Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Q & A: Homeschooling

(I changed the font color to distinguish between questions and answers, but now my hyperlinks aren't showing up. There are a lot of links in this post. You just have to hover over the words to see them! Links will underline in green.) (And, WOWSA, this post ended up very long!)

Q: I am curious to know how you and your husband arrived at the decision to homeschool, and if your husband has always been on board? Our oldest begins kindergarten next year and my husband is really reluctant to let her homeschool. I am a bit intimidated but really eager to do it.

You can read the whole story at this link, but I'll give it to you in a nutshell. I knew I wanted to homeschool from the time I was homeschooled junior year of highschool. A week after I started dating Russ, I told him that I planned on homeschooling my kids. I thought he might want to know this as he was a public school teacher at the time. He said it sounded great and has been on board ever since. I know. I got REALLY lucky.

If my husband weren't on board, I would probably ask him if we could take it one year at a time and see how it goes. Sometimes men have to see how well it works for their own families before they are sold. If he was a reading kind of guy, I would ask him to read Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, which was written by a public school teacher/homeschooling dad. If you want something shorter to offer him, you might like
Why We Homeschool.

Maybe I should make my sister do a guest post about deciding to homeschool and getting her husband to agree! Holly.... ?

Q: I'd love to know a bit more about your homeschooling approach.

We have a Christian (Neo-)Classical approach to our homeschool, though in practice this is more relaxed and eclectic for us. I wrote more about classical education here and here. I want their lives to be full and rich and wonderful, and I think a Christian Classical education is a great place to start. In the end, though, it isn't about following a specific educational plan, but what will help my child be the best Levi, Luke, Leif, and Lola he or she was meant to be. They aren't the same, and their individual educations will reflect that. We'll adjust things as we go along and as my children develop into their own persons.

Q: Can you tell us your pros and cons of classical education now that you are in it and why you chose it?

I knew that I wanted to homeschool my kids, but I didn't have a specific educational philosophy until I read The Well-Trained Mind a year before Levi was born. I devoured the book in one weekend and haven't looked back.

Classical education (as presented in The Well-Trained Mind) appealed to me in every way. It is logical, systematical, chronological, rigorous, and comprehensive. And rich and beautiful.

I love the way learning is broken down into three stages. Grammar: learning the 'grammar' or vocabulary/facts/ideas/stories of each subject including Latin. This is the 'input' stage roughly during grades 1-4. Logic: organizing and processing the facts and ideas of each subject during the middle years (grades 5-8). How? Why? Is this true? Rhetoric: using the processed information to create and express one's self. This occurs during grades 9-12.

I love the way history and literature are studied together chronologically over four years, and repeated during each learning stage. I love the way other subjects are organized in that framework. During the logic stage, a student is able to discover how music, art, science, and even math work together and fit into the timeline of history. I find the arguments for the study of Latin to be compelling. (Click here to read them!) A strong foundation in English grammar and writing is vitally important. I want my children to study Logic and Rhetoric as subjects, so they can learn to think and express themselves well.

The cons? I suppose that a 'by the book' classical education would be more difficult for a student who either is not a strong reader/writer or has a consuming interest that takes up a large amount of time (such as music or a sport). Homeschooling makes up the difference, however, allowing for significant flexibility. My sister has a son who doesn't enjoy reading or writing, but she spent four years reading aloud, using audio books, and coaching him through the reading and writing process. He has really done well in grammar and Latin. He has also had time left over for his outside interests. And he now possesses skills and ideas which will benefit him no matter where life takes him. (I have a feeling one of my sons will be following in his footsteps.)

Art Class
Q: I'm really curious about the classical conversations. Is it just one day a week? What do you do the rest of the week? Is it costly? Could you give a breakdown of your day as far as homeschooling? Does the classical conversation have a curriculum and then do you follow that at home?

I know many people have missed my previous posts that answer a few of those questions (which are the same ones I had in the beginning!), so I'll share the links which will give more in depth answers (click on the titles):

Classical Conversations (an overview of the program)
Classical Conversations In Detail: Part I (what a day at CC is like)
Classical Conversations In Detail: Part II (why I value the program, particularly the memory work)
A Day in the Life (a look inside our homeschool day at home)

In a nutshell:
Classical Conversations is a one day a week program. My boys are only registered for Foundations, which is a morning program, but an afternoon session (Essentials) is available for grades 4-6, and the Challenge program (grades 7-12) is a full day.

For Foundations (one morning a week, 24 weeks per year, grades K4-6), students are encouraged to review memory work during the week, prepare a short presentation for the following week, and occasionally work on fine arts or geography projects at home (such as practicing the tin whistle or practicing outlining maps). Other than that, the individual families choose how much or how little they wish to expand on topics during the week.

In the early grades, one would need a separate curriculum for reading, handwriting, and math at the bare minimum to work on during the rest of the week. In my humble opinion, one should also add spelling, English grammar, and writing (though the afternoon session beginning in 3rd or 4th through 6th would cover language arts if you chose to do that). And then there's history and science. Which kind of brings us around to why do Classical Conversations in the first place and why would one pay for it? Read the first and third links above.

The Foundations cost with registration, tuition, supplies, and facility costs runs about $450-500 per student, per year (24 weeks) (facility costs vary by group). You have to purchase the Foundations guide and timeline cards (you only need one per family for all years of Foundations) which is about $170 and tin whistles for each child ($10 each). I think the audio CDs with the memory work are indispensable ($30 per cycle, per family).

Q: I'm considering seriously CC for next year for my oldest who will be 8 next fall. I am hoping to be more independent next year, but have found he might need more interaction in an environment like CC. Do you find there is a good balance/are the boys challenged/do you still think it's a good choice for you? I'd like to be more motivated 'internally' less externally. Planned but less driven by someone elses agenda. I think we've got the framework of academic study, but I feel like we're always doing a 'check list'. Less of work or reading based on interest. btw, we follow a classical plan. Cc seems like it will be more of the same, skipping over areas that I want to spend more time on. But perhaps it is more of an opportunity, than a hindrance.

Q: Yes, I still think it was the perfect choice for my family at this stage of our homeschool. Yes, the boys are engaged and challenged. The boys thrive on the interaction, and it has made it much easier to streamline our learning during the week with all three boys learning and excited about the same topics. BUT, we were coming off of a year of relaxed schooling, lots of reading based on interest, and needing that shot in the arm (accountability) to enter a more rigorous stage of schooling.

The thing to remember about CC is that you need to make it fit your family rather than the other way around. If you have time to devote a day to class and have time to review memory work during the week (the audio CD makes this easy, especially if you spend any time in the car!), you can easily do your own thing for the rest of your week at home. The memory work is beneficial (because it sticks with you!), even if you don't cover that material or those topics at home that very week. And you might find that it sends you on exciting rabbit trails!

I should also mention here that the program is only 24 weeks out of the year, which leaves quite a bit of time to 'do your own thing.'

In the end, it is going to work well for some families, and not so much for others. That's okay.

Q: What made you switch from Sequential Spelling to All About Spelling?

A: Osmosis wasn't working, I guess. I wanted more. Whys and Hows. Nuts and bolts. Starting at the beginning and understanding where we were going one piece at a time. I didn't want a workbook. I wanted to learn the phonograms, but I didn't want to have to attend a class to figure out the program. I wanted ONLY spelling. I wanted something scripted. I didn't want something that my students worked on independently. I wanted something that appealed to the learning personalities of my boys. Rich and complex, but easy to use. Voila. All About Spelling. I LOVE it.

I love it so much that I signed up to be an affiliate. So, if you want to learn more about All About Spelling (or are ready to purchase), feel free to
click on this link!!

I'll post more about AAS as we go along. (Incidentally, it reminds me of RightStart Math and Handwriting Without Tears in many ways.)

Q: Okay, my question is about your science...that is so not my strong point. It seems you use a lot of Bill Nye, but is there a rhyme and reason to what your studying and when...any SPINE, so to speak, that you are launching from?

A: Yes. I posted a little more detail here, but I'll give you another nutshell. We've used the Christian Kids Explore Science series for a couple years. I love it for several reasons. Most of all because it plays out like The Story of the World does for history. There are four books which correspond to the science divisions recommended in The Well-Trained Mind. We read the narrative chapter, do oral review, pick and choose activities, use vocabulary for copywork, and add on with picture books, encyclopedias, and videos during the week.

Now that we are doing CC, we've used instead the weekly science memory work as our spine during these 24 weeks. We'll pick back up with Christian Kids Explore Chemistry in April when CC is completed for the year and probably work through the summer in a relaxed, fun manner. And then we'll do CC, then CKE Physics. I'm not sure what we'll be doing for the next four-year cycle.

The boys also watch a lot of science videos, read books, go on field trips, etc. that DON'T correspond with our science topic. (Like additional Bill Nye videos.)

Q: I'm curious as to how you come up with all your fine arts ideas. You have such fabulous resources, and I wonder when/how you manage to pull it all together!

Well, the most effective way for me to accomplish something is to start it when I am procrastinating on some other, more important task. Which is exactly when I put together our fine arts schedule. I already had some of the links and resources, but I got many more from The Well-Trained Mind Forums, an amazing place to hang out (particularly when I'm procrastinating....). And I just add to that original post as I find new links and resources.

I spend a little bit of time each month gathering stuff for the specific artist, composer, and poet we are currently studying (usually when I'm procrastinating....).

Q: I was wondering if there are any organizational systems that work for you. I can only imagine with homeschooling, family, kids, etc. there is so much stuff to keep track of. Do you have any systems that work well for you? How do you store, rotate, purge all the stuff? Do you have any systems in play for storing the kids stuff, library books, meal planning, family activities, basically anything that has to do with family life or homeschooling? I would love to hear your thoughts.

A: Um. This is a very short answer. I am an organizational failure. I can't think of one 'system' that I use consistently and that works. The end.

Q: When do you find the time to write at such length, on such a variety of topics and when does blogging become too other words...How do you balance the blogging with real life?

You know, I'm going to have to revise my answer to the previous question. Blogging is the one organizational system that seems to work for me. Four years worth of memories, pictures, homeschooling information, links, recipes, inspiration, ideas, and even friendships. They are all here. Chronologically, tagged by subject. The blog is free and makes no mess. I can work on my blog in one minute breaks here and there or in the late evening when the kids are in bed or when my kids are reading or playing on their own.

There are definitely times I find myself on the computer when I shouldn't be here. The kids are going crazy and I have other things to do. There are times I've taken breaks intentionally and unintentionally. But I go back and see all that I've collected here and it reconfirms my decision and desire to keep my blog and spend time posting.

Blogging is an extension of my real life. I don't feel obligated to keep at it and there are days (and sometimes weeks) I won't post because I have other priorities. But you will most likely find me here for a long time to come.


Precision Quality Laser said...

LOL!! You can't be an organizational are so...ORGANIZED! I look at your lesson plans and sit in awe. I wish I could be as HALF as organized as you :) You inspire me to keep trying to find that one thing that fits for my family :)


Gina said...

Thanks for sharing all this-homeschooling can be so tough to put together so it's always refreshing to hear what others think. I (and I'm sure many others) appreciate it!

carole said...

As always, I enjoyed reading. The time you've taken to share your thoughts on homeschooling over the past few years has been incredibly helpful to me. Thank you!

And also, check your link for the spelling program. ;)

Heidi said...

carole~ Thanks... I *think* the link is fixed now!

Susan said...

Oh I love All About Spelling too!

Laura at By the Bushel said...

Many, many thank Heidi! Very informative, encouraging too! Went to th CC meeting and think it will be an excellent opportunity for us.

Anonymous said...

You didn't need to answer my question however I am so glad you did...what a wonderfully, thoughtful response! Blessings! ~C in Tualatin

Unknown said...

Thanks! So much great information! I like your thoughts on blogging as well...that is what I've often felt's the one place I have things recorded at in a semi-organized fashion! :P

Paula @ Motherhood Outloud said...

Great post! I came over from Simple Homeschool and identify so much with what you are doing and why. I have a Science question. (I know, just what you want on a Q&A post...more questions!) I love the looks of Christian Kids Explore but I am wondering if I should put it off a few years since my oldest will only be in 1st grade next year. My other 2 will be 3 1/2 and 1 when school starts next fall and I'm thinking maybe I should wait until at least 2 of them can benefit from it. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Heidi said...

Paula~ That's another good question. :) The CKE series is actually geared toward older elementary and even middle school students, so it certainly can't hurt to wait a couple years. I did do it with my oldest when he was in 1st, since I wanted to do biology for science with him anyway, and it was easy to adapt to his needs. There's a good chance we'll go back through a second time and learn the material with more depth and include the younger guys. So, you have 3 equally valid options. #1: Wait to do a formal science program. #2: Find a science program or books/videos that would be appropriate for a younger audience. #3: Give CKE a try, adapting it to your needs. It is fairly inexpensive and you can always put it on a shelf for a couple years if you decide to wait and try it again later.

Danielle said...

Loved the bit about organization. Looking at the AAS program (don't want a typo on that one!) did you end up buying all the pieces to it, or just the main teacher/student part?

Heidi said...

Danielle~ I purchased the basic interactive kit and the level 1 packet then bought an inexpensive card file to put the index cards in. (LOL about the typo...I've seen that happen :)).

Aja Shoup said...

How do I find the time to read all the wisdom you share here?! Some days I think it's either life or Heidi... tomorrow is going to be a Heidi kind of day. I need to play catch up and sit down with Heidi and her blog tomorrow. Until then...