Recently I've had a couple people ask about what we are doing, so today I thought I'd share what we've been up to in the school room.
From the beginning, I have been drawn to the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling. I have found that there is no "right" way to educate your children at home. All of my friends and I do different things. Sometimes it takes some trial and error, but in the end, I suggest a lot of prayer over the matter, and you'll land in a place that fits you, your children, and your lifestyle.
I like Charlotte Mason because it allows for plenty of time to play and be children. Our boys have plenty of time to play Lego's, build things, and play outside. I also like the emphasis on short lessons. Especially with boys, their attention spans are short, so it is good for all of us to know that we will sit, focus, give our good effort, and be done in 20 minutes with the writing lesson (or whatever lesson we are working on). With the older boys, we use narration as a way for them to assimilate the lessons. I believe that when we can verbalize ourselves what we have heard, then the information is ours. This means that I read our history/science/geography books out loud and the boys tell me back what they heard. Again, it is a simple and natural way of learning that is very effective.
Starting in third grade my boys begin Teaching Textbooks for math. Their entire teaching/worksheets/grading is all done on the computer and we all love it. I also like Teaching Textbooks because I can reuse the teaching DVD's with the younger children.
There are two resources that I HIGHLY recommend for your bookshelf. They are two resources that I literally refer to all the time. Honey for A Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt and Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson. My pages were starting to fall out of Educating the Whole Hearted Child it is so well loved and worn that I had to punch holes in them and stick them in a 3 ring binder. We follow the model laid out in this book and our children (and myself as the teacher!) are thriving with it.
Just yesterday I got to experience the fruit of this lifestyle of learning. The baby was down for her morning nap, my 6 year old was playing Lego's, and me and the big boys were all kicked back in the living room reading our books. It made me smile that they have learned to grab books in their free time. (this took awhile, and was a slow process, but it is becoming more and more the culture!)
We don't do laborious workbooks for grammar, spelling, etc. We do copywork. I write the example on the board and the boys spend 20 minutes copying my example. This natural way of learning makes so much sense to me. It is simple and it exposes them to the greatest writers. They copy Bible, poetry, and all kind of literature. Sometimes they have creative writing and I give them a prompt and turn them loose.
We have had so much freedom in our homeschooling this year. I wish I would have known this freedom all five years but I spread the curricular safety net and relied on packaged curriculum for the longest time. There is nothing wrong with a packaged curriculum, but when every little thing wasn't checked off the lists, it left me feeling like a failure. Many of my friends use boxed curriculums because it fits their personalities so well and their children thrive with the checklists! When we did My Father's World, I really enjoyed the content. The thing that bogged me down was when I didn't do all the suggested crafts and such, it left me feeling like I was being a bad and ineffective teacher. Higher Up Further In is what we've chosen to use this year. It gives me tracks to run on and there is room for a lot of freedom in adding in the other books that interest my boys. There really is a fit for every family.
The CM approach is laid back and my children are learning so much. Last year my oldest son took his first standardized test. I was a nervous wreck because I thought, "What if we've been failing!" He exceeded our expectations. It was so reassuring to see how he was thriving in his school work!
My biggest piece of advice-Pray, pray, pray. Ask God to lead you and give you and your husband unity on the direction you are to pursue. God is faithful to gently lead us into all that He has for us. I have learned (the hard way many times) that going in the direction He is nudging is always the best place.
Give it some time. You will find what works with your style of teaching and your child's style of learning.
I rely heavily on the assurance that God's grace will fill in the cracks of my mothering. We believe this is what He has called us to and we lean in on Him for help.
Don't be discouraged if you have to try several things before you find what works for you. We started out with Abeka DVD's, then moved to My Father's World, and are using Higher Up Further In this year. Unless something changes, we will be staying with the Higher Up Further In curriculum. Every book we have read has been so good. It has kept all of our attention. That is saying something when I am enjoying the reading as much as my children are.