This post is for Umm Saara, who asked if I use everything I share on my blog at some point or another.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It isn’t that I don’t like these resources – I wouldn’t share them if I didn’t think they were good. I share them primarily because I know how hard it can be to homeschool on a shoestring. I also know how tough it can be to inject creativity and variety into studies when you are pressed for time and short on energy. I remember being new in Pakistan years ago. I wasn’t able to go out much and online shopping was not an option due to the exorbitant shipping costs. These free online resources were my lifeline.
However, there is just SO MUCH out there. I confess, I became quite the curriculum junkie and practically went insane downloading every curriculum idea I could click my mouse on. I was determined not to be caught in a jam and wanted to make sure that everything was at my disposal. The problem was I started to have too many ideas and wishes. I spent way too much time planning, collecting and collating and far too little time executing.
My curriculum junkie tendencies were curbed over time. I learnt to plan better once I knew my children’s learning style and strengths better. I found that the Charlotte Mason approach suits us to a “T”. When these things fell into place, I was able to come up with a set of guidelines for our learning journey and from there, choose the materials that complemented my children’s interests and abilities. (You can see what I do use for my kids here and here.)
Since we do have lots of text, reference and living books in our library, we use the free online resources only as supplements and even then, only what fits. For example, in the case of English, I don’t use the English grammar resources I’ve featured because I already have two good texts that the girls love. (I have saved some resources for when they are older though.) For Arabic, I don’t use the free text books I have linked to simply because I can’t teach my daughter Arabic. (I’ve just enrolled in a beginners’ class myself :P) She goes to an institute for Arabic and they have a customised syllabus for her. I’ve only used the free flash cards and wordlists that I’ve found online and these are only to help her with the homework her tutor sets her.
For Science, I do confess that I want to try and use as many resources as I can. Mars adores Science and I want to encourage this interest. Again, there is a lot out there so I sometimes just let her read or do things on her own. She enjoys learning with me but also likes discovering things independently so my pressure is eased in that I can just leave the material to her.
I don’t know if I’ve answered your question Umm Saara – my propensity to ramble is quite legendary :P I’m no home-ed expert but what I have learnt in a nutshell is this:
1. Plan and set your goals – I know, everyone says this *yawn* but even a crazy hippie like me strongly advocates this. Try to understand your child’s learning style, interests and strengths and also your own teaching style. This will help you determine your home-ed method and philosophy. Some parents want equal emphasis on academic and Islamic subjects throughout the year. Some children are doing hifdh and so are placing less stress on academic subjects. If you know what you and your child can handle and use, it will save you a lot of time and money.
2. Draw up your desired curriculum content for each subject. This will help you determine which of the resources you will use and when. I have developed a real love for large ring files and dividers :)
3. Research the books you want – you can purchase a package or get different packages for different subjects or simply go your own way via your own reference and research. I would strongly recommend asking more experienced homeschoolers who have done their share of shopping rather than just looking up various sites for curricula. I did the latter initially and went mental because I wanted to buy everything. :P
4. Remember that children do not always need fancy learning aids or materials or printables. (I know some are so cute but really, they can be a waste of paper and time.) Sometimes a good book or discussion is all it takes. Kids also don’t necessarily need age-appropriate material. (By this I mean that kids can be exposed to vocabulary/language that is rich and challenging.) I strongly recommend living books that will inspire them and make topics come alive.
5. Roll up your sleeves, grit your teeth and just GET STARTED. You can sit and plan and plan and never get off the computer or you can just commence no matter how meagre your lesson plans seem. I’ve found that if you choose the latter, your child will at least learn something rather than sit around waiting for you to get your groove :) If you just start, the ideas will kick in and your lesson plans will grow. Oh, and your child will also teach you a thing or two as you go along… and this is really when you know that you are doing OK :)
Did I make ANY sense at all?