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moving from unschooling into curriculum-based this year

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Well, the title says it all. We've decided to move from an extremely loose, totally unscripted unschooling environment to a curriculum-based homeschool, with an eye towards getting them "caught up" (I know eyesroll.gif) so that if/when they want to go to public school, they'll at least be comfortable in the academic sense. This is partially what they've been wanting and partially what dh and I feel would be best for our family right now. So.... help! Has anyone else done this that has some words of wisdom as far as where to start? I am really overwhelmed right now! dizzy.gif I'm got a 9yo, 6yo, 3yo, and newborn. Is there anywhere online that you know of where I can sort of evaluate approximately where they're at with respect to other kids their ages? I've been going through the "What Your Child Needs To Know For __________" books, and while the 6yo seems pretty at-level, the 9yo seems very behind - yikes. Do you start from the beginning with a kid that age? Or start at their grade level and catch up as necessary? And then of course, it's the middle of August already and we'd like to get going right after Labor Day. HAHAHAHA.  



post #2 of 12

I'd start by picking a math and language arts curriculum that you think will fit the 9 year old's learning style. Then do the pre-tests and figure out where he/she is at and start there. Budget that you may be buying more than one grade level of books a year for awhile during this catch up phase (I know that sounds silly but it sure caught me off guard this year when DS went through no less than 3 math grade levels).

post #3 of 12

So basically the curriculum based homeschooling candidates we are looking at is your 6 and 9 yr. old but honestly, the younger one can wait.  You could stagger your transition by starting with the oldest and with a small amount of structured learning and slowly build up over the year.  I wouldn't try to go from one extreme to another; that will be overwhelming both for you and your kids.  You don't want to end up in a battle zone over learning.  


I also think it is really important to first establish/know the rhythm of the day in your household where the kids naturally know this is what generally happens at this time of the day.  And then within that, you can work in some of the educational changes you want to make.  Drastically changing your days on the dime will probably work against you, if your kids are anything like mine.  


Like dogmom, I'd suggest working on Language Arts and Math skills.  Once you get into a rhythm with these subjects and you have that down pat, then you can decide to introduce whatever else.  But I am actually of the opinion that you really don't need a curriculum for the rest even as a structured homeschooler. If you decide to do just math and LA this year, your kids wouldn't really be missing much especially if they are/become readers who know how to find information on their own.  There are many books out there that are both interesting and choke full of information (history, science, math etc).  You kill many birds at once by helping them become fluent readers who (hopefully) enjoy a variety of books.  Then all you have to do is provide the books and have some very interesting conversations :)


We use Singapore Math and they have a placement test on their website.  If you decide to use SM, you could use that to place your oldest and start at that level then move at whatever pace is comfortable.  Do the same with your six year old if you feel like he is beyond first grade. There is also Mammoth Math which I hear is very much like Singapore math but cheaper?  I suggest you look into it.  My son goes through the SM books pretty fast but he also plays math games on the ipad.  So this has helped him get his math facts down pat and he is becoming pretty fluent.  


We do not use a curriculum for language arts but my oldest (7 yr old) reads well above "grade level".  He has began to write on his own accord.  He wants to learn to spell correctly, so that will be something we will work more on this coming year.  I am generally pulling stuff off the Internet for writing and spelling.  We will basically be doing ten words at a time and as soon as the words are mastered, move to the next ten.  I make a word list on lined paper for him.  He practices his hand writing by copying them each several times and along the way learn to spell them. This has been a pretty successful way to learn to spell and hand write.  We have not done sentences or paragraphs.  Because he reads a lot, he is figuring out the way written language is structured quiet well on his own.  When his interest is piqued and wants to write more than a few sentences, we will go over stuff if necessary.  


Brainpop is huge in our house.  Both my kids love it. It covers a variety of subjects (History, math, science, social studies). It is subscription based and is not cheap.  I do know most school districts subscribe to it and is free for the kids that attend.  There might be a way you could get access.  


The kiddos also love Bill Nye, the science guy.  We recently discovered the Spangler Effect on youtube -- a pretty fun science channel.  We are members of diy.org; your 9 year old may especially enjoy putting up his projects there.  We do a bit of music although opportunities there are limited.  Oh and we are getting into board games in a huge way!  If your oldest one is into computers, there is also alice.org  -- mine are too young but I can see this becoming a thing later.  


I hope this was helpful.  You can do this! Cheering for you!!

post #4 of 12

Like others I would suggest starting with math and language arts for the 9-year-old. Maybe you could also find something enjoyable for the 6-year-old that would be concerned with either math or language arts, just to begin introducing him/her to the routine of daily schoolwork and to make it a sort of family expectation for school-aged kids. But I would look at the transition for both kids as being a process rather than an abrupt shift. I always find it helpful to move to a new approach gradually. That way if you head off in a wrong direction you can recognize the mistake and adjust things before you've invested to much time, money, heartache and energy.


My then-9-year-old was asking for a lot more structure to her learning this time last August. We started by tackling language arts: we used Bravewriter Arrow units as our first try. These weren't challenging enough for her (she's an advanced kid) but that false start helped us identify our next step better: she wanted to become more confident in the technical basis of writing. We ended up with a combination of free-writing, Editor-in-Chief workbooks and italic cursive handwriting workbooks. Reading, reading comprehension and composition weren't things she needed to work on. We tackled math next. She had already finished Singapore Primary Math (which we loved) so we looked at two math possibilities before in November settling on the same program our local (Canadian) school uses. By then we had discovered how much she enjoyed workbooks, so we went with a program that included a consumable workbook.


But as Emaye emphasized, the most important piece of the puzzle for us was adapting our daily and weekly family rhythm to include structured learning (and in our case my increased out-of-home work hours). Working together to figure out a schedule and routine that felt right was what made the curriculum fit us well. We started out with just two or three small blocks of time per week. When we saw what worked and didn't work, we took that into account in adding and subtracting structure as the year went on. We ultimately ended up pretty loose which I was happy about, but for what it's worth a fair bit of curriculum did get completed.


ETA: About level. I wouldn't "go back and start at the beginning" with your 9-year-old. Instead I would try to find something that is not organized along traditional grade-levels, and choose the level that will balance the need for interest against the need to build confidence. That can be a bit of a delicate dance, but I've found that if you are open and flexible with your child, and don't make too big a deal out of adjusting the level, you can usually find a good balance. So for instance, Bravewriter has levels that are called "arrow" and "boomerang", RightStart Math has "Level D" rather than 4th grade, Math Mammoth organizes its stuff by colour-names. Explain to your child it might take some adjustment to find the level that's interesting but not too hard, and you need his/her feedback to help with that. I've found my kids to be excellent at identifying the optimal level for themselves.



Edited by moominmamma - 8/15/13 at 12:54pm
post #5 of 12

We did this. I agree with Miranda about not starting at the beginning-- if the work is too easy he won't want to do it, and, IME, if a kid finds out that saying something is easy means they get to skip it, they will sometimes say things are too easy when they are actually too hard/confusing. We tried a few different things, but landed on Singapore math-- I looked over the placement tests on the website until I found one that looked about right, and then had my kid take it to see if I was right, then we refined from there.  If there's a single topic that would keep him in a lower level, you could use Khan academy to learn it, rather than going through a whole workbook that's too easy. Keep in mind that pre-algebra is essentially a year long review of arithmetic, so you don't need to panic about little gaps. There is plenty of time. 


I would probably start doing math, and whatever other subject you're most concerned about, or most enthusiastic about adding. But 2 formal subjects is probably enough for the Fall. 

post #6 of 12

For math I would recommend Dreambox Learning, which is an online math curriculum. It starts with a placement test, assessing your child on a variety of math subjects, and then tailoring the curriculum for each one of these, rather than establishing a grade level as a whole. I find this much better, as most kids are more proficient in some areas of math than others. The program uses algorithms that track your child's progress, focussing longer on subjects the child struggles with, and moving ahead with subjects the child "gets" more readily. You get progress charts and lots of feedback to track your child's learning. My kids don't like workbooks and my son doesn't like to write (he has some fine motor delay), so having it on the computer works well for them. We started last year with just 15 minutes a day, 2 days a week, and they made tons of progress. They, too, had "holes" in their math learning but caught up very quickly. 

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks, everyone, for all the great ideas! Have to be brief, nak, but reading, writing, math is what we're concentrating on - you folks are an absolute treasure-trove of info. Thanks again!

post #8 of 12
I second the dream box math recommendation. Another math program to look at is math u see. The lessons are DVD based and if you watch them with your child the program requires very little parent instruction.
post #9 of 12

Dreambox is great and you can do it for the 9 and 6 year old.  DS loves dreambox.

post #10 of 12

Homeschool buyers co-op has a deal for dreambox right now.  For those of you who use it, do you need a separate subscription for each child?



post #11 of 12
Originally Posted by AAK View Post

Homeschool buyers co-op has a deal for dreambox right now.  For those of you who use it, do you need a separate subscription for each child?




Hi, Amy,


You don't pay separately for each child, but each will have their own "login" button.  It's pretty cheap for what you get, and up to 4 kids are always one price.


I just signed my 12, 9, and 7 year olds up for the 6 month subscription tonight, and it's $99 for 6 months.  If you want to go monthly, it's $19 IIRC, but they're offering one month free right now.


(I had forgotten about Dreambox!  Thanks for the thread, OP!)



post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks again for all the great advice, ladies. Have a great homeschool year!

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