October 15, 2012
Oh my word. That's a mouthful of a title.
I originally started this post as an overview of all three of our kids' homeschool curriculum. Yikes. If I had continued down that track it would never have seen the light of day. So I decided to limit this to Céline's current curriculum only.
As it is, with my sometimes flighty writing habits, "oh look, something shiny", I had to discipline myself to finish writing this. I was distracted by oh so many nice writing ideas and you'll notice the blog was pretty quiet last week. This post is why. It's a tome.
I think a lot of FIMBY readers will find this interesting because Céline is definitely out of the elementary years and we all wonder (at least I did), "what does homeschooling look like as kids get older?" Well, I'm going to share with you what it looks like in our home, for one of our children.
Just a quick note on that. This is what works for us, given our family culture, long term homeschool vision, Céline's unique interests and strengths. This is Céline's curriculum, tailored for her needs within the context of our family life. Your middle schooler/emerging high schooler curriculum will look different.
And just like everything we do, this curriculum is a living work in progress. The plan, the curriculum, the resources - they serve our needs. Not the other way around. We are continually tweaking and adapting.
Our two youngest are in the late elementary years and on a very similar track (with lots of room for individual interests) in terms of developmental growth. Céline is in a different stage all together. Even so, there is a lot of cross over and shared learning in our home. How can there not be? Learning, especially in a non-competitive homeschool environment is a collaborative, shared experience.
There's a lot in this post. And reading posts like this on other blogs can scare me. I get overwhelmed thinking about all the things different families appear to do. So before you get that way reading mine, let me say this: This is an overview of all the pieces to Céline's homeschool puzzle. And the puzzle gets put together slowly over time.
There are many elements to this curriculum, because it's a complete course of study. We don't do those elements every day or even every week. So don't panic. Our home is pretty laid back and a visitor might even ask, "when do you guys actually home 'school'?" Trust me, the pieces of the puzzle I discuss in this post are not as overwhelming as they look at first glance.
All that to say there's a lot in this post. A lot of resources and links. I hope this will help you in your own homeschool journey. But please take it for what it is - our journey.
I define curriculum as a course of study. See this post for more on that. For the purposes of this post I am talking about curriculum in broadest terms - the complete course of study for the term or entire year. I will not be going into too much specifics but instead giving an overview.
I plan our homeschool routine around three terms: Fall, Winter and Spring/Summer. We are currently in the fall term. The beginning of the fall term is when I do the majority of my planning for all three terms but everything is subject to change.
We'll start things this term that will carry over into the next and other items we'll drop all together when we realize they aren't a good fit for us. Other learning activities, like Math, will continue regardless of the term - the thing that might change is the method of teaching.
I have certain goals for each term but mostly the time frames are fluid and simply serve as a framework for when I re-evaluate our resources and progress.
Bible is a subject that has always caused me a bit of concern about how best to teach something so foundational (for our family, at least). I do not want to assign Bible reading to my children. I'd like to say I model and inspire daily Bible reading but I fall short in that regard. Neither am I a "devotional" reader so I've never done that with the kids.
The main way I plan to work this into Céline's studies this fall is in conjunction with history, which I'll explain in that section. We also listen to the Bible together as a family. And we are slowly working our way through the catechism in Truth & Grace Memory Book.
I really like the scope and sequence presented in Telling God's Story: A Parents' Guide to Teaching the Bible (Telling God's Story). The book provides a good framework for when to teach the different parts of the Bible and at what developmental stages.
Our character is formed in relationship with other people so I fit these two together since they seem to partner well. Community is an important value to our family. We teach this to our children by being involved ourselves in our community in areas of personal interest and community need. We encourage our children likewise. A big focus for our family this fall is meeting and making friends.
This has always been a hugely important area of study of our children, only when they were little it was called crafts! As Céline's interests broaden and as she tries new things her sewing gets set aside for a time and then she'll pick it back up when we wants. Design in general is an interest of Céline's and she explores this mostly through creating with her hands - sewing projects, clay and miniatures are her favorites.
Teaching our kids how to "earn a living" is important for us. Of course the best way to teach this is to model it and actively involve children in household and personal finances as they grow. We currently don't use any particular resources for this other than life itself. As Céline grows I'd like to look into Dave Ramsey's homeschool course.
Céline also has a growing business of sewing and art commissions. She has more requests than she has time or interest to do. She learns entrepreneurship and stewardship (wise management of her money) through actually earning and managing her own money.
Studying a second language gains importance as you approach the high school years, especially for kids who are planning post-secondary studies. I have no idea if Céline will go to university but our motivation for learning French is very simple. We live in French community and culture. We are motivated to learn so we can simply get along in our environment - which I think is the best motivation of all.
To this end Céline and I are exploring a couple options. We are starting with the free trial of Rocket French, to see if we'd like to continue with it. Otherwise, we are looking at Fluenz. The popular Rosetta Stone did not make the cut because of what our needs are - to learn the language to actually speak it, right now, tomorrow, when we go shopping, go to taekwondo etc. This is not an academic exercise for us, but a life skill.
Our family's core values, which include health and wellness, are taught mostly in the context of everyday living. Cooking and eating, outdoor play and exercise, and adequate rest - these are simply part of our life. And of course weekly hiking. Even so, we're tying in a few other pieces this term.
All the kids take Twaekwondo lessons, en Francais, twice a week. This works toward community building also and finding friends. We're also running races as a family (more community building) and as part of that Damien is doing endurance training with Céline based on the principles in The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing. (Yes, Céline wants to do this and when she doesn't want to, she doesn't have to.) There is a lot of technical knowledge to this training, heart rate monitoring and such, that ties in with science.
Céline is voracious reader and has read so many living books and historical fiction over the years that she has covered a lot of history, up to the 20th Century, already. We continue to use interest-led book choices as Céline's main history resource.
We tried a more structured history curriculum last winter term. That didn't go over so well. Honestly, Céline found it boring and not motivating. So we're back with what we know works for us - interest-led reading, supported with family discussion and other investigation (internet research, videos, mapping, further reading, hands-on experiences, etc.)
I use All Through The Ages: History Through Literature Guide to find titles that correspond with periods of history and geographical areas Céline is interested in learning about.
Since we have to beg, borrow and steal (and yes buy, English books) Céline's historical reading has slowed down somewhat (i.e.: we can't find most of what we need at the library) so I am supplementing this year with a few extra resources:
World History Made Simple: Matching History with the Bible. Like the title says, a simple view of history, from a Biblical worldview. I will be using Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey as a teacher/facilitator reference. And Céline might read it if she's desperate enough for English reading materials!
Rounding that out we will be also using The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way (and the following two books) - which is as much history as science, and is not written from a Biblical worldview. More on science later.
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance - this is actually Laurent and Brienne's history resource but Céline is around often when we're reading from it and she adds her knowledge to whatever we're reading; teaching her siblings what she's already learned. She read the first three books from Story of the World series years ago and has studied the Middle Ages a lot in her own reading.
Geography is simply woven together with studying history. Sometimes we do specific "map work" - labeling and identifying, which the kids find fun since we don't do it all the time, but most often geography is learned in the context of life. We use our personal library of reference books, atlas, and of course the internet for geography studies.
For current events (geography and much more) I send Céline to Youngzine a couple times a week. She can read anything she wants there. It's totally safe and is a community of children and young adults. Youngzine is much more than current events and it's a great place to find safe, ad-free news for kids.
Looking ahead I anticipate in the coming years Céline will study 20th Century history much more in-depth. I have preferred to not burden my children with the wars of the last century and what I perceive as more young adult aged history studies. Also, sometime in the next couple years I want to do an in-depth Canadian history and geography study with all the kids, which we've never done.
Learning homemaking basics is one of the core competencies of our homeschool curriculum. This is mostly taught through everyday living and involving our kids in household chores and kitchen work.
This fall I am making a concerted effort to teach Céline how to cook a supper meal. My goal is for Céline to develop a repertoire of meals she knows how to make and can do so competently on her own. To this end, I am working Céline into the supper rotation once a week or every other week.
Most of Céline's reading is interest-led and covers a wide spectrum of learning disciplines. Reading has always been very important to Céline and the lack of easily obtainable books is one of the challenges we've encountered in moving to Québec. English books are hard to come by but we are doing our best with e-books and she is still thriving and finding other avenues of learning (i.e.: the computer).
Something new is that I have started assigning certain books for Céline to read. More suggestions really than assignments. If, after she's started the book, she's not interested in it, she doesn't have to finish the book. My goal is to read these books also and use these selections as a spring board for shared learning and discussion.
In the winter term Céline will be starting an online girls book club that I am organizing right now with a friend. The goal is to enjoy reading together with other people, share and discuss ideas from that reading, and build friendships.
The new thing for us this term is Khan Academy. Céline is finishing her current Math U See level and using Khan Academy to fill in the gaps before starting Pre-Algebra sometime next Winter or Spring/Summer.
In actual fact, Khan Academy allows the learner to jump around wherever they wish to go so Céline is not necessarily studying Math in a perfectly linear fashion. And this is a welcome change to our Math practice.
I want to take a few moments to talk about this fabulous resource. Céline is using Khan for both her math and science studies right now. We both like it and it's a great fit for our family. Khan enables Céline to pursue self-directed interests while also measuring her progress and providing assessment tools for me, her coach. I do admit though that Céline tracks her progress more closely than I do.
Currently, I let Céline's interests guide her Khan studies, i.e.: I don't assign Khan Academy lessons. I do assign a certain amount of time, i.e.: Céline's math practice is to do 45 minutes of Math on Khan - on whatever interests her.
I will explain how we use Khan for science shortly.
This is an important part of our curriculum, and is one of our family's core values. Right now Céline is not studying anything in this regard (one year she took Wilderness First Aid training with Damien at the local college).
This part of our children's curriculum ties in a lot with health and wellness but is broader than that because we are endeavoring specifically to teach our children a love of wild places and an openness to experiencing the outdoors and adventure.
We teach this mostly through example and our family life style. Our weekly hikes and regular backpacking are a part of this. So is where we live and the attention we pay to outdoors in our everyday living.
I had thought I would write a whole post on this topic. That is not going to happen. I just don't have the time. So I'll attempt to condense it here.
We don't teach elementary science. Not because we don't value science - hardly! Damien is a civil engineer and computer programmer. The focus of my Education degree was biology. Science plays a huge part in how we understand the world and make the decisions we do (i.e.: why we eat mostly plants).
I just don't think you need to actively, with lesson plans and assignments, teach science principles to young children (unless you want to and they love it!). I think my young children would have loved more science instruction and parent-led experiments but I didn't have the time to do that.
Our approach for the elementary years was to lay a foundation for future science study with hands-ons exploration, child-led experimenting, lots of reading, and asking questions.
Now it's time to take that deeper, but how?
I am not in favor of a textbook approach to science, unless our young adults are agreeable to that. I truly want to inspire our kids to want to study science. I'm figuring this out as I go.
What we're doing this term (and probably into next) is exploring the history of science and foundational scientific principles. We're using The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way and if Céline likes this format we'll follow up with the other books in the series. (We only use the book you see pictured, not the teacher or student guide.)
We have discussions around these ideas and do follow up reading and instruction. I'd like to also bring in science biographies and stories. Finding science biographies that are both engaging and appropriate for young adults is a bit challenging. Recommends anyone?
We are using Khan Academy to help teach the scientific principles that arise from these studies. And Céline uses Khan independently to learn about whatever interests her.
Do you see where I'm going with this? Our goal is to inspire our young adults to study science. Because science is important for life and for future scholastic endeavors (i.e.: college). But we want them to want to study science. And then we pull in the teaching resources we need to teach the science they want learn.
Inspiration first. Studies second.
We may use a classic textbook approach to study high school level science (once the flame of inspiration has been lit), such as the popular and well recommended Christian resource Apologia. I am still looking at the options.
This term we are testing the scientific waters and seeing what interests Céline for future study.
Other sources of science inspiration:
I know there is much more out there but this is sufficient for us for now.
These are only the resources I bring into the mix. Damien also adds a regular dose of science to our homeschool from his personal reading and interests. Everything from understanding heart rate, as it relates to physical activity (a current interest for Damien) to weird and wacky YouTube videos and all things techie. Damien adds a daily dose of science to our days.
This relates to science but is definitely distinct and on its own in our estimation. The way we see it - as workers in the knowledge and technology economy - understanding and using technology is the new literacy. We think being able to access and use technology will separate the haves from the have nots in the future, if this isn't true already. We live in an increasingly technologically complex world and we have to prepare our children for this reality.
Some people are technology generalists, simply because of how they are wired. Damien is like this. Other people use technology to support and develop their other intelligences. For example, our son plays around with a (challenging, though he doesn't know it) computer drawing program to expand his drawing skill and explore new artistic mediums.
This is a post about my emerging-high schooler so I'm not going to discuss technology for younger kids, except to say I believe early childhood should be rooted in nature and hands-on activities. However, I don't have a hard and fast philosophical stance against using technology in the earlier years, I just think you need to limit it.
We recently did a simple personality and intelligence test for each of our kids and not surprisingly this was included in Céline's assessment:
"Logical-mathematical learners like Céline quantify or conceptualize information in order to process it. These kids naturally excel in mathematics, chess, computer programming, reasoning capabilities, abstract patterns of recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations."
Damien and I had already come to this conclusion on our observations and introduced computer programming one year ago into Céline's curriculum. Céline worked on two different courses until she lost interest and Damien's schedule got too busy to be as involved as she needed. Speaking of that, Damien is responsible for this part of our childrens' learning. This is well outside of my areas of expertise or even interest.
This term we have no specific programming lessons. Céline got her own MacBook this fall and Damien has been teaching her networking and other stuff I have no clue about. All I know is that when I have a computer problem I now have two people in the house I can ask for help!
Damien will be starting Lego Robotics with all the kids in the winter term.
Our goal with technology literacy is that our children grow to be comfortable using technology (to not be afraid of change and new ideas) and know how to use specific technologies to their best advantage. This will be different for each of our children based on their unique intelligence and gifts.
(And that's my post on technology literacy wrapped up in this curriculum post.)
Writing has been one of the most challenging aspects of Céline's curriculum throughout her entire homeschooling "career". Céline is a naturally reticent person, and doesn't have a strong desire to express herself in writing and I believe in inspired and interest-led writing. So that puts the responsibility on me to inspire my daughter to writing vs. requiring her to sit down and learn grammar, spelling, etc. How do I teach these important skills? Through the inspired writing. How do I inspire my daughter to write? Well, that's what I'm trying to figure out!
I haven't worried a whole lot about this in her younger years because she has always been a competent reader with a vast vocabulary and I know it's all "in there". Céline has demonstrated she knows how a sentence should sound (grammar) and how words look (spelling).
She even has lovely handwriting from her early years handwriting practice. And now with a dedicated computer at her disposal, handwriting is totally optional. The knowledge and tools are all in place. I'm trying to piece it all together in a way that is naturally motivating for Céline.
This part of Céline's curriculum is very personal and individualized to Céline's personality and interests so I'm not going into great detail except to say I loosely follow the principles from the The Brave Writer resources, specifically The Writer's Jungle, as geared toward the Transition to Ownership phase of writing.
Another resource I use for inspiration is Patricia Zaballos' writing with kids.
I am considering an on-line Brave Writer course in the winter term to help kick start Céline's high school (gulp) writing instruction and experience.
I had hoped to include with this post:
I think I need to write a book.
We'll leave it at this for today.
I invite your comments, especially if you have resources and recommends for interest-led emerging high schooler resources! I am also available for coaching around your specific homeschooling concerns.
At our informal winter evaluation I asked Celine if she liked her curriculum. Read this post for her answer and what we did about it.
I have provided many links in this post, some of which are Amazon.com affiliates. Those links aren't very helpful for you if you're in Canada so I've included Canadian-based resources below. (you're welcome)
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