Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Things I love About Homeschool: Curriculum

We are lucky to live in a state that honors a family's right for children to learn at home, and to choose the curriculum that works best for their children. This freedom to choose has been a big relief to me.

I know my child, and though I'm still figuring out as we go on this homeschooling journey all of the things that work, I am certain of the things that don't work.

Choosing a curriculum for homeschooling can be a huge task, but for us it has been easy. Sean started his schooling at a private Montessori school, and when I decided to homeschool him for first grade,  I found a large community of Montessori homeschoolers online. It was such a blessing. Although there isn't anyone near us who is using Montessori at home, just having the online community was comforting for me.

Although he ended up going to a public Montessori school for second through fourth grades, when I brought him home this year to homeschool, there was no question that we would use Montessori again.

Now that he is older, we are using some Montessori materials, and I'm coming up with ways to teach other things on our syllabus that are interesting to him. We use an Upper El Montessori curriculum, but it's a mix of freedom within structure. Freedom to choose what to write about, with guidance on how to write about it. Freedom to venture into science topics that interest him, history that is intriguing, and current events.

He comes up with his own ways of learning science at home, and we mix in some monthly trips to Camp Seymour, and the Pacific Science Center. He has materials here that have been given as gifts, and I download some ideas from the Internet. He reads his book about elements and the periodic table, and other science information, and also researches things online. He comes up with his own experiments and questions to research. If he's curious about things like the Bermuda Triangle, we can find a video on that subject, and he can look for more information on his own.

He prefers to read fact, and listen to me read fiction. He reads about planes, technology, and animals, and I read aloud to him books such as Huckleberry Finn, and other classics. We use the newspaper a little bit, and I plan to start using it more, selecting certain stories for him to read so we can discuss them.

We incorporate art into our curriculum, and this was missing from his public school experience. He draws daily, and learns new techniques by researching them on his own. I incorporate drawing into every subject we study, frequently asking him to draw a map, characters for a story, or something he would like to invent.

Fortunately we can afford private piano lessons, but his public school music class definitely reinforced his knowledge of music and prepared him to feed his passion for it.

Our history work is not Montessori material, but he is doing fine with it. I'm trying to bring in some interesting things to go along with the history we are studying.

My child learns best this way. Hands-on materials for some subjects, child-led learning in some areas, and freedom of choice with parameters in other subjects. An outside expert is needed for things like the piano lessons, the math instruction, and the art lessons he is currently taking. Field trips are a great way to reinforce his learning.

What does not work for Sean is a traditional schedule of take out your math book and work on that for X minutes, then take out your spelling book and work on that for X minutes, etc., traditional teaching, and traditional subject matter.

What he needs most of all is freedom, and homeschooling has given us that freedom to choose the methods and curriculum that work best for him. The goal is to learn, and he's doing that.

We are thankful that our state honors our choices, and that we are free to find the best way for Sean to learn.

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