Homeschooling and Organization

I used to be an organized homeschooler. I need the organization, but when I worked part-time from home while we worked on our debt snowball, I became a kind of molecular opposite of organized. Our school work started to suffer, and when it came to a breaking point, my husband and I made the decision that I’d quit. That was last year, and October 1 will be the anniversary of Mommy’s Freedom Day; however, I never did get reorganized. I seemed to be in so many different places in the girls’ school subjects that I made a hodge-podge of the end of the school year. There are subjects we just plain didn’t finish. Others subjects became a “read-it-yourself” study.
So I’m a little trepidatious about the new school year. Little Girl will be in fourth grade, which is still not too bad as far as scheduling and work load, but Big Girl is starting seventh grade. Middle school is firmly underway. And I have to help her be ready for high school and beyond.
So I’ve spent the last few days working on her first quarter lesson plans, and I’m ever so glad I did it this early! She’s got some heavy-looking research, a lot of writing, and a need of some science materials I wasn’t expecting just yet. (A bunsen burner? A plate balance? Seriously??)
All day today, I’ve been touching up the girls’ lesson plans and making copies of materials they’ll need to use all year. I am determined to be better organized and to be a better teacher. My laziness as their teacher has helped make them lazy as students. And I’m not doing them any favors this way!!
Next for me will be looking for movies and books that will help them along. I’ve got a terrific book by Maureen Wittmann, For the Love of Literature, that will help me locate wonderful books to make the girls’ learning more fun. If you’re working on a literature-based education, this is a fantastic resource to have.
I made a few unexpected changes to our homeschool:
First, I changed Little Girl to Catholic Heritage Curricula. I’d read about it and thought it looked more appropriate for Big Girl, who is a very kinetic learner and needs to be able to make choices within some structure to feel good about school. I’ve often said that she is probably a prime candidate for a Montessori education, if only I weren’t so completely not wired to provide it. (Seriously, I have a degree in education and was taught about the method and how to teach with it. I am not able to wrap my brain around it in any meaningful way.)
I was surprised at the accessibility of the books, and decided to use the same program with Little Girl starting now. We went over her school books today and talked a bit about how things will work, and we’re both excited. Whereas Seton focuses very strongly on basic skills to achieve academic success, CHC works a little more organically. Seton is very workbook-intense, while CHC is more project-based. CHC probably leans a little more towards a Whole Language approach, but still has enough basic drills and memorization to make me feel confident that the girls are going to learn things in an organized manner.
Second, I have made a big change in religious education curricula. One of the subjects I’ve always loved from Seton has been their religious education. I still used it, even when I wasn’t using anything else from Seton, for both girls – until this year. I knew I needed to get Big Girl out of the workbooks and into something different. So I decided I wanted to start her in the Faith and Life series this year. My plan was to leave Little Girl in the Seton books until seventh grade, as well. Until I got a good look at the books, that is.
Faith and Life, while still very careful to cover the faith in depth, has a wonderful layout and a flexible structure. It’s designed for a classroom in a parochial school, but is easily adapted to home or even Sunday school classes. I am totally sold on it. I’ve made plans for all kinds of art projects for both girls that tie into the lessons. It’s going to be great!
I’m adding something big for Big Girl this year.
We’ll be reading Humanae Vitae together. Seriously. I’ll let you know how it goes, but it makes me nervous.
The only thing that hasn’t gone to the CHC curriculum choices remains math. We’re sticking with Math-U-See for as long as I can see right now. The hands-on has been good for both girls. My biggest regret is that we are really badly behind in Math. I have to make a commitment (and stick to it) to cover a lesson every week or so. I think we’ll be on a better track with it, and I’ve got plans for giving them some activities to work on their math. There are a couple of apps on the iPod that I’ve downloaded for them, and they actually enjoy them! I’m sure I’ll discover more as time goes on, but these were not too spendy and they’ve helped the girls shore up their basic facts knowledge.
So there we are, ready for school to start. Well, ready except for about 100 pages of copies I still need to make. Thank God Sam’s Club has boxes of copier paper and I own an all-in-one printer!

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