I love to learn. It’s one of the reasons I chose a career as an instructional designer. I have the wonderful opportunity to explore topics that are (mostly) interesting and relevant to me. This love of learning is what drove me to homeschool our children. I wanted to demonstrate my love of learning to my children so that they, in turn, would love it as much as I did.
So how could it have gone so terribly wrong? Let’s start at the beginning (spoiler alert: it got better, I promise).
After much debate, Hubby and I decided on an online charter school that provided all the books, curriculum, computer, printer, etc. for the school year. It was just like school but at home; which, as it turns out, was exactly the problem.
The sheer amount of school work, the rigidity of the schedule, and the pressure of “just get it done” finally wore me down. The RA that I thought I had under control made itself painfully known this past month with a severe flare. The boys fell further and further behind on their school work which made me just want them to complete it faster. They began to grumble and complain; I began to look like the Wicked Witch of the West. Basically it was a downward spiral that I wasn’t sure I could get out of.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came about a month or so ago when my precious 7 year old son sobbed with utter despair after I red-marked all of his spelling words incorrect. As I held him while he cried, I decided that I had had enough. Learning was supposed to be engaging and fun. It shouldn’t cause my precious gift from God to feel like a failure.
And that is why, with a lot of praying with Hubby, that we decided to unenroll our boys from the online school. It wasn’t that it wasn’t a great curriculum or that it would be a good alternative for older, more self-directed students; it just didn’t work for us.
The question, then, is: what does work for us?
A few weeks ago I pulled back on the school work to took a good long look at what interested my boys. The first, and obvious activity, was building with Legos. Legos, particularly Star Wars Legos, is the most sought after and coveted item in the house. From Wii Lego games to rebuilding the Millenium Falcon an a small scale, Legos fascinates them.
Secondly, they love Minecraft. This indie game is fascinating because the focus is on clever game play and building. The graphics are not Oscar-worthy, to say the least. It is, however, an incredibly fun game. Hubby and I have not purchased a copy for the computer (that’s for Christmas) but we did purchase the Pocket Edition for their tablets. They play with each other in their Minecraft world and build castles, lagoons, and anything else that they can think up. The best part, though, is that they work together as a team, use system thinking to play the game, and enjoy themselves at the same time.
And they love God with an innocence that I wish I possessed. We read the Bible daily and attend church on Sundays. I, our eldest son, attends the middle school youth group and the two younger boys stay at church in the childcare until he’s done. They beg to go to the Friday night movies at the church and help out with cleaning the church on Saturdays. And I love the way they talk with God. Whether its grace before a meal or a prayer before bed (which they call grace, too, by the way) they don’t hold anything back from the Creator and I thank Him for them every day.
Then, what struck me the most, was that they loved to be read to. Our eldest son, I, really loves to read and particularly enjoys the fantasy genre. He’s always asking me to tell him a story or to read to him, despite the fact that he is 11 years old. J the Younger will not sit for a fairy tale (Thumbelina was a nightmare) but he loves Peter Rabbit (I think its because he relates to the bunnie’s misadventures). And J the Older enjoys animal stories and, you guessed it, stories about Legos or Star Wars.
So, taking that all into consideration, we searched for a homeschool curriculum that would suit our children’s needs. And, like a ray of sunlight on a cloudy day, Ambleside Online appeared in my search list. The curriculum is based very closely on Charlotte Mason’s educational ideals. In a nutshell, “A Charlotte Mason education includes first-hand exposure to great and noble ideas through books in each school subject, and through art, music and poetry.” (Ambleside Online)
In other words, they read great literature to learn about all their subjects. The curriculum uses books that are freely available, either online or through the local library. I am supplementing with a paid-for Creation-based science curriculum from SimplyCharlotteMason.org and a math unit from LivingMath.net. All in all, I doubt the cost of books will cost me more than $75-$100. As a matter of fact, most of the books are available on my boys tablets through the Kindle app!
The best part? My boys narrated all the stories back to me nearly word for word. They got it and they got the underlying principles of what we read, whether it was “Anno’s Counting Book” or Plutarch’s Poplicola. And they are happy which is why we decided to homeschool in the first place.