Can't believe it's been over 6 months since I last posted. Maybe that's part of my problem, I really need to vent in order for me to think through to a solution. That's exactly what I did on Friday night as I vented to a friend of mine. I thought up a solution and she offered a suggestion to take my solution a step farther.
The Problem: Last year was our first year homeschooling. The boys were 5 and 2, K and just a toddler. We started the year off with many different Montessori lessons and made it through December with no textbooks at all. Then it happened. I began to wonder how I was comparing to public school teachers and where my son was in comparison to public school kids. I was frustrated that we were having such trouble with reading. All of his Montessori friends were reading the year before Kindergarten. He was half-way through and still unable to read more than a simple 3 letter word. I packed up the boys and jumped in the car one day over the Christmas break. We drove 1 hour to the nearest homeschool bookstore. Thankfully they have a play place for the kids because I was able to look through many textbooks and find what I thought I needed to make me feel better.
I bought a Horizons K Math book, the 2nd half only, and Book 1 of Explode the Code. My son did great with both of these. I added in math manipulatives, many of them Montessori materials, as they went with the lessons. I added sandpaper letters and the pink language kit as they went with ETC. Oh, I also bought Bob books, which we read as my son was able. Having these books helped to give me a little more direction in teaching him, which was great.
The summer hit and since these books were so helpful, I decided to look for other books to help me with first grade. I went to school to teacher pre-k. I had taught pre-k and also worked with toddlers. I had run a daycare center. I had substituted in older classrooms. I had only spent a little time in 1st grade rooms and knew NOTHING about teaching first grade. I felt like I needed those books to give me direction. I got 2nd grade Saxon math (my son was able to skip the first 25 lessons because already knew the material), 1st grade BJU reading, Bible, heritage studies and science. I stuck with ETC and a basic handwriting book, which we have used handwriting books for years, even while he was still in preschool at the Montessori school. We also got weekly sight word packets, weekly DOL packets, a spelling book, LA lifepac and a separate LA workbook. We have too much and haven't even started Bible or Science.
The year has been okay but I feel like we're getting behind. We can't seem to catch up. Elijah is bored with reading the chapters because much of it he already knows because we covered it last year just for fun. We would read about something in a story book and look up the information to get the whole truth. If the boys asked a question, we looked up the answer and studied it until we were satisfied that we had learned all that we wanted about the subject. This year it isn't quite so enjoyable at all. We took in a foster child in October which has made keeping house and doing school work a bit more difficult. He's still young so he naps in the middle of the day. All of this has combined to make our mornings full of house work and our afternoons full of school work. Most days we don't even make it outside to play or if we do, it's after 4. We still love homeschooling but it isn't as enjoyable anymore. Something has got to change.
I've heard lots about Charlotte Mason so when I saw a Charlotte Mason book available as a free download on B&N, I downloaded it to my Nook. I started reading it and then really felt like we needed a change. There's much about CM that I love based on the book that I'm reading but the curriculums that I've seen that are supposedly CM, are textbook based with projects thrown in. I am NOT a projects person. I don't like to preplan to make sure that I have supplies. I like manipulative type things, the occasional cooking lesson or art. If we're going to study birds, I don't want to make a bird mobile, I want to be outside watching the birds. I want to go to the library and check out some books about birds. I want to do bird puzzles, nomenclature cards, games, etc. I got to thinking that maybe I should step back into Montessori style and maybe add a little of Charlotte's ideas about nature to complete our curriculum. It worked for Kindergarten so why can't it work for the rest of the grades? I talked to some friends about it on Friday night and one of them reminded me of an amazing Montessori teacher that is a mutual friend of ours. She said I should talk to her for some ideas. One quick little comment on facebook and she agreed to come visit on tomorrow.
Now I'm so excited to see what she has to say. My son, now 7, is excited to talk to her about his schooling and hear what she has to say as well. I'm gathering up our science, social studies and bible curriculums to sell. We have a children's devotional book that we enjoy and haven't finished yet. We will use that this year and next I am going to use the CIA and Mission Friends literature to teach bible, missions and geography. It's actually meant to be used in church but I absolutely love the materials and my boys enjoyed it when we used it at our church. We've stopped using it at church now so they won't be getting it in both places. Adding the two together should give me plenty of pictures and information to make an entire month out of the content (both CIA and MF study the same missionary each month). Using both will also allow me to teach all 3 of the children on their level!
For science and social studies, we're going to see what my friend has to say and do those the Montessori way. For reading, we are going to continue sight words, ETC and the LA lifepac (which is still pretty much phonics) that I've already purchased. We're going to start the blue language kit and move into the green. We've stopped the BJU reading because we got to a point where he couldn't read and comprehend because he needs to go further in phonics. We're going to keep reading Bob books until he's ready to move forward in reading and then once we've finished the reading book, we're just going to read real books. We'll keep doing the spelling book too. We're going to stop handwriting and start doing copywork using our memory verse each week. As for DOL and that LA workbook I bought, well, we're going to wait on those until we've gotten better at reading. He just isn't ready for studying the parts of speech when he still can't read the instructions on those things on his own. Math is working great so we're sticking with that, maybe adding some Montessori lessons with it. In short, we're going to take what I have and stretch it out over a long period of time because some of it he just isn't ready for. We're cutting out science and ss textbooks now and will cut out reading once we have finished the curriculum we have. I will not be buying curriculum for next year!
He is ahead in math in comparison to public school but he's right on target for a Montessori school. In reading he's on target with a public school but behind in Montessori. I don't care though! I want him to be where he's ready to be, not where another school says he needs to be. I feel so much better about the rest of this school year now that I've realized what we need to do. I can't wait to see what my friend has to suggest for us tomorrow. She promised to get some things together for me this weekend and may even be bringing me her 6-9 yr old manuals to borrow. After talking with her, I may even decide to toss out several of the books I currently plan to keep using. All I know is that teaching my kids should be enjoyable for us all. It shouldn't be something that we have to stop life to do. School should be a part of our everyday life and should come naturally to us. We're going to go at our pace from here on out. I'm going to follow my kids and teach as they are ready to learn. Not learning isn't an option and as a teacher it is my job to at least peak their interests so that they are excited about learning something different and new. They need to learn research skills and a textbook doesn't teach that when it gives the information to you diluted. A test doesn't tell if you truly know the information but a conversation does. I want education to be our lifestyle, not something that is just kinda shoved into our day. A day in which you learn nothing new is a boring day!!!!