Education is a tricky thing.
On the one hand - academic success is generally akin to professional and financial success as adults - on the other - childhood is precious and fleeting and shouldn't children be allowed to play as long as possible?
Or maybe there's a way to combine the hands. Create an atmosphere of play and exploration surrounding a sound academic education.
That's where find ourselves. With a 6yr old, 4, 2, and preparing for a newborn, we long to give the children more time for play and exploration and being wild and free. But I'm not naive. I know that this society puts academics on a pedestal and reveres high test scores and high achievement with success. And I'd be lying if I wasn't proud or impressed when William gets a math problem correct after struggling for a bit, or when Charlotte reads a new book. But I'm even more proud and impressed when they find a new insect in the yard and together go running for the field guide (this week it was a tomato horn worm), tucking it in the bug viewer and grabbing a magnifying glass. That's the kind of exploration/education that fills my heart and allows me to breathe a sigh of relief - ah, we're doing alright.
This year William will be entering 1st grade - for technical purposes - but really it's just a continuation of the foundation laid last year. That's the beauty of home education - we can go at our own pace. Repeat math sections, breeze through reading, and keep chugging along with history with breaks to visit the museum when the King Tut exhibit comes to town.
I'm always fascinated with what other families are choosing to guide their home school and now that we have a solid plan (best intentions to follow and plenty of room for free play and exploration, and identifying horn worms and the like), I knew I'd share in hopes it brings some other homeschooling family inspiration or peace-of-mind or a little commoradery.
OUR HOME SCHOOL // Classical with a dash of everything else
We follow a classical style of schooling for the most part. It works for our family for now and we thrive on the structured but not-too-structured way of going about educating. My main resource when planning is The Well Trained Mind and we use a few of their corresponding workbooks as well. Since we live where we live and the weather is *almost* always beautiful, we also do quite a bit of nature exploration, hikes, nature journaling and animal identification. I suppose our 'physical education' is simply the exercise that comes from chasing lizards at the hiking trails and rock climbing over tide pools.
Phonics + Grammar - We're continuing with The Well Trained Mind First Language Lessons. We'll probably finish the first book soon and move on to the second about halfway through the school year. This one both William (6) and Charlotte (4) work through together and both thrive on.
In addition, we have plenty of manipulatives like these Montessori sandpaper letters to continue to explore with Charlotte and Theodore.
Handwriting - For handwriting we're using Handwriting Without Tears and it certainly lives up to it's name. William flew through the 1st grade book so we're on to the second but will wait to start the cursive parts until next year. My instincts tell me Charlotte may thrive with a different approach but for right now, she's too young to start a workbook (other than the second hand one she uses for fun) and we simply use objects to practice letters and short words like Chalk Full of Design boards.
Spelling - William's been working through Spelling Workout Level A since about halfway through last year and we'll continue with this workbook until it's finished. We may not use another spelling workbook after that - I feel we get enough from our narration work and simply reading lots and lots of literature.
Literature/Reading - Most of our literature will come from either our history lessons or from free reading time and books picked up from the library. As well as audiobooks. Twice a week we read a history lesson and do a narration page on that lesson with William copying between 1-5 sentences from his own narration. On top of our history spine, we're reading corresponding stories about topics like The Trojan Horse, African Folktales, Aesop's Fables, and Green and Roman Myths. We do quite a bit of read aloud as well and I have a few things picked out but it's getting difficult to find novels that hold everyone's attention. William's reading and comprehension level has far outrun that of Charlotte and Theodore's so I plan to reread The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mr. Poppers Penguins for all of the kids and continue reading Harry Potter with William for a more advanced text.
I touched on it up in the literature section but we use The Story of the World and it's corresponding activity book. William thrives on simply reading the chapter with me and doing a narration page. Charlotte loves reading the lesson and completing the activity in the book. Usually a map or coloring page (she's the artist in the family) They each absorb the information in their own way. One of the most rewarding things to witness and one of the best gifts I can give my children. William, the wordsmith, and Charlotte the artist, both thriving in these history lessons in their own way.
In addition, we'll read stories that go along with the era in which our history lessons reside. For these ages, we start with the ancients - the nomads to the earliest emperor - so ancient myths, stories, fables, and greeks + romans are all covered. I have a handful of books picked out to read through but we always find more on our weekly library visits and, of course, the children are welcome to and encouraged to grab books outside of the topic we're studying.
I've been back and forth with how to approach science this year and have decided to pretty much go our own way. We do so much of what would be considered 'science' within our play and outdoor exploration so I'm not concerned about bookwork or benchmarks. Simply letting them explore the world around them.
In that vein, we'll be following the interests of the children. One week we'll read a leisure book about a given topic (starting with the animal kingdom then moving on to things like the human body and space), find information in either a science spine or field guide or encyclopedia or even good old Google, then do a project based on that topic (for example: if our topic is 'hawks', we'll read about hawks, then go to the nature preserve and try to spot some). The following week we'll read another book about the same topic, do a narration page and then fill in a page in our science notebook asking a question and then answering it. (ex: How fast to hawks fly?)
Sometimes science will look like that - sometimes it will be baking in the kitchen or burning holes in leaves with a magnifying glass (last weekend's leisure fun). Right now it's about learning how to examine the world around us with a fresh eye, appreciating the Earth and how it works, and learning how to ask questions and discover answers.
ART + MUSIC //
A couple times a week (or more), we'll do an art project while listening to classical music and nature journal. William has been really in to writing and illustrating his own stories as well as poems he's memorized so we'll continue with this as part of our art, reading and writing (isn't it amazing how they all meld together like that?!).
William is taking private guitar lessons and Charlotte attends ballet class weekly. As far as anything else extra, we've decided that one activity at a time is how we'll approach it. For one - with 4 small children, that's a lot of shuttling back and forth, and two - it's overwhelming for the children to have too many things on their schedules. I'd rather fill their play time with outdoor free play, visits to the beach or museums, or going on nature walks.
I would be lying if I said it was easy to be a secular homeschooler. Our history spine has a few bible stories in the beginning and it's been lovely to read through as a piece of our history. I could go on and on about religion in homeschool but it's really important for me to expose the children to a whole host of world religions as well as present them with historical and societal context. My personal spiritual beliefs aside, religion has shaped most of the world time and time again and I would be remiss if I didn't incorporate it in to our studies.