Our first official year of Home Education is rapidly approaching. Friends are busy preparing their children for starting school whilst I'm busy preparing loose plans for the year ahead. It's seems surreal. But luckily for me, we've been pre school home educating since September 2019. This has been mostly focused on reading and modelling how to play but this practice run year has been utterly invaluable to starting off on a good foot this academic year. Children change, their needs, their interests and desires all change but spending this last year observing and trialling out different methods and approaches with Ella has allowed me to really understand how she learns, what excites her and how her brain processes different pieces of information.
This time last year I truly believed that I would prepare everything myself. After all, I do love organising and preparing. But our lifestyle is just too intense for this. As much as I'd love to sit and prepare activities, reading lists and my own units for Ella, there just isn't the time. So this last academic year I've really invested in seeing what is out there, speaking to creators and other home educators about their experiences of different curricular and making decisions on what to use with Ella and now I'd love to share our choices with you.
The first is this beautiful Beatrix Potter Language Arts programme by Fiddlesticks Education. Ella loves the Beatrix Potter collection, she also happens to love learning to write right now. She has been asking about punctuation recently such as speech marks, question and exclamation marks. As she is confident with a lot of reading now, she is definitely ready for learning about when to pause for a breath when reading paragraphs so we will be looking to introduce full stops and comma's, too.
This programme covers spelling, grammar, handwriting (both print and cursive) and memory work through the use of carefully chosen quotes from the Beatrix Potter collection. In the pack are cursive prints, print and cursive trace quotes, then quote pages with lines for copying and a collection of grammar concept cards for older children, and it flows well for direct progression through the programme.
The programme is based on Charlotte Mason principles of Language Arts which sits well with Ella's way of learning and my beliefs about education. I think that we will build this into our morning time offerings, just five or 10 minutes each morning or as and when Ella decides.
For Science I finally settled on Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. Though the book is written for K-2 which I think is aged 5-6+, after watching some clips online and reviews of the curriculum I feel satisfied that it's a good starting point for Ella given her current level of science knowledge and understanding.
The curriculum covers four scientific concepts; Nature of Matter, Life Science, Physical Science, Earth and Space Science. It's set out into clear lesson plans and unlike lots of other curricula, the materials required are usually household items or items outside in the natural world. It has a clear and concise flow to the programme and what I particularly like about it is the lessons can be as basic or as in depth as you/your child feels able to take them. As noted by other parents I've spoken to, the lessons do take a bit of prep so it's not just a pick up and go book but this is fine for me as I like to have an idea of what we're doing in advance anyway.
There are plenty of book recommendations for further reading but I find for this age, the content, discussion prompts and experiments are plentiful. Saying that, for topics that I know Ella loves such as magnets and space, we will likely use other Science books to explore further
We will also be referring to our Usborne Junior Illustrated Dictionary alongside this curriculum. Again this book is aimed at children aged 6/7+ but depending on where your child is at and their ability to understand scientific concepts, I think it could be used comfortably from a bit younger.
For History will be following Emily Cook's Pre History Unit from Build Your Library. Emily is a Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum writer and Author of the amazing book 'A Literary Education' - highly recommended for those interested in the Charlotte Mason approach.
I wanted to start at the very beginning of time. Sure, it's exciting to study the typical history topics but I believe that for a child to have a solid understanding of historical concepts, a timeline helps to solidify this.
This pre history unit is intended for 6 weeks as it covers 5 days a week but I think that given Ella's age and understanding, we will spread it right across the year which is easily doable with its accessible layout. The unit is intended from aged 6 but there is definitely plenty of reading and exploring that can be taken for younger children, 4-5 depending on their interest and understanding. The content includes the origins of Earth, the first life, first mammals, first people, the Ice Age and Dinosaurs.
So Maths is the subject that I've spent endless time considering what to go for. My original plan was to make up my own workbooks for Ella and use our lift the flap Usborne maths books. But when I asked you lot for recommendations, many of you suggested this one - Singapore Maths, Maths No Problem.
Maths, for Ella is a tricky one. She is so keen on Maths and quite 'far ahead' for her age, but with her emotional and social communication delays, she finds processing what is required difficult (this is where teaching and facilitating education has to be altered for children with additional needs). After watching and reading reviews and speaking to other home educators, I made the leap.
The curriculum starts with year one upwards and each year is split into A and B. There is a text book which introduces the concepts and has a few questions, and then a workbook which has more questions to work through. The language is simple and the workbooks are in black and white so the visual input is low for children who struggle with visual stress.
I opted for the second part of year 1 and the first half of year 2. I think a lot of the year 1 will be pretty easy for Ella as she's working around this level now, but I want her to get used to the programme, and practice can only help consolidate, of course.
I'll supplement this with manipulatives and we'll be continuing with the Wild Math curriculum when we're out on our nature adventures.
For Geography we will be using the Fiddlesticks Education - Ocean's of the World Curriculum along with looking a bit more in depth at Continents using some of their continent resources. Inside you'll find 6 units that we will stretch out across the year (more or less quickly if Ella decides). There is so much content and ideas to be able to do so comfortably especially for a younger child.
The units covered are:
1 -Where are the World's Oceans?.
2 - Coastal Eco Systems.
3 - The Great Barrier Reef.
4 - Kelp Forests.
5 - The Galapagos Islands.
6 - Polar Seas.
Each unit has a recommended book list (not necessary to get all, or even the ones of the list) but they are very well thought out, rich living books. There are writing and ponder points, activity ideas, printable resources for the suggested activities and a beautiful student journal for the child to work on throughout the units.
We will be using Exploring Nature with Children (ENWC) again for Ella's first official year of Home Education. I'm so pleased that we gave it a trial run this year as we've been able to get a feel for the rhythm of it and it's been such a beautiful opportunity for us to weave nature through our every day living.
The curriculum runs all year through and has a different nature focus each week. Though Summer is my favourite season, the Autumn section of the curriculum is my favourite with topics such as seeds, the autumn equinox, pumpkins and fungus. What I love about this curriculum is that it also covers art study, nature crafts, carefully chosen living books and poetry.
We will also be using the beautiful book - The Children's Forest which is full of seasonal songs, stories, crafts, nature games, wild food recipes, meditations and tree and plant lore. I can't recommend this book enough. It covers the four seasons plus the fire festivals which mark the turning of the seasons - Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasa and Sahmain. We will weave some ideas from this book to fit with the ENWC weeks. Alternatively, if Ella isn't interested in a particular week of ENWC we will choose some activities from this book instead.
Saving the best until last; Growing Towards Justice by Jamey Fisher Perkins. We've been using this curriculum since September 2019 and I can't recommend it enough. Growing Towards Justice is a 10 month curriculum designed to provide you with activities, book recommendations and discussion prompts to assist you in raising children to be kind and inclusive. It's age 3 to 6 but I do believe it could be used with children a couple of years older. Each month has a focus which covers:
-What a Body Can Do
-Feminism is for Everybody
-Choose your own Likes (gender stereotypes)
-Having and Giving
- Families are Different
And new for September 2020:
-What you Say Matters (Understanding Consent)
Never has it been more important to consciously consider how we raise children to be inclusive of gender, race, disability, religion etc. If we want to raise our children to be allies to those less privileged because of their social minority groups, we have to put the work in. We have to raise children mindfully, to understand emotions, their privileges, gratitude and the importance of taking a stand against stereotypes and discrimination.
It's not enough to hope that our children are neutral to stereotypes. They're everywhere and from babyhood, children start to recognise and absorb deeply engrained stereotypes. It's not enough to delay talking about societal issues until they're 'old enough to understand'. Children are never too young to talk about diversity and inclusion. Now is the time to do the work. Luckily for us, Jamey has put the work into carefully and sensitively preparing this beautiful curriculum and I truly believe it has a place in every home.
Aside from the choices of curriculum here, Ella's first official year of Home Education will be full of play, art, music, cooking and baking, building relationships, gardening and more. For us, these elements are the priority in providing a wholesome, rounded education. The curriculum choices are enhancements that have been chosen because of Ella's love for academics and will be loosely followed through dipping in and out as and when Ella wishes to.