We are a “freestyle” homeschooling family, meaning we are unaffiliated with the local school district or any online charter schools. Thanks to very liberal homeschool laws in the great state of Idaho, (God bless Idaho!) we are free to teach our children anything we choose.
Last year, we continued with the Writing With Ease series, Spelling Workout workbooks, and the First Language Lessons series for language arts. These are all heavy on narration, recitation, memorization, and worksheets, which my kids love doing. (Who ARE these people?)
We also relied heavily on online resources for many of our classes. We used ALEKS for math and BrainPOP for social studies and science. We also began using the Rosetta Stone Spanish program (which is AWESOME, by the way.)
This year, my goal is to get the kids off the screens so much (their choir homework is also done online), so we have joined a local co-op that promises to be very hands-on. Through the co-op, we will be using The Story of the World Vol. 1 (Ancient Times through the Fall of Rome) as a basis for our history and science courses. (I’m co-teaching science and we’re going to mummify a couple of chickens while we’re studying Ancient Egypt!)
Outside of co-op, my middle and little kids will be focusing on handwriting, using the Zaner-Blozer model for both manuscript and cursive (merely because that’s what I was taught and what I prefer to teach.)
I recently invested in Saxon Math, after finding the the ALEKS program was just not enough even when using the core curriculum program (as opposed to the supplemental version available at most public schools.) I have started my two little kids in the K and 1 Saxon books and they are clipping along. In fact, I’m wondering if my 7 year old is ready for Book 2. My older kids are using Saxon 54 and 65 books. I started them a couple of weeks ago. At this point, the lessons are merely review for the big kids—which was what I wanted---they really need to cement the basics—especially as far as defining mathematical terms. Saxon is very teaching intensive, meaning unlike ALEKS, Saxon requires ME to really do the teaching. So far, I am enjoying it—I’m learning and “cementing” concepts right along with the kids. The kids are a little less than impressed with the drills, but we make it fun by turning the drills into games and even making goofy flash cards. At this point, my kids would technically be considered “behind” in math if they were in a public school, but they are progressing nicely since we switched to Saxon and they are liking math a whole lot more. (And I am liking math a whole lot more!) I have no doubt they will catch up with their public school peers within the next few months. My goal is to have them into the next books by January, putting them “at grade level” by the end of the year.
Outside of the core classes, our kids will continue with Rosetta Stone Spanish, use BrainPOP as a supplement for science and history, and they’ll also be involved in extra-curriculars. They are currently lined up for tae kwon do, Cantus Youth Choirs, Boy Scouts, and various church youth development programs. Ellen is now old enough for volunteer work at the local library and humane society, and she’s expressed a strong desire to do both. The challenge with that will be trying to find time to serve in an already busy schedule---we want to make sure we prioritize non-school related family time.
An important component of family time is our religious devotions and study. I admit, we really still are “fly by the seat of your pants” in this area. We have gotten very good at having a Monday night devotional, which in LDS lingo is formally called Family Home Evening, but other study and devotions, including scripture study, have been hit or miss.
In an effort to bring our spiritual development to the forefront this year, I have created Personal Prayer/Personal Scripture Study, and Family Prayer/Family Scripture Study cards to use in our Visual Schedule each day. Since I implemented the schedule and these cards, we’ve seen steady improvement from each child and as a family. Of course, the average family scripture study period consists of reading a verse or two, and asking the kids to sum up the principle taught in that verse, or summarizing a favorite scripture story (Daniel in the Lion’s Den is my personal favorite, as is the Nativity story.) It’s not long and it’s not particularly deep, but it’s a start. I would like to get us singing hymns (which means we need to memorize them, which means we need to practice them—but I haven’t figured out how to get the kids excited about that yet.)
I am really looking forward to the “official” school year—so far, we’ve been taking a relaxed approach to the curriculum for this coming year—easing into it, if you will. I plan to ramp it up come August 21. This is the day that the local kids go back to school and there’s a great energy that just comes with that “back to school” atmosphere—even though my kids aren’t hopping on the big yellow bus. We’ll take advantage of everyone else’s excitement and get rolling right along with them!