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lulalu

Providing an "out of the box" education

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I really do have a desire to be an out of the box homeschool family. Not unschoolers, I firmly believe edication needs direction from those wiser. But I find myself falling into the "easier" path, buy a workbook, complete a lesson, done. The safety net of the grade on a workbook is calming. But then day to day and week to week look the same and just become a get this many pages done. 

But we live a very out of the box life. And I enjoy and have more fun when doing less typical educational things. Like making plays to show what we have learned. We go on field trips often which helps break up the same old same old. 

What are some ways you homeschool "out of the box"? How do you encourage creativity and indivduality? How do you push away the nagging grade expectations? Help me get some ideas on how to school uniquely. What makes your homeschool look different because it is your family? 

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I don’t do grades. My state doesn’t require any and I know their skill levels. I plan to when we get to high school. 
 

Most of my outside the box type ideas come from electives and are highly interest and project-based. My middle taught himself 3D modeling and Blender then started to make a weapons rack in Blender with various weapons through history. 

Middle got so excited learning in science last year that he created his own google doc so he would have place to put his own notes. He would copy and paste pictures and write down terms he wanted to memorize. It’s his own version of OneNote. He likes to return to earlier pages and think about what he out there.   

 

Dd is crafty. She had an American Girl dollhouse project. We took XL Home Depot boxes and cut off the lids. Then cut up some extra boxes and wrapped them is decorative paper to make interchangeable walls and floors. The she started looking for and making doll furniture and decorations. This part was all her. For example she filled tiny cups with glitter glue and stuck a tiny colored toothpick for the straw. The cups now looked like they had punch in them. She learned how to look at ordinary objects in a different way. 

I do well when we center learning around a theme or idea. I made my own pirate-themed unit study a couple of years ago. We had a lot of projects and field trips based on that. They still talk about that.

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Honestly, reading and discussing, or just discussing.  I think it is very educational.  

I think is very personal and not related to an imposed lesson, but I think it is very valuable and what I want for my kids as far as their thinking.  

Anyway -- that is how I would answer the question.  I am not an out-of-the-box person doing creative things, but also not someone who thinks a grade or score is necessarily capturing much of value.  There could be a lot or a little learning going on, with a high or low score, or the same score.   

 

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3 hours ago, lulalu said:

I really do have a desire to be an out of the box homeschool family. Not unschoolers, I firmly believe edication needs direction from those wiser. But I find myself falling into the "easier" path, buy a workbook, complete a lesson, done. The safety net of the grade on a workbook is calming. But then day to day and week to week look the same and just become a get this many pages done. 

But we live a very out of the box life. And I enjoy and have more fun when doing less typical educational things. Like making plays to show what we have learned. We go on field trips often which helps break up the same old same old. 

What are some ways you homeschool "out of the box"? How do you encourage creativity and indivduality? How do you push away the nagging grade expectations? Help me get some ideas on how to school uniquely. What makes your homeschool look different because it is your family? 

When my dc were younger, we only had two Official School Days a week, Monday and Tuesday. I put whatever Official School Stuff we had on the kitchen table; dc could do it or not, but since we didn't go anywhere on Monday and Tuesday--no errands, no outside classes, no field trips, nothin', until late afternoon or after dinner--dc would often work on their OSS. I did do Spalding for a few weeks when she was five, and then six, and then seven...:-) Sometimes we did bookwork, if necessary, for Camp Fire badges. We went to the library every Wednesday. Dc could check out as many books as they wanted or none at all. We hung out there for a couple of hours, then went home and had lunch and goofed off for the rest of the afternoon, which could mean all of us in our own rooms reading, or working on OSS, or whatever. We left the house every Thursday for a field trip. Usually just us, once in awhile with friends. Sometimes we were working on Camp Fire badges, or checking out something I had read about in the newspaper, sometimes just going to the mall in another town and having an Orange Julius and people watching ("social studies," lol). Friday we cleaned house, top to bottom, all the laundry, everything; once a month park day.

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Ooo, we had a famous thread about this years, ago, good topic! And maybe you can also find that old thread. With my dd, she had regular school work and then these rabbit trails I would facilitate. I'd usually get something to drive it, like a book on napkin folding, or a mentor, like her grandma to teach her making doll clothes. In high school it shifted more toward interest-driven studies where I'd find books as spines and let her delve in. She did the history of comics, books on costuming, etc.

With my ds, I try to bring in those rabbit trails. Right now we have a dvd of card tricks and we try to watch and practice them. Next I want to do making balloon animals. We do use a lot of straightforward, do the next thing, kind of workbooks with him, but sometimes we'll stop and do a series where we'll read through books on the states. We did a lot of picture book read alouds this past year, a LOT. Like several hours a day. With him I continue to need to work on language, because his syntax acquisition is not complete, affecting his listening and reading comprehension. So we have more games to play for that. We do a lot of K'nex, because it allows us to combine joint attention, positive experiences together, persistence, science, etc. I'm trying to introduce paper folding with the hope it could lead into Origami. Right now he's really enjoying                                             Foldology - Origami Puzzles, Fun Folding Brain Teasers for Teens & Adults, Hands-On Logic Game, 100 Challenges                                     

With my dd, we'd do what I called May Term and spend a month in May doing something really different from what we did the rest of the year. Also in the summer we'd try to hit things we hadn't been getting to, like art. 

So I think maybe start small or think small if you're overwhelmed by your ideas. Or use your alternate style ideas for a discrete amount of time (the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, May Term, summer) rather than feeling like you have to do them year round. Variety is nice, kwim? Gets it out of your system, lets you explore another style, without saying you have to commit to that all the time. Or just bring in some pizzazzy supplements or one day a week of unschooling. It all works. :smile:

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6 hours ago, lulalu said:

How do you encourage creativity and indivduality?

Don't overbook. If you get them too busy, they don't have time to figure it out. 

Beyond that, facilitate by providing raw materials. So time and raw materials are your part. Energy and doing it is their part. Some kids need more structure or like to do it better with people. When I wanted to teach my dd to sew properly I taught a quilt class to give her some herd effect. It wasn't really going to be her favorite gig, because she's not a quilter, haha. She's more like look at you, measure some things, make her own pattern, make the garment. For real. So quilting really pushed her buttons in a good way with the rules and precision, haha. 

6 hours ago, lulalu said:

How do you push away the nagging grade expectations?

I'm confused. Have you done standardized testing? Evidence is always nice. I wouldn't assume dysfunction if you haven't done testing, and I don't think that taking a day a week to unschool or having unusual projects or doing May Term or even finishing workbooks at double pace and then unschooling the rest of the year or spending a year on read alouds is a problem. Most people will get done MORE than a year of work if they just show up every day and work. You probably have plenty of wiggle room to explore alternate things. If the reading is IQ appropriate and coming along and the math is on grade level, I wouldn't worry about the rest, just me personally. Is there some state law you need to contend with saying what you have to cover for the rest?? Remember, 80% of reading comprehension is prior knowledge, so as long as you're covering content broadly, they'll probably be fine. Junior high tidies it up with survey courses, so long as they have reading comprehension and can outline.

6 hours ago, lulalu said:

Help me get some ideas on how to school uniquely.

I would look at your kids. How can you FACILITATE what they're into or passionate about or skillful at? If you view yourself as a facilitator and arm yourself with $30 and a library card, what would be nice to make happen? What would they like facilitated?

6 hours ago, lulalu said:

What makes your homeschool look different because it is your family?

Well our stuff was a bit off the grid because of dd's ADHD and ds' SLDs and ASD and apraxia. But really, it's because I view myself as here to facilitate. So when my dh buys ds a smaller sized weed whacker and teaches him to use it, that's facilitating. With dd at younger ages it was about time and access to raw materials to sew and sculpt and putting that into the budget. It's harder with ds, because he doesn't perceive himself as doing anything well, sigh. He just learned to use imessage with dictation. That for him, at age 11, was a huge leap, and something that helps him be more independent and empowered. That's what you're looking for in your kids, where they could take steps or pursue something, what they might want to do. Just don't make it such a big thing that it gets overwhelming. Try it for a segment or a season, see how it rolls. 

Edited by PeterPan
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I don't know how old your dc is but I'm echoing Ellie and PeterPan. I love what they both said. 

For my elementary kids I have things down to the bare minimum. We don't do busy work. I am in a practically no regulation state, so I don't have to worry about testing or grades, but I sit with my young kids for literally everything they do, so if they do make a mistake we correct it right then and there, so I think grades would be moot anyway. I know what they know and I know what they don't know, I don't really need a metric or a test to tell me right now. For school work, to borrow from Andrew Pudewa its either an A or it's incomplete. Even with older kids who weren't sitting right at elbow, I'd just have them go and correct it and that would be it until high school, where I think then grading takes on a different approach, but i think we're talking young kids here, right? They don't do much/if any school work without me in the immediate vicinity (it wouldn't get done otherwise) and I teach them everything, so I guess I haven't experienced the nagging grade expectation. We just do what we do and keep on plugging at our own pace- their individual paces. 

So we get Bible study and the 3R's done and out of the way every day and then they have free, unstructured time. They have their own space that I try not to develop an eye twitch over, when I see the storm of things that go into their creations. My ds8 in particular is an inventor/maker type of kid. Parts of our house basically always looks like a tornado just hit it thanks to this kid, but it's pretty amazing what he makes. So instead of buying all sorts of extra curricula subjects, I buy them supplies for their projects they want to do. Art supplies, random things they need to make stuff- straws, pins, hot glue guns, and then we collect boxes, and bits and bobs- I have learned that everything has potential in ds's mind in particular. I buy costumes. When they were younger I bought them a stage house with puppets type of thing.

Tbh, the most out of the box thing I do in comparison to society in general for their ages is I give them TIME. That's how I'm out of the box compared to what their lives would be like in B& M school. It's nothing exciting or novel. They just have a lot of free time that a large percentage of kids don't have. We do have a couple of extracurriculars/out of the house things, but at this point I don't do anything that's more than once a week. We have before and it's just too much- it takes the spontaneity out of things for us. For me. And we all get stressed. 

Another thing, is for Christmas this year, we encouraged my parents to buy ds a dremmel and a soldering iron (and to help contribute to our health insurance deductible once he gets them- hahaha) instead of toys to keep fostering things he does in his free time. Not that toys are bad. He just enjoys making them more than playing with them in this instance, so getting the Grandparents off the "toy" train has taken some effort but has finally kicked in. He's a fairly sharp kid and does well with math and we get a lot of pressure to "teach him programming" and things like that already, because he could do it, but I'm trying to keep the screens down right now. I am not falling into the whole "earlier is better" when it comes to programming. I think it can easily wait until he's a little older- meanwhile some of our friends are sending their kids to STEAM camps in early elementary and have lots of computer based programs already teaching them to do early coding, so maybe we are out of the box there too? Idk. We have a lot of programmer type friends, so they're pretty out of the box themselves, LOL. My bar might be off. 

Oh and we do a lot of field trips like you guys. It makes me happy that our local museums are familiar and home like to them because we go so often. 

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13 minutes ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

Tbh, the most out of the box thing I do in comparison to society in general for their ages is I give them TIME. That's how I'm out of the box compared to what their lives would be like in B& M school. It's nothing exciting or novel. They just have a lot of free time that a large percentage of kids don't have. We do have a couple of extracurriculars/out of the house things, but at this point I don't do anything that's more than once a week. We have before and it's just too much- it takes the spontaneity out of things for us. For me. And we all get stressed. 

This. So much this.

Honestly our school is pretty typical. They read and write and do math and it's pretty vanilla. I hate crafts and projects and so do the kids (except the really young ones). We discuss and read aloud and I learn along with them, but it's nothing special and it certainly wouldn't get me any traffic if I blogged about it. We read/memorize/recite poetry and they do one EC at a time once a week that bleeds over into all aspects our lives, but that's as out of the box academically as we get.

But they have time ... glorious time ...

DS#1 used it to teach himself 2 or 3 programming languages. DS#2 used it to teach himself video editing software and music composition. DD#1 used it to write a full length novel. Right now DD#2, 3, and 4 just use it to play, but I fully expect they will also find their passions in due time.

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If I have to give ourselves a label, I think we are probably considered Unit Study homeschoolers, but I use a lot of CM principles (copywork, narration, dictation, living books, classical science, etc).  I actually have not met anyone IRL who homeschools like we do (I'm sure they're out there somewhere).

I generally put together our unit studies myself.  This year (in fact, it was ALL year), we studied Native America.  We covered Native American history, the different tribes that lived throughout North America, contemporary literature written by NA authors, geography of North America....etc.  Anyway, this was just a huge unit study - we're actually almost done - two weeks left and then we stop school until January (we're calendar year homeschoolers).

In January, our unit studies are going to be much shorter (about 8-9 weeks), because this one was very long.  We started burning out in October.  I'm planning a unit study centered around The Manhattan Project during World War II.  We have a bio of Einstein, that graphic novel about the making of the atomic bomb (Trinity), two kids are working through the 17 MicroChem Labs and one kid is working through 27 Intro to Chemistry Labs, we are going to do VEX IQ Robotics projects together.  For art, I'm adding in how to sketch machine/robot/vehicle books and a book on drawing architecture.  They are also reading future-themed books along with the Progeny Press guides.  The high schoolers are reading Fahrenheit 451 (or whatever that number is - lol) and the middle schooler is reading A Wrinkle in Time.

Sorry that was so long-winded.  That's what we do.  And we've done some prepared unit studies, too.  We've done some My Father's World....a year of Sonlight.  My youngest starts My Father's World Kindergarten in January.

Edited by Evanthe
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I wanted to come back and add- I do read to them a lot, and we do memory work, and science experiments and things like that. We aren't THAT sparse. But it's not super formalized and even those types of things are interest led. Usually theirs. Sometimes mine. But I would not be doing MEL Science, for instance,  if I didn't have a kid who constantly begs to learn more about those things and doing those experiments makes him *feel* like a scientist and he thrives on that sort of thing. But if he wasn't wanting to,  I wouldn't be doing an Apologia book and notebook etc. instead to check a science box and having formal science class and social studies classes and filling up a 7 or 8 hour day at the elementary level. 

Edited by Æthelthryth the Texan
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Last thing- really!!-- I also think it's really normal to go through seasons where you feel very creative and out of the box and wanting to do things and having the awesome homeschool mojo, and then to have other seasons where you just want someone else to tell you what to do and/or have things to check off and do the work book and be done. At least that's how I work. Then I get the list and take a deep breath and remember why I don't like the list someone else makes (I can never stick to it) and then I go back to tweaking, or going completely off course and back to my own thing. 

Edited by Æthelthryth the Texan
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1 minute ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

Last thing- really!!-- I also think it's really normal to go through seasons where you feel very creative and out of the box and wanting to do things and having the awesome homeschool mojo, and then to have other seasons where you just want someone else to tell you what to do and/or have things to check off and do the work book and be done. At least that's how I work. Then I get the list and take a deep breath and remember why I don't like the list someone else makes (I can never stick to it) and then I go back to tweaking, or going completely off course and back to my own thing. 

 

I had to use boxed curriculum after having our 5th baby (like I mentioned above) - My Father's World and a year of Sonlight.  Those ended up being a good couple of years!  You do what you gotta do!  lol

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12 minutes ago, Evanthe said:

 

I had to use boxed curriculum after having our 5th baby (like I mentioned above) - My Father's World and a year of Sonlight.  Those ended up being a good couple of years!  You do what you gotta do!  lol

I always buy a SL core (or two at one point) when I feel like we're going to have a stressful year ahead. Just seeing all the books on the shelves gives me a feeling of security, even if we never end up following the schedule through the whole thing. 🙂

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We are pretty much almost entirely out of the box :-). Even when it comes to the basics, we do very little that’s standard. My daughters an accelerated 7 year old, so I’m sure that makes it easier. 

We don’t follow any curriculum for any of the 3Rs. She gets a ton of input into her writing lessons. Last year, one of our big projects was making our own Mad Libs from scratch. This year, she’s randomly decided to write an extremely long book report on the series “The Sisters Grimm.” She wrote one very disorganized but otherwise surprisingly mature report, and we’re about to start on the second draft. I think finishing it up will pretty much take up our fall semester. So we’re almost entirely interest-led for writing. And for reading as well, because she loves reading.

For math, I do the work in the order that seems logically correct to me, which means she’s been multiplying since she was 5 but she just learned how to add and subtract by stacking this year. We’ve also done fun in-depth studies of cool topics like combinatorics (I think I have a thread on that project somewhere on here), binary, primes, and negative numbers. I do make sure that the projects help us progress in arithmetic fluency (for instance, combinatorics was amazing multiplication and division practice), but we do follow a lot of rabbit trails.

We used to have more time at home, but given the choice, my daughter picks taking tons of classes out of the house, so our schedule has actually gotten quite demanding. She does get lots of play time, but not a ton of unstructured time. That’s something we need to work on...
 

 

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We did large scale scientific investigations when my kids were K-7th grade. I designed them to last about 8 weeks and integrate english, maths, science, history, and basically all other things into the project. I've written up a few over the years as we did them (so week by week), so you can see in detail how they work.

 

Edited by lewelma
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I agree with the previous posters, they need time. If their days are packed with school and structured classes, they don't have time to be out of the box.

I really don't care at all about grades. Not one bit. It's family priorities and thinking of your child as a whole person. What I want for my children is, yes, an excellent education, but not at the expense of an excellent childhood. Each family has their own unique strengths.

How we are out of the box, we live on 20 acres and my children spend a lot of time outdoors. They chop wood and look after animals and do plenty of farm-y chores. We are off grid and still building our house so they get plenty of interesting experiences. I try to keep our school day short-ish (done by 12/1pm for anyone under 10/11, done by 3pm for everyone else). We severely limit afternoon/evening activities so that they literally have hours every afternoon to do whatever they want, we only have one evening commitment a week and that is new (my oldest, age 14, does orchestra one night a week)

I guess the way I think about what's important to me, and how I divide up our time, is, 1. Excellent and efficient schooling. Charlotte masony, short lessons, rich feast. 2. Real work and responsibilities. Character development, part of a family, meaningful work etc. 3. Free time. Time to think, try, explore, play, follow interests, etc. Leisure and depressure.  

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A lot of what others said as far as time, but we also utilize a lot of youtube, documentaries, etc in our schooling. My DD has dyslexia and probably some not quite diagnosable level of auditory processing issues and so the visual part of documentaries makes learning a LOT easier for her than reading OR listening to me read. 

We also have a family culture of researching whenever we have a question no one in the family has an answer for. So we "google it" a lot 🙂

As for curriculum, we do short and sweet for a lot of it, and then The Good and The Beautiful history and science has a lot of hands on stuff that they enjoy. 

My goal (not quite there yet) is to have a schedule so that twice a week we do history, twice a week science, and once a week a craft or outing. I need to put it on a loop schedule. (we don't count our evening documentary habit as part of that). 

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One of the more interesting things that has happened in our homeschool over the last year is- for certain subjects- a move toward buddy learning.  I sit down with my two oldest and I learn WITH them.  This has been true for Latin last year, and now Latin, history, and geography this year.  I love "teaching" in this way because I want my kids to gradually move from a mindset of learning to a mindset of self-teaching by the end of their time with me, and like all things in parenting, modeling that behavior is the most effective way to transmit it.  

I know this isn't pretty like, a mural or wall display or a 3 act play, but this is how we've gone out of the box.  I also put together all of our subjects myself (except math), which I really enjoy and can tailor to our interests to a certain extent.  

We don't do tests, but this year (7th), I will begin writing some evaluation notes in my son's planner.  

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Thank you all for the replies. 

We don't give grades on assignments yet as DS is in 2nd grade. I am referring mostly to grade level assignments and expectations.

Right now I am thinking of switching math over to fully using Gattegno, but it isn't a graded program at all. So I overthink stepping out of the norm of what is expected for 2nd grade math or whatever subject. There are areas of life I am easily able to go against the stream and just do our thing. And then sometimes I feel like we have swung far enough away from the norm that I need to provide some norm of some kind. 

Sorry mostly just rambles from my head, but there have to be others out there right?!? 

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58 minutes ago, lulalu said:

Thank you all for the replies. 

We don't give grades on assignments yet as DS is in 2nd grade. I am referring mostly to grade level assignments and expectations.

Right now I am thinking of switching math over to fully using Gattegno, but it isn't a graded program at all. So I overthink stepping out of the norm of what is expected for 2nd grade math or whatever subject. There are areas of life I am easily able to go against the stream and just do our thing. And then sometimes I feel like we have swung far enough away from the norm that I need to provide some norm of some kind. 

Sorry mostly just rambles from my head, but there have to be others out there right?!? 

 

Any easy way to do this for math is to just print out some standard scope and sequence, like the table of contents from another math program like Singapore.  Scan it from time to time to make sure you are more-or-less covering the material using more out-of-the-box means.  Easy.  

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On 11/12/2019 at 4:29 PM, Momto6inIN said:

This. So much this.

Honestly our school is pretty typical. They read and write and do math and it's pretty vanilla. I hate crafts and projects and so do the kids (except the really young ones). We discuss and read aloud and I learn along with them, but it's nothing special and it certainly wouldn't get me any traffic if I blogged about it. We read/memorize/recite poetry and they do one EC at a time once a week that bleeds over into all aspects our lives, but that's as out of the box academically as we get.

But they have time ... glorious time ...

DS#1 used it to teach himself 2 or 3 programming languages. DS#2 used it to teach himself video editing software and music composition. DD#1 used it to write a full length novel. Right now DD#2, 3, and 4 just use it to play, but I fully expect they will also find their passions in due time.

 

This is basically what we do, too. It's not that our school work is interesting or exciting. It's that our school time is relatively short and then they have lots of free time in the afternoons and evenings. They film movies and edit them, bake, do projects, learn to weld, haul grain, do field work (farm stuff) for neighbours. One is learning a programming language. One loves flight simulators. They fix cars and replace engines on small equipment.

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We do relatively little that fits a norm. DD chooses almost all her schooling (though choosing not to school isn’t an option). We discuss what she wants to learn, and what her goals are in learning, and then choose schooling based around that. Occasionally, this means something looks within a box, because it’s the best way to meet her goal - for example, she really wanted to go to a particular math camp that required Algebra 1, so she chose to accelerate through Beast Academy and AOPS in order to do that. She wanted to try a more “typical” class experience, and this year she is taking physics through Clover Creek.

Her schooling has combined local in-person enrichment classes, online classes, and a lot of homemade classes/units. She learns a lot from working with a Destination Imagination team, and has learned some programming, sewing, robotics, writing, art, and I don’t remember what else working on their projects. She likes contests, and will occasionally even put effort into improving her performance on them. 

And free time, of course. I think this is the greatest thing about homeschooling for her. She has filled so many hours with artwork, reading, experiments of her own design, engineering, crafting, and gaming.

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8 hours ago, Monica_in_Switzerland said:

 

Any easy way to do this for math is to just print out some standard scope and sequence, like the table of contents from another math program like Singapore.  Scan it from time to time to make sure you are more-or-less covering the material using more out-of-the-box means.  Easy.  

Yes, this is what I do too. We go our own way a lot with math. I've seen enough k-6/7/8 math sequences now that I'm pretty confident of the skills needed before algebra. That means I'm no longer beholden to the number/sequence on the books. I can jump between beast academy and miquon and singapore and mep and math mammoth and life of fred and khan academy and homemade worksheets (I could go on, I have more on my shelves 😂...), depending on what skill we're working on and how my child is grasping it. 

E.g. for math today with my third grader, we went through an old math competition paper. We worked the hard problems together, with manipulatives, and he ended up making an octahedron out of paper (we needed to make a clear distinction between counting edges and faces in a stacked octahedron tower). Todays main skills to practice were, general arithmetic, problem solving, careful reading and understanding of word problems, geometric and spatial sense, and persistence.

Again, I care more about them having a good sense of mathematical concepts and being able to apply them in real life. I don't care one bit about finishing books or tests or grades. I want them to feel confident in their own skills, in their growing abilities to affect change in their world. 

Okay, I do care a little about tests for one of my kids, because he needs to practice the skill of calm under pressure 😂

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23 hours ago, Monica_in_Switzerland said:

 

Any easy way to do this for math is to just print out some standard scope and sequence, like the table of contents from another math program like Singapore.  Scan it from time to time to make sure you are more-or-less covering the material using more out-of-the-box means.  Easy.  


I think it does tend to be a leap of faith to do the topics so out of order, though! (And as far as I know, Gattegno doesn't go in anything like the order of the usual American math sequence.) I'm not entirely sold on C-rods (that's a longer conversation), but I cover topics in an order that's closer to Gattegno than to the traditional math sequence. That means that we did multiplication at age 5, before we totally solidified our addition math facts, and that we started fractions around the same time that she saw the standard "stacking" addition algorithm for the first time. I'm comfortable going in a non-standard order according to my own lights, but I can see how that can be stressful. 

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