May 5, 2014

Ok, I've survived nearly 9 months of homeschooling and although I've doubted myself A LOT throughout the experience and needed the reassurance from good friends like Teresa to keep me from throwing in the towel, I have found I really enjoy it. There is this immense satisfaction knowing that when my child learned to read, tell time, do fractions and tell me all about Egypt, etc... that I am the one who taught her all of that and not someone else.  I know what she's learning, when she is learning it, how well she's doing in each subject and in what areas I need to teach more. 

I want to use this blog post to talk about curriculum since that is the one thing that gives me the most headaches but also happens to be the most fun.  Odd right? To give me a headache and be fun? 
Well... I'll explain.

Finding the right curriculum is difficult since there seems to be plenty of a particular subject and almost nothing at all on another. Searching for curriculums on history or language arts you'll find more than you'll want so how do you choose? Searching for a curriculum on Spanish and art, infuriatingly impossible to find so you are reduced to putting it together yourself. 

Everyone's experience on finding a curriculum is different. In my opinion, it all depends on four things:

1. Your state requirements. 
2. What you want as a parent
3. How best your child learns
4. Cost! If you don't have a lot of money to work with, some curriculums, although perfect for your child, are just not in your price range. 

When I began homeschooling in September I started using the Oak Meadow curriculum for first grade.  I love Oak Meadow! I like the way the curriculum is laid out, the amount of hands on projects brought into every subject, how it all flows nicely and keeps my daughter interested but... I had to supplement quite a bit and around mid December I stopped using it altogether.  Not using it has been a huge mistake because it kept me focussed and on track and with that came a lot less anxiety.  Since I started jumping all over the place is when all of the doubt crept in. I'm getting a handle on it now and feeling more confident as I find other curriculums to supplement with but for a while there I didn't think I was going to continue teaching my daughter.  Now, I'm finding my footing and feeling I've made the absolute right decision by homeschooling my child.

What has helped me stick with it and where are we now?

#1  A friend. If I didn't have Teresa  I would have given up. I've met people in the homeschool co-op we attended this spring but no one has been as open, honest and helpful as my friend Teresa. 


#2  Seeing my daughter share what she learns.  Twice now we've been out and about and someone has asked my daughter why she wasn't in school and she'd tell them she is home-schooled. Immediately they'd start in with a list of questions about some random subject. Once we were having lunch with a friend and the waiter started quizzing my daughter on panda bears and the other time my daughter was getting her hair cut and the beautician wanted to know if she knew anything about Johnny Appleseed.  Ironically, we had studied pandas and learned all about Johnny Appleseed. 

Where are we now?

Well... I still haven't gone back to using Oak Meadow but I will. I also intend on purchasing their 2nd grade curriculum this summer.  I realized the problem with their curriculum (for us) is it just doesn't fit my daughter 100%. It was weak in some areas (for her).  When we started, my daughter already knew how to read well and she had already been exposed to many of the science topics so she became easily bored when I'd repeat things.  I'm also not a fan of jumping all over the place when studying history, I like order and there wasn't much for order on that subject.

To make sure my daughter was learning the same, if not more, than her sisters are learning in public school I purchased the book Home Learning Year by Year:

Home Learning Year by Year has been the most valuable book I've picked up.  Each chapter is divided into years. Chapter 1 - preschool, Chapter 2 - kindergarten, etc... and under each year is a complete list of what your child should know in every subject for that particular grade level.

After looking at dozens of different curriculums I settled on the following to supplement some of what is in Oak Meadow...

Write Shop. I haven't used this yet, it just arrived today.  Based on what I've read about it I think it will be good for my daughter but I'll have to update readers on that later.  I chose this writing curriculum when I started having difficulty explaining sentence structure and helping my daughter understand the meaning of complete sentences. 

Money Bags. The most awesome game ever for teaching money. I ordered this when my daughter had a difficult time remembering the names and amount of coins. I think we played the game 3x's and she had it all down perfectly. Now she is mastering making change, exchanging coins for dollars, etc...  My daughter learns much faster when we do things "hands-on" so educational games are a must in our household. 

Monarchs and More. I picked this up at the University of Minnesota.  They have a great entomology department over there and everyone is extremely helpful and excited when you want to learn about insects.  I just happened to come across this when doing a search on "ordering" monarchs. We'll be using this over the summer to learn more about butterflies. 

Nature Seeker Workbook. I am giving you the Amazon link for the workbook but I actually found this at the local bird supply store.  It was written by someone from my state. It contains a wealth of information on wildlife from midwest. We'll be using it to learn about nature this summer.

The Story of the World.  I wanted a history that took more of a timeline approach than just skipping all over the place and someone at the homeschool co-op we attended this spring told me about this curriculum.  I really like it.  Each chapter is very short, between 2-4 pages and there is a map to go with every chapter.  In addition to the stories and maps there is an activity guide that ties in with every chapter and it makes history fun and interesting to study. 

Real Science Odyssey. I just found this a few weeks ago and haven't started using it yet. I was waiting for the weather so we could start doing some of the projects outside. I searched high and low for a science curriculum and I think I'm really going to enjoy this one. I like that it has everything written out step-by-step.  When it comes to science I like to do as little thinking as possible. This book tells me exactly what to do and how to teach it.  It is nice to have the option of a less expensive ebook to download instantly over just purchasing the books (which are always more costly). 

I also downloaded this cute art history lessons booklet put together by someone on Teachers Pay Teachers. I've found so many useful projects and ideas on the TPT website.  Most of their downloads are reasonably priced and once you've downloaded anything you can use it again and again. Our favorite things to download are math games.

I am still on the hunt for a good Spanish and art curriculum.  I am thinking I may write my own for Spanish and post it on TPT but when it comes to art I need all the help I can get :D

Homeschool won't end for us in May or June like a traditional year, we'll keep going throughout the summer but spend most of June, July and August on science and just studying nature.  If you have any tips for this new homeschooling mom, please share.  The more I know the better :-) 
Teresa Robeson said...

M, I'm happy I could be of some help even though I've not used a whole lot of curricula in our own homeschooling. You have found some nifty resources! I've heard from other homeschoole folks who use a whole packaged curriculum/program that they also supplement like you do. Because kids all learn differently and at different rates, it only makes sense that no one program can fit all (and therein lies the weakness of school with its one-size-fits-all approach).

You know where to find me if you have any more questions, but I hope people will kids closer to your daughter's age can help!

Michelle said...

Hey T,

I can see why you designed your own way of teaching. I was tempted to do that for 2nd grade and think at some point I'm probably just going to do that. I think Aiyana may get more out of a curriculum written by me as oppose to those that are purchased. It sure would save a whole lotta money :D

Epicure68 said...

Congratulations on making it through your first year! I am so in awe of parents who homeschool and totally jealous of the kids who get home schooled and all the cool stuff they get to learn. Designing your own curriculum would be amazing and I think you get to learn a lot that way too.

I met a woman who home schools her kids, her oldest one just graduated and has joined the family business, so now he gets to learn another set of new skills.

Michelle said...

Thank you Monica!

You are right Bout the curriculum. A lit of what I teach I either don't remember being taught or wasn't taught when I was little so that is one of the things that makes this fun, I get to learn with her :)

Hey, I just saw on your page you have several blogs. You should start writing on them again, I loved reading your posts (just started going through them). I never remember to look at people's profiles to see if they have other blogs, I need to start doing that more.