Monday, January 22, 2007

Our Homeschooling Year: The Big Picture

Although I haven't posted much about it this school year, we really are homeschooling! I know many readers would like to hear more about it. Bear with me while I do a little series this week, and then maybe at the end, you can ask me your still-burning questions. :)

This year I have an 8th grader (Blondechick14), 5th grader (Bantam 11), and a 2nd grader (Bantam7). (And a 9th grader in public school, and two pesky preschoolers, but who's counting?)

We're using a curriculum called Sonlight, for the first time, officially. I have wanted to do Sonlight long before this--and tried it once--but for various reasons I could never make it work in and around the other classes and co-ops we were involved in. But I pore over their extensive catalog every year. I always read and implement their children's literature suggestions and I usually purchase those titles when I see them at used curriculum sales, garage sales and through Scholastic and Trumpet book clubs.

This year I talked three other homeschool moms into co-opping and doing Sonlight's literature-based American History courses along with us. I'm teaching writing to the group, once a week; one of the other moms is teaching a weekly class too, alternating between science and history. (She also enjoys doing a preschool activity time during my writing class.) We're all in the same theater group, so we scheduled writing class just before drama class, and the science/history class just before a weekly rehearsal--making carpooling easy. The moms who don't teach help by watching the babies and picking up kids after drama class. Co-opping has been fun for the kids, and a sanity saver for the moms!

MJ, the energetic and creative mom who's teaching history and science, started out the history class by making salt-dough maps of the Thirteen Colonies, which took several weeks. Her hope was that that activity would "set the stage," geographically, for all the reading the kids would be doing this year. (I just asked my kids if they thought it had helped and they said yes, it had. Yippee!)

Next, they had a Mystery Guest; MJ dressed up (as Patrick Henry, but they didn't know that) and handed out questions for the class to ask her. They learned more about the Guest from each answer, until they finally figured out who "he" was. At subsequent classes, the kids will take turns being the Mystery Guest.

They're also spending part of each class time running a meeting using parliamentary procedure. They elected a president, v-p, secretary and treasurer, and the purpose of the meetings have been to discuss ways they could, working together, raise money for our planned year-end field trip to Boston! There is a another homeschooling family we know there--they went to our church until their move a year ago--and they're scoping out all the best American history sites for us to visit when we come.

For science, MJ is using Bite-Size Physics. Each lesson has lots of experiments and the kids--the 2nd to 5th graders--love it! In fact, they want science every week. (The two 8th graders in our group are doing Science daily, using Jay Wile's courses.)

I've blogged about my writing class here and here. I haven't integrated the Sonlight curriculum into my writing class as much I initially thought I would, but there's still been a big advantage to us all using the same curriculum. Since the kids get together twice a week, they're always comparing: "Where are you in Moccasin Trail?" "Aw, we haven't even started. But I finished Freedom Train..." "Oh, yeah, I have just a couple chapters left." It's motivating to be reading the same books--and no kid wants to get "behind." We moms keep each other on track too: "Just skip Moccasin Trail and read it next summer. Get started on Across Five Aprils--it's long!"

Add in piano lessons for the Bantams 7 & 11, voice lessons for Blondechick14, park district soccer and the speech, music, drama and P.E. (dance) they're getting from the theater group, and we're covering a lot of subjects this year without even cracking a book!

, we'll take a look at the daily delve into the core subjects.


A Voice said...

Thanks for this overview! It's very helpful to me. I and 4 other mother of young children (9 months to 5.5 years) just had a "talk about homeschooling" meeting yesterday. We are all friends who attend the same church. There are 3 other families that whould join us when not on the mission field. So all together we have quite a group (18 kids total so far). I would LOVE to have something like you are discribing with them. I think I'm going to make them all read your blog. :)

Cool Mama said...

Wow! You are one busy, and very creative lady! You even make ME want to homeschool!

Bss said...

I'm seriously thinking about studying American history next year with my dd11 and ds9. I'm trying to decide whether to stick with Winter Promise and use AS1 and AS2 or chosing Sonlight. Did you compare these two companies before making your decision? If you did, what were your thoughts?

Thank you!

At A Hen's Pace said...

I answered Bss's question at her blog...but for the record here, I'm unfamiliar with the curricula she mentioned.

Lostcheerio said...

Cool co-op. IT sounds like just enough competitive motivation to be friendly and fun. I think it's awesome when a group of moms can give up a little of their "we do it our way" so that their kids can have some community.

Honey said...

Oh you are living my dream come true for homeschool! My children are 2 and soon enough...

Was it hard forming all the logistics of making it flow well or are most of you very organized?

I like the idea of the end of the year field trip!