Thursday, August 12, 2010

Firm Foundations

Yesterday I had time to visit a bunch of homeschool blogs and see what others plans were and hopped over to a site that I am really enjoying; SmallWorld at Home. Sarah has a fun blog- chock full of great stories, funny tales and terrific homeschooling resources. We just happen to be studying American History this year, and she has a whole section on it! She's a devoted user of Sonlight curriculum, which is also one I recommend over and over. It's the curriculum we started with years ago back when it was in its second year of existence. Becky Lewis, co-founder of Sonlight, was in our Sunday School class in California before she and her husband returned to the mission field and while I haven't purchased a core from Sonlight in years, I always get their catalog and (had) built a library around their suggestions.
Some of our foundational homeschooling behaviors can be traced back to Sonlight; things we started doing back in 91', and things we're still doing today:
1- Read Alouds. We've done a daily read-aloud, almost daily, for years and years and years. Often we'll have a book related to history or lit going on during the middle of the day, while just before bed-time for the notsolittles, we'll have a ''fun" read going, or a series, like the WilderKing Series, or Redwall, or Tolkien. Currently, we're reading aloud The Complete Works of Narnia. It's been a point of stability for all of us to gather at night, snuggle down and read aloud together. When the older kids are home, they're usually right there with us, all set for story time. Good memories, not to mention the academic benefits of vocabulary building, developing auditory skills and oral interp.

2- Private Reading. Once our kids are fluent readers they get the privilege of reading on their own for dedicated times each day. In the summer I usually require an hour.

3- Daily Bible Reading. We've spent a lot of time reading the Bible out loud, which has resulted in discussions and questions ranging from Theology to geography to Sex Ed.

4- History as Literature or Literature as History. Either way, our history and literature have been intertwined for years and years. Even our mature readers will take time to read an eled book that might introduce a historical time period. We've found that often eled books have done excellent research, the pictures are beautiful and thought provoking and it's a gentle introduction to what's coming up. We're all about "living books" around here and rarely consider text books for something as important and exciting as history.

5- Global Awareness/Missions Emphasis - Sonlight is all about people groups around the world, with a missions focus. We started homeschooling in Southern California, at a Seminary whose population boasted people from the world over and have friends who have lived and worked in the most far-flung corners of said world. Learning about different cultures, languages and people groups has always been near and dear to our hearts. Increasingly so, as I've read different books this year emphasizing the importance of training our kids to be global learners (The Global Achievement Gap, 2 Million Minutes (web-site), The Post-American World, The New Global Student, etc), as well as the fact that our oldest dd has herself gone to some of those far corners, and plans to continue to do so (you can read about her adventures here: servingHimblind.

6- Understanding Others Perspective - This was brought home again this week as I've been reading The Global Achievement Gap. Because our kids will be competing globally, rather than nationally, for jobs and resources, they need to be prepared to understand where others are coming from, to have the ability to question and think clearly about their own and others perspectives and logically and synergistically make sense of them within a framework of Truth. Because of this, we emphasize understanding our own belief system, teaching formal (lit based) as well as symbolic (math based) logic, thinking skills and problem solving, as well as World Religions and Apologetics.

7- Exploring the Wonder of the World. We've explored Tide Pools at the Pacific Ocean, toured replications of the Mayflower at Plymouth Plantation, explored Indian Mounds in Indiana, hiked lava beds in New Mexico, had photo ops at Mt.Rushmore, crossed the Missouri, watched Haley's Comet from our roof, watched meteor showers and other astronomical shows of cosmic proportion from our trampoline, spent hours and hours outdoors gardening, gone to Science Centers & Aquariums from coast to coast and had a marvelous time doing so. Our kids have gone even farther, thanks to the generosity of family and friends, having frolicked on the Gulf Coast summer after summer, taken field trips with Grandma's and even gone abroad. The World is also close to home and we've reveled in our spring batch of new kittens, had goats and sheep and even a horse, explored the hills and pastures and river around our property and encouraged the kids to be outdoors as much as possible. The love of the natural world is knit in to the fabric of our kids beings.

Of course there's more to Sonlight than what I've mentioned, and for a complete understanding of their methodology, check out their web-site. We've branched out and embraced other educational methodologies, too, but rather than replacing the value of what we gained from using Sonlight, we've incorporated into the fabric of our homeschooling. It's been a firm, and satisfying, foundation.

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