Is Our Curriculum Good Enough? Reflections, Week 20

After the internal whirl-wind of really needing to define what aspects of the holiday season are the most important for me to concentrate on with my children, and spending much time discussing this with my husband, Chepe, and then really teasing them apart by writing my previous reflections, I felt much more inward and at peace in myself this week.  Born to write, write to survive, ha ha, I can’t work anything out without writing it out.  🙂  But this is good, as it has really left me concentrating on what the holiday season stands for, as well as really thinking about our homeschool curriculum and wondering if it addresses the deep and meaningful issues that are important to me.

Moving Beyond The Page materials

Moving Beyond The Page materials

I like our curriculum, Moving Beyond The Page for ages 4-5, I think it is full of fun and educational activities for Elizabeth.  I think it has really helped her to develop creativity and learn the ABC’s.  It is fun, and has so many different types of activities that it never gets boring to me and really helps us stay out of a rut of just doing the same types of things over and over.  It has helped me to watch Elizabeth grow and develop over these past 6 months, and more than once I have been incredibly impressed by watching her do something that I just had no idea that she could do.  I love that it is more than just hand writing pages, more than just pounding out the alphabet, more than pressuring her to learn to read, and each unit is based around a real book rather than a textbook with excerpts of important materials missing parts of those important materials.  I love how it doesn’t feel like school, but more like play, and I think Elizabeth enjoys that too.  That to me is what school should be about, especially for a 4-year-old.

Yet, I do find some of the questions they ask very shallow.  My least favorite unit is coming up after we finish the Christmas unit and is based around the book Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag.  The book is incredibly shallow, and so are the questions the curriculum has based around it, as in putting an emphasis on physical beauty rather than…anything else.  I actually made up my own questions because the ones in the parent guide are incredibly lacking in depth and values of any kind.  But does one unit condemn the whole curriculum for me?  No.  As I said, I do love the incredible diversity of activities and how I have seen Elizabeth grow through them.  Yet, I am still wondering today if overall the curriculum is deep enough to make me return to it next year.

When I was just beginning to consider homeschooling, I called some family friends, and one told me that they had used Sonlight, a very popular homeschooling curriculum.  She told me that she liked it because it presented the tough questions, and though it is a Christian curriculum, it covered world religions and cultures.  I looked into it, but decided against it because I was looking for a secular homeschool curriculum and did not want to sift through the Bible verses nor have to do a lot of extra work to point things away from Christianity.  Yet, I have continued to wonder if Moving Beyond The Page addresses those tough questions enough, or studies ethnicities and world religions – or any religions – something that is really important to me.

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Holding a red-backed salamander.

I continued looking, and found Global Village School, which I am really interested in.  Global Village School strives to impart the values of peace, compassion, justice, sustainability, community, integrity, appreciation of diversity, caring for the Earth and fellow beings inhabiting our planet, and living an authentic and meaningful life (I pulled that from their website).  This defines pretty much that which is important to me.  So I found what I need right?  Well…it’s only kind of a homeschool curriculum.  Global Village School works as an online charter school, in which the parents homeschool yet they have teaching staff that can make them specific course studies plans, support them when they have questions or issues, grade homeworks, do the legal paperwork, and eventually give a highschool diploma.  That’s all great, but it’s pretty expensive, and right now, I don’t think we can swing it.  They do sell a parent/teacher guide, which I am planning to purchase after Christmas (or my mom alluded that she may get it for me), but it costs about $100 – that’s a pretty expensive parent guide!  The thing is that they don’t want to sell just the guide, they want you to enroll in their school.  Besides the expensive guide, the second thing is that they don’t sell a boxed curriculum per se; in trying to be environmentally conscious they do not sell brand new books nor boxed manipulative materials, one has to purchase them themselves.  Lastly, my understanding is that the guide is pretty flexible, with the intention of allowing parents to follow their child’s lead, and because, especially at a kindergarten level, one generally has to modify a strict agenda anyway.

In one way, the Global Village School curriculum sounds wonderful and meets exactly the values that I want to, the books available for viewing in the guide sample sound intriguing and deeper (rather than shallower) than Millions of Cats, but I worry that it won’t work flush with my personality.  I have really enjoyed the boxed manipulatives that arrived from Moving Beyond The Page, organized in plastic bags by unit, with exactly the amount of materials that I need so that I don’t need to have an overflow of extras around the house (which is nice, but our house really isn’t that big), and I didn’t have to drive an hour to the nearest craft store to get everything, nor discover later that I didn’t have everything and now what?!  It all arrived conveniently at my doorstep, preorganized.  As well, in purchasing just what we need, it has made it more economical for me, as I didn’t have to purchase a bag of craft foam for one sheet, nor a huge bag of googly eyes just for two eyes, nor a roll of ribbon just for a foots-worth, we have just what we need.

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Terrible ipad picture of my agenda.

As well, I worry that if the Global Village School guide is too loosely flexible, that I will just do the same kinds of activities over and over, or not introduce something because I don’t think Elizabeth knows how.  I have said before on Seed To Seedling how impressed I have been when she has produced something in a way that I had not at all expected (see I Count Myself Blessed), and I often admit to myself that without the curriculum, I may just never have thought to put an activity before her before.  My background is not in education – probably for the better – but thus I feel like I need a fairly detailed guide to help me help her move forward.   I know that I am not the kind of person to be able to put a curriculum together.  It’s good to know my limits.  I know them, and I am considering them now.  It is important to me that she dig deep, to learn who she is, to learn sympathy, compassion, values such as peace and fairness, acceptance of all people, and that she look for the good in everyone.  I feel that the Global Village School offers that.  But I’m just worried that I am not organized enough to pull it together.  I don’t have the guide before me yet to make my final decision, though, just thinking now.  Another option would be to stick with Moving Beyond The Page and modify it to fit my needs.  I had originally thought that I might use the Global Village School guide to add into our curriculum if we finished early or to fill in over summer break, as well for the math component, but it’s pretty expensive to use in that way.  Or I could use the Global Village School guide as my main guide, and purchase the Moving Beyond The Page parent/teacher guide to also help guide me and give me ideas, because it is not terribly expensive.

As I’ve said, I don’t have the Global Village Guide in front of me yet.  Probably I should have some faith that the authors are not idiots and that they have things helpfully laid out, even if in a very flexible way.  I’m under the impression that they do have a lengthy list of activities to choose from, but I guess I just worry that if it is too unstructured that I will have problems making the detailed guide for myself.  I am aware that I have lots of good ideas, and I am good at implementing things and very good at sticking to things once started, but that jump between idea and started is very hard for me, it’s like there is a very tall wall in front of me that impedes my view of how to proceed.  I acknowledge this about myself, sometimes I need guidance as well.  I had no problem starting our homeschool because I had the path all laid out before me with Moving Beyond The Page, everything is step by step, super organized.  We did have to modify the super organization to be a little bit more flexible, could I pull things together to go the other way?

Well, good thing:  out of 30 units, we are only 10 in with Moving Beyond The Page, so we have lots of time for me to consider things more, for me to read the Global Village School parent/teacher guide once I get it, and even to try to write up a detailed plan if I choose to go that route.

What else have we been up to this week?:

  • Having The Talk about Santa (or the lack of), and discussing the symbols of the seasons as deeper meanings than just getting stuff
  • Reading about conifer trees and drawing a picture of a pine tree with the identifying structures
  • Discussing what Santa’s elves do in the Santa story and what they represent, and how she could act like a helpful elf too
  • We have continued with the task chart, and tonight we counted that Elizabeth has saved $20!  I informed her that Grandpa has given her some pre-Christmas money and she may pool it with her savings to purchase her dress finally!  Hopefully, it will be in the store when we go next, with Christmas coming, merchandise sure does move!
  • Making a Santa face – she did an awesome job, she continues to impress me 🙂

Your turn to chime in:  What do you  base your decision on in choosing a curriculum?  Have you ever tried any of the curriculums I wrote about?  If so, what was your experience with it?  Do you find it easier or harder to use a highly structured guide?  A less structured guide?

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The Santa face.

 

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2 thoughts on “Is Our Curriculum Good Enough? Reflections, Week 20

  1. Have you looked into Bookshark? It’s essentially a secular version of Sonlight. It’s from the same people/parent company. We’re doing Sonlight P4/5 for kindergarten now. I’ve often seen Sonlight and Bookshark recommended for a year ahead of their official recommendation. So, if the company calls something 1st grade a lot of people find it more fitting for 2nd grade. That’s why we choose their pre-k for kinder. Anyway, we’ll be switching to Bookshark for next year. This year is the first year it’s available to public (I believe they had some people testing it out for a while) so it’s hard to find many reviews. We enjoy Sonlight so we’re excited to give Bookshark a try.

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