Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Homeschooling Year One: Come and Gone

We have only recently closed the books on our first year of homeschooling. Kindergarten was a success in so many ways. It wasn't always easy or as perfectly orchestrated as I would have liked, but it was fun and I think Jacob really learned a lot. Hopefully this week I will get around to making a little portfolio showcasing the highlights of his year. The state doesn't require anything of us, but it would be good to have on hand. Mostly, I would like something purely for the sake of remembering. What was his work like when he started? What did he do along the way? And where did he end up?

As we close the books and retire our pencils and erasers, I have already made most of our plans for the coming first grade year. I have perused catalogs, shopped online, cataloged recommendations, spent at the homeschool conference (and elsewhere). I am really looking forward to the next year. I am making some changes, for the better I hope. And I am really looking forward to beginning the new curriculum that will form our foundation and act as our springboard. After much thought and consideration, I have decided that I LOVE the Mater Amabilis curriculum enough to give it a try.

I have been reading about homeschooling for years. As I think I have said before, Brian was always worried that while waiting for Jacob to turn school age, I would grab some child as they stepped off the school bus and start homeschooling the poor dear. The journey to this point in our current curriculum has been interesting. I started out reading a book called Catholic Homeschooling. This is written by the lady who runs Seton Home Study. It was a good book - very informative and probably a good introduction. Upon reading reading it I remember falling in love and declaring that this is the way to go. I will homeschool just like she described!!! And while I learned a lot from this book, each book I read took me further and further away from the type of homeschooling she describes. So what did I read?

Catholic Education: Homeward Bound
Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum
Educating the Wholehearted Child
Real Learning
Charlotte Mason Companion
A Catholic Homeschool Treasury

I remember reading the book on classical education by Laura Berquist. Again, I was convinced that this is what I would follow. And I still really like her philosophy and what she does. But as I kept reading, both books and on the Internet, I realized that I was drawn over and over and over again to the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. My two FAVORITE books on homeschooling are Educating the Wholehearted Child and Real Learning (both dealing with Charlotte Mason's method). I have read each one twice. What beautiful books!! Love them. Love them. Love them.

I love Charlotte Mason's philosophy for several reasons. The main reason is the focus on reading quality children's literature (not "twaddle") and using living books to learn many subjects. It is not a workbook/textbook aproach. While I know everyone (parents and children) have their own needs and preferences, I remember feeling overwhelmed and scared when I looked at the stack of texts and workbooks Seton used in Kindergarten. I knew this was not for us. We have had and will have some workbooks - Math, Spelling, Handwriting, Map Skills and Phonics practice, but those take up so little of our time and that makes us all happy.

I am a reader and so far Jacob and Nicole adore books as well. A week or two ago I took them to Brian's parents for the day. Their Gamma told them she had gotten a bunch of books from the library for them. They darted around the corner and not 3 minutes later were found on the sofas with their stacks. Going to Half Price books is like going to a candy store for them. I love buying them wonderful books. I love coming home with armloads from the library. I love reading to them and, over the past year, watching Jacob devour, I mean read books for himself. I am choosy about my books - always have been. We have a wonderful collection of science and nature books and historical books. We use these books to learn science and history without using textbooks (or using them on a very limited basis). I never liked history and I think that is because it was taught from a dry, factual textbook that spent snippets of time on each topic. How much more exciting it is to learn history as we read books like this, this and this. I am excited and looking forward to learning all the things I missed. This way it is so NOT BORING!

So we are making the switch. Last year, for Kindergarten, we purchased the Mother of Divine Grace syllabus (developed from Laura Berquist's book) to use as our foundation for Jacob's curriculum. It is great, but about mid-year I realized this wasn't what I was looking for. I made some changes as I began reading more about Mater Amabilis. Then I decided Mater Amabilis was definitely the direction I wanted to take for Jacob's first grade year. I am looking forward to giving it a try. It has a richness about it and looks like it will keep Jacob very interested. I like that it leaves you free to choose the materials you prefer for Math, Handwriting and a couple of other subjects. I like this because I tend to like some guidance and direction, but also the flexibility to choose things I like or think will work best for my child. One math program may work for one, but not another. We need flexibilty there. Same for handwriting or teaching the mechanics of reading, etc.

We will be doing Level 1B as detailed on their website. It is beautifully laid out and just looks so captivating. I know it is not for everyone, but I believe it is right up our alley. It seems well-rounded. There is lots of reading coupled with narration as opposed to fill in the blanks on workbook pages. It seems to me the natural result of reading is to talk about it and that is how narration works. Someday that narration will turn into writing. It is also nice to see Nicole talk about the stories and narrate in her own 4 year old way.

I am excited about the next year. Again, I am sure it will not be perfect, but learning is a life long process. If I can learn to relax about the daily difficulties or the times when everything on the list doesn't get checked off, it can be a success. I love learning. I want my children to love learning. That is why we are taking this homeschooling journey. That is why we are going with this curriculum and philosophy. I believe these will foster this love and make it grow.

I love talking and writing about homeschooling. I know there are many more experienced homeschooling moms out there, but this is my own two cents. We all have something to offer one another. So, if anyone wants to discuss further or ask questions, I am up for it.


Melissa said...

Celeste, I can't thank you enough for sharing all of this! You're right...I've been looking at Mater Amabilis for a while now, too, and it just seems like such a wonderful way to go. And it feels so good to read through their suggested reading lists and see that we already have, and have read, a large number of their recommendations! So we must be doing something right! ;)

I will try to just relax, and remember that's it's not all about the details--it's the big picture that's important, and as long as I keep the best interest of my children in mind and always keep a prayerful heart about the entire matter, it will work out for the best. (However, I may still very well turn to you in a panic when I forget this resolution...I'm counting on you to remind me! ;))

Much love to you today and in the coming days as you prepare for another exciting year of learning!

Crafty Mom said...

Hey there. We have almost finished up our kindergarten year too.

I've got first grade almost figured out, but am working out the nitty gritty. Once I have a plan, I will post. I love reading your thoughts and talking it through with you.

I bought Real Learning about 2 months ago and am about a third through. I also caved and bought Charlotte Mason's orignal 6 book series after reading 3 other books on her philosophy. I am taking the parts I like, combining with some classical education, and combining with my own unit studies and workbooks. Yes, I am truly the eclectic one.

It is great having a sounding board, and great knowing so many people that homeschool like we do, but use their own versions of what works for them and what they like. Isn't it fascinating to hear the many different choices people make?

Michelle said...

Hi Celeste,

I just listened to Laura Berquist speak at a conference and afterward stood in line to talk to her (actually, the woman I was with wanted to talk to her). The woman in front of me asked her what the differences were between her and Charlotte Mason and she said that basically there were none - they shared the same approach and philosophy. I say this only so, down the road, you can continue to reference her Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum as a compatible resource to other Charlotte Mason sources.

Mom to Four said...

Wow! Michelle, I think that is cool that you got to meet Laura Berquist. I would love to meet her.

I think you are right. There are few differences between the two. I think I was just a bit disappointed in her Kindergarten syllabus. When I compared her first grade with Mater Amabilis, I like the latter so much better.

I certainly will refer to her in the future. Who knows how her stuff will change with each year we progress.