I homeschool my children. I use a variety of curricula to do this, but at the heart of their education is curriculum from a company called Sonlight. The company provides online forums for its members. I used to practically live there, but a few things happened that soured me on them, and when I had gotten over being soured, I was out of the habit of frequenting them. 🙂 Consequently, I don’t visit the Sonlight forums much.
Recently, though, I felt compelled to add my 2¢ to a post, where another homeschooling mother with a middle-schooler wanted to know how the rest of us fit it all in, in order to keep up with the curriculum’s schedule. She specifically mentioned wanting to stay on course to allow her child to do some of Sonlight’s upper level courses (called Cores).
After I finished my lengthy reply, I thought it might make a good blog post. 🙂 Part of it — testing — I’ve addressed here before. But, I’m not sure if I’ve talked about child-centered education before, discarding my dreams and hopes for the education of my children, and opting, instead, for what works for them. So, with a few edits, here goes:
My oldest is in eighth grade, and other than K, we’ve done Sonlight from the very beginning. Over the years, it has been my goal to finish a Core in at least 18 months, but it has been closer to two years each. We’re in the last few weeks of CORE FOUR. On one hand, I’m embarrassed that we’re not where we “should” be. On the other hand, he’s still learning a lot, enjoying school, and testing way past where he “should” be. (This past spring, we did the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and, as a 7th grader, he tested, cumulatively, Past High School in all of the subjects, 23 of them, or something like that.)
I was afraid to have my children tested (we’d never done it before), but I felt like I needed to find where the gaping holes were in their education, and address them. Likewise, if the results showed that they were doing well, I knew I needed to relax a bit, because I had become very uptight about finishing the Core, and feeling the weight of failure that we were so far “behind”.
With the test results in hand, I had to come to the humbling realization that all of my children were far excelling, and it was really just my pride that made it difficult to admit that my 8th grader was doing Core 4. It wasn’t harming him in the least.
I, too, look at the catalog and part of me is crushed that we won’t get to many of the upper level studies, because we just won’t have time for it, given that he has just over 4.5 years of school left. However, I think that he’s still going to end his schooling with an excellent education, even if it is not all that I hoped it would be.
I also came to the realization that it was important to go at a pace where they were REALLY LEARNING, and not just rush through so we could check the boxes. I don’t want to tell them, “No, we don’t have time to really discuss this. Time’s up. Let’s go on to the next subject.” And, unless you have an academically precocious child, each has his own needs that may need extra time to address. For my oldest (the 8th grader), especially in the areas of science and writing, we just needed that extra time, which, by default, because of time, disallows other subjects. For instance, the Sonlight Instructor’s Guides have a student fly through a chapter (module) of Apologia science in two weeks. My children were simply not retaining enough at that pace. So, now, we do the module’s reading, questions, and experiments in two weeks, then devote a whole additional week to study questions and ensuring that they really understand. Similarly, with writing, as I feel it is an essential life skill, and one which will stick with them for the rest of their life, no matter the field of their eventual career, I feel it’s important to devote “extra” time to it.
One more thing: I have found that my children LOVE when I find extra books, both fiction and non-fiction, and even movies, which are set within the time period, or focus on the event which we are studying. Again, this takes “extra” time, but they really learn and retain — and UNDERSTAND — the information when it is presented in a variety of ways, from a variety of perspectives.
Suffice it to say that, as long as your child is learning, PLEASE DON’T WORRY about completing a Core, so that you can get to later Cores. While I understand that motivation (because part of it lives in my own heart!), please schedule your schooling (both the hours devoted, and the subject matter) according to your own child’s abilities and needs.
By the way, my oldest takes about 5-5.5 hours daily to complete his schooling, not counting any extra reading he chooses to do.