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What would elementary school look like if you could do it all over again?


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I have this precious little boy, lagging behind my other dc in age.  He will be K in the fall.  I've done very little structured school with him.  We read, read, read :)  He loves books!  Learning is naturally incorporated into his life and he soaks it in. He is very bright.  He just turned 5 and he is expressing the need for "real" school.  

So while DD is nearing the end of her school journey, this child is just beginning his own.  I plan for school to be much different for him.  It is far easier to plan a journey when you are heading places you have already been.  You know where many of the hazards and joys can be found.  It is also much clearer when you have almost seen the end, just over the horizon and you are beginning to understand what the real goals are.

 

I didn't have the WTM when my older dc were little.  I imagine that we will stick far closer to that model.  He needs to learn to articulate at a young age what we have read and experienced.  I didn't understand the "why" in that....to lay a solid foundation for writing and speech.  I saw it as busy work and my kids thought it was boring.  

 

We will read aloud far longer than he wants, haha.  

 

We want to steer away from too many "textbooks" too young.  We didn't soak in the "fun" of those younger years like we could have.  Besides, I now know that everyone was spot-on when they said "they grow up before you know it!"  Time really does fly!  

 

Latin by 5th/6th grade.  

 

A portion of his learning should be more investigative.  I want to incorporate methods that cause him to learn on his own, rather than always being fed the information.

 

There are a million other thoughts in my mind, but I'll stop at that. 

 

 

So what about my other high school mamas?  What if you were starting over again...what would it look like? 

 

 

 

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If I could do it again, I would focus on developing executive functioning skills. I'm not sure what that looks like very early elem, but by mid elem my kids could have been using an assignment notebook to check off work, learned how to organize completed assignments. Later elem learn notetaking and how to regularly review (study) material. It would have been nice for these skills be in use before high school. My older 2 are both gifted. Losing assignments, not keeping track of long term projects, how to study were not skills they needed to score well and learn material when they were young. But they definitely needed these skills in high school, when they were taking very advanced courses. Not being organized is still a huge problem for my oldest, who is in college.

 

I do think you can do these things and stay away from textbooks. In fact approaching elem learning without textbooks could mean you have more to organize, which your ds could help with. For instance if you do narrations based on living books, where should each narration be filed? It's been years since I looked at elem stuff, but I think WTM had stuff on organizing notebooks.

 

 

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My youngest will be a third grader in the fall.

 

Each of my kids is so completely different from the other that I can't really say what I will or won't do differently. I'll do whatever works best for him. So far, that's meant that I haven't changed things up too much. If I have to change things to fit him, I will.

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If I could do it again, I would focus on developing executive functioning skills. I'm not sure what that looks like very early elem, but by mid elem my kids could have been using an assignment notebook to check off work, learned how to organize completed assignments. Later elem learn notetaking and how to regularly review (study) material. It would have been nice for these skills be in use before high school. My older 2 are both gifted. Losing assignments, not keeping track of long term projects, how to study were not skills they needed to score well and learn material when they were young. But they definitely needed these skills in high school, when they were taking very advanced courses. Not being organized is still a huge problem for my oldest, who is in college.

 

 

I've taken this to heart for my DS12. 

 

Fascinating thread! Keep giving us perspective for those who have been there & back... ;-) 

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We've got the big gap thing too!   :)  Hmm, 2nd time around?  I find myself MUCH more chilled about stuff.  I know where science is going and that we could have just done ANYTHING, so that's what we're going to do, anything we jolly well please.  He has some language issues (and more), so I try to bring language into what we do.  We've started reading through field guides, because well I want to.  This morning we talked about eagles and ospreys and types of woodpeckers around our house and how to distinguish them.  We've been reading a bug guide as well, so we identified bugs we found.  Just a lot more of that immersed richness, where I have it and we just do it, kwim?  

 

For history, I find myself wanting to run tracks of both immersion/joy and memory work, not necessarily connecting them.  

 

More dot to dots, puzzles, and games, that's for sure.  

 

Workboxes.  I used checklists with dd, starting around 1st/2nd grade, I forget.  Ds is more kinesthetic, some I'm using workboxes and will make velcro drawer tabs to place on a chart.

 

Mainly I was too afraid with dd that I needed to do things RIGHT.  Now I know that I just need to DO.  Does that difference make sense?  I don't think it matters what we do or the order or whether it's all science for a year and we forget to read history or what.  I think we just need to DO things together.  I was way too worried about the order of doing and chronology and which thing when and whether I was covering it right or blah.  All that fear is gone.  We've seen junior high and high school and pulled back the curtain.  We know what's there and we know we can have our joy and be FINE.

 

PS.  You mentioned learning on his own.  You mean like sitting down with a textbook?  That's fine for some point and a useful skill, agreed.  Somewhere between 4th and 6th you start doing that.  At this stage (K5-3rd) it's more just reading comprehension.  Of course you give them piles of books and documentaries and access to content.  I don't know how I'd STOP him from learning, mercy.  I view myself as a *facilitator* not a teacher.  But at this point I take a lot of pleasure in exploring with him and doing with him, and I think they appreciate that.  They appreciate the enthusiasm and questions we bring.  I think often of this guy on an old karate movie, and mercy I don't even remember the title (but will try to find it!) where he tried to get his student to slow down and listen for the grasshopper.  My boy is so going, so rowdy, so doing, he needs someone who slows him down to hear the grasshopper and hear the music of poetry.  That's my job and joy.

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I really don't have any regrets for PK-6th given the same circumstances.  We used Sonlight for history/lit, BJUP for science, IEW/Shurley and then CC Essentials for grammar/writing, RightStart and then CLE for math.  We didn't get in Latin, but did fine with starting in 7th grade.

 

My big regret was Challange I for my oldest in high school.  He slacked big time that year, despite getting high A's on everything, and it took me awhile to turn that attitude around.

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I find myself MUCH more chilled about stuff.  I know where science is going and that we could have just done ANYTHING, so that's what we're going to do, anything we jolly well please. 

 

 

I'm just learning this now and feeling so wonderful about this. It seemed so stressful between 3-5th grade, I just gave up science. Now we're back and taking it easy peasy. And they're learning so much, and it's so chilled out.

 

 

Mainly I was too afraid with dd that I needed to do things RIGHT.  Now I know that I just need to DO.  Does that difference make sense?  I don't think it matters what we do or the order or whether it's all science for a year and we forget to read history or what.  I think we just need to DO things together.  I was way too worried about the order of doing and chronology and which thing when and whether I was covering it right or blah.  All that fear is gone.  We've seen junior high and high school and pulled back the curtain.  We know what's there and we know we can have our joy and be FINE.

 

 

 

Thank you for this! We are just in our 1st year of middle school with lots of elementary kids - and this is SO incredibly wonderful to read!!!

 

 

P.S. Where was all this great insight when we first began? It all seemed so over the top and everyone seemed to be doing loads more than us... it always felt like we could never live up to expectations. EVERY beginning homeschooling mom should read these types of threads BEFORE they begin! Thank you so much, graduates!

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If I had to do it over again, I'd do My Father's World from the get go - I have just fallen in love with their programs. I would also work on consistency, having a rhythm to our days. There are things that are more important than academics, I wish I hadn't lost sight of that. 

 

 

 

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I wish I had another one to start over with.  :)  If I did, I know I would read more books just because they were good books instead of trying to fit everything into our history. 

 

I'd start earlier with spelling, using Spell to Write and Read or some method like that, repeating it over as many times as we could get through it.

 

I'd do history like I have seen someone here say that they do, or similar - have a 4 or 6 year rotation, but at the same time, read completely through a U.S. history narrative and a world history narrative each year. Repetition makes things stick.

 

 

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I just wish we'd had the courage to try homeschooling from the get go!

 

If I were to start over now though with a kid like DS, there would be more read alouds to a later age, manipulatives would be our friends, and I'd start them on good writing skills as early as possible.

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More stuff outside. More music.

 

Less academics. I'd totally skip spelling and grammar. I'd just have them read and write. When I did finally figure this out, the grammar and spelling just developed on its own.

 

I hate to say it, but a lot of the stuff in WTM is busy work. And things really don't need to all be in one historical period at any given time. You can read books completely out of historical order. The kids still fit them all into place. It seems to work better to jump around anyway. Then the kids don't get sick of one period and are still eager to find out more about it.

 

"Child led" learning always worked better than anything I or a method decided they would do. The might politely listen when I told them to do things, but they always forgot the information later.

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I think you will find that you will end out coming full circle and doing almost the same thing with the younger that you did with the older. But only after you waste a lot of time and money trying all the new stuff.

 

I have had the chance to start over several times with tutoring students. At first I was sad that I'd never had these resources and knowledge to share with my boys, but as time goes on, I see that what got done was at least as important.

 

I've changed and times have changed, but what WORKS remains pretty constant, and the CORE of who we are that looks LOGICALLY at all our options, stays pretty constant.

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Less "school" and more just reading- aloud, audio, whatever. The pk-6 years nothing particularly stuck (and I truly feel could have waited until 5-6th grade) from curriculum except BOOKS. My kids are incredibly knowledgeable from what they and I have read, the fancy science or grammar...not so much. Made no difference, could have skipped it until middle school, really. Ok not math, but literally everything else can be better absorbed (at least by my kids) from interesting books or documentaries or websites or NPR. All the agonizing over science...what a waste of time! And yes, history can be in any order, I promise, and in the form of historical novels and discussions, and they will remember if they engage and are interested. Timelines of ancient Greece? Again, not so much.

 

I honestly can't think of what I would change other than that- with most things it was just developmental anyway in the end. Oldest realized he couldn't reach his goals without buckling down on math, youngest had the click to reading fluency, etc. I sound all unschooled, I realize, but that is the truth. I am confident my oldest (15) can teach himself anything (find resources, etc) at this point, because he values and understands his own educational goals. My youngest is getting there too. if you'd seen me when I had a 3rd grader still reading haltingly and a 6th grader on his 10th math curriculum, you'd never believe where they are now. The 3rd grader finally got add Meds and shortly after suddenly could read, the 6th grader realized yes, he needed math and had to actually apply himself (and does!) and well, it worked out. would they be ahead of where they are if I'd pushed more? I honestly don't think so. They both have challenges (which I spent a lot of time crying over, because that seems really unfair) and it wouldn't have made any difference. As it is, I pushed too much. There was no perfect curriculum I didn't use, or method I didn't know about that would have resulted in anything but where they are now. And where they are now is just fine, actually.

 

Now don't run me off the board, please.

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I have adult kids as well as the little guy. I showed him a lot of fun stuff during his Kindergarten year, but he always had the option of saying "enough", putting the book back on the shelf, and tasting something else. I also set a timer if I thought I'd be tempted to go over an hour for seatwork.

 

I love what SWB has been up to, but will probably utilize it more in third grade than in first.

 

We finished out with the 3Rs and a bunch of "bargain bin" stuff from my older dc's era that I'd bought thinking "cool historical artifact for my own pleasure or possibly a history of homeschooling unit in high school".

 

I'm much, much more relaxed. None of my kids are going to grow up to be zillionaires or preznit of the yewnited states because that's not how the world works and it's not my fault. In spite of all the educational fads that come and go, ds is my earliest reader of the bunch and I'd never spoil his delight at being able to write his name from memory in all caps and read book titles, street signs, packages at the grocery store etc. by telling him that he was a "struggling reader" and not compliant with the new Common Core Curriculum standards.

 

I'm not signing him up for a bunch of "extracurriculars" or "enrichment activities" and even skipping Park Day until after that group finishes up some co-op type classes that aren't something ds and I are interested in. I used to be a dance mom. I don't miss that at all.

 

I also don't feel the need to be a walking advertisement for homeschooling any more and am going to try to start answering the question, "Where does he go to school?" with, "Yes, he's six already. I'm so tired of the mommy wars, aren't you? We all want our children to have the best education we can give them and it's a waste of time to sit around judging other people's choices." or something similarly pleasant and noncontroversial.

 

Please keep 'em coming; nothing perks me up like a good "if only we could do it all over again" discussion and the sudden realization that I'm the one who won the TTC over 40 jackpot and actually CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Haven't taken time to read other replies yet but I've been wishing we'd done

 

- more interest led science.....

 

- For life skills, I'd try to make it just related to what is needed in the home rather than following any text. Need-based learning can be very energizing...

 

Over here, second and third languages are mandatory in grade school...so I would keep that...plus English, math, penmanship, history/literature doing a modified WTM approach...

Joan

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Back when my oldest was in ps, I thought she read too much.  Because she never had time to DO things.  She was always just reading.  The school thought it was great.  I was not so sure.  I didn't like that she had no time to build or draw or poke bugs or sing.

 

Once we started homeschooling, though, she had a lot more time.  So she could read just as much as she always did (more, in fact), but still have time left over for doing things.

 

For us, reading taught grammar and spelling and writing.  I found I didn't need to do much of anything formal with the first two.  And my kids kind of refused to write much, so we didn't do much with the third either. Which made me tear my hair out.

 

But now college has come around, and it turns out they can write better than most of the other incoming freshman.

 

So I'd advise anyone who's tearing their hair out about writing to at least spend a lot of time reading -- on their own or as read alouds.  We're *still* doing read alouds, even in high school and college.  It seemed to work for us. 

 

Apparently it's not even necessary for the kids to write much about what they read.  Thinking and talking about the reading was enough.

 

However, I will admit that they've probably done a fair amount of writing on facebook and internet forums.  Contrary to what one might expect, the bad grammar and spelling on those has made them more aware of bad grammar and spelling, not more tolerant of it.  Course, they had all that literature they'd read as a baseline.

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For science -- we were pretty relaxed.  We weighed things and mixed stuff.  We poked at bugs and watched what birds were doing.  We built rivers at the beach and watched deltas form.  We saw what happened when we poured acid on red cabbage in the sink when cleaning up from dinner.

 

And we talked about science nearly non stop.  Cause the cabbage turns color when the pH changes.  And that butterfly is laying eggs on that plant, but not that one, because that's not it's host plant.  And if you go out in the back yard, you can almost be guaranteed of seeing a bug you've never seen before, because there are that many insects in the world.

 

If you don't know much about science yourself, you can do a lot of science read alouds.  There's no set of science standards that your child needs to master.  So anything they learn about science in elementary school will cover it.   Watch a lot of TV shows about science.  David Attenborough is always a good choice for nature shows.  (One thing I would have changed about the elementary school years -- we would have watched more of his shows.  Except there weren't anymore.  We'd watched them all.  At least twice.)

 

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I would have done more foreign language, if I could have found decent programs. 

 

I used to kick myself for not having sent my kids to an immersion school.  It wasn't completely my fault, as the immersion schools only really got going here when my kids were a little too old.  But that didn't stop me from kicking myself for being a bad mom.

 

Still, now that those kids are entering high school, I'm discovering that there was NO NEED to feel bad about this.  Turns out those kids are generally placing into the 2nd year of high school foreign language.  So doing grades K-8 supposedly immersed in another language only results in ONE YEAR of a high school class.  We did about that well at home (in the elementary years).

 

Maybe there are immersion schools in the US somewhere else that are doing a better job, but they're not here.

 

If I'd had more outgoing kids, I probably could have convinced them to spend time with a native speaker.  But they just weren't that outgoing at that age.  So we had to do what worked with their personality.  (This does not absolve me of guilt in my own mind, however.)

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We did very little structured learning up until 5th grade,

and hardly anything structured 6th and 7th.

 

I would have emphasized house chores--I know, nothing to

do with homeschooling.  But it's one of the things that lacks the most!

Also, I would have kept a schedule--we mostly free ranged

for about 10 years.  Now that we are doing high school, the

habit of not having a schedule is really hard to break!  I have

a lot of problems just plain old sticking to a schedule and a 

plan (not me, DS), because of all the years just playing all day.

 

That said, academically DS is extremely successful, so the

free ranging really worked academically.  But I do wish we had

followed a schedule, gotten used to going to places on time (as

opposed to just hanging out at the park all day and going when

we felt like it), and set up a strict home chores plan, instead of

'Hey, let's just read more books on the floor and then go to

the park--the laundry and mowing can wait!'  

 

Now that high school is super busy, not having the habit of 

a strict schedule and home chores discipline really makes life

harder than it should be.

 

I would have done more Foreign Language, and done it properly.

Since I didn't make time to do it properly, I barely did it.  As a

result, DS hasn't had the language that he could have.

 

I wouldn't have wasted my time with homeschooler groups that

I knew weren't a good fit for us.  I hardly knew any homeschoolers back then,

so if I found a group I thought it was so wonderful--so I stayed for

years, even though they really weren't a good fit.

 

I'll post more if I think of something else.

 

Oh--we would have watched less numbers of crappy movies (like

Kung Fu Panda) and more good movies (like Ushpizin or Pippi Longstocking).

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I wouldn't have wasted my time with homeschooler groups that

 

I knew weren't a good fit for us.  I hardly knew any homeschoolers back then,

so if I found a group I thought it was so wonderful--so I stayed for

years, even though they really weren't a good fit.

 

 

:iagree:

 

I can say that I wish I'd read "Hold on to Your Kids" sooner, because it was heartbreaking to read it too little too late in the waiting room of ds1's therapist when he was 15, but there really isn't anything new in there that the Moores and a zillion magazine articles hadn't already told me if I had only listened.

 

It's been both infuriating and enlightening to read the Queen Bee moms book. I simply am not "mommy group core member" material for reasons that, although I consider trivial and superficial, I either don't have the power to change or wouldn't want to change.

 

ds and I will be much happier on the outside of the perimeter no more than once a month rather than several times a week with my nose firmly planted in a book that has nothing whatsoever to do with homeschooling.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Perfect timing. I'm thinking the same thing as my oldest is leaving for college and my youngest turns 9. They are very different people, but with my oldest, we did Calvert and Primary math (Singapore). Very structured, but also we felt confident that we had everything covered,with little planning. Unfortunately, we did notice some holes in knowledge that later had to be filled in, but overall positive. High school was focused on meeting college requirements and ahem ,test prep. I'm a little sad that we didn't have more fun together.

 

This time, we are focused on social and life skills as much as academics. I realize that I have to set up social opportunities to meet/make friends.

 

Trying to make things fun, not just done.

 

Carving time out for read alouds and snuggle time. Memory work (now, I see the importance!), and many more books/ hands on activities. I'm not afraid to outsource if something is fun/social for both of us.

 

Less curriculum, more learning.

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I'd have stuck with one math program, even if it didn't seem like a perfect fit. Both my boys are capable beyond their current math levels, but we're behind simply because I bounced around too much in the early years.

 

I wouldn't fret about "gaps." I'd trust that if my kids can read, they can learn anything.

 

One thing I'm happy about, which happened quite by accident, is that they are both independent workers and LOVE to learn. I didn't teach that...and maybe that's the key. :)

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All of mine are in high school or going to college, so I've had some time to look back...

 

Books books books, limit limit limit handheld anything...ideally no TV time during the week...good for sick days...

 

Nature, nature, nature....hiking, exploring, conservation at close wildlife refuges (in other words help them to see more of the outdoors than they see of the indoors)

 

Imagination creations...draw what they want to create, then dictate to me the story..create story books to publish...my kids love these and so easy to bind these now!  Let their imagination go!

 

Read aloud, I would read aloud 2 hours a day, either Story of the World, Catherine Vos' A Child's Story Bible, Fiction, fantasy, science (weather/stars/go out at night and lay down and find the stars...)

 

Fun with Latin..love Minimus...easy intro to Cambridge when they are in upper elementary...

 

Physical activity...get them climbing trees, obstacle courses, hiking...make it a joy to move :)

 

In other words, expose them to as many opportunities that opens up that natural love for learning, just never see that work very well with worksheets and such...30 minutes of math is fine a day...30 minutes of copywork/printing...the rest should be engaging, math can be engaging..we counted many funny things while outdoors trekking :)

 

 

 

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Well, it feels more like continuous elementary than elementary all over again. LOL I'll have two high schoolers this year, and a 6th, 4th, 1st, and pre-k.

 

With my oldest I listened to the older, much more experienced parents too much. They kept telling me to relax, enjoy the moment, he's advanced anyway so don't even worry about skill levels, let him play, yada yada. DS was precocious and advanced, in spite of serious ADHD. I stayed relaxed academically, and he learned school was a breeze. It didn't do him any favors when middle school ramped up and he couldn't get good grades blind-folded with one arm behind his back. Puberty didn't help. :P (DC #2 was a late bloomer, which just reinforced the unschoolish advice.)

 

My rising 4th grader is even more precocious than DS, and I keep a close eye on preventing a rerun. I don't push her to race further ahead, but I do keep steady pressure on her comfort level. I (carefully) make sure she gets challenged and learns how to work through it.

 

 

Otherwise, from the first pair to the next pair...

-I dropped unnecessary workbooks and busywork.

-Their early years were more rigorous than olders', but *I* was more relaxed.

-We just read and discuss much more than I did with the big two, and we're all richer for it.

-I got really good at doing multi-level family-wide subjects. ;)

-Because of so many wildly different interests I started experimenting with homemade courses and getting off the beaten path. It has spoiled us; there's no going back now.

 

From the middle pair to the youngest two so far (rising 1st and pre-k)...

-I am having - so - much - fun - with these two!

-I'm much more likely to go for the fun yet efficient option than the simple get 'er done option.

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In my effort to try to give my kids a superior education, I focused way too much on rigor. Now my 16 yo dd and 12 yo ds both hate learning. I put my daughter in high school this year and my ds will be in school this fall. My dd enjoyed classroom learning and interaction much more than being at home. And I don't mean social, fun stuff...I'm talking about collaborative work with other gifted students. I sense my ds will enjoy the collaborative learning environment better, too. What I did do right was teach them to read. Both love to read and truly enjoy it. If I had it to do all over, I would do more fun things together and more discovery related activities for science and math. I totally burned my kids out using the WTM approach in those younger years. I would truly just focus on the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. The thing I would add is to find a way to introduce modern language earlier. Just my two cents for my family situation.

 

HTH,

Jennifer

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I think our experience was good.  The only thing I wish that would have been different is that outside forces would have interfered less--finances, grandparents, friends, etc.  I think we do best when I don't have to worry about other things that really don't have to do with what we are doing.  I shouldn't have let other people's worries and concerns get to me so much.

 

I wish I hadn't jumped around so much in the early years curriculum-wise but it was also good and each experience built upon the last and really helped us to learn from different perspectives and styles and each change seemed to be what we needed at the moment (although the boring stuff could have been left out because they don't remember it anyway).  My oldest is entering 9th grade and I think she is ready for it.  And I met my goal of having a family that enjoys spending time together and really talks with one another.  We have fun and I think they'll do fine in life. 

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I should have added that I would keep the "work ethic" mentality but I would have had shorter days....We worked full time even in grade school.

 

I would keep the no TV policy - though we did watch some science and history DVD's from the library with a very occasional movie ( a few/year) which I might still do...It's so important for children to get bored so they start to invent things...

 

 

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