Joining up once again for more talk about ‘not back to school‘ topics with fellow Aussie homeschool families. Hosted by Kylie from Our World Wide Classroom and this week we’re chatting about ‘Resources We Are Using.’ One of the attractions of home education is the freedom to choose which resources suit individual family’s beliefs, learning styles and lifestyle. We have for you this week a collection of unique approaches and quality resources reflecting the families using them.
As a long term home educating family we have long settled on our approach and subsequently managed to narrow the plethora of resources available to some outstanding choices that have withstood the ‘test of time.’ Not to say we are not open to new material, we are particularly in a couple of areas. When gathering resources I always reserve the right to change direction and material, but I’m confident that we are likely to stay with our resource selection for the intended duration. We are a literature based family and yet we are also open to utilising other methods of learning such as; computer resources, hands on opportunities, an occasional workbook or textbook, simply summarised we are an eclectic learning family.
The following list focuses primarily on academic resources however this is not our full learning picture, nor are these the only resources we will use. I don’t yet know what ‘side trails’ we may meander down, which resources will be ditched, nor have I listed all the living books that will be read, many I don’t yet know, nor listed are the documentaries and you-tubes that will be viewed, or the board games to be played. Yet these resources will give you a reasonable idea of the direction we are intending on travelling whilst allowing room for spontaneity and creativity.
This year we have 6+ students, three of highschool age; a 12th, 10th and 7th grader and three of primary age; a 5th, 3rd and 1st grader and let’s not forget the pre-schooler. This year is an important year for our 12th Grader as he makes the transition from studies at home to preparation for University studies as he undertakes external studies with the University of Southern Queensland, completing their Tertiary Preparation Program. Within the following selection of resources the majority of resources for foundational studies will be used all year whereas the subject studies resources will change after Term 1.
Pre-school in our family consists of playing, indoors and out, cooking, painting, reading piles of books, chatting about colours, numbers and letters, that’s plenty, that’s enough. Our three year old is the youngest of ten and I can confidently say her life is rich, full of many opportunities and experiences.
We’ve had this series sitting on our shelves for many years barely used. To be honest I’ve found the younger years rather basic and the older years a little dull though solid. However we’ve dusted them off to give them a closer inspection, perhaps we’ll find we’ve been overlooking gems.
Currently using the various grade level books with the 12, 10, 8 & 5 year olds.
The Didache Course is an excellent four year program covering; Church teachings, an indepth study of the Scriptures, Church History and Church Morality. Text is clearly written and teachings are cross referenced with the Catholic Catechism and Scriptures. The children have been very happy with this series.
Currently used by the 15 year old studying the Introduction to Catholicism.
Beginning Apologetics booklets contain excellent apologetic material on the Church’s teachings and have constant references to refer to in the Bible and the Catholic Catechism. We are all thoroughly enjoying our readings and the discusses that ensue from the material, precious connections and incredible conversations. Treasure
Currently using with our 17 and 15 year olds and sometimes our 12 year old by her choice.
Each ‘group’ of children; the teens and the youngers have a saints novel from which we read aloud daily. We are blessed to have a huge collection of inspirational Faith books with which to nourish our Catholic Faith.
- Mathsonline (formerly mathematics.com)
Using online maths lessons has been a huge blessing to our family and we’ve been using mathsonline for well over a decade, for Grades K through to 12. Each lesson includes a programmed explanation complete with teacher and blackboard, followed by a series of questions and tests to answer. These questions are automatically marked and we, the parents receive weekly emails showcasing progress, this way we are able to firmly keep our ‘finger on the pulse’. The children work their way through the various topics and sub-topics and a one function we particularly appreciate is that the children aren’t locked into a grade, they have full access to across all grades. This means if a child is struggling to comprehend their building block material they can go back and access earlier grades to revise. Mathsonline is used in schools throughout Australia and line up with the Australian national curriculum, a big plus. Designed by an ex-homeschooling father they grant a massive discount to homeschooling families regardless of the number of children enrolled. Meredith assures me this program is now available in America as well, trading under the name CTC Math.
Currently using with all our children, though Michelangelo’s Tertiary Preparation Program has a large focus on maths so most of his maths energy will be focused on his TPP.
We’ve been home educating for nearly two decades and are now in the enviable position of knowing what suits our family’s learning style, and have been fortunate enough to have discovered and settled on a selection of fantastic resources.
After searching for years for ‘the’ spelling program we’ve finally found the answer to our prayers. After trying a variety of approaches and resources over the years with little success we were ecstatic to find AAS a few years ago and continue to be astounded and impressed. All About Spelling is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach and has similarities to the Writing Road to Reading, which I used to teach our older children to read using modified versions of it and LEM phonics. It is a multi-sensory program that teaches: encoding skills, reliable spelling rules and strategies to assist your child to become a proficient speller, each lesson begins with a revision of the previous words learnt and builds on skills in the new lesson.
Currently using All About Spelling Level 7 with our 17 and 15 year olds, Level 2 with our 8 year old and Level 1 with our 5 year old. Our 12 and 10 year olds are taking a break from AAS and using a couple of old Australian Spelling books circa 50/60s, Let’s Be Good Spellers and Words in Action.
Learning To Read
We have finally found ‘the missing key’ to unlocking language. All About Reading is a multi-sensory program that emphasises; phonics decoding, fluency and comprehension, each lesson begins with a revision of the previous knowledge learnt and builds on it in the next lesson. All About Reading is resulting in our younger children’s reading journey being being smoother and faster than their siblings. I’ve waxed lyrical before about how I love, love, love All About Reading.
Handwriting – Vigilant Supervision
- Vigilant supervision
No ‘magic program’ will automatically produce legible handwriting, there are no ‘short cuts,’ you must ensure vigilant supervision. Focus on pencil grip, that the child begins in the correct place and writes in the correct direction, that they are consistent in their letter sizing and that they have legibility. Aside from you, I also recommend pencil grips and a basic handwriting exercise book purchasable from your local news-agency (stationary store). I also use and love Startwrite introduced to me by my friend Jen, it allows you to make customisable sheets with the font and print size of your choice. A free alternative Jen recommends is Handwriting Worksheets.com.
Currently concentrating on handwriting with our 10, 8 & 5 years olds, some poor habits to unlearn for some, simply learning for another.
- Creative Writing
This Term we are focusing on Creative Writing. The children can either choose to select a card from a bowl of ‘writing prompts’ (purchased long ago), create a story of their own imagination, which may indeed take days to follow to the end or write in their journals. Simply I just ask that all our children write daily, the amount varies according to age/ability and I scribe for our 5 year old.
Michelangelo’s Tertiary Preparation Program has a large focus on writing so most of his writing energy will be directed there.
- Lists & Recommendations
Using lists, recommendations coupled with access to our local library and our home library we immerse our children in rich literature. Many read alouds and many more silent readings. We encourage quality literature, though are not purists, ‘twaddle’ does also make its way into our home. There are always children to be found reading, we are indeed a reading family.
Literature Based Approach
Living Books form the backbone of our learning with the majority of our studies undertaken via living books with the exception of our foundational studies. A Living Book is generally written in a narrative, conversational tone, that engages and draws the reader in to learn more about a subject. We mostly use living books to cover our; Faith, history, geography, science and literature, with both our highschool and primary aged children. Our living books are either read aloud during our Reading Basket time or individually, we place a strong emphasis on the reading of quality literature. During our Reading Basket time I read to both groups of children, our teens and our youngers at separate sessions from a selection of books, the basket currently include saints, science, apologetics and literature books. When planning our ‘subject’ studies I only plan for a term at a time to allow for flexibility and spontaneity to follow new interests. Practically this means I gather a large collection of living books and smaller amount of reference books, handing them to the children with instructions to “read and enjoy.” I also assist them to find relevant youtubes about the topic and encourage them to notebook or narrate about what they learnt.
This year we are focusing mainly on one subject per term, particularly the younger children, they learn better when they have more time to delve deeper and make connections with their studies. This Term the younger children are studying science, specifically Dinosaurs and whilst our highschoolers are studying in a few more disciplines they have each chosen their preferred focus area to delve deeper into. Our 15 year old loves Geography and is studying Asia, our 12 year old is focusing on History specifically Ancient Britain.
Science is of keen interest for some of our children, for others we need to insist upon the need for study and discovery. We use a combination of living books, living text books, reference books, science documentaries, youtubes and educational sites such as Kahn Academy.
- John Hudson Tiner books (young earth worldview), highly popular with our older children.
Currently using a couple of these living text books with our 15 and 12 year olds. Both are not keen scientists however to their surprise they are enjoying these books, I knew they would 😉
- Dinosaur Study
Studying Dinosaurs using a combination of Creation Scientist books (some of these) and other non-fiction books written with an evolution worldview.
This study is with our 10, 8 & 5 year olds.
Michelangelo is a huge science buff, whilst I haven’t planned any formal studies for him this year (his knowledge is already beyond highschool level) due to his need to focus on his TPP studies, I am confident he will naturally gravitate towards absorbing more scientific knowledge.
- Story of the World Vol 2: Middle Ages – Some chapters do not reflect Catholic worldview
- The Story of the Church – Relevant chapters to reflect Catholic worldview
Currently used by our 15 year old. Whilst this is a light, written for younger children, we wanted a light, interesting text to ensure she has a solid overview.
Currently used by our 12 year old. A totally captivating tale of Roman Britain, we also have a huge pile of living fiction to accompany these studies. Hoping to share as we go.
An excellent course with an Earth Science focus and a student workbook that includes mapwork activities. Our oldest daughter shared her thoughts a few years ago.
- Asia – Mapwork
- Asia – Cultural Studies
-Reading through a selection of excellent living Asian fiction. Planning on sharing fiction for each country.
This study will be undertaken by our 15 year old, whose interest is all things Geography.
- Duolingo – Spanish
An online free language program, excellent.
Currently used by our 15 & 12 year olds.
The NSW syllabus is broadly written to ensure that children from a variety of backgrounds all have the opportunity to be exposed to various mediums and knowledge so they have a chance to recognise and utilise their talents and be given opportunities.The following studies are naturally taken care of in a home environment that is rich in materials, support, encouragement and active, aware parenting.
Whilst I have considered some of the formal study that we will undertake for the following, much of the learning is of a more natural nature within a supportive home environment and so isn’t often planned, instead we allow room to encourage and follow natural learning opportunities.
For our 12 year old
All three for our 15 year old
Online Australian Art Classes. Absolutely brilliant, I have chatted about them before.
Currently undertaken by our 12, 10 & 8 year olds.
- Self Directed Education
Complete access to a range of craft, art, woodworking etc materials in our home plus access to craft/art books and youtubes ensures our children are supported in whatever Creative Arts they wish to pursue. Interests include; Photography, Drawing, origami, making chain mail and woodwork to name a few.
Technological And Applied Studies
We cover much of TAAS within our family living, being aware of and creating opportunities. As you can see the following is only a snippet of opportunities that occur in a natural learning environment. For example
- Built Environments
Whilst being owner builders for the past seven years, the children have become familiar with many aspects of design and whilst being actively involved in building have learnt many industrial technology skills such as; work safety practices, reading plans, carpentry, gyprocking, painting, roofing, etc. Also intangible interpersonal skills such as patience, tenacity and teamwork.
- Products and Information
Food preparation is an area under this umbrella; menu planning, shopping, food preparation and presentation are skills we expect our children to learn and be proficient in.
PDPE and Health
Once again much of this area is covered in a rich family life, if we are concerned, active parents undertaking our parenting fully then we naturally cover this material. As you can see from the following all part of active parenting ‘how to’, teaching social skills and awareness, teaching nutritional health. For example:
- Self & Relationships
Developing a strong sense of self identity and to have healthy boundaries. To be gained through personal conversations and positive encouragement
- Individual & Community Health
Having an understanding of reproductive health, the need for personal hygiene and an awareness of health choices. To be gained through personal conversations, positive encouragement and teaching strategies of how to handle various situations
- Lifelong Physical Activity
Having an understanding of the importance of exercise and nutritional health.
Knowing how to make positive choices and put them into practice.
And the more traditional
- Swim lessons
For our 8 & 5 year olds
- Swim Squad
For our 12 & 10 year olds
Whew, seems like a lot but do remember this is for 6+ children.
What about your family, what resources are you using this year?
Feel free to join us in the ‘not back to school’ Aussie blog hop.
Our past Not Back To School blog hops.