Over on the Secular Charlotte Mason yahoo group a recent, much-replied to thread has been titled "Less is More," as it applies to life in general and to homeschooling specifically. Let me first say, I agree wholeheartedly. For example, I definitely want less stuff in my house, with the "more" being that my kids actually see and use what's left. For me, however, "less is more" is not taking on quite the flavor that is being discussed on the email list. "Take what you've already got (for homeschooling) and go with it" seems to be the general consensus over there. But I've finally come to the realization, after seven years of homeschooling, that I need more structure, in order to spend less time planning and researching and more time learning alongside my kids. So I will be getting rid of some of the miscellaneous resources I've collected over the course of our at-home education, and replacing them with a pre-packaged core curriculum for history, which is one subject I've felt especially bad about not hitting with more consistency or thoroughness. (Case-in-point: Rome fell in early September and the Vikings had not yet landed in May. And not because we were following bunny trails, but because I was getting sidetracked by too many things to name).
This history core is literature-based, which means I'll be reading aloud a lot more this coming year than I did this past year. That's another one of those things that has to be scheduled in for me not to let it slide when life gets in the way. The older two kids get to read more, too, which shouldn't be a problem as they are both very avid readers.
Of course, I can't resist tweaking somewhat. My three kids have two 3.5-year spaces between them, so no one level is going to be perfect. I'm trying to hit the middle of the older two's levels (circa 5th grade--DD has a July birthday and would be in 4th this year, and DS #1 has a January birthday and would be in 7th), with substitutions made as needed. Folktales are a must, IMO, and the package has practically none. And the core we've chosen, Sonlight Core 5, must be secularized in order to meet my needs and those of my family. But I'm already well underway with those specific substitutions and should have all my ducks in a row by the time the big yellow bus starts picking up the neighborhood kids again.
Our plans for fall, as they currently stand--
Jazzman (age in September - 12.5):
Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts, probably the "Town" level, some of which he may find fairly easy, but I've been advised this would be a good place to start, even if we breeze through it quickly. Jazz looked at the samples online and was enthused (not a regular occurrence during his pre-adolescence, I must say), especially about the poetry books.
A friend and I have been talking about getting our twelve-year-olds together for some hands-on science projects to go with The Story of Science by Joy Hakim. If I can convince Jazz that a) girls don't have cooties and b) it's really okay to make mistakes in front of other people (he is quite the Perfectionist-with-a-capital-P) and the friend is still willing (are you, are you?), I think this could be really good for him and that he would enjoy it and learn a lot as well. If those parameters can't be met, then I'll probably do Oak Meadow Grade 5 Environmental Science for both of my older two, doing that "meeting in the middle" thing again.
??? I can't decide if Jazz should continue on with RightStart and do the last level--the geometry course--or if he should transition into a different program that will reinforce the fundamentals he's learned. I need to start paying attention on the Homeschooling Creatively list (which is largely for hs parents of right-brained or non-linear learners) when math for older kids comes up now, I guess.
The aforementioned Sonlight Core 5, which focuses on the Eastern Hemisphere. I talked with both of the older two about our options (American History for a year or the countries of Asia, et. al.) and the more exotic choice was the overwhelming favorite with both kids. We are substituting Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere Explorer with suggestions from a poster on the Well-Trained Mind Forum (Enchantment of the World books, the Trail Guide to World Geography, and/or the Eastern Hemisphere middle school text from McDougal Littel).
Instant Immersion Japanese, the software version, and/or the software edition of Japanese in 10 Minutes a Day, to introduce the language to Jazz and see if Rosetta Stone or hiring a tutor and hauling ourselves close to the city to get to her is worth the time and money.
JaneG. (age in September - 9):
JaneG. will continue with First Language Lessons (level 3 into level 4) and Writing with Ease (level 2 into 3), and add Vocabulary from Classical Roots (level 4) and Music of the Hemispheres (part of MCT LA, Island level) for poetry (Jazz may start here for poetry, as well). If the Town level of MCT LA turns out to be a big hit with Jazz, I might just spring for the Island level for JaneG., though, as she doesn't *love* FLL or WWE.
Either Living Learning Books Chemistry (which I have on hand from when Jazz did it four years ago) or Oak Meadow Environmental Science if Jazz is joining us.
JaneG. has decided she wants to learn her multiplication tables this summer, so we are going to be working on this project and playing some games to help her along with that goal. If she manages to learn them pretty well, we may try to slide right into RightStart Level D.
Sonlight Core 5, with selections from these books that I posted about last Book Sharing Monday plus other world folk tales taking the place of any readers or read-alouds that I think might be beyond her, either emotionally or intellectually.
Look for a post this coming Monday on why JaneG. and I want to learn Italian. We may make the endeavor a family affair, but will be starting slowly with something like Italian for Children and possibly Learn Italian through Fairy Tales.
J.J. (age in September - close to 6):
J.J. hasn't done much in the way of formal schooling at all yet, but he may be ready for some slow and steady phonics via The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and some BOB books. If not, we'll put them away for a later time. He loves to listen in on what the older two are learning and could probably diagram sentences if he could read. I know he remembers where more countries on the globe are than I do. I've thought about doing a little Five in a Row with him, and plan to try it out and see how it goes. He loved the Montessori activities I put in his workboxes this year, so those will likely continue, as well.
Hey--I think I've just completed my education plan for 2010-2011. ☺ I'll substitute real names for the (new) nicknames and pop them in the mail, once I've completed this past year's progress reports. Though perhaps I should settle on a math curriculum for Jazz first. Sending them in this early in the summer might be a new record for me. I'm pretty sure last year's went in, oh, about two weeks before the public schools in our town were back in session.