October 15, 2010

Bridgetender School First Quarter Update--Curriculum

This posting is for the benefit of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, who I want to thank for their encouragement in so many ways. Homeschooling is more difficult than I ever imagined and, even though I still have a much better teacher-to-student ratio than any public school classroom, it is a huge challenge to teach four children in a one-room schoolhouse environment. Every year, I pray, asking God if He wants me to continue homeschooling and if so, what He wants me to do for the coming year. So far, I still am getting the message to keep them at home. Over time, I am learning that the most important lessons I can teach my kids do not involve history, math, or language arts, but interpersonal communication because I am realizing that the two job objectives given to all humans by God is to "Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37). I feel like the blind leading the blind in these two areas, sometimes.

Having said that, I having included a character development skill in our school. Our focus for this year is "listening" and that isn't just in the context of "obeying", it includes knowing when to speak and when to hold our tongues. Our key verse is James 1:19-20. This is an excellent chance for me to improve my listening skills, too. I am finding that they do excellent work when we are practicing as part of school, but aren't so great at applying it to "real world" situations, so I expect it will take a full year to work on it and a lifetime to get really good at it. :-) We are also studying the book of James, using Kay Aurthur's "Precepts for Kids" series.

In terms of academics for the three older kids, we are using Tapestry of Grace for history, geography, and literature; Math U See for math; Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) for a combination of grammer and writing skills; Apologia...Land Animals... for science; reading Spanish-English books for Spanish, and occasionally doing dictation and copywork for penmanship, writing, and listening skills development. We are doing art at home, using Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner to work on their drawing skills as well as suggestions from the Tapestry of Grace arts & activities sections. The kids are attending SportskidzAZ for one day of P.E. a week and they are involved in outside sports activities. John, my kindergartner is currently studying numbers and the calendar for math concepts, is learning letter sounds, and plays or doodles nearby during the group studies for "osmosis" learning.

Tapestry of Grace has required a huge adjustment. It is a curriculum involving books, writing and other activities for a specific period of history that is divided into four different age levels--lower grammer (Kyle), uppper grammer (Jessi) and dialectic (Elizabeth). And it has reading for me so that I know what my kids are learning. I have provided a link if you want more information about it.

The IEW course for writing teaches children to write by giving them a paragraph, teaching them how to create an outline the paragraph and then re-write the paragraph based on their notes. As they improved, you introduce, one at a time, "dress-ups" like a "who-which" clause, participles, and work on developing a list of synonyms for overused words like "small", "nice", "good", etc. You let them play with the different "dress ups" in re-writing. So far, I am using what we are reading in the Apologia science book for source material, though I may include history, too.

I am very thankful to God, who continues to show me ways to improve the schedule and gives me great ideas to make studies more fun, like having the kids "ride the rapids" like Lewis and Clark in a laundry basket down our hallway. It involved me pushing the kids as fast as I could and then releasing them to see how far they would slide. I was half tempted to oil the bottom of the basket if the clean up wouldn't have been so difficult and if there hadn't been a distinct possibility of damaging walls. I am also thankful that we were able to experiment with the schedule for the first month or so before the outside activities began. I am also thankful to my husband, who is such a great encourager when I need it most.

Next post: Children's Progress at Bridgetender School

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