Time for more chat over at the Aussie Not Back to School blog hop. Last week I introduced you to our students. Today we are going to talk plans and resources, as we did three years ago. It’s rather timely to be chatting about this topic as a ‘curriculum chat’ was requested by a reader during the survey.
Be sure to head over to Kylie’s to check out yet more ideas and methods from other Aussie home educators.
When you have been home educating for over a decade and a half, the learning and the living is all entwined, in many respects how you ‘go about’ home educating your children is an extension/reflection of your parenting approach/style. We began our home educating journey long before the birth of our first child and were strongly influenced by John Holt, Raymond Moore and Maria Montessori, later Ruth Beechick and Valerie Bendt impacted out approach. Then we met Charlotte Mason and fell in love, we also later were drawn to the thoughts of Reggio Emilia and now we’re walking towards a more classical look in thoughts, though not yet in practices of the Circe interpretation of classical. Simply we can be described as eclectic, in other words, whatever works, we use it!
Whilst I can share the specifics of the academic resources we use it isn’t the full picture, learning is so much more than just academics. While reading my plans I want to implore parents who are newer to this lifestyle to please bear in mind that I’m writing after the experience of so many years, I can now afford to be more intuitive than I was when I had only a few years experiences. Many years ago I would plan for days prior to the new term, now I only spend an afternoon planning, simply the years of experience allow that.
We don’t use a set curriculum, we design our own with input from the children, we take into consideration their learning styles and also importantly my teaching style. When researching resources I always turn first turn to discussions and the archives at 4Real and the plans over at Mater Amabilis then I search further afield on the the internet for yet more ideas.
Over the years as our family size has grown, our children matured and we began teaching with a larger age spread, our approach changed to suit our different needs. Our days now have a more structured rhythm than when we had only younger children. Always though our plans remain a tool only and I’m open to being fluid if/when needed and the children aren’t shy about expressing their thoughts;) The outcome is our focus there’s ‘always more than one way to skin a cat.’
The following plans/resource lists are only some of the resources we will use. I can’t know yet what ‘side trails’ we may meander down, the new plans that may spring up if old ones are ditched, nor the ‘extra’ books the children will read of their own volition, the documentaries and you-tubes they may view, the games played, the discussions enjoyed or the life skills and building skills learnt. These plans don’t document real living but they will give you an idea of where we will spring board from. I like to allow some spontaneity for my creativity:)
This year we have 5+ students, two of highschool age, two of primary, a 1st grader, a pre-schooler and a baby. This makes for a lot of reading, if you manage to read to the end of the post accolades to you!
I read recently a post that stated, “We do pre-school the old fashioned way”, simply their child played, baked, listened to books, played with paints and grubbed in the dirt. Yep that’s what our pre-schooler does too. Actually I have lots of thoughts on this topic so I’ll come back and share, stay tuned.
Over the years we’ve trialed a few different Language Arts materials and I am confident and happy that we have sourced some ‘cream of the crop’ materials, although there are a couple of areas that I’m still searching for the ‘right’ approach/material for our family.
We’ve tried a variety of approaches and resources over the years with much ‘weeping and wailing’ before finding AAS a few years back. So very, very happy. Based on the Orton-Gillingham approach it isn’t that dis-similar to the Writing Road to Reading, of which I’ve used a modified version coupled with the added sounds of LEM phonics to teach our older children to read. I’ve raved about All About Spelling previously, probably time I gave an update, stay tuned.
Learning To Read
Whilst in the past I taught our older children to read using the Spalding cards (adding the Australianised sounds from LEM) I still felt I was missing a big piece of the puzzle. Sadly some children were later readers, and the majority were poor spellers. After a few years of using All About Spelling I decided to ‘take the plunge’ and switch over to AAR. I could not be happier! I’m using this program for the first time, teaching Jem and daily I’m more and more impressed. I plan on reviewing after completing Level 1 so stay tuned.
- A handwriting exercise book
Basic, simple, purchased from our local news-agency (stationary store). We do have Startwrite and have used it in the past, but this year I’m finding it simple enough to write out a line/passage for the children to copy. The most important detail is that I supervise pencil grip, where they begin forming their letters, that they write in the correct direction and that they focus on consistent sizing and legibility. The older children are learning/perfecting running writing, they have a photocopy of the script letters to emulate and apply themselves with various enthusiasm(or not;)
A formal grammar/writing approach/program is still an area that I’m not entirely happy with. I’m not sure whether the fault lies with me, as in I’m not always following through or whether the fault lies with the fact that we still haven’t found ‘the resource’. Over the years we have accumulated a collection of materials and whilst many come highly recommended none of them have caught the attention of our children, nor really for that matter myself. We have sitting on our shelves and periodically pull off quite a collection and yet whilst the children write well (when pushed) I feel it’s more to do with the quality of literature they read than any formal learning in this area. Anyhow sitting on our shelves we have a variety of resources including:
- Brave Writer
- Emma Serl’s Intermediate and Primary Language Lessons
- Writing With Ease and Writing With Skill
- Kinneavy’s Elements of Writing
- Writer’s Workshop
- Lively Art of Writing – Lucile Vaughan Payne
- All Things Fun and Fascinating
- Character Based Writing Lessons
- Windows to the World,
- Life Science Based Writing Lessons
- British Literature
- Let’s English Live – MJ Bruce
- Today’s English – Eve Levis
We’ve always been a family that places a huge emphasis on quality literature and enjoying read alouds together. For several years I’ve struggled to find time to read to the older children but I’m still reading quality chapter books to the younger children. This year I’ve written up a list of quality books for the older children children to read their way through. Mostly compiled by combing quality book lists and matching up with what we own and our library offers. I have dreams of Shakespeare and Poetry making their way back onto our plans but for now I’ll settle for quality books and of course read alouds with the younger children.
For many years we used Singapore Maths for primary school and we would still be using them if rising costs hadn’t sent us searching further afield. We switched to mathematics.com for highschool when Anna Maria was in Grade 7 or 8. The benefits of online lessons meant the lessons were explained clearly and were automatically marked, and you are emailed weekly updates as to their progress. These were areas in which I was struggling and has been a blessing for us to use. Recently we also switched over to their primary program for our younger children. I find I still need to sit with non-reading children to read for them and ‘keep my finger on the pulse’ but I’ve been most happy.
The programs are used in schools throughout Australia and line up with the Australian national curriculum, a big plus. They have been written by an ex-homeschooling Dad who gives a massive discount to homeschooling families. I have been told they are not a complete program in themselves, they recommend buying a text as well as you need extra questions to cement the concepts. It’s been my experience that a few extra worksheets from the internet fill the need from time to time.
The younger children will read Bible Stories, Saint stories and our collection of Liturgical Year books. We also have children preparing for their Sacraments, I have plans and resources organised for:
The older children will use, dependent on age
The Didache books are excellent, thorough and engaging, we have been using for a couple of years now. We began using the Beginning Apologetics for the first time last year with the older boys, the booklets continually cross-reference Church teachings with the Bible and the Catholic Catechism, they are excellent and very popular. We’ve struggled to find a text for Grades 7 & 8 so I’m trialing the Beginning Apologetics with Princess, not sure if she is ready for them yet, we’ll see.
Any suggestions, recommendations?
When planning the following topics I tend to only plan a term at a time. Experience has taught that planning too far ahead is a time waster as we don’t often ‘stick to’ advanced plans. Many years ago I used to write elaborate plans, I’d plan for days and then it didn’t go according to plan, so now I have a simplified approach which allows for some structure and plenty of flexibility. We need the spontaneity and flexibility to be able to follow a new interest or trail. In practice this translates as: I amass a pile of living and reference books hand to the children and say “read” and encourage them also to find youtubes that they find interesting on the topic. Of course I also say “write about what you learn” in truth this is the weak area.
We cover Science with a combination of ‘living books’, reference books, DVD’s, science documentaries and youtubes, with a very small selection of living text books. We have tried a couple of more formal text books, Singapore Science (for the olders) and God’s Design for Science (for the youngers) yet neither was the right fit for us. *Actually both are available if you’re interested in purchasing. The few living text books we’ve enjoyed, for the older children are the John Hudson Tiner books (young earth worldview) and we also highly recommend:
- Science Matters – Robert Hazen which Michelangelo is finishing reading this year. Einstein used it and raved about it, very informative and very readable. M is also predominately watching indepth youtubes on various topics; Dark Matter, Robiotics etc and then narrating.
- Princess is focusing on extreme weather using living and reference books and the internet. She’ll then narrate her readings and viewings.
- The younger children are focusing on animals, possibly a different one each week/fortnight. Last week we began with birds, reading reference books, we’ll continue with birds until interest wanes. Plan is to also have the children write narrations on what we have read.
Some families follow history in cycles or chronologically, we never have, we tend to jump around according to interest, though I do tend to set aside one Term a year to cover Australian history. Over the years we have amassed a wonderful collection of living books that form the basis of our history studies. We also have a smaller amount of reference books and several popular living History texts as different ones appeal to different children. These include;
- Story of the World (have to filter some volumes to reflect Catholic worldview)
- Child’s History of the World
- Famous Men of Rome and Greece
- Our Island Story (borrowed)
- RC History (couple of volumes)
and for the older children
- Michelangelo is studying The French Revolution using a collection of living and reference books, I’ll also encourage him to find youtubes on the topic.
- Princess is my child who loves learning via living books, though first I’ll encourage her to read reference books to give her an overview for her topic. She is focusing on major wars over the last few hundred years. Beginning with focusing on the Wars of the 20th Century
- The younger children are focusing on Australian History beginning with Aborigines, using the childcraft Story of Australia and Arthur Baillie’s Our Sunburnt Country. Then fleshing out with picture books, chapter books and youtubes.
Finding ‘the’ Geography resource/approach still eludes me all these years later. We have a few quality resources which we do use from time to time. World Physical Geography – Brenda Runkle is excellent and a course our children use in Grade 9. We also have Trail Guide to World Geography, I’ve never really used, it was too teacher intensive at the time and Child’s Geography of the World, which I have used in the past when our older children were young, but it’s too wordy for some of my current younger ones. Whilst we cover culture easily through living books and picture books and earth science in our science readings, what I’m still looking for is an excellent resource to teach map knowledge. Perhaps simply the best approach is for us to draw more mega maps, it has been successful in the past.
Any suggestions, recommendations?
Last year I sat down and read the NSW syllabus completely (for the first time ever) and after three days of reading and hyperventilating, once I cracked the code of teacher speak, and began talking teacher speak, I realised that Technological & Applied Studies (for highschool) a Creative Arts education and PDPE & Health are naturally taken care of in a home rich in materials, support, encouragement and active, aware parenting. Much of the syllabus is broad to ensure that children from many different backgrounds all have exposure to a variety of mediums and a chance to recognise and utilise their talents, to give them the best opportunities.
Technological And Applied Studies
Much of TAAS is part of natural living, though as parents we need to be aware of what this subject matter entails and to take or create opportunities to ensure our children have exposure.
Sharing part of Michelangelo’s plans that I wrote for the BOS visit: As I shared a three day stint of staring at documents tends to morph you into speaking teacher-ese;)
As we have been owner building for the past four years and likely another two years to come, Michelangelo has become most familiar with many aspects of design environments. He has been actively involved in building our home and learnt a variety of skills along the way. His industrial technology skills include the practical; work safety practices, reading plans, carpentry, gyprocking, painting, roofing, etc and many intangible but extremely important such as patience, tenacity and teamwork.
As you can see natural living. Now not all families are owner building so:
Products and Information
Michelangelo is to become more actively involved in food preparation this year. Our goal is that he is capable of preparing and presenting at least 7 meals of his choice for 10 people. He is also to become more confident with baking for a grain and sugar free diet. Michelangelo is to also take a more active role in menu preparation and shopping.
Once again, simply Michelangelo will be cooking and shopping for his family. Actually he can and does already do this, but it’s being aware.
Once upon a time when I had less children I actively planned and executed Creative Arts, the study of artists and composers as well as quality literature, narrations, poetry, Shakespeare and nature studies were and are part of the truth and beauty of a Charlotte Mason education that I am drawn to and believe in. Sadly and I wish to convey to you just how sad it has made me, the study of artists and composers is an area in our studies that I had to ‘let go’, I simply had to prioritise and formal studies here went.
This is not to say Creative Arts doesn’t happen around here, it does, it’s just more in the nature of a self directed education with complete access to youtubes and the many craft materials that abound in our home. Hot glue guns, scissors, sticky tape, paints, felt, crepe paper, paddle pops, scrap booking materials, wool, knitting needles, embroidery and long stitch kits, fabrics and much more. Drawing, origami, making chain mail and woodwork are also other popular endeavours.
When I wrote for our BOS visit:
Princess is also gifted with a flair for fashion and this year will be learning how to spin wool. The results will be presented in a manner of her choosing, perhaps as an accessory of fashion design.
this simply means, Princess received a spinning wheel for Christmas and she wants to learn how to spin wool and obviously hopes to makes something with said wool.
Provide materials, support and encouragement and you have a rich education.
PDPE and Health
Once you move past the hyperventilating inducing teacher speak in the syllabus, much of these areas are covered in a rich family life, yes we have to be aware that we are covering these areas, we certainly have a duty of care to our children to ensure we do so. If we as concerned, active parents have our ‘finger on the pulse’ undertaking our parenting fully then we naturally undertake this education
Sharing snippets of what I wrote for Princess:
- Self & Relationships – Princess is to have a strong sense of self identity and to have healthy boundaries. To gain this through personal conversations and positive encouragement
- Individual & Community Health – Princess is to have an understanding of reproductive health, the need for personal hygiene and an awareness of health choices. This knowledge to be gained through personal conversations, positive encouragement and teaching strategies of how to handle various situations
- Lifelong Physical Activity – Princess to have an understanding of the importance of exercise and nutritional health, and the knowledge of how to make positive choices and put them into practice.