This year, for Christmas, my husband has decided to let me go to a homeschool conference in the Spring. He is getting me tickets to the convention of my choice, as long as there’s no “flying” involved. Better yet, he wants to accompany me. The first place I looked, naturally, was in my hometown of Kansas City. I got a little bummed when I saw that only two speakers had been booked so far and upon further research, learned the conference is only a couple years old and isn’t very big.
So I began my search of surrounding states. I have 8 states to choose from and several conferences. I found a conference in which one of my greatest mentors will be speaking. Diana Waring. She has been a huge source of wisdom, support, and encouragement to me through her many books and curriculum. I got very excited when I learned about all of the big, exciting, annual conferences and conventions I could go to this year! I didn’t pick that one. I chose Kansas City, my home town. Let me tell you why.
There was a time when families who homeschooled would hide their children during the day. If they got caught homeschooling, they faced jail and/or getting their children taken away. When hs’ing finally became legal there weren’t curriculum choices like there are today. Women had to make do with pencils paper and a library. We’ve got it pretty easy today with our language arts and math books pre-printed and in many forms for all the different ways our children learn. The pioneers of homeschooling paved the way for me today and I am standing on their shoulders as I have the awesome privilege of attending a homeschool convention. Kansas City may be the smallest, but I plan on homeschooling for the next 13 years and I would like to see the KC Conference grow. That’ll never happen with the attitude I had. I don’t want to get stars in my eyes and not take advantage of the fact that I have the event in my own city.
So now that I’ve made the big decision, it cuts way down on costs- no hotel, no eating at Chipotle and Panera for every meal. More money for books ((big smile)). Chris and I have just laid out the plan for science and history which includes a five-year cycle beginning next year. It will take our oldest into high school and our youngest will get ancients and medieval times all over again when he is older. We had to plan so far in advance because we don’t use a spiral approach- where you learn a little more each year about the same few subjects. we are advocates of the mastery approach and our kids do it whether we want them to or not. They are obsessive about topics they find “neat”. We will spend an entire year on biology, life and the human body, we’ll spend an entire year on certain time periods in history. When doing this, a plan is necessary so that the kids get exposed to all the history and science we feel are the biggies. We don’t want anything left out. We also have a plan to continue on our current Charlotte Mason language arts journey and know all the books we’ll be using up to high school. Our kids use Rod and Staff Spelling, then switch to Spelling Power once the reach 3rd grade(when it recommends beginning the program). In math, we use Singapore and switch to Teaching Textbooks in 3rd grade. Singapore teaches math in a way that gives the kids a real grasp of what they are doing and why. The only rote memorization facts are in multiplication. Everything else is taught in a very simple, effective way. Why am I telling you all of our plans? There’s a point. Because we know what we are doing, we can attend these conventions and find the writers of what we are using or what we plan to use and we can get advice and encouragement directly from them. Also, the rates tend to be below average when at the event. We are bringing a list of what we still need for the next several years, along with online prices, and picking up anything we find cheaper than on the websites. Kansas City does have a notably large curriculum fair going on at the convention. I may spend the whole weekend browsing the books.
I would like to end the post with a note about curriculum that I found to be life changing. If you have several kids, don’t have a lot of money to spend each year, and especially if you are beginning with young children (and will pass through each grade more than once), there are non-consumable choices for curriculum, including language arts and math.
A little gem that I have found are the Primary Language Lessons and Intermediate Language Lessons. They are fully Charlotte Mason and were written in the early 1900’s by teacher here in Kansas City. It’s a strong LA book, but gentle so boys who hate to write, like mine, can handle Language Arts writing. They are sold all over the internet and extremely unique. Although every lesson has writing assignments, it is not a workbook, textbook, or worktext. Each book is used for 2 to 3 years and each book costs about $13. Another great Language Arts book written by Susan Baur Wise is Fiirst Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind. I used it with my oldest in first grade. The only reason we didn’t continue is that is teaches parts of speech and diagramming and I am not teaching those things until later on. In the early grades we are fully immersed in spelling, copywork, narration, copywork, dictation, and more copywork. It is what works for my kids- they are boys and writing does not come easy. When they read great writing and copy great writing, they are learning the same way Abe Lincoln and Ben Franklin learned to read and write. If we throw unnessary diagramming and names of words in there, it would undo all the learning going on. A fairly new little gem that I’ve discovered is a series called Language Lesson for the… it begins with the Very Young and ends with High School Student. They are great, but consumable. They can be found on Timberdoodle’s website.
Spelling Power is another great find. I have 3 kids and I can’t be doing 3 separate spelling lessons when they get older. Spelling Power is really expensive, but I can use it with all 3 once they reach 3rd grade and never have to buy another spelling book. There is an DVD included and the writer explains how to place them and how it works, how to use it for all of my 3 kids at one point. Spelling skills should begin at 3rd grade, phonics before that. I am out-of-the-box and I really want my kids doing spelling once they finish Explode the Code(the phonics books I use) and that’s usually at the end of first grade.
So, we have the Language arts books, Spelling Power, and Teaching Textbooks- the math can be used by up to 6 kids. I won’t need to buy any supplemental math books once they reach 3rd. Amen.
We are beginning Rosetta Stone’s French next year, but don’t have that yet. I’ll be looking for that at the convention. My husband just finished the first level of Spanish. It took him a few months and he really enjoyed it and I like the way it’s done. Rosetta Stone is fascinating and easy to use. The company I work for has a lot of French books so I will be buying those too.
So all we need to buy each year is our next basic grade of My Father’s World 5-year cycle. And until my kids reach 2nd grade, phonics replacement books; until 3rd grade math replacement books.
We don’t use a reading curriculum. I created a master reading list and used my oldest as the guinea pig and as they move through the books they read a page/chapter and narrate back to me what they read. It works fabulously. Until they reach 3rd grade, all their vocab comes from their reading lists. If they need extra handwriting or copywork, it comes from the books on their reading list
Doing it this way is something that has evolved for me over the years. I don’t like having to to 3 seperate lessons for each subject. The oldest does math on his own with TT3, H+J do math with me at the table. It’s the only thing we are in seperate rooms for. We sit at the table together for language arts/spelling/phonics, and then we move to the living room for history and reading. Science is done in the afternoon or evening and we are all working on the same things so it just fits nicely into life. I’ll be excited to see how My Father’s World works and I’m sure I’ll write plenty of blogs about it. I’ve read other MFW blogs and those families seem a lot like mine. They seem to post a lot of pictures of their kid’s activities. I take pictures for the portfolio, but I’m not a picture poster. It’s still be informative though, for other hs’ers.
Thanks for reading. I had a pretty crazy experience yesterday that I wanted to write about, but I still need to process it some more before I write. So hopefully tomorrow or Monday I’ll get to share and release what’s on my heart about that. I hope you enjoyed my blog about homeschooling.