August 26, 2008

Looking Back

I started thinking today about our home schooling journey and started to recall some of the things we have done that have worked out great. I also was reminded of some of the things that didn't go over so well. I thought I would put together a list of some of our positive and negative experiences over the past couple years.

Things That Have Worked Well

These are just some of the things that have worked well for us.

MEP Math - MEP or Mathematics Enhancement Programme from the Center for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching (University of Plymouth in the UK). MEP was a real life saver for us. We found MEP after a rather terrible experience using Saxon math. We had tried a number of other free curriculum and nothing was gelling for us. My son was struggling to move past 6th grade arithmetic and into Pre-Algebra and just couldn't get passed the basics. He had been an all-star math student up to 7th grade and then just crumbled when he was asked to tackle some more difficult concepts. MEP offered him a way out, a fun way out, and gave him a love for math again. We successfully completed Year 7-9 and earned two high school credits: Algebra 1 and Geometry.

Rosetta Stone - we were fortunate enough to be able to use RS through our public library system. The cost of this program is prohibitive (nearly $300), but well worth every penny in it's approach to teaching language. We were able to study mulitple languages at a time when my son was very interested in them. He completed French I/II, German I, Latin 1 and Spanish I before our library's contract with RS expired this past June.

Good Books - when we started to home school, I was really torn between using textbooks or reading from library books. I had friends on both sides of the camp, some that used living books and some that used A Beka or Bob Jones. We ended up going the living books route and found a treasure trove of resources: Ambleside Online,, Project Gutenberg, An Old Fashion Education to name a few. We have used good books for almost 5 years now and have no intention of switching (nothing against textbooks -- we do use them for math and science!)

Mentoring the Classics - we favor a TJE approach (some Charlotte Mason too) to our schooling. We read great classics and then discuss them. The method relies on a mentor (teacher/Mom) and a student studying together. Though I do not always read every book my son reads, I do pre-read and pre-screen them, and would say I have read *most*, but not all of his reading list.

A Beka - We absolutely love A Beka science books. This is our fourth year using these books for science and so far we have not had one miss. We love the colors, the layout and presentation of the material, and the straightforward way the text is written. They are excellent books and the least boring textbook we have read.

Easy Grammar - The BEST grammar text we have ever used. We tried A Beka, Simply Grammar, Holt & Reinhart, as well as Kelloggs and KISS. Easy Grammar is just what the name implies -- one of the easiest systems for learning English grammar. It worked like a charm and even for this old Mom -- after 35 years of schooling -- I was finally able to learn grammar and enjoy it!

Things That Have Not Worked Well

Textbooks - well, except for math and science, we pretty much stay away from them. We used a full course of A Beka textbooks last year (for 2 months) before we had to send the DVD program back to the company. We continued to use Health, Geography and Biology, but the rest have sat still on our book shelves. They are boring and repetitive and do nothing to really excite our interest in the subject area.

Saxon Math - there is not much I can say about Saxon other than it just didn't work for us. It was dull, boring and repetitious. The explanations were convuluted and never quite made sense. My son loathed it and I finally gave up trying to use it after the umpteenth nuclear meltdown when trying a lesson. We ditched it and have never looked back.

Workbooks - these go along with the textbooks. We have used workbooks sparingly over the course of our home schooling. The only positive experience we had was with Spectrum Math for 6th grade. My son liked the way the lessons were laid out and blitzed right through this book. Of course, that just set us up for failure the following year when trying to step into Saxon. Generally speaking, we have used workbooks as little as possible, preferring instead to use a living books approach and TJE (Thomas Jefferson Educational method of mentoring) and classical education.


Tim's Mom said...

Carol, I've enjoyed reading about your homeschool journey and thought processes along the way.

Carol Hepburn said...

Thanks! I find it comforting to know that someone out there actually reads my blog! LOL!! It has to be the most disjointed and fragmented journal on the planet. And, if someone really took a long look at it, they would surely realize that I happen to be a very disjointed and fragmented thinker. :o) Flitting and flying, trying one thing than another. Actually, it is how my brain is wired and after nearly 46 years, I am comfortable in my own skin. I am a "trial and error" person and need to try something to see if it will work. I sometimes can see how it will work just by looking carefully, but often, the "proof is in the pudding" and I have to dig in and give it a good go before I decide whether it is right for us.

The good news...we are still here! We are still learning and growing and self-educating. We are making progress and whoohoo!! we are actually enjoying our journey. To me, that is the "cats meow", the pinnacle of successfully home schooling. Doing it our way and having a great time each day!

Blessings are an inspiration to me!