My older brother "officially" began his home school career in 1987 and my youngest sister graduated in Spring 2011—all five of my siblings and myself were home schooled from kindergarten to high school. We seldom used complete curriculum packages, and sometimes no curriculum at all, our parents preferring to put their own material together. They started what became the Doorposts Publishing Company when they wrote a Bible-based character curriculum for us when they couldn't find one they liked.
While each subject was taught on a year-by-year basis, history was usually the most prominent, especially before high school. Mom used a modified unit study approach, bringing together textbooks, historical fiction, source documents, writing assignments, and periodic reenactments (a Medieval feast, a Civil War day, the Battle of Lexington waged in our living room, etc.) to give us a clear picture of significant events and daily life in each era we studied.
Annual trips to the used bookstore were important. Our parents let us choose history books for our personal reading time, and we got pretty geeky studying World War II airplane facts, battle maps and tactics. For my own kids (God willing), I plan to emphasize Church history and to demonstrate how it integrates with whatever secular history they're currently studying. In my opinion we need to "own" the history of God's people more than the history of Oregon or the United States.
I used the (now unavailable) Developmental Math series through middle school, switching to Saxon for high school with brief and unsuccessful tangents through Harold Jacobs and Teaching Textbooks. I still appreciate Saxon's constant drill of older material while easing in new concepts. At the same time, math was never really my favorite or best subject, and I often had to do make up work in the summers. That problem, however, was pretty much cleared up when I started using graph paper and my work got neater....
Writing and grammar were a little more up and down. We tried a veritable plethora of different programs before settling on products available from the Institute for Excellence in Writing; with those, there was finally enough structure to make us really feel like we were making progress. For grammar, we used Daily Grams for a long time, but I felt I got the most from Shurley English, particularly level 7. Science wasn't my mom's strong point, but we found the Apologia Science texts approachable, to the extent that my younger brother was able to complete a couple of the harder ones before college, thus preparing him for advanced science classes.
Our parents read us plenty of great literature (Gone with the Wind was a bedtime story), and we had constant access to top-notch books, but I wish we'd had a more structured approach to what we read. I'm attracted to the Omnibus curriculum for its systematic treatment of and exposure to great thinkers, and its ability to help students analyze and understand what they read, even the most difficult content.
As a high school upperclassman I spent more time pursuing my intended college major—music, specifically church music. The Homo Adorans educational model (educate children first and foremost to be worshippers of God) really appeals to me, and because I believe this involves a certain level of music education, I plan on it being a regular subject in my kids' schooling.
Overall I plan to take largely the same approach as my parents, while infusing more structure and rigor into my children's education. Education that is simply the acquisition of knowledge is to no purpose; I want my kids to understand the world and their place in it not just so they can pass tests or impress friends with little-known facts, but primarily and all-importantly so they can better know and serve God.
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