Friday, May 20, 2011

Preparing for Next Term of Homeschooling

It's hard to imagine, but it is already time to prepare for next school
term. I have been looking at various curriculum online for a couple of
years. I wanted to find one that fit 4 major criteria: had to be
Christian-based, strong in the core subjects, encourage independent
study, and adaptable for Micah's special needs.

Finding Christian-based curriculum is never difficult. There are
numerous providers online. You can also find them through networking
with other homeschool families in your local homeschool association.
The key is to find one that fits closely with your beliefs. Whether you
want one that is more non-denominational or one that is
denomination-specific, the curriculum is out there.

Being strong in the core subjects may seem obvious, but surprisingly
there are curricula available that rush through the lessons. These
leave the child and their parents frustrated when the material does not
give enough practice to reinforce the information being taught. I
wanted a curriculum that would provide plenty of practice and clear

Encouraging independent study is vital to me. While at 1st grade level
it may seem silly, the concept is a sound one. Too often, homeschool
children can grow to depend on their parents to walk them through each
lesson. Though this is fine at the beginning, it is not good for the
children in the long run. I want my children to be able to learn on
their own, without me having to hand-hold them through it. In early
years, I will guide, but at some point in the future they will need to
be able to do this for themselves. Some curricula is set up to
encourage independent work better than others.

Finding a curriculum that can be adapted to fit Micah's needs has been
the hardest part of choosing which to use. For the sake of simplicity,
I wanted to be able to purchase all of the needed curriculum for both
children from a single publisher. I needed something that would
challenge and teach Abbie, yet be able to be broken down into segments
that I could later teach to Micah. This week, I finally found it.

We decided to get our curriculum from Rod and Staff publishers. The
company is owned and operated by Anabaptists (Mennonite) in Kentucky.
In looking through the examples of the curriculum, I found it to be best
for our family's needs. The gentle and steady progression in learning
reminds me greatly of the way I was taught in school. In the 1st grade,
the main focus is on the 3R's - Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. The
reading course is based on Bible stories. There are 3 sets of workbooks
to go along with the Readers: reading workbooks that help focus on
skills like reading comprehension, spelling, English; phonics workbooks
that teach the child to read, and worksheet workbooks that support the
Reader stories. There is a Penmanship course (writing) that is
extremely thorough in teaching proper writing skills. Workbooks and
additional writing tablets of paper for additional practice are used to
teach the children proper formation of the letters along with copywork
for them to practice writing sentences and verses. The 1st grade
Arithmetic course teaches addition, subtraction, measures, money,
fractions, place values, and more. The workbooks, along with speed
drills and blackline worksheets, give the child plenty of practice. The
final course I am ordering from them is "Developing Motor Skills in Art"
which gives weekly projects for the children to complete covering the

Rod & Staff does not have a Science or History/Social Studies course for
1st grade. They focus only on the foundational skills that every child
must have to build on to be successful in future school years. Instead
of having a textbook for these 2 subjects, I am planning to do thematic
studies and activity centers. This will give Abbie the opportunity to
learn these subjects through hands-on projects.

We are really excited about the curriculum. Once Abbie is finished with
it, I will set it aside until Micah is ready for it. For him, I will
have the option to simply cut his worksheets into thirds or half to give
him a manageable amount if necessary. Because of how thorough the
materials are in the presentation of new concepts, I can easily break it
down into lessons that Micah will be able to learn more easily.

Until August, we will continue working on reviews and staying in routine
with the homeschooling. I am also going to set up a better area in the
house for Abbie to have a space to do her schoolwork using the workbox
method of organization.