Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Homeschool curricula for the non-planner

I mentioned in one of my early posts that I send one kid to Catholic school and homeschool the other one, mostly for personality and learning style reasons. But what I DIDN'T mention is that up until 2 years ago, I was firmly convinced that I could never homeschool - it sounded too scary! I mean, ME, pick out my child's materials and lessons for the whole year? What if I left out something important?

So last year, when I first decided to keep Daniel home and teach him here, I tried an public cyber charter school. I had tried it for about half a year with Catie in second grade, when she was dealing with some health issues, and I had liked it a lot. And there's a lot to recommend them, at least at first - they're public schools, meaning paid for by the state, so it costs you nothing to enroll. They send you a loaner computer, printer, all the books and materials you'll need for the year, and reimburse you for your internet on a quarterly basis. What's not to love?

Unfortunately, a lot. It's still a public school, so the online teacher is responsible for teaching your child, not you. That means that there are certain days and times that your child has to sit in a virtual "classroom", dealing with 20 other children, while they try to listen to the days lessons. After those lessons are over, it's still the parent's job to get them through the actual school work for the day. In Daniel's case, in 3rd grade, he had 2 1/2 to 3 hours of virtual classroom time daily, after which he still had between 5 and 6 HOURS worth of school work to do. I'm no mathematician, but 9 hours of work from an 8 year old (not including breaks and lunch) seemed unsustainable, especially when that 8 year old has attention issues. The idea with schooling from home was that we wanted MORE flexibility in his education, not less. I felt like we were being chained to the computer all day! We asked if we could go "asynchronous", meaning not having to log those classroom hours daily, but we were told that was impossible - going "asynch" was for the most dedicated students. As I wept about the impossibility of the schedule to my homeschooling friends, they dried my eyes and filled my hands with books from their shelves. They told me homeschooling would be so much easier than fighting the cyber school formats, and they were right.

We live in Pennsylvania, one of the strictest states in the Union when it comes to homeschooling regulations, and I have to say - it's not so bad! We keep a portfolio through the year, show it to a professional evaluator who determines whether or not an appropriate education is taking place, and turn the evaluation in to the superintendent of the school district.

But getting back to the curriculum part - the first year was scary, as I tried to make sure we were working at grade level and covering all the mandated topics. But this year I discovered a free online curriculum, designed by a mom who reports in Pennsylvania (though she's a missionary working abroad) that covers all the needed topics and levels. It's called Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool, and it offers a totally free education, Kindergarten through 12th grade, all online. It's just the curriculum - the parent is the teacher - every day the work for the day is laid out, reading passages and math problems are hyperlinked, and it's fairly easy for the student to work through much of their day on their own should they need to. I need to work with Daniel most days to keep him on task, but some days he surprises me how well he works independently.

Easy Peasy is a Christian curriculum, but there's another completely free online curriculum that's secular, called Discovery K12 (they're changing servers right now, but check them out in a day or so). The biggest plus for Discovery K12 over Easy Peasy is Discovery K12 has a way to track what assignments have been done online - it's a much more technologically advanced website. Beyond that, the materials are very similar - public domain books available online for free, free math games, free science videos, etc., but Easy Peasy also has daily Bible study. I wish I had known about these programs last year, since they would have made me feel much less like Bambi when he stepped out on the ice when I was trying to write those lesson plans!

If having the daily lessons planned out for you doesn't work for your family, Mater Amabilis and Ambleside Online offer full lesson plans for a Charlotte Mason style education, without feeling like each day is dictated by an unseen taskmaster. And if you are the type that really enjoys making lesson plans, An Old Fashioned Education has a comprehensive list of public domain books that may pique your interest.

And none of these cost a dime. Keep that in mind, if you should ever look at homeschooling materials for sale - you don't always get what you pay for. Sometimes you get much, much more.

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