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Our Reasons for Home Education:

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Although he was achieving good results, he wasn't reaching his full potential because his love for learning had been destroyed & hence his grades were steadily declining.

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Completely failed by the system, he hated school, was always tired & homework time was a major frustration for both of us. He was severely frustrated & quickly heading to become yet another ADHD statistic.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 2012 SACHS Blog ~ Changing Curriculum

curriculum_000_thumb1We’re nearing the end of this year and it’s Carnival time again. This month we’re focusing on changing curriculum in order to find the right fit for each student.

Definition of Curriculum according to Wikipedia: “In formal education, a curriculum (kəˈrɪkjʉləm/; plural: curricula /kəˈrɪkjʉlə/ or curriculums) is the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university. A curriculum may also refer to a defined and prescribed course of studies, which students must fulfil in order to pass a certain level of education. For example, an elementary school might discuss how its curriculum, or its entire sum of lessons and teachings, is designed to improve national testing scores or help students learn the basics. An individual teacher might also refer to his or her curriculum, meaning all the subjects that will be taught during a school year.”

All children have different learning styles resulting that curricula purchased may not work for all the children in a particular family. Many of us have found fitting curricula through trial and error. With this post we'll be looking at how other families have dealt with their non-fitting curricula and adapted or changed it to fit their students.

Finding the right curriculum fit for our boys has probably been the greatest challenge I’ve faced since taking up home education and believe me, at times it seemed hopeless and I have doubted the wisdom of bringing the boys home from school.

With Jesse already starting high school we felt it was important for him to do a formal curriculum that would also supply him with an official report, so we started them up with Le Amen Education Centre for an IEB matric. Their primary school material is worksheet based and not at all suitable for our kinaesthetic / visual spatial learner. They’re colourless and very mundane. Misha disliked them with a passion and was extremely happy when I allowed him to cut them up instead to add them to his lapbooks. We also found the high school material was not homeschool / self study friendly and fulfilling their requirements very strenuous and seemed at times to be worse than those experienced at private school. This turned out to be a “school at home” scenario that didn’t work well for my boys or myself. By the end of the second term I was already heading for burnout and except for enjoying the freedoms of being at home, the boys hated the “school” part. In fact, Jesse referred to his situation as having been taken out of “jail”, just to be put straight back into jail using the Le Amen. To top it all their service was poor, parent support sadly lacking and their final reports didn’t correspond with the results I had calculated & handed in.

We had taken the kids out of private school in order to alleviate the stress, but instead we found ourselves way more stressed out with the new requirements than before homeschooling… Half way through last year I realised this setup wasn’t working for us but dad insisted they complete the year and I had no idea where to go from here. Dad wanted us to aim at going the Cambridge route but after attending the Cambridge talk at Dainfern College with Jesse last year, I just realised that although Jesse was academically capable, this would be another frustrating “school at home” scenario for us.

I set out searching for curricula that would suit my boys and stumbled on a book on learning styles that gave me loads of insight as to why school wasn’t working for them and why the traditional “school at home” approach did more harm than good in our homeschool environment.

If They Don’t Learn the Way You Teach, Teach the Way They Learn
~ Jacquie McTaggart

This year, I eventually decided to ditch all the school books and to rather unschool the boys until I found a curricula that would work for them. We focused on field trips, many of those and alternative fun ways to help restore their love for learning. I allowed the boys to deschool completely, which meant NO SCHOOL for a few months… I focused on educating myself in order to find material that would work for the boys.

Front CoverDuring this time I’ve read a number of books with some very valuable information, much of which I’ve started to apply to our learning environment. I learnt how “play” shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul. In order to maintain a happy, balanced lifestyle, children as well as adults need to continually make time for playful activities in their lives whether it be riding a horse, reading a book or just play with their children or pets. Without these activities we lose our joy and life becomes a meaningless chore.Front Cover I decided to allow the kids the time to play and have seen some wonderful results.

“Play is the highest form of research” ~ Albert Einstein

I have also discovered more about learning styles and how that affects our ability to learn and retain new information. I gained a new understanding as to why my boys and I hated school so much and how the system failed us. As a matter of fact neither of our learning styles were catered for, although Jesse and I learnt to cope with our environment and still obtain good scores. With Misha being a kinaesthetic, visual-spatial learner, this however was not possible so he started to mimic in class in order to hide his inability to cope. He was becoming more and more fidgety and frustrated. His teacher was already cautioning us to medicate him for concentration and had we not removed him when we did, he would have most definitely been branded ADHD by now. The knowledge gained from this book has helped me understand myself and the boys better. I have learnt that taking their learning styles dispositions, talents, modalities and interests into account is a vital requirement to finding the correct curriculum fit for them.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results” ~ Albert Einstein

Alpha Omega AcademyJesse had asked for all his school to be done on computer prior to homeschooling and fortunately I was able to find a curriculum that would give him that, with the added benefit of online lessons and a teacher for every subject. Of course for me the bonus is not having to worry about marking schoolwork & whether or not I can explain the material to him. With 9 months de-schooling time now complete, Jesse is now back to school for his Freshman Year with Alpha Omega Academy as from the 1st of August. The past two months of homeschooling him have been a breeze. No more constant reminding or nagging necessary for him to get his schoolwork done. Due to the time difference, his online lessons start from 3pm, just the way he likes it. His pc work can be done at any time of the day, so when he wants to go out in the evening, he just does his work during the day instead. This curriculum allows him to study where he’s most comfortable and also at his most productive time of the day which unlike most is in the late afternoon/evening. If the past 3 months are anything to go by, then the next four years of high school homeschooling should be a breeze.

Here are some of our recent news updates since changing curriculum & learning strategies:

At this stage I’m not sure if Switched on Schoolhouse through Alpha Omega Academy is going to work as well for Misha as it does for Jesse, but I trust we’ll be able to find a similarly successful curriculum for Misha when he gets to high school. For now he’ll continue unschooling with a variety of activities until he gets to grade 6. We will continually re-evaluate and change curriculum as necessary.Image(1)

Now let us visit the homes of our Carnival Contributors to see how they have dealt with this challenge of finding the correct curriculum fit for their children:

is a seasoned homeschooler and shared some very valuable insight on how parents should choose a curriculum in his post How should parents choose a homeschooling curriculum?” In his post he confirms that due to people and circumstances changing over the years, it is wise to avoid purchasing a complete curriculum just in case the need to change curriculum arises later.

doesn’t have a blog but submitted the following:

“I began homeschooling May 2012. All the different curriculum providers overwhelmed me so much. Thank goodness for the Facebook group we have where you find a lot of useful information on homeschooling. I attended the homeschool expo last year in Cape Town and grabbed a pamphlet from each provider! Went home and studied them, still only to be more confused for I did not yet realize what style my 8 year old and 5 year old needed. After seeing a lot of positive comments on Sonlight and Love 2 Learn, I first tried out Brainline. I was still very much into the structured and organized side of how schooling should be and Brainline fell into that category, and of course all the exams which I felt at the time was a must.

Brainline was a complete disaster for we ended up sitting from 08h00 in the morning to 18h00 at night, printing the sheets and doing endless homework – this was for Grade 2!! Two weeks of hell, we immediately stopped Brainline and I then decided to go for Sonlight. Sonlight is a great curriculum with excellent living and enriching books, but after 4 months I realized my son is a Kinaesthetic learner and he did not like what Sonlight offered. Arjay needs to work with his hands almost on every subject or he looses interest and runs off. But for my 5 year old, she is more a Visual learner and LOVES colourful and reading books. Sonlight works perfect for her.

So I had to customize some of the resources together for Arjay to actually sit down or then walk around and learn something.

I bought Maths-u-see and we are flying through the lessons. He loves the blocks and learning that way. Building and working out problems with his new colourful blocks – an added bonus!

I ordered Apologia for the Science part. A lot of experiments and walking outside to actually go and find the animals or insects and study them in detail. Not looking through books, but actually go and find them and design a nice lap book.

I ordered LLATL, have not received it yet, but hope it will work just as good as the rest.

So yes, Sonlight works perfectly for Saskia, all the colourful books and writing. A real book worm. Visual learner.

Customized Maths-u-see, Apologia and LLATL for Arjay, experiments and moving around and about. Kinaesthetic learner.”

shares her experience in her post “Switching Curriculum”. I found some comfort in the fact that even a “seasoned” home educator could find switching curriculum daunting & intriguing. It just goes to show that feeling anxious when curriculum is not working is quite normal. Her tell tale red flags give a good indication as to when it’s “broken” and investigation into another approach may be required.

is another seasoned home educator whose blog has been both informative and inspirational to me over the last 2 years. In her blog post Choosing the Right Homeschooling Curriculum, she shares how thrilling it is to see how all kinds of families choose to homeschool from all walks of life, but one thing these families have in common is their confusion when choosing the RIGHT curriculum on a journey that is so unfamiliar and uncertain.  What should one take into consideration when choosing a curriculum? In this posting Linnie listed five points to take into consideration with the purpose to guide our children not only to learn information but discover their gifting and talents, which will direct them to their purpose in life and give them the satisfaction of seeing God work through them, changing the World.

Thank you to these contributors for sharing their lives with us. May you all go from strength to strength & be blessed in all that you do. I trust you will enjoy visiting these blogs as much as I did.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules here. All children are different and what works for one family may not necessarily work for another. This post is meant to encourage you that you are not alone in this quest and that you can find the solution to suit your child’s best method of learning. From my experience it’s important to get to know your children and how they learn best before investing a fortune in curriculum. Try out various materials and do not be afraid to adjust it or change it all together if it doesn’t work. Most importantly, enjoy your kids, build relationships, relax and have fun…

Sometimes a curriculum may not need replacing, but with some tweaking may prove effective after all. Please read this article entitled How to Adjust your Curriculum in the July issue of the The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for some tips on adjusting curriculum.

CurrClick Affordable curriculum, lapbooks, & homeschooling resources as well as some great Live lessons and Free Clubs.

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“I know that it will be impossible to teach them everything that is now known. Knowing this, I have determined that it is much more important to provide an excellent basic education as well as to teach them how to think and find answers. “
~ Amanda Bennett Unit Studies

As long as you have taught your child how to learn there is nothing he/she cannot learn on their own. So put this on a post note and post it all over the place until you believe it. As long as your child can read a book and understand what it says and knows how to look up what they don't understand, they will always be able to learn something new. And with that knowledge you can never fail your child in teaching.

Our children are going to remember the time we spend with them ~ the time we listen, the time we encourage, and the moral support we offer as they test their wings and ideas, and begin moving on their dreams. Now that's an education!

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This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers (SACH Bloggers) where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more. You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page. We hope you enjoy the carnival as much as we have!

SA Home Schooling Blog Carnival October 2012 ~ Changing Curriculum