Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to Use a Curriculum

Surely a title to thrill you to the fingertips, no?

This is kind of a how-we-do-it homeschooling post, partly for my own records and partly in case anyone's curious. (Truth be told, some days I think "how we homeschool" is just that we create messes and and try not to trip over them. But anyway.)

So, for the first time, I decided that since we tend to give short shrift to scientific matters around here, I'd order a science curriculum. A textbook, actually. Egads.

The result is that in four weeks, we've almost made it through two chapters of Exploring Creation with Zoology: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. Although we normally eschew anything resembling a textbook in favor of what Charlotte Mason calls "living books" or "whole books," this volume is inspired by the Charlotte Mason method and is written in a conversational style that I tend to use as a springboard to even more conversational ad-libbing. We stop, I ask questions, I paraphrase, we discuss tangentially related matters such as the existence of Martians. It's all good.

But the text has only been a starting point for us. We've found supplemental picture books at the library. We've read The Boy Who Drew Birds, a beautifully illustrated biography of John James Audubon for primary-aged kiddos. We've spent some time looking through our Audubon field guide. We've drawn pictures and taken photographs (usually after a reading session, I ask the older two to draw something for their folders). We participated in last weekend's Great Backyard Bird Count. We'll be getting Winged Migration from Netflix.

We've been listening, coincidentally, to The Journey, from Kathryn Lasky's Guardians of Ga'hoole series, which has Ian prowling for sequels at Half-Price Books. One day on the couch, leafing through the Audubon guide, the kids were thrilled to find real-life photographs of the owls personified in those books.

This sense of how everything connects is one of the things that makes the toil and tears of homeschooling worthwhile to me. Here, let someone more eloquent than I say it:

“Learning to look around sparks curiosity, encourages serendipity. Amazing connections get made that way; questions are raised—and sometimes answered—that never would be otherwise." - John Stilgoe, Outside Lies Magic (an interesting read in itself, although I confess I never finished it.)

Tomorrow, we'll be cooking up some suet to lure unsuspecting feathered friends to our yard for tasty treats. I'll be letting this whole bird adventure unfold (and maybe keeping up a sidebar about it) until my troops run out of gas and let me know it's time to move on to other things. As the weather warms, I hope we spent plenty of time just sitting outside and watching, letting our own imaginations take flight.

P.S. I already posted this on Facebook, but in case you missed it, there's philosophical homeschooling inspiration for the taking right here.


Anonymous said...

I love getting to know how other homeschoolers use curriculum and fill their days. I often think we just make messes and step around them too :)

Anonymous said...

Our homeschool group offered a science class this year using that same book. It's been pretty neat (mostly because someone else is teaching the class each week and planning all the field trips to the wetlands park, etc. ;)) There is a kit you can get to go with it ( ) that helps to corral all the things you will need for the experiments. I found it very helpful, even though I forgot to order the book...

Amy said...

It's interesting you posted this today. We had a presentation from Sally Ride this morning regarding her science materials for 5th-8th graders. I actually whipped out my cell phone to text you that she was giving a talk on campus this afternoon to the public, but told myself that no Dillers could need help getting interested in science. Sally Ride science isn't actually a curriculum anyways, just extra materials to introduce various "cool careers" in engineering, science, technology, etc.

cjoy said...

Oh, we definitely just make messes and step around them here!

I will have to keep this one in mind for the day we run out of (unused) science materials...