Friday, May 25, 2007

Our Homeschool Journey

Since a friend requested it, this is a look at our homeschooling adventure.

To begin with, as do most homeschoolers I know, we started the education of our children long before public education traditionally begins. We began reading to them when I was carrying them in the womb. We also played classical or sacred music constantly in our home. Once they were born, we sang the Dr. Seuss ABC book (to the tune of Twinkle) before every nap and at night before we left the room and said goodnight. As a result, both girls knew their alphabet and phonic sounds early and therefore, read early.

They watched no TV and only a little video in their toddler years. We have always limited entertainment video watching. One rule we've tried to keep is to never watch a classic book on video until we've read it. That has paid off! I love to hear my girls say, "Oh, the book is much better than the movie!" We did have an old phonics/math video, a TV program from the 1960's. My oldest started watching this when she was about 2. She LOVED it! She would sit, literally by the hour some days, and do "school" with Miss Allison and Alfred. She started printing her letters, learned basic addition and subtraction, and never got tired of that video, even after she was doing A Beka video K5 and higher. She would go back to it ever so often, just doing some of the assignments or playing school; she would teach her little sister, as long as Chelle would put up with it. ; )

Once we were nearing kindergarten age, I was scared, not sure about my ability, overwhelmed with all the philosophies of education I had read and heard about; I felt the need to start out with (what I thought of at the time to be) “professional” help. So, we switched to A Beka K5 VIDEO school. It gave my girls an invaluable fact-based beginning, and built my confidence as I watched “professional” teachers. We loved that A Beka taught cursive writing immediately. The girls memorized and memorized and memorized: poetry, phonics rules and sounds, math facts, history facts, geography facts, science facts. An added benefit, which I hadn’t considered, was that Little Sister watched many lessons with Big Sis and began reading at age 3! She would sit silently playing on the floor near her big-sis and take in far more than I ever dreamed.

Either the A Beka video or their books without video are a wonderfully sound education, even if you use only them for 12 years. There is much reinforcement and review and a high level of expectation. Many students have continued on to college, and done exceedingly well, after an A Beka education. The educational approach and curriculum we end up choosing does depend on our goals. That is hard to know when we first begin, but it gets clearer as time passes and we see our children’s areas of talent and interest. I believe that A Beka (primary grades) gave us a solid foundation for traditional school format as well as for what I call semi-classical format. If I had more children, I might have continued all through high school with A Beka. However, only having two, freed me up to venture more into this semi-classical approach during the Logic Stage--the middle school years. With the foundation of A Beka, my girls have become self-learners in many ways. They read and learn even when the “book work” is done. They have developed a life-style of constantly learning, and they don’t even realize it. It's a way of life. Being self-motivated learners has made the transition into the Classical approach easier for me. With many subjects, we study, read, write, etc. on our own and then come together to discuss, share, analyze, read something together, study a particular topic together. Of course, I am still checking Math papers for my 6th grader as well as English and other types of fact-based work. We have nearly every scheduled course finished for this year, and yet because I want them to have a deeper understanding of poetry, we’re doing a course on that from IEW. We just read the text together, work through the questions alone, and then come back together to discuss and share. We only have to do it a few days every other week to get through it this summer.
As I reflect on the whole concept of being a self-learner, I do realize one thing with regard to the high school courses my eldest has completed this year. She is able to take words off the page, or lessons from a video teacher and very easily comprehend them. I seldom have to explain (Algebra, Logic, or Science) concepts to her. The Video-Text Algebra author/teacher is always available to contact, as well as the Apologia Science author/instructor, but we haven't needed that. I may be much more involved once my younger child gets to the more advanced subjects. She has a different style of learning.

Here is a list of resources we have used to this point.

K5 A Beka video (one of the best teachers on their DVD)
1st A Beka video
2nd A Beka books
3rd A Beka books
4th A Beka DVD (the VERY best year of DVD from A Beka K-6)
5th A Beka DVD
6th A Beka DVD and Mavis Beacon typing CD
A Beka books for English and Math
Apologia 7th grade Science
Douglas Wilson, Introductory Logic
Prima Latina, Memoria Press
Sonlight, Chronological History and literature
IEW writing
French, one semester of Rosetta Stone CD
Henle Latin- Memoria Press
Videotext Algebra (first half-Algebra I)
Apologia 8th grade Science
Traditional Logic by Martin Cochran, Memoria Press
IEW resources for writing and literature (Teaching the Classics DVD)
she read 3 Jane Austen books, 2 Dickens books, 2 Christmas Carol Kaufman books,
BenHur, 4 Tolkein, 1 C.S. Lewis
Streams of Civilization I, history-Christian Liberty Press
Home-Ec course, Christian Light
Middle School Advantage CDs for health, English and several other subjects
(these are available on Amazon very cheaply after each year's version comes out)

K5 A Beka DVD
1st A Beka books
2nd A Beka DVD
3rd A Beka DVD
4th A Beka DVD
7th grade A Beka Math, then back to 6th A Beka math.
(I had read that there was so much review in 7th grade A Beka math, so I tried to put the girls together for math. Rachelle did well for 40 lessons, and then was getting frustrated with percents and profit and loss in business, so I immediately backed up with her. The beauty of homeschool)
We also did the Quarter Mile math CD some that year.
French, one semester of Rosetta Stone CD
A Beka Science
A Beka Language
A Beka reading
Sonlight history and literature
IEW writing resources
Prima Latina
A Beka math (finished up 6th grade)
Latina Christiana I
Sonlight history
IEW writing resources
Literature, classics and the IEW Teaching the Classics DVD
A Beka Science
Test Prep English
Middle School Advantage CDs of various subjects

I often supplement with things I find at homeschool conventions or in catalogs: CBD, Veritas Press, Memoria Press, Cannon Press, Vision Forum, etc. The girls have read most of the McGuffy readers, the Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers. They’ve done Test Prep books from Sam’s several different years. They've done books from the Critical Thinking Company. They’ve read lots and lots of classics: Wilder, Montgomery, Alcott, Austin, Dickens, Porter, C. S. Lewis, Tolkein, L’Engle, not to mention a vast amount of Newberry award children’s classics and the like on easier levels. We have watched all the Moody Science Videos, AIG & CRI DVD's and many other educational videos, as well as educational CD’s. They’ve listened, by the hour, to audio books, Story Hour tapes, States and Capitals songs, Life Science terminology-music tapes, Suasan Wise Bauer's Story of the World, Shapespeare and a variety of other stories told by Jim Weiss, on and on the list goes.

I’m very grateful that we are blessed with abundant resources for learning. As home educators and Americans, we are so blessed with materials, technology of all sorts from which to learn, and freedom to learn at home. I thank God every day for the privilege to learn with my girls at home. This journey of home educating my girls has been the best decision I ever made outside of trusting Jesus (to be whom He said He was) and marrying my best friend. It is a full time job, but I have learned so much myself, and I have had the joy of sharing every moment of every day with the two precious souls God entrusted to my care for a very short season. I thank Him.

I have read innumerable books on home education and educational philosophy through the years. I have a wide variety of them in my own library. If you have any questions about something you’ve heard, read, or seen, I’ll gladly try to share what I know. Sometimes I feel like my brain has been so filled with information, I cannot sort it all. I am trying to read less about new ideas and sort what I’ve already studied. : ( As a result, I’m not going to conventions much now, other than going to pick up books I already know I need. I’ve pretty much designed the girls’ High School basics, leaving room for them to choose electives. We very well may use some single A Beka video courses still in the future. Especially, LaRae loves them. She learns well with that format. My one reservation is that they are time consuming, due to the fact that it is a classroom situation, and at times you have to “wait” while other students answer questions, unless you fast forward. If you have a multi-tasking student, that doesn’t necessarily adversely affect them though. LaRae has (in the past) been listening to the teacher, knitting or drawing, looking out the window, while rocking in a child’s pumpkin seat. I would turn off the video and quiz her on what she had just listened to. She would recite the facts like a computer, and I would stand there amazed. I could never learn with that many things going on! In order to “get something,” I have to go to the front porch, read aloud, re-read aloud, think about it for a while, write down in my own words what I read, and finally, tell someone else what I learned. We’re all unique, aren’t we?
Hope this helps someone, inspires someone, encourages someone. Feel free to ask me about specific items I've mentioned.