Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Post 15 of 100 - Choosing Curriculum

It's that time of year again. The time when curriculum must be chosen and ordered for the upcoming school year. Normally, I'd have it laid out by now as most homeschoolers knew exactly what they needed way back at the homeschool used curriculum yard sale in May. And normally, I'd just find the A Beka representative closest to me and place an order for the next set of DVDs and books.

But this year?

This year, I'm mixing it up a bit.

This year, I'm going wild and crazy.

This year, I'm diving into the deep end of homeschooling.

This year...I'm doing KONOS.

(I think I just heard a collective gasp from the homeschoolers out there.)

Have I ever mentioned that the whole homeschooling thing was the sole brainchild of my husband? Ok, not the concept, just the application to our family. When I first approached a homeschooling friend asking where to get started, she handed me a ridiculously huge, complex catalog that looked like the yellow pages for a large city. Except with smaller type. A quick flip through scared the bejeebers out of me and I promptly handed the book back and took my daughter down and enrolled her in the nearest public school. Hubby was extremely disappointed and after much back-and-forth (it wasn't pretty), we compromised.

Last week on vacation, my friend had one of those ridiculously huge, complex catalogs and I showed it to Mr. at Home. He immediately gained a precious insight into the fear I was feeling way back then and apologized profusely. It was very vindicating.

Anyway, over the years, I've used a very structured "school at home" approach to homeschooling. Workbooks and tests, listening to teachers lecture and explain, sitting at the table or a desk doing worksheet after worksheet. We do add lots of field trips and other activities, so it wasn't all boring. And it obviously worked well. K went to public school in January and easily stayed at the top of her class.

But this year, K's coming back home and she wanted something a little more interactive and activity-based. L will be in 1st grade and she's not much of a sit still and do worksheets type of girl. After years of fighting the homeschooling thing, of feeling pressured to do it, of looking for the easy way, it's really and truly my decision this year. And I feel like trying something new that we'll all enjoy more while still learning.

Because that whole "learning" thing is kinda the point of the whole "school" thing.

A Beka is a fabulous tool and it's a great way to ease yourself and your kids into homeschooling. I do still highly recommend it and in fact will be using some of it myself this year. K and I spent the afternoon browsing at the curriculum consignment store (I love that we live in such a homeschool-friendly town!) and she was very helpful in choosing her stuff for next year.

L will (I think) be doing the Language portion of her studies - phonics, spelling, writing, reading - using the A Beka Academy video. I do so hate phonics and she'll be much better off with Miss Wieler on video explaining the sounds over and over and over again. I can't get the math portion separately, so I will be teaching her that using the A Beka workbook.

K will be using Saxon Math for grade 6 (or highly advanced grade 5) that she picked out at the curriculum store. We checked many of the lessons from the book and she was having no problem with them, so we decided to push her ahead there. I love that she looked through the book choices and decided for herself that's the one she wants to use this year. She'll also be using the A Beka Language program for 5th grade.

Everything else will be covered with KONOS. It's a unit study curriculum designed to teach multiple ages simultaneously. They take a character trait and build off that to study everything from the structure of the ear to military insignia to proper manners at a tea party. Each unit has many, many activities to choose from based on the ages of your children and what you have access to. Activities like building a model castle, studying Marie-Antoinette and making Queen Cakes, taking a ride in a hot air balloon to see how they take-off and land, visiting a fabric store to compare fabric types, giving a report on how Roquefort cheese is made, researching how fungi cause diseases, and on and on. It's the way teachers would love to be able to teach if they had the time, resources, and support needed.

I loved the idea of KONOS, but it's the first time I've managed to convince myself to actually try it. I have to give up the worksheets and neat little curriculum books that we can just work our way straight through. I have to give up having precise grade designations for everything. I have to give up the idea of tests and answer keys. I have to get used to it being more work to choose activities and track down all the outside resources needed to complete the work (especially that hot air balloon...). I have to be more involved, do more guiding and more listening and more of just about everything. Every time I've heard KONOS mentioned in the past, people say how wonderful they've heard it is, but how much work it is. Hopefully, between using the familiar A Beka workbooks and video for the other subjects and having K in a math program that she can do mostly on her own, I'll have the extra time and energy to give to the KONOS curriculum.

I am happy that I still have plenty of structure in the core subjects of math and language. Structure, consistency, and a strong foundation in those areas are so important. But for the rest? The KONOS curriculum all sounds like so much more hands-on fun and don't you always learn more when you actually get to DO it?

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