Friday, January 21, 2011

homeschool ramblings

This post is intended for my homeschool friends.  If you don't homeschool, feel free to read my ramblings, too, although your head might be spinning by the end of the post (or, perhaps, before you reach the end!). 

I have been composing emails in my head for the past few days to several of my homeschool friends, but I thought I would just publish a blogpost instead and hope for some feedback.

Here's the scoop:
I'm kind overwhelmed at the moment. 
I know.  I know.  Coming from me, Ms. Stress-Management Personified, that must come as a HUGE SHOCK.
Or not.
If you don't know, we are doing almost all Sonlight Curriculum this year.  On many levels, I love Sonlight.  I truly love the fact that it is literature-based and that we have read some absolutely amazing books together this year.  Amélie loves both the books she reads to me and the books that I read to her.  Her reading ability has skyrocketed, her love of learning has increased exponentially, and she likes school. 
So what is my problem? 
Well, part of my problem is that Sonlight is incredibly time-consuming.  It's not that I am not willing to commit to spending time on homeschooling Amélie.  It's a full-time job, and I'm glad (usually) to do it.  Part of my problem is that, with the exception of two mornings a week when Jack is in preschool, I have a three-year-old to contend with.  He is too young to enjoy most of the books we are reading, and I know he must get jealous of all of the one-on-one time I spend with Amélie that I then don't have time to spend with him (GUILT!  GUILT!  GUILT!). 
Another problem I have with Sonlight is that we spend so much time reading that we don't get to do activities with the reading.  While studying ancient Egyptian history, I would like to hike on over to the Nelson and check out their fantastic Ancient Egyptian gallery.  While reading The House on Walenska Street, I would like to take a break from where we are in history and geography entirely and spend some time studying what life for Jewish families in Russia was like 100-years ago.  Next week is Kansas Day, and if I do something for Kansas Day (which I intend to do), then I mess up where we are in the schedule.
I think I have a problem with the rigidity of the schedule, and while I know it is a suggested schedule, I am such a "rule-follower" that I feel like I have to do it all and do it well.  Meanwhile, we miss out on doing some fun and educational stuff that I feel is important to Amélie's education and to my sanity. 
We are also reviewing homeschooling products this year, and trying to squeeze the trying-out part into our schedule has been incredibly stressful.
So what do I do?
At this point I am not ready (I don't think) to scrap Sonlight, partly because I invested a lot of time and money into this program and partly because I do believe it is an excellent program. 
So what do I do?
(Did I say that already?)

Here is the type of homeschooling program I am interested in (to either find or figure out myself):
I still think I am interested in a literature-based program, because I definitely see how much more Amélie soaks up when what we are learning is lit-based.  Maybe I want a more unit-based lit program?  For example, as I noted above, while reading The House on Walenska Street I would like to learn about life in Russia 100 years ago.  When it's the Chinese New Year I want to celebrate with history and crafts and food.  I would like to feed Amélie's passion to feed the world and save the planet.  I know, for a fact, that I can do this while homeschooling.
But how?
I just get so overwhelmed so fast, and while I do have some time I can spend planning (and, I will confess, it's the planning and researching part that I sometimes love the most), I hardly feel like I have the time or the ability to create my own curriculum (please correct me if I'm wrong). 
Lastly, I have some questions about some specific homeschool programs/products/philosophies, so I'm going to list them here, and if you have any thoughts please let me know.  Here they are:
Shurley English
Excellence in Writing
Monarch or SOS
Tapestry of Grace
Unit Studies
Classical Education
Charlotte Mason
I am at a complete loss as to the other things I was wondering about--proof of my overwhelmed brain. :) 
I would love to know what you have tried...what worked for you...what didn't...etc. 
Oh, and while you're at it, if you feel like sharing your schedule and your thoughts on homeschooling more year-round that would also be fantastic.
Thanks ever, ever, ever so much!


  1. I definitely think you're looking for more unit based curriculum, but I think that what you're using can be adapted to functioning more as unit based. I feel like if you are leaving out the field trips, investigative studies of related topics, fiction to nonfiction/real life connections, then you are leaving out such a HUGE part of the very necessary part of the process. Building background knowledge is going to lead to a more rich educational experience, which is the goal and SO much more important than sticking to the program.

    I am a pro at adapting curriculum (after many many years of teaching shitty curriculum and making it work!!!) If you want, I can take a look at the Sonlight and give you some tips on adapting it to unit/theme based. I can rewrite it for you to get you on a more thematic approach!

  2. I love the fact the sonlight is a lit based program as well but like you said it is time consuming.

    So being ever cleaver me...I asked for a copy of the sonlight curriculum catalog and then choose books from the catalog that I purchase from second hand shops, ebay, etc.

    I use for the lapbooks/unit studies that go with the books. I also purchase study guides from currclick to supplement the books.

    I love unit studies but I also have some core pieces in our curriculum like math based upon my childs individual needs.

    Do not become a slave to your curriculum!! Make the curriculum work for you. Do what feels right.

    I use several different methods in our homeschooling but they don't always work all at the same time. If that makes sense.

    Being on the crew has been overwhelming for me also but I am digging out of the overwhelming and going with the flow. I realized it was overwhelming because I was trying to do everything I planned plus the review items. It doesn't work!

    I don't know, I think I am probably the last one to give advice but I am trying to go with the flow and let things work for me instead of me working for the program.

    Hope that helps :)

  3. I am too new to homeschooling to give you advice but I can tell you our experience with Monarch. My daughter struggles with the reading in history because she isn't interested in history. I saw a demonstration of Monarch and liked that it is a little more interactive than the LifePac books.. There are pictures and videos that break up the reading and help get her more interested. We are only doing history with Monarch and we just started a couple of weeks ago, but so far I think it's a great program. But I have to tell you that Savannah does not like it. I'm not sure why but I'm suspicious that she is like me and does better with actual books than with electronic versions. My husband writes software so he is all about electronic versions and wants the world to do away with paper. He buys ebooks all the time but I'd much rather have a paper book than an ebook. So with that said, I think if your daughter would do well with a computer curriculum then Monarch is great. But think twice if you think she does better on paper. Good luck! I'm rethinking all of our stuff because we're having our own issues.

  4. I have been using Sonlight for 8 years. Here is my take. If I had it to do over again, I might go with My Father's World. It's similar, but not as intense and more hands-on.

    That said, here is how I use the curriculum. You can't do everything and have a balanced and fun learning environment. I take a bit more time on the levels. Here is what has worked with my oldest 2: I spend 2 1/2 years doing levels 1 and 2 (4 day). Then I do the 3/4 combined(1 yr. American History) for 1 1/2 yrs. The level 5 is a struggle because I try to get it done in a year. This is the second time through for me, so it's easier to know what books to cut...I can tell you what I do with 6 and 7, but that's still pretty far in the future.

    This gives me flexibility to do the extras and to get on rabbit trails and let the kids study what interests them. I also don't do all of the dictations. I'm not a strong writer (I love history and math) so that's harder to make myself do it.

    As far as younger siblings go, I tried to do the biggest bulk of reading while he was napping-when he was little. Now he's 5, but even before that, I tried to have "school" things for him to do. If I was teaching writing, I would let him/her use the dry erease board or chalk board to pretend. Believe it or not, I never taught Joy to write. She learned it by watching me do spelling words with her older brother.

    One more suggestion. If your little one is up, break up the reading into small amounts and then give him a turn to read with you. It won't be long before Amelie will be doing more independent reading and you will be able to do the discussion questions to check her understanding.

    Hope that helps. Feel free to Facebook me if you have anymore questions.

    Tracy Crosley