Sunday, July 20, 2014

Which sequence do I want to follow to teach history?! And to combine, or not combine kids?!!

Oh my word, there are as many ways to approach teaching history as there are dandelions in my yard.

My head is spinning. I've tackled the phonics curriculum and math curriculum decisions for right now and I guess I'll move on to thinking about history. I have time to read and think it over.

Some people take a classical 4-year cycle: ancients, medieval, renaissance/early modern, modern-present. You'd do a year for each time period and cycle through it three times over the course of the 1st-12th grade span. You go deeper each time.

Or you could do a six-year cycle.

Then there's the school of thought that the little kids don't need to deal with ancient history from the get-go. Do a sweep of world history perhaps, but focus on the modern-present era, namely American history while they are little.

BUT if I did a bunch of American and more modern history and then jumped back to ancients when Johnny was 4th or 5th grade, then my baby would then be starting out with the ancients.

That brings me to the question of whether to keep all children in your family studying the same time period, or put them on their own cycle?

Because yeah, if you're keeping them all together then what will that look like for child #2 and child #3?!

It's all well and good for the firstborn. I guess the second kid will jump in at the middle ages or something, but in theory hear some of the earlier stuff if they are in the room for read-alouds and discussions.

I made a chart of when my kids will all start their more formal learning. I based it on the local cutoff dates for K (must be age 5 by like August something). I also think I'd like them to be 18 at graduation, rather than 17. I was 17, but turned 18 a few weeks later which was fine. My December X2 and late September babies will have their birthdays mid-year or toward the beginning of the year.

So again, the grade label is pretty much for social purposes. Academics are done on a per-child level.

I color-coded the 4-year spans pretending we'll do a classical history cycle and starting over again with each color, to see how that might look.

So no pretty matchup, here. Johnny is 2 grade levels ahead of Vivie, and Vivie is 3 ahead of Amelia. Johnny is 5 grades ahead of Amelia.

If I wanna combine some kids, it would be easiest to combine either Johnny and Viv, or Viv and Millie, rather than trying to combine all 3.

Or, I could have Amelia join Johnny's cycle in kindergarten, and slide my little color-coded thing back a level. Then change up her focus in high school since she'll be by herself for 3 years (maybe she could do her 4 years of high school credits starting in 8th, and then pick her favorite periods to go in-depth in 12th?).

I think I prefer that vs. sliding Amelia forward one notch.

To me, the 4-year cycle and going chronologically makes sense, except I do wonder about those first 4 years. Does it even matter to a child at that age? One of the drawbacks of this is the availability of literature for the ancients for the 1st grade set. Sure, there are books like Usborne or Eyewitness varieties. But literature? Meh.

Plus, you have to consider the opportunity cost. If I'm doing ancients in 1st and medieval in 2nd, there perhaps won't be enough time to do some of the wonderful, age-appropriate read-alouds from the modern-present era. Or perhaps it will just need to be more limited. Can't do it all. Know what I mean? By following one path, I can't take another at the same time.

I could try to combine until the child hits 8th grade, and then have them do their own thing for high school. Yeah I think that makes sense. High school is a whole 'nother thing.

When I think back to my own education, I know we did state history in 4th grade. I cannot remember anything else from elementary "social studies." Probably American history, and I have no idea if world history was involved in any way. (Maybe it doesn't actually matter that much? The eras studied in elementary?) In middle school, it was "social studies" for 6th and 7th, and then 8th grade was "U.S. History."

In high school, I did world geography, a year of U.S. history, and a semester focusing on WW2 because I liked the teacher so much. I wanted to take world history, but the teacher who taught that class was pretty bad (I had him for something else) so I opted out.

(I took a break here and pulled up some pages from my old middle and high school, as well as Indiana state standards to see what I might have been taught).

....ok. So, I think no matter what I put together, it's going to be ok.

Anyway. There are a lot of ways to approach the sequence, and there are a lot of ways to approach how you even teach it in the first place.

Rather than try to answer the question, "what is the best way to teach history?" I'm going to look at "what is the best way for ME to teach history to MY kids."

I'm going to explore some ways to handle this with my 3 kids and I will report back.

I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on any of this.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Geopuzzles are awesome for geography and puzzles and yaaaaaay!

Ever since I saw a picture of Geopuzzles in a homeschool stuff catalog a few years ago, I knew that eventually we would own them. What's not to love? Puzzles for geography!

These puzzles have a few typical jigsaw-style pieces on sections like oceans, but for countries, states, etc., they are shaped like that state. Of course, teeny-tiny New England states are lumped together and there are indeed a few smaller countries that are a part of another piece, but for the most part they are their own little shape.

These are like cardboard with a special coating on them. Matte. I'm not sure what it is, but it seems reasonably durable for children who can handle things with care. The box says ages 4+. For Johnny, I think he would have been overwhelmed at that age.

He did the United States and Canada puzzle first. He just did his thing, and then I added a piece. He asked if I would just let him do it. Well, ok then.

Then, he asked if he could do Africa. Sure, why not?

He was so proud! I asked him to find a few states and we left it at that. I showed him where Egypt was on the Africa map. The end. Plenty of time to learn more place names and such.

It looks like Geopuzzles has repackaged their offerings to a new bundle. You can buy all 6 puzzles from Rainbow Resource for $46.25. That is a STEAL. But. I was able to snag a bargain (damaged) version for $33. Ha! I knew that meant the box would be damaged but Idoncare.

Sure enough, the box was torn and squashed on the end but it mattered not. All of the puzzles came in their own bag, and it included a zip-top bag to store them. It also had 3 double-sided pictures of what the maps are supposed to look like when completed.

I cut out the picture on the damaged box to also include in each storage bag. I am storing all the bags in a canvas cube that we had.

I do think the 6 puzzle set is worth it, because it's definitely cheaper and less to store. If you buy each puzzle separately, they are $12.95 ($77 for all 6/nope!).

I plan to put these puzzles in our educational toy loop (more on that topic to come). Or if we don't have much going on and he wants to do a puzzle, then yep, that's ok.

We've had these for a few weeks now and he pulls them out of the closet fairly frequently. I have noticed some pieces have slight "stress factures" especially where there is a narrow part. We will have to be careful.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thoughts and goals for my son's kindergarten year

Note: This post got stuck as a draft. I wrote this at the beginning of June. Wanted to publish.

I'm going to follow the public school cutoff and general calendar for assigning grade levels for my children. It has nothing to do with the level of curriculum they are using; it's just to keep things easier for when folks ask, "What grade are you in?" or for outside activities and such.

Anyway, kindergarten. Let's talk about it.

Philosophically, I am leaning Charlotte Mason. I appreciate her gentle approach, short lessons, encouraging exploration in the outdoors, fine arts appreciation, narration and dictation and so on. She would have formal schooling begin at 1st grade or age 6, and I've jumped ahead since I am overeager with my firstborn.

I've been devouring pages and posts at and I think I may try to piece together our full program using their model.

Here's some big-picture goals that I'd like to accomplish for my son's kindergarten experience:
  • Fun. If no fun, no doing. It's kindergarten. The unfun schooling can come later. :)
  • Field trips! Museums, historical sites, whatever. I feel like this is a wonderful age to get out and explore as a family. 
  • Phonics: Phonics instruction will continue to be my primary focus. 
  • Writing: I will increase the frequency in handwriting instruction and practice to emphasize proper letter formation, spacing and scale. 
  • Math: We will also begin a math program to start laying a solid mathy foundation.
  • Read-alouds. There are so many wonderful books and such limited time! I'm happy my kids enjoy listening to books. We still do plenty of picture books and are adding longer stories with fewer pictures, too. Also, some audio books.
  • Bible: hymns, memory verses, stories, catechism 

Just submitted my application to join HSLDA (and a free gift with membership!)

Even though Indiana is a homeschool-friendly state, and even though my son is only 5 and the law doesn't require me to start his official schooling yet, I wanted to join HSLDA this year.

Why? Well the Home School Legal Defense Association has done a LOT to advocate for homeschoolers. Legally, legislatively, all about it here.

If a member family were to run into legal trouble regarding homeschooling, the HSLDA would be there to represent them for no charge beyond the membership dues.

Friendly as Indiana may be, I have seen Hoosier parents run into trouble from overreaching public school administrators. It's a bit concerning.

So I'm happy to put part of my homeschool budget toward a HSLDA membership. The money helps support a cause I believe in.

The bargain-lover in me wants to share this:

As a (free!) member of my state's homeschooling association, I was able to get a discount pricing for HSLDA membership. You can, too.

ALSO, if you join for a 2-year or 5-year membership, you can get a free gift. There are a few options from which to choose.

I chose the "Adventures in American History" from Adventures in Odyssey. It's 8 hours of CD stories. Woo! Retail value of $49 for non-members. This appears to be an exclusive HSLDA compilation, but I could be wrong on that.

Either way, I have been looking for more audio stories to enjoy in the van and I'm excited! I think I vaguely remember some Adventures in Odyssey programs from the radio from when I was little, but I could be mis-remembering.