I have been homeschooling our 11 year old son for two years using a public online school(we could no longer afford his Montessori education and the public schools are hideous here!) and have totally been overwhelmed with the amount of work he has to do. He is stressed out to the max, which leads to me being stressed. I know that this is not a true learning experience for him. He has become obsessed about grades, which makes me cringe! I want to have a relaxed child lead curriculum but I am they type of person who needs some structure. Can anyone tell me of a curriculum that is structured but interest led, and preferably globally oriented? I just don't have any extra time to go searching right now and I trust yall!
Tell me and save me some time...
We are on the unschooling spectrum. Our kids are almost 3 and 5.5 so we are still in the mainly play stage. However, to expose them to topics that our society thinks are important I buy books off the www.sonlight.com booklists. We are not religious so I don't buy most of the religious books, and we don't get the instructor's guides, though you might find that useful (at least for now) since you would like a curriculum. There is also a yahoo group for secular users of sonlight. Google them, if you are interested. The idea behind sonlight, and other living book curriculums, is you can sit a child at a desk with a textbook and tell them to learn, and not much would happen. Or, you can snuggle on the couch with mom and dad (or a little nook by themselves) with quality books and lots of learning will happen. And the books are really great. At the preschool level my kids learned about physics, art, history, literature, etc., and just thought they were having fun reading books with me.
Another thing we have are the Learning is Living Guides. http://www.fun-books.com/books/living_is_learning_guides.htm
To quote the site:
Living is Learning Curriculum Guides by Nancy Plent
These guides are put together by Nancy Plent, founder of the Unschoolers Network in New Jersey and a long-time homeschooler. She reviewed the scope and sequence charts and curriculum guides of dozens of schools in various states, then combined the highest standards of elements from each to create these guides. Why purchase these curriculum guides? 1) They may help you to fulfill your state's legal requirement to provide an educational plan 2) They allow you to see some of the highest standards for schools at various grade levels, just in case you are curious about what the schools expect or are anxious about what you are doing 3) They provide record-keeping space that can help organize a portfolio.
Besides providing a checklist under each subject, Nancy offers suggestions on how to translate real-life experience into curricula goals. She also lists resources from a variety of companies. Each guide covers two or more grade levels. The first four are in comb binding, while the high school guide is in a 3-ring binder.
We've been using Sonlight as our basis and really like the books they use for the most part. We are also secular homeschoolers and the majority of the books are non-religious and pretty global. You can go at your child's pace with the schedule for structure. You don't have to give tests or grades- that isn't part of the Sonlight program so would be up to you to do or not do. You do not have to buy a complete package. You can buy items individually.
If you and/or your child do not like to read you might not like something like Sonlight. They do not include hands on projects but you can find ideas on their forums or the internet that other people have done.
We use Math U See for our math curriculum and really like that.
Is it possible to continue to stay with the curriculum you are already using, but cut back on the work load? Cut out the "busy" work (ie, work that just burns up time w/out any educational benefit)? There are bound to be other kids that have had a similiar problem. There should be someone you could talk to about lessening the wo\rk load.
We had great luck with time4learning.com for 1st grade. It might be worth checking out. It probably has a similar set up to what you're using know though re: grades and such. A really easy was to go for a while until you find out what works might be just buying a basic math curriculum and following an age appropriate booklist (I *love* my library). At least for a while it might let you both de-stress, and a lot of great learning can happen with good literature. My kids aren't quite old enough yet, but "the dangerous book for boys" has a wide range of fun projects and articles that could make a nice "spine" for a years curriculum all by itself!
There's BeyondFIAR but that really only goes up to the age of the OPs child (11-12) and not beyond. The Above & Beyond FIAR that is sometimes mentioned for older kids is just a single novel study.
Check out the Charlotte Mason method. It's relaxed, structured, hands-on, and child-led all at the same time, imo. There are pre-made curricula (like Ambleside Online) or you can piece things together yourself. Though all subjects are covered, the method focuses on good literature, art, nature, and history. Lessons are short (10-20min each) and afternoons are free. We are about to start another year of Ambleside Online with my 10y/o ds. He enjoys it a lot.