Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back to Work, for One Week

I'm spending this week lesson planning for our upcoming school year.

I need to stay away from the computer as much as possible, but I'll pause, as I get little moments, and try to share what I'm getting ready this year for those of you who are wanting to homeschool one day.

I've already written about why we homeschool, so if that's an interesting topic to you, you can read here.

Once we decided to home educate, I think the most overwhelming thing to me was choosing a curriculum. At first, it seems like there's so much to teach...so many options, so many styles, and so where do you start?

No joke...I'm NOT a pill popper, but I think I asked my doctor for ambien during the time when we were deciding to be foster parents, and deciding whether or not to home school. I could not sleep at night, thinking through these gigantic ideas!

For us, some of the things that were most important as we decided on a curriculm were...

1. Reading

We wanted our kids to be avid readers, and learn how to pick a book up, on any topic and learn what was inside it.

2. Thinking

We want kids who can think. We wanted a curriculum that helped them learn how to think, and helped them learn how to make connections between lots of ideas.

3. World History

We wanted a curriculum that taught our kids, from the moment they start Kindergarten that we are only one part of a gigantic whole. We want them to learn about other countries, other cultures, other religions, etc.

All through college, I loosely followed the writings of E.D. Hirsh, Jr. He's an educator. He has written several secular books that call for a reformation of the public school system. I was always intrigued by his books, and the articles he wrote for magazines and newspapers. I think he was on Oprah once. He makes the argument that American schools need to go back to a more classical approach to education.

I'm not here to bash public school. So don't get your public school panties in a wad. I'm just saying...Hirsch is a respected educator who sees some flaws in public education, but has devoted his life to trying to help fix the problems.

After we decided to home educate, I noticed there were books at the library from the Core Knowledge Foundation. The Core Knowledge Foundation was founded by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. Basically, this group has written books called, "What Your Kindergartner Need to Know" and "What Your First Grader Needs to Know" and so on and so on.

I snatched up the Kindergarten book at Barnes and Noble and loved it. However, I was at a loss as to how to write up lesson plans for all the great lessons on history, science, reading, math, poetry, sayings, visual arts and music that the books contained.

Thankfully, several schools have piloted the Core Knowledge Curriculum.

The teachers at these schools put their lesson plans online.

So, to teach my kids every year, I make sure I have the book they need from Barnes and Nobles (This year, I needed What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know, What your Second Grader Needs to Know, and What your Fourth grader needs to Know.)

Then, I go online and use the free units. Each lesson plan for each topic out of the book is written out in daily lesson plans. These are written for charter schools and public schools, so they are written in the appropriate styles. At the end of each unit, the appendix contains all the tests, worksheets and activity pages we need for all of the daily lessons. Amazing!

We use a different math curriculum, as well as different Language Arts and Spelling curriculums. From the Core Knowledge Books, we cover the units dealing with History, Science, Reading, Poetry, Sayings, Art and Music. This is not a Christian curriculum, obviously, but we like it, and of course, interject (when needed) ideas about our beliefs. I love challenging the kids to make connections between the things we're learning about our history, the condition of man, and what the Bible has to say about who we are, and how we will think and behave apart from knowing God.

The Core Knowledge Books, like What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know were written for parents of children in public school. E.D. Hirsch seems to think that until some of the educational issues are resolved in the public school system, these books can be a great tool to help parents make sure their kids are learning everything they need to learn. The Core Knowledge Foundation recommends that parents buy these books, and read out of them throughout the school year.

They are well written, and read more like a magazine, so if you're even the slightest bit worried about your kids not learning enough, then I would highly recommend these books. You could easily read out of them for just a few minutes a night before bedtime. They are very colorful and easy to understand.

If any of this is interesting to you, here are few links you might need:

Core Knowledge Foundation Website (you can read about their purpose, and their ideas on education)

What Your First Grader Needs to Know
(you can find all these books at Barnes and Nobles, or on Amazon. Here's one sample of what they look like and what they look like inside. You can also take a peek at the Table of Contents.)

All the free, online units complete with appendixes.
On the left, you'll see every grade. Click on the grade you are interested in, and then all the units for that grade come up.

Here's an example of one unit Hayden will do this year in Second Grade...

Ancient Greece: Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Like I said, finding a curriculum is one of the scariest parts of deciding to home school. If someone asked me how to go about finding a curriculum, I guess I would say make a list of the things that are important to you. I think it's important to think through not only how your child learns, but also who you are. A curriculum has to work for both you and your child. It's important the curriculum is one your child will love, but also something you won't dread teaching...you'll be teaching it every day!

Overall, we have enjoyed this curriculum. There are some things I don't like about it, and some things my kids don't like about it...but that's life, isn't it?


Jana said...

Heather...I could not agree MORE!!! I could not teach w/ out these books....I love the online cirr. also!!!! People ALWAYS ask me what cirr. I use. I ALWAYS recommend these books. I ALSO LOVE that you can read out of them ...short stories...Sayings!!!! LOVE it...once again. You never disappoint! Love an Light

Lerin said...

We're gearing up for our homeschooling year too! :)

As for the movie... I don't watch disturbing crap like that anyway. But I was extremely offended by the poster as well, and disturbed by the premise on so many levels. I hope it flops.

the groves said...

I love this. I love planning and teaching so this sounds lovely. I can't wait to check out these sites.

What do you use for LA and Spelling. I am doing something different for spelling this year and am looking for ideas.

Laurie said...

Hey there! We also homeschool and someone had actually JUST given me the 1st grader book that you were talking about. I didn't know about the website you mentioned that has all the lesson plans, etc. I was pretty amazed it was all out there for free! I will say this...I don't see how you do it! You must be a super planner b/c I was overwhelmed. Do you really do different science and history for all your kids? I try to lump mine together to lessen the load for me. Do you really go through each unit and get it all done during the school year? I'm amazed and would love any tips on how you actually get it done. (I have a rising 1st, 2nd, and pre-K to teach this year...as my twin 3 year olds stand by) :)