Well today I enjoyed spending 2 hours with Amy, another homeschooling friend. Amy and I were both biology teachers in the same science department back in the late 90's. The photo below is Amy with her 3 beautiful children; Josh, Asher, and Elliana.
So I was looking forward to seeing how she homeschools. Because we both come from a science background, I thought I might get a good sense of how I might approach teaching my own children. This is Amy and me sitting on the floor of their classroom. The room is on the first floor and was probably intended to be the formal sitting and dinning room, but who uses those anymore, right? The photo was taken by her oldest son, Josh, who is in 5th grade.
Here's a look at the entire room. A table against the wall is where the two boys work and a small school desk under the window is where the preschooler worked. The room doesn't look all that different from a traditional classroom; maps, globes, posters, multiplication tables poster, alphabet letters, bookshelves organized with all sorts of great reads, drawers with all sorts of cool math and science manipulatives.
When I arrived, both boys were at the table, one working on math, and the other spelling. Elliana was working at the desk on a sheet where she was coloring the shapes within an image with separate colors. Like my friend Kristy, Amy types up a "to-do list" that each child gets every morning. Amy's kids each have a clipboard that includes any other materials/handouts they may need to accomplish the day's tasks. Amy was continually asking them what they were choosing to do next, and what items they had been able to cross off. She is obviously an expert multitasker, being able to give an oral spelling test to one child, while pulling up a website for another. Kudos to you Amy!
I was surprised to find out that both boys are learning a foreign language using Rosetta Stone. Josh is learning BOTH spanish and french. The photo below is Josh working on his spanish with the headphones as to not to disrupt the others who are working. Apparently with Rosetta Stone program, you not only learn how to write the language, you're also speaking it. So you wear headphones with a microphone, so the program can hear you say it! Kinda cool! Amy is impressed with how much her boys can speak in their second and third languages.
While Elliana spent some time working with her mom, I was so impressed with how Amy dealt with the attention span of a 4 year old. At times she focused her and at other times, allowed her to do her own thing (today it was playing with my 9 month old). Elliana also carved out some computer time this morning . She asked to go to, www.starfall.com website. After watching her interact with the reading games, I knew that Caleb would also enjoy this site. It was also amazing to me how much more engaged she was with the online reading games compared to the worksheets she had been working on. Here is Amy working with Elliana on some Explode the Code, a phonics curriculum.
Here is Asher working on the desktop computer Teaching Texbook Math 4 program. Amy said Asher loves math and he gets on the computer for "fun!" So this is additional practice above the Saxon Math he does as part of his regular curriculum.
Amy was so helpful. She set out the kindergarten Sonlight curriculum box for me to flip through. However, seeing the instructor guides, along with all the associated literature, is overwhelming. I noticed that a book from the "Boxcar Children" series is a read aloud in the Kindergarten curriculum. Right now I can't imagine Caleb, my 4 year old, listening to a chapter book with so few pictures. Really? But Amy shared with me some of her early struggles, and seemed to really understand my hesitance. She didn't sugar coat how much work it is, but also how rewarding the experience is.
Is it really possible that my husband and I might be completely responsible for the formal education of our children? Can we do this? Should we? Is it best for our kids? I'm just not sure!
Sonlight bases its curriculum on literature. This article from their website titled, "How Literature-rich Homeschooling Awakens Your Child's Natural Passion for Learning." They admit that using literature to teach history (and the context then for everything they learn) takes longer when reading literature instead of textbooks, but state that the trade off is worth it because students will remember it more. Literature allows us to connect to an experience. I also see that in this curriculum we would have to commit to read everything that our kids would be reading, so that we could discuss the ideas with them! That's not a small commitment, for sure! What I still need to research is the role of writing in this curriculum.
I walked away today with several big picture thoughts. First, I liked how the Sonlight curriculum uses "real" books. The emphasis is in reading, even in the early years, a lot of read alouds, discussion about what you read etc. I like that this curriculum uses literature to open doors to discuss not only what they are learning, but what they are feeling, how they connect with the characters within that time period. I bet I would have enjoyed history if I would have been taught this way. Second, I liked how technology can be used to reinforce ideas, or to teach material in a different way. While I don't know that the Sonlight curriculum gives tips on how this can be accomplished, I know I want technology to be a tool my kids use in their education. While I do want them using it to research and learn more about topics they are interested in, I also want my kids to use technology to create products that explain what they have learned, what they understand and why. And today I saw a glimpse of how I might be able to do that.
Thanks you so much Amy for allowing me to intrude in on your morning. I admire what you do each day with your kids. They are blessed to have you!
Resources I got from Amy:
Usborne Books: I love these. I haven't seen any for prek-K, but the science and history ones for the elementary kids were colorful, interesting, and WAY better than any textbook! I will remember these books for sure.
Learning Resource: I love the math and language arts manipulatives found here. I don't know yet how my boys will best learn, but if hands-on and visual are their strengths, this will be a great resource!
Graphic Libary: Capstone Press: Ok, I was never into comic books, but look at these graphic non-fiction books for science! So again, if my boys learn this way....you can bet my library will include these!
Ann Voskamp: A Child's Geography: Amy suggested this one..a great way to introduce kids to geography.
Exploring Creation: Young Explorer Series: Fullbright: These are full color books teaching science. I read a sample chapter, and I'm not sure how I feel about these. It seems as if it is a textbook trying its best to be conversational. Images and photos are good, and the level of science being taught is great. I think as reference material, it would be a nice thing to have around the house.
Real Science 4 kids: by Rebecca Keller. On their webpage they say, "We’ve taken great care to make our educational materials worldview neutral. This allows children from any background to examine opposing models; creationism versus the Big Bang theory, for instance. Your home schooled kids will have the richest source of insight, allowing them to shape intelligent and informed opinions." I actually like this idea! I've spent some time on this website, and REALLY like it. The philosophy is to teach chemistry and physics to apply it to biology, earth/space science in the elementary grades to provide the foundation of science. The looks of the books are really good too!
I know I can let the philosophy side of my brain take over. I've been doing a lot of research and still feel overwhelmed. At this moment, I'm thinking I could buy the K4 Curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler, and try it with Caleb over the summer. We can judge how it is going, how he does with his parents as his teachers, and how we handle the new role. Its not a huge money investment $15 for the entire curriculum plus copying costs.