Our Homeschool: Freedom in Choosing Curriculum

I wanted to spend some time sharing why we are truly thankful for freedom of curriculum choices in our homeschool. At the beginning of our “homeschool talks” my husband and I chatted a lot about what we would offer and what we would omit. Instead of offering Black History as a mini-unit during a one month period of the year, we would incorporate accurate stories from American History throughout the year. As a transracial and adoptive family, it is important for us to share the importance of a multi-cultural American History. That’s one reason we started our early Fall with reading the young reader’s edition of Hidden Figures. That’s also why my eight and nine year old have been scouring factual accounts in the book, 100 African Americans Who Shaped American History. Those early “homeschool talks” and the choices we have made since, spawned a chain reaction of thoughts. I knew I needed to go deeper into why curriculum choice is such an important homeschool freedom to our family.

In our homeschool, we have taken a relaxed/eclectic approach to learning. I have been designing our curriculum this year. I think we set out to meet and exceed standards, in regards to what is being taught in second and third grade statewide. We were originally thinking this may be a one year journey, with the kids eventually returning to school. We determined the current year would be a mixture of review, grade level, and advanced work, as a “no harm done” style insurance policy on their education. It didn’t take long to make the decision to be long term homeschoolers. Because we were so cautious in the beginning, we will now be able to teach both kids using a fourth grade curriculum “spine” for 2019-2020.

It is a huge duty and blessing, as a parenting and teaching team, to deliver great content to our children. This has been a year of trial and error. It’s been nice to combine review, grade level, and advanced work this year.  Our seat work came from a variety of workbooks and free websites. Since our focus was on mastery with multiplication and division fact, shoring up our ability to tell time and count money, the year was pretty easy to map out.  Our work with manipulatives came from a base ten block system, several math activities, a learning clock, a simple analog watch, and a package of play money (coins and bills.) We furthered our money work with opening a mock checking account for the kids, where they record the amount of money they have in their Spend, Save, and Give “accounts.” We played card and dice games, like Quixx, Yahtzee, Uno, and Farkle. We played strategy games, that had our kids quickly working their way through problem solving. We also included logic puzzles in our math curriculum.

We started touching on some interest-led points of time in World and American History, which has allowed us to come up with a plan for next year. The kids will be learning about the pre-history of United States through 1850’s. The following year, we will tackle the 1850’s to present day. We will work on World History in the middle school years, starting in prehistoric times. Our plan is to incorporate living books from the time period we are studying. I have been having a lot of fun reviewing books online and I plan to work with the children’s librarian for recommendations also.

We have had time to discover our rhythm this year. Our Science program this year has been completely hands-on! Next year, Science will change slightly. We are adding some new literature and incorporating journaling and lap books into their studies. We are learning that our kids have creative ways of gathering thoughts and expressing retained knowledge. We want them to have a variety of skills that lead to effective listening and note taking in preparation for their university studies.

We are powering through Language Arts and Spelling workbooks, but it feels like dry, busy work. We also worked for a brief time with an online program.  We are also doing dictation and copy work, along with cursive. Next year’s curricula choices for each subset of Language Arts will change. I’ll share next year’s choices, the spines for subjects we are creating content for, and what school is going to look like, later in the Spring. I am also working with families that homeschool or are homeschool curious, offering a unique set of homeschool coaching services. There, I can recommend curriculum options based on your child’s learning style and the homeschooling methods you incorporate. Not sure how to even navigate your way through homeschool methods and learning styles? I can help with that, too!

If it helps, we are eclectic and somewhat interest led in our method, but not enough to be considered unschoolers. When the kids want to know more, we pause and take the time to really examine a subject of interest. We follow a routine that has some familiar daily anchors but we don’t stick to a rigidly structured schedule. My husband likes to call us “structurally unstructured.” Our homeschool is comfortable and welcoming. There is a lot of room for curiosity, input, passion, mistakes, and God’s infinite grace. We are character and heart building parents taking a holistic approach to this gift of teaching our children. To sum it up, there is nothing about us that fits in a boxed set. I’m kind of bummed, because I had been considering two very popular choices. Instead, I’ve tasked myself (with my husband’s input and welcomed contributions) with building our own curriculum for next year. I’ll be taking our discoveries and mistakes from this year and use both as brain and heart fuel as I hash out a rough draft. I am confident that we, as a parenting team, will meet the challenge to refine and ready our family’s homeschool for the upcoming school year.

Also, in my state, we are only required to teach “…the branches of education taught to children of corresponding age and grade in the public schools.” If you are a resident of Illinois, you can learn more about our state’s homeschool law, here. If you are a resident of another US state, I recommend starting here, to learn more about each state’s requirements for homeschooling. For those of you not familiar with the variations in homeschool law, have no time requirements, no restrictions on curriculum choices, no registration required (but it is advised), no standardized testing, no portfolio, etc. To put it mildly, we have loose requirements. Because of that, I feel even more compelled to exercise (and over-exert) due diligence. Please, please, pretty please do your homework for homeschooling in your state!

With the literal and metaphorical freedom to choose in our state, I obsessed (and still do, sometimes) over choosing “the best out there.” Before I bore you with the details…THE MAGIC IS NOT IN THE CURRICULUM. Mamas and Papas, the magic is in your child! The magic is in the relationships formed as you build a homeschooling lifestyle with your family. The magic happens when your child’s true for knowledge supersedes their desire to memorize a fact, ace a test, fit in, or perform to meet any kind of standard assigned to them. I mentioned earlier, our desire to make the current school year one of review, grade level work, and getting ahead. It has also been a year of discovery, for the kids and for us. We have learned so much about their individual learning styles and even more about our individual teaching styles. This journey continues, and we couldn’t be happier!

I wholeheartedly feel that this has been a year where our entire household has shifted our attitudes AND actions in regards to learning. These changes are visible in our daily lives. When we learn, there are no time constraints! We are hands-on learners who enjoy read-alouds, silent reading, light workbook work, long conversations, dictation,  exploration, experiments, discovery, fresh air, structured physical activity, and play. Our school travels! By the end of the calendar year, we will have visited twelve states. We invest in great resource books, like this Children’s Encyclopedia of American History and The Usborne Book of World History. Our days are FUN!! We are thankful for these homeschooling freedoms and the invaluable gift of more time together as a family.

 

 

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