October 17, 2005

The Nuts and Bolts of Our Home School

You've read the story of how we came to be a home schooling family; now it's time to talk about what exactly we're doing! This is an issue that still is not fully resolved, but at least I know what we are doing for this year, and I'm pleased so far with everything.

I'll start with math--that's the easiest. I absolutely love the math program we chose: Math U See. My dear friend Melinda (from Virginia, home schools 7 children) was the one who first told me about MUS, and I later met a couple of other families who use it. I was initially impressed with what I saw of the program, though I dutifully did much research into other programs. Prior to this, I was leaning toward Saxon math, simply because that's what I had used in high school, and my mother-in-law, a high school math teacher, uses and likes it as well. However, once Ted and I watched the demo DVD for MUS, we were completely sold! The manipulatives and teaching style are just beyond anything I've ever seen. The picture here shows the kids playing with the manipulatives. Charis begs to do a new math lesson every day, though we're supposed to do review pages in between the lessons. I started her in the primer (30 lessons), and we are already on lesson 18, adding tens. She knows place value and is learning to skip count. Even though some of the primer book was review for Charis, I'm glad I started her in it, as it is giving her a solid foundation. We are set on MUS for her entire math schooling at home, and I'm confident the boys will enjoy it as well, as it is very hands on as well as appealing to visual and auditory learners.

As for reading, we just finished Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons on Friday. (Yay!) Once I realized that I didn't have to do every single part of every lesson, this became much easier for me to use. Charis enjoyed everything, but so much of it was repetition, and she was beyond much of it, that I just couldn't make her do it all. We skipped the writing of letters, and I combined some of the activities at times. But it was very good for giving her the tools she needed to sound out unfamiliar words. She is well on her way to reading completely on her own, and I now know that she truly is reading and not just guessing at the words based on context (though that still happens with new words on occasion). As she is just turning 5 in two days, I am more than pleased with her progress so far. Now that we are finished with an "official" reading book, I plan to just spend time listening to her read during that time block, and maybe after the holidays we will go back to phonics lessons of some sort. Although I can't say for sure, I am guessing that she is reading at about a third grade level, just based on the information I got from reading the 100 EZ Lessons book.

This year we have chosen A Reason for Handwriting for her writing program. I like the emphasis on Scripture, though that doesn't begin until next year. This year we are learning about various animals God made, and after she practices her letter for the day, she gets to color the animal we read about. She is really enjoying this, though I have to remind her to SLOW DOWN on the writing part! (She mainly just loves to color!) She has been writing for a year and a half now, but this program is helping her think a little more about letter formation. It's a bit early yet to tell if this is the program we'll stick with, but at the moment I see no reason to change.

And as for "the rest," meaning Bible, read alouds, science, and social studies, we chose to purchase the Sonlight pre-K curriculum, designed for learners ages 4-6 years. All of the children have enjoyed the books that are part of this package, though Arden perhaps hasn't sat still for as many stories and readings as Tobin has. I don't make the boys sit still for any of it, really, but they are welcome to join us whenever they are interested. Charis particularly adores Things People Do, an Usborne book about the fictitious island of Banilla. The characters all have funny names--Mayor Naze, Manuel Labor (a builder), Honor Toze (a ballerina), Les Chatter (a teacher), and so on. Tobin loves the stories from the Treasury of Little Golden Books, and Charis enjoys The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book. Charis is learning a verse and character trait each week, and Tobin and Arden are listening in, as we do those with Bible stories around the breakfast table. (Arden especially makes sure that we do NOT forget the Bible stories!)

Even though this sounds like a lot, we only spend about an hour to an hour and a half at the most on "school" each day, and some days not at all if we have something else going on. The Sonlight books alternate by days, and some of them we only read once a week. I've looked through the entire Sonlight catalog and am very impressed--Ted is, too, and he would be content to simply purchase the Sonlight packages and appropriate MUS workbooks each year. However...I am also interested in a more classical approach, and I would prefer to do The Story of the World before junior high, which is where Sonlight has placed it. Still, we have lots of time to investigate things, and I think the important thing is that our children develop a love for learning overall.

Perhaps later I will outline a schedule of what a typical day looks like for us so you can see how this all falls into place. At the moment, however, it is approaching my bedtime, and I'd like to do some reading before going to sleep.

One final tidbit that has absolutely nothing to do with anything else on this post...A nickname we've had for our children since Charis was first born is Pumpkin Doodle. I was praying and singing with Arden, doing the nightly ritual, and afterward I was hugging him and called him my little Pumpkin Doodle. He began repeating the phrase after me, and I could hardly stop laughing when I realized he was saying "Pomp-kin Doo-doo!" How's that for an endearing term of affection?!

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