the types of houses people used to live in and what they might have eaten way back when. The problem is these particular curricula weren’t fostering that love of learning that we want to encourage, but rather a rote imparting of information from parent (or book) to child.
I’ve found that for us, using what is referred to in the homeschool world as “living books” instead of textbooks is going to be essential to our journey.
“Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion
for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style.
The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so
it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the
subject ‘come alive.’” (https://simplycharlottemason.com/faq/livingbook/)
In addition to Living Books, we also hope to incorporate the use of narration as an assessment tools, as opposed to routine testing. Narration involves the student telling back in their own words what they have just learned. Younger students will generally give oral feedback, while an older child will create a written narrative. Narratives can include a variety of different forms: essays, short answer questions, projects, creating their own study notes, etc. As a student who got through school on the back of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank quizzes then promptly forgot the majority of it, I want to make sure that our children have a strong grasp of the knowledge we hope to impart to them.
With a better formed idea of exactly how we hope to accomplish home education, I’m so excited about the curriculums we have chosen to use for the next school year. Keep an eye out for a series of short posts on our plans for the next school year!