Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Homeschool Crisis

I've been going through a "homeschool crisis". This is like a "mid life crisis", but in regards to homeschool, not age:) But big shiny new flashy curriculum (the convertibles of the homeschool world) no longer catch my attention. Or, if it does catch my attention, I've learned to rationalize my way through it, seeing it for what it truly is: all show. In fact, I'm actually thinking I want to use curriculum LESS.

I've been down this path before, but have never really known how to make it work. Maybe I'll try and flop (I'm terrified I'll flop). But I realize that there are a few crucial ingredients to make it work. Here's the challenge:
  • Needs to be skills based. The student should be able to gain or practice a skill.
  • Needs to be independent. My 10yo should be able to know what she's going to be doing on any given day (this is the beauty of fill-in-the-blank curriculum, and why it has such a strong allure)
  • Needs to be easy to pull together. Shouldn't take me very long each week to make out the assignments (10mins per child, tops in the planning stage)
  • Cannot be fill-in-the-blank workbooks (aye, there's the rub...)

What kind of skills should the kids be learning? All the basic stuff; Language Arts (spelling, dictionary skills, alphabetizing, grammar, composition, capitalization and punctuation), Math (basic arithmetic, mastery of math facts), Science, History, Literature. We also have to tack on AWANA (memorization, Bible), and Piano (music theory, music appreciation, musical instrument), and Gymnastics (P.E.), which is what we already have on our plates.

How?
There's the question, and I'm working on it. I'm intrigued with the Robinson Curriculum, but haven't actually seen it. But I like the concept of it. I'm intrigued with the idea of assigned Reading that includes literature, science, and history, and then the daily Writing that is a summary of something read. (At least, I think this is how it works). So I'm thinking about creating a list of books to be read, a daily schedule, and then assigning a daily writing summary. Most of what I want to do, I already have books for (sitting stupidly on my shelf unused), or its free from the library. Doing a complete curriculum overhaul shouldn't really cost me anything, except the next grade level of math when it comes out. I've been reading short passages from The Well Trained Mind, and seeing it through new eyes. Before, I liked the philosophy but felt overwhelmed and insignificant in it's great and terrible shadow. Now, I'm actually really encouraged by it! It's given me some food for thought. I'd like to borrow some of its booklists for good literature. I like their ideas for writing in the logic stage (only I'm paring it down a lot!) I'm not entirely sure what this will wind up looking like. I'm trying to take spare time to work this out. I'm also not sure how long I'll continue T4L. I knew it was a temporary, sanity saver when I first purchased it (I was desperate!) Eventually, I'd like to drop T4L and start on this instead. It will be hard because the kids fight writing assignments. They also have a very strong preference for fill-in-the-blank. They do not want to be challenged in their thinking. They do not want to do anymore than necessary. It may take a week or two to get the 10yo up and running independently with a new system. It may take a lot longer to get my random-brained 8yo to follow a checklist (she needs a lot of mom-assistance here). And it's going to take me a lot of time to get something figured out in my own brain, a lot of courage to leave the old system, and a lot of stick-to-it-tiveness to get the kids transitioned over (may take some disciplining). And really, I don't know that I have that in me right now!

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