Thoughts on Homeschooling

Curriculum Review: His California Story by Lesha Meyers July 02 2015, 0 Comments

Brian and I (Teresa) love California.  It is the state my husband was born in.  To me (having grown up in Iowa) it was the "promised land" or "paradise", an exotic place I thought I would never get to go to.  When I moved I instantly fell in love with the weather, people and geography of California. Over the last 18 years of living in California I have grown appreciate this wonderful state's unique history.  It is obvious that Lesha Meyers had a similar love of California.  At least that's what seems to have come out in her California history curriculum, "His California Story". 

From the title we can see that Mrs. Meyers recognized history as God's story told through the actions of man.  This is indeed displayed in the book as Providential acts are highlighted.  On page 38, in The Explorer's Unit Mrs. Myers says, "One observation is clear no matter which explanation is correct: God, in His Providence, did not want San Francisco Bay to be discovered before the Spanish expedition of 1769.  If the bay had been discovered when Spain was at the height of its power, during the voyage of Cabrillo for example, California could have been settled sooner.   If Drake had discovered it, the area might have been colonized by the English.  In either of these situation, California might never have joined the United States."

The curriculum is also chock full of extra activities in each lesson.  Children cement into their memories the lessons that are studied through the experiences of acting out the story of Vizcaino's discovery of Monterey Bay, or making their own Bear Flag, or making and tasting coffee and hardtack (just to name a few).  There is also a very full list of historical sites to visit for each lesson.  Places like the various missions, Vallejo's home, Sutter fort, and Fort Ross are listed to help parents know where to bring the children to see the actual spots where God's story unfolded.  A history song is also included to help the children remember the important dates of California's history. 

One of the problems I had with this curriculum was that there were soooo many great activities and trips to do that we couldn't do them all.  But, I guess that's not really a weakness in the curriculum!

Our family greatly benefited from using "His California Story" for our children's study of our state.  Now to give you some important details of the curriculum:

- The complete curriculum consists of 3 books: "His California Story: In Christian Perspective", a "Teacher's Supplement for His California Story", and "Continuing the Journey" (additional essays on CA history). 

- "His California Story" is 222 pages long, contains 10 units, each unit consisting of 2 to 5 chapters.  The curriculum can be complete in 10 weeks or two years, depending on how many of the extra activities are completed.

- The "Teacher's Supplement" consists of 198 pages, broken up by chapter, with Lesson plan suggestions, Geography


How to Read a Book - Product Review May 24 2014, 0 Comments

When first I came across the book, How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, the question flashed through my mind, “Why would I read this book? I already know how to read a book.”  But amidst many jokes from my family, I got through the book!  And have a new appreciation for books.  

The books that How to Read a Book primarily deals with are non-fiction books that are written to increase the understanding of the reader, not just read for enjoyment.  There is a section for reading for fiction books also, though that it not the main focus of the book.

The author first lays out rules for reading, and then demonstrates how those rules will be adjusted based on the subject matter of the book (i.e. science vs. philosophy vs. history). These rules encourage the reader to both slow down and not skip important parts of the book such as the Table of Contents and the Preface. Additionally it is important to do a pre-read where the reader tries to understand the overall theme of the book before carefully reading and outlining the book.  Adler also instructs his readers how to look for main topics and basic outlines of each section of the book, thereby understanding the structure of the arguments which support the main theme.

Adler is a very logical thinker, and the book reads a bit like a step by step "how to" book.  However, this does not make it not engaging to read.  The author encourages the reader to use active reading to improve his understanding of the world around him, while evaluating an author's understanding of and ability to communicate his own understanding of the world.  As a reader you become part of a conversation, agreeing or disagreeing with the author, not based on feeling, but based on reasoned responses.  

I believe reading and analyzing a book in the way taught by Adler would help all students to better understand what they read and to better evaluate it according to scripture.  Books should be read skeptically, so we don't fall prey to vain philosophies, always with a view to evaluating them through the lens of God's Word.  Adler's book is an excellent tool that can aid parents and older readers how to more intelligently read a book.




Click here to buy How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler.

Confessions of a Curriculum Junkie March 03 2014, 0 Comments

I love curriculum.  Any and all of it.  I really don't care how big, small, glitzy, or plain it is.  I love the thrill of opening the newly delivered box of books.  I love hanging out at the curriculum store for hours, going up and down the isles seeing all the pretty books on a shelf (prettier to me - almost - than a garden full of colorful flowers).  I love thumbing through various brands of curriculum and comparing similar levels to each other.  Ok, I think you get the point.  I LOVE CURRICULUM. 

That's why when we heard of a curriculum store for sale, and we discussed the possibility of buying it, I was ecstatic!  Like a little girl in a candy store (only without the headache that would come from a sugar overdose).

You see, I used to love sharing my experiences with people who would ask me which curriculum we used for this or that.  As well as sharing all the research that I had done, the philosophy of X and the opposite philosophy of Y, I would explain why I thought each one that we used was the best of its category.

And then something changed.  I realized that everything I was sharing with others was founded on me; what I liked, what I thought fit our family the best.  I realized the best was not always the best after all.  I also realized that what I was sharing that we had done would overwhelm others (Hi, I'm Teresa, a recovering work-a-holic.)  What I had missed  in my years of "sharing" was explaining the foundation that my husband and I had.  I was sharing about great curriculum, literature, methods, etc., but forgetting to share the foundation (dare I say "core") of our curriculum.  That core is the Bible and building Godly character in the children.  Many different curriculum can be used to reach the same final goal.

Written by: Teresa