I prepared to bring home a rising 3rd grader, rising 1st grader, and new kindergartener… all while keeping two preschoolers busy. I researched the different methods of schooling as well as prayerfully considering my children’s personalities. After careful consideration and planning we began that fall as a Classically Eclectic homeschooling family. In a few
months weeks I was completely overwhelmed and discouraged because of the different academic levels I had on hand as I struggled to get each through their “3 Rs” so we could work together on the combined subjects of history, science, and art. We never seemed to get to those. School was becoming an uphill battle and soon we were expecting our 6th child to arrive the following September.
I stepped back into praying for wisdom and seeking council from my husband.
I considered what I avoided at the beginning, fearing that a packaged curriculum would make
us me feel “boxed in”. I am artistic and creative by nature and the thought of too much rigidity freaks me out a little, but left to my own devices I felt overwhelmed by trying to touch all the needed subjects in a way that didn’t require us to “do school” for 12 hours a day. When do we do grammar? Does spelling need to be done every day? What is the difference between language arts and reading? Do I really need a formal curriculum for health?
I began to look a little closer at Heart of Dakota (HoD).
Although I loved what I had found when researching the principles of a Charlotte Mason education, I was struggling to see how to make it work. Our days don’t normally include calm children on a picnic blanket in the yard with a read-aloud or sketchbook. Heart of Dakota embraced Charlotte Mason methods and gave me practical steps for implementing. They took an approach to multilevel teaching that was quite different than the others I considered. HoD recommends placement by your younger child when children are close enough to combine and then carefully adding a few additional resources to challenge the older. They also recommend placing children of wider academic differences in their own levels.
It started to hit me that in my effort to bring my children home for an education that was shaped to them, I was being counterproductive by trying to force them together for many of their subjects.
We invested in three levels of HoD and placed our 1st grader, 2nd grader, and 4th grader each in their own guides. The academic abilities of our 1st and 2nd grader are very close, but for the purpose of confidence building and sibling relations we decided it would be best to keep them separate.
August 2011 started our new school year and our use of HoD. I was surprised that seeing the daily schedule in each of their guides didn’t make me feel behind, it gave me a clear outline for the day and an easy way to mark our progress. The children don’t feel like they have hours ahead of them as they place Post-Its over each subject block we finish. The smaller chunks of material over a period time were helping them retain what they were learning without over-killing with repetition. Having them each in a different guide didn’t make my day longer, it made it efficient.
When our family faced crisis after the birth of our daughter and her loss we went on a three month sabbatical from school. I struggled with what we would do to resume schooling. Would we have to start the year over? Should we go to “basics only”? Could we pick up where we left off?
We made the decision to pick up where we left off and to our relief not only did they continue on without issue (or need for planning from me) but they still remembered what we had read the months before our loss and time off. We didn’t finish our guides before our school year ended but were pleased with what we saw through our use, that we began our new school year this July right where we left off with confidence that our family goals are being met and our academics are not suffering.
The planning provided by the HoD guides allows our family the ability to add in the fun things that give us “family school” time without the pressure of needing someone to finish so we can all move on. We start the day together using We Choose Virtues to set a character goal, and art is something we can all enjoy together weekly.
With our day set out through the “boxes” we’ve found more freedom!
We now have time left in our day for nature study through the Outdoor Hour Challenge. My oldest child is using independent-study books to learn some piano basics at the keyboard. My older boys have added Cub Scouts to their schedule. There is free time for working on handicrafts, when before we struggled to get done with school in time for dinner. We don’t feel behind when we leave our book studies for the morning to attend ice skating lessons, we just pick up where we left off and move forward.
Our ultimate goal for academics is not to create good students but to foster eager learners.
We needed the gentle guidance of a packaged program to be able to see that we could succeed at equipping them both in academics and character, not sacrificing one for the other.
I am the blessed wife and helpmeet to my husband of over 10 years, we are the parents of 6 beautiful children. We homeschool the 5 that are in our care and miss the one who has returned to Our Father in Heaven. We have just begun our 3rd year of homeschooling and are finally feeling our groove. You can visit Lisa at her blog CreativLEI, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
More from the Homeschool Methods and Approaches Series…