Since I wrote first about homeschooling our kids--a few months back, maybe?--I've gotten a few questions regarding our choices in curriculum. Since I've come down with a bit of a chest cold and have been subsisting on the most boring of boring meals this week, I think now is as good a time as any to talk a little about our homeschooling adventure.
First, there are a couple of reasons we're homeschooling our kids. One of these is that, since my husband is active duty military, we are constantly moving and I want [our daughter and son] to have some continuity with their schooling. Moving from state to state, from school district to school district, there are so many variables we'd have to take into consideration. What if the duty station we want is unavailable? What if the government decides to send us to a duty station at which the public schools are horrible? (I can think of a few places I'd rather not send my kids to public school.) Oh, and by the way, seeing as we're dealing with military pay and all, private school isn't an option. Nor, may I add, is it always better than public school in the first place.
The other reason we've decided to homeschool is that I want control over our kids' curriculum. There are things I'd prefer to remove from their curriculum that's standard in public school (and private, I might add), and many, many things I want to add in. I'm not satisfied with the majority of math curricula, having seen the "new and improved" math my sister was taught only eight years after me. I wholeheartedly believe elementary school kids shouldn't have homework past a couple of spelling words, and that the school day is too long for most kids. I want more--and better--science. More curiosity.
Look, before you cry out that by not participating in the system I'm letting it fail, please hear me out. I understand that most families cannot homeschool, don't want to, or are happily engaged in the public school system. I was a public school kid and did just fine. In fact, I had a couple of really fantastic teachers that I don't think I could ever thank enough for what they taught me about their subjects and about life. Really. But it's not for our family. As far as I'm concerned, as long as the kids turn out okay and become healthy, productive, happy adults who cares where they go to school? My dad was a teacher, my mother-in-law still is, and my sister is studying to teach secondary science as I type this. I want the system to succeed; but I'm not going to participate in it with my kids.
So anyway, the curriculum. (I didn't mean for this to turn into a homeschooling manifesto, I promise!) We're having an 'exploratory' year, since our daughter is only just turning five this autumn. She wouldn't be going to kindergarten in the public schools until next year because of her birthday, but is developmentally ready for the learning side of things. This year is a practice year. If it turns out horribly, we'll reconsider homeschooling next year with no time lost. These are the books we're using:
Singapore Math-- Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics A & B: I am really impressed with the Singapore Math system. It turns out that the Rug Rat is more prepared for math than I thought, so we've blown through book A and will be starting with B as soon as Amazon gets it to my doorstep. It's been a good start to math for her, and incredibly easy to use. There are multiple activities to keep the kids interested; and it focuses heavily on the big concepts.
Explode the Code 1 through ?: Explode the Code is a standard phonics-based reading program. I've heard only good reviews from fellow homeschooling families, so I figured I might as well start out with this and change if necessary. We're most of the way through book one, and are using it as reinforcement and confidence-building. The Rug Rat knows how to read simple words and sentences, but is still a little tentative. This book is helping with that a lot, and I'm happy with the exercises. We'll be starting book two sometime in November and will update with my thoughts then.
The Original 21 Rules of This House: This is not really academics, but a very good book about being a good family. It's set up as a 21-week curriculum, with one rule to focus on per week. If you're not religious you can probably skip the first rule, but the rest of the book is invaluable for teaching kids basics. This week we're working on rule #5: "In this house we speak quietly and respectfully with one another." We're encouraging memorization with different coloring activities and reminding ourselves of the rule when we--yes, all of us--break the rule. I highly recommend this one.
Draw Write Now: This is a handwriting and art book series, though we're using it mostly as art and as supplementation for our other studies that don't involve set curricula (which right now include history and science). There are books on farm animals, the harvest, the United States, habitats, and more. The Rug Rat loves this, and will happily sit for an hour with pencils and crayons just drawing. While she draws I usually talk about some history points relevant to the season or we talk about animal habitats as part of our science lesson.
Oh, and the library. We love the library. We walk a mile to get there at least once a week, and spend time picking out stories for the coming few days. (It's one of my kids most favorite excursions.)
We're not doing formal science and history yet, focusing instead on reading and basic math concepts. Instead, we're reading story books about history and science, doing small experiments at home (baking soda and vinegar volcanoes are a perennial favorite), and exploring the great outdoors. I want to foster a love of learning, not an inherent dread of starting the school day. Our two-year-old, while not ready for school yet (obviously?) usually sits happily at the table with crayons and paper while we work on the day's lessons. It's actually quite a relaxing time of day at our home. No argumentative toddlers (see this weeks rule), no music, no television, no distractions of any sort. I love it. We probably spend about an hour four days a week doing work. The rest of the time we play.