Monday, April 14, 2008

How We Came to Homeschooling the Way We Do: Part 4

For some reason that I can't entirely explain, I've had a strong aversion to complete curriculum where everything is planned out for me. For years, the only homeschool curriculum that I knew existed was Sonlight and, while not really a curriculum, the What Your Nth Grader Should Know series. Over and over again, I've considered Sonlight and have always had a strong aversion to it. I can't say why but I just know in my gut that it isn't the curriculum for my family. Since I didn't know that other curricula existed, I set out to create my own.

If you've been this series (that I started a while back and then got distracted and forgot about), you know that I taught my daughter her basic preschool/kindergarten stuff by just playing. We counted and played games. While on bed rest, I taught her her numbers, letters, colors, feelings, shapes, etc. Then we moved on to basic phonics and math concepts through workbooks. By the time she was in kindergarten, she was ready for first grade level work.

Since I didn't want to use Sonlight, the only curriculum I knew about, I tried to create my own. It didn't work out well. I used Spectrum workbooks to continue phonics and language arts so that subject went well. Just do the next page or two. I attempted to teach math on my own. We tried learning about time and adding. That was a nightmare. Mika learned to hate math, cried a lot, and did not learn her addition facts well at all. I tried covering everything else through geography because that seemed to be what the What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know and What Your First Grader Needs to Know book told me she needed to know. The plan was to study the major countries on each continent. I tried finding books about the country to start us off. I wanted to learn about the language, food, animals, and culture. I wanted to color in a map, try a recipe, learn a few words in the country's language, and create art representing the country. I made a few mistakes that year that slowed us down. First, the books I found were at a 4th grade reading level and were very dry. Reading them was boring and never kept Mika's attention. Second, I tried to teach the way I had been taught. I spent hours creating my own worksheets (fill in the blank, crossword puzzles, word searches) and tests. Third, I wasn't organized so much of my time and energy went to researching the topic, creating worksheets and tests, and trying to get ready. We didn't get far; we only covered China and a few countries in Europe.

In first grade, I started to panic. This was where it was important to do it right. I felt 1st grade was real school and we weren't playing around anymore. I felt self-imposed pressure to cover all the subjects. I continued with Spectrum workbooks for language arts but added a few so we'd be covering Spelling, Phonics, and Grammar. Language arts continued to work well. I discovered Saxon math at a used curriculum sale. The table I was at had several grade levels and, after looking at them for a while, settled on the 2nd grade level for Mika. Using Saxon, Mika's view on math worsened and there were tears all year. We only made it through half of the curriculum. I tried adding history by covering US history chronologically and the same way we had tried covering geography the prior year. We made it to the pilgrims and no further. We both found history very boring. I added science using a workbook containing the directions for 70 simple kitchen experiments with worksheets for observations. Mika found it fun to do the experiments but with very little background information, I was at a loss to explain why the experiments did what they did. It was fun but we learned nothing. So, besides improved reading skills, I felt we made very little headway.

Meanwhile, Sammy was attending preschool through the public school system. With severe speech and language delays, he needed daily speech therapy. Once we discovered he had severe lactose intolerance and corrected his diet, he made quick improvements. It looked like he would be able to leave special ed for the regular kindergarten class so I made plans on bringing him home.

With our struggles with homeschooling, adding another student, and the addition of an infant, I knew something was going to have to change. I spent the summer agonizing over how to make school work.

Part 1: Before Homeschool

Part 2: Preschool at Home

Part 3: The School Makes the Decision for Me

Part 5: A Year of Big Changes

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