How I Use Singapore Math

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-18-58-pmI have a love/hate relationship history with Singapore Math.  It has really been awesome for my kids (and for me) to learn math the Singapore way.  I was always really good at math, but it has been shocking to see my mental math improvements over the last few years as I have taught my kids through this math program.  But it isn’t as easy to use as some other programs would have been, and there have been quite a few crisis moments when I thought I would throw the books out the window and grab something easier to use.   Continue reading

Choosing Your Goal

Whenever I run into new homeschool parents, I remember that feeling that I had when I was just starting out.  I felt a lot of fear.  Would I be able to teach my kids?  Would I be successful?  Would I ruin them forever?  And what about that socialization thing?  It just seems like you are thrown into the deep end of the pool and you don’t know how to swim at all.  And you aren’t in the pool drowning alone either.  There are a lot of spectators shouting helpful (or not) advice in your direction as you try to doggie paddle your way to…well, where exactly?

The first thing that helped me gain my footing was to set an end goal.  What did I want my kids to be like when they graduated from my little academy?  What knowledge and skills did I want them to acquire?  We are a religious family (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and so I know that I am aiming my kids for Brigham Young University in Provo.  I pulled up the website for the school, and there was a lot of information about how homeschool students are evaluated for admission.  So I now had more finite requirements that I was shooting for.  I now had a direction that I could swim in.

I always tell new homeschool parents to choose where they are headed and map out the steps to get there.  You may change along the way, but if you have that end goal in mind, you will be better able to steer your children where you are headed.  You will know what questions to ask and how to evaluate your progress.

Here are some of my goals for my kids at graduation time:

  1. Be healthy and happy members of our family with good memories.
  2. Be college admission ready using BYU admission requirements.
  3. Have the life-skills necessary to be able to run a household on their own.
  4. Have the character developed to serve an 18month-2year religious mission.
  5. Have worked a part-time job.
  6. Develop skills/talents that could be used to bring in income if needed. (music, home repair, computer programming, etc)

The second thing I tell new homeschoolers is that it takes a few years to find your groove, and that is okay.  Kick out your fears and have faith that you can do this, and that you will be successful.  If something isn’t working, you have the power to adapt and find something that does.  There is a support system for you out there (you can reach out and find it), and with determination and perseverance it will all be worth it.  And as several wonderful moms have reminded me over the years, you take it one year at a time.  If homeschool works this year–then great–if not then there are lots of other options available.  Just remember your end goals and head towards them.

Classical Education With a Twist

I have always been attracted to classical education.  I think it started when I was first learning about how my public education was really inadequate.  I was friends with a family that decided that the local schools (which I attended) were not sufficient, and so they researched and set up a charter school that followed the Core Knowledge Sequence.  The sequence introduced me to the idea of learning a comprehensive, interdisciplinary world and US history, classical literature, and mostly just the idea that there are standards of education floating out in the world somewhere that were higher and better than anything that I had experienced in every subject.  Core Knowledge brought the idea that there is a shared cultural literacy that our civilization is built on, and that this education is the key to equality and success in our society.

Fast forward several years.  I now had married into the family that set up the charter school and I had two kids.  I planned on enrolling my kids in a school with the CK sequence or finding some sort of supplementation when I visited my aunt in Washington, D.C.  She was homeschooling her large family, in spite of the schools around that were using the core knowledge sequence.  I was confused as to why she would go through all that work when she actually lived in a district that had “the best” plan available.  I said something that indicated what I was thinking, and her reply was, “I homeschool because I have a curriculum I like better.”

I tucked that thought in the back of my mind and held onto it.  I started researching homeschooling forums and sites and realized that there are several educational philosophies in the world and that homeschooling gave you the freedom to do what you loved from any of them.  I love that you can totally customize each child’s educational experience.

So here are some of the additional sources that have informed my homeschooling choices:

Charlotte Mason  I really love her whole approach to education.  I have tried to incorporate character education, nature studies/journaling, living books, and feasting on a wide and varied educational banquet.  I regularly refresh myself on her philosophy and try to bring it into my personal curriculum choices.  I do not follow everything she recommends to the letter, but I let her philosophy raise the way I bring in other ideas to a higher level. For example, I don’t use exclusively living books.  I think encyclopedias and textbooks have value (and my kids LOVE reading them), and should be incorporated so that children can later go to college and not be completely stymied by all the texts they will wade through in college.  I also teach grammar earlier.  These are just two examples, but I feel like it is really freeing to take what you love and leave what you don’t.

The Well-Trained Mind  I love the way this book breaks down education throughout the entirety of a child’s time at home.  I regularly reference this text to see what kind of subjects are recommended and when to add them into my child’s life.  I use this source very loosely.  I use it as a yardstick to make sure I am meeting or exceeding the goals.  I feel like the suggestions are too incremental and time-consuming.  If I were to follow this exactly, we wouldn’t be able to feast on as many subjects.

Memoria Press  I use the accelerated curriculum guide as another yardstick to measure educational progress.  I also buy some of their subject material, but I don’t use them exclusively, and frequently I don’t follow the things I do buy exhaustively.

Homeschool Buyers Co-op  I regularly peruse the subject offerings here because I have found new subject areas that were not suggested in any of my previous sources.  For example, I saw several technology classes that were not even on my radar, and so I started looking into programming and computer science courses.  It was then that I realized that if I didn’t change course drastically, I was in danger of only producing classics majors (and while I love the subject material, it doesn’t really do much in the way of supporting a family).  I decided to ramp up my STEM curriculum choices because of the offerings on this site.

These are the sites that are my jumping off point for developing my curriculum outline.  I am always on the lookout for other sources and ideas as well.  I have decided that there is no one right approach, and no source has all of the answers.  I find that by keeping an open mind, our educational journey has led us to exciting places.  We are currently enjoying unit studies with a fun co-op in our area.  I never subscribed to unit studies, but in a group setting it has been really fun.  We have been able to take a morning off our normal track and go explore with a large group of other kids.  Unit studies provide a great group activity, and work well with field trips and other local opportunities.  This has been a departure from every philosophy that I have ever used, but we have really enjoyed ourselves.

So when I am asked what homeschool philosophy I subscribe to, I just say “classical education with a twist” because we use it as our backbone, but we depart regularly.  Good luck finding your personal educational style, and have fun twisting it around to make it your own.