When I hear the words ‘curriculum’ and ‘lesson planning’ I start to hyperventilate. I seriously do. I have a whole RightStart Math program that I bought about five years ago on Ebay hiding in a couple of dresser drawers in our schoolroom. Every year I sloooowly open the drawers. Yep, still there. And then I quickly shut the drawers again. “Next year,” I say. It’s not the math itself that really scares or overwhelms me but all of the little implements and cut out pieces, the schedules and workbooks, and not knowing how to use them. It’s the same with the Sing, Spell, Read, and Write program I have tucked into another drawer.
A few days ago I posted a blog where I shared my thoughts and ideas on learning and on pre-packaged curriculum for young children. It doesn’t work well for me or my kids so today I will be sharing the resources and tools included in the loose plans I’ve made for this year. These mainly consist of quality literature (audio and book form), games, craft and art supplies, and journals. I am writing a separate blog post on nature journaling and notebooking to try and not overwhelm you. If your’re interested in what we used last year, you can find it here. Remember that each family is different and your desires will change over the years. It’s important to remember too that it’s not what you teach, but how. Find your children’s passion and interests and they will be voracious in their learning.
As much as possible, we try to use experience to teach our children. “The world is the true classroom. The most rewarding and important type of learning is through experience, seeing something with our own eyes” (Jack Hanna) and I would add, or doing something with our own hands. It is our role of parents to put learning experiences in the way of their children but not to get in the way. Maria Montessori says this, “It is necessary for the teacher to guide the child without letting him feel her presence too much, so that she may always be ready to supply the desired help, but may never be the obstacle between the child and his experience.”
Know too, that the best resources are not things you can buy but people you can just be with. So much learning and inspiration comes from having a conversation with someone who has gone before you. Get to know the older generations really well. They are full of stories, knowledge, and wisdom that you can’t buy (and often the repetition of their stories will help to solidify the information ;). Utilize grandparents, the elderly in your church or find a local nursing home or assisted living facility in your area. In trying to bless others with our visits, we have learned that we walk away with a greater blessing. We visited a lady one day who was 101 years old. She told us the most amazing stories of “back in the day”. Learning doesn’t just come from a book or out of a box. The aged and elderly are hidden treasures that often go unnoticed, overlooked, and unutilized.
I have a few different places where I purchase my resources: Amazon, Rainbowresource.com, Christianbook.com, Libraryanded.com, and Yourstoryhour.org. You can often find used resources on Ebay as well. If you are looking for ideas on lesson plans you can visit teacherspayteachers.com. Remember, the library is free. Utilize this as much as possible. Spotify is a free app that will allow you to select a specific artist to play and Youtube.com is a great free resource to listen to specific songs as well. Librovox.org is a free online resource for both audio and online books. Pinterest is a great place for inspiration if you have time and energy. But beware, it can be overwhelming, suck you in, and get you off track.
My advice to you is to keep your learning and resources as simple as possible. Just the thought of homeschooling can be overwhelming enough without adding the additional stress of finding spaces and ways to organize all of your resources. I do encourage you however, to build a library rich in quality literature if you are able. Honey for a Child’s Heart, The Read-Aloud Handbook and Read for the Heart are great resources for building this kind of library. You can often find great books for sale for 25 cents at library or yard sales. Just add to your collection slowly. Don’t feel you need to buy everything right away. That being said, here are the resources and tools we will be using this year.
Bible: We read out of the Bible and The Child’s Story Bible and work through memorizing a list of Bible texts that Joey and I come up with for them to memorize throughout the year. Caleb (age 11), Sophia (age 9), and I write in our thankful journal and the younger ones draw pictures of what they are thankful for. I love the game Egypt to Canaan because if the kids don’t know the answer, they have to find it in the Bible. This game forces kids to learn how to begin to solve their own problems in the greatest book ever written. How amazing is that!
Handwriting: You don’t need a handwriting resource. A blank notebook will work just fine for older children to practice their writing. The kids use these to write out the memory verses and use them for their thankful journals as well. Or you can buy basic printing or cursive books on Amazon or often even at the Dollar Store. We also use handwriting books by Getty Dubay.
Phonics: We kind of use Sing Spell Read and Write. We use the CD of songs to memorize what sounds the letter makes but I found a little phonics jingle on Youtube.com that my younger kids love too (but be warned, I often find myself singing it as I go through my day). We also use the reading books but not the workbooks. I am a big fan of the research compiled by Raymond Moore, so I try to hold off teaching my kids how to read until they are eight (unless they teach themselves before). If you are interested in learning more about his research, try reading Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education.
History: We teach history using living books (and often Opa, army men, and Playmobil). Turning back the pages of time: An American history library book list has an amazing book list to read through on the different time periods of American history. This year, we will be studying the civil war. A friend told me about some books that her children love by Genevieve Foster, so we’ll also be reading through Abraham Lincoln’s World this year. I ordered all of her books on Rainbow Resource but Amazon sells them as well. Your Story hour and Lamplighter Theatre has great audio stories about history too.
Geography: Geography is always a fun subject. I usually pick a few states to study but we just got back from visiting Mexico and are planning a trip to Europe next summer so we’ll put our United States geography on hold and focus on studying the countries we will be visiting.
Here are some of our favorite resource books:Maps, Cantering the Country, Eat Your Way Through the USA,Galloping the Globe
Eat Your Way Around the World, Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World, National Geographic Student World Atlas
We also subscribe to World Magazine. For someone who tries to bury her head in the sand by not watching or listening to the news, this magazine is Christian-based and keeps our family informed with the happenings of the world. They also make a special magazine for both teens and kids.
Quiet Time: Yes this is a subject for us. It’s kind of like my recess and truth be told, I can’t teach without it. I’m an introvert and I need this alone time to fill-up to be able to make it through the rest of my day. During this time the kids are free to learn through play. They listen to audio stories such as Lamplighter or Your Story Hour and play games, read, draw, put puzzles together, play with Legos or Playmobil, or play ‘house’. Here they are allowed time to just ‘be’.
Art: I love art. There is so much to learn; art, music, poetry. We choose a couple of artists, musicians, and poets every year to study in depth. Our favorite authors for studying artists and musicians are Laurence Anholt and Opal Wheeler. Each year, I buy a few more of their books. I also order a few picture prints of the artists we will be covering as well.
For hymn study, I enjoy the books written by Joni Eareckson Tada. We use Spotify or Youtube.com to learn the songs well.
I also pay attention to the kids’ individual interests here. Instead of buying toys for Christmas and birthdays, consider buying tools or craft and art supplies. I have two boys who love to whittle (here’s a set) and make bow and arrows, headdresses and tomahawks from wood they find in the yard and some mason string. Another child loves to crochet, knit and sew, so this year I will have her be a part of the quilting ministry with the older ladies from our church who meet every Tuesday.
Math: I have to admit that teaching math is where I clam up. I’m scared of the curriculum I bought. It’s so overwhelming with all of it’s manipulatives and thingamabobs. So this year, I will either invite a friend over to help me with my Right Start Math program (the one that’s collecting dust and taking up valuable drawer space) or I will resell it. I’m done storing it. Most often with our younger kids, we squeeze math in when we teach money management, cook, garden, sew, play games or ‘store’, use tools for when building (wrenches are another good way to teach decimals, units, and fractions), use the accounting book when we sell the eggs from our chickens, or on a counting walk (we count in increments of twos, threes, fours, etc. while we walk, run, jump, skip). We will also be using a bit of Khan Academy. I interviewed a group of amazing homeschooled kids ahead of us on this journey and got the low-down on math curriculum. Their votes were Saxon Math, Life of Fred, and Teaching Texbooks so I am currently researching these.
Language: Read, read, and then read some more. We are learning English just from reading quality literature (right now we are reading through the Ann of Green Gables series which the five and seven-year-old aren’t quite a fan of yet) and I plan on teaching the kids Latin using Teach Yourself Beginner’s Latin and Sign Language. We’ll see how Latin goes. Grace. That’s all I have to say.
Science: Science is another one of our favorite subjects and I have exciting news! My friend owns a microscope company and she is willing to give us a discount. She has set up two different codes for anyone interested: $20 off any order of the F1D microscope (their most popular elementary student microscope and it includes a 3mp digital camera!) – use code Heidi20 or 10% off any online order – use code Heidi10. The codes are good until October 1, 2016. (don’t forget to order slides as well!)
I cannot begin to list all of the books we use here so I will list a few of our favorites: Natural Science Through the Seasons, The Way We Work, The New Way Things Work, Science In Your Own Backyard, Handbook of Nature Study, Farm Anatomy, Nature Anatomy, School of the Woods, The Backyard Birdsong Guide, field guides, anatomy coloring book and any books by Thornton W. Burgess, Sam Campbell, James Herriot, and Harry Baerg. We garden, nature journal, play games, go on hikes, do science experiments that we find on Pinterest and use nature activities from books by Joseph Cornell… I leave this subject pretty open. If we are having a thunderstorm (which is rare in So Cal), then we study about the weather and if we find snails outside, we make a snailery. I love leaving room here to be spontaneous.
I’m sometimes asked my thoughts on media. I wrestle with media, the fine line that it often brings. Marilyn Howshall has this to say, “Artificial learning often stems from external sources that entertain and stimulate the senses but do not promote real thinking. The child assumes a passive role and everything is done for him. He soon loses interest in real learning and develops an appetite for all kinds of passive, entertaining activity and media. When left alone without some form of entertainment with which to occupy his time, the child may have no sense of purpose. Boredom will be the sad result because he has never had to come up with his own thoughts, or to draw from within himself an interest or gift, or even to motivate himself to action! The result of allowing this pattern to continue will be a consumption mentality rather than the desired production mentality we want for our families” (The Science, Art, and Tools of Learning, p, 34, 35). Instead of using educational media, we try to incorporate more of an interactive, experience, project, and interest-based approach when possible. Please understand, I use media, it’s just not my favorite learning method. Last year while battling cancer, I used educational media as the ace up my sleeve. If you decide to use less media in your learning, be aware that in the beginning this might mean children are bored. That’s okay. Let them be bored. This will force them into finding something to do, discovering their interests, uncovering their talents, and pursuing their dreams.
Recess: More than anything, I encourage you to just ‘be’ with your child. Whether your kids go to school or are homeschooled, whether they are girls or boys, introverts or extroverts, big or little, whether you are rich or poor, time is a treasure, better than any gold. Play with them, work with them, read to them, laugh with them. You will never regret the time you spend with them. Both quality and quantity of time with your children is your greatest resource and one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children my friend.
I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with this resource and tools list. Say a prayer, take a deep breath, and take it one day at a time. You can do this! But if you need assurance or direction, if you’re homeschooling through a difficult time, or you are just feeling stagnant and looking for new ideas, my husband (a highschool science teacher) and I are now together setting time aside for offering consultations to any and all homeschoolers.
I will be sharing our favorite notebooking/nature journaling resources in the next post so this is it for today. Happy planning friends!