Melanie sent me an email with some fantastic questions to discuss.
See, I’m brand new to this homeschooling thing and we started the year trying to adhere to the whole Well-Trained Mind thing. It was so nice following the WTM suggestions. They are so neat and tidy. Now, however, I’m finding that may not be totally where we should be for all of our curriculum. I’m slowly realizing that this is quite the dynamic venture and that I need to have the flexibility to evolve.
I’ve noticed that your curriculum has evolved and I was wondering if you could write a little about your journey. My difficulty in changing is most probably based in my lack of confidence. Well, that…and the difficulty I have in mixing things up. I mean if I’m doing the WTM approach, shouldn’t I adhere to all of the suggestions? Obviously not, but how to mix and match so as to complement? I am guessing that is part of the evolution.
How did you go about choosing the curriculum you are using? What was your thought process when it came time to shift gears?
So I’ll start off with my answers, and my readers are welcome to add to the dialogue. That way it will be more fun for me and more helpful for Melanie.
Well, Melanie, I think you’re on the right track to realize that certain parts of a system (WTM, in your case) are not the best fit for you and your daughter. There are very few purists out there. Most all of us adhere only loosely to a philosophy or system.
It is awfully nice to buy a pre-scheduled, fully thought-out plan that you can just open and go. It’s easy and it feels good that someone else whom you trust is making the big decisions. I did that at first. We used Sonlight, the full kit and kaboodle for three years (K-2). It was good. It worked. But then I started to see other things that I wanted to implement that Sonlight didn’t have, namely hands-on. So I made a switch to Winter Promise (for 3-5). And that worked. It was good.
And now I’m seeing new things that need to change. So we’re moving to Beautiful Feet for sixth grade ancient history. Part of that change is because the WP themes (or SL cores) are really expensive and time consuming. We need to begin investing more time and money into the 3R’s. So I’m going for a simpler history base that I can build on as desired.
Interestingly I don’t consider myself a curriculum hopper. First, I’ve used each publisher for more than one complete year. I’ve always finished a cycle of curriculum. And, probably most importantly, each of these curricula providers have similar educational philosophies, namely using living books as a foundation. It’s not like I’ve jumped from textbook to classical to Charlotte Mason to unschooling. I’ve always known who I am as a homeschooling mom and who my child is.
But, here’s the rub– children change. No, their basic personality doesn’t change. But they grow and develop and need different things at different stages. And let’s be honest. Life’s circumstances change. You may have more or less money available for curriculum. You may have more or less time to invest in planning. All of those things factor into curriculum decisions.
Although I was a teacher by trade, I had no idea how to teach a young child. So I relied heavily on my Sonlight guides those first years. But once I internalized the structure of the schedule and read more about homeschooling, I felt more confident to wing it. I see that the methods I’m using are working, and I trust them more than before. Now I’m looking forward to an almost completely self-devised curriculum, pulled from various sources.
Sixth grade is going to be a true hodge podge, and I am so excited about it! I have no fears about leaving things out or not doing a good job.
First I believe that consistent progress forward is the key. So as long as we’re learning, I’m content.
Secondly any education has gaps. And who says what a 6th grader should know, anyway? Ask five different homeschool moms or five different state education departments and you’ll get ten different answers. Use their answers as guides, sure. And then strive for that consistent, forward motion.
Two of my main goals for my daughter’s education are that she love learning and that she become an effective independent learner. We can achieve those goals with many different types of curriculum.
And lastly, I trust God. That may sound trite, but it’s honestly the truth. When things go awry — a curriculum choice isn’t the best — or a day of homeschooling is lost because of another pressing need, then I give it up to Him. He knows; He sees. And His grace covers it. The sovereignty of God extends into homeschooling as well.
So back to my thought processes in curriculum planning. What I’ve been doing is a lot of reverse engineering. I look at my final goal — what do I want Emma to know or be able to do? Or what topic do we need to cover? Then I go hunting for the material that will best accomplish that. Of course, I’m looking for materials that match my educational philosophy (which leans towards Charlotte Mason). Actually, being CM makes it easy since all you need are living books.
During this process, I also get feedback from Emma. She’s close to 11 years old, and I think she needs to have some decision making powers in her education. When we discussed curriculum for sixth grade, she said she wanted to learn about the human body and about ancient history. So there we go, the main directions of history and science are laid out for me.
Math and language arts are much more foundational, so I spend a lot of time working on those choices. I did spend some time looking over scope and sequence charts for language arts to get a feel of what we might include. Then I make my own list and go looking for resources to teach those topics. I had a list like this —
- books to read
- elements of fiction and figurative/poetic speech
- vocabulary (including roots, prefixes, suffixes, analogies)
My math list was like this —
- games and hands-on resource books
- manipulatives and games
- living math books
- math history books
- reference books and textbooks/workbooks
Then I go through catalogs and search online to see what I like. I read at Yahoo groups, forums, and curriculum review sites. Slowly I research and narrow my choices until I have a large collection of resources to draw from. Then I narrow my choices into a manageable (read affordable) set.
One of my planning tips is to use Rainbow Resource’s wishlist feature. I add things like crazy and then weed them out. I can print that list too, and use it to scour the used book listings at Vegsource and Homeschool Classifieds. As I buy something used, I mark it off the wishlist. For things that aren’t at Rainbow, I have an Amazon wishlist. Among those three online places, I can keep track of my curriculum choices as I’m planning.
That’s what I do, and I’m sure my brilliant readers have other tips and methods. Please share them here. Let’s give Melanie lots of ideas.