Monday, November 30, 2009

Finding a road to follow.....

When you get together with other home schoolers the question of : What curriculum do you use? Is bound to come up. And of course it has definitely come up at our home school socials.

Most of us have pre-schoolers and one or two families have school-age children. A few of the moms have chosen curriculums they follow or would like to follow and a few of us have researched but haven't quite decided yet -if ever?!

When I started researching I felt that I wanted to follow something that was literature based. And I thought that I wanted something that would cover some sort of South African history. I also felt that I wanted something that was centered on the Lord. The Home School Curriculum for Life site covered quite a lot of these criteria with suggestions which they had. But I'm a visual tactile learner, I can't just look at something on a screen and decide, I need the real thing in my hands. I need to page through, read and ponder.
So my first step was to find people who were using the curriculum's that looked interesting to me. Let me just say firstly, in SA we have a handful of curriculum providers. Yes, it is a growing market, but thankfully not a huge one yet! So I didn't have much to choose from, which has been a blessing for me. You see, curriculum planning had been my strength as a teacher. I loved figuring out how children learnt and what would be the best way to put something across to them so that they could grasp a new concept. In fact assessing, planning and choosing new learning material was one of my interest areas.
At the time I started researching curriculums so was my close friend. We would often compare notes or information about meetings to attend. The first meeting we attended together was for an American christian curriculum which followed a unit study approach on christian values/principles. I liked the unit study approach, it was pretty much what I was doing with my children already, we were doing it more interest-led rather than a pre-planned module. However, I just didn't feel at peace that this was the way for us to go. It was after receiving an e-mail from another home schooling mom I knew, about a wonderful, encouraging web site from which she was learning so much that I realised that if the Lord has something to teach us that He thinks is important then HE will provide the material and the situation. For example: if you are studying perseverance, because it's the next module, but in your home life your children are facing daily challenges with patience, then that is what the Lord is wanting them to learn about! So I ruled out the need to have a curriculum centered on the Lord-our lives, I hoped, would be centered on Him! (Thank you Jesus that you can teach us through the simple daily routine of our lives. Help us to willingly learn and yield to your guiding hand.)

So the next step was to find a curriculum which covered South African history. There were only two which I came across in my search. After attending my first curriculum fair, I managed to whittle it down to one. At the fair both curriculums were on display. The first took up a quarter of the small hall. Too many books, a huge manual for each year and my head was spinning! Definitely knew that one was not for me-I would become a slave to the curriculum, ticking off every block and driving myself dilly doing it!
The second one was on a small table of it's own-definitely an option to consider. I made a mental note:Would have to find someone who had one to get my hands on for some serious browsing!!!

I had to wait a while before I could finally get my hands on the curriculum which was based on South African history and geography, so in the meantime I returned to the internet to browse for other ideas along the literature route.

My children love books. Jenna is a visual-auditory learner (as far as I can tell) who has learnt so much already through books, dvd's and the computer. Michael is more of an auditory-kinaesthetic learner (a little early for me to pinpoint-this is a guesstimate!) He likes to do and learns quickly by just listening or experiencing something in the purest form. So when I heard about Charlotte Mason and her literature and nature study methods I decided to do some more reading. I told you I loved reading and research didn't I?!

I discovered the Ambleside Online site and joined their e-loops for various groups. Ambleside Online is basically a curriculum guide and book list which you can follow according to the methods as described by Charlotte Mason an educator in the late 1800's. The e-loops and site provide extensive support and advice on how to implement her methods. But I think that I'll have to share what I learnt from Charlotte on another post, there's just too much to write about here!

In a nutshell, I thought that I had found what I was looking for at Ambleside Online-my only problem was finding the literature to support it.
And this was when I finally got my hands on the South African curriculum. Part of it's selling point to me was that it was based on methods used by Charlotte Mason. It was also a unit study approach using literature from South African authors in the early years. After perusing through the manual and looking at the literature I can honestly say I liked what I saw BUT I have a tendency to be a purist and although it followed some of Miss Mason's methods; she was not really an advocate for the Unit Study approach.  
I've earmarked this curriculum, because it has a great South African book-list from Grade 1 to Grade 12. And I'm sure I could use this alongside the Ambleside Online book list. Perhaps? Maybe someday, when and if I decide we are using a curriculum! ;-)

And so there I was, still not 100% certain of what I would use to educate my children. Still feeling like it was too early to start anything formal anyway. But STILL feeling that the Lord has a plan and that trusting that He would show us the way was all I needed to do.

So at times we discuss possible curriculums at our home school socials. At times I have a wobbly feeling like I must be crazy not to be following a curriculum. Sometimes I go back into research mode and read all the information about a curriculum or method someone else is using-just to check it out and settle my conscience. I don't think that the Lord wants me to be ignorant. I do think that because He knows our family and the plans He has for us, he also has His way of showing me personally what is right for us. One of the most awesome blessings I have found from being a part of our home school group is that by allowing anyone to be a part of it, this has helped me to accept that the Lord works in all of us in different ways and at different times. When we come together to share what He is doing we help to build each other up in Christ. We may not all follow the same curriculum or methods but I believe that this is not as important as building relationships. So for now, seeking His kingdom and growing in our knowledge of Him and His ways is a good enough curriculum for us!

JUST A NOTE: I know that there are many people out there who home school and just like those families who choose to send their children to what they feel is the best school, some families feel that they have found the best curriculum to home school. I just want to say that in no way do I disagree with any other family using any of the curriculums or methods I have researched. I truly believe that because we are all individuals the Lord uses different materials/ways to teach us and that no one curriculum or method is "the only one meant for all". Being in a relationship with Our Saviour means allowing Him to teach us about His ways using what we feel He has guided us to.