One of the tricky parts of homeschooling is adjusting our curriculum to remain student-centered. If the work is too easy, too challenging, or not in the best format for the child, we have to go back to the drawing board. Otherwise, we may be giving assignments that are not engaging or not being retained.
Last semester, we used Time4Learning for our core classes (Math, ELA, Science, etc…), Kamali Academy’s curriculum for Africana History ideas, and a mix-mash of other resources. We belonged to a homeschool collective in Houston where my son was also able to learn Gardening, Sewing, Yoga, and Martial Arts.
In September, we moved to San Ignacio, Belize. For the first 5 weeks or so, we continued to use Time4Learning, also spending a lot of time outdoors, going on low-cost excursions, cooking, playing chess, watching movies, and just bonding. We have also had some fun day trips; for example, we caught a bus to Chetumal, Mexico a few weeks ago for around $25USD. I am also in graduate school online with the University of Houston, assisting with Instructional Design for Kamali Academy, and working on some new books, but it is a lot easier to manage my time here. I always seem to have more time than tasks.
My 12-year-old son, Hotep, loves to create video games in Scratch (scratch.mit.edu), so he has been spending at least 2 hours a day just programming games, alone or with friends. There are two other boys about his age on our street that he hangs out with every day. He is also working on writing his first fiction book, a chapter book about a boy with unique shapeshifting powers.
Since we live in the rainforest, the internet connection is sometimes unreliable. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to buy textbooks and workbooks for the year and bring them rather than to depend on daily internet service. For the past few weeks, I meditated on how to solve this issue. At least 2 days of each week, Hotep is either unable to access Time4Learning or it runs terribly slow, resulting in him spending twice as long to complete his assignments. Today, I cancelled our Time4Learning subscription and designed a new curriculum for the rest of the school year that involves downloaded books that can be accessed offline, active time outdoors daily, and fun educational activities.
I would like to share our curriculum outline with you to get your feedback and maybe also help you through your process.
- Math – downloaded 7th grade math textbook from ck12.org
- Grammar/Vocabulary/Language Arts – downloaded Middle School Grammar textbook/workbook from vanlueschool.org
- Writing/Publishing – downloaded composition textbook from ck12.org for; also working on fiction book and self-publishing completed book of poetry
- Typing – freetypinggame.net
- Ourstory/US History – Classical Africa by Dr. Molefi Asante (e-book)/A Young Peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn (e-book)
- Science- learning about Belizean ecology outdoors (helper site: http://www.ourbelizevacation.com/ecology-in-belize.html); also downloaded Life Science textbook from ck12.org
- Technology – Video Game Programming and Animation using Scratch (scratch.mit.edu)
- Physical Education – 30 min together per day outdoor exercise/play
- Spanish 15 – 30 minutes together per day using Berlitz Essential Spanish (print) and Pimsleur Spanish (audio)
- Weekly Field Trips Friday – i.e. nature walks, bus rides to other cities, Cahal Pech, Belize Zoo, Jaguar Reserve, etc…
The structure of our courses will be a combination of guided and independent work. Ourstory and US History will be on alternating days, Monday through Thursday. On Wednesdays, we will work on book publishing rather than Science and Technology. I had gotten away from spelling tests, so I will be resuming giving him spelling words on Monday and spelling tests on Fridays. If we have a short field trip some Fridays, we will also do some fun learning activities and watch a movie or a documentary.
We have about a month and a half left in this semester, so I will work out the kinks of our new program during that time. What are you using for your children’s curriculum this semester? Do you have any ideas of what we might add? Have you ever had to adjust your curriculum mid-semester? Please comment with feedback and questions.
Love and Light,
Outside of homeschooling my own son, I also tutor other students part-time. They are mostly private school students. At a session this week with a 7th grader for Pre-AP Algebra, my son, who is in the 6th grade, wanted to jump in and help him with a difficult problem. I stopped my son because I like to give my older students more time to figure it out on their own, but I was proud of him for understanding the work and for taking the initiative to want to help. It let me know that I was doing something right.
This exchange prompted me to think about the sacrifices that we make for our children. The parents that I work with often select their neighborhoods and their career paths based on wanting their children to have access to the best possible education. Likewise, I make many decisions based on wanting my son to receive the best education – the one that God has blessed me to provide to him.
At times, I have thought about how I could possibly be making more money if I did not spend the time that I spend with my son. Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts. Yet, my sacrifices in the financial area have allowed my son to be more advanced in many subjects than my private school students, though their parents are much stronger than me financially. Please keep this in mind if you’ve had any financial challenges due to working less hours or not working as a homeschooling mom. We don’t always have to have more money to do more for our children. Sometimes having less allows us to do more – and as a bonus, our children learn not to be materialistic.
For 5 years now, my son has been out of the public school system. At first, I was really just hoping that I was doing the right thing, lol. Thanks to my heightened investment in supporting his academic growth, along with support from friends and strong sister-mentors in my community, we quickly witnessed major improvements in his reading, math, and interest level. Within 2 years, he had strengthened academically more than I imagined that he could have so speedily. I knew then that we had to stick with independent education.
Of equal importance to academics, he has had the space over the past 5 years to pursue computer programming, animation, chess, creative writing, visual art, and drumming to the point where they have become passions for him. He has also had space – physically, mentally, and emotionally – to research extensively on one of his greatest loves in life – animals. At the same time, he has a great sense of his culture and history, thanks to both our studies and our strong community.
If I had a lot of money, maybe I would have enrolled him in a private school and secured private tutoring for him from the beginning. When he was struggling with reading at age 6 and I felt like his teachers were against him instead of for him, maybe I would have said, “Forget this – you’re going to the best school that money can buy.” I’m so glad that I wasn’t rich, because it turned out that learning to be my son’s educator was the best decision that I’ve ever made.
If you are considering homeschooling or just starting out, stay strong in your mission. When you feel you are not doing a great job, ask yourself what you can do differently and make changes. All teachers make mistakes. It’s important to recognize these challenges and fix them instead of beating ourselves up about them. When you are doing a great job, celebrate that too. Set goals for each semester and celebrate the goals that you are able to achieve. Homeschooling is like gardening – it’s hard work and you may not the results clearly from the beginning, but it will result in a beautiful harvest.
Also, when you feel discouraged about financial challenges, look at all that your children are able to gain from your sacrifices. Many resources can be had for free or very little money, so it is not necessary to have a lot of money to homeschool. Stay strong, focused, and positive – you’re giving your children the best education possible! Even more importantly, no amount of money can replace the family bonds that are forged all while providing an excellent education!
Stay tuned for the next post which will have money-saving tips, goal setting tips, and other tools for providing the best education that money can’t buy.
I hope that your week is off to a productive start. I have some exciting news.
Recently, I learned that Home Depot and Lowe’s offer free building workshops for children. Please visit the following links and enter your zip code to find the upcoming workshop near you. Enjoy!
Africana History Fact: Did you know that one of the first known architects was Imhotep, who designed the first pyramid – the Saqqara Step Pyramid for King Djoser?
Home Depot Workshops: http://workshops.homedepot.com/workshops/
Lowe’s Workshops: http://www.lowesbuildandgrow.com/pages/default.aspx
I hope that your week is going well. Today, I want to talk about a super heroine of mine.
Dr. Wangari Maathai she was born in a small town in the East African country of Kenya. Even though it was hard for a girl to get an education in this area, she completed grade school, flew to the USA and earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, a Master’s Degree in Biological Sciences, and a PhD in Anatomy.
She used her love for science and nature to start the Green Belt Movement in 1977. Women involved in the GBM have planted more than 10 million trees since 1977 which has helped to restore the soil in Kenya after immense deforestation.
Dr. Maathai was the first African woman to earn the Nobel Peace Prize. She earned this honor for her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy, and peace”.
She received honorary doctorate degrees from 13 universities, in Kenya, the USA, Norway, and Japan. She also received over 55 awards in her lifetime, such as the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights from South Africa and the Indira Gandhi International Award for Peace from India. Dr. Maathai was voted one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine and one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes Magazine.
Sadly, Dr. Maathai passed away in September 2011. Fortunately, her legacy continues. The Green Belt Movement has published a Community Classroom curriculum through PBS including lesson plans, handouts, and videos for grades 9-12 (or ambitious&talented younger students).
Please make use of this curriculum to expand your students’ social, environmental, and cultural awareness.
We recently purchased a little pot of lavender with the goal of starting a small indoor container garden of herbs and vegetables. For those of us who are yard space-challenged, indoor gardening may be an optimal option to get in touch with our green thumbs. Our lavender has already grown to about 150% of its original size within 3 weeks. With this in mind, we will be expanding our indoor garden to include more herbs and a few vegetables.
Gardening is a valuable component of a well-rounded homeschol curriculum. If you would like to join us in our indoor gardening venture, please visit the following links:
Easiest Vegetables to Grow Indoors: Lettuce is at the top. Spinach, radishes, and tomatoes (using an aero garden) are also viable.
Herbs to Grow Indoors: Any herbs can be grown indoors, under the right conditions.
How to Grow an Herbal Tea Indoor Garden: Chamomile and Mint Tea is great for the kids and for you too!
Gardening Lesson Plans for kids: Awesome lesson plans from Growing Minds.
More Gardening Lesson Plans: Lesson plans for kids from Utah State University
Enjoy your indoor garden and let us know know it goes!