Monday, May 17, 2010

Nuts and Bolts

So, now that we have agreed as a family to try homeschooling for a year, I am ready to look at some nuts and bolts! How will homeschooling look for us next year?

There are many avenues to take for curriculum, but I have to say that the resources found at Ambleside Online sit the best with me right now. (I have a direct link to the website on my blog). Why? Here's their description from the website:

"Ambleside Online is a curriculum guide and booklist designed to follow Charlotte Mason's method of homeschooling. Each year/grade has a list of books to lay out what resources will need to be collected or purchased, and an optional weekly schedule based on a 36-week school year to break the resources into smaller increments to help with pacing the books throughout the year. There is no fee to use the curriculum or website. Parents may use as much or as little of the booklists and schedules as they like. Some families follow it exactly as laid out, most tweak it a little here and there to use books they already have, or because they prefer another resource over the one listed."

What I like about that is the guided flexibility. I can use their book list and materials, but remember, curriculum is only half the picture. I have to use my understanding of Charlotte Mason's philosophy for it to come to life in my family. Oh, and did you catch that it's FREE?!?

So what do I need to know about Charlotte Mason to understand how her curriculum works? Here's what they explain:

"Charlotte Mason lived in England in the 1800's. Orphaned at age 16 and never married, she devoted her life to children and their education. Her ideas were ahead of her time - while others thought that children were no more than empty slates to be filled with information, she believed that they were already real people capable of independent, intelligent thought and that they needed vital ideas, rather than dry facts, to feed their growing minds.

The students in the schools she founded read and discussed living books written by excellent authors on various subjects, took daily nature walks and recorded their observations in notebooks, enjoyed art and music, cultivated and maintained good personal habits such as attention to detail, focused attention and consideration to others, and learned foreign languages. And, by using short lessons, they accomplished all of this (and more) by lunchtime so that they had their afternoons free for their own individual worthy pursuits.

The Charlotte Mason method uses living books with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity, narration instead of comprehension exercises or composition, copywork for handwriting, spelling and grammar modeling, nature observation as the primary means of early science, and literature, poetry, art and music to give children's minds beautiful ideas to feed on."

I don't know about you, but when I read this, I want that for my kids. I want to feed their minds with wonderful literature and ideas, and I want them to see lots of connections amongst all the subjects. (By the way, "living" books are living in the sense that they are written by a single author who shares personally his favorite subject with us.)

According to Ambleside's webiste, this is how I can get started:

1. Choose a Year for your child to start in by looking at the booklists and assessing what seems appropriate for your child.

2. Look at the booklist, make a list and gather materials - buy, borrow or print out books, choose a math program, consider what you'll use for transcription/copywork (you can simply have your child transcribe appropriately sized passages from any of his school books).

3. Decide how you'll divide the workload over the term or year (use or adapt the 36-week schedule if it helps) and plan a schedule, remembering to schedule short lessons of 10-20 minutes for younger children, 25-30 minutes for older children. You don't need to do every subject every day. You can do math Mon/Wed/Fri, geography Tue/Thur, US history Mon/Tues/Wed and world history Thu/Fri. You can break up the week in any way that suits you. Some break up the traditional subjects over four days and reserve Fridays for art or music. There is no one right way. Be prepared to make changes as you see what works.

4. Plan to start slowly, beginning with history, geography, copywork, math, natural history/science, literature and poetry - you can add nature study, art, music and foreign language one step at a time as you feel ready.

5. On your first day, alternate the day between quiet subjects and hands-on subjects to keep your child's mind fresh. After your child reads from one of his schoolbooks, have him tell you what he read (this is narration). You may discuss it with him, if you wish. Most students do copywork every day. Ideally, your school day should be done by lunchtime, but plan for longer at first as you and your child adjust to this new endeavor.

6. After the first week or so, assess how your schedule is working and what you might change. Add nature study, art or music if you feel ready. Over the following weeks, slowly add one subject at a time as you feel you can handle it. Remember that any new venture can seem overwhelming and don't rush yourself to get it all in at first. Many who have been doing this for 2 or 3 years still have one or two things they have trouble fitting in.

7. Learn as much as you can before you start, and continue to learn as you go. The Charlotte Mason method is more than a booklist. It's a whole philosophical approach. The more you understand, the more effective your homeschool will be.

Wow. Are you overwhelmed? I am! Those are some big nuts and bolts! Homeschooling is a tall order, but I desire to do it and my kids are excited. I look forward to taking them out of the system for a year to develop in them a broader perspective of learning. I definitely have a lot to learn too, and this is just the beginning!

1 comment:

Heather said...

I think you're going to love this, Tammy! It sounds wonderful!