As usual, I’m late to the party.
Simple Homeschool hosted the 2011 Curriculum Fair a few weeks ago, but I wasn’t quite ready to share what we were doing then. I figured now was better than never, though, so I’m sharing our curriculum plans for the 2011-2012 year today (although, in all honesty, we’re schooling through the summer, so this is really what we’re already doing now as well!).
Homeschooling looks different for every single family, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find two families doing it the exact same way. My goal for sharing our plans is not to give you an exact plan to follow, but I know I’ve had more than one lightbulb moment while reading through someone else’s plans, and I hope this post does the same for someone out there who’s still trying to figure out their own curriculum choices for the year!
Classical Conversations + Sonlight
I’ve mentioned before that we do a combination of Classical Conversations and Sonlight, adding a whole lot of our own spin along the way.
What I’ve realized over the last year, though, is that we really straddle the line between classical education and unschooling. If you know anything about educational philosophies, that probably sounds pretty funny, as classical education is notoriously rigorous, while unschooling is decidely…not.
However, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of each philosophy, and I think they balance each other out really well. When we’re schooling, we follow a classical philosophy, drilling memory work, approaching things through the trivium (grammar, dialectic and rhetorical stages) and focusing on education as a whole rather than individual subjects.
When we’re not homeschooling, which is a lot of the time since we only do school for a couple hours a day, we look a lot like a typical unschooling family. We encourage lots of free play and free art, and our kids — most notably our oldest — seek out as much information as they can about whatever their current passions are. We grow maple saplings and call it science, we listen to Story of the World and call it geography and history, and we count the money in their allowance jars and call it math.
I always thought that I’d want an out-of-the-box curriculum, but I’ve found that a combination of Sonlight and Classical Conversations, with plenty of unstructured learning thrown in, fits our family the best.
Subject by Subject
Although there are families who do nothing more than the Classical Conversations program as their curriculum, we’ve decided to supplement the program’s memory work with other curriculum.
- Classical Conversations itself is both a model and method that focuses on the 3 stages of the trivium. At the Foundations level (elementary age), we focus on memory work in 7 subjects (timeline, history, math, science, English grammar, Latin and geography) as well as fine arts. What I love most about this program is that our family will continue to study the same information in a three-year cycle. This means that our kids will be studying the same topics as each other at an age-appropriate level, which makes the idea of homeschooling all four of them in just a few short years a lot less stressful.
- Sonlight, on the other hand, is a literature-based program. We love books, and I always intended to use Sonlight as the basis of our homeschooling. Now that our focus is more classical, we’ll be using Sonlight as a complement to CC rather than the core of our curriculum. However, it aligns really well with the Classical Conversation cycles for the most part. There is no American History core for younger children, so this year we’ll just be reading a variety of books from the Pre-K and K cores, but I’ve mapped out pretty far in the future and we’re able to align them pretty well from this point forward.
- Although there is a weekly science project with Classical Conversations as well as science memory work, we will be using Sonlight Science at home as well, mostly because it’s a subject we all love, and the science projects are really fun.
- For math, we’re using Singapore. I’m still not 100% sure that it’s the best fit for us, but several people who use it have encouraged me to stick with it for a couple more years, and since I don’t feel strongly about any of the available math curriculums, we’re going to do just that.
- For reading, we use Explode the Code and the Sonlight I Can Read It! series. I love the ETC series, and my girls enjoy the stories and illustrations in I Can Read It!. I’m not yet sure whether we’ll continue to use Sonlight’s reader recommendations or put together our own, and because my oldest is a reluctant reader, we have some time before we need to make that decision.
- Language arts is the subject I’ve struggled the most with. To be honest, I don’t like Sonlight’s language arts program, but I recently discovered the language arts resources from Peace Hill Press, and we’ll be doing a mixture of First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease. I absolutely adore the simplicity and sweetness of both of these programs.
- Bible is another subject that we’ve struggled with. Because I don’t follow the Sonlight Instructor Guide, I haven’t had much success incorporating Bible into our daily work. However, Tsh from Simple Mom recently mentioned that she was using Telling God’s Story — from Peace Hill Press as well — and the description of the program really resonated with me. They were generous enough to send me a copy of the program to review, and I truly love it. As I was reading A Parent’s Guide to Teaching the Bible, so much of this approach really hit home. I love that we’ll be focusing on Jesus’ life in the first few years of our Bible study together, and at this point I plan to stick with this curriculum all the way through high school. I’m excited about what I’m going to learn along the way as well!
As in years past, I’ll be using a BusyBodyBook academic year calendar for both planning and recordkeeping. The weekly grid makes it really easy to plan by child and/or subject, and the planning space for each week is perfect for writing lists of the supplies we need, projects we’ll be doing and so on. (Test it out with this printable homeschool planner that Joan from BusyBodyBook and I collaborated on.)
So, that’s it in a nutshell (or not…) for our family. It seems like a lot on paper, but a lot of those subjects take just 10-15 minutes a day, so it’s not too hard to get them all in, and the unschooler in me doesn’t mind skipping over whatever doesn’t get done on certain days. We will be devoting more time to school once the new Classical Conversations year starts in late August. Our oldest, who is almost 7, really wants to be a Memory Master this year, which means memorizing every bit of information from the entire year. There’s no doubt she can do it, as long as we devote the time we need to our weekly memory work!
What about you? If you homeschool, have you made your curriculum plans for next year? What are your favorites?