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We are a family of fifteen: eight already with Jesus and seven in desperate need of Him. This is the story God is writing in our lives. Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Answering Frequently Asked Questions: Homeschooling Edition

Disclaimer:  The blog you are about to read is informational and not meant to say, This is how, why, and what we do and you should do it too.  I get asked a lot about our choices in educating our children and I hope to share honestly answers.

For various reasons, we have chosen to homeschool our children--- or at least we have for now.  Our vision of schooling centers around providing an education with diverse and appropriately challenging experiences tailored for our individual, unique children.  Funny thing is, while meeting those goals has become more difficult as we have added so many littles to our family, I have seen the most fruit from it this past year.  I feel strongly this has to do with making a change in curriculum last fall.  I will talk more about that in a bit.  As far as "religious training" goes, loving Jesus is something we do because He loved us first.  That will not change if in the future, we choose a different educational format.

Homeschooling is not a given for us.  We are not a homeschool or die family, but each year, we talk about what is best for the boys.  We discuss what is working, what is not, what is lacking on my part as a teacher, and the ways the boys are growing and needing improvement.  We also weigh the logistics of going to another format, such as a public or private school, and how that will work out for our family.  All that said, we are continuing to homeschool in the fall with Andrew in 4th grade and Elijah in 2nd.

On another note- people always gasp when I tell them I school the boys at home with the babies running around.  Honestly, I am not sure it would be any better having to load them up in the van twice a day and add more busyness to our lives.  I am also thankful that homework time is primary work time and not added to a schedule away from home.  I do use the babies' nap time as instruction time.  Many days, the boys continually use what they have learned in a repetitive manner.  They both have learned, especially this past year, the value of persistence and diligence.  I teach, they apply, repeat, apply again, and then learn from their mistakes.  They have taken more responsibility for their own learning and in turn, become owners of their respective educations.  There are definitely things they miss not being in other settings but no system is perfect.  This works well with our family dynamic and I just cannot get on board with another option today.  I digress.

Having made the decision to homeschool in the very beginning, I do remember being overwhelmed with all the curriculum choices.  There are many many options available.  There are two main ones I have used as well as bits and pieces from others.  I thought I might share our experiences with those I am familiar, but please remember, every family is different and every child is different.  One of the beauties of homeschooling is having the freedom to choose curriculum that best suits everyone involved.

We really like and are currently using the homeschool curriculum from Memoria Press.  It has been developed by folks at Highlands Latin School here in Louisville.  If I may highlight the positives we have enjoyed:

~It is very well rounded.  Of course they focus on the elements of classical education, recitations included, but also add identifying art and music pieces to the repertoire.

~I love the ideals of classical education AND it suits our boys well.  I wondered if memorization would be difficult and tedious but in fact, it has been quite the opposite.  It helps them both feel accomplished when they are able to recite grammar rules.  When it comes to applying them, the foundation has already been laid and makes the instruction seem more natural.

~The math is very simple and straightforward.  We have also used Math-u-see and had good results with that as well.  They didn't cover money and time as extensively as Rod and Staff through MP but if you have very visual children, Math-u-see might be a nice option.  I actually prefer Rod and Staff as it seems to cover all elements of Mathematics more exhaustively and I appreciate the way it teaches students to write their own math problems as opposed to filling in answers (the old-school way, I guess).

~The grammar and phonics portions are excellent.  Teaching the English language on the whole is quite difficult with all the exceptions.  Sheesh!  I think MP does a good job, however.

~While I loved the read-aloud and literature selections of Sonlight, they were just too abundant.  MP offers many of the same choices but spends focused time in literature going slowly through each chapter with excellent vocabulary, short answer, and summary work in their student guides.

~The Latin portion- Honestly, this is maybe one of my favorite parts of this curriculum.  We use DVDs to teach each lesson and for us, they are invaluable.  Andrew finds the teacher engaging and easy to listen to and understand.  I have been pleasantly surprised at all he has been able to learn and grasp in one year.  Much of his English grammar knowledge is learned through Latin.  Next year, we plan to send him one day a week to Highland's Latin Cottage School for instruction.  This is a nice option for him and for us as he will be moving beyond my capabilities as a teacher.

~The cost is comparable with other options.

There are other highlights but these are the ones that first come to mind.  There are very few negatives for us and things we substitute.  While there is nothing wrong with the MP handwriting portion, my boys began with and have responded well to Getty and Dubay Italics.  It is an italics form that also teaches cursive.  The progression seemed more natural for them both going from the single stroke method of print to cursive.  I also just love the neatness of their penmanship.

I would say the only other negative for me is teaching Greek Mythology.  I didn't like it in 5th and 6th grade and I just don't like it now ~~~  I am pretty sure that is a personal problem;)

The Christian Studies portion is ok.  MP uses the Golden Children's Bible text and has a guide that highlights characters and Bible facts.  Micah and I have always used our own plan when it comes to sharing the scriptures with our children using various other resources.  Most importantly, our prayer is that they see it working out in our lives.  As I have said before, I need Jesus every day.  If I can communicate that truth, then I will count that as a success.  I cannot divorce that from any subject under the Son.

I have found within the substance of Memoria Press, I do have the ability teach each child in a way that best suits him.  I think that can be true for most curriculum, unless it has a very deliberate narrow focus.

We have many friends that have chosen so many different options for educating their children.  We are always encouraged at how God leads and strengthens each family in His unique design for them.  If you find yourself in the homeschool boat, I hope this is a help.

If you would like to peruse the Memoria Press website, it can be found here.

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