Evie’s Favorite Pastime and Choosing Curricula for Your Homeschool

Evie helpfully fills lens cap with dirt and leaves.David was sitting at the table last night while I finished the dinner preparations.  Evie was moving quietly back and forth between the three first floor rooms: kitchen, living room, and bedroom.  “Ha!  Look at that!” David remarked.  “She just came out of the bedroom with the drawer of your jewelry box.  She took the stuff out, put the drawer down by your desk, carried the stuff over to the kitchen sink, put the stuff on the floor, picked up the lid to that bowl, and carried it to the living room.”

“I know!” I exclaimed in frustration.  “I pick the house up several times a day, but it always looks like a hurricane hit it because Evie spends all day moving stuff around!”

blog evie in the park moving other peoples thingsBack and forth, back and forth, all the live long day, just carrying things from here to there, so everything is all mixed up.  And just like my favorite goslings, she has no idea why I get frustrated with her.  At least she’s cute.

Well, onto those homeschooling books!  It’s that time of year again.  Maybe you don’t like what you used this year and are looking for a change; maybe you just need to freshen up workbooks; maybe you heard about a great new thing someone else is using and you think you’d like to try it, too.  Either way, you’re about to spend a fair chunk of some hard-earned money, and you want to get as much bang for your buck as you can.

Here’s the thing:  I’m not actually going to tell you what to use!  There are lots of great programs out there and some may suit you that don’t suit me and vice versa.  But it’s very important to choose something that suits.  For instance, I am so not Crafty Mom.  I don’t like making things out of glitter, pompoms, and pipe cleaners.  I don’t care if they perfectly illustrate a mathematical or religious concept, I don’t like trying to gather materials, and I don’t like cleaning up the messes, so, crafty and hands-on type programs are not for me!  What I do love is talking with my children, hearing what they have to say and helping them find answers to their existential questions, so I tend to use materials that inspire meaningful conversations.  That’s my first bit of advice: know thyself.  My bookshelves will attest to the fact that I have good, crafty intentions, but you can tell by the dust on those “hands-on” books that I haven’t actually laid hands on them since they arrived.

blog child with free time to playAnother thing I really value is independent learningI want the children, by the time they hit fifth grade, to be able to take responsibility for their own learning, without me having to help too much or constantly tell them the next thing to do, so that I can focus on the basic skills of the up-and-coming students.  It’s helpful, at this point, to have a basic understanding of your children’s learning styles.  Do they do well just reading from a book?  Or do they prefer to hear somebody speak the lessons to them?  Perhaps they are actually {gasp} hands-on, crafty kids!  If you ended up with one of those, you might have to add lots of field trips and projects, but I think most kids are okay with either reading or listening to lectures, with occasional trips and activities thrown in just for fun.

Knowing your own preferences and those of your children should go along toward narrowing the field, but there are still so many wonderful resources out there that it can be really difficult to choose.  If you select a single volume something to use for a single year, you will have to go through the selection process all over again next year.  You might like that!  I prefer to minimize the decision making as much as possible.  (I have a lot of kids to make decisions for!)  Using non-complimentary programs, too, can result in significant overlaps, as well as important information missed altogether.  I like to choose programs that build sequentially upon each other year after year.  The math should get progressively more challenging, the spelling words should become increasingly more complex, the history studies should take advantage of a child’s growing reasoning skills.  This is where it pays to stick with a program instead of jumping ship because you or your child feel bored.  (Hello, February!)  However, if you or your child really dislike a particular program, change it!  (Goodbye, Saxon!)  (Sorry, Saxon lovers.)

blog children pursuing interestsYou’ll also want to consider your educational philosophy.  Are you most passionate about the ideas of Charlotte Mason or Maria Montessori?  Do you think the Classical model is the way to go, or that children learn best in an unschooling scenario?  Do you prefer your materials to be infused with a Christian worldview?  Do you prefer to use consumable workbooks or what some call “living books”?   I put this last because I think it’s the least important.  Charlotte Mason, for instance, seems to me to be the ultimate Crafty Mom type.  All those nature walks and handicrafts, and whatnot, which are all well and good, but I just can’t pull them off.  I do, however, love using her “living books” approach as much as possible, but not exclusively.  Workbooks and textbooks have their place, too.  And while I’m a converted believer in the awesomeness of a strong Latin program, how much Roman history do we really need?  I don’t hold with unschooling as a valid educational methodology at all; however, each of my children have extracurricular interests which they pursue passionately and with great success, which is sort of unschooly, don’t you think?  It’s okay to blur the lines, to take what works best for you and your children from among all the philosophies you’ve read about, and just ignore the rest.

children dressed up like elves for fun on weekendsDon’t overschedule.  You can’t cover everything you think they need to know; neither of you have the time or the energy for that, so you need to prioritize.  Which subjects are most important and which can be considered extras?  At our house, we value history, religion, math, English (which includes literature, grammar, writing, spelling, etc.) and Latin.  Science falls into a fuzzy gray area, and I include it faithfully only because the rest of the world expects it and not because I see any particular value in it.  If you’re worried about their logic and reasoning skills, Latin should take care of that for you.  It is, however, fun to read about the wonders of creation and learn how  things work.

Other extras might include art, music, geography (which can be included with history), foreign languages, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  We have an ongoing program in which we introduce the children to culturally important film and television programs, a.k.a., Teen Movie Night.  (Alfred Hitchcock is on our summer movie schedule.)  Alas, I also try to give them lots of free time in which to pursue individual interests, so I don’t include much in the way of “electives”.

blog up and coming studentThe important thing is to take your time.  Read reviews and look at samples and make lists.  There’s no hurry.  School doesn’t start again till next August or September, and I don’t know of any major book distributor that won’t have your order to you within a week, even at the height of the season.  You might like to shop early, though, if you are writing your own lessons and need the materials on hand in order to schedule them.  I’m doing quite a bit of that this summer.  🙂

Did I miss anything?  Do you have any questions?


2 Comment

  1. We just watched Hitchcock’s “I Confess.” Great movie for discussion!

  2. Lovely post! I too am in the throes of the toddler who leaves random things everywhere. Every day trying to give him at least one lesson in proper clean up. No, we do not throw our toothbrush on the kitchen floor when we are done with it! baby number 4 due to arrive early winter and I am trying to pick curriculum that I can handle through that transition.

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