As the school year gets underway, we are learning and growing and trying new things. I’ve been meaning to post more about some curriculum and strategies we’ve used in homeschooling and, in particular, in homeschooling a child with dyslexia– but it’s been hard to find the time because…well….I’m homeschooling. I had a moment, so I thought I’d get as much down as I could.
First of all, as I mentioned in this post, we have been using a program called K12 for some of our schooling. I’ll start this group of school posts with an honest critique of K12, from the point of view of a Christian homeschooler.
In our state, K12 is a free program available to homeschoolers through a local school district. It is technically a “Public School” and as such, Youngest is enrolled as a public school student. The upside to this is that there is a teacher available to answer questions, and as a public school they have to offer help to students who have learning challenges– which means we have had some resources that would otherwise have been expensive and difficult to obtain. The downside is that we have a few hoops we have to jump through. The main drawback (in my opinion) is that we have to do the standardized testing each year, for the subjects that we are using the K12 program. Other than showing up for the testing, which is located in schools or libraries, and going to arranged field trips if we choose to do so, we do not ever have to engage in “school” anywhere other than our home and we are able (at least in our state) to exercise a great deal of freedom in how we use the program. If you are interested, here is a link to check if your state offers K12 as a free public school program. I should add right here and now that if it’s not offered free, I would not recommend buying it! It’s good, but it’s a very expensive program otherwise and for the money I’d go with a good Christian-based program instead.
We have used this program for long enough to have formed some opinions of it…by and large, I think it’s a great program in many ways. First of all, you get an amazing amount of learning “stuff” for free. Check out this post for photos of what we received for Kindergarten! They offer an excellent and fun secular school program in grades K through 4, full of hand-on learning, colorful examples, and good books (they do offer classes through High School, I’ll talk a little more about that later). Part of the program is done online through an easy-to use program, and the rest is done with traditional books, workbooks, and projects. If we could afford to buy any program we wanted, we might have used something else. But we have been thankful for being able to use some K12 classes for free and we have been happy with many aspects of the program.
Our family has the option to only use part of the program, in some states you must use all subjects to enroll in K12 and if that were the case for us we would probably not be using it at this point. I am using K12’s Language Arts, Math and Science right now for Youngest, she does Bible study and History with the older kids using a curriculum I’ll describe later. I have found that K12’s Phonics curriculum is especially good, they use many of the techniques we have been learning with our reading specialist and you would pay hundreds of dollars to find a program equal to this one elsewhere. For my child with learning challenges, it has been a great program–just what you need to build a very solid base in Phonics. I should add here that the older children were reading before they started school and would not have needed the depth that the K12 program offers…they did fine with the old standby, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. If you were using the K12 program for a typical child, you would probably want to skip much of the repetition in the lessons.
K12 has recently renovated their early elementary math program, and the changes have been great! They have added some fun online games and animations to help teach math concepts, and the workbook texts are colorful and easy to work with. The program comes with a ton of fun manipulatives. The math program teaches concepts that help children develop critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of how math works, which helps children learn to enjoy and understand math in later years. There are programs out there that teach math in ways that are better for visual learners or kids who don’t like math or have problems with it (Math U See is a great visual-learning program we’re using for Middle Child) but so far we are enjoying the K12 Math with Youngest.
We have done both Science and History through K12 in the past and, while both are good programs and much more in-depth than a typical program in public school would be, I have chosen to do History with a different curriculum (Youngest sits in on her older siblings’ lessons) and will be doing Science with another program after 3ed grade. I just want a more Biblical view of both subjects, and I also really enjoy the Classical Education approach. We have used Sonlight and Winter Promise for History core, which includes Language Arts. I feel that the programs used in both Sonlight and WP are better for writing skills, grammar, and communication…and offer far better options for literature and a global, cross-cultural view of History. Both programs also offer an in depth Biblical, Christian viewpoint and excellent a Bible Study component (I will write more on this in the next post).
But I digress. K12’s Science program is fun and comes with all sorts of great things…for example, Second Grade Science came with a magnet set, many books about different science subjects, a rock collection, a spring scale, pulley, thermometers, and many other supplies for various simple experiments. The program offers a good, simple overview of Science for young children. Due to the secular nature of the program we add a lot of our own lessons and opinions to K12’s science (I do all the lessons alongside Youngest) and we have her listen in on the older kids programs. K12 does offer the option in the lower grades to opt out of the unit on Evolution, which gives you the option to teach your own unit in its place. We will be changing to Abeka or Apologia science once Youngest is done with the Third Grade program. Again, if money is tight and you can get K12 for free, it’s a great place to start. If I had to pay for the program, however, I would have gone with Sonlight’s science programs instead…which also offer all the supplies needed and are a lot of fun.
In my opinion (and my kids will fully back me up on this!) by 4th grade, the K12 program starts to feel like a public school classroom…boring, repetitive, and full of extraneous worksheets. I also feel that the early years in K12 offer comparatively very in depth information and an overall better education than traditional schools, but in the upper grades the program just doesn’t cover as much or do it as well as other homeschool curriculums. Unfortunately, I think that a big part of the drop off in educational value may be because they have to follow public school standards and they begin to “teach to the test” much more at that point (just my opinion). By the end of third grade, my older kids were starting to get bored with the program and learning wasn’t fun at that point. We switched curriculum, and my kids started enjoying school again. I learned from this that for us it’s fine to use K12 for the subjects that it’s strong in, as long as it’s working for the particular kid at the particular level they are working at. It’s also fine to stop using it when it stops being helpful. If you use K12, be sure to remember that the curriculum is there to serve you, and if it’s not serving your kids well then by all means don’t feel bad about changing to something else. Because it’s a secular program, you’ll also want to make sure that you are doing plenty of Bible and Christian education in all your other subjects that are not K12.
With this in mind, by 4th grade, we have dropped all K12 classes and phase full time into WP or Sonlight. At that point we have had the younger kids sit in on our our History read-alouds and do the projects that the older kids are doing with their History Core, so the transition is smooth…the History Core is done all together, while the kids each have their own Language and Math and Science programs (which is were we use the K12). After 3ed grade, we will be combining Science for my younger 2 as well, and Youngest will join in the History/Language Arts core full time (with whatever accomodations we need to take into account for the reading issues) and graduate to a new math program.
Whew. If you made it this far, congrats! Of course, all this is my opinion only. Feel free to ask questions if you have them, in the comments or via email.