You Can’t Do It All

07 Jun

The other day I was having a look through The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (borrowed from a friend) getting ideas from the optional follow-up activities, and as I was flicking through, I came to a section and thought, ‘that’s not in The Road to Reading.’ A few pages later, ‘neither is that…or that…or THAT!…hey, that looks important, and that’s not in it, either!’

So, OPGTR it is. BUT, the format of our lessons will stay the same (for now), which will be easy to do because the two books are very similar. OPGTR is a more complete programme. I wish I hadn’t been so quick to dismiss it when I first looked at it. I was so new to this homeschooling thing, teaching reading, and curricula in general. I’ve learned a lot since then, and I’ve learned a lot about my son in the past year.

Which brings me to my <!– /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –slight enormous problem:

I’m doing a little bit lot of planning for first grade (and Kindergarten Year 2, which is pretty much planned out; will post about that later). Yes, I know it’s a long way off since we’re doing another year of Kindergarten, but I have to buy my materials gradually over the next year (no way I can just save up and buy them all at once; I’ll end up spending the money on other books. Plus, having a look at a few of the resources will help me make decisions about others, AND I can do any necessary reading and planning, gradually), and need to start making a few purchases this autumn (November-ish) so that I’ll have everything in time.

I’m mostly following The Well-Trained Mind with a little Charlotte Mason thrown in, and whatever else I think will be good.

So far, I’m ok with History and music. I bought Story of the World and the activity guide last year while in America, and will use whatever library books I can get hold of to supplement. Music will be mostly composer study with resources from the library. I also found this book at a charity shop for 75p. And there’s the guitar and our other little instruments.

Art: It’s definitely going to be Artistic Pursuits. I’ve even found a place to buy it in the UK.

Grammar is sorted as well. Well…kind of. I have 3 great resources at my disposal (2 given to me, one bought inexpensively before the others were given): First Language Lessons, Primary Language Lessons, and Simply Grammar. Oh, and Grammar Land…forgot about that one (a freebie). I also plan to supplement with some fun books like this and this. But which spine do I use? I need to have a good look at all of them. Hopefully I can narrow it down to 2 and then maybe mix and match grammar lessons using both…or all 4. That won’t take time and energy, noooooo….

I forgot to mention we’ll also be using Mad Libs.

Now on to math.

I’ve been quite fortunate to be able to have a close-up look at 2 great math curricula: Saxon and Singapore. My sis-in-law has both of these for grade one, and while she was soaking up the sun in Spain, I borrowed these programmes to have a good look at them.

Saxon…yuck. I can’t think of a more mind-numbing way to teach math than with this. Yes, it’s thorough…but I can think of such better ways to teach calender skills and shapes…and everything else. Boring, boring, boring. I know some people love Saxon, but I don’t feel it’s for us. After all the enjoyment we’ve had with math this year, Saxon seems so dry and schoolish.

Singapore, on the other hand, looks great. It’s visually appealing, hands-on, and focuses on mental math, which Stiggy is great at. And when Stiggy saw it, he was really eager to do some of the workbook pages. (I’ll explain why we’re using a math curricula in my post about KY2)

Now, I was all set to go with Math-U-See and continue with Living Math. And I still want to do that, but I also want Singapore. But to do all that, not only would I need a 12-day week, I’d also be forking out about £180 a year…just for math. That’s not gonna happen.

I’m also in a quandry about writing curricula. I can’t decide between Writing Strands, and Susan Wise Bauer’s Complete Writer programme. I want to do both, as they seem to be very different and have a lot to offer. The cost isn’t bad. Bauer’s programme costs £20 and lasts for 4 years. Writing Strands, if I buy level 2 and 3, which will also last 4 years, will cost about the same. So, I can swing it financially, but will we have time to do them both? Will we want to do them both?

Science: Dr. Nebel’s programme, which is excellent, but very teacher-intensive, or WTM, which is easy to do, but dry? Or a complete curriculum? Or unschool it? Singapore Earlybird series? Handbook of Nature Study? The Lab of Mr. Q?

Decisions, decisions. It’s so hard to choose when you want the perfect curriculum and this one has this, that one has that…but none of them have it all and you don’t want to miss something important. I know you can’t do it all; schools certainly don’t do it all…so I have to choose. But how?

And even if I was able to have a good look at everything before buying (see above about Grammar), I’d still struggle. Heck, I was able to *test run* Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and it still wasn’t a fit for us. Unfortunately, we didn’t find out until we were 3/4 of the way through it. How on earth do I avoid that again? How do I keep from wasting precious time and money? How do I make up my bloomin’ mind????!?!?!?

Any advice? How do you go about choosing curricula?

P.S. I’ve discovered a UK homeschool supplier. I have not bought from them yet, so cannot personally vouch for their service, but I know someone who has and says they’re good and they’ve got some great resources.

Another P.S. Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a series of ‘about us’ posts, so you may see a flurry of posts. I know I’ve talked ad nauseum about our Kindergarten curriculum, but I thought I’d do a post detailing it for those who are new to homeschooling and are looking for examples. I’m also going to put a list of links to ‘about us’ posts in the sidebar to make these easy to access. Whenever I see links on others’ blogs like ‘our first grade curricula,’ I always click to see it and find it interesting and useful, which is why I thought I’d do it as well. Please bear with me. 🙂 I’ve also got a few other draft posts hanging around that I want to finish off and post, then my posting will probably dwindle down a bit.


7 responses to “You Can’t Do It All

  1. michelle

    June 7, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Seems like you have picked a curriculum plan very similar to what I am doing. It has taken my 6 years to figure it out and to finally feel like I don't need to keep researching to make sure there is not a better curriculum out there.

    Reading – 100 lessons – I have not made it more than 3/4 of the way through with any of my 3 kids. We just start reading easy readers at that point and deal with new phonemes as they come up. I bought OPGTR, but I ended up selling it because it turned out we didn't need to be as thorough with learning ever single phoneme. At a certain point, something clicked and they could read.

    Math – Singapore

    History -SOTW

    Grammar – First Language Lessons and the fun books and Mad Libs

    Writing – I have been following Brave Writer/Writer's Jungle with copywork and freewriting. It is too bad it is so expensive. I ended up copying it from a friend- bad I know, but I just couldn't afford it.

    Science – I have been following the What your ___grader needs to know and just getting books from the library. so no curriculum, but not really unschooling.

    Good Luck with your decisions. sometimes it just takes trial and error. If you do a lot of researching and pondering for each subject like you are clearly doing, you make fewer errors and when you do buy something that doesn't work you can always sell it.

  2. Suji

    June 7, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Deciding on curriculum is really hard for me. I change my mind almost every 2 weeks and that can be so frustrating because I'm *always* finding something that looks or feels better. I'm hoping someone will post a comment so that I can learn from them too LOL.

    But looking at the stuff we've stuck to, I would say we stick to it because DS enjoys it too much for me to change.

    So if there's any suggestion from me at all, it would be to go with what Stiggy adores.

    Tough call…you have my best wishes on this. Recently I had to sell a box load of books and curriculum cos they were languishing too long on the shelves and were way past the return policy dates. Sigh…

  3. Clare

    June 7, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Oh Michelle! I love the fact that we're just a bit behind you, even though this post has made me go a bit 'eek'!

    This comment will be no use to you whatever, but wanted to show some support 🙂 My copy of WTM has just arrived and I'm SO excited. But I'm going to do my best to not beat myself up about getting the "perfect" curriculum, as long as it seems to be working for Jude. If I miss something then I'll have to a) trust God that it's not vital, and b) console myself with the fact that he's learning about a million times more than he would in school, no matter what we do.

    Good luck with your choices!

  4. Michelle

    June 8, 2009 at 8:01 am

    I thought of that, too, with OPGTR, that maybe it's too thorough (but not until after I ordered it…d'oh!) So with some of the lessons, I may go through the lesson, but not go over the new 'rule.'

    As for selling it, it's not quite as easy in the UK, but I'll hang on to things and hopefully be able to sell them when I manage to get back to the states.

    Thanks for your comment, it was reassuring and interesting and helpful to see what you're doing. 🙂

    The problem is finding out what it is Stiggy enjoys, since this will be our first year with 'real' curriculum. 🙂 That's why I'm struggling to make choices. If Singapore works for KY2, we'll keep with that, but everything else will be a complete test run.

    I suppose I just have to take the plunge and choose. I was hoping there was some magic formula to choosing. 🙂

    Thanks for the feedback. 🙂

    Why does this post make you go 'eek!'? I hope it's not because we seem well-organised, because I promise you this is only for 2 not-so-great reasons. 1. I'm on a tight budget, 2. I'm quite obsessive-compulsive when it comes to organising and I *know* my plan is going to change over the coming year. 🙂

    'console myself with the fact that he's learning about a million times more than he would in school, no matter what we do.'

    You're so right; I keep this in mind, too when all of it starts to get to me. All these programs are good, and I can always tweak things as needed.

    And, if they miss something, it can always be learned later. A child who is home educated learns how to learn, so they'll be well-equipped to fill in any gaps.

    Thanks for the support; your comment *was* helpful. 🙂

  5. Clare

    June 8, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Hi Michelle, sorry, the "eek" was not about your being organised, that's fab (like me researching curriculums 3 years too early!). I meant the amount of choice out there, and your quandries over which ones will suit you best. I can't even decide on a main theory at the moment (Classical, Charlotte Mason??? etc) so I sympathise 🙂

  6. Michelle

    June 8, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    I see now. 🙂 And I totally understand what you're going through with trying to choose a method; I've been through it, too. I'd settle on one, then get restless and wonder what else was out there, or want to dig deeper into another method, and temporarily settle elsewhere. It took me nearly 2 years to finally settle on classical with CM influences. And who knows, as we go along, it may all change again. But for now, that's what we're following and unless it doesn't work for us, we'll stick with it.

    I even felt guilty for all the time I spent researching, but it was a necessary evil and it's paid off. I don't feel that need to explore anymore; I feel pretty informed about what's out there, so that feeling of the grass maybe being greener elsewhere has gone.

    I wish you all the best. You *will* find your niche eventually. (easy for me to say, right? 🙂

    'like me researching curriculums 3 years too early!'

    Oh, Clare, we should get together sometime, I bet we'd have a great time chatting! 🙂

  7. Southern Drawl

    June 10, 2009 at 7:27 am

    I have been homeschooling for 14 years now and you have named so many of my favorites…We use Math u see until 3rd or 4th grade and switch to Saxon. I love the Story of the World. One thing you might want to look at for the primary grades is Five In A Row and Easy Grammar. At the very bottom of my blog page I have a Homeschool Corner feel free to visit if you want at Mops and Pops Place. blogspot com


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