Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Elementary/Grammar school homeschooling

I recently posted about how I go about homeschooling my toddlers/pre-schoolers/kindergarteners.  Now I thought I'd move on to Elementary level.  As with the very early ages, there are also so many options out there for these ages as well.  Every family (and maybe even every child within a family) will look different in what they need and what works for them.

Our first priority in all of our children is raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  That means Bible study and character training comes first.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness  and all these things shall be added unto you.  Matthew 6:33

We firmly believe that if we are looking first to God, teaching our children through and in His word, that the rest will follow.  We do not believe that this ensures our children's salvation; that is work the Holy Spirit must do in them.  It is, however, our duty as parents to obey God's word and teach our children His word as we walk along the way.  This is our first priority as we are planning our school days and our unit studies.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  Deuteronomy 6:5-7

This too will look different in every home.  For us we start our day in God's word reading as a family (we follow the Battle Plan for reading through the Bible in a year) and prayers.  Then we break to read Psalms individually.  Later in the day everyone who is able to read has Bible study time; younger kids (very early readers) look at picture Bibles for a while.  We also work on scripture memorization throughout the day.

Chores and helping around the home are also part of our children's education.  We start teaching these skills early on (babies and toddlers love to help!).  Hard work and responsibility builds character; additionally skills such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, organizing, home/finance management are skills that are needed by everyone in life but seem to be lacking in young adults  (not to mention kids, tweens, and teens) these days.

Our family has found over the years that we all function and learn best using unit studies as a group.  We all study the same subject; the books, projects and depth of study depends on the age and skill level of each child, but we do quite a bit of reading and discussion together as a group.  Every year my husband and I discuss what subjects we think our family should study (including what subjects would be relevant to what may be happening in our lives at the time).

Here are some examples for this year-
- All about me. This will include a study on life in the womb and anatomy.  We are expecting a new baby this year.
- Reformation. We study church reformation in October every year.  This provides a great opportunity for studies in history, geography, theology, orthodoxy, and orthopraxy.
- Thanksgiving. This is a study in early American history, the Pilgrims, and continued reformation.
- Christmas. This year in December we will start the month with a study of what happened to the Apostles after Jesus' death, then we will move on to a bit of a break but including studying "the Christmas Story" by way of Luke 2 and other books.
- The French Revolution
- South America and Cuba (my husband's work involves these areas right now)
- Arizona (where we live)
- Colorado (where we are moving)

Of course each child also has individual studies to do in Math, Grammar, Science, and Reading.

We use Life of Fred for Math.  We love these books and so do our kids!  I find them reading the books on their own time.   We've only been using these for about 3 years, so when a new lower level book comes in my big kids grab it up and read it before I start using it with the little ones.
These books are engaging, the kids want to learn!
Mr. Stanley's approach to education is similar to ours.  Math is not something that is it's own separate thing. It is part of life, and kids need to know how and where it will be relevant in their lives.  He brings other subjects such as science, history and grammar into the books.
His teaching is from a Christian world view (though it is not heavily obvious—just comments here and there).
Encourages independent study/learning; these books are intended to be used by the student on their own.
It is a reusable text book; buy it once, and everyone can use it!

Not a lot of repetitive work.  Some things just need drill work, so for that we have to supplement.

McGuffey's Readers/Spelling book and Harvey's Grammar are old old textbooks that I love using for reading, spelling and grammar.  My kids enjoy using them as well.  These books come with little-to-no instruction/direction on how to use them, which can be frustrating.  However, because there is little guidance for the teacher I'm better able to put my own spin on it for each child and what they need.

Apologia Science is what we've settled on as far as science goes.  My kids (even my younger boys that do not enjoy reading) have all enjoyed their individual science books and the experiments they get to do throughout the books.  They were able to guide themselves through these books.  Again, these are textbooks and are re-usable!

Workbooks come in handy for kids that just need some help in the basics, need some re-enforcement of what they've been learning, or enjoy that sort of work.  I just pick these up at Costco or wherever I may find them for the basics, but we've also enjoyed some from Critical Thinking.  My 5, 8, 10, and 11 year olds will most likely have workbooks to work through this year.  Some of them need it, while others will just enjoy working through them; all will learn.

When I'm on the ball as far as school planning, each of my kids will have a list of assignments for each month.  I want them to learn good time management skills, and this is one of the ways we teach them.  I check on their work throughout the month, but I let them manage the work load with other obligations and options.  Before the last week of the month I go over what they have left to do for the month; we talk about whether or not they have been making wise choices with their time.  If they have not been using their time wisely (going off and playing and working on other optional projects) they will be restricted to only chores and school work until it is all done and they are ready to start the next months work.

Each child has a reading list that they must complete for the year.  We assign one or two books a month that we know they would not just pick up on their own.  The kids do quite a bit of reading on their own choosing books that interest them (even these books are generally books we have brought into the house and WANT them to read. We just know they will pick them up on their own, so why assign them?).

Encouraging interests and hobbies is another opportunity for kids to learn.  We provide time for the kids to explore productive interests and hobbies.  Some hobbies that are being explored by our kids right now would be cooking, sewing, knitting, crochet, electronics, marksmanship, woodworking, tanning/skinning/taxidermy, jump rope, and animal husbandry.  Of course kids are always reading and exploring the books we have available here as well as at the library.  We keep our ears and eyes open for learning opportunities and activities in the local area.

The kids also take piano lessons.  We are so blessed to have a great piano teacher that is also a dear friend.  She comes to our home and spends over two and a half hours giving lessons to our five oldest kids.

Being a military family we move often.  We keep an open mind to what God makes available to us at each assignment.  In the past our kids have been in ballet, gymnastics, and speech club.  Your season in life, and where God has placed your family will help determine what your family will be involved in.  Be flexible and open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

That's the basics for this age range.  I hope you found this helpful.

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