Curriculum

It occurred to me that I have neglected a rather important part of my ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘why’ line of questioning and before I get into the ‘how’ we’re going to be homeschooling this year, I feel like I should clarify the ‘where’. I know, I know, the obvious comes to mind: Well, obviously you’re homeschooling so you’re going to be at home! And while yes, that’s true, where I am geographically may help you understand connect with me better and I am all for building lasting connections. If you take your finger and put it on Nashville, Tennessee then move it almost due east for an inch or two you’d have me. I am not part of Nashville since I am no longer a resident of Davidson county but it’s the closest place geographically to where we live that most people will recognize so we’ll just go with that.

Why does this matter? Simple: I’m part of America’s Bible Belt, for better or worse. This is where I grew up, where I met the love of my life, where I brought my children into the world, where I have lived for the entirety of my life. Admittedly, I sincerely hope and suspect that we will live out of state some time in the future but for now – and for many, many generations – our family is here. Now, this may not seem worth mentioning to most of you but really, it means everything if you didn’t gloss over my last post about ‘why’ we’re homeschooling. If you did, don’t worry. I’ll sum it up: I’m living in the Bible Belt and I am not using religion as the basis for our homeschool.

That makes it incredibly hard to have a conversation with other homeschoolers in the area, nearly impossible to find a co-op or tutorial in easy/reasonable driving distance. In other words it makes homeschooling rather isolating. Yes, I can and have in the past omitted the part where we’re secular homeschoolers (and no, I don’t use that term lightly which is why I haven’t used it yet) merely to connect with other homeschooling parents in a social aspect. But honestly? It’s exhausting. Last year it was easy to say “Well, I haven’t just found the right curriculum yet so I went ahead and made my own,” which lead to a conversation from the sympathetic homeschooler that yes, it’s difficult, here’s our favorite! But every time I looked into their suggestions, one word seemed to be in bold letters and integrated into ever conceivable subject: BIBLE.

Please let me be clear: I do not have anything against Christians or any other religion. I just don’t want my curriculum based around these beliefs.Bluntly, they don’t belong in our homeschool room. I need to be able to stand behind what I’m teaching wholly and anything that is faith-based is just an automatic no for me. If my husband chooses (and he has) to teach our children his beliefs, he understands that if asked I will be honest and direct with my children even if that completely contradicts what he says. It isn’t a right or wrong discussion for us, we are accepting and tolerant of each other’s view points and are trying to teach our children to be that way also.

Unfortunately we haven’t found other like-minded individuals. Most people that I have ‘confessed’ our choices to nod and quietly disappear back into the homeschool networking woodwork. I do not meet their criteria as a human being so we are, for lack of a better term, ignored. It doesn’t matter how well our children play together, how polite, kind, and caring we are. My personal views and our family’s decision to keep school and religion separate, even at home, has ostracized us. We have been found lacking. Even finding extra curricular activities – such as dance and piano – without a religious slant has been nearly impossible this far from the metropolis that is Nashville.

It’s hard. It’s lonely. But it’s doable. And if our first year of homeschooling has taught me anything, it’s that for us to be recognized for the wonderfully loving individuals that we are, we are going to have to break out of our comfort zone and travel more. More trips to the zoo and the homeschool classes held there, more trips to the science museums during the day, during the week in hopes of making connections and building friendships.

With that in mind, I set about looking for a secular curriculum that would work with the resources we had close-by (within an hour driving distance) as well as a curriculum that would be flexible for our travel needs. It wouldn’t do me any good to find a curriculum that has my children sitting for hours – that’s not how they or I operate. We’re movers, doers, shakers, artists, dancers, singers. We don’t want to be stuck at home day after day! We need something mobile and engaging. Luckily I stumbled across Torchlight Curriculum thanks to a secular homeschool group discussion on Facebook and immediately fell in love. This literature based secular curriculum made my heart soar. Engineer and Free Spirit love books – I honestly don’t think I’ve ever met any children who don’t love having stories read to them but these kiddos really -love- stories. The discussions we’ve had during and after reading a story have genuinely been some of the most thought provoking and enlightening conversations I’ve ever had with my kids.

Torchlight Curriculum was also something else: affordable. I don’t know where you may be on your own homeschooling adventure but I have noticed, the more I look into things the more expensive they seem to be. I did not start homeschooling my children to save money and I knew I would need to invest in them as students and myself as a teacher but seriously – where do most homeschooling parents get the money to start homeschooling? Are you all independently wealthy? Have a side-gig you use to pay for everything? I’m obviously missing some part of the equation as a new homeschooling momma because wow. Sticker shock. Since Torchlight tells you upfront what the booklist for the school year is (even before you purchase the curriculum for the year), I was able to go ahead and see what books I had on hand and start making a list of which books I would need to acquire and which ones I could borrow from friends or the library. Super helpful!

As I mentioned last time, we spent most of last year unschooling – letting the children decompress after three years of Montessori preschool and following their direction in some of the things they wanted to learn. I let go of my standards and the standards I felt I needed to meet and helped them rekindle their love of learning. This time last year, they would have fought me tooth in nail to do any sort of writing/workbook/etc. but for the past two days they’ve been so excited to start school that they’ve begged me for some school work. Same children. Same environment. But they needed the space to just breathe and do things that they wanted instead of things I thought they needed to do. In giving them their freedom, I helped them develop and deepen their natural concentration. It’s a beautiful thing.

This year we’ll be starting fresh. Both children are going to be doing Torchlight Level K. I bought the curriculum back in June and have been pouring over it ever since and honestly, I think I made the right choice for this year. It’s an easily adaptable curriculum, meaning I can either take it down a notch if I need to for Free Spirit or take it up two notches for Engineer. I will go ahead and warn you that Torchlight is not a ‘complete’ curriculum. It does have Language Arts (literature, poetry, some reading and writing suggestions), art and music, social studies and culture, and some science. It does not come with a math program although it does suggest Right Start Math or a reading/writing program although it suggests Logic of English Foundations and the Rhythm of Handwriting. I decided not to go with those options merely because they were too expensive.

Instead, I have cobbled together my own additions mainly thanks to used curriculum sale sites. For math, we’ll be using some workbooks that I found at the Target Dollar Spot as well as Khan Academy. If this proves not to be substantial enough, we’ll be going with Singapore Math. For science, Torchlight recommends Be Naturally Curious (which we have purchased already) and I’ll be taking out a subscription to DIY Sci’s subscription box. To add some extra depth for Engineer, we went ahead and bought Curiosity Chronicles for history/social studies and culture. And for reading and writing, we’re adding Handwriting Without Tears and All About Spelling, plus some other things I had on hand from last year.

Next Monday (August 6th) marks our first day of homeschooling for this year (August 2018 – May 2019). In an effort to spend time on something fun and ease into the schedule I have mentally set up for us, we’re going to be doing a week that I’ve affectionately named “Universal Address”. We’re going to be doing a review of the solar system as well as a few fun solar system inspired experiments that are best done during the warmer months. This week is not part of the Torchlight Curriculum, it’s something I’ve added based on our past experiences homeschooling and Engineer and Free Spirit’s interests. I hope you’ll join us as we ‘officially’ start next week! I may get a chance to hop on this weekend to quickly describe how I’m going to try and keep my head on straight (organization) while we conquer Level K, the proposed daily schedule, or how I have our homeschooling things organized (it’s taken me weeks!) – but I make no promises. Life. Beautifully, messy, real life.

Have an amazing weekend. Light and love~

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