We will be starting our regular school year on August 9th. I am excited about getting things going in full swing again. While it is nice to take a summer break, the routine that our school time schedule gives us definitely has its advantages. The kids start getting bored toward the end of the summer. So, we are going to go ahead and start the school year a little earlier than usual and do a 4-day school week for the first month to help transition us back into the school life.
We have some exciting things planned for this upcoming year. One of the things that I am most looking forward to is our history curriculum. I have been looking for a history curriculum that I can use with both of my children so we are studying the same time period at the same time. I finally decided to try The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. It is a 4 volume history curriculum that reads much like a story. The fist volume that we will begin this year will cover the earliest nomads to the end of the Roman empire. I only purchased this first volume because I wanted to make sure it is something I like before investing in an entire curriculum.
There is a separate activity book with lesson plans, maps, ideas, worksheets, etc. as well as a test booklet and an audio CD set of each volume that is available for purchase as well. [I plan on purchasing the activity book (not the test book) for at least the first volume so that I have an idea what the full curriculum is like.] I purchased my textbook volume from EBay. I was able to get the hardback version for $11 plus shipping. I have found EBay to be a great place to find used curriculum at great prices. For those of you who are not comfortable with purchasing on EBay, another great place to purchase the books is Amazon.com. I noticed that there is a great discount on this series through them.
I am really excited about sharing these history lessons with my kids. Taking the time to make learning fun has been one of the biggest challenges that I have faced in my homeschooling experience. Coming from an education background (as a former elementary teacher), I have often found myself getting sidetracked with the "required" education instead of taking time to make the learning memorable and enjoyable for my children.
I was brought up in the traditional, classical school method. The idea of come to school, sit down, get your books, fill out your worksheets, get your grade, etc. was deeply set in my educational philosophy. However, I have found that this is not always the greatest method. In watching my children, I find that this leads to "school dread" and not to a great interest in learning.
Kids are supposed to hate school,right? Especially by 4th or 5th grade! Well the answer to that is two-fold. Yes, they should and probably do hate being forced to sit down for several hours a day and learn things that have no interest to them so they can fill out a sheet at the end or the lesson so that the teacher knows if they learned it or not! Interesting, eh? Of course, most kids will grow up hating school, and this is how most of us "learned." However, learning does not have to produce dread. That is where my change in philosophy comes in.
I was "schooled" for 13 years and then went to college and received an elementary education degree saying that I could go ahead and "school" the next generation of "learners." That is just what I did! I taught for 4 years before having my daughter and choosing to stay home to raise her. I had every intention of sending her to school as soon as I could so that I could go back to work teaching other kids. Of course, things changed over the course of her first 5 years, and we decided to put my "education" to work teaching my daughter at home.
I set up my home with a school room and had my daughter sitting at a desk at age 4 "learning" all the worksheets I could find. She was actually a very active learner and caught onto things very quickly. There were days that she was tired and did not want to "learn" any more sheets, and we would quit for the day. This method of learning went on for about 5 years, and in the mean time, I had a son who was also forced to endure this style of "learning." (I must admit that throughout this time they both became very good readers and did a good job in school, but that is where it stopped. They did not enjoy what they were doing!)
I wanted my children to "want to learn." There are so many things that I look back on now that I should have learned in school, but I did not. When I was in school, I memorized facts to get by with a good grade on a test. However, that is all they were...facts. I did not learn anything; I just memorized it for the moment. I did not care about my learning, why? School was a place you were forced to go to, to learn things that did not interest you, so you could graduate and get on with a life that had nothing to do with your earlier learning! That about sums it up! I can't say I hated school because it was a place that I could succeed at, but I can say that my learning was not retention learning but rather a "needed for the moment" learning experience. I decided that I didn't want to waste the first 18 years of my children's lives with this type of learning. That is why I knew I had to change.
We began and are still focusing on experiencing our learning and not just memorizing facts. I must say that this is a lot more work on me than just getting a pre-designed textbook/curriculum that tells me what to do day by day. But, I know that my children and I will enjoy our education a lot more when it is seen as having a purpose in our lives. Even after 2 years of this "change" in my teaching philosophy, I still have moments of relapse, but I can quickly see the difference in my children's love of learning. While they will do whatever I ask and whatever I put before them, I want to do my part in instilling a lasting education that is meaningful and memorable and not just a bunch of worksheets that they fill out and put in the trash.