In a few of my last posts on homeschooling, I’ve mentioned that we’ve simplified our curriculum this year. I’ve had a few people ask me exactly what that means, so I thought I’d lay it out here today.
In years past, my list of homeschooling ‘must-dos’ was extensive. Last year, the things we did were:
critical thinking exercises
This is a crazy list. No wonder I was stressed out. We very rarely got all of it done, and if we did, it was usually done poorly. And, as cliche as this sounds, nowhere on that list is enjoying homeschooling. We did it seriously, and we had very little fun.
Over the summer, knowing that something had to change for us if I wanted to avoid enrolling all of my kids in the local school on a desperate day, my husband and I paired down. The list for this year looked like this:
To be fair, there are a few other things that my kids do, which I did not add to either list. They do a typing program on the computer, and they do Rosetta Stone French. I didn’t add these because they love doing them, and I do not have any part of it. They do it in their free time. Usually, I have to limit the time they spend on these things, instead of remind them to do them.
In the current list, poetry memorization is something they do on their own. It is in their notebook checklists, and they challenge and push each other on it, knowing that on Friday, I will ask them to recite the selection for their Dad. They do very well with this incentive, and I usually don’t have to worry about it, aside from choosing the poem every week (or every few weeks, for a longer poem). The history they also do on their own, on the computer. I think I’ve mentioned before that we use Veritas Press’s Self-Paced History curriculum, and we all love it.
So my involvement is really limited to Bible memorization, math, and grammar. I’ve talked before about how we do Bible memorization in our house. We start the day by singing a hymn, praying together, and working on our memory.
For us, math was the biggest change this year. We use Saxon math, and while it is not for everybody, it really works for us (And by us, I mean me. Somehow, my brain is just geared to love Saxon.). It used to be that I would attempt to quickly teach each child their lesson, then move on to the next kid while they did flashcards, mental math, any Meeting Book exercises, and the workbook page itself on their own. With this system, we were really floundering. The kids hated it, and I never had a very good idea of their strengths and weaknesses until we would get to the test days.
Since I love math, I decided that this year, math would be a lot more fun for everybody if I set aside the time to do each child’s math lesson with them, start to finish, every day. So after our Bible time, the kids take turns playing with the baby while I work through everybody’s math, starting with the youngest. The first few months, it took all morning. But as the kids (and I!) got better at it, and more used to being together working on it, we all have improved greatly. I’m much more aware of what flashcards need some extra review, and what things each individual kid is struggling with. My oldest son is in pre-algebra, and he and I sit side by side, working through his entire lesson together. His grades have absolutely soared this year, and he can do the work in about half the time that it was taking us in September. It has been a year invested in math, and year well spent.
For grammar, we use Shirley. The lessons are short, and the kids work through it in 5-10 minutes a day. For those who use Shirley, we skip all their writing assignments. I have never loved the way they’re presented, so right now our plan is not to worry about writing until high school.
And the reading aloud needs no explanation. It is one of my most treasured parts of the day.
Next year, I know I will have to add a little bit more back in. We will be adding back handwriting (since my almost-8-year-old can barely write her name correctly), and we will be adding spelling.
I’d love to hear what subjects you consider expendable!