Our Homeschool History
This will be our second year (2004) of a more formal course of education for our son. I say "more formal" because we have been homeschooling him for over three years now - since he was 2 1/2 years old. At 2 1/2, he devoured his pre-school curriculum in about six weeks. After a few weeks of recovery for mom, we dove into kindergarten just before he turned 3. Once again our son proved insatiable and finished the kindergarten curriculum in about eight weeks. I was both proud and petrified. Proud because, well, it looked like we had a genius on our hands. Petrified because, well, it looked like we had a genius on our hands!
One thing that was staggering to think about was the cost of curriculum. If our son was going to be breezing through subsequent courses we could never afford to buy full sets of curriculum, which can cost upwards of $400 for one year. So we finally decided to try a bit of unschooling mixed with the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. Unfortunately after about a year or so of this both our son and I were ready to call it quits. I knew deep in my heart of hearts that this was not an option for us - quitting, I mean. There was no way in the world that any school could meet the educational needs of our son - that coupled with his emotional needs would be too much for any teacher (some days it's too much for me!). So we took a little break and I did a little more research. Now here we are - The Living Waters Homeschool beginning our 2004/2005 school year!
We will be using the Weaver Curriculum. Weaver was designed for families with more than one child to school. Each of the five volumes (each volume covering at least one school year) contains the curriculum for grades K-6. We quickly realized that this is perfect for our situation - one child, multiple grade levels. We started Weaving two months or so before we took our summer break. I was amazed at the difference in our son's attitude toward school when we made the change. He's a hands-on kind of kid and this is a pretty hands-on sort of curriculum. He was happy. I was happy. Daddy was happy. Everyone was happy and life was good!
I'm assuming that we'll be Weaving for a while, but you never know where the twists and turns of homeschooling might take you.
Yes, we're still Weaving and I plan on doing so for quite some time. We've already purchased Volumes 3 & 4 (you have to take advantage of good deals when you come across them). And at the rate our son is going - about half the time suggested per unit - we'll be needing those volumes sooner rather than later.
This year (2005/06) is the first year that we've had to file paperwork with the state to let them know that we're officially homeschooling. Our son has a late birthday so he would be entering first grade this year if he attended public school. Even though our state doesn't require any sort of reporting or record keeping, I am going to start keeping more detailed records of our days. I've also just finished planning out the last four chapters of Volume 2, and I'm very excited about what we'll be covering in the weeks ahead!
You know, it really is funny how quickly things can change. When I reread where I wrote that you never know what twists and turns homeschooling may bring, I had to laugh because that's just what's happened here. In the last three weeks we decided first to switch our math curriculum, then our language arts curriculum. Then I started taking a good hard look at everything else and we've decided to swith it all! We're going with Alpha Omega's LifePac Curriculum. This past week I've been very pleased with the changes in our homeschool - and in our son. Neither of us are frustrated and stressed, which is a very, very good thing. Now, I'm not the kind of person who enjoys change, so I'm sure that I held on to our old curriculum longer than I probably should have. I also didn't want to make a decision rashly. But now that we've changed and I see the very positive effects of these changes, I'm happy that we've switched. I'm hoping that the new curriculum will serve us for a while, but now I know that change is something that is most likely in our future again. But when? That's what I'd like to know!
February 2006 Update
Since writing the above we have been through Weaver, moved on from there to Life Pacs and are currently using Switched On Schoolhouse. Weaver worked very well for us for almost two years. It gave me the flexibility that I needed to have with our son so that he wasn't bored. Bored for him is never a good thing. Unfortunately, he was going through the curriculum at about twice the speed as one usually would, so we were hitting the same subjects more often than normal. I still twitch every time I hear the words "water cycle" - four times in one year is more than enough for anybody. What amazed me when I realized that Weaver was no longer a good fit for us was the fact that something that seemed to be working so well suddenly didn't. So once again I began researching curriculum, trying to find a new good fit. What we decided on was Life Pacs from Alpha Omega. (This was the curriculum I was looking at when I first saw the Weaver curriculum.)
Initially I bought 3 of the Math units as the math program we had been using before that was driving my son crazy, and therefore was driving me crazy. I won't mention the program because it is a fine program, it just was at the opposite spectrum of our son's learning preferences. Anyway, our son seemed to really enjoy the Life Pacs, so I started buying units from the other subjects and before I knew it, we were a Life Pac family! But it didn't take long before I found myself facing a new problem. Our six year old was zipping through the third grade. Each Life Pac subject has ten units. Theoretically those ten units should take a child one school year to complete. Our son was moving through some of them as quickly as one unit a week. I was at my wit's end - too mentally exhausted to try to dream up extra work for him to slow him down. And I really didn't want to slow him down. If that was the pace at which he was learning that was fine. I just had to find something new - and quick! That's when I sent away for a demo disk of Switched On Schoolhouse (SOS), also by Alpha Omega.
When the disk arrived I was very pleasantly surprised. No, not by the curriculum, although I found it very impressive. I was surprised at the interest our son showed. I had him sit down with me at the computer so I could see if he might like to use SOS. I couldn't get him back off! He "played" with the demo all evening and begged me to let him play with it the next day as well. I knew we had a hit! The SOS curriculum is all on the computer, which is a perfect match for our son. About a month later we were making the switch to SOS and moved up to the fourth grade. One of the many things that I appreciate about SOS is that rather than guessing if we are doing too much or too little in a day, I can set the length of the term and the program schedules the daily lessons for me. Hallelujah!! There are also projects, activities and experiments built into the curriculum that I can keep or remove from the schedule. I can also add custom lessons if necessary. There are also video clips and games in the lessons, many of which are quite humorous and engaging. The best part is that our son loves it!
He's about half way through the fourth grade now. I have his summer/fall 2006 term mapped out - 5th grade with some fun extras thrown in. I often wonder what the future has in store, what with a seven year old going into the fifth grade. One thing's for sure - it won't be boring!
March 28, 2006
We've made one more switch, this time in math. We're now using Horizons, which is also from Alpha Omega. It uses the sprial approach to teaching math and so far seems to be a much better fit for our son.
August 23, 2006
Lots of changes again for this year. This year we're using a variety of curricula - Horizons Math, A Reason for Science, Spelling Workout, The Light & The Glory for Children (History & Geography), Handwriting Without Tears, Spectrum Language Arts, Walking Through the Jewish Year With Y'shua, Abeka's Health Safety & Manners, and Bible Lessons to Grow By. We're also using materials borrowed from the National Gallery of Art for art appreciation - they have a free lending library for educators. While I had planned on beginning September 5th, our son had other ideas and we started last Thursday. He was looking through his science book and got so excited he just didn't want to wait!
March 26, 2007
Well, it was no surprise to me that we finished up our curricula a good two months early. We've now begun something new - Beyond Five In A Row. BFIAR are unit studies based on children's books. The first one we're doing is a fictionalized biography of Neil Armstrong. We've been doing it for about two weeks now and things are going quite well. Our son is responding beautifully to the lack of structure this curriculum offers. It took a bit for me to get used to being more "go with the flow," but, truth be told, I'm really liking it! I'm still trying to learn what the best learning methods are for our son (something that I'll probably keep doing for a long, long time!). We're completely unschooling math at this point. I have ordered a kit from Zometools.com and our son is still playing math games on the computer, including chess and Lego logic games. This is a real stretch for me, but I can see that our son no longer looks at math as an evil entity. We've also been reading math story books from the library.