Tuesday, July 26, 2011

family-style curriculum

In my "Introduction" post I had mentioned something called "family-style curriculum".   This concept is very important to me as I am trying to teach 4 young minds and I am only 1 person.  The beauty of these pieces of curriculum that I purchased is simply this:  I read 1 lesson to all 4 kids together and then they have activities based on their ages.  This post will focus on the curriculum I chose for History.

The series is called "The Mystery of History" by Linda Lacour Hobar.   /www.themysteryofhistory.info/  She writes from a Christian worldview.  She does it respectfully to all Christian faiths.  She also does a wonderful job presenting what the other faiths believe as she goes through the world history.  There are currently three volumes available in print and the author is working on the final fourth volume [hopefully due out before next year when I'll need it : )]

We started with her second volume, which covered the Early Church and the Middle Ages.  The text is broken up into 28 weeks of lessons in which she includes pretests, biweekly post tests that alternate with biweekly review exercises, a time to make Memory Cards for each lesson of the week, and finally the activities section.  She also includes a wonderful semester review and test and a final review and test.

Each lesson that you read is written as if Ms. Hobar was right there talking to you and your children.  She even includes warning notes if something might be too intense for younger or more sensitive children so you can skip over that section and continue reading without realizing too late.  On the average, I would read maybe two pages per lesson.  It took me about 15-20 minutes (including the usual kid interruptions) to read out loud.

I would use the pretest, post test and biweekly review with only Caleb and Esther.   Sometimes we would do it orally and other times I would run it off and have them do it on paper so I would have something to file.  Speaking of which, she recommends each child having a 3-ring binder with 8 tab page dividers, labeled by the 7 Continents and miscellaneous (that's where their tests and review sheets go).

Memory cards are very important in family style learning.  Memory cards are simply 3x5 index cards that the kids record what they remember from the lesson.  Caleb and Esther would record their own card.  Isaac would dictate what he remembered to me.  (Sarah just drew pictures, especially of princesses and castles.)  The older kids would use these later when filling in a review worksheet.  It also helps you to see what is getting through to them and maybe point out an important highlight they might have missed.

The activities section is usually broken into three sections:  younger, middle, and older students.  This allows you the flexibility to use one curriculum yet meet all the age levels you are teaching.  The younger kids may have a simple coloring activity while the older ones might have a detailed mapping activity or a fun web search.

The one thing I like the most about this series is that it is completed in 4 books.  We started with Volume 2 last year.   This year we will do Volume 3.  Hopefully, if it's completed, Volume 4 next year.  Then we will go back to the beginning of the series and start Volume 1.  The year after that we will repeat volume 2 with the understanding that Isaac and Sarah who were four years younger the first time they heard it, will now be at a higher level of understanding and will take in more information.

One more item that is a wonderful supplement to this series is putting together each child's own copy of a Time Line Notebook... but that is for another post! :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

on a budget?

     If you are homeschooling on a tight budget, as I am, then I have to tell you about my favorite website...  www.homeschoolshare.com   It is a wonderful site that specializes in literature based lapbooks and unit studies.  AND IT IS ALL FREE!!! 

     If you are new to homeschooling then that previous sentence probably sounded like I was speaking Greek...  Let me take it from the beginning...

     "Homeschool Share" is a site created by Homeschooling moms who share all of their wonderful wisdom and insight with you (for free - no hidden fees or user membership dues... well I suppose you could argue its not totally free because you have your own printer expenses of ink and paper and you also need to buy file folders and gluesticks - but on their end it's free).

     "Literature based" means simply that you pick a story from their list (and they have a list that goes from PreK through middle-school and beyond), get the book (from your own shelf or the library), download the packet of information they have prepared and do the lessons.  Generally it takes about one week to accomplish.

     "Lapbooks" and "Unit Studies" are two ways of learning and preserving the lessons learned.  "Lapbooks" are basically file folders that you refold and glue all these little mini snippets of information into.  "Lapbooks" can be used with just one story or combined with a "unit study".  "Unit Studies" are based more on one topic and use two or more stories on that subject, with the "lapbook" as the method of recording all the lessons learned.
    Within each story you read or "unit study" you do, many different elements of education are covered from science, history, writing, handwriting, and practical math.  They also include links to other sites with correlating material, maybe coloring pages and games or recipes and even videos. 
     The following pictures are of one that my kids did together on Volcanos.   It is from their website and it is a combined "unit study" with a  "lapbook".
the cover

this lapbook used 2 file folders

we also used a "flap" that we taped on for the extra information.

      I used this one with all 4 of my kids.  The little ones listened to the story and enjoyed coloring in pieces, while the older 2 acted as "secretaries" and recorded all of the answers.  Everybody helped glue things in place.   Sometimes we will do one lapbook altogether.  Other times they will do individual lapbooks.  Later on they really love to go back over their lapbooks and remember the fun things they learned.

     I really encourage you to check out their website and to give lapbooking a try!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Our Journey - Introductions

     I want to use this blog to record our journey as we homeschool.  We are finishing our 2nd year and looking forward to this new year.  The 1st year was wonderful...the "honeymoon" so to speak of our new lifestyle.  The 2nd year... well let's just say the "honeymoon" was over!  :)  I had heard that would happen though, so I wasn't disappointed.  I am really looking forward to this year.  I know I haven't messed up my kids (yet) but I am ready to tackle some of the issues in their education that fell a little short.  
     All in all I have 7 kids+...Josh just graduated college, commissioned in the Army, became engaged and then they moved home to help Dad pastor our little New England church... Anna is a Junior at Bible college and she and her boyfriend come home every weekend to run our youth program at church... Stephen is a Junior at our local public high school - he chose to stay in the public system when we began this journey. Caleb, Esther, Isaac, & Sarah have been my students here at home for the last two years.Caleb & Esther I pulled out of public school when they had finished 6th and 4th grades.  Isaac & Sarah have never been to public school.

     I generally teach them in 2 groups;  Isaac & Sarah together, Caleb & Esther together, and we really enjoyed some family style curriculum this past year for history and science.  Caleb & Esther have worked out of the same math book, just at different speeds.  I am hoping in future blogs to give reviews of the curriculum I use and to share styles and methods that have worked for me.   I have found homeschooling blogs to be so helpful to me in my part of this journey so far.  I really want to be able to give back and help others who are starting on this journey of educating their children at home.  It is so worthwhile!