Friday, 27 September 2013

Curriculums V Do it Yourself

The long summer break is over and Michelmas term has begun (when near Oxford...!) and most children, home educated or schooled, are back to lessons and timetables.

A question close to my heart, which I am often asking myself, is whether following a curriculum, like the Catholic American courses, would be easier/simpler/ more beneficial than making it up as we go along...Many long hours have been spent with a dear friend debating and discussing this question. So far we have both held off from using any bought curriculas and  prefer to choose our own books, often spending hours writing lessons for children of varying ages, and then of course comes the laborious task of (finally!) marking these lessons...(if they can be found!)
A sacrifice it is..and there are times I can certainly clearly see and feel it to be the best way for our family, yet it is an arduous way of 'teaching' and one wonders about the (vast?) gaps in the children's education.

For me I felt it was imperative to follow the British system, after all we do live in England and it would  ideally make it simpler for the children to carry onto further education if this is what they sought, and to allow them to get used to the examination system. Sitting exams is no easy feat. My small amount of experience has shown me to never be too presumptuous! Children often can surprise you...a child may be claiming A grades in all their subjects yet suddenly fall to bits in an exam and come out with a C. This, of course, is demoralising although also something to learn from. Yet the English system does prepare them for later exams, like A levels and University, or even exams they may need to sit in places of work.

Honestly speaking I always liked the idea of being free to choose exactly what my children learn (after all isn't this one of the main reasons for home education?) - from what literature they read (thank God we never have to worry about our daughters bringing home Jacqueline Wilson books from the school library!) to which Maths course best suited them. I researched so many educational books  and still find myself today opening a long awaited package only to feel great disappointment as it wasn't quite what I was expecting. And then there are times one finds a jewel of a book which becomes a firm favourite and is handed down from child to child.

The American curriculas (Kolbe Academy {my favourite}, Seton, Our Lady of Victory) are all immensely sound and Catholic.  One can feel completely at ease, knowing their child will only ever be exposed to truly Catholic books and not only that; there are lesson plans, teachers at the end of the phone and  even someone to mark their lessons, advise and help! All for a price, of course, but many parents feel justified in this and rightly so. I can see the attraction (after doing it alone for the eldest children it is now becoming even more of a pull  for my two younger sons!) yet something holds me back. (That cherished book, the freedom of choice in what they learn, the cost?)

It would definitely make my life easier, and possibly some day we may buy a course or curriculum and give it a try, but for now I rather like making my own decisions, searching for a special book...(just recently my aforementioned dear friend showed me her latest find - a beautiful English book of prose and poetry which to me was like being shown a precious jewel (but affordable!) and I feel such excitement knowing it is in the post!) Collecting different books from various places and mixing and matching is my idea of  enjoyment! Designing a timetable for my 14yr old son has, so far, been quite illuminating. He's following three IGCSE courses too, but this time I am trying to read along with him and write him instructions. It still means using the faithful answer books (I would be lost without Maths and science answer books ; Deo Gratias for them!) and much time creating timetables but I feel it is a worthwhile usage of time. If all else fails, it's off to Kolbe Academy for him!

As with which course to choose, whether to go to University or sixth form, all our children are different and unique and each precious one will require different means and ways of learning and educating. Whether it is a hand written comprehension on 'Beowulf' or a classics lesson from Kolbe, each way has it's advantages for our children- their souls are safe and they are living within the Domestic Church.   - Kolbe Academy   -  Our Lady of Victory  - Seton Home Study  - Fisher More Academy - This was previously known as Regina Coeli and has now been taken over and sounds exceptionally exciting..I will write a post on this college very soon. Ss Thomas More and John Fisher, Orate Pro Nobis!