Follow our family's journey as we seek to nourish our souls with music and literature, good company, great cooking, time spent in nature, and always, the love of Christ especially through the sacraments of His Church.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Choosing Educational Materials

Now I know a lot of you already have this locked up for the coming school year, but I'm still in the trenches here. I have nothing brilliant to say, really. Just a big vent about how hard this is!!

Before this year I have always pieced together a plan using materials we already had. I have almost all of the materials from when my mom was teaching us, plus lots of things people have given me over the years. It adds up to lots of stuff. I am tired of the random bits and pieces, plus I want to target the kids' individual needs and our unique family goals more particularly. So I have been poring over catalogs, websites and blogs. Such lovely plans and materials! I really enjoyed Sarah's latest plan here.

The world is just filled with wonderful things with which to build an atmosphere of learning. At the same time, I feel that simplicity is key. It's easy to "over-plan", but if you're overwhelmed with stuff, even the good things get lost in the shuffle and everyone burns out. Planning too far ahead is another concern of mine, since we like to change direction as needed. So my goal is a few well-chosen supplies, a simple routine and lots of real life to make it connect.

Wouldn't it be nice if money were no object? But even if that were the case, how would I decide? I have to admit that I go for beauty as well as content. It is so much nicer to hold and use a visually lovely, well-made book with a nice weight and feel. I also look for a layout with plenty of white space for an uncluttered feel, as well as appealing images throughout. Because I am so visual myself, I really pay attention to this part of my quest. It's a little tricky to do from a distance. Unfortunately, when I had the chance to actually handle materials at our local (!!!) homeschool conference in June, I spent all my time gabbing with friends and didn't pay enough attention to the vendor tables. Maybe next year!

Along with beauty, as I mentioned, content is the main concern. I love the internet for reading reviews and hearing the experiences of others. Often, a peek at the inside of the books is available as well - so helpful. I ask opinions of other homeschooling moms I know, particularly if they're gifted or trained in a subject I need. Knowing my kids and what they respond to, it's not too hard to get a feel for what may work for us. I'm looking for: age appropriate, faith-centered, imaginative, non-fluffy and, again, simple. materials. The more literature-based, the better, from my perspective. Stories make information come alive! (And it's just easier on me that way, let's be honest.)

When all is said and done, though, many times it comes down to trial and error. Sometimes, a program may look great on paper but just doesn't work out the way you'd expect. That's when I am thankful for used materials! I always check to see if I can get it for less than new, so it's easier to let it go or pass it on if necessary. And if it's something we love, we can feel good that we got a great deal on it.

Some things I do need, and new, are some higher quality art supplies. Our first two kids are not the least bit artistically inclined, but I'd like to make sure that it's not due to lack of materials. Good materials are just so much more inspiring. It's OK if they don't become great artists, because then all the supplies can be mine and I can play with them as much as I like! Back to the browsing... I hope to share some details before long.

If you are schooling, what are you excited about trying this year??

photo credit

1 comment:

  1. We are interest-led learners, and my kids are only 4, but we read tons and tons of books. Then I see what topics really catch their attention and then I bring in more great things about that topic or others very closely related. I find DVDs, games, community and world events and cultural activities and see what they'd like to do.

    I don't have an outline or plan made ahead of time. We go with a topic until it's played itself out (which sometimes lasts months and months). I love to go to thrift stores and load up on materials of both things the kids are interested in and new things I know they haven't explored yet.