getting off the fence - part 3

it's official.

yesterday i mailed our notification to home educate emma to the school district.  certified mail, return receipt (a.k.a. signature confirmation).  it cost me $5, but it's worth the peace of mind.

now we wait for a confirmation letter.  i suppose it's REALLY official once we receive that.

with the impeding birth of our new wee one, i felt the need to be a bit more organized with my school planning this year (or maybe that's just a side-effect of nesting?).  so this past week has been spent planning out about 1/3 of the school year.  it feels good to have some sort of "map," especially when you have a new baby to throw into the mix.  i know that there will be days where getting dinner on the table will be an amazing feat, so having at least part of the school year planned out will keep my brain from going bananas.

when we first decided to homeschool, i thought that i'd just kind of do a little mix and match or build-my-own when it came to finding a school curriculum.  i wasn't wowed with the ones i had looked over, and many of them were quite costly.  plus, i didn't want to feel tied to one particular method in case it didn't end up working out with the kids. 

so the mix and match (also known as eclectic in the homeschool world) worked pretty well for us the past few years.  we are a go-with-the-flow type of family (or try to be), so the mix and match was a good fit for us.

one of the sources i used last year was ambleside online.  it is a free program/curriculum which attempts to stay as close as possible to a charlotte mason style of edcuation.  if you don't know who charlotte mason is, you can go here, here and here to learn a bit more.

i really, really, really LOVED the books suggested for year 0 (that's any age before 6).  that's how i got hooked at first.  we are big readers here at home and the quality of books listed on the site are fantastic.  then i began to do more research on charlotte mason's teaching methods and philosophy and found myself agreeing with a lot of what she had to say.  it made sense to me and i felt that it would fit well with our family. 

[you can learn more about charlotte mason's approach here.  it's a six-volume book so it's A LOT of reading.  i've only managed to get through the first volume.]

there were definitely some key points that drew me into adopting a more charlotte mason (CM) style of education.  some of them included the following:
  • not all books are created equal.  some books for kids are "dumbed-down" and assumes from the way it's written that they aren't capable of handling and/or comprehending books with rich vocabulary.  a CM style of education encourages, from quite an early age, reading well-written, living books.  books that require the use of your imagination.  books that engage the kids with words and not merely with pictures.  from personal experience, i have seen how our kids have benefited from well-written literary works.  the story doesn't always have to be long and lengthy, but it is quite surprising how much they pick up.
  • learning from reading whole books and not textbooks (see above about living books).  using textbooks was not going to be included, ever, in teaching our kids.  there are so many other ways to gain knowledge and learn new information without having to use textbooks.  i think learning from reading whole books will help instill in our kids a lifetime desire to learn, be resourceful and to think independently.
  • there is a strong emphasis on developing habits at an early age.  this is just plain common sense to me.  encouraging and teaching your kids at an early age to develop a strong habit in paying attention, remembering, thinking, telling the truth, etc. (see more here and here) can make such a difference in their future.  and it doesn't have to be complicated.  a simple lesson in remembering could involve remembering to brush your teeth everyday.  practical and simple.  teaching basic life skills is a practical way to develop and strengthen the habits charlotte mason listed. 
  • the lessons are not about quantity but more about quality.  short lessons or a smaller amount of work that is done well ("the habit of perfect execution") by the child are preferred over rushed, sloppy high-volume work.  i think this concept really applies to everything from handwriting to completing a household task.
  • valuing children and seeing them with respect.  from what i've read (and i'm no charlotte mason expert here), it seems that the CM approach held children in high regard.  they are just as valuable as adults.  they matter just as much as adults.  they are just as worthy as adults.  therefore, from an educational perspective, they shouldn't be subject to only a simplified or limited amount of ideas and subjects when it comes to their learning and instead deserve a varied and wide curriculum.  it kind of brings it back to my first point, i suppose.  i love my kids.  i don't want to insult their intelligence by providing them with content that's "dumbed-down" to what adults have deemed more their level.  while i am aware that there is information out there that may not be age-appropriate, it doesn't necessarily mean that i need to use "simple" words or books with "simple" terms and vocabulary with my kids.

so, this year i made the choice to use the ambleside curriculum.  there are a lot of things on the curriculum that i would have included anyway (such as art study, music appreciation and nature study), and i found myself going to the site for many of the kids' reading recommendations and learning resources. i also appreciate that it's free.  granted, there will be some book purchases, but the book list and suggested curriculum schedule is free. 

we'll be starting year 1 with emma.  each year is divided into 3 terms (12 weeks each).  whether we finish year 1 in 36 weeks is unknown to me.  i'm just happy i have the first 12 weeks mapped out. i do have to point out that even though ambleside offers curriculum through year 12, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will get through all the years.  i think i read somewhere on their site that since the content is so diverse some kids finish their high school years covering only through year 7.  but year 1 is the starting point.  

some of the books we ordered are starting to come in, and i'm excited to be reading all the stories...probably more so than the kids at this point.  hopefully i will remember to post updates on here as we go along (gotta develop that habit of remembering, right?).

for now, we are on baby break...though that doesn't mean we've stopped learning.


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