Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Curriculum Updates and More Fleur-de-Lis Reflections

I have made a few changes to my 2015--2016 Vintage Catholic Home Education curriculum, which you can view in the previous post, and have reflected more upon my fleur-de-lis vision.

The only book in my current curriculum resources list that I don't own is Laura M. Berquist's Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum. I have checked this one out from the library before, and I did so again yesterday. What I had forgotten was that the book is subtitled, A Guide to Catholic Home Education. This is important, because a classical curriculum isn't necessarily Catholic. It's great that this method can be applied to any worldview, but the Catholic homeschooler can really benefit from a classical approach that is tailored to our Faith.

In the forward to Berquist's book, Donna Steichen gives a brief history of how the Catholic home education movement began. She writes that "in the past thirty years that culture in which most Catholics lived and which seemed to them to be simply the unchangeable given of life has collapsed in a vast secularizing implosion." I counted back 30 years from the book's publication, and Steichen is obviously referring to the confusion following Vatican II. She goes on to say that parents who had intended to pass on the Catholic culture in which they had been formed found themselves opposed by "an emerging managerial class within the Church, apparently devoted to accomodation and surrender". Strong words. I have heard these sentiments echoed by home educators who have discovered that many Catholic schools have been secularized and the Faith watered down in religious education programs.

Steichen offers Berquist's classical curriculum as an excellent alternative for those who "may have been overwhelmed by the flood of paper that a correspondence curriculum entails or may want a more flexible approach for their children." Berquist gives some recommendations for background reading before you begin to design your own curriculum, including For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. Coincidentally, I have this book and had recently begun to re-read it. It happens to be a guide to Charlotte Mason, so I assume that Berquist acknowledges the overlap between these two methods. I have listed For the Children's Sake in my resources as a replacement for A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. I still highly recommend Andreola's book for the homeschooling newbie, but I will most likely not be going back to it, as I have already read it thoroughly.

The other change I made to the resource list was to remove Modern Montessori at Home II (Spietz). I checked this one out from the library also, and after browsing through it decided that it wasn't what I was looking for. I have deeply internalized the philosophy and method of Maria Montessori through my classroom experiences and the intense teacher training I received, so I don't regularly consult her original works or my resource manuals anymore. Also, my Montessori experience was concentrated toward a younger age group than my child is now in, so the only Montessori material I still use is the Moveable Alphabet. This year it was instrumental for phonics training, and next year we will be using it along with the Making Words book that you can find in the Language Arts subject area. The "three period lesson" is also still useful, such as for memorizing the names of the continents.

For additional inspiration in translating Montessori principles in my home today, I added Lori Pickert's Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring the Self-Directed Learner to my list. I already own this book and just need to finish reading it! The emphasis is similar to Montessori in regard to preparing the home environment and offering the child ample opportunity for pursuing his personal interests, choosing his own work, and having the freedom to move around.

In the student books and materials portion of my curriculum write-up, I added two books to the Health subject area. I had sent my curriculum to my teacher friend who does our portfolio evaluations, and she mentioned puberty. Puberty! How could I have overlooked this? Here is a good reason for choosing the option to have an evaluation by a certified teacher over standard testing. Especially when the teacher personally knows your child, she can really make a difference in giving you feedback and suggestions. A member of one of my Facebook groups recommended an American Girl book, The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book. I got this on Ebay and was alerted to a companion, The Feelings Book, which I ordered as well. There are also journals available.

So I think I am done now with my curriculum plans, although things always change, and as I said in the last post, many specific book titles have not been included, as the school asks to keep the outline brief, and we always leave windows open to follow rabbit trails and interests as they develop. After all, a huge benefit of designing your own curriculum is that you are not a slave to any particular curriculum!

As a final note, I'd like to make a suggestion to the homeschooling newbies and to those who are transitioning from a boxed curriculum package or other methods. I truly believe that you could get an excellent start on the journey using only Andreola's A Charlotte Mason Companion, Pickert's Project-Based Homeschooling, and We and Our Children: How to Make a Catholic Home by Mary Reed Newland. In fact, I think you could easily get all the way through the primary and elementary years using nothing but these references and The 4Real Learning Booklist by Elizabeth Foss at How's that for a simplified fleur-de-lis?

So, if you feel led to homeschooling but are worried that you won't know how to do it effectively, I have given you the solution! For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light, says our Lord.

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