Thursday, September 20, 2018

Homeschool: Our Curriculum (Plus Other Stuff We Use)

*Please see note below regarding the map in this photo.

At this point in our homeschool life, I would not say that we use a particular curriculum. We do Charlotte Mason style education, which is literature based. We began by using Ambleside Online curriculum pretty closely to the way it is recommended, but along the way I found that I had some major issues with some of the books that were recommended, and the reading schedules didn't work for us. Rather than dividing up the readings so that some books had only one chapter read each week, it seemed to work better to read a chapter a day until we were done with a book, then move on to the next. I also thought it was sometimes simply too much to get done in a week, so I pared down what we did.

The other thing that didn't work for us is nature journaling. If you know any Charlotte Mason homeschooling families, you may think this is the main thing. But for us, it's not. It actually made Z cry. So we no longer go out specifically to study nature. I have a British bird guide, binoculars, and a magnifying glass in a pouch that we can bring with us if we are going to be in a park or other nature type setting. We read lots of books about animals and nature, and it's fantastic when we can find things we've read about when we are out and about. But we just don't do a lot of focused nature study. It's not our thing.

In terms of the major issues with the books that I mentioned above, I think it will suffice to say that the N word and a fair bit of racist caricature** was included in one of the books recommended for Year One, as well as a book about George Washington which included mention of happy slaves. So NOPE, we are not going to follow those recommendations. I also noticed that the selection of books was very white centric. Even some of the books about persons of color or of other cultures were written by white people of European descent. (Honestly, Rudyard Kipling does not need to have so many books on the list.) So I use the Ambleside curriculum as a guide for teaching history at a particular pace and incorporating other Charlotte Mason principles, and I select books from their lists that are truly good and wonderful "living books," but at this time we probably only use 30% of the recommended books and choose our own for the other 70%.

We've also worked into a little light unschooling. When one of our kids expresses an interest in something that comes up in one of our readings, I will order materials to explore the topic further. Z was really interested in both world wars, so we got more books that would help us learn more about that. I also often order companion books. For example, there's a book called The World of Anne Frank which is an excellent reference to use along with The Diary of a Young Girl. I also have a pretty large Amazon wish list of books and other homeschool materials that I know my kids would like and use, that I'd like to keep around for them to use as they please.

To really make learning come alive, we make use of the many museums in London. Many of them are free to enter. We also have had a Historic Royal Palaces membership for the past few years, and it has proved to be more than worth the annual fee (though it's not cheap). As our kids get older and we can spend days out more easily, I will be checking out other memberships which may be useful to us, such as National Trust. It is also very helpful to have a Family& Friends Railcard so we can save on fares to sites outside London, and we've held one of those for most of the time we've lived here in London.

We also use many online resources and apps for learning. Z is using the Duolingo app, and E uses the Gus French app. Z used the Reading Raven app when she was learning to read, and E now uses that and also Teach Your Monster to Read. Z is using TTRS for typing and spelling lessons, and we use a lot of the Nessy resources as needed. We will be using Nessy Numbers for both girls this year, and Z will use Writing Beach. If one of the girls finds an educational app that they'd like to have, I usually say yes. The Duck Duck Moose ones in particular have been great for E.

I'm sure I'm forgetting quite a lot of what we use, but that's the basic information. I prefer to keep things somewhat structured overall. I like having a framework to start with, and we can be flexible within that framework. I don't hesitate to change things up if something isn't working for us, if I find that a book I thought would be good has some issues, or if I find a book that's simply better than the one we've used before. So far, so good.

*You may notice that the map behind Elvie is a bit problematic, as it's from a time when colonialism was in full swing. I bought it because I wanted a map of Africa, and our kids are Ethiopian, and it is a point of pride for Ethiopians that Ethiopia was never colonised. But I feel now that it is problematic and would like to replace it with a topographical map when budget allows. We use this as a history aid for now and keep an accurate map posted next to it. 

**Some versions of Just So Stories still include the N word, which I find to be completely unacceptable. We got the Children's Classics version, and I threw it away with the cat litter.

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