I am now beginning my fifteenth year in homeschooling so I feel well qualified to tell you how our homeschool has evolved into the eclectic approach. My oldest daughter, Laura, graduated from homeschool high school in 2002 and from a one year Bible college in 2003.However, I am still homeschooling my son Stephen, aged 15 for tenth grade and my daughter Mary aged 10 for fourth grade.
Over the years I have tried many different curricula and eventually I just learned to stick with what works for both myself and my children. I also learned that there is no such thing as the "perfect" curriculum. Each curriculum has its pros and cons for you as the mom, and from the kids perspective and of course from a cost standpoint. I do know this, kids will learn if you are faithful do school work daily, regardless of the curriculum.
Laura and I consumed three different reading curricula before she ever really "took off" with her reading. I found myself in tears and she right along with me. I learned that I needed to be free to admit something was not working without tears and free try something else if what we were doing wasn't working. A mother's willingness to make mid course curriculum corrections alone can transform her homeschool from drudgery for mom and kids to a school characterized by happiness, delight, satisfaction and joy.
In our search for reading curriculum for Laura we eventually settled on the self-paced ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum and supplemented the workbooks with unit studies offerred for homeschoolers on Fridays and other hands on outside our home activities such as Awana, Brownies, and choir to fill out her schedule.
We make lots of trips to the library, faithfully spending portions of each day doing read-alouds selected from whatever recommended reading lists I can find. We always find that we need to invest in good literature for our own family library as a supplement to what we could find at the public library. To this day, all the children love family read aloud time, especially the 19 year old.
As the years progressed, Saxon math became the math curriculum of choice for our family. I instantly fell in love with the Saxon method gently develops concepts, and the practices those concepts are continually reviewed. I like how concepts are introduced in easily understandable pieces or increments and how these two features are combined with continual review throughout the year. I especially like how Saxon is a complete math package, including the score keys, drills sheets, and solutions manuals for the upper gradesl.
For many years we used ACE Language Arts even though I felt it was very weak in teaching writing and composition. I had always believed that using Living Books was the best way to teach language arts but I needed something to show me how to do this. Since we believe that language arts and writing are critical life skills to be mastered, I struggled for years to find a comprehensive curriculum that addresses reading, spelling, writing, grammar all in one instead of independent subjects that I could easily administer and the kids would like. After many years of struggle, we finally discovered Learning Language Arts through Literature, and Total Language Plus curriculum.
I instantly fell in love with these curricula because they teach spelling, writing, grammar, reading, comprehension and vocabulary through the use of great, age appropriate literature or Living Books. What I like best about these curricula is that a minimum of my time is needed to administer the curriculum. Again, these curricula meet my criteria of minimal preparation time and supervision and the kids enjoy the material.
We have used Life Pacs and ACE paces for science and history for years, but I always wanted to find something more interesting that utilizes Living Books. The best thing I have found to meet this criteria that works for me has been a series of curricula called Literature Approach to History. Although, the Literature Approach takes a little bit more of my time than I normally can devote to one student I found my youngest daughter has responded enthusiastically.
We find that this curriculum enables us to incorporate Notebooking into our homeschool, as well as Living Books. I am not a natural Notebooker type, but I find that notebooking in conjunction with academic work lays the foundation of important lifeskills with potential applications to all areas of life.
Although my high school level children have completed most of their science and history using Life pacs, we have easily enriched the dry Life Pacs by supplementing their studies with quality historical fiction books and audio tapes which reinforce their love of learning.
Over the years, we have invested in Your Story Hour and Principles of America audio tapes. This relatively small investment has paid huge dividends in enjoyment, and learning and teaches the children to utilize free time with constructive activity and independent learning so mom is free to accomplish all of her many other responsibilities.
Another part of our family's eclectic approach to home education has been to acquire and invest into quality literature for all ages and reading levels. Finding lists of good literature has been my mission for years. One of the best new resources that I wish had been available fifteen years ago is a great spiral bound book called Who Should We Then Read by Jan Bloom, a homeschool mom of three high school and college graduates. Jan is an expert on quality literature worth investing in for the family library. Her inexpensive book will save you countless hours of hunting and dollars wasted on substandard literature.
Although we didn't set out to be Eclectic homeschoolers, we learned over the years that we needed to invest in curriculum and materials that work for the whole family including a busy mom with business responsibilities. Don't be afraid to try a variety of curriculum, don't be afraid to scrap what doesn't work and recycle it in a Used Curriculum fair or other used book exchanges. Commit your way to the Lord and you will be able to persevere and finish the race. Happy Home Schooling!!!