This week we had our last local Homeschool “network” meeting for the year. Our network meetings are about encouraging and helping the parents who homeschool. We meet once a ‘term’ (4 times a year) and generally discuss a prearranged topic of interest or need. Our 4th meeting is the closest we can come to a curriculum fair! We live in the outback(ish) of Australia and most of our resources are bought online – sight-unseen. So we get together to share the things that worked for us in the year just gone, with the idea of inspiring someone else for their journey in the coming year.
So in preparation for this meeting I asked myself, “What worked this year?” Thought I would share it with you as well.
I had two main goals this year
- To help my two homeschool students towards independent study.
- To encourage them to think, and communicate their thinking
We started with a heavy subject load, with me doing a lot of face-to-face teaching. And now, towards the end of the year, we have simplified how many subjects each student is studying, and I am only teaching Bible study and Character. It is very encouraging to look back and see that this year we have actually made progress in formal academic areas (and to be honest, I haven’t been able to say that every year – some years I truly have to focus on the growth that has been in other areas – intrapersonal, talents and passions, character, life skills etc.)
So here are the things that have really worked for us this year:
We have actually completed a few units this year. (Yay!! We have a lot of unfinished units around here)
- How to study the Bible: We looked at using different Bible study tools like Strong’s Concordance, Dictionaries and Commentaries. We practiced with looking at character studies, topical studies, and chapter studies.
- For Easter we used the DVD: The True Easter Story
- 7 C’s of History – I bought this a long time ago when it was in book form. I don’t know wha the depth of this DVD is. But we enjoyed talking about each event in history, and how it impacts or influences our belief today.
These are the skills that need daily practice.
- Math – we continue with Math U See. We don’t do every page in the workbook, if you achieve 80% or greater you move onto the next lesson (this applies to the lesson pages and review pages)
- Grammar – we had fun with a series of books called “Words are Categorical” I didn’t buy the whole series, just the topics that we needed to address. I then used a simple workbook (Excel) purchased at the Post Office to reinforce each aspect we had talked about.
- Notetaking – we did a short unit on taking notes, looking at using a mindmap, outlining, , listing, asking questions, summarising. This is a skill the kids are expected to use in their other subjects. I taught this from various articles, lesson plans and infographics I found online.
- Music – Naomi is learning piano and though her lessons were spasmodic this year, she remained diligent with her practicing. Daniel is teaching himself guitar.
We have studied more in a family context this year than in years past. We continue to use Character First as our basis, though this year Naomi and Daniel did very little notebooking – as it was mostly living life application type of learning.
General Knowledge (History, Science etc)
- Australian History – we used Australia’s Yesterdays, as the outline for our studies. Each audio cd has notetaking worksheets and assignment suggestions. The kids then used this information to create a media project of their choice.
- Art History – in order to study something connected with her passion Naomi chose Art History. This was a great follow on from our trip to Italy last year. Annotated Mona Lisa
- Crusades – Daniel chose to study the crusades. He used a DVD documentary as his core and has been researching other books as he writes a living history story based on this period of history.
- Mystery of History – since Daniel has finished his study on the Crusades (though he continues to write stories), he is now working on Mystery of History.
- Science – We are using God’s Design for Science: We only started science in the second half of this year, as the media project for Australian History was quite involved. As we started to appreciate the kids learning style and independent learning skills they have each taken a separate science topic. Daniel is studying Machines and Motion and Naomi is doing another study on the Human Body.
- Reading List – each of the kids have 1 hour of reading 4x a week. I used to have a set reading list, decided upon at the beginning of the year, but that isn’t working for Naomi and Daniel. They choose a book, on a topic they are interested in, maintaining a variety, as they need their next title.
Both Naomi and Daniel have done well in different sporting endeavors. Naomi ran as part of a team in a Quarter Marathon and then joined a friend for a short leg of his 40km birthday run! Naomi also trained to go to the Northern Territory Netball Championships. Daniel has participated in Taekwondo and has performed well through the year. Both Naomi and Daniel are working towards physical fitness in different ways.
Our homeschool looks very different at the end of 2013, than it did at the beginning. My plans at the beginning of the year were very full on (read excessive!) as I considered time ‘running out’. But as the year progressed reality took hold and we simplified and let the kids take on more responsibility for their learning. As I look back and asses, I can easily say that the kids are both in a very different place than where they were when we started. Highlights have been that they have learnt a lot in terms of technology and media, and they are now studying independently which means they’ve not only learnt skills but grown in motivation.