Greetings! It's great to be back! I have missed being here... I'd like to pick up where I left off and continue with this homeschool series, things will be back to a more balanced mix sometime next week hopefully. Not everyone is interested in homeschool thoughts, I know, but it is where we are at the moment and it feels authentic to continue sharing for now.
Many of you have asked what we are using specifically for curriculum. Emily is technically in seventh grade. For us, that is a stretch from homeschooling a fourth grader (we did that for a brief period) and she requested a formal curriculum to follow. And I must say, I am enjoying the predesigned format that serves as our guide. We've added our own spin to it which I will share more on in a moment.
For the most part, we are using Oak Meadow for our curriculum. We are taking English (Strunk & White and 100 Days are part of this), Civics, Physics, and World History. Oak Meadow's World History is integrated with Fine Arts which is really cool. Some of these courses are seventh grade, some are eighth. l love that we can customize this as homeschoolers. There is a lengthy list of literature that accompanies the English, but we did not order those books. The titles that are not already in our home library we can easily check out of our public library.
For math we went with Math Mammoth which I've had some experience with in the past. It is thorough and affordable (sold as a downloadable text). Math is an edge for Emily - if there is one academic area that I feel (slightly) critical about regarding Montessori education, it is that the math is presented and practiced very differently from conventional so it can be a challenge to transition from (and most children do transition at some point). There isn't a whole lot of formal Montessori math to choose from post elementary. Children who are naturally strong in this subject have an easier time transitioning to mainstream math. As for us, we are enjoying the pace and level that we have chosen for Emily through Math Mammoth - feeling grateful for the opportunity homeschooling has provided for us to do so.
Geography is naturally a part of our learning as an extension of World History and Civics (and Literature too!), but for fun we have added a book put out by Rand McNally covering Intermediate Geography and Map Activities. It deepens her experience with the subject and she thinks it's really fun.
Here are a few of our current math reference books. The Usborne Math Dictionary is excellent!
A few other non-computer references that we reach for everyday. We love Scholastic's Checking Your Grammar.
My sister gave our family the entire set (!!!) of Foxfire books which we find to be a wonderful resource and sooo inspiring for future projects and/or areas of study. Soapmaking! Candlemaking! Squirrel hunting! (Okay, maybe not that...)
Aside from those basics, we enhance and add things as we are inspired to. For instance, we are loving the World History course. So much so that it's a little sad to see each lesson end! To extend our pleasure we've decided to create a HUGE timeline over the course of the year adding one "card" for each unit studied. Each period is encapsulated on two 8 1/2" x 11" pieces of card stock that are secured together on the back side. Once all of her information is added we'll have the cards laminated (we've only had one laminated so far). This is going to be huge at the end of the year and I'm sure will go into a book of sorts, I think it will be way too big to string up in typical timeline fashion.
I find the true learning of these historical periods takes place during the making of these timeline cards. There is time spent on the gathering and creating, there is lengthy discussion about the likes of King Henry VIII (and his questionable behavior as a husband... ahem), Shah Jahan (how lovely that he built heaven on earth for his deceased wife's body to rest until her day came to be called to actual heaven... but, um... it was built by over 20,000 slaves Mr. Jahan). Our discussions go on and on expanding into unexpected places, following us through our days. I really look forward to this year long project! Take a look at her first two cards for our timeline...
I love how this is coming together.
Civics has been a wonderful course that brings many topics of discussion to our dinner table each night. While we all have a sense of this subject based on our experience as citizens, Adam brings an interesting perspective as this reflects his academic and professional expertise. Of course, I also bring plenty of Howard Zinn's thoughts and writings to class as well. Question everything!
I imagine Civics will be revisited during the high school years, but exploring it with a middle schooler is quite interesting - and very mind opening for them!
Where would we be without our library card? Each week (or two) we head to the library and stock up on relevant material for our classroom library. I try to keep each trip to 20 or so titles (not including Emily's pleasure reading). I find limiting the number of books allows me to display just enough titles, keeping things interesting without being overwhelming. So the books you see in our rug area and on the lower bookshelves change from week to week... things stay fresh!
Of course there is the essential basket of pleasure reading as well...
In addition to her formal coursework (which is a really great fit for Emily and our family), Emily now has her own computer located behind the work table. It is used for research, creative writing, math games, photo editing (a wonderful place of interest for her), blogging (she maintains a private blog shared with friends and family), and so forth. This is not a primary tool for us, but is certainly a wonderful addition to our classroom!
Rounding all of this out, we bake together a few times a week, handcrafts and fine art are always present, time spent outdoors and sports are a daily essential.
We are a single car family at the moment. (We have been since the beginning of September - oh, that ever so tight, single income, homeschool family budget... more on that in another post.) So that is kind of cramping my spontaneous "hey, let's go for a hike" style... but we are grateful to have friends, the library, a wonderful cafe, and our food co-op all within a five minute walk.
We definitely feel our classroom and areas of study exist beyond our front door and purchased curriculum. Freedom truly abounds and we are enjoying ourselves each and every day... even the days that are so full they leave me bone tired (mentally and physically) by the end. It's a good ride.