My Father’s World

So, I’ve been pondering the possibility of changing curriculum for third grade, from Sonlight to My Father’s World (MFW). I think my decision is pretty much made, and in making it, I’ve discovered specific reasons I’m leaning toward MFW.

  • MFW is Charlotte Mason meets unit studies meets classical education. Now, the Charlotte Mason philosophy itself is not that important to me, but the unit studies and classical style are. I’ve discovered through the special units I’ve put together on my own, that the unit studies are our favorite part of the school year. The children and I both enjoy that approach so much, and it didn’t occur to me until recently that I could look for something that would let us have that kind of experience all year-long. I’m also happy that it will be closer to traditional classical education (although still not all the way there), because that was one of the reasons we wanted to start homeschooling in the first place.
  • MFW has a lot of hands-on activities. This is kind of related to the post above, because one of the things that makes the unit studies I’ve put together so great is that I’ve found lots of hands-on activities and craft projects to go with whatever we’re studying. I will confess, however, that it’s a struggle for me to put that together on my own, so I don’t think I could add hands-on to a different curriculum successfully long-term. MFW has taken care of all that for me, and I’m really excited about being able to add that to our regular school routine.
  • I love that MFW implements a book basket. We certainly have no shortage of books to read around here, between the books I would have bought anyway, and our curriculum, but with MFW, there’s a list for each level of the curriculum of books that go along with what is being learned. Now, these aren’t mandatory reading, but suggestions for independent reading time. This will give us a lot more ideas of books we can get from the library, give the children some choices in which ones they choose to read, and free up my time a little more (and save my voice some!).
  • I’m also impressed with MFW language arts. Now, it’s not their own program–they’ve simply compiled resources that they recommend. But they’re resources I probably wouldn’t have looked at on my own, which is a shame, because having looked at them, I think they’re just what I’m looking for. This is the one area where I feel we’re struggling–not the spelling or vocabulary so much, but grammar itself, and I think the spine used by MFW will really be helpful to Turkey and Bunny in building their skills in that area.
  • MFW is also designed for ease of use with multiple grade levels. This has been on my mind lately, as Ladybug will be joining us in the schoolroom either this fall or next. I’ve been worrying over how I could teach two grade levels, and frankly, couldn’t really see how it would work. But MFW is designed to be used by a span of grade levels (eventually), which will really work for our family. The previously mentioned book basket will also help with that, as I will have time to focus on Ladybug while the other two work on some extra independent reading.
  • I also feel like MFW is more individualized. Again, this really goes back to the book basket. From what I understand, the teacher’s manual has a list of somewhere around 300 books for every year. Of course we won’t read them all, but I like that I’ll be in control of what to choose, and that from what I choose, Turkey and Bunny will have some choice of which of those books they each want to read. I know, I could do something similar with our current curriculum, but I’m something of a box-checker, so if I don’t do everything the way it’s laid I out, I start to feel guilty.
  • I also like the MFW Bible curriculum better. There are still things I’ll have to tweak to fit our Lutheran perspective, but not nearly as much–I was planning on just coming up with *all* our Bible lessons from here on out. It’s nice to have one less thing on my plate, though.
  • I’m also very impressed with the electives MFW offers. Next year, we’ll have a whole art curriculum. Not just art appreciation (which they also cover), but actual practice at drawing and painting. Like the rest of the curriculum, the electives just seem so much more hands-on (for example, in a lower grade, a color book of the different musical instruments to accompany learning what they each sound like), and I think that the children, as well as myself, will benefit from that approach.
  • The timing for a change is good for us right now, too. If we like MFW, we’ll be on the perfect schedule to go through their whole cycle by eighth grade (and we’ll go through the standard four-year history cycle completely). If it doesn’t work for us, we can go back to Sonlight with little problem–we’ll probably have to skip Core 5 in the future, but we’ll still finish the history cycle there, too. Either way, this is a great time for us to take a chance on something new, before we’re really immersed in the upper elementary level and the four-year history cycle.

That all being said, of course there are some things I’m going to have to change a bit to make MFW work for our family. I’ve come to realize, however that that’s going to be true of any curriculum I use. And now that I’ve been homeschooling a while (has it really been three years?!?), I’m much more confident in my ability to tweak as necessary, and to make the decision to change what we’re doing to fit our needs better!

Taking a Break?

I’m considering stepping away from Sonlight next year.

I know, I know…I’ve had nothing but good things to say about Sonlight. And that really hasn’t changed. But we’ve been doing this for three years, now, and I’m feeling like we need something different. Maybe for just one year, to try it out, see how we like it, and how we feel about being away from Sonlight. I’m not looking at long-term changes at this point. But I’m really afraid we’re going to burn out if we keep up with Sonlight, and I’d also like to look at some different options for L.A.

Right now, I’m thinking we might try out My Father’s World. It has some things in common with Sonlight, so it won’t feel totally strange, but it has a more classical bent, which is what I’m really looking for. I also like that it has more hands-on activities–I have a hard enough time coming up with those for our special units; trying to do it for our regular school year would be a nightmare for me!

There aren’t as many books scheduled, which isn’t great, but from what I understand there is a list of supplementary books included, so we can add as much literature as we want. Plus, I do have Sonlight’s book list, and the history we’ll be studying will cover roughly the same years, so those books would still apply. My Father’s World is also considerably cheaper than Sonlight, which is especially helpful because I don’t know if I want this to be a permanent change. I think I’d have a hard time “upgrading” to something more expensive, but going down in price is easier to handle, plus will leave me with some of the budget for buying those previously mentioned extra books.

I haven’t made any decisions for sure–I’m still at the research stage right now. But I’m kind of excited with the idea of trying something new. It’s just a reminder that every school year is a chance for a fresh start!

Why We Homeschool

It may be easier to start with things that are *not* reasons for our decision to homeschool.

We do *not* homeschool primarily for religious reasons. I am very grateful that I can share Scripture readings with my children every morning, that we have catechisis right in school, that we can talk about God when we discuss science and history and art and any other subjects where He is brought up. But this was not the top reason we chose to homeschool.

We do *not* homeschool to shelter our children. Yes, I will decide when to introduce some concepts, and I may filter certain things for them, but we will (and have) discuss tough subjects. I feel that our children need to know about things they will encounter out in the real world (such as evolution), so that they know how to respond. But I will make sure that I share that information in age-appropritate (and individual child-appropriate) ways.

We do *not* homeschool because I can’t let go. I had to send Moose off to school when he was barely three, which was very hard for me, and goes against my personal belief that barring special circumstances (autism, in this case), children that young belong at home. I did it anyway. And if I *had* to send Turkey, Bunny and Ladybug to the public school, I would, just as I send them off to Sunday School, VBS, Fall Bible School, and for some of my children, mornings at MOPS, even when they were only a few weeks old.

We do *not* homeschool because the public schools are intrinsically terrible. Actually, we think we’re pretty fortunate to live in the disctrict we’re in, because Moose has received so much help. I have met caring teachers, great adminstrtors, and a good support staff at our school. Just because the public school is not the best choice for Turkey and Bunny doesn’t mean that I think it’s a cesspool unable to meet students’ needs.

We *do* homeschool for several reasons. First of all, we *do* homeschool to give our children an individualized education. Yes, we follow a standard curriculum. But when it comes to special themed units, field trips, and spontaneous moments of study, I can tailor our studies to Turkey and Bunny’s particular interests. We’ve learned about space and heroes of the Revolutionary War. We’ve traveled around the world at Christmas, learning about countries that are interesting to us, or that represent our family heritage. If we want to learn about something, we do it.

We *do* homeschool to challenge our children. By having school at home, I can once again tailor their education to where they are at, academically. They don’t have to stay behind on a subject because that’s where the rest of the class is at. I don’t have to cater to the lowest common denominator. We’ve stepped up Language Arts in a big way for that exact reason. When I see that they’re bored because they already know something we’re studying, I can just move on, and we can learn something new.

We *do* homeschool because Bunny is gifted. I don’t say this to brag; it’s simply the truth. And she is a large part of the reason we chose to homeschool. I can’t imagine how bored she would be in a regular first grade class (the grade she *should* be in–at home she gets to be in second grade, which is appropriate for her ability level), and how little she would be learning at this point. And since most gifted programs have been axed in the school district, I think it’s even more important that she can learn in an environment where she can truly flourish.

We *do* homeschool because we want to provide our children with a classical education. I’m not saying I follow The Well Trained Mind to the letter, but that book *was* what pushed us over the edge for homeschooling (because that was something we were *never* going to do!). I do think it’s important for children to learn Latin at a young age (we get to start our Latin curriculum in a few short weeks!), and I think it’s also important to memorize at a young age, because children are such little sponges. As I don’t know of any public schools that offer classical education, and since the one Lutheran school around here that does is too far away, and way out of our price range, I’ll just have to provide that education at home.

We *do* homeschool because we want to provide a literature rich education. This is what I love most about Sonlight. Yes, it’s great to have the curriculum assembled for me, and I do love the instructor’s guide. But the most important thing about Sonlight, at least for our family, is that it provides such a rich foundation in literature. My children have read more books, both on their own, and as read-alouds in school, than I ever dreamed possible, and I know that aside from a few highly motivated individuals, their public school counterparts aren’t receiving the same introduction to literature and the pleasure of reading.

There are many reasons we homeschool, and many reasons that were not a factor in our decision. We may not look like the typical homeschooling family, but what *is* typical, anyway?