We will officially have our 180 days completed on this Wednesday, May 20th. Some home school families don't schedule all their schooling around the 180 days and just do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. I like using the 180-day schedule and dividing the work up appropriately in order to be completed within that time frame. Then, once the 180 days is up, I like to take several weeks off and catch up on various things, relax, have fun, and enjoy time away from the school-day schedule.
Now that we are approaching the end of our 2008-2009 school year, I've already begun to evaluate what has happened this year and am already contemplating changes for the next school year.
This completes our eighth year of home schooling. The first two years we did the "curriculum in a box" thing using Christian Liberty Press. It worked for us, but after realizing that Madison was a little "behind" in her math, I decided to switch gears. (I had compared her math curriculum at the time to ABeka, which moves quicker than most programs. They all end up at the same place eventually, so it would have been fine if I had stayed with what we were doing.) For the next few years, we tried Bob Jones, Professor B, and Rod & Staff. Finally, this year we tried Teaching Textbooks, and "ding, ding, ding" we hit the jackpot!
When we changed the math program, we also changed her other subjects, and I ended up picking and choosing from various curriculums and creating my own "package." Many families do this, and it works quite well for them. It's worked well for us, too, but it's definitely not the easiest way to go, and I've always been left with the feeling that I'm leaving something out. I know I'm probably not and that they'll eventually get everything they need, but sometimes it's hard to convince myself of that.
This year we chose My Father's World, Exploring Countries and Cultures. I think this is a great program. We bought the deluxe package, which included the missionary read-aloud books and various other books that helped teach geography. The program covers science, geography, Bible, and language arts. You have to add a math and grammar program. It includes 34 weeks of easy to follow lesson plans. I feel like *I* learned a lot about geography this year and discovered how little I new about all the countries and exactly which continent they are on. I highly recommend reading biographies of missionaries whether or not you use this program. For instance, when you're studying about India and read a biography about Amy Carmichael and her experiences in India, a lot is revealed about the country and its cultures that you wouldn't necessarily read about in a text book. My children are already asking to read more in this series, and it may best if they read the rest on their own. We did them all as read alouds, sitting in the living room, usually in the morning. As I read the last chapter in the books about George Mueller, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, etc., I found myself having to gain composure before I could continue/finish reading. These people that I never had the opportunity to meet in person have touched my life. They each truly took up their cross and followed Christ, leaving everything behind. As I completed each of these books, the reality of what it means to forsake all and follow Christ and the end result and impact that a life can have which does this really hit me like a ton of bricks. If my children got even half as much out of this as I did, then I'm satisfied. I hope it was more and that the lessons learned this year will last a lifetime.
Also during the year, on a weekly basis we would read from Window on the World. We would read about a country or people group and make them our prayer focus.
I am so happy with the overall experience My Father's World gave us this year, but there are a few reasons why I won't be using it again next school year. First of all, we did most of this together. That didn't work very well with a 4th grader and a 7th grader. Madison would know the "answers" quicker than Cari most of the time, and this would be a point of frustration for Cari. Having to wait on Cari would frustrate Madison. This is not an intense program by any means, and while that may have been best for a 4th grader, Madison and I both felt it did not give her a sufficient amount of challenge and work. We did supplement with Apologia Science. I think this is a good program, but is was so advanced compared to her other subjects that I think it made things a little strange if that makes sense. I would probably order it again for Cari, but it's a little pricey for our budget for just one child.
Madison prefers to work more independently, and I can't really complain about that. So with that in mind, here's my tentative plan for the 2009-2010 school year. For Madison, we'll be sticking with Teaching Textbooks, and I'm probably going to go with ABeka or Christian Light Education for the remainder of her subjects. I'm still undecided but am leaning heavily towards CLE. I think CLE will work well for Cari, too, and have actually already started her in their math program as I felt there were some areas we needed to re-focus on. We'll be working through the workbooks and playing catch up throughout the summer. I hope to supplement their history with living books (in the Sonlight manner as a friend of mine does with ABeka) to help bring it all to life. I'll also be starting Amelia with the CLE pre-K program as she is really wanting to get her hands on Cari's math workbooks!
I'm already excited about our next school year and am hoping that moving towards more independence will make for a smoother scheduled day around here. This year, as I've been taking care of Matthew, they've had to wait patiently for me to tell them what to do and give their daily assignments. I'm hoping that alleviating that step will allow more time for me to find good books, experiments, etc., to supplement their text book work. We'll see.