I've been reading a lot about different methods of homeschooling lately. And I'm developing quite and eclectic theme for our house! I'm writing it all here just to organize what I'm thinking.
We love doing unit studies. The first third of the year, I used a curriculum that gave a list of things to do each day. We read random factual pieces from a number of different children's encyclopedias, read random poems, did random math, and read random books aloud. But nothing was connected. All of our schooling was just getting our list done and checking it off. It was a bit of a drudgery for Jacob and I, and neither of us was excited about it.
I was realizing one say that we are supposed to be doing KINDERGARTEN! Kindergarten is supposed to be FUN learning! Exploring and discovering and reading picture books, none of which we were doing. I realized there were so many delightful "living" books that we were completely skipping, and that if we stayed on that track, Jacob would never experience.
So after a month of this nagging feeling that we had to choose a new path, I switched to a unit study approach. Generally, we use Five in a Row. It's a curriculum that has a published manual that is full of ideas for learning many different subjects, all connected to a particular story which is read five days in a row. Then the following week, you choose another book, etc. The Math lesson in connected to the story, the social studies lesson is connected to the story, etc. We immediately started having so much more FUN doing school!
So this is the major foundation of our homeschooling: unit studies. I like to find 2 or 3 Five in a Row books that connect in a theme somehow, though I don't always do it that way.
I have been reading a lot about narration lately. Narration is basically a person restating in their own words something they have learned or been read. I have been trying to do this with Jacob, but realized today that I was asking him to narrate too much at one time. So now I need to revamp a little bit to help him be more successful in a formal setting, though he narrates spontaneously on a regular basis. So we're going to add narration.
We've also been dabbling in using a nature journal. Jacob's nature journal is a sketchpad that we take outside and find something in nature to draw. This encourages observation skills and curiosity about nature. Two weeks ago we had a perfect opportunity to draw the storm clouds approaching as we had been studying thunderstorms that week. It has been a challenge for Jacob because he doesn't really like to do things that he can't do really well a first. Instead of drawing a random picture, I ask him to draw something that exists, so he compares his drawing to the real flower he's looking at and gets frustrated.
One more thing we'll be doing is a formal math program. This goes against many of the philosophers who support the nature journal and narration, but I feel like it's good to keep us grounded. We won't necessarily write every answer in the math book, but it is a good guide for us.
We also have some Bible lesson each day. Right now, we're doing Leading Little Ones to God. I'm looking at Summit Ministries' Building on the Rock, but want to be sure Jacob is ready for the concepts before we start that series. I may do it this year, maybe next. It is for first graders, but he is not really first grade age yet and while he is quite bright, he still struggles in grasping some abstract concepts other age appropriate first graders might get. So we'll see. I was ready to order it last week, but looked at it more last night and started questioning it again.
I'm finding there's so much good stuff out there that's it's incredibly easy to get overwhelmed and realize how much more we could be doing! Then I remember we can't ALL do it ALL! So I'll stay behind to keep a good average! :-) Besides, Jacob's only 5! We have so many more years to hit it all!
The other major change I'm implementing is that we are going to school year round. We won't have a specific calendar, but I'll be required to do 15 days per months. This is so much more manageable to me than 9 months of 5 days per week, every week. Jacob and I both need a less stringent schedule than that. Plus, that gives me time for appointments, vacations, and major projects that can't always wait until summertime.
So this is about what Jacob's first grade year will look like. We'll do fun unit studies, nature journaling, narration, math, and Bible. We're starting with a creation study this week. I had wanted to do a creation study focusing for one week on each day of creation, just to get a general idea that God created everything, all by Himself, in 6 days. And we believe that because the Bible says it. So that's what we're starting now. Woohoo!!