Tuesday, May 29, 2012

School's out...but not for long!

This weekend we made one of the biggest decisions thus far in preparation for life on the road: selecting and ordering our curriculum for the kids' education next year. I (Stephanie) have been doing a lot of research over the past 9 months, and had narrowed most subject areas down to what seemed to be the best option for each of our kids, but it was a big step for me to actually pull the trigger and place the order. Maybe because I would like for each of the kids to follow the curriculum throughout our time on the road, so it seems like I'm making a long-term decision instead of just for one year. Realistically, if we find that something doesn't work for us, that's one beautiful aspect of homeschooling...we can change it! However, paying the equivalent to a year's tuition in one lump sum is sobering and I definitely wanted to get this right, from a financial perspective as well as educational!

I received several notices of shipment today and to say that I'm giddy is an understatement! I cannot wait for the book deliveries to start arriving!!!

Without wanting to come across as an advertisement for the curriculum companies (actually, we do get a small reward now if you purchase through our Sonlight link in the sidebar), I would like to share with you, our readers, what we selected for our basic curriculum for the coming year. As an aside, our older girls are only one year apart, so we will be teaching them together and expanding/customizing parts of the curriculum to challenge Caroline beyond where Lydia is at academically. However, since they are both so young and so close in age/ability levels, this is the best option for our family.

Core Curriculum, including Language and Literature, History and Bible, we have selected Sonlight Curriculum's Core A for our girls. This curriculum is easily adaptable to multiple ages  and the Level A is perfect for children ages 5,6 and 7 (right where our girls fall!). Within their core curriculum, we can select the level of readers that are appropriate for each girl's reading level, and have ordered a set of each level of reader that we'll need as well. If we find that we move through those faster than expected (which I'm prepared might happen, as Caroline surprised me with her reading level on the various assessments that I tested her with), then I can easily order the next level of readers that fits within the core curriculum seamlessly. Sonlight also is a curriculum that presents the material with a Biblical worldview, which is important to us. We believe that all Truth is God's Truth and try to incorporate the bigger picture into everything that we teach our kids, so a curriculum that does the same (without the added preparation of us lesson-planning our own Biblical integrations into the curriculum) is important to us. I also appreciate that Sonlight doesn't teach from a particular doctrinal perspective nor does it try to candy-coat anything, shelter kids from anything "sad" within its selections. They do not choose to neglect great works that might not be aligned with scripture (allowing kids to think critically and process Truth for themselves, when age-appropriate), nor stretch a concept too thin to connect it to scripture. That's also not how we roll!

Math, we have selected Saxon for our math curriculum. The school where our girls are coming from and where I formerly taught uses this curriculum and I love it! It is a spiraling curriculum, so you cover several concepts at once and build upon your knowledge over the course of the year and throughout the entire curriculum (K-12). We've selected the Math 1 level, and will work this summer to catch Lydia up to speed with any gaps she may have, but coming from a very academic Prep-K program as well as being gifted in math, she doesn't need a full year of Kindergarten math, and I can expand the curriculum for Caroline easier than teaching two separate math programs, only slightly off from one another.

Penmanship. While many public schools are steering away from teaching penmanship and instead are focusing on keyboarding skills, we do believe that penmanship is a valuable life skill and are choosing to teach this to our kids. We will be using the A Reason For Handwriting curriculum to build our girls' printing skills while also working on weekly scripture memorization. I strongly believe that handwriting needs to be purposeful, and down the line we will teach copywriting of important literary works, but at their ages, simple scripture Truths are the most appropriate method of teaching handwriting in a meaningful way.

Phonics. We are using Victory Drill Book to teach phonics to all 3 of our older kids. Ian will work on pre-reading skills such as letter and sound recognition, Lydia will work on her phonics charts, blends, short vowel words and then long vowel words, while Caroline will work toward mastery of these concepts and more complex words with these skills. I love that they can all use the same book, work through the same concepts together and it's the best method that I know of for teaching kids to read! I taught Victory Drill for years at HCS, and cannot rave enough for how great it is for readers of all abilities!

Spelling. This is one area that I have yet to get a feel for how extensive we'll be working with our kids on. This next year, it will mostly be Caroline, but as the year progresses we will likely be working with Lydia on her spelling as well. Because of not knowing how involved we need to be with reinforcing spelling skills, we're going to start with using Spelling City for our spelling curriculum, since it's all online and she can move as quickly or slowly through the lists as she needs to.

Speech Therapy. This is what is totally new to me. Because Ian will need to continue speech therapy, we've purchased the Articulation Station app for him to use in lieu of decks and decks of articulation cards. It was created by a SLP and is highly reviewed by other professionals, so it was a clear choice for our son. Additionally, he can work independently, and there is even a setting where either Jason or I can record the words, so that as he practices repeating the words, he is hearing a real voice (even better, Mom or Dad's!) to hear the nuances of the words and model from our articulation, even when he is working on his own.

Science and Geography. We are not using any formal curriculum for these areas this coming year. We are going to use more of an un-schooling or delight-directed learning approach by exploring these areas through our travels and through life. What better classroom to learn these things than the world around us?!? Especially as our scenery changes frequently!

Now we just wait! We might have the only kids who are asking when we can start school again...but maybe it's because we've told them that it will be once we're in our house on wheels and they cannot wait for that day to arrive. Neither can I!

And as a side note, today when I went to deposit the money to pay off my credit card bill from purchasing all of the curriculum over weekend, I was once again amazed at the little ways where God shows himself in confirmations of our steps along this journey. We have been selling items that we no longer need around the house to purchase items that we do need as we go on the road full-time. When I opened the envelope to get out the money to pay for our curriculum, I was hopeful that what we have sold would cover the full cost, without need for inserting an "IOU" to ourselves from future sales. 
As I counted the last of the bills, what was in the envelope was exactly the amount that I needed to deposit--down to the dollar! Not a penny more nor less than was needed. I seriously had to sit down because it was abundantly clear to me in that moment that we're exactly where we are supposed to be right now in the process. It seems a bit chaotic and very scattered right now, but if I only look down at the step where we are right now, the path is clear. It's only when I look too far ahead do I get dizzy and the way seems foggy. I need to remember that God never promised to illuminate the entire road, only our steps--which is exactly where we are right now. And in the midst of chaos, I found a slice of peace today. It's been a good day.


  1. That's awesome, Stephanie! I'm so excited for you. Everyone I know that uses Sonlight loves it.

  2. I'm loving reading your stories! I'm so impressed with all you are doing, and can't wait to follow along with your travels. Stephanie - great job in choosing curriculum! We LOVED Sonlight - especially the early Cores. Saxon is good Math, and I'm happy to see you are including handwriting and phonics (great choices there too). After 8 years of home schooling, I'm well acquainted with the tough search, but I can tell you will do GREAT! Have a wonderful time traveling and learning with your children. BTW, I'm Karen who used to work with Jason in Tech, if you don't remember me. :)