Tag Archives: curriculum

Communication Camp

Last week, my two oldest children traveled to Tennessee with my sister to attend their first Communication Camp. My sister and niece taught the camp, and actually, it was their first one too. And what a learning experience it was!

Following a curriculum my sister created, campers learned through instruction, workbook exercises, and group games and assignments. Both of my children came back saying they had so much fun and learned a lot. After reading through the teacher’s manual, I learned a lot, too.

Topics covered at the camp included the good manners in communication that you’d expect, as well as many more you might not. Students ages 9 and up learned how to introduce themselves and others, even when they’ve forgotten someone’s name; how to give their full attention when another is speaking; how to reach out to people who would normally be left out; how to make small talk; how to speak in front of a group; and much, much more.

How did the camp affect my children? They came away from the experience having gained some very important life skills, ones I’ve let slip by in the busyness of schoolwork and life in general. We’ve already begun implementing some of them in the way the kids communicate with each other. My daughter used to come running to tell me the latest unkind comment her brother said; now, she goes to him first and tells him how it made her feel, and he is usually receptive and offers an apology, even without my prompting him.

One of my favorite parts of the curriculum is how the lessons in communication tied in with lessons about the Great Communicator, Jesus. A short Bible study is related to each topic covered; by following Jesus’ example, we too can learn to be attentive, understanding, aware, welcoming, and transparent — lessons not only for children, but for adults as well.

Next year, maybe we’ll all attend the camp!

Photo by Calgrin

Contentment

contentmentRecently I reviewed the book Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham. This morning, as I was talking with my son John, I was reminded of a point Buckingham made. Buckingham contends that women are generally less happy now than 40 years ago because they have so many choices, and they’re afraid they’ll pick the wrong ones. While I’m not sure about the entire supposition, I think he’s right about the effect of having so many choices: it seems to naturally lead to discontentment.

As we were driving to co-op this morning, we passed by an elementary school; the school day had already started. John was sitting in the front seat, looked at the school, and commented on how it’s “too bad” for the kids who have to go to school. (I’ve been trying to make the point to my children lately that they have more free time than many of their peers).

I thought back, then, to my own school days. I remember complaining if I had a lot of homework or if I wasn’t ready for a test, but I never thought of myself as unfortunate. We went to school — that’s just what we did.

But now we have more choices. We choose to homeschool, and in doing so I choose the curriculum. We have more free time, so we choose from the many activities available. We do so many things during the year: music lessons, art lessons, scouts, library programs, roller skating, ice skating, PE classes, clubs, field trips, holiday parties, and meeting with friends. So why, then, do my children come to me with grumpy faces and say, “Why can’t we go bowling sometime?”

We aren’t limited in the foods we eat either; we can have pizza one night, chicken the next, then soup and sandwiches, then tacos, then spaghetti. Why then, after fixing a full meal each night, do my children come again with grumpy faces and say, “Don’t we have anything else to eat?”

I often feel like I should give my children every opportunity I can that comes along. That will ensure, I think, that they will have a well-rounded and productive childhood, helping them to grow into fine adults. Yet somewhere, among all those choices, we tend to lose our sense of gratitude and contentment. These, I believe,  are two of the key elements to a truly happy life — and a good lesson to learn.

Homeschool Curriculum Advisor

Red BooksOnce again, this year I’ve been searching for some different curricula for my children. What’s worked for one doesn’t always work for the next in line. During my search, I’ve come across a great website called Home-School-Curriculum-Advisor.com. Not only does the site give information about some of the various programs available, it provides practical help in finding which one is right for your family.

Included in the buttons on the left is one entitled “How to Choose.” Following the links provided, parents are given six key steps to take before they look into curriculum. Included in the steps are determining your goals, considering learning styles as well as your own limitations, and several more.

In the “Reviews” section, you’ll find advice regarding several homeschooling resources, including Sonlight, Switched on Schoolhouse, the Robinson Curriculum, and Tapestry of Grace. Here, the author not only tells the advantages of each program, but the disadvantages as well, giving you a complete assessment of how it worked for her family. If you are considering using one of these four types of curriculum, read through these reviews first.

And there’s more. There are links to the various publishers’ websites, including Bob Jones Publications and A Beka Homeschool Curriculum, as well as a number of options online.  You’ll also find articles about unschooling, evaluating learning, and learning styles. An article about homeschooling problems even addresses struggles with developmental and character issues.

The school year has already started for most, but if you’re still struggling as you homeschool your child (which at times has lasted well into the school year for me), read through the information on this site. There are many thought-provoking questions provided that you can ask yourself — questions to help you and your child get back on track.

To Join or Not to Join?

a-coopTo join or not to join a co-op next fall…that is the question. It’s a question I ask myself every spring as co-ops begin accepting applications for the next school year.

We’ve been part of two different co-ops, one for just one semester, the other for a year. When we joined the first one, my children were eight, five, three, and six months. We had several friends who attended the co-op and loved the enrichment classes that were offered. The year we joined, though, the format changed a bit, and my eight-year-old was in a math class with other third graders. It didn’t go very well. Homeschooled elementary students, even those in the same grade, tend to work at math at different paces. Depending on the curriculum used at home, students might also be learning different concepts.

They changed that class to Spanish for the next semester, but a couple other things weighed in on my decision to stop. The class was experiencing a lot of discipline issues that went unresolved. Also, the financial cost was more than we could comfortably afford, and it was hard helping out on my required days with a baby in tow. So, we finished off the year at home.

Two years later, a friend approached me about joining a Classical Conversations co-op. We participated for a year, and since I taught the finances worked out all right. We didn’t re-join, however, because I still wanted to follow the curriculum we were already doing at home, and the lessons from the co-op just became extra work we had to do. Classical Conversations is a great program if that’s the basis of your curriculum, but it just wasn’t the right one for us.

So here we are, with my oldest going into eighth grade next year, so I’m thinking about co-ops again. Co-op classes can be great resources for teaching those upper level classes like Chemistry, Biology, and Algebra II. We looked at a co-op on Monday that offers those types of courses to middle and high school students for a very reasonable price. Right now they’re full, however, and we’re on a waiting list. I’m not sure how long the list is, but the director encouraged me to consider starting a new co-op with friends who are also interested.

So now the question becomes… to start or not to start a co-op?

Photo by ShelahD

Apologia Science

One of the great things about homeschooling today is the huge variety of curriculum available. Some families prefer to use an entire curriculum produced by one publisher; for our family, however, I’ve found I like to use texts from different publishers for the subjects we study. For science, my favorite is Apologia.

The Apologia Young Explorer Series was written for upper elementary/early middle school. We’re enjoying our third book this year, Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day. Other titles available are Astronomy, Botany, Zoology 1:  Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, and Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. Middle school and high school subjects include General Science, Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Each one is written from a creationist perspective.

Although I enjoy science, teaching it has never been my strong suit, and there have been years I struggled to fit it into our school day. What a shame, since children love learning about nature, and science readily lends itself to hands-on activities. But I don’t have that problem anymore — the Apologia texts make it so easy. The information is clearly presented, and within each chapter are interesting and fun activities that correlate with the lesson.

And these books are so user-friendly! The beginning pages feature contact information where you can find help by mail, phone, or on the web. Then comes a brief description about what the lessons include. The next couple of pages are my favorite – complete lists of all materials needed for each activity or experiment found in the lessons.

The writers of the text state that it can be read aloud to younger students or worked through individually by older students. I’ve found this to be true. While I’m reading the Land Animals text to my fourth and second grader, my seventh grader is working through the General Science text on his own. His book not only includes experiments but also review questions that I have him answer in complete sentences. Tests and solution manuals are also available for the subjects for older students.

All in all, the Apologia Science series gets an A+ from me!