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Help for a 'Burning-Out Traditional-Curriculum-Slave'

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, January 26, 2009

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 10 No 7 January 26, 2009
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible.


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Notes from Heather
-- The Sleep Teens Need
Resource Review
-- Little Hearts for His Glory
Reader Question
-- Burning Out Curriculum Slave
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Giving Teens the Sleep They Need


"Teenagers need a little over nine hours of sleep each night, which
flies in the face of what was conventional wisdom for a long time:
as you get older, you need less and less sleep. Most teens only
get about seven hours per night, largely because of when school
starts. For example, if a teenager falls asleep at 11:30 and they
get out of bed at 6:30 to get to school by 7:30, that's only seven
hours a night."

Here is an interesting article about teens and how much sleep they
really need. Makes me glad homeschooling gives us the flexibility
we need for good health!

Short link to article at CBS News:



Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net



Resource Review

Little Hearts for His Glory
Author: Carrie Austin
For more information or to order:

The early years of learning are so important and so much fun!
Young children are typically eager learners, curious about the
world around them. 'Little Hearts for His Glory' allows homeschool
moms to take advantage of this special window in their child's
development, introducing academics while keeping in mind their
need for short, varied lessons. After all - kids need lots of
time to be, well, kids!

Written with the busy homeschool teacher in mind, Carrie Austin
pulled from her experience (both as a classroom teacher and
homeschool parent) to create Little Hearts for His Glory, a
unit study style guide utilizing excellent curriculum designed
for the early years of learning. While some of the learning
activities are provided in this guide, you will need to purchase
several 'required' resources. However, you won't have to figure
out how to put it all together - all the lesson plans have been
done for you!

Little Hearts for His Glory is a Christ-centered curriculum guide
featuring 34 units with complete daily plans. Each day of plans
is divided into 2 parts - 'Learning Through History' and 'Learning
the Basics'.

In the 'Learning Through History' section, your child will gain
an overview of history (including Bible history) using Bible
stories and history resources from Christian Liberty Press (CLP).
Science assignments are from CLP Science books. There are also
art projects and opportunities to work on gross motor skills
through dramatic play and fun 'Rhymes in Motion' activities.

In the 'Learning the Basics' section, children work on handwriting,
math, phonics and more. The author makes regular use of living
books during daily 'Storytime'; you and your child will love
reading the wonderful adventures from Thornton Burgess's Animal
Stories! You are guided through daily math, handwriting and
phonics lessons using one of several curriculum options listed
in the resource section.

The simple daily plans are neatly divided into 9 boxes; there is
some space around each 'box' that would make it easy to make notes
if needed. Carrie has done an excellent job of clearly explaining
what to do for each 'subject' each day, taking away the guess
work and allowing you more time to enjoy learning with your child.
While it may seem at first glance that you are covering many
subjects each day, keep in mind that most of these are quick and
easy, requiring little or no preparation. Even the art projects
and 'Science Explorations' use materials you are likely to have
around the house.

Little Hearts for His Glory is a flexible tool - allowing you
to customize your learning/teaching times to suit your child's
unique learning styles and abilities. You don't necessarily
do every subject every day and you can mix hands-on activities
with seatwork. The resources used are reasonably priced making
this a cost-effective, yet academically solid, curriculum for
Kindergarten or 1st Grade.

-- Cindy Prechtel, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I am a burning-out traditional-curriculum-slave, but scared that
unit studies are too preparation intensive. Next year I will be
homeschooling 5th, 3rd and 1st grades with a 3-year old and minimal
time. I would like to group-teach my children as much as possible
(History, Science, Bible, etc.) and don't know where to turn. Any
suggestion is welcomed!" -- Ruth in NY

Our Readers' Responses

"I highly recommend 'My Father's World'. It is a very organized
and flexible curriculum. I have a 2nd grader and 5th grader and
we are able to incorporate Bible, science, history, art/music,
some literature and some language arts together. The approach is
very unit study-like, but falls more along the Charlotte Mason
approach to teaching. We make extensive use of library resources
to enhance our learning. Each year's study is well organized in a
teacher's manual with very detailed instructions regarding supplies,
daily plans, record keeping, etc. It is not a regimented schedule,
however. Our week may not follow exactly day-to-day what the
schedule says, but we get it all done in our own way according to
our own schedule.We especially loved the world geography course
we took last year. Our younger children (just turned 5) have
their own 'Five in a Row' curriculum, which is also a bit of a
unit study approach. I like FIAR because of its flexibility
and casual approach to learning for little ones; you read a book
together and do activities that support the ideas in the book.

Have fun looking at all the great options for a non-traditional
approach to schooling!" -- Julie in Illinois


"There is another option to your choices of curriculum or unit
study -- the Charlotte Mason approach. I do not use any curriculum
outside of Singapore Math and I don't enjoy 'unit studies' where
I need to get all my children on the same topic at the same time at
differing levels. What I have found works for us is the Charlotte
Mason approach. I would suggest you check out www.amblesideonline.org
and see if that strikes a chord with you. I use their general philo-
sophy, but not all the subjects or books that they use. Although I
highly recommend the method, I take the book suggestions on Ambleside
with a grain of salt and avoid the forums. Nevertheless, they do
have a lot of good information there if you are willing to filter
it for your family. I have 4 children ages 6-12, all two years apart.
I do pair them up for some subjects - e.g. Latin and French with 12
and 10 year old; science with 10 and 8 year old; Canadian history
with 12, 10 and 8 year old; and currently I read-aloud to all 4.
Again, it's what works for our family with the schooling method
we've chosen." -- Andrea


"'A World of Adventure' has a great unit study that's already laid
out for you. I've been using it with ages 16, 12 and 8 and getting
ready to start ages 6, 5 and 4." -- Melanee W.


"We took a brief break from our traditional curriculum last year
and did Amanda Bennett's unit study on horses. As I remember, the
activities were simple and there were clickable links included for
further study on the subject. There was one main book - 'Black
Beauty'. It was extremely easy... just load the CD-ROM and go.
www.unitstudy.com " -- Maria M.


"Ruth -- Your children are at a wonderful age to enjoy a more
laid-back unit study approach to things. There are two ways that
we have enjoyed a more relaxed unit study approach and learned a
whole lot. The first is to choose a topic we are interested in.
For instance, 'Italy' or 'Ancient Egypt'. Then, we go to the
children's section of the library and clear the shelf. I choose
1 or 2 books that seem to be a good overview of that topic (usually
a DK book). We read that together and use the other books for
craft ideas, or to delve into a certain aspect of the topic in more
detail.I try to include interesting crafts, movies, books with
that setting to read aloud, or whatever we can. I always try to
include food in some way as we all love to eat and try new things!
My teenagers have wonderful memories of some of these special
units together! Another way is to choose an interesting book
to read aloud together. As I'm reading, I keep a pen and notebook
close at hand. I make a list as I read of vocabulary words, places,
concepts, etc. to look up. For instance, if the setting of the
book is Medieval Germany, we would find Germany on the map and
trace it. Then we would learn about that time period. For science
and history together we might learn about the Black Death, scientists
of that time, castles, war machines, etc. The library and internet
are very helpful with this, and I usually don't plan more than a
week or two ahead." -- Lori in PA


"Ruth -- I understand your fear of unit studies. You might consider
the 'Five in a Row' (FIAR) curriculum, a unit study manual based on
children’s literature. I’ve used it with various kids for 10 years
and love it because of the ease of use for the teacher. The work
is done for you; you just locate the story books (purchase them or
check out from library) and open the manual. Each manual is designed
for a range of ages, and you could easily combine your 3rd and 5th
graders or your 1st and 3rd graders. My kids are spaced like yours,
and I always had two kids on the same unit. Five in a Row covers
social studies (history, geography), science, art, and other subjects.
You can include the Bible lessons, too, all tied together. It has
worked great for us, plus the website offers ongoing free support on
the message boards. Check into it: www.fiarhq.com ."
-- Jean, www.makingthisup.wordpress.com


"Hi Ruth -- I homeschool 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 11th grade. My high
schooler uses a different program than my younger 4. The younger 4
all use 'My Father's World'. We have used this for 3 years now and
will NEVER change again! It is a unit study based, but the curriculum
writer has made it so easy -- you just open the guide and go! We do
history, science and bible together, and everyone does language arts,
math and spelling on their own level. My Father's World uses a 5 year
history cycle starting with a year of world geography, then launching
into 4 years of chronological history starting with the creation and
ending with modern times. These past few years have been the easiest
and most productive years in our homeschool! My kids really enjoy
doing most of their school work! Check them out at www.mfwbooks.com
-- I think it may be just what you are looking for! We have tried
Sonlight and Winter Promise; MFW is by far the best of all of them --
and a lot easier (in my opinion) to implement with major time
constraints!" -- Sarah in MO


"Hi Ruth -- We are expecting our sixth baby in ten years this summer,
so I know we are experiencing the same path for school. Next year
I will homeschool children in 5th, 4th, 2nd grade and kindergarten,
and have a 3 year old and newborn to care for at the same time.

Reading: I require each child to read silently for 10-30 minutes per
day. I announce this when I need some quiet time (to read my Bible).
Sometimes this is one short chunk of time (10-20 minutes) and other
days I break it up (into two 15 minute chunks). For every 1000 pages
our children read (picture books for the younger ones), we offer a $1
prize. Before nap time and at night, I read aloud books of my choice
to all of the kids. I read good solid books that lift them up; books
that are not watered down. For example, a sample of this year's books
have included The Bronze Bow, various Dear America books, stories from
the Old Testament and Rebekah Pearl's diary as a missionary to Papau,
New Guinea.

Spelling: The younger children read the spelling words to the older
children. They read each word in a sentence and also copy these
spelling words for copy work. I really enjoy The Victory Drill Book
because it works for pre-school through eighth grade.

Bible Memory/Copy-work: We create our own books of Scripture (from
loose-leaf or computer paper with a construction paper cover) that
the children memorize. They use their neatest handwriting and
illustrate each page (art). For example, we are currently memorizing
the Beatitudes. We memorize one verse per day and keep building
upon what we have learned.

Music: I shop at thrift stores for CDs and tapes of nice hymns (as
I can't carry a tune well enough to teach). We copy the lyrics
from the hymn book or print them for free online. All of the kids
enjoy this! Each child puts their memorized lyric sheet into a
binder and occasionally we have a family 'sing time'.

Math: I like the 'Math U See' program because it seems to work with
the different ages at the same time. I do not use separate student
books. Instead I ask the questions out loud or have the children
copy the problems onto paper. (*This is just my way of trying to
save money.) I try to make math as hands-on as I can and spend most
of my time in the kitchen with the kids doubling recipes or in the
garden planting and harvesting. The older children teach the younger
guys the basic math facts, and therefore practice what they have
learned. Most importantly, we play a lot of good math games:
Yahtzee, Uno, S'math, Bible Baseball, etc. This makes math fun
for all of us!

History/Geography: History is completed by reading good books in
our read-aloud time. We also pick out news stories from the paper
or internet for the kids to read/watch. The older children make
Geography notebooks. We memorize state capitals, world rivers,
glossary terms, etc., based on what we see or what we are interested
in. A good trip alone to the library every few weeks gives me time
to bring home some good geography/history reading for all of the
kids at their own reading levels.

Science: I use unit studies to teach science. I have enjoyed
literature-based studies best, because it seems that there are less
materials needed to prepare. We studied horses, birds, butterflies
and farm animals last year. It seems to me that the elementary years
are great for science identification, so I make sure to have field
guides in easy reach for trees, plants, birds, etc. I also like the
Dover Coloring Books for identification as they are very cheap and
fun to do.

Although we try to limit computer time to 15 minutes per day per
child, on days when I am just too tired, too sick, or too busy to
'do' school, I take out an educational CDROM for each of the kids.
'JumpStart' and 'The Learning Company' both have good programs that
the kids enjoy (but they do require a bit of parental involvement
as some of the content may be quite secular).

I also keep good DVDs and videos on hand so that I am prepared for
the unexpected. When I need to, I can pop in a movie that is
educational, make some popcorn and feel okay about it. We do not
have cable TV, but I know that there are some good channels out there,
too. We love Animal Planet and Food Network when we can see it!

I hope these suggestions help. They are heart-felt for the love of
our children!" -- Kayla in WI


"Dear Ruth -- I have just stepped into the same boat. I have a
6th grader, 4th grader, 1st grader and 22 month old. I decided to
take a unit study approach because we were all going in different
directions. So I took the plunge, rearranged our schedule, and began.

I let each child make a list of 5 things they were interested in.
No limits whatsoever. I received answers such as soldiers, photo-
graphy, dance, lions... and many more! Then I chose one topic for
each child that I thought would be the most appropriate, taking
into account the activities that we would be able to do along with
available resources. Our library has an online catalog system, so
I know ahead of time what books are there.

After purchasing an inexpensive unit study that I downloaded from
the internet, I've realized that I've used it very little. Once
we got our hands on all the books, the ideas have just flowed. I
have a checklist for the tasks I aim to accomplish for each child
during the week, and I tailor the activities around our unit of
study according to each child's level and specific needs. The
mornings are spent on unit study, and after lunch when the toddler
is napping I do math, phonics and Bible.

This has been a life saver! Our mornings are so much smoother now.
There's more flexibility, which is more appropriate for the tot.
The older children also enjoy what they're doing instead of just
another worksheet. I would encourage you to give it a shot for a
month and see what happens!" -- Amanda S.


"Ruth, I would suggest that you take a look at Beautiful Feet at
www.bfbooks.com. You might enjoy nature walks and keeping a nature
journal. Answers in Genesis and Institute for Creation Research
both have excellent science materials which can be enjoyed by
children of wide age spans: www.answersingenesis.org & www.icr.org

Books which would be helpful are, 'Educating the WholeHearted
Child' by Sally and Clay Clarkson; 'A Charlotte Mason Companion'
by Karen Andreola; 'A Thomas Jefferson Education' by Oliver DeMille;
'Wisdom's Way of Learning' by Marilyn Howshall and 'I Saw the Angel
In the Marble' by Ellyn and Chris Davis.

I would especially recommend that you ease gently into a new method.
At first, simply do lots of reading aloud to your children. For
excellent literature, Beautiful Feet and Lamplighter Publishing -
www.lamplighterpublishing.com - are among the best. During this
time you can be re-educating yourself to prepare for the changes.

If you are interested in pursuing unit studies, start with a
commercially produced short study. After you've done a few of
them, you'll know whether you will want to try preparing your own.
'Homeschooling Today' magazine includes unit studies which are easy
to do. That might be a good way to try out unit studies to see how
they work for you." -- Mary Beth


"The best times in our school day are when we are learning together.
In fact, when I realized it I deliberately added more to our group
learning time. This is what we do together:

Every day we start with reading a Bible story (currently from
Egermeier's Bible Story Book) and praying together. Next is Bible
memory work. I use the system from the Charlotte Mason web site.
Then 'English From the Roots Up'. We generally learn a word a day
and review every so often. As often as our evening schedule allows,
I read aloud to the kids, currently the Little House series. Our
Social Studies is also together with extra assignments for the
older kids.

The Charlotte Mason website suggests other subjects that can be
studied together. I am planning to incorporate more into our day,
including Poetry, Picture Study, Geography, Art and Science.

Each child has independent work as well -- their own math and
English program (youngest 2 are doing the same math). They also
do typing (oldest 3), penmanship (youngest 2), spelling, and
journal writing (oldest 2) independently. There is only so much
of me to go around so I choose as much curriculum that does not
require me as possible for independent work.

I am teaching all 4 of our kids -- son 14, daughter 12, daughter
9 and son 7. It is a delight to me to see them learning together
every day." -- Debbie W.


"We use and love www.Amblesideonline.org . It's an online litera-
ture based curriculum. It is based on teaching of Charlotte Mason
in which you read lots of good living books instead of using dry
texts. It's also flexible where you can combine years so that you
can group teach some subjects like Bible and History. Take a look,
it really is very wonderful." -- Tyrza


"Christian Cottage is wonderful. It is broken down into 4 volumes.
They are inexpensive ($75 each for the binder edition -- the CD
edition is a little less) and each volume is a year at least. While
it is a unit study, it provides many of the things you would have
to go looking for yourself. It breaks down grade levels for you and
it provides reading resources applicable to the sections you are
studying (many of which are found in the library). It provides
movies that are relevant to your studies, worksheets (with answers)
vocabulary (with a glossary), recipes, games -- everything already
built in to the lessons. It covers absolutely everything but grammar
and math.

Christiancottage.com has a free unit that you can download to try
out and see if you like it. They have a yahoo group also for
questions on what others do. Sonlight books are great supplements,
and Bob Jones textbooks, too." -- Shannon in SC

Answer our NEW Question

"I have a 12 year old student who is working on a first grade level
with most of the difficulties being in reading. He takes like 20
minutes to read a simple sentence. I am looking for a curriculum to
homeschool him. Can you help me with any information?" -- Susan B.


Do you have some direction for Susan?

Please send your answer to: mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

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