Thursday, September 6, 2012

Curriculum Games - Part 2: Hands-On Homeschooling

I have a number of friends that homeschool their children, and the reasons for doing so differ. Some friends desire a Christ-centered education for their students, but a Christian school is not an option or not an affordable option. Some travel and need the flexibility. Some are trying to meet special needs. I decided to homeschool (Well, deep down I believe God led me to it, but here is my thought process.) because of my four year old Will. Will is gifted in the area of mathematics. He is almost at the same level as his second grade brother Alex. With this ability, I knew he would be bored in K-4 math. . . and what do bored, active little boys (or girls) do in school? Get in trouble! I did not want his educational experience to start this way, so I decided (again, I 100% believe God led me to this decision.) to homeschool Will this fall.

Since Will is a kinesthetic (hands-on) learner, I started looking outside the afore-mentioned curriculum options and found Hands-On Homeschooling. HOH is the brainchild of Texas mom and former Christian preschool teacher Terri Wilson. You can read her story here - HOH has 2, 3, 4, and 5 year old options. You can see the scope & sequence of each level on her website For Will, I chose the 4 year old program, although he is above some of the items. I believe the 4 year old program cost $90 + shipping and came in a big binder - yep, that's right! Everything for the year is in one binder - all teacher's material, all weekly outlines, all daily notes, all patterns - in one binder!

The different aged programs may be set up differently, but for Will's there is a Bible lesson every day + 3 other activities - reading skills, writing, readiness skills (think: patterns, shapes, etc), math, science/health, social studies, physical movement, manners, and personal care. Field trips are suggested throughout the year. As a teacher, I LOVE the fact that Terri outlines each WEEK with it's own page, then each DAY with it's own page of what classes to do, what materials we will need, what preparation I need to do. I think teacher-parents will appreciate the organization that Terri has done with her program, while regular-parents will appreciate not having to organize everything on their own!

As the name implies, the activities are hands-on. We do not use her Bible lessons, but each week revolves around one story. Day one, you read the story. Day two, make a craft. Day three, do an application activity. Day 4, review the story using the craft. Day 5, reread story and say verse.

She recommends, but does not write lessons for, phonics as part of the reading skills part. She does, however, recommend several programs in the teacher's materials. Oh the teacher's materials! Love them! Her program utilizes books frequently, which has caused me to patronize my local library a lot more often. All necessary patterns are included in the back of the binder, which you may use or reproduce for your student(s).

Will's favorite classes are Letter Book and Cooking, which his 7-yr old brother enjoys joining. For Letter Book, each week we cut out pictures and place them in a photo album on the page of the letter of the week. This has greatly improved his cutting skills as well. I will include some pictures at the end of Letter Book, as well as Cooking Class, and the science/health lesson where we made a life-sized Will out of paper! A teacher with a class full of kids would not have been able to do that with each student, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work one-on-one with Will and his brother.

Overall, I am very pleased with this program. I liked being able to look at the Scope & Sequence online before purchasing so I could decide which age level was appropriate. Currently, I use about half of the activities for the week. Since Will has an older brother, he is advanced in some of the skills, so we just skip them. HOH is Will's main curriculum, but he uses different math, Bible, and writing, as well as some readiness activities. I think the content of HOH would be appropriate for most four year olds, but the beauty of homeschooling is the ability to customize the program for each child.
 Life-sized cut-out of Will. The next week we made internal organs and skeleton on the back! 

Working on Letter Book. We usually take 20 minutes at least to work on this each week. It is a fun activity for the two of us to do together. 
 Cooking applesauce for the letter "A." Big brother helps by reading the directions. 

Curriculum Games - Part I

I have been active in Christian education for almost ten years, in addition to the six years before that when I was earning a B.S. in elementary education and an M. S. in secondary education. In the Christian schools I associated with, the big curriculum question was "ABEKA or BOB JONES (University Press)?" Considering my 2 degrees are from Pensacola Christian College that is part of the same ministry that publishes ABeka, I am sure you can see where my allegiance was in that issue.

When I made the decision to homeschool my two sons last spring, my knowledge of homeschool curriculum was limited to ABeka, Bob Jones, and Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). Boy was I in for a surprise! There are many, many more players in this homeschool game! I have found so many curriculum options, it is overwhelming at times! But I love the fact that there ARE so many options, I can pick and choose to make a customized program for my boys!

I am going to attempt to give an overview of some of the options I have discovered that I love. If you are interested in writing a guest blog about a curriculum you use and love, please message me.