Monday, November 10, 2014

A New School Plan

Our method of schooling has always been to do the majority of our learning together.  The kids work on a select few subjects independently (math, English, some health), but everything else is a group effort.  That has worked seamlessly for us...until this year. 

Owen, my 8-year-old third grader, is a strong visual learner.  If he reads or sees something himself, he retains the information, but if he listens to it being read aloud, he zones out.  We first started noticing during our nightly family devotions.  Brian would read a passage and Owen could barely recount the passage, often not even remembering who the story was about. I suspected it was the same during our history and science times at school, but he seemed to be gleaning enough to skate by. 

Two weeks ago, Brian was off from work for several days with a back injury so he was home to observe us during school.  I read a section of our science book out loud and when we started discussing it, Owen couldn't answer any of the questions I presented.  I decided to change tactics and asked him to instead tell me something he remembered or found interesting.  He couldn't do that either.  Brian suggested we try a new approach to learning for Owen that works with his strengths. 

{Why had I never considered that?!  Sometimes it helps to have fresh eyes introduce a new perspective.}

Last week we started our new school plan for Owen.  In order to maintain a sense of togetherness, I wanted him to be covering the same topics the rest of us were covering so while we delve into  The World of Columbus and Sonsby Genevieve Foster, he goes to his bedroom and reads a passage from a book about Columbus, too.  He started with  Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbusby Peter Sis which gave a thorough but brief overview.  Then he moved on to Where Do You Think You're Going, Christopher Columbus?by Jean Fritz, and he'll finish with Columbusby Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire. 

When he is done his day's reading, he rejoins us and tells us the highlights of what he read.  He is thriving with the new approach!  He shows us pictures.  He asks questions.  He reads us sections of what he read that day.  He has probably retained more in the past few days than he has the previous three months!

Our plan for science is similar.  On Tuesdays, while the rest of us read from  The Burgess Bird Book for Childrenby Thornton Burgess, Owen chooses any bird from National Wildlife Federation's World of Birds: A Beginner's Guideby Kim Kurki, reads the text, and studies the sketches.

(Incidentally, this book is included in my eBook Books for Christmas.  We own a copy and I love the artwork and way the information is presented visually.)

After Owen reads about one bird, he writes a fact about that bird in his nature journal.  On Wednesdays,  all of the kids update their nature journals with sketches to the birds they studies the day before.  The only difference now is that they are sketching different birds.  They love to compare drawings, though, so each of them is also learning small bits about what the others are studying!

Do you ever change curriculum or alter your method mid-way through the school year? 


  1. Great thinking! I don't recall changing tactics mid-year, but I do remember that my daughter seemed to go from strongly auditory to mainly visual overnight! She still had trouble writing out her answers so I continued to allow her to answer verbally.

  2. Good for you, being brave enough to change course! (Unlike someone I know who allowed her child to suffer through an entire year of a curriculum that squelched her learning because she was not wise enough to change courses. Sorry.)

  3. Great job! I have a child that can't retell me things often but its usually because he is zoning out and "HATES SCHOOL" lately! If he applies himself, he does a great job! This Mama/ homeschooling job can be tough!

  4. I haven't had to make any major changes in our set-up, only minor adjustments like different workbooks, etc. I think it takes courage to step out, admit something isn't working, and make a major change. Good for you!

    1. If Brian hadn't suggested it, I honestly would have never thought to make a change!

  5. Yay for daddies! Yay for a fresh perspective! Hooray for the courage to try something new and praise God! for the fruit it's bearing! :) This is an awesome post- one of the greatest things about home schooling, I've found, is the freedom to change gears at any moment and tailor a subject to fit my child. So glad Owen is thriving in his new routine!
    Other than changing math curriculums to fit each child over the years, we haven't ever had a child doing a separate curriculum from their siblings. But this year I did that something different for Eliana- there's a four year gap between her and her next older sibling, and while my two older boys did strictly Ambleside for all their subjects at her age, I just KNEW she would be so stifled by reading the same history books they did; full of British battles and general's names and locations as they were. So I switched to The Story of the World for her this year, keeping her in the same place on the timeline, with lovely little doses of A Child's History of the World. And since she is an artist, we purchased a giant sketchbook, used washi tape across the middle of each page, and before we begin reading her history lessons we find a picture of the main historical figure, and then she sketches it onto her fancy timeline while we read. It has been fun to change things up to fit her, and I know this is partly owing to the confidence that being in our eleventh year of home schooling has brought... :)

    1. Yes, so thankful for the fruit. Often, after we change course and things start to improve, we forget what is was like before the change. (And we often forget to thank the One who orchestrated it all!) It sounds like your school year is perfect for your individual children, too. Years of homeschooling brings confidence and clarity.


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