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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

An Alternative Curriculum

Ever since I held our first born daughter in my arms I knew I was going to want to home school our children. I’ve never looked back on the decision, although I have to admit, we’ve had our number of struggles with what curriculum to use and what approach to take.
This was especially true with my second daughter. She was the one who usually had her head in a workbook. Those early years when I thought schoolwork had to be painful and forced meant she wrote her answers with tears streaming down her face. When I finally had the inner realisation that I wanted my children to love learning and have the passion for it to keep learning their whole life, in some ways I had to de-school my second daughter. We turned to creative living and unschooling as an approach for her. She is imaginative, creative, passionate and very tactile. Why read about it when you can play with it, why study and memorise? For her, it has to have life breathed into it so her very spirit sings out with it.
But, with an older sister, who is very pragmatic and academic, it was hard for my creative spirit girl to find a groove. I turned around to find our free floating approach leaving her feeling like she wasn’t smart enough to do “normal work.” It’s fine to tell someone that they work differently, but in the long run, they will look for proof of what they can do.
And then, there was Oak Meadow.
My daughter and I have eyed Oak Meadow for quite sometimes, tiptoeing in and then wondering if it would work for her. But now, with her in Grade 8 and she’s been forcing herself to do workbooks she HATED or programs that barely made sense, she’s felt ahead in some areas and then behind in others, she’s craved a structure, a method, a way to turn around each day and say “yes, I learnt this today and now I am done my lesson.” I tried her on some standard structured programs, but it was dull for her multicoloured mind. Oak Meadow was to be the solution.
Oak Meadow is a Waldorf inspired curriculum with a difference. Its nature and projected based, with lessons in classical literature and approaches, but it also interweaves common core outcomes in all it does. Subjects flow in and out of each other, so to keep a child’s interest and yet achieve the right outcomes and it does so with a sense of grace and beauty you can literally feel it enrich a child’s world when they open each lesson.
Our grade 7 curriculum arrived yesterday and my daughter’s eyes (ok... my eyes as well) sparkled with the excitement of unpacking it.
We chose to do the Grade 7 curriculum for its content. It's world history provides the student with everything from Shakespeare to Amelia Earhart and Martin Luther King, flowing beautifully together with explorations in classical music and art. Projects that have caught my eye in the first perusal include memorising Shakespeare verse, presenting a scene on film, interviewing survivors of WW11, diary entries of historical times, film reviews, as well as an array of essay topics and reports. From what I’ve noticed so far the student is given a choice for each assignment and it can range from creative and artistic to a more traditional essay standard. The English syllabus provides a foundation to support the world history projects, including grammar instruction and words to compile for spelling reviews and proof reading. Science is beautifully laid out, covering some review topics from years before to then launch into astronomy and observation work.
The math is divided in two books, one with instruction and one as a workbook, with a hefty amount of practice sheets so the student feels comfortable and confident before heading to the next topic. Math has always been my girl’s terror subject and she’s been nervous for this official curriculum for that reason. It’s also another reason we ordered a grade lower. Strangely, though, when I look at my local school’s concept of what grade 8 contains, Oak Meadow’s grade 7 covers most of it anyway, proving that it’s a solid academic choice and my daughter is getting a great stepping stone in her education.
From the binding which looks like a traditional spine but is actually spiral bound underneath to the little touches like the small wooden plane to assemble during the study of first flights, we haven’t even properly started and I’m ecstatic!  I’m sure there will be challenges along the way, as my daughter has to go through the growing steps in finding her own rhythm in learning and creating the routine she was desiring. Sometimes, what we say we want looks different when we actually get it, but still, she has been desiring what she knows she needs. The satisfaction is going to be awe-inspiring!
I’m often asked about curriculums for homeschooling and I’ll be doing a number of reviews regarding this one as my daughter progresses through it. We’re starting late in the year, but that’s the homeschooling journey I guess. 
Summer school isn’t such a bad thing when learning is fun.

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