Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our curriculum

*Originally posted October 5, 2007

As I mentioned before, I had searched through MANY different curriculum choices... and the one that seemed perfect for our family is Charlotte Mason. She was a Christian Educator who inspired teachers to teach their children to "love learning for the sake of learning"... that way they will be "lifetime learners". Don't just "teach at them"... but teach them how to learn so that they will continue learning their whole life. She also stressed the importance of "living books"... not dumbed down "twaddle" or boring text-book facts to memorize that they will later forget. She teaches that the more beautiful language they read, they too will use beautiful language. The more wonderful stories they read with good morale, the more they will strive to adopt those same characteristics of their "hero" in the story. She focuses her curriculum on teaching them God's word and centering their lives around the love of God, the love of His world and His people. She teaches that education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life... she also stresses the motto "I am, I can, I ought, I will." It basically means:

I am . . . a child of God, a gift to my parents and my country. I'm a person of great value because God made me.

I can . . . do all things through Christ who strengthens me. God has made me able to do everything required of me.

I ought . . . to do my duty to obey God, to submit to my parents and everyone in authority over me, to be of service to others, and to keep myself healthy with proper food and rest so my body is ready to serve.

I will . . . resolve to keep a watch over my thoughts and choose what's right even if it's not what I want.

After reading many of her ideas and curriculum suggestions on Ambleside Online, we were totally sold on her method of schooling.

One thing I had figured out about Caroline is that she could memorize ANYTHING that was put in front of her. And, with her quick mind, she would not only catch on quickly, but she would master things immediately. With that ability also came the mindset that after she would take a test, quiz, etc... the information would no longer be needed. She was motivated by the competition of being the smartest kid in class, or the kid who aced the test, or the child who finished first... what she NEEDS to be motivated by is that she needs to learn for the sake of learning... for God's glory and for her sanctification process... and with Charlotte Mason's philosophy, our goal was to inspire Caroline to have a desire to learn more about Him, more about His world and a desire to be more like Christ... for His glory. Grades, competition, awards, etc. are all "self-focused"... what we want her to know is she needs to do work at everything with all her heart as working for the Lord, not for men (Col. 3:23). And we are so excited at the progress we've seen so far in her (and Ava) with this method of teaching! :) Caroline is 9 years old and in 5th grade (AO Year 4) and Ava is doing a "light" Kindergarten b/c she technically wouldn't be of age to do K yet ... but she's so ready academically that we're going ahead and doing reading, math and a few other subjects... while making sure it's a lot of fun! :)

So, here's an outline of what we do:

Every morning we start at 8:00 am with the Pledges (Christian flag, American flag, Texas flag, and Bible). We work on our Scripture memory every day (they already have 11 verses "hidden in their heart" and Caroline just finished the Beatitudes and Psalm 23... and Ava is learning the OT books of the Bible). Our focus in memorizing is for God’s glory… not to just to show-off what they know. (it's hard not to "brag" to the grandparents, though) We sing a Praise song... we Pray and then we do our daily Bible study. Currently, we have been going through a WONDERFUL bible study book by Doorposts called Polished Cornerstones. I have them draw what character lesson I am teaching which is good practice for their "note-taking" skills. Eventually I would like each of the girls to do a private devotional to teach them how to do a "quiet time" with God... but for now, this is how we start our day.

Next is Math. We use A-Beka with Caroline. She is truly gifted in Math... it is her favorite subject and comes very easily to her. Ava uses Right Start Math which I love because it teaches her "mental math" through a lot of games, hands on manipulatives, songs, abacus, etc.
Then we do our Poetry for the day (right now, we're going through Tennyson). Caroline reads aloud to us and sometimes makes up a tune to go with the poem.

Afterwards, Caroline does her Spelling with a book called Spelling Wisdom. It is a WONDERFUL book with very challenging words in it all wrapped up in beautiful poetry, excerpts from classic books, famous quotes, or bible verses. Some of my favorite words that she's worked on are: gregarious, scrutinize, languid, arithmetical. :) This is definitely a notch above what her school spelling words were. She not only learns how to spell the words, but I have her look up the definition, put it in her own words, use it in a sentence, and then picture it in her mind. Then, after 4 days of working on the words, she has a Dictation exercise she does which teaches her to be a good listener, a good writer and write her spelling words in context. It's been working out wonderfully.

We then do Copy work (which is like handwriting practice). Caroline copies from a cursive catechism book that I ordered on Lulu. She also does D'Nealian printing using George Washington's Rules of Civility. She does beautiful work and she's writing beautiful quotes... not redundant words over and over. She really likes it! Ava also works from a D'Nealian book and I'm trying to get her to write more with lower case letters; as of now, she mainly just uses upper case.

Ava has improved in her Reading AMAZINGLY in the last 6 weeks. We read books with Pathway Readers’s program and she does so well! She even has inflection in her voice as she reads instead of "monotonously sounding out words" It's been such a joy to see her flourish in reading! She asks several times a day, "Is ____ spelled like ____?" She has such a desire to improve in her reading and spelling and she LOVES it!

All of those "subjects" are the girl's every day work. After that, depending on what day it is, depends on what other subjects are studied. I'll attach my full schedule on here at some point when I figure out how to do it. :)

For Literature, we're reading Age of Fable, Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim’s Progress, Little House on the Prairie and are about to start The Secret Garden. Caroline LOVES to read and has such good inflection in her voice that she often reads aloud because it sounds so nice! :) I sometimes read to her to help her practice her listening skills, and other times I'll have her read quietly to teach her to work independently. After reading, she "narrates" back the story. I know she's understood what she's read if she's able to tell it back. Sometimes, she can draw what she's read, type what she's read or even write what she's read. We alternate narration methods to use all the skills. :)

We study History through This Country of Ours, Ben Franklin's biography called Poor Richard, and church history from Trial and Triumph. She gets so excited about history because she's reading about it from interesting tales using intelligent language... not simple bullet point facts from a textbook. It really makes history "come alive"! We also use a Timeline to record our event’s dates in which she really likes. :)

We study Science using Apologia's science material, "Exploring Creation with Astronomy". It's written from a creationism standpoint and refutes the world-view theories out there with great biblical evidence. They have wonderful pictures, fun experiments and tell the facts in a "story-type" manner that keeps the girls interested. It's a wonderful curriculum!

We study Geography using Explore His Earth... very much like Apologia in the creationism, projects, etc. The book is full of wonderful information and very God-glorifying. The girls get so excited when it's time to do Science and Geography!

We also get out once a week and do Nature Study. Charlotte teaches that we need to get the kids out of the house to show them what all God created so that they can love nature and appreciate His creation! The girls will draw and journal what they see on the nature study and they've even written several poems. Caroline's poems are always very literal being the "left brain" that she is... and Ava's are very artsy and symbolic being the "right brain" that she is. :) It's so precious to read their poems... I'll post a few on here soon.

Caroline studies Grammar using a book called Simply Grammar. She also reads Plutarch's lives and Shakespeare.

Fridays we do "Fine Art Friday" We study Latin with Cambridge Latin, study Art (this term is DaVinci), study a Composer (we're currently listening to Korsakov), learn a Hymn (and the verse and background that inspired the writer), and today we started learning American Folksongs (the girls were giggling at some of these). Caroline also does an Art curriculum called Artistic Pursuits. It has taught her a lot... she is a fantastic artist and I see her talents flourishing with this program. She also does Creative writing using a book called Story Starters. I see her writing abilities really improving in creativity and skill because of this book. She has so much fun writing the stories, too. Fine Art Fridays are really a fun day (although, I don't think the girls would say any day isn't fun in some right).

We end every day with Piano practice (the girls take from a wonderful teacher, Kurt Kunzat... I HIGHLY recommend him!) and afterwards the girls have free time to help with chores, work on the computer (Caroline does typing with Mavis Beacon), read or just play. When I tell you the girls absolutely LOVE homeschooling... I mean it!!! God has given them such a desire to learn more from His Word and about His world... and it's AWESOME being their teacher and to learn right beside them.

Ava's quote from this week was, "Please, don't stop teaching us school right now... I want to keep learning!!"

Caroline's quote from this week was, "Homeschooling is more challenging than school and WAY MORE FUN!!"

That's a summary of what we do and I'll journal more soon about more "God-stories" that are evident in our new homeschooling journey. It has been so fun and rewarding so far and I can't wait to write more about it! Have a blessed day! :)

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