September 29, 2009

Figuring out where to go and how to get there

I am in a bit of a quandry regarding our home schooling journey. My son is in 11th grade, and is really ready for college classes. He lacks discipline, in the sense that he still needs me to work with him, help him stay on task, etc. He is a good student otherwise and is ready for the level of work. Our real problem is with content or curriculum. I have been using a very strong college-prep program since 5th grade, but have not been consistent in using it. I have waffled, swayed, and generally, twisted it to fit our particular situation. It has not been an utter failure, just not as satisfying as I would have hoped. So, now I am trying to plan out the next year, wondering what to do, how to do, and what to use to do it with (LOL!)

My thoughts turn me back towards Ambleside Online/House of Education. This is a great curriculum, very intense, and strongly associated with Charlotte Mason's teaching methods. It offers a gentle approach, all the while stressing strong verbal and communication skill. Reading skill is a must. Students READ a lot of good books. It is light on writing, especially format writing, but does suggest expository writing as a viable outworking for all that reading. The main issue with the curriculum is lack of lesson planning. The curriculum does provide a road map, per se, a schedule of suggested assignments along with a strong, college-level reading list. The parent does have to participate, especially with planning and then mentoring. The parent also has to make sure the student "connects" with each book, mostly through narration and other forms of communication. It is weak on structure, which can be difficult for parents who are organizationally challenged or do not have good time management skills.

The other curriculum I carefully considered was The Well-Trained Mind. This curriculum is classical in nature, uses The Great Books, and follows the Socratic Method of teaching (Q&A - dialoging). It is intensive and uses a college-level reading list as well. The writing component is very stringent, more logic based, and requires a great deal of instruction. The advantage of this approach is that the student receives systematic instruction in writing (in argument/debate) over the course of many years, and thus well prepares them to defend themselves orally or in written communication. The biggest negative is it's dryness, it's reliance on self-instruction, and on reading books simply to read them (working down a list of Great Books).

The last curriculum I have looked at is using textbooks. Textbooks are my least favorite approach, but sometimes they work. Sometimes they are the best choice. The biggest issue with them is lack of content. They do contain content, don't get me wrong, they just don't contain a certain kind of content. Textbooks are designed to convey factual knowledge. They work really well for that purpose. They do not work well to instill a love of learning or to encourage original thinking. They display facts, they do not encourage free thinking.

So where do I go from here. This year we are reading Modern History. My son wanted to read from 1900-2000, so that is what we are doing. I am using books from Y11 (AO) along with some that I already had. He is not using AO's suggested schedule nor is he using any of her methods. Our success rate so far is average.

I cannot really go back to AO because Y11 is the last year they have completed. Y12 will be Ancient History and we already did that last year in 10th grade. The only period we have skipped is Y10 or the Civil War era. For some reason, my son just wasn't that interested in this period, and even though I have all these books, he just didn't connect with them this year.

Perhaps next year we will return to AO and complete Y10. This would give him the ability to say he read AO Y6-11 (out of order, but still having read most of these books). I might also just skip Y12 and enroll him in Junior College. I just don't know...I will need to pray some more about this and see what the Lord would like us to do.

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