I know I haven’t written much lately. Part of my time has been spent reading more about various aspects of Charlotte Mason homeschooling, Teaching from Rest – a VALUABLE book by Sarah Mackenzie – if you homeschool and you haven’t read this book you absolutely MUST!, observing my youngest child and, of course, being overwhelmed by the other
aspects of life: changes brought about by the holiday season and the season of winter upon us, maintaining a home with all the boring details that go with it (you know – cleaning, laundry, cooking, cleaning, laundry, cooking, over and over again!), and with all of this, basically reevaluating where I am on our homeschool journey.
As most of you know, I have two kids that I am now homeschooling (my third is a junior in college!); I have a 5 year old and a seventeen year old. The seventeen year old is in his junior year of high school. The 5 year old is my extrovert….quite the challenge to this introverted mother and while I don’t have to label him as anything at this point according to our Pennsylvania homeschool laws, I’m calling him a kindergartener.
For this post, let’s start with the highschooler. While I thought I had a great year planned- sort of laid back but still getting the academics necessary in and also allowing him to explore his interests- having coffee with a friend made me realize I could have done so much better. UGH. Face Palm. But….. relax….take a deep breath, Carol…. We’re all learning, here, right? That’s really what life is about I think…..loving others, and keep on learning - keep improving- finding ways to be at peace and closer to God….
So….. the friend I had coffee with is a unschooler…and it took me being enthralled with Charlotte Mason and really listening to this unschooling friend and her outlook on education that made me really see how bent out of shape I get on ‘meeting those academic requirements’. Yes, absolutely, the requirements must be met. BUT… I must get out of my public school mindset on HOW those requirements must be met and that the bottom line is I need to educate my son in the way that best suits HIM.
SO…… what to do now? Well, I have all sorts of ideas on what to do next year….but how to tweak this year so that I don’t drive him crazy asking him daily if he’s caught up and we can relax about the other activities that have cropped up since I planned the year (like his trip to Florida over the holiday break and the guest we will have in March and scouting activities, and time away from school to get to the weight room at the high school to work out with the football team, etc. ).
Well, first let’s look at what he’s doing this year:
English 11 - that’s not much of a problem as I really made this to be more relaxed this year already.
The only requirements I gave him this year was to read at least 15-20 quality books with a figure of about 3200 pages total(one book was allowed to be twaddle as I knew there was a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book coming out and my son has always LOVED that series and , let’s face it, reading should be fun and why not read a book JUST for fun?) and to give oral narrations as well as a bi-weekly written narration of each book. In addition to the reading, he was to complete 2 research papers via a online research class.
Anatomy & Physiology - this is taken with a local homeschool co-op.
This was the class we knew would be challenging, not so much as the material is hard but as it’s set up to be a college prep course, we knew it would be a LOT of material, fast paced, and would require a lot of time.
Consumer Math & Finance - This fulfills his third math requirement as he has already fulfilled the algebra and geometry requirements.
I set this class up quite similar to my daughter’s class from years ago. He is completing various chapters I assigned in a consumer math book (I chose the Abeka curriculum) as well as Dave Ramsey’s high school curriculum on finance. To me, the most important part of this class is what he learns from the Dave Ramsey program. This, in addition to him participating in our family monthly budget meetings, will give him a sound understanding of money (making it, saving it, spending it) that he will truly need throughout his life, regardless of anything else he does as a career or family man.
Economics – Economics fullfils a requirement under social sciences. (1/2 credit course)
I attempted to make this course as interesting as possible and refused to use the typical textbook but used a popular book in the homeschool world – Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard J. Maybury as well as various parts of A Bluestocking Guide: Economics and The Money Mystery.
Home Economics - I had to make up this course on my own.
While there are numerous homeschool home-ec courses out there, there isn’t a single one that I could find that really tailored to a boy. There was soooooo much emphasis placed on girly things. I know (don’t get me wrong) that men do cook, sew, and take care of babies. And yes, that’s all part of his home ec course too. But I don’t feel that the home ec courses that I saw emphasized the male role in the household. What about home maintenance? What about general repair? What about the automotive aspect? Most curriculums offer these things as separate courses but I know, having been the second half of a household now for 23 years now, it all comes together. So I tailored the course to include these things as well as cooking, sewing and the general topics that are usually included in home-ec courses. But, rather than sewing and cooking taking up the bulk of the course, they are not emphasized as being the end all and be all of home-ec.
Introduction to Christianity - To know and teach our faith to others, one must be aware of what others believe. (1/2 credit course)
I knew right away that I was including Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick’s book, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. To me, being an Orthodox Christian and creating this course for my homeschooler just automatically led to the use of this book. I just wasn’t sure what to use in addition to that. But in my research of college courses offering an introductory course, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bishop Ware’s book – The Orthodox Way- was used in a few that I came upon. Thus this book became the second book to be used.
Study Skills - A must course for anyone that is considering college in their future. (1/2 credit course)
I kept this course the same as I did for my daughter several years ago, using the same books and very similar requirements for both. (If you’re wondering about the books, we use “College Study: the Essential Ingredients by Sally Lipsky and How to Study in College by Walter Pauk”)
So that’s the gist of what he’s been doing this year. Being that I’m using narration for a lot of the courses, not just English, and that I’ve strayed from the common textbook, I’m already on the right track for using better education strategies. But coffee with my friend made me realize, I wasn’t using my son to truly gear my decisions on his education. I wasn’t really focused on his interests, his GOALS, his input. Of course, when I ask him, he doesn’t know what to say. After all, I’ve been the one taking the lead for all of these years. Yes, I ask for input- but not a lot of it – sad to say.
So in listening to my friend talk about unschooling and what she has accomplished and how she has done so (and the struggles), my gears started working….and I have already formulated ideas (just ideas- need to sit and actually PLAN with my son) for next year. So what about now? How can I lessen our stress load NOW?
Well- it shouldn’t be terribly hard. The set up of English with narrations is easy. Obviously I need to ditch the idea that there needs to be a set number of books. What I need to focus on his discussing the quality books he reads, whether it be 5 or 15 or 50. I’m relying heavily on gems of information I’m gleaning from the Read Aloud Revival – another great source offered by Sarah Mackenzie- on how to gear these discussions. He’s completed one research paper and has also given a speech (a surprise in the Anatomy & Physiology course) and will be giving another presentation in the spring so I am dumping the second research paper and will do the online course next year. Anatomy & Physiolgy isn’t controlled by me but I do need to step up my participation and make sure I’m helping him study. I could kick myself in that I allowed him to choose whether to start with that course or the Christianity course at the beginning of the year and realize now, that shouldn’t have been an option since he was taking a college prep course and NEEDED to know how to study. Aw, well…. he isn’t doing poorly- but it has been a bigger challenge than expected and I think his father and I guiding him on how to apply the study skills he’s starting to learn to the class he’s taking is a necessary step. Next is Consumer Math & Finance- this isn’t going too badly but I’m wondering what I can do to eliminate some of the textbook stuff in the consumer math book. I’m thinking more participation in our budget meetings and some general computation at the grocery store, etc. I’m really thinking there can be more overlap for some of his home ec course that we haven’t gotten to yet that can be applied to both courses. I’m still thinking on this one. As for home ec itself, my only problem has been the logging of the hours. I’ll need to check with my friend (who will also be the evaluator since I’m filed under the homeschool law this year rather than home tutoring that I usually select). His economics course is almost completed. I think just reading the last book and giving a few narrations will suffice. And the same thing to complete the second book for the Christianity class- just read and give oral narrations- forget the written narrations- they are not truly necessary- unless perhaps one at the end to show a general summary for his portfolio? And there’s the Study Skill Course. I’ll need to reread the requirements I gave him. I still want to use both books- though I may shorten the second one and pick what I feel to be the best chapters and tweak some of the requirements. The goal there is he has lots of tools to use to succeed. Obviously what’s most important is he read the material, understand it and be able to use what works best for him- NOT whether he does personal action statements or fills out tables and charts….so….
I’m looking forward to him getting back from Chicago with his dad (yeah, another event to divert away from the academic curriculum- though an absolute positive experience) so we can sit down and look things over together- yes, even dad because he’s the principal afterall J . I’ll have to post more later, but if you have any ideas- please fill free to share!
As for the kindergartner? Well, that’s to be continued on another post, another day!