Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Curriculum Choice

Curriculum is everything after making the decision to homeschool. Believe it or not, there are hundreds of choices when it comes to curriculum and narrowing them down can be overwhelming. It helps to talk to other homeschooling parents to see which curriculum they liked and which ones they did not like. Another great idea is to attend a homeschool conference. We have two annual conferences here in Houston and both of them have a curriculum market for you to browse through.

After much research, I've settled on My Father's World. I originally was going to purchase Sonlight curriculum, however, it is very expensive. Since I like My Father's World just as much as Sonlight, I decided to go with it and save a few hundred dollars. Here's what I like most about it - it combines the best of three methods of teaching: Charlotte Mason, Classical Education and Unit Sudies (click the links for a more in depth explanation). I'll give a brief explanation of each:

Charlotte Mason
A method of education in which children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits. For example, Charlotte’s students used living books rather than dry textbooks. Living books are usually written in story form by one author who has a passion for the subject. A living book makes the subject “come alive.” She taught spelling by using passages from great books that communicate great ideas rather than just a list of words. She encouraged spending time outdoors, interacting with God’s creation firsthand and learning the living ways of nature.

Classical Education
Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium. The classical education is, above all, systematic. This systematic, rigorous study has two purposes. Rigorous study develops virtue in the student. Aristotle defined virtue as the ability to act in accordance to what one knows to be right. The virtuous man (or woman) can force himself to do what he knows to be right, even when it runs against his inclinations. The classical education continually asks a student to work against his baser inclinations (laziness, or the desire to watch another half hour of TV) in order to reach a goal — mastery of a subject.

Unit Studies
Unit Studies are defined as an in-depth study of a topic (space, trees, cars, etc.) that takes into account many areas of the topic, such as geography, science, history, art, etc. It is a complete immersion into the topic so that the student will see things as a "whole" instead of bits and pieces learned throughout their education. Instead of learning about whales in the third grade, the oceans in the fourth grade, explorers in the fifth grade, and sea life in the sixth grade, for example, the student learns about all of these during a unit study of the ocean. He/She is exposed to the geography, spelling and vocabulary, and plant and animal life of the ocean. In learning these things, the student will develop and sharpen skills like reading, writing, researching, and so on. In the educational field, a unit study is often times referred to as "cross-curriculum", or crossing over many lines of curriculum (science, geography, history, etc.)

In the MFW (My Father's World) Kindergarten curriculum, our subjects will include Reading, Math, Science, Creative Thinking, Bible/Character Development and Art. I am also adding an introduction to world history using Usborne's Living Long Ago. I also purchased some supplemental workbooks since Ella loves doing worksheets. We will also spend a considerable amount of time reading aloud. Some of the stories I'll read to Ella will include: Aesop's Fables, Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales, My Father's Dragon, Treasure Island, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden and The Story of King Arthur and His Knights.

The first two weeks will focus on the creation story from Genesis, followed by 26 hands-on,thematic units that focus on the wonders in God's creation. The sun, moon, rocks, vegetables, elephants, butterflies, and dinosaurs are just a few of the exciting topics we'll explore.

Here's a peek into how the subjects are taught:

"Reading is taught with a highly successful multi-sensory phonics approach. Hands-on and workbook activities are combined to teach letter names, 26 letter sounds (consonants and short vowels), sound blending, and correct handwriting. Students learn to read short vowel words; and by the end of the year, they are reading very simple stories." (from MFW website)

"Math is taught using an informal, integrated approach. Many skills are woven into the lessons, as students cut an apple in half, measure and compare the lengths of dinosaurs and whales, and order leaves by size. All typical kindergarten goals are taught, including counting objects, writing numerals, preparing and understanding charts and graphs, comparing, classifying, sequencing, and understanding ordinal numbers, fractions (whole/half), clocks, money, and an introduction to addition and subtraction." (from MFW website)

"Science, Bible, Creative Thinking, Character Development, and Art are also integrated into the 26 easy-to-teach thematic units. Each six-day unit focuses on one alphabet letter and one corresponding science topic. For example, in Lesson 1, "S-s-sun," students learn letter "s" and number 1, study about the sun, construct and use a sundial, observe and chart grapes as they become raisins, paint a sun, listen to a funny book about shadows, and learn that, like the sun, Jesus is the light of the world." (from MFW website)

This Friday, I will be attending the Texas Home School Coalition State Conference in The Woodlands. David Hazell, from My Father's World, will be speaking in one of the workshops and I'm looking forward to learning more about their curriculum before we get started next Monday. I don't expect homeschooling to be easy and I'm sure we'll have bad days mixed in with the good, however, with a lot of prayer and preparation I think we'll have a sucessful year. I hope to instill a love of reading and a love of learning in my kids - if they can read well and love to learn, then the sky will be their limit!

Happy Learning!

1 comment:

Mrs. Ely said...

Hi, Leslie. I hadn't seen your blog before...thanks for sending the link. We're in Kindergarten too...using Five in a Row curriculum. I've only written one post so far about our Beginning a Journey. Hope to get to Part 2 pretty soon.

I'll bookmark your page and check back again. Take care!