Next week is spring break for us, and as I look back over the month, I am very excited. We have done a lot of great stuff. Just last night, we started working on our moon phase chart, and we were looking for Mars because it was supposed to be highly visible last evening. As I pointed to one bright light in the sky and said “I think that may be it” my youngest son said “No its not mommy, it’s twinkling, remember stars twinkle, planets don’t!” I was very impressed. I’ve decided to add some historical fiction to our history, as I’ve felt it was a little dry over the last few weeks. TOG is a great program for in depth thinking, but our only read-aloud this unit is Famous Men of the Middle Ages, and the kids like to hear stories. I went through the HOD/WP/Sonlight catalogs and looked at their programs from the same time period and chose some books I think they will like. Now, I just have to hope they are in the library! After spring break we move on to vikings and knights which I think my boys will enjoy! For next year, I plan to add the Time Travelers series to TOG as we move through American History, along with extra historical fiction read-alouds…I think this will add a “fun” aspect to the program. I am researching curriculum and have made and re-made my plans for next year several times. I think I have a good idea of what I am going to be doing, but I am waiting to attend my local homeschool conference next month so I can actually look at materials before making a final decision. Friday is pajama day in our house! I’ll be back after a week off!
When I was first considering homeschooling my children I spent hours/days (and I really mean that) researching curriculum. I love the idea of lit-based learning for history, and I looked closely at all of the available programs in that style (MFW, Sonlight, WP etc.) At the time, I fell in love with Winter Promise, because the programs looked so fun. I had looked at TOG and though I found it intriguing, but I thought it looked a little dry and over the top. However, when we made the decision to homeschool the boys for the last 11 weeks of the school year, money was tight. I found I could buy one unit of TOG to finish up the year, and get a lot of the books at the library, so I ordered Unit 1 of Year 2 (I figured knights/vikings etc. would be a fun way to start our homeschool adventure). After spending time with TOG I am amazed at how in-depth it is. I taught for 11 years before this, middle school reading/language arts and social studies, and this is more in-depth than anything I have seen. Age-appropriate resources are chosen for each level, and, the parent has the flexibility to move between levels for their children if needed. (i.e. my older son is gifted so he uses a mix of the upper grammer/dialectic materials…my younger struggles more in reading, so I will probably be keeping him at the lower grammer level through the summer, even though he should technically move into upper grammer). Especially as you get into the dialectic/rhetoric level, the depth of the discussions and activities are impressive. The focus isn’t just on “summarizing” what was read, but on really thinking about it. Everything is laid out for the parent so you don’t have to think of questions to ask or things to say. You just turn to the right page, and discuss. Now you do have to PLAN with TOG. The assignment sheets list activities/reading by week, and the parent has to decide how to divide it up for each day. This isn’t difficult to me as planning is something I am accustomed to from my days in the classroom, but I can see how it would be overwhelming at first if you had never done it before. I would suggest starting off the first couple of weeks slowly getting into the program, as you see how much reading your child is able to handle each day. From there, you can adjust the daily assignments to suit your child. I typically plan with all the books for the week laid out in front of me, then I look at each week’s reading to see what connections I can make (for example, if the kids are reading about Charlemagne out of a particular book for their history reading one day, I would have the kids read those books on the same day, then do the Famous Men read aloud that day as well, so it all ties together). I also look at the activity pages and lapbooks to try to tie them in with the topic of the day. We are going to be getting into American History this summer and I can’t wait. I plan on ordering the first two Time Travelers CDs from Home School In the Woods, as we love hands on here, and tying that in with our studies in TOG. I just ordered Y2 U3 from them, so I’ll let you know how it all ties together once I’ve had a chance to sit down with it all! It’s funny how you can write something off at first, then end up using it and figure out its exactly the right thing for you, isn’t it?
We completed week 3 of the first unit of TOG year 2 and I have to say I am impressed with all my children remembered. Both kids did excellent with their quizzes and the discussions we had were amazing. I am really liking how all the different stuff you do in TOG weaves together and how both kids are on the same topic, but using different stuff suited to their ages to study it! My older son is gifted, and I am using a mix of upper grammar/dialectic materials with him and I feel he is really being challenged. We are also doing the lapbooks, which provides them with material to “present” to daddy at the end of the week. I believe we are going to continue with Unit 3 over the summer, but I plan to add in material from the Home school in the Woods Time Travelers series, since my kids are pretty hands-on. We are only going to work on history over the summer and get back into regular academics when we start school again in the fall. Right now, we have one week until spring break, and I am entering grades in Homeschool Skedtrack to finish up our week. Next week we get into Charlemagne, and then take a week off before we tackle vikings! My kids are using CLE for math and reading, althought next year I think we may switch to BJU as my kids need a more mastery type program for math, and they need some color pictures in their reading. I am also planning to add in IEW for writing and possibly use All About Spelling for my youngest, because he really needs help in that area! I’m in research mode right now, since my homeschool convention comes up in May and I want to be prepared when we go. Looking back on the last 3 weeks, I can say that I am so thankful to have this opportunity to homeschool my children and I feel more and more it was the right decision for all of us.
I have felt the call on my heart from the Lord to homeschool my children for two years now, and I am happy to say that after a lot of prayer, research, and discussion, the door has finally opened. We begin our adventure now, and I am looking forward to the years to come. As a former classroom teacher, I know a lot about education, but teaching your own two children is quite different from teaching a classroom full of other people’s kids. So far, things are going well, and we are finding a groove. The boys are making progress and, for the most part, seem to be enjoying themselves. They haven’t complained a whole lot about missing school, which I am happy about, and my husband is enjoying having us around. Since we are starting late in the year, we are doing the the first unit of TOG year 2. I thought the knights/vikings/etc. would be fun for them. It’s a different way of doing history than my boys are used to, but they are doing well and I am very surprised at how much they are retaining. My youngest was able to tell me all about Mohammed today, and I wasn’t sure he was even listening as we were reading! Next week, we get into week 4 (Vikings) and I know he is going to love that! We have an eclectic mix of curriculum, from TOG to Apologia Astronomy and different textbooks for math/reading/spelling/ etc. We are using Explorers Bible study, and that is going well. I have my older son doing the Words of Wisdom book, which includes a study of Proverbs which my husband and I are studying in our Lifegroup from church, so that is nice.
Anyway, that’s the scoop on what’s going on. I’m going to try to post at the end of each week, just for a record of our progress, and as I formulate plans for next year…..