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 am IN LOVE with these photographs! Check out more at: http://www.becauseofthemwecan.com/
The site describes their mission as:
The Mission :To Educate and Connect a New Generation to Heroes Who Have Paved the Way
On October 28, 2008, just days before the election of Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States, my first son Chase was born. On July 9, 2012, a few months before President Obama’s historic re-election, my second son Amari was born. Six months later, a few days before February 2013, I began to reflect on my sons and their promising future – specifically the opportunities they could pursue as a result of the progress and achievements made by individuals past and present. I also thought about the responsibility and at times the fear, I carry as a mother raising Black boys. I thought about how just one-year prior, Trayvon Martin was murdered. The murder and circumstances surrounding Trayvon’s death awakened my consciousness and moved me to create the “I Am Trayvon Martin” photo campaign. It was through this painful time for the Martin family and America that I came to realize that my lens could truly serve as a microphone that could amplify the feelings, fears, dreams and even the pain of a community.
The Because of Them, We Can campaign was birthed out of my desire to share our rich history and promising future through images that would refute stereotypes and build the esteem of our children. While I originally intended to publish the campaign photos, via social media, during Black History Month, I quickly realized how necessary it was to go further. With so many achievers to highlight, and thousands of children to engage and inspire, 28 days wasn’t enough. On the last day of February, with just 28 photographs in my collection, I decided to resign from my job in order to continue the campaign. On March 1, 2013, after most national and local conversations about Black History and Achievement ended, I released a photo of a mini-inspired Phyllis Wheatley and began the journey to continue the project for a full year.
A year later I have come to the conclusion that even 365 days aren’t enough. What began as a mother’s passion project quickly evolved into a movement. Today we are committed as ever before to encourage and empower people of all ages and hues to dream out loud and reimagine themselves as greater than they are, simply by connecting the dots between the past, the present and the future.
I think that you will enjoy them too! Black History 365!
I hope that you are enjoying the holiday season. We have definitely been enjoying spending time with family, cooking, and eating. Especially the eating.
Being vegan for only 4 years, cooking food for the holidays has been a learning process. There is always the simple route – grabbing some Tofurky and a box a stuffing, but that’s not my style. For the past few years, I have been making a vegan gumbo with ample sides for Thanksgiving. This year, I included my son in the cooking process from start to finish. He washed, chopped, stirred, and baked to his heart’s content.
Which brings me to the reason for this post, do you include cooking classes in your child’s curriculum? If so, for which reasons? If not, for which reasons? Personally, I believe that Home Economics are a natural part of the homeschooling environment. Children being involved in these processes is fun and teaches them to be responsible adults. I still remember recipes from cooking with my grandmother at age 9 or 10.
So, you may be wondering, where do I start? I would recommend starting with these awesome no-bake chocolate peanut butter cookies, great for any age, Kindergarten and up, with adult supervision. We adapted this to vegan by using almond milk and Earth Balance butter. We also sprinkled in a few vegan chocolate chips and threw some coconut flakes on top.
You can also check out this neat list of vegan no-bake desserts if you want to keep it simple and healthy.
Here is a cool Pinterest collection of vegan recipes for children.
Understanding that everyone is not vegan, here is an awesome collection of omnivore recipes from Kid’s Health.
Enjoy making some of these delicious recipes with your little shining stars and we will chat again soon!
If you and your children have not seen this wonderful movie, do not deprive yourself a minute longer!
Kirikou is a young African boy (a baby, really) who is determined to save his village from an evil sorceress.
Kirikou teaches children lessons about bravery, perseverance, problem solving and more.
I encourage you to purchase the DVD from Amazon to add to your collection. Meanwhile, you can watch the full film with your kiddos on YouTube.
As I begin to collect items for our indoor container garden, I am finding some very helpful printables and lesson plans.
Herbs in the Classroom: Begin a small herb garden with an egg carton or Dixie cups.
Herb Identification Worksheet: Identify summer herbs with this neat free printable. Some included are dill, rosemary, and basil.
Start a Pizza Herb Garden: plant herbs that your children will use to make a pizza!
Herbs for Kids: What’s Safe, What’s Not: From WebMD. St. John’s Wort, for instance, is not okay for kids. Many herbs are. Lemon balm for instance, calms anxiety. (Use herbs for medicinal purposes at your own risk/benefit.)
Sensory Herb Garden Handout: Which herbs have the strongest smells and tastes that children can enjoy? Use this handout to better understand the sensory aspect of your herb garden.
I hope you find these helpful. Also, here are some generally helpful kids’ gardening printables:
Plant Parts: Parts of a plant.
Plant Growth: How a seed grows.
Plant Measurement: Track plant growth with this free printable.
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!
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Love is the most powerful weapon in the world!
It’s that time of year again – Black History Month. While African American History needs to be celebrated year round, February is a great opportunity to stock up on diverse lesson plans and printables.
Below is a starter list of links that I found useful. We can continue to build this list together as the weeks go by.
Please check back every week or so for updates on this post.
Free Black History Month Resources:
http://edhelper.com/BlackHistory.htm: Free printable plays, easy readers, photographs, lesson units, and more on African American history. This is a GREAT site from what I see.
Teachnology offers many free Black History printables. Please be sure to check out the “Revolutionaries of African American History” printables at the top.
http://homeschooling.about.com/od/holidays/ss/blackhistprint_all.htm: “Famous Firsts” Black History Month Printables including word searches, crossword puzzles, and draw & writes. I challenge you to research the history of 5 people of African descent that made notable contributions to history before the Transatlantic Slave Trade to include in your Black History month curriculum this year!
http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/black-history-month.htm: National Education Association presents lesson plans, quizzes, printables, video, audio on Black History. Poetry, literature, jazz, and much more…
http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/inventors/: Scholastic presents “Top Ten African American Inventors”. Click the “Find out More” button after the short synopsis on each inventor to see more detailed biographies.
http://www.abcteach.com/directory/holidays-months-and-seasons-months-february-black-history-month-3635-2-1: ABC Teach Free Printables including Black History KWL Charts, Report Forms, and Acrostic Poem Forms.
http://www.nickjr.com/printables/all-shows/seasonal_black-history-month/all-ages/index.jhtml: African American history activities and printables.
http://www.teachervision.fen.com/black-history-month/teacher-resources/6602.html: Includes many free crafts, lessons, quizzes, and activities on Black History.