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x-post: Help me figure out what to use for history...MFW, VP, or something else?

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I am all over the place right now. I am looking into interest-led learning, which really appeals to me, but I am nervous about that and if I can do it in a way that will prepare my ds for his future. I tend to have BIG plans, but making them happen doesn't always work out and my ds isn't self-motivated. So, I am looking for some structure that allows time for some interest led learning along the way for my 7th, 4th, and 3rd graders.


We have used MFW the last few years and I already have Exploration to 1850 for next year. MFW does work for us in that it provides a structure and plan and I can just get it done. I am comfortable with using the schedule as a menu and allowing us to venture into other things or eliminate something entirely. For example, I tend to let the kids go strictly interest led for science although my 7th grader will be moving into more of a structured science using the Rainbow this coming fall. I still plan to keep science books in a book basket for him though.


As of now, I plan to use MFW for hs. But, as I look through the MFW materials for this coming year, I just can't get excited. Yes, it is an awesome program. I have nothing NEGATIVE to say about it at all. But, I am not so sure it is what I want to use this year. I am craving something different and yes, a part of that is simply that I get bored with a curriculum after a bit. Also, we already nix the science in MFW. I usually have the books, but use them strictly for book basket and let the kids raid the library for what they want to study. And honestly, with my younger ones I am not diligent with science and yet, they have acquired a broad knowledge of many topics and deeper knowledge of things that interest them.


For Bible, I have enjoyed MFW's schedule and the scripture memory. Without it, I would probably forget to get this done on a regular basis. But, I am finding that there are books that call to me and I would like to do as devotions with my kids, things that address issues that would benefit our individual needs as a family. I have good intentions of doing them in a family devotion type setting, but it doesn't happen. By the time we get school done, no one wants to set down and do more "work" as the kids see it.


When it comes to history, I find that I really just want a basic understanding of the facts and then to read books. While SOTW suffices, none of us are really crazy about it. Usborne books have never interested any of my kids. I want to just read for history: biographies and historical fiction and then just have enough structure to understand the time period and keep us moving forward.


I have used HOD and SL in the past, but both make combining difficult. I am drawn to MOH, but we would probably need level three for the time period and it is a bit too much for my younger ones. I am curious about KONOS with the original guides, but cannot find a sample of anything but the more scheduled version. I have been looking at the VP self-paced course and do like it, but not sure I can afford it. Plus, I can't resell it later like I am accustomed to. I like that I wouldn't have to do much and could then focus on the fun stuff: some period related literature, some not related, maybe more mapping, crafts (which never seem to happen here), lapbooks, etc. I could add in a spine for my oldest if necessary and then books that he or I want for him to read. I guess I am done having someone else dictate what he reads. I have considered using the VP cards and a spine then adding in literature from there.


I guess what I am wanting is something fun to do for my oldest ds's last two years before he gets into hs and is separated from our family studies. I want something that will allow us to venture into some things that we don't normally do, follow some rabbit trails, and also challenge my oldest with some real thinking. I want some hands-on activities. I want to look at some lapbooks and unit studies and let the kids pick what they want to learn about. I don't really want history to be the focus of our school. I want the basics so my kids have a general knowledge, then I want to explore what WE want to study.


Any ideas?


Edited to add:

This is somewhat of a plan:


3rd grader:

*Math-TT 4 with MM as a supplement only when needed

*Apples and Pears Spelling

*PLL, second half

*IEW All Things Fun and Fascinating as time/maturity allows

*Science-A few lapbooks/unit studies that they kids pick with book basket style reading and narration in between

*Getting Started with Spanish as interest allows, foreign language is not a biggy for me at this point


4th grader:

*Math TT 5 with MM as supplement if needed

*Apples and Pears Spelling

*ILL, first section

*IEW All Things Fun and Fascinating

*Science-same as 3rd grader

*Getting started with Spanish

*Rewards Intermediate, because he needs it


7th grader:

*TT Pre Algebra

*R&S Spelling 7 or just keep a spelling notebook with rules to list problem words under combined with studied dictation and Rummy Roots for fun

*All In One English

*Progeny Press lit guides for a couple of books that he chooses

*WriteShop 1

*The Rainbow Science

*Some interest led reading combined with some required by Mom

*Getting Started With Spanish

*Kid Coder (because this is his bent)


Then, I would like all combined in a history that doesn't control our lives. I want to pick what we study for Bible and the literature that we read aloud. I would appreciate a menu, but not scheduled. I want the kids to have time to work on their Scout stuff. I want ds to pursue his new "job" with his grandfather. And, we have all found a new love of drawing and I want to allow hours per week to just work on that.


And, I guess my problem with just cutting loose and going off on my own is that I do want to return to MFW for hs and am afraid ds won't be prepared or will have a hard time going from a more interest-led method back to a more required course of study.

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Maybe some of my adaptations to scheduled curricula will help you:


I don't know if MFW has something like this--at the front of a Sonlight guide, there is a one-page listing of all the books used that year, in order of the week that they are introduced. I use this, in combination with time limits, to keep history from "controling" our lives. I decide ahead of time how much time I'm willing to spend on subjects. I don't watch the clock strictly, but unless we all really WANT a subject to take over the day (something I allow come science fair time!), time limits help impose some realistic boundaries and enable us to get to those other things we want to do.


By using the one-page summary instead of the daily guide, it's easy for me to sub out a book I want to do for something SL has scheduled. So, that devotional you want to do--sub it out for part of the Bible time that MFW scheduled. We always start our day with devotions, and that way it gets done. I have in the past read during breakfast or lunch as well, so that might be an option for your devo--or even as part of an evening read-aloud time (we do all of our literature read-alouds before bed). Find a time in your day that you can anchor devotions on.


When I am not using a Sonlight guide, I make up my own one-page summary listing book in order. I guess how much time I think it will take to read it. And I list a few optional books in case we get through more quickly than I anticipated. Then I can simply pull from my optional list if I need an extra reader or read-aloud.


I think in your shoes that I would take a serious look through your MFW materials, and see if any of it excites you. Pull all that interests/excites you into one pile, and evaluate that with your wish list of items (biographies and so on). Sit down and come up with a realistic plan--you may want to cut some MFW things to make room for the things you want to do. You can mark up their IG with those changes, or you can branch out and make up your own plan.


In addition to my yearly plan (that listing of books by week), and my daily schedule/routine (my basic plan of how much time I'll spend on subjects, which can be adjusted for special occasions) I use two other tools to keep me on track daily.


One is a weekly schedule. Only each day is mostly blank. It has a grid similar to a Sonlight guide, only for all subjects. I write down the book we are starting with for a lit. read-aloud, and each day I just jot down either the chapters read or pages read. If we are ahead or behind either Sonlight's guide or my own yearly guide--I don't worry. I can always cut a book later or add in one from my optional list. I do the same with history. Math--I know we are doing the next lesson, I jot that down when I correct the math work. Same (usually) with LA. Music practice, art, foreign language--whatever is in your plan, make a space for it and just jot down what you did.


If you decide to go on a field trip instead of school that day--just write it down (I draw a line through all of my boxes and write sideways). You didn't miss anything because that MFW guide is not YOUR school-year guide--it's theirs. It's ONE tool you are using--it is not your master, ruler etc... If you deciding to go on field trips or take an art class or to let science fair projects take over the curriculum for a few weeks means dropping a book or two--that's fully legitmate. With my own journal-guide, I control the curriculum. Other guides are just suggestions. It's very freeing.


The guide I made is a simple table format in MS Word, and I just jot down what we did when I correct the kids' work each day. It takes very little time and keeps me organized and up to date, and helps me think through what's realistic and what's not.


The other tool we use is the workbox system. These are like a 3-D schedule, and you can use them to lay out your day. I adapted mine so I don't have to change the boxes daily--math is always in the math box and so on. Your kids can even load them--choose a book from the book basket and put it in your reader box. It keeps us moving through the day and is a visual reminder not to forget anything.


Well, maybe one of these ideas will be helpful to you. It sounds to me like you are torn between wanting to do the curriculum all laid out for you, and wanting to do your own thing. I urge you to take that leap of faith and do your own thing. Mix in what's laid out for you that will work for you, and drop the things that feel like dead weight--substitute other things as well. With a few tools that you can make up this summer (and it won't take you that long), you can come up with a yearly system that can be flexible, but will have enough content to not leave dead space too.


HTH some! Merry :-)

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