2

I always start surfing the web and old catalogs in January or February to start getting a feel for what curriculum I may want to use the following school year.  This is the first year I've ever had to look at preschool curriculums.  We didn't start homeschooling our oldest until they were in 5th and 2nd grades, respectively.  My youngest is almost 4 now and is already ahead by leaps and bounds.

I am learning about Charlotte Mason so while I'm still reading books and watching videos about the Charlotte Mason approach, I'm also perusing websites that I have seen other parents mention or seen mentioned  on the Charlotte Mason blogs and websites.

Here's a few I have taken a look at recently:

Simply Charlotte Mason  offers a preschool guide.  While they are not suggesting anything formal, they do offer some very good tips here. They also have a section on planning schedules.

Heart of Dakota  I've seen various years of this curriculum and I have liked what I've seen, especially the flexibility offered within the choices.  Each day is laid out and very easy to follow.  The preschool program - Little Hands To Heaven- offers educational skills such as letter recognition and formation, sounds, art projects, early math skills and more.  HD also offers daily bible stories and activities. HD has curriculum through high school.

My Father's World I always find myself lingering around their booths set up at the Christian Homeschool Convention of Pennsylvania held each year in Harrisburg.  MFW has a toddler program and preschool program(as well as additional years). The preschool program offers alphabet skills and numbers 1-10, shapes, sequencing, visual discrimination, etc.  The package comes with a CD of bible verses for the child to listen to throughout the day.

Five In a Row  is literature based and seems to be a very relaxed style of learning.  There are 4 volumes for ages 4-8, volume 1 -3 being written at about the same level while volume 4 contains more difficult literature.  The 4 volumes contain 70 different unit studies covering various academic areas (math, geography, social studies, etc.)

Ambleside - While not really a curriculum, this site offers book lists that are of a Charlotte Mason approach for each year level.  Level year is geared for 5-6 but there is a list there for toddlers as well and can certainly be started early!

Math U See  In Primer, the child is introduced to writing numerals and basic counting, skip counting, adding and subtracting and is considered by the company a gentle approach to introducing math.  Math U See is a common curriculum used by homeschoolers.  It's one of those programs people seem to either love or greatly dislike all depending on their perspective of how math should be covered.  A lot of parents enjoy the video presentations and how Math U See is known to completely cover and reach mastery of a skill before moving on.

Explode the Code This series offers Get Ready For the Code - a series of 3 workbooks introducing the letters of the alphabet with various activities including tracing, writing and riddles.  Most places indicate this to be used for preschool.  Sonlight (see below) offers it in kindergarten - I'm not sure what their rational is for this.

Sonlight offers a preschool and a pre-kindergarten program.  I have often lingered near the sonlight tables at the CHAP convention as well.  I actually started out using Sonlight (back when I first pulled my daughter and son out of public school) but part ways from it because I found it overwhelming at the time.  We had many issues going on at the time but I always wondered if I should have stuck it out or gone back to it once those issues resolved themselves.  It was really laid out very well for the parent to follow.  It was a wonderful literature based program.  I just found it to be too intensive for our personal factors at that time.  I'm sure I will strongly consider it this time around.

Modern Curriculum Press Phonics - Who doesn't remember the plaid colored phonics books from elementary school?  I loved them in school and I loved them teaching... just as a supplement to practice skills being taught.

So this is what I've covered thus far.  I've only glanced at these websites.  I haven't even lingered very long but they are the top sites I'll probably keep revisiting.  I doubt that I'll make a choice before long. I usually make a list of the ones I've narrowed it down to and look at them extensively at the homeschool convention when I can hold the products in hand and really look through the manuals and get a better feel for the program. This makes it easier to compare.  I'll also talk to as many fellow homeschoolers as I can and see what programs they are or have used and why they have or have not liked particular programs.

One thing I've learned already is that maybe preschool is NOT the way to go....  looking over these I see skills that my little man has already mastered without my having to present anything in a school like fashion.  I am now considering looking at kindergarten options as well...but with the idea of only doing about half a year.  He will only be 4 and while his academic skills are advanced his attention span at this point is not.  But these are all things to consider in the months ahead and not make a sudden decision without thought.

Of course, before I do any in-depth research into any of the 'curriculum packages' above, as I stated earlier, I'll be finishing up my Charlotte Mason reading/viewing materials that I have.  I may find that I won't be using a formal curriculum at all or just use a few materials from one or two of them.

In the meantime, I hope you'll find the above links helpful if you are planning preschool in the year ahead as well.  If you have already covered preschool and/or kindergarten and have any advice to offer on the curriculums above or other curriculums you have used, by all means share it with me!  🙂  Others , including myself, may benefit from what you have experienced!

 

6

I think the most important aspect of education is quality books.  And by quality books, I mean LIVING BOOKS.  So...what is a 'living book'?

                Thank goodness I was never sent to school...Beatrix Potter quote at DailyLearners.com

Living books are those books which make the subject 'come alive'.  They are generally written by one person, versus a textbook written by several authors.  The book reaches out and pulls you in.  It's a book that makes you feel that you are there with the characters.  They are generally written in a narrative style rather than a dry style of writing typically found in most textbooks which usually only present facts in a summary type form. With the right sources, you can find living books that cover most school subjects  -  even math!!

In our homeschooling years, I have tried to use Living Books whenever possible.  Now that I am researching the Charlotte Mason method to use with my toddler, I have found a plethora of sources and would like to share them with you!

Source List for Living Books:

All Through The Ages

The Ambleside Online Curriculum

Beautiful Feet

Books of Wonder

CM Bookfinder

Five In A Row

Greenleaf Press

A Literary Education

Honey For A Child's Heart

Living Books Curriculum

Newberry Medal and Honor Books

Sonlight

Charlotte Mason teaches that you are to select books that will cultivate your child's taste for good literature and words fitly spoken.  A quality book will cultivate imagination and nourish their mind. Charlotte Mason homeschoolers do not usually spend their time using books consisting of 'twaddle'(nonsense or 'dumbed-down' literature).  I don't,however, think an occasional book that is not categorized under high quality literature is a waste.  As long as it isn't the only type of book your child will read, it's not against your morals or values, and it leads your child to reading, then it is a book worth it's price!  Happy Reading!

5

HOMESCHOOLING IS AWESOME!!! (just in case you were wondering)

There are actually a number of methods to homeschooling.  Each family has its own style they are most comfortable with and choose as the best method for their homeschooler.  As an evaluator for other homeschoolers (Pennsylvania is a state which requires each homeschooler to be evaluated by either a licensed psychologist, school psychologist, certified teacher, or other persons meeting qualifications and approved by the school district in which the student resides), I am able to see the results of all of these methods over time.  They are all wonderful methods.  But not all methods suit all children or all parents for that matter.

I am only offering a simple overview here.  It is by no means an overall account of each one I mention. If you are looking into homeschooling, I suggest you pick a couple that resonate with you and read more about them.  In time, I will try to add a list of sources with each one.

There is always what is sometimes called the 'Public School at Home Method' which just means the parent uses standard textbooks (sometimes even borrowed from the public school) and the child uses these texts and standard paper and pencil tests for evaluation.  Some parents use Cyber Schools (the student has textbooks at home and attends 'class' via computer at home) to incorporate this style.  Most would not call Cyber Schools true homeschooling and I would be inclined to agree, but if your goal is to simply have them at home away from the influence of youngsters in the public schools, then this might work for you.

The ones I heard about the most when starting out were the Classical Method and the Charlotte Mason Method.  The Classical Method is based on a philosophy which is built  on a three-part process to train the mind. This is known as the Trivium.  In the first step, the child learns and memorizes facts.  In the second step, connections are made between those memorized facts .  The third step is when the student forms opinions of his own about those connections he or she has made with the known facts.   The Classical Method generally involves the use of the Socratic method and the classic books of the Western tradition, extensive learning of Latin as well as Grammar, logic and rhetoric. There is a LOT of reading and writing involved with this method.   The homeschooling families that I have witnessed using this system thrive on the structure involved!  So if you don't like structure, this is definitely NOT the method for you.  And if your child is not a strong reader or writer, it may be difficult to manage.

Sources:  The Well Trained Mind

1000 Good Books List

Circe Institute

Classical Homeschooling Curriculum

 

The Charlotte Mason Method is based on the teaching methods of Charlotte Mason, a British educator who lived in the late 1800s to early 1900s.  The Charlotte Mason focuses heavy on LIVING BOOKS, books that pull the reader into the subject and touches upon your emotions usually written by one individual (vs. a textbook written by a group of authors) who is obviously passionate about the subject.  This method also heavily uses the tool of narration (verbal and written), short lessons, the study of art, nature and poetry and focuses on the importance of teaching good habits.   Parents who choose this method enjoy being heavily involved in the process of the child's education discussing books, listening and reading narrations, enjoying art, music, and nature together  and does not feel the need to have their child take formal tests.

Sources:  Who Was Charlotte Mason?

Simply Charlotte Mason

Ambleside

The Unit Study Method has the student focus on one specific topic and incorporates as many of the academic areas around it as possible.  For example, a student may be intensely interested in the Civil War.  So besides the obvious readings good historical fiction books and biographies (history, literature) about people of that time period, the student will study the geography(geography) of the areas the battles were fought in.  They may research what scientific discoveries(science) were made at the time and make graphs (math) of death tolls for various battles.  All of this while listening to music (music appreciation)composed or enjoyed at that time and study paintings of the war (art).  A lot of people using these methods love making scale models of various things or some sort of final project to demonstrate what they have learned.  This method really helps parents who are teaching children at various levels and enjoy doing hands-on-projects and do not worry about following the traditional scope and sequence of subjects.

Sources:  Five In A Row

Unit Study Resource List

The Unschooling Method allows the child to lead the way in learning.  The parent will offer resources based on the interests of the child at that time.  This method does not in any way follow the traditional textbook, sit at a desk, formal test method of public schools.  The child determines, based on their motivations and interests, what they want to study at a given time and the parent provides books, materials, possibly even online or local classes on the given subject at hand.  This may mean that the student may be 'behind' in certain areas in comparison to a public school child but may be well advanced in others.  He or she may quickly catch up in those areas of lesser skill as soon as they move on to other interests.  I have seen this method work very well with friends and colleagues who have taken part in it and the knowledge that these children acquire can be astounding but I would strongly advise preparing in advance and understand the method before proceeding with it as I would hope anyone would with any homeschooling.

Sources:

Unschooling.com

Unschoolersg.org

The Eclectic Home Schooling Method tends to be what I see the most of and what I have used myself in the past and currently with my high schooler (I am researching another method extensively to use with my toddler).  In this method, a variety of home school methods are used depending on the learning style and interests of the child.  Instead of choosing just one method, the parent may use various methods and various sources depending on the subject.  For example, one child may use a classical approach for history, a Charlotte Mason approach for science and literature, a 'school at home' type method for math and other subjects with an occasional unit study thrown in.

Sources?  See all of the above 🙂

There are certainly other approaches as well but these seem to be the most common.  If you are new to homeschooling, I'd advise starting with researching these methods a bit more and see where that takes you.  There's a huge world out there!  I recall being absolutely awestruck at our first CHAP convention in Harrisburg, PA. I had NO idea how big homeschooling was! I had NO idea how many people were involved. I had NO idea how much curriculum was available.  I had NO idea how many options there were and I had NO idea how much support there was or how much I would fall in love with it all!

Feel free to ask me questions about homeschooling if you'd like.  I can't promise to have all the answers and I only know the homeschooling laws of Pennsylvania, but I can share with you what I do know and what my experiences have been.  And if I don't know the answer, I might know of a source to get you the answer.  My FAVORITE homeschooling source is HSLDA, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.  They are more than just lawyers and I always recommend to my clients that they join.  They have been a tremendous wealth of information to me over the years.

I will try to add more sources for the above methods listed as time goes on.  If there is one that interests you, in particular, let me know.  If there is another method I haven't covered here and you think I should, send me a note and I'll try to address it in the future!