Tag Archive | lapbooking

Balancing Curriculum with Interests

unschool bus

In our more than 15 years of home education, we have moved through various seasons of more and less formal learning. We never quite qualified as bona fide unschoolers (although I was quite attracted to radical unschooling as a philosophy) but nor did we fully qualify as traditional homeschoolers, since we often had very relaxed periods and largely went with the flow depending on the children’s interests, but with formal book-learning available as a foundation.

This post, originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, details the ebb and flow of projects-based learning in this flexible framework.

“If anyone asks, we use Sonlight curriculum, which is an American, literature-based curriculum. Originally designed for American ex-pats and missionaries, with a ‘big world’ focus. In practice, we often go off at tangents to study areas of interest which capture the children’s imagination, or to cover UK history, or (more often than not) because I’ve been snared by other literature selections (Ambleside Online, Tanglewood, Winter Promise, to name but a few) and can’t resist adding to our library.

Sonlight grade 5 which I’m using with Dragon-tamer is entitled “Eastern Hemisphere” or “Non-Western Cultures”, and as part of our Sonlight studies, we’ve looked at the Pacific Islands, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, North and South Korea and China.

The way I deal with this cross-curricular study which,, being aimed at grade 5 and designed to be suitable primarily for ages 11 or so+, is to break it up into areas of study (easy with Sonlight 5 as it is already neatly divided into countries, but I’ve done it with the lower grades too) and do projects, themes or ‘unit studies’ so that all the children can get involved to whatever degree they’re interested. In addition to reading Sonlight’s literature selections, we take out additional books from the library, we make maps, sometimes 3D models, dress up in national costumes, cook and eat traditional foods, sometimes write little books or make lapbooks and other incidental activities.

Some of these projects have been really popular, especially with the younger children; notably, Australia and New Zealand. Dragon-Tamer was particularly interested in Japan (and scared me for a while talking about wanting to learn Japanese!) Others I have really struggled to get any interest going. Hence, I realise, Sonlight 5 (designed as a one-year curriculum) has now taken us 2 years, and we are only on week 18 (out of 36 – a US school year)! I have been talking for months about finishing up on our China project and moving on to the next projects, but for some reason we’ve all really dragged our feet. We still haven’t finished all the Sonlight books on China (though at the beginning we took extra books out from the library). Right now we’re reading a biography of Eric Liddell – Olympic champion and missionary to China. All the books have been fine and good and we’ve enjoyed them, but somehow I don’t think I can face another book about China! Should we skip the rest, save them for later, or take a(nother) break from Sonlight?

When a friend suggested doing a project on Rivers (which, actually I had wanted to do for years but for some reason had never got round to) I jumped at the chance! I have spent most of my free moments over the last weekend brainstorming and planning how we might cover a Rivers Project. We have one of England’s longest rivers running close by, my maps are prepared, and I’m keen for any plan of study that will take us on a trip to the sea! Ah, but now Pony-rider has announced that she actually wants to do a project on South America, please, so it looks as though the river we’ll be looking at is the Amazon. Okay, back to the drawing board…”

And so we proceeded to develop a new project of our own on South America that created memories that still resonate with us all even today.

It is possible to purchase a pre-packaged, prepared unit study that has joined all the dots and made all the connections between the subjects for you. But we found that this kind of fluid way of learning suited us well, and when you see the ‘dots’ and make the ‘connections’ for yourself, the information is that much more deeply learned and remembered.

john holt quote

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Ohana Home Education Yahoo Group

When I started home educating, the internet was fairly new, and so at the time (1999) the main source of networking between home educators was ‘e-groups’ which eventually got taken over by Yahoo groups.

I know that almost everybody now has migrated over to Facebook, but although I am obviously there (and Ohana Home Education has a presence there), I’m not a big fan and don’t particularly like entrusting photos or files to them, and so while lots of yahoo groups now stand empty or quiet, I have decided to revive one of my groups as a handy place to store files and links that may be of use to home educators.

ohana

The group is, surprisingly enough, is called Ohana Home Education and you can find it here: https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/OhanaHE/info

There are already lots of files and links there. Mainly they are related to lapbooking, unit studies, home economics and some religious topics (mainly relating to Messianic Judaism, celebrating the festivals, cooking etc.), but I hope in future to add resources and worksheets on all other topics, and anybody is free to contribute.

It is not particularly meant to be a discussion/ support group, although if it does get used that way it would also be OK. But there are of course lots of other places online (especially, inevitably, on Facebook) for that sort of thing. One of these days I will get round to making a list of the most helpful groups.

So please do go on over and take a look, and if you would like to join to contribute/ make use of what is there, please do make sure to confirm when you apply that you are a home educator. Feel free to suggest as well the topics that you would like to see there.

I know that, when I was first home educating, I very much appreciated the resources that other home educators had made available for free, so it is all good to make sure that there are free resources still available for a new generation of home educators.