Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Spacious Plan

I really like these Albert Bierstadt paintings. Yes, they are a bit romanticized. But we live in terrain that looks like this and sometimes the light is a bit like it too, only not quite so much so, perhaps. Bierstadt painted around the Sierra Nevadas and that is where we live. We are only a few miles from Yosemite.

Several years ago Elizabeth introduced me to Sonlight. I loved the Sonlight idea that the literature/history reading is the Core of the curriculum and THEN you add the basic 3Rs; not that these latter aren't important, but the 3Rs are more like tools or instruments and the literary books are closer to the heart and soul of an education. It was something I'd felt, partly because of reading Charlotte Mason and more because of what I most valued of my own education, but the way Sonlight expressed it helped clarify it in my mind.

Even before that, I went through many, many spiral notebooks trying to figure out the big picture for what I wanted to "cover" (for lack of a better word) in my homeschool. A lot of homeschoolers use unit studies and I like the idea of them in theory, but I can't really go from unit to unit in actual practice. I am not that kind of thinker. It feels to me like riding on a road with lots of blind curves.

A lot of unschoolers make their lives and the childrens' interests into their unit study. This doesn't work for me either, I find. Once again I think it's neat in theory, but I can't live that way without frustration.

So very early, when my oldest was in fourth grade, I devised a sort of big picture plan for religion/literature/history. It is basically similar to Kolbe Academy's. We have followed some version of it ever since. It is surprising looking back how consistent we have been through some very chaotic times.

Yes, this means that we don't all study the same history at the same time. However, you'd be surprised.
  • Our children are mostly three years apart so we can rarely combine literature resources very much anyway.
  • And usually the themes have some points in common so that we can overlap more than you would think at first glance.
  • Finally, I really go for the "one room schoolroom" effect where the older kids get to hear again the stories they heard when they were babies and the younger kids get to hear bits and pieces of the Iliad or whatever more advanced readaloud is going on at that time.
So here is the general overview
K-2 No formal history curriculum. We go slowly through a book of Bible History. We read lots of stories like Children's Book of Virtues and Aesop's Fables. They are getting a context and delight in stories of times past. Stories about parents and family history fits in here too.
3rd grade -- Kolbe has Egypt this year. It does not work for us spending a whole year on Egypt -- just too abstract and weird and not enough books for this age group -- so here's where we do an Egyptian unit -- I have enough materials to pull one together easily and Egyptian units are fun -- and then we either have a Sonlight-type world history survey or US History Survey
4th-5th grade, roughly -- we start with Ancient Greek and Rome, very similar to Mater Amabilis. It works for us better if we do US History/world history as a separate study rather than concurrently, as MA does. I used to try to do them both because Core Knowledge had it set up that way and because there are so many resources for American history for that age level. But generally we end up saving US History for spring and summer and doing it in a more freewheeling way.
6th grade is a sort of multicultural exploration based on Sonlight Year 5 and the Real Learning booklist (you have to look on the sidebar of the main site). We actually do monthly units here and try to consolidate general geographical knowledge.
7th grade is ancient history. Egypt can be covered more easily at this age level in my opinion.... more books and more understanding of the scope of history.
8th grade is a survey of post-Pentecost history up to early modern times.
There is a different focus in this middle year survey -- more consciously targeted towards knowing one's faith and how it relates to time and location and other faiths, etc. It is a good time to start some type of "giving reason for the hope that you have".

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect 1 Peter 3:15
Mother of Divine Grace covers this same time period -- here is the scope and sequence and here is the booklists.

In 9th grade we have done different things for different kids. A child who hasn't done as much US History during the earlier years can do a year of that -- there are resources for that at Mother of Divine Grace, at Sonlight, some at Mater Amabilis, and some at Ambleside. One of the children ended up spending 2 years on ancient history as Kolbe recommends.

Anyway, 10th through 12th is another chronological cycle. 10th is the ancient world, 11 is the middle ages and 12th is modern times. Here is the high school core curriculum.

You must not imagine this layout is lockstep or the same for every child. It is not that way at all. My swings from unschooly commentary to layouts like this might seem odd, but it fits with the way I operate. I like to know where I'm going but I like to take the scenic route. Neil Young says: "It's a bumpier ride but you meet more interesting people there."

We use different books as new ones come to our attention, different focuses depending on interest. I find it helpful to remember what Charlotte Mason said: "One child finds his meat in Plato, another in Peter Pan." If you set a generous outlay of provisions in front of a child, he or she will show decided preferences and needs. So we adjust accordingly.


Nicola said...

Hi, Just wanted to let you know the sonlight/wtm book list has moved. Here's the new link:

Willa said...

Thanks, Nicola; I will update my link.