Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Curriculum Changes

Do you ever watch people swap curriculum and think they are nuts? I’m talking about people who change what they are using every time you turn around. I’ve always wondered why or how people can keep up with stuff like that.
Then, as is often the case, I got a dose of it myself. Our original school plans from the start of the year have pretty much gone out the window. Now, this might not seem like a big deal to most people, but it was a big deal to me. Why? Well, I had my eldest school career {does that term make you laugh as much as it makes Mr S laugh?} planned from his kindergarten year through until 7th grade or more! To have a wrench in the plans at 4th grade was a little unsettling.
Truthfully, while my son still enjoyed the quality of books we were reading in FIAR Vol. 4, he wasn’t enjoying the lessons as much as some of them were a bit below him. How is this possible? Seriously, it seems like yesterday we were working out way through his first phonics book or celebrating our first day ever of school.
Somehow, while I was sleeping he managed to grow up. Of course, I’m pretty sure it happened while I was awake and teaching him too, but the realization of it is settling in quite a lot around here lately. 
He’s old enough to have an opinion about what he learns and while there are base things he has no choice about, we like to be open with the things he does have a choice about. So, when he was less then enthused when I pulled out the third book of the year to use with him I accepted defeat and asked him what he’d really most especially love to learn about. 
“History is a vast subject.”
“That’s okay, I want to learn about all of it.”
He’s my kinda kid! I debated the many different ways we could learn history, but most of them consisted of me putting a lot of time and effort into making unit studies of lesson plans. Something I wasn’t convinced I could keep on top of, especially with the winter rains creeping ever closer and knowing they set off migraines far too often for me.
It left us hobbling along and me in utter confusion over the situation. Once I finally accepted the fact that I was going to have to break down and buy a new curriculum [gasp] [horror] things got a little easier. Until I realized that curriculum choices were kinda like history, there was a vast amount of them out there to chose from!
We scoured a lot of them and weighed the pros and cons of them. I made many choices thinking I was pretty firm with my choice{s}, but always had this lingering doubt about each one in the back of my head. The closest I came was a finger click away from purchasing SonLight Core 4. I had my doubts about a couple of the books used in that, and the lack of hands on activities, but I felt it was the best of what I had to chose from.
That was until I stumbled across Winter Promise. Wow, that curriculum is amazing stuff. I’ve told Mr S about a million times that if Homeschool In The Woods made a curriculum all their own I’d buy it in a flash. Well, they don’t, but in a way they’ve teamed up with Winter Promise and their Time Traveler packs are meant to be used in conjunction with the lessons from the Winter’s Promise curriculum. 
I spent three solid days scouring that website and debating things out. I was worried that if I picked one pack with Morgan in mind and decided to keep Jayden in tow he’d feel a little left behind with things over his head. I worried that if I kept that thought in mind and went with a lower level I’d be in the same spot I am now and have spent a good deal more money.
As it turns out Winter Promise has really taken those exact thoughts into consideration with their product. They tell you how you can make those products work for younger and older students. Or, you can use their All American Story 1 & All American Story 2 products. They are meant to run across a huge age range, and I can fully understand that.
The Time Traveler packs are awesome, and we’ve used one in the past and own a couple. There’s lots my kids did and a lot we chose to leave behind for when we come to the topic again or when they were a bit older! I was pleased with all the book selections, all though there is one book I’m worried might be over the boys heads. We’ll see, I often under estimate them.
My absolute favorite thing about this particular curriculum.. aside from the fact that it fits my son’s desires, my needs, the craftiness of my child{ren}, and on and on.. is that it also fits our homeschooling method/philosophy. Oh, and it’s only meant to be used 4 days a week. Which means we can spend the fifth day indulging in things like Nature Study, other Science, Art, and other such things.
Funny thing is, while revamping our core curriculum we decided to revamp a few other things. It’s probably a really good thing Mr S slept in on Saturday and I announced all of this to him while he was still half asleep. All though, honestly he was completely and utterly in favor of the entire idea. In fact, while I was making final choices he kept saying things like, “Are you sure yet? Have you decided completely?” So, needless to say Tuesday when I said, “Guess what I discovered..” there was plenty of room for groaning at the thought I’d changed my mind. For the record.. I’d only discovered the missing kite we’d been looking for over the past month.
So we’ve decided to add some more formal math lessons back into our schooling. We are not stopping our living math lessons, I don’t think the boys and I would go for that. I noticed, however, that both of my boys know a vast amount of things covering a huge age/grade span. In order to tie up some lose ends and help them be prepared {should they opt to go to public college and university} for text book work we’d go with something down that line. I’ve settled on Teaching Textbooks because I know it’s a course Jayden will really flourish with. It was really difficult picking a grade level for them though! I’m not kidding you. I sat there comparing them and I told Mr S that Morgan new 50 - 75% of the stuff on the 4th and 5th grade levels and he knew about a quarter of the stuff on the 6th grade level. The only thing he had issues with on the pretest I gave him was double digit multiplication, which isn’t something we’ve tackled yet. It’ll be interesting to see how he does with the curriculum.
Jayden requested more lessons on animals, and I was really disappointed to see that ZooBooks doesn’t do international subscriptions on their site. It would have been a fantastic gift for him and he would have loved it to pieces. So instead, we’ll be trying these fantastic Nature books as well as our lovely Nature Guide Book from Katie’s Cottage. I can’t wait to take our fall walk through the local arboretum. I can smell the leaves all ready!
However, we really love science in our home, and Morgan has really taken to experimenting with things around here on a big level. The contraptions I’ve found outside leave me between the whole “do I laugh or do I scream”, so I thought something with purposeful experiments would be well loved. Sonlight Science 4 is winning out at this point on that level.
Believe it or not I’m even debating some more formal English lessons for the guys. Nothing heavy though. I’m still narrowing that scope down but am heavily leaning towards English For The Thoughtful Child. We’ll see.. I’m not fully decided on that choice yet.
I must say it feels very strange and weird flipping through glossy websites {Mr S would like it to be known that he doesn’t feel all the websites I’ve viewed are glossy, and while he’s kept his tongue in check he’d be happy to barter on prices to fix up the less then desirable sites he saw me visiting.. He’s kinda a website snob, but we never hold it against him!} and choosing various bits of curriculum. I’ve only ever done this once, yes really once!, in our entire homeschooling history. You know, all 6 of those years. Go on laugh.. I don’t mind.
At the same time as it felt weird and was also a bittersweet time for me, I have to say I feel a huge amount of peace about our choices. I do! I’m excited for the kids and their new endeavors and I’m really excited about learning and creating and doing right along side them. History is something I equally adore, not to mention my huge passion for books.
In the mean time, while we await the arrival of all our lovely new things we’ll be reading through the Narnia series and using the ROAR! guide with it. I’ve added a little narration, crafts, and games in with it. So far we’re looking forward to building our own wardrobe to go inside, baking up a few Narnia recipes we found, and delving into great discussions about this amazing series of books. You’ve read them, right?


Heather said...

Big changes Kendra...will your younger one be traveling along in Winterpromise as well?

Kendra said...

Honestly, Heather.. I don't know. Chances are he'll want to tag along so we may just do oral FIAR lessons or simply enjoy the books as great go alongs with what we're all ready doing.

Be forewarned though, when curriculum shopping you have to be one tough cookie. People can be quite rotten about the curriculum choices the don't like, even if they've never used it and just presume it's a "wimpy" choice. That's hard to read when you really enjoyed the curriculum yourself.

Renelle said...

Hi Kendra,
I'm really excited about FIAR now just like you are about WP. When it came to TT we had the same dilemma. We nearly got TT5 but decided there was no rush and I didn't want him not liking it as it costs $120. We ended up choosing TT4 the easier option to build confidence again Carter is a couple of lessons off finishing disc 1 and has scored a minimum of 95% in the lessons. We mainly use the computer, but occasionally get out the C. rods and the book to work some things out. We still play games as well.
Thanks for all your thoughts on resources I find this is where I come if I'm looking for something these days, keep up the wonderful blog. Look after yourself. Blessings,. Renelle

Renelle said...

RE: TT.....I should add that I don't think it necessary to get the text, as the cd's are sufficient and you can write any working out in their own book. It's also still simple around these primary ages that you don't need the answer manual either, we don't use it at all.

Tracey said...

Kenda, you are making some big changes. You know, I think you could save your money and write your own curriculum. You have really good ideas.

I think you should do what you need to do. I have a friend who changes curriculum like most people change underwear. HAHA!

Good luck!

Kendra said...

Tracey.. Mr S agrees with you about me writing my own. I just don't feel up to the task right now. ;) I'm teetering on the edge of burn-out, thus why we're going with a boxed curriculum of sorts :)

Tracey said...

I know what ever you decide to do will be great!

Renelle said...

Hi Kendra,
You know you really do a good job of writing and planning your own resources, better than most I've seen and I think with all your experience with FIAR you will take some of it with you into your new adventure. It will be nice to have the guide already all done for you and then you have the option to do what is in it or add your own special touches (you won't be able to help yourself!) but at least you will have the OPTION. Each year is a new adventure. You do an awesome job regardless. Take care, Renelle

Edwena said...

The most important thing is that you have peace about it all. Oh, and that you get to spend more time with your dh. I'm excited for you. Oh, and I just received the Winter Promise catalog today. It's beautiful. I showed dh the chess stuff in there and we're seriously considering it.