Q: Could I ask one question of you? I know you have at least one older
kid–how much online-type curriculum do you do, or are you the primary
teacher? If you're using an online school/curriculum, which one(s) do
you like best?
A: I think
you'd say I'm the primary teacher of our kids (grades 1st, 4th, 6th,
8th), although to be honest, I'm learning right alongside them! I try
to seek out the "masters" of whatever we're studying. Instead of
learning from a textbook or a computer curriculum written by somebody
paid to write it, we want to learn from someone who is passionate about
the subject. The passionate "teacher" might be National Geographic or
Mythbusters as well as Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Amelia
Ambleside Online is the place I go when I want a laid-out list of what to study, especially for history and reading/literature books.
I don't follow the Ambleside levels, though, because it made me
crazy when I tried to teach 4 different levels at once. So we study just one level each year, together. And we veer off from
Ambleside a bit because of finances. If I can't find the book free
online (to read off my Kindle), or at the library, I look for an
alternative that's free, either through searching online for a good
book or by looking at a different Ambleside level.
For Math, we use Khan Academy, which is an online program. This month, I've been printing off the math drill sheets at Donna Young's site, since the kids need to work on speed.
it's Mythbusters and gathering all sorts of kits and supplies and
gadgets (rocketry, electronics, chemistry by baking, etc.). Science is
a natural around here — we're curious, experimenting folk.
The 8th grader needed to start Grammar (online program) this year. I felt like he was ready (but don't think it's needed in younger years).
Our 6th and 8th graders also needed some Current Events. I like Izzit for that.
the kids have the freedom of using any supplies they like when they
like. But this year, to give them some information on drawing basics,
we're using Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes.
Oh! I nearly forgot writing. For writing, we do a lot of
copywork (copying high quality literature from their reading books and
often the Bible). Dictation once a week (I read a passage; they write
it down. We then go over it together, discussing spelling and punctuation).
I find that it's best to learn spelling from words you're already using
or reading, instead of from spelling lists, so the above methods
(copywork, dictation) work well for us, but last year our
then-5th grader was having a hard time because she was
so-very-phonetic, that after reviewing All About Spelling, I started
using it for her (here's a post
on why). I have our 8th grader "teach" it to her (90% of what you
teach, you retain, so I've heard). It's made a difference, but
honestly, I think reading great books is making the biggest difference
We have friends who only do co-op classes, a friend who uses
a full computer curriculum, one that uses only Sonlight
(literature-based boxed curriculum), and ecletic friends like us. I
think we're all going to end up in about the same place. But you want
to enjoy the journey, so find what works best for your personality.
And, since you're a Christian, too, I'll add that a key for me is remembering not to rely on my own strength. People are continually saying to me, "I don't know how you do it!" But I'm not. Not by myself, that is.
Okay! You ask me a
little question, and I fill a page!! I hope that wasn't too
overwhelming; I can get carried away about education.
p.s. Listen to this sometime, if you can: Sir Ken Robinson speaks on education for TED Talks