Drooled a little in the aisle at Walmart the other day. The binders were what got me. Black, with purple butterflies. And turquoise. My resolve to buy only from my list weakened considerably.
I’m not the only mum who gets a little giddy over shopping for school supplies. As an artist, I thrill to the scent of pencil shavings, and my fingers love to wander the smooth surface of a blank sheet of paper. And pens! Don’t even get me started.
So I’m going to let a little secret slip; I homeschool for the shopping. Pulling out a shopping cart loaded with pencils and binders isn’t enough when there’s an option to take it a step further and buy an entire curriculum or three.
Shopping aside, I’m a frugal home educator. We use as our primary curriculum a program called Sonlight which is heavily literature-based. The books we read together can be read over and over again and are a permanent part of our family library. I love that books that I read in my free time (this year’s line up includes such gems as Sarah, Plain and Tall; Johnny Tremain; and The Witch of Blackbird Pond) make history come alive for my daughters in third and fourth grade, and my son’s first grade Science is full of Magic School Bus fun and science Berenstain Bear-style. Extra money in my budget goes for books, every time. Classics that will be read and loved for years to come.
British Columbia is generous with home schoolers and my budget doesn’t go only to books but to CD’s and games, physical fitness (we are planning to swim, cross country ski and learn circus skills this school year) and music and drama. I really value the opportunity we have to do these “school activities” as a family. While most families participate in sports and other activities together, I like that our time spent as a family isn’t competing with time spent in school.
This year I’m changing a few of my teaching tactics, with the support of the teachers who “supervise” our family’s homeschooling year. (I am enrolled with a Distributed Learning school and report to teachers who file report cards and make sure my kids are where they ought to be academically.)
Math: All three children will be continuing using Math U See for their math curriculum. We were very happy with it last year and my oldest girl who was struggling with math excelled under the program. My son is starting grade one and is very resistant to working on paper at this point, so he’ll be learning most of the concepts using manipulatives, saving his workbook time for things like writing. I expect that this hands-on method will give him a really good grasp of the concepts, and he won’t miss a thing.
Language Arts: With the exception of continuing to use Sequential Spelling two or three times a week, I haven’t purchased a Language Arts curriculum for the girls. They finished a very good Language Arts program last year and this year our focus will be on writing, using Rock and Roll Literacy as our guide. What is needed most for them is confidence, interest and practice. Mr. Grade 1 will be using Explode the Code and reading daily from simple readers. Both girls are avid readers and will blaze through the readers for the year easily, I’m sure. Whether or not I’ll be able to talk anyone into writing a book report is anyone’s guess.
Science: Sonlight’s program for grades 3/4 is biology, taxonomy and anatomy, so we’ll be using those resources. I’m also going to try something a little adventurous; we discovered the Jonathan Park CD’s last year and these creation-based audio theatre adventures come with a study guide. We’ll be using the study guide to make the CD’s part of our science curriculum and since the kids love the CD’s and listen to them over and over again, they learn far more than they would from reading a science text once.
Bible: I love that Bible is part of our family’s education plan. Because we are not great at faithfully doing family devotions, working Bible into our curriculum ensures that we are studying to know what we believe and put into practice. This year we’re trying Apologia’s Who is God? program. I’ll let you know how we like it.
History: I learned a couple of years ago that it is very hard for me to follow a study guide when it comes to teaching my kids. Everyone is different, but for me it is very important that I feel I can be flexible, that I am not pressured to get everything done in a day, and that if something isn’t working, I can ditch it. We’ve been using The Story of the World to cover world history, and will be continuing that book, reading a little every day, and doing activities when they interest us. Last year I tried to pull out novels that corresponded to the time period we were reading about after we’d covered it in Story of the World, but this year I’m turning it backwards. If the kids are reading about medieval times in a novel, they will be much more engaged when we cover the facts a day or two later, is my theory.
I’m excited about the school year ahead. It’s getting easier in many ways. I enjoy the time I spend with my family, and my kids are turning out to be interesting, fun and basically normal human beings. And I’m getting a second education, one that I’m much more excited about this time around! Sure, I do have to juggle my life a little differently to make it all work – homeschooling adds another facet to my job description and my life can get VERY full, so I don’t recommend homeschooling unless you are seriously committed to the idea, but for us, it’s totally worth it.