Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homeschooling redux

So it took me a while to come around to it, but once I did, homeschooling on our own seemed like the most natural choice. With the online school, we have the worst of school and homeschooling: the constant accountability to someone else, living on their schedule and having no control over curriculum, but we're still stuck with our kid all day. The big advantage of homeschooling is supposed to be having the flexibility to adapt your curriculum to your particular needs. So that's what we're doing.

The logistics:

Starting to homeschool in Pennsylvania isn't very hard: you submit an affadavit to your local school superintendant with a couple medical forms (bizarrely, including a tb test, which K didn't need when she was entering a brick and mortar school), and that's that. We can call and withdraw her from school the same day we submit it. My current goal is having it all done by Wednesday so I can avoid the biweekly teacher call on Thursday.

After that, you need to keep an attendance log and enough work examples to be able to put a portfolio together at the end of the year to prove you've accomplished something. The part that makes me a bit nervous is that we also have to find someone to evaluate K to make sure her learning is on track, but I've decided to file that under "bridges to cross once we arrive at them."

So what sort of curriculum are we planning to try?

The main curriculum I'm planning to use is Five in a Row, a curriculum where you read a storybook five days in a row and do different studies based on the book (an online friend does a good job of making it look like a lot of fun at her homeschooling blog). For instance, I think we will probably start with Make Way for Ducklings, one of K's favorite books. The first day, we'll probably look at bit at the geography and history of Boston. The next day, a science lesson on ducks. The third day, a study on the art techniques used to illustrate the book. And so on. I can see a lot of reasons to try it:

* it looks like fun, and with the issues we've been having, I'm for anything that might produce some enthusiastic participation.
* it allows us to cover most of the subjects we're required to cover without having to have a separate curriculum for each one.
* it looks toddler-friendly - Alec can listen to us read the story and participate a bit in some of the activities, and we can plan messier, more involved things for his preschool days.
* it doesn't require tests or worksheets or any of the required, repetitive output that has been making us miserable.

I do plan on separate math and reading curricula. For reading, I'm planning on starting with Progressive Phonics, a free phonics program that looks like it might be a bit easier to get K to participate in. Instead of having the child read incredibly stilted and boring phonics books with the tiny number of words they know, it has the teacher read the words in black while the child reads the words in red. This allows for more fluent and interesting things to read, and I'm hoping the fact that I will be reading too will make it easier for K to read out loud. It also has a handwriting component, so that will take care of that state requirement. Once we work our way through that, I'm hoping she'll be a confident enough reader at that point that our reading can be from easy readers. We'll have to find another writing and spelling curriculum at that point, but once again, bridge, cross, once we reach.

K has been doing an online reading game called Reading Eggs, and I think I may splurge and get a subscription so she can keep doing one of the few things she's been enthusiastic about. I know there are plenty of free reading games online, but this is a really good one and I think worth the money for this year at least.

For math, I'm thinking about MEP math, largely because it's free, but also because the lessons and exercises look like they'll appeal to K. There are also any number of free math games online, so we'll try to do some of those as well.

So I think our days will go: FIAR, reading, math, plus computer time. I'm contemplating only doing FIAR four days a week and using the time on the fifth day for more science, or maybe doing history in a more organized, linear fashion. And we should fit music somewhere in there beyond what FIAR covers. I'm sure these things will become more clear as we start into it.

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