How to Begin?

I didn’t know exactly how to begin the homeschool CURRICULUM planning process, but I do know myself, to a point.  And I knew that I need to know what the experts say.  So, who is the expert?  I had to pick one.  Cathy Duffy was my pick.  She wrote 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum back in 2014, so I am sure that number is subject to change to 103 any day now, given the wide plethora of curriculums that are constantly being thrown in your FACE!  I am not bitter – I do, however, understand the anxiety linked to picking a “method” or a curriculum.  Place a chart in the middle of all that mumbo-jumbo, however, and I am your forever-fan.  Cathy Duffy delivered.  She even included a self-assessment tool I used to narrow down the three methodologies/teaching approaches I most likely agreed with at that point in my life. Did I mention that our homeschooling has been a journey?  Classical, Charlotte Mason, and Unit Study approaches were my top three.  I am not surprised. Given I took the assessment back before I actually knew much of anything about any of these approaches (except unit study), I reckon her testing is designed to align with personal ideology, not just name recognition.  I remember a section that outlined the different types of learners (Chapter 4: Learning Styles: How does MY child learn best?). The chapter explained which methods work best for each of these learners. Later, in chart form, Duffy shows how those students fit in with any of the reviewed curriculums, matching learning styles to curricula.  Do you have a “Wiggly Willy” or a “Sociable Sue”? How about a “Competent Carl” or “Perfect Paula”?

Why find your approach to education? Wouldn’t it make things more convoluted to try to match each child’s unique learning style with unique methods and curricula? Maybe for some, this would be overwhelming. You could probably drive yourself bonkers in overthinking it. Don’t overthink this. I think you just have to know your children, no matter what. This book is a tool that can help you get started to knowing how they learn and what might work best for each of them. Does that mean you adhere to classical methods for one child and unschooling for another? No. This is where the eclectic homeschool is relevant. You are the teacher. You are the parent. The method does NOT rule you – you are its master. If you see that you gravitate toward a particular educational approach, by all means, use elements from it – no need to be a purist, though. The children are going to respond differently, so you are smart enough and capable enough to make adjustments and put your own family’s flavor into the homeschool methods you employ.

After studying Duffy’s book for a few days, I found the methodologies I wanted to read more about.  I bought The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer.  This is the quintessential guide to classical education.  I recommend buying the book, which is full of not only theory, but practical application.  For example, once I became familiar with the three different stages of classical education, how to teach each subject at each stage, I flipped to the chapter entitled Epilogue: Charts, Schedules, Worksheets, Etc.  I found that helpful in deciding how much time we should allot to each subject and how to schedule it on a weekly calendar.  When you go to their website, welltrainedmind.com, you can find similar content and pages from the book that they converted into PDF forms.  One blog post had the recommended amount of time spent doing school for each grade level.

Kindergarten1 hour 20 minutes
First grade3 hours 49 minutes
Second grade4 hours
Third grade4 hours 52 minutes
Fourth grade5 hours 34 minutes
Fifth grade6 hours 41 minutes
Sixth grade6 hours 51 minutes
Seventh grade6 hours 51 minutes
Eighth grade6 hours 58 minutes
Ninth grade7 hours 33 minutes
Tenth grade7 hours 33 minutes
Eleventh grade6 hours 21 minutes
Twelfth grade6 hours 21 minutes

Before you take every bit of advice word-for-word and try to implement it perfectly (hint: it cannot be done), please read this blog post.  They admit that these totals spent on doing school are based on the assumption that: 1. You cut out TV 2.You do EVERYTHING they suggest in the book 3. Children work at basically the same rate in every subject 4. Your students are still not sitting doing school as much as those in an institutionalized setting (a goal of homeshcool) 5. Your child is college-bound.  We hope that our students are not doing schoolwork for 8 to 9 hours a day!  I remember coming home from a 7-hour school day in high school, then having an additional 2 to 3 hours of homework each night! Can you imagine? I endured it, but I do not want the same thing for my children.  I digress.  Well-Trained Mind emphasizes skill-building in the elementary years. Anyway, I find this page from the website welltrainedmind.com helpful in conceptualizing a school year/term/week/day: Getting Started

I admit, we started out in kindergarten, and probably had about a total of 2 hours of school per day.  My day was broken up to a degree by a nursing baby, so I would try my best to give my son something productive to work on while I nursed until January of that school year.

A Monday in September 2019 for our kindergarten son   (sample below):

8:00-8:15 Scripture/Bible Memorybasic principle – What is the Fall? Genesis 3:1-10 (we used a Bible Study Fellowship outline to guide our study of scripture and basic principles)
8:15-8:35 Reading LessonOrdinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, Lesson 38
8:35-8:50 Reading Practice/GameBob Book
8:50-9:00 Stretching/Energizer   9:00-9:20 Classical Conversations Memory WorkSwedish Drill     Science and Latin
9:20 PLAY   9:50-10:10 10:10 SNACK    Saxon Math (K) Lesson 32
10:20-10:30 Reading GameReading Dominoes (forming short e and short i words)
10:30 PLAY 11:00-11:30 Read Aloud    Castle Diary by Richard Platt

A Monday in April 2020 for our kindergarten son (NOTE: 1) The COVID-19 pandemic affected the schedule. 2) I found by this point in the year that I operate best when I schedule subjects in a definite pattern/order, not necessarily denoting the times they are to be studied).

ScriptureBSF guide, Q. 23 “What defines the providence of God?”
ReadingOrdinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, Lesson 55 sh-, shr- digraphs coloring sheet
Copy WorkWrite a letter to our Compassion International sponsored child. Copy from the board.
Memory WorkScience and Latin
MathSaxon Math (Grade 1) Lesson 16 Writing the number 15 Lesson 15 Assessment
Phonics PracticeDigraph Game ch-, sh, and th-
Read AloudHenry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

As you can see, the year morphed into something different, as my son’s needs and our scheduling allowed.  I want to encourage homeschool parents to be a gardener: prune here, replant there, weed out there.  Do what works for your family.

 Also, we are using curriculum as a TOOL.  It is never intended to master us.  That’s why I am going to do what works for my family, trim off the parts of curriculum that will not work for our family, and reevaluate every month or so.  We are learning what works for us as we add more personalities into our homeschool each year.  The hurricane (my daughter) is a’comin’!  Once I think I have one kid figured out, he or she surprises me and changes in some way.  Therefore, I am cognizant of strengths at any given time, knowing they could change in another season.  My hope is that I will not pigeonhole my children.  You know, I tire of hearing others talk about kids as if they were static beings.  I hope that I will be able to adjust our homeschool as I see habits emerge.  Are the academic requirements properly supported by the virtue we are simultaneously trying to cultivate?  If not, then the I need to adjust the academics to reflect the character habit we are working on.  If the child does not have the character to work toward a particular academic objective, then we adjust. 

Now, put a reminder in your phone to contact me in 10 years and we can chat. (Read: I do not have this figured out and I will never stop learning!)

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