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Monday, January 2, 2012

Learning Language At Our House

I mentioned in my weekly Quick Takes that Michael and I are redesigning our homeschool curriculum. This is a pretty involved event for us to take on as we near the mid-point of our fifth homeschooling year. I am both excited and terrified at the same time. Excited because I feel motivated and happy to begin homeschooling again. I haven't felt that way in months. Terrified because I am a creature of habit and it feels like we are entering a world of the unknown.

Over the last couple years I believe we strayed from what we want our homeschool to look like, and allowed it to become a home version of government mandated schooling. Worksheets, textbooks, evaluations, and check sheets have taken over the shelves. Gone are the narrations and notebooks filled with illustrations. Gone is the laughter and spark of spur of the moment park days. Gone is our motivation.

We have smart kids. We know that. Being smart is desirable, but it is not the only thing, or the most important thing that we want for them. We want them to love learning. To yearn for it. To experience the same joy for learning that they feel when they wake up on their birthdays.

I was so excited to join the Virtual Curriculum Fair that my friend Susan is heading up. It seemed like perfect timing for our homeschool. This weeks theme is Language Arts.

For the phonics, grammar, and writing portions we use three main programs. We start with Sound Beginnings to instill phonetic awareness. This program also offers wonderful handwriting practice. As a former first grade teacher, I have yet to find a better program than this. In second grade we start Shurley English. I love that my children are diagramming sentences by the time they turn eight. The grammar rules are taught using catchy "jingles" making them fun and easy to remember. It also give the kids a good introduction to writing techniques. Since I believe that Shurley falls short in the writing portion, we begin using IEW in fourth or fifth grade. Institute for Excellence in Writing is a video course that creates a solid foundation for writing techniques. Most importantly, you child will learn to love writing. I was skeptical, but now I am a true believer. I once had to bribe and threaten James to get him to complete his writing assignments. Now he writes on his own for pleasure. Unbelievable!

In addition to these three programs, we do a lot of reading at this house. We try to bring history into every subject we can. We have history divided up into four main chunks, and this year we are studying Ancient History. All of our reading is connected to our history.

A small sampling of our ancient history books.

My children read, and are read to from about fifty different books a year based on the historical time period we are studying. From these books they complete narrations. Younger children complete oral and picture narrations and as they get older we make the transition to written narrations. In addition to "school" books, we visit the library about twice a week and the kids love to read for pleasure.

Narrations are a main focus of our homeschool. Well, they were a main focus and soon will be again. My children create narrations in many subjects: reading, science, history, art, and geography. Complied together in a notebook, the narrations create a beautiful representation of our learning for the year.

I am very interested in the Classical Conversations programs, which focus strongly on the Language Arts. Commitment, distance, and cost are factors that I struggle with, but I believe that these things can be overcome when the right program presents itself. We will have to see what the New Year has in store for us!

One of the best aspects of homeschooling is the ability to perfectly tailor the education your children receive. Every family is different and sometimes you can learn a lot by reading what others are doing. Head on over to Homeschooling Hearts and Minds, or click on any of the links below to check out how others are mastering the art of language.

Disclaimer: I wrote about these things because I wanted to, and I received nothing but personal satisfaction for my efforts.


Susan said...

I need to seriously consider making the financial plunge for IEW next year. David is actually a good writer, but the only time he will write without groaning about it (and trying to get by with as little effort as possible) is when he writes his novel during National Novel Writing Month. We put aside our regular grammar and writing for it and he devotes large amounts of time and effort to the project. He commits himself in a way that he normally won't.

Thank you for joining the Virtual Curriculum Fair, it's great seeing all the posts as they come in.

Christa said...

Haven't had a chance to read through your post yet, but wanted to respond to you. Yes, my kiddos have their own email account (they are almost 12) and I have it set up to come to my iPhone, so I am able to monitor it.

Be back soon to check out your blog!

Susan said...

OK, I'm officially losing my mind, I know I read your post and I thought I had commented. Just give me a padded cell. ;0)

We try to re-evaluate what we are doing and why every year because it really is so easy to get turned around by comparing ourselves to what everybody else is doing. I keep a written reminder of our "mission" and educational philosophy at the front of my binder...I should read it more often. ;0)

Thank you for linking up with the Virtual Curriculum Fair.

Katherine T. Lauer said...

Jessica: Do you start Sound Beginnings in K (because your kids are probably reading by then anyway, by osmosis) or 1st grade? I'm trying to figure out what to do for John next year (age 5-1/2, official K). We did half of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but he stalled out on that out of boredom. So he can *mostly* read at a beginner level, but we need to do a phonics program again. The other one that I'm finding highly recommended is Phonics Pathways.

Cindy @ Fenced in Family said...

Have fun getting back to a more "natural" schooling style! It's definitely easy to slip into the textbook/workbook mode, but it sure seems to zap the life right out of things, doesn't it?