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,
Today, my son received his first letter (via email) from a boy his age in Senegal. This is the first time that my son has ever had a pen pal, and he is really excited about it. I have been researching international work exchange (volunteering with a family, business, or NGO in exchange for room and board) and found a sweet homeschooling mom in Senegal who needs help with her children for a semester or so. If things go well with our children getting to know each other, maybe we will stay with her family for a little while to gain a different experience of the world. (If you are interested in opportunities like these, visit workaway or HelpX.)
Benefits of a Pen Pal
Having a pen pal can help our children to learn more about their selves and about the world. They can also practice reading, writing, and typing skills in the process. You can tie in lesson plans on English Language Arts, Geography, and Social Studies easily into your children’s pen pal writing assignments. For instance, they can learn about the terrain and weather in their new friend’s country, the history, the culture, and the literary classics. Also, they have fun playing the games and sports that their friend abroad plays. Best of all, you can try the delicious international foods together!
Over the next week, my son and I will learn more about Senegal at the library and on the internet so that we can better understand his new friend’s country.
Finding a Pen Pal
If you would like to get your children started with International Pen Pals, there are several sites that can help.
Students of the World: Etudiants du Monde (Students of the World) is a French non-profit association, whose aim and ambition is to open the doors of the world’s cultures to young people. If you are a student, then the website will propose you pen-friends who are the same age as you, in the countries of your choice. Then, you will be able to discover new cultures, exchange ideas, stamps, postcards, improve your knowledge of a foreign language, and why not decide later to travel there ? The database includes 250,000 pen pals from 220 countries, 4,000 blogs, 7,000 clubs, 2,500 pen pal groups, many forums, educational games, 248 schools from 57 countries, and cultural information about 234 countries & territories (including 234 forums, 532 touristic pictures from 65 countries and 750 “virtual tours” views from several countries).
Global Pen Friends: Global Penfriends Internet Friends Club specialises in Postal and E-mail pen pals from all around the world. Their members are REAL people of all ages, looking for pen friends. Registration and profile submission is free. Their goal is to create a comprehensive listing of people from all over the globe who are interested in communicating with other people, whether it be for friendship, cultural exchange, language, travel or education. The site is family friendly and developed with Safety in mind. People of all ages are welcome here and can search for new contacts in a safe and friendly environment. All profiles on our system are manually approved for language and content.
My Language Exchange: My Language Exchange is the effort of Helene Cormier and Dan Yuen to help people all over the world learn, practice and become fluent in a foreign language. Together, they decided to use the Internet to bring the benefits of language exchange practice to people all over the world. In October 2000, MyLanguageExchange.com was launched. This was an online community that has since helped thousands of people find language exchange partners and improve their second language.
Pen Pal Safety:
There are some basic rules that you can follow to keep your child safe when writing to a pen pal.
1. Choose reputable websites.
2. Use Skype or other video chat software to verify that the person you are writing to is a child.
3. Don’t arrange to meet with anyone without having had extensive conversation and doing some of your own research.
4. Never send money to anyone.
5. Don’t respond to requests for sensitive personal information (i.e. copy of your passport, social security numbers, etc…)
The sixth rule here should be HAVE FUN, but I already know that you will do that.
I hope that your children have a great time with their new pen pals. Let me know how it goes! We will do the same.