Sunday, September 18, 2011

Taking a little detour

We are now about 4 weeks into our homeschool journey.  Overall, things are going very well.  However, after reflecting a bit about the curriculum I've chosen and how it's working/not working for us, we are making a few changes.

As you may know if you've read my curriculum page, I chose A World of Adventure from Learning Adventures as my main curriculum for my oldest son who is in fourth grade.  In hindsight, I admit that I chose it because it reflects the kind of education that I wanted to give him and I liked the fact that Dorian (the author) had done all the work for me so I could just open to "today's" lesson and be good to go.  I should have known myself and my child better than that, but I'm sure that many a homeschool-newbie has followed this same path or something similar.  Before I go on to explain some of the changes we're making, please know that I think this is an excellent curriculum and as of now we are not abandoning it entirely.  It's good stuff.'s what's going on.  First of all, I really wanted a curriculum that presented history in a chronological manner and I really, really wanted the literature we read to correlate with the history period we were focusing on.  AWOA completely fit the bill in this department and that's largely why I chose it.  The first six-week unit in AWOA is Ancient Egypt, and the main literature selection is The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  The literature selection is recommended to be read aloud and then there are comprehension questions for discussion in addition to vocabulary and written language assignments.  Although my son was not complaining (bless his heart!), I soon realized that this particular text is pretty advanced for a fourth grader to easily comprehend, even when it's being read aloud.  Keep in mind that my fourth grader is a gifted learner.  And still, I found that it was really hard for him to keep track of the characters and all the details of the plot.  So I asked my mom for advice.  She taught reading and language arts in the upper elementary grades for MANY years and is truly the voice of experience.  She basically confirmed to me what I already son would not make gains in reading comprehension from a text that was too difficult nor would he grow to love literature (remember, he's a non-fiction kid) if only presented with texts that are either a.) too difficult or b.) not interesting to him or c.) both a and b.  Essentially, she gave me permission to abandon the book entirely and try to find something that my son was more interested in and that was better suited for him.  And I had to get over my need to have our literature align with our history study.  Which was a bit hard, but I'm over it now. :-)

Luckily, my mom (the veteran retired teacher and lover of books) had a whole stash of great upper elementary chapter books in her basement.  I hauled about 12 to 15 home and the next day I allowed my son to (gasp!) read the cover blurbs and choose which book he would read next.  (Sidenote:  The Book Whisperer author would be so proud of me.  I actually heard her voice whispering in my ear as we made this transition.  I'm totally serious.)

So now we are happily reading The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldin.  I LOVED this book as a child.  Fortunately there are a ton of free resources for this book online.  For example, Lesson Pathways has a really comprehensive list of very cool activities and links to enhance a child's experience with this book.  THIS LINK has been invaluable as it has an online quiz for each chapter as well as activities, vocabulary and English lessons.  I've been having my son take the online quiz after reading each chapter.  In a future post I'll share what we're doing with the vocabulary lists.  I haven't used much yet from THIS link, but it looks like a bunch of good stuff.  And of course there is a great bunch of resources at Homeschoolshare.  Many of them are for making a lapbook.  I'm not yet sure if we'll be doing a lapbook.  If so, I'll be sure to post about it.

I feel much better about our literature now that we've made this switch.  I think The Golden Goblet is a really wonderful book.  In fact, I may finish it myself to see what happens.  We may just hold off a few years and try it again.  As of now, I'm not sure how we'll be using AWOA.  After abandoning the literature component, my plan was to continue using it for our study of history as well as for some of the science units it includes.  However, the further I go into this journey, the more I find myself wanting to tap into my children's interests and to build learning experiences around those topics.  I'm realizing that by randomly (although it was far from random..........weeks and weeks of research went into my curricular choices!) choosing curriculum without considering their interests and needs, what I am offering them is really not a whole lot different than what they'd get in public school.  So I'm taking some time to reflect on this realization and to think about what it means for us and what direction I want to go next in our exciting journey.  I'll be sure to post more on what transpires very soon!!

I'd love to hear from you if you've had similar issues.  I am 100% positive that I'm not the only one!! 


  1. I have definitely found myself changing curriculum to suit my needs. I've been using Sonlight, and this year I find myself tweaking it so much that I'm going to use something different going forward.

    Have you considered Story of the World? There are four volumes of chronological history and though as a read-aloud it is geared toward younger students you could easily beef it up for your oldest, requiring him to do some of the reading himself and possibly using the tests that are sold separately. There is an activity guide with suggested books to read, and the activities would be a great way to include your youngest as well. This would be history only, however. We are looking forward to starting it next year. Some libraries carry it so you may want to check there first.

  2. Hi, Sheryll. It's funny that you mentioned SOTW because that is actually what I'm considering switching to for this year. I have Volume 1 as well as the Activity Guide already. I'm thinking of switching to SOTW and putting AWOA aside until both my boys are in the intended age range which is 4th through 8th grade. I'll be sure to post about it when I make a final decision. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Hi Laura! My kids and I LOVE SOTW. We are on Volume 1. I have the book, the book on CD's and the activity book. I love the book on CD's because we use it on the road. My kids 2nd grade and Kinder love it. I like the activity book because it has a list of book you can checkout from the Library to along with the story.

    Last year when I homeschooled, I changed many things during the school year that just were not working. Something was too easy, something too hard, something was just not interesting to my kids, etc... One thing I did not have to change was SOTW.

    This year we are not homeschooling but we are still going through this curriculum because my children and I love it so much. I recommend the CD's.

  4. this is my first year of homeschooling and I chose Sonlight for the same reasons. Literature based and ready made lesson plans. I like their Language arts but have not been impressed with the social studies or science. But their read alongs have introduced us to some new favorites. I am going to have to research this Stories of The World. Sounds Great!!

  5. This is my first year that I am a h/s mom and I love it!! My little one is 5 and our 'curriculum' has been very eclectic with our choices. I know that you are not alone in your switch up this early. It is so difficult to make the perfect choice.
    I have enjoyed your blog and so thrilled to see it in my inbox.
    Thanks for sharing - I am headed over to Lesson Pathways right now. I cant wait to see what I find.

  6. Every homeschooler out there had books or programs on their shelves that just didnt work! I was homeschooled and now am homeschooling! I have a few things that I wish I didnt buy! Thats life! Good for you being able to switch instead of hanging onto something that would make you both miserable the rest of the year!!!! Happy Schooling!