This week, someone asked me what curriculum we use in our homeschool for our older kids (above grade 4). Although FreelyEducate.com is not only for homeschoolers – I post content for all educators here – I thought my reply may be helpful to anyone wondering which sites, of the dozens (hundred/s?) I’ve highlighted for FreelyEducate.com, make their way into our tiny school. Note: This list does not include all of my favorites or the many sites I’d love to try out soon. But it’s an honest list of what we actually are using right now.
Here is my reply to the questions: Are you the primary teacher or do you use an online program? If you’re the primary teacher, what curriculum do you use for your older children (above grade 4)?
I’m the primary teacher of our kids (grades 1st, 4th, 6th, 8th), although to be honest, I’m learning right alongside them! I try to seek out the “masters” of whatever we’re studying. Instead of learning from a textbook or a computer curriculum written by somebody paid to write it, we want to learn from someone who is passionate about the subject, a master of it. The passionate “teacher” might be National Geographic or Mythbusters as well as Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Amelia Earhart.
Ambleside Online is the place I go for history and reading/literature books. I don’t follow the Ambleside levels, though, because it makes me crazy when I try to teach 4 different levels at once. So we study just one level each year, together. If I can’t find a suggested book free online (to read off my Kindle), or at the library, I look for an alternative that’s free, either by searching online for a good book or by looking at a different Ambleside level.
For Science, it’s Mythbusters (on TV) and experimenting with all sorts of kits and supplies and gadgets (rocketry, electronics, chemistry by baking, etc.). Science is a natural around here — we’re curious, experimenting folk. We supplement our experimenting with a few sites like Katz on nutrition, Stossel’s free DVDs, and this elements chart. Also, our 8th grader is in the Civil Air Patrol where there is an emphasis on aeronautical science.
The 8th grader needed to start Grammar (online program) this year. I felt like he was ready (but don’t think it’s needed in younger years).
Our 6th and 8th graders also needed some Current Events. I like Izzit for that.
For Art, the kids have the freedom of using any supplies they like when they like. We completed every video from illustrator Jan Brett. And this year, to give them some information on drawing basics, we’re using Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. Our 1st and 4th graders also take a free art class at the local library and our 6th grader takes ballet lessons (not free!).
For writing, we do a lot of copywork (copying high quality literature from their reading books and often the Bible). Dictation once a week (I read a passage; they write it down. We then go over it together, discussing spelling and punctuation). I find that it’s best to learn spelling from words you’re already using or reading, instead of from spelling lists, so the above methods (copywork, dictation) work well for us, but last year our then-5th grader was having a hard time because she was so-very-phonetic, that after reviewing All About Spelling, I started using it for her (here’s a post on why). I have our 8th grader “teach” it to her (90% of what you teach, you retain, so I’ve heard). It’s made a difference, but honestly, I think reading great books is making the biggest difference of all.
p.s. Listen to this sometime, if you can: Sir Ken Robinson speaks on education for TED Talks