While I am perfectly happy with Time4Learning.com for the lower school education of my kids, I am not really pleased with their upper school. Why? Because I AM a middle school teacher, and I know I can do better than read the book/answer the questions.
And with all the free resources out there, why shouldn't I? I love creating lessons. I love teaching. I think I can make fun lessons that the kids can "log into" online the same as they do onto Time4Learning, but for free. That's what Learning Lynx (my other blog) was supposed to be. It just got dropped during our move, and I guess I'm ready to get going again.
So I sat down to think it through and came up with a few guidelines on teaching my own children school lessons:
#1) Learning is fun.
#2) I can do it better than the public schools.
#3) We can take the 13th Article of Faith as our guide: "If there is anything hvirtuous,ilovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." The purpose of elementary education is not stuffing heads with facts, but exposure to everything good and giving kids the chance to discover their own talents.
#4) The Truth (and Resources) are out there. Education should be free to all--and somewhere online I can find the resources to teach ANY subject kids need to learn, and teach it well.
#5) K-6, they're gonna do it all again, anyway, so if they learn to read and get their math, nothing else content-wise matters, only that there is content and that we don't destroy #1.
#6) Concepts over detail. No need to memorize dates, facts, etc (except in math). They won't retain it anyway. Did you? Better to teach concepts and How to Find Information. Then if they need to know the Year the Revolutionary War Ended, they can look it up. Just like you have to. (In other words, memorizing minutiae is a complete waste of time, and time is too precious to waste).
Given that, I decided there are only 4 areas that need to be covered. Math, Science, Social Science, and Humanities.
We got math covered. I'm happy with pre-K--level 2 math with Time4Learning. After that, we hit Saxon 54 and move forward with Saxon (Did you know you can put the math facts into a google docs "form" and email it to your students, and they can fill it out online and hit "submit" and the answers are automatically inserted into a spreadsheet, making it easy to check the answers? Very cool, huh.)
I think it's a mistake to group the Humanities as "Social Studies" and "Art" like public schools do. The social/soft sciences, like Psychology, Sociology, Political Science/Government, Economics, and Anthropology should be taught. But they don't need to be mixed with history, which is better paired with the rest of the humanities. Humanities traditionally covers the arts, literature, history, music--things that humans produce and their history. It is, I suppose, the archaic way of saying "social studies" (see the similarities--Human-ities?), but then social studies came along so kids could study the social sciences as well as the social arts, and it got to be a big mess.
Anyway, what I want to do is create lessons that approach history from the story perspective instead of the dates of military movements perspective. I prefer to take each of the eras in human history and discuss it from two perspectives: What life was like then and What happened then--both in the arts and in the political sphere. Wouldn't the US Revolution, for example, stick with elementary school kids so much better if we ditched the memorizing dates and names and instead talked about life in that time period (eating the foods, seeing the clothes and houses, etc) and then what mattered to people, what made them angry, what they could do about things to improve their lives, what they did, who the leaders were, etc. As a great story--because it IS a great story. So why not teach it that way, complete with not only the major plot points, but with the plot, characters, setting, and remembering that "plot" means "problem and solution". It's an incredibly appealing approach and encompasses all the arts, literature, etc.
The idea that's mulling around in my brain is to take up to a whole year to study an epoch, like the Renaissance, and do all the humanities, history of science, literature, etc all together in one big context for the Humanities portion of the schooling. And then do other things we want to learn about (Math, geography, sciences, etc) too.
Likewise, from my perspective (as a non scientist), there seem to be 5 branches of science we should study: Earth Science, Physical Science (matter and energy, mostly), Life Science, Astronomy, and Human Science (which I know is a part of life science, but warrants separate study by children so they understand health, nutrition, physiology, etc). Why study, for example, weather (which all elementary students do over and over) without putting it in the greater context of earth science, with geology, paleontology, oceanography, etc? It seems like they are so intertwined that it is more effective to use the macro instead of micro approach to learning.
Social Sciences I might take from a more traditional "topics" basis. Mixing Government and Psychology is some sort of meta-socialscience doesn't seem beneficial at this level.
So I'm revamping Learning Lynx (mentally first, and then in actuality). I think I might use it as a forum to post my children's lessons for the day so that other parents can use them, too. It just depends on how much energy I have, how much motivation, how much time.
After all, one of the reasons we homeschool, some of us, is to follow our educational whims. And some days that means harvesting the grapes and making grape juice with grandma on the farm instead of getting online and "doing lessons".
Of course, if I succeed at this, the lessons will be so fun, the kids will look forward to doing them!