The new “school” year is just around the corner. The brick and mortar stores are selling 17 cent spiral notebooks, homeschool vendors are offering deep discounts, and homeschool bloggers are all atwitter about what curriculum they are using this year.
I’m going to talk about that in a bit, but it doesn’t make sense to me to talk about the tools we’ll be using without first talking about what we’re planning to accomplish. Let’s talk about our family’s homeschool goals this year.
Our long-term goal is to raise independent thinkers with a love for learning. When our children graduate from our homeschool, we hope that they will be capable of independent thought, self-starters, and confident in their abilities, regardless of their chosen career or discipline. To that end, one of the things we work on with each child, as he or she matures, is taking responsibility for their education.
David will be entering 7th grade and so we are gradually easing him into planning his own schedule and owning his studies. With added responsibility will come some added freedom as well.
Mary, our rising 3rd grader, also continues to become a more independent learner and will have some work she tackles on her own this year.
Peter, our very young 2nd grader, still needs a lot of one-on-one and group work for his studies. His lessons will continue to be short and hands-on.
Emma, our resident 3-year-old adventurer, needs some guided activities and some one-on-one attention throughout the day---we’ll be working on getting her to partner up with her older siblings throughout the day.
We are also working on instilling a stronger work ethic this year. One of our really big struggles around here is getting everybody to do the things they don’t really like to do. And I do mean everybody (including myself). We need to learn to improve our attitudes and work on training the kiddos in daily household chores, organization, maintaining their own space, and so on, not just doing their schoolwork.
We also need to work on our personal relationships with each other. Lately, everybody is rubbing everybody the wrong way---have you ever had one of those summers? Not having the daily academic tasks to tend to has really highlighted for me where we are lacking in how we relate to one another. And I’ve been doing some reading. It turns out that some of us just have very different ways of interacting with the world, which is causing some natural friction. We need a little course in understanding and acceptance. It’s funny how sometimes we’re so eager to accept near strangers as they are, but we can be so hard on those nearest and dearest to us.
There are academic goals, too. I’m learning, slowly (I’m a little slow sometimes) that in terms of overall quality of life, academics amount to just a small part of what we are teaching our children. Even many of the skills that we associate with academics are not strictly academic skills. Mental agility, organization, study skills, logic, reading, and more all fit into life in general and can be learned through living. But, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll pigeonhole the “subjects” we study under academics.
Math- I’m over my math obsession. I’ve discovered, through all the careful study David has done over the past year (including the summer), that he’s right where he needs to be in math and that, yes, he is capable of higher math will get there in his own time. He will probably be doing Algebra in High School, but that’s ok, his foundation will be strong. He has caught up nearly to grade level (I actually looked at some 7th grade level math texts that he could do easily---I had not realized what a wide range there was in terms of difficulty from one math curriculum to another, oy!), but we are putting him into a 6th grade text in a more challenging program. What grade it is “called” isn’t the point, it’s finding the right level where he is challenged by not discouraged.
Mary will continue on at her current level (3rd grade) and Peter will continue on with a more hands-on, more colorful, cuter approach (because that’s what he needs for his maturity level) at just slightly below grade level (but in an advanced program).
Language Arts- David will be concentrating on organizing his thoughts and writing short papers and essays. He’s already a very talented writer, he just needs a little more direction when it comes to organization.
Mary needs help in spelling, and punctuation. She’ll also be working on dictionary skills. Mary has a very precise temperament and a need to know the exact meaning of words when she encounters them in her reading, so learning to look things up will be a blessing to her. When it comes to spelling, we’ve learned that learning the rules or learning to see patterns is not enough for her, so we’ll be using a program that uses both of these approaches together.
Peter will continue to work on his independent reading and on spelling. He needs an approach that emphasizes the phonetic rules.
Science- We’ll be encouraging David to spread his wings a bit in science. This is one area where he has a lot of interests, so his science curriculum is actually going to be tailored to those interests. Rather than studying earth science, life science, or physical science, he will be studying a bit of each. This will, hopefully, help in achieving our main long-term goal.
Mary and Peter will be working together with a year long science curriculum. In the past, their science has been pretty informal, but I think doing a more formal study might give them practice working as a team (and help with our bigger goal of better relationships).
Social Studies- The past couple of years our studies in this area have not been organized as they could be, so a goal for Mom this year was to use something that is already laid out and to have all the necessary resources on hand. Being ever the tinkerer, though, I will be adding things to the original study to round it out and make it suitable for all our kiddos. Our study will center heavily on literature and read-alouds, again, to support our goal of strengthening family relationships. But our oldest will have some additional work to help him continue to become a more independent learner.
The Arts- All of the children have expressed a desire to improve their drawing skills, so our focus for art skills will be on drawing (each child will be working at their own level). We will also be doing bigger art projects to coincide with our social studies curriculum and exploring art in other cultures for art appreciation.
For music, we will be doing (finally!) a composer study, studying a different composer each month. I would also like to do more with learning music, but we may postpone that---sometimes I plan too much for one year (do you have that problem?). It might be fun to get started with a musical instrument next summer.
In the past, I’ve had a real problem with actually getting much art and music done due to scheduling---it always seemed to be put off to the last minute and then we would be behind in something else, and well…you know how it goes. Art is getting special attention this year. At some point I want to write a post about how I’m changing my scheduling this year and I’ll get into how we’re going to make sure it gets done.
Electives- Our kids have all kinds of interests, and as we believe that each and every one of us is an individual, we feel that each person’s education should be individualized. And not just in the typical academic subjects according to ability. I’m talking true customization here, which fits into our goal for independent learners. So, the older kiddos will be adding electives this year. It’s important that we show them that what is important to them is important to us. And, yes, it does warrant using “school” time.
What are your goals for your kids this year?