When it comes to homeschooling, the curriculum is the most important tool. You can either adopt complete curriculum packages, combine curriculum materials and curriculum guides or create your own course of study. I tried all three.
I adopted some Homeschool packages when I first homeschooled my first
child, and subscribed curriculum from US Christian organizations because
Christians were the main homeschool providers during the late 1990s.
After using a few of them, I am now more confident of what I want for my
children. Here is what I did when I homeschooled my children, it may
or may not be useful for everyone. Please remember every child is
different, so I hope that you will adapt accordingly.
I believe any syllabus from any education system is great, that is if we as parents execute them properly. I mix and try a bunch of stuff from various institutions. Here they are:
I started homeschooling DD1
when she was 4 years old. She was doing K-2 (Kindergarten to Grade 2)
work. She was already picking up books from Popular and wanted to do
them, so I decided to enrol her in a homeschool system (CLASS
http://www.homeschools.org/whatIsCLASS/index.html) and took her through
one year. That was in year 2001.
DD2 was homeschooled when I took her out of Primary 5 in her school. Both DD1 and DD2 wanted to travel and do sports that year and I wanted to support them on that. Nevertheless, the school teacher dissuaded me from homeschooling DD1 because it was her PSLE year and told me she would have missed out a lot. She was in her school's top class, and I wasn't sure what she would have missed, but in any case, she missed out a few good sports trips that DD2 went on. That was in year 2008.
Last year, I homeschooled DD2, DS2 and DS3 when we all left to join the older kids overseas while the latter do their university courses. In 6 months, DD2 completed her pre-university studies and started university. She mostly self-directed her own studies, which included preparing for standardized exams meant for 18 year olds. She was 14 when she made it to the university.
DS2 was P6 last year, so was to take PSLE, but we skipped that because we were not in Singapore. Instead, I put him on the US High School Diploma which he finished with a good GPA. But as I felt that education is more than academic studies, I continue to send him to a High School while he attends university classes.
My youngest son is 10 and the only one still being homeschooled. We'll likely keep his schedule till he is ready for university. I use the Singapore system for Maths, Chinese and Science (just like all my other children).
As my youngest child could not read or add at 7 years old, I started him on the US Kindergarten Math and Reading programs. (Stanford's EPGY). When he finished the Grade 6 and Grade 4 programs on EPGY, I started the syllables with P2 Maths again (even though he was already more advanced), then we moved on to P3, P4 and P5 Maths whenever we feel that he has learnt the materials.
Interestingly, there is little frustration (unlike in school), no judgmental or competitive remarks from teachers and friends, and he gets to finish his work fast and progress to what he likes, like going out to play or have a game of monopoly, or do art for an extended period. He gets to do a lot more art than in school, he loves calligraphy. Maths take 45 minutes a day.
For Chinese, I just follow the Singapore pace, about 1 chapter every 2 weeks. He does the P3 books this year. To achieve this, we spend about 20 minutes a day on Chinese. This year, I have given up on working on Chinese, because I sent him to school and do not want him to be bogged down with studying. I believe he can always pick up the language later.
For Science, I cover the school books, but we feel those are limited. We use our encyclopedia a lot, the internet and Youtube to find resources and enrichment. For example, when we studied classification, we went all the way to research on species and taxonomic rank (which is covered in high school/Pre-U), when we studied about earth, we covered geography, oceans, seas, continents and some history. All because it is fun, and not because it is required in the syllabus. We make videos and animation together after learning all these, mostly full of pranks and unrelated cartoons just for fun (not the serious, serious type that you have to do in school). Science also takes 45 minutes a day.
Last month, I started teaching this son programming with MIT's Scratch, which is free and fun.
You might also be interested in Khan Academy's videos. They are informational and good for spatial students.
I managed to teach him Algebra I (which is what Grade 11 students do in the US) before he turned 10. I think this is good achievement since he couldn't even add just 3.5 years ago.
For English, I find the Singapore books quite poor, so I don't really use them. I divide English into Grammar, Vocab, Writing and Reading. Grammar - I use "First Aid in English" for every kid, they normally cover this in P1 to P3. Vocab, I use vocabulary cartoons meant for SAT takers, For Writing, I use http://time4writing.com/.
For reading, I have small assignments (one or two books) for him to achieve everyday, and he writes a small book review at the end which just takes 10-15 minutes normally. We spend 30 minutes on vocab, and 15 minutes on writing assignments and then however long he likes for reading.
I have acquired a reading program recently, taught by native speakers and hope to launch it next year. Hopefully, it will be more systematic.
As the teacher, the job is to assign the work, and I set the syllabus and determine the sequence of work to be done. There's no fixed target how much must be finished in a year or day, we move according to what the child wants to do. Sometimes, we cover more, somedays, we cover less. On the average, my kids move 3-4 grades a year using this methodology, with lots of enrichment and fun.
For social, I bring the younger
kids for sports 3-4 times a week and the older kids do their sports 5-6
times a week. The older kids were all national representatives in their
sports, so they travel with their teams overseas, go for training camps,
and sports clinics. I no longer tag along with the older kids. For the
younger ones, DH and I still make sure we arrange play dates and
maintain birthday parties.
For art, I cover calligraphy (because I do this myself), animation and anime drawings. My daughter has become really good at still life and she has offered to teach the younger ones. DS2 has become really good at animation with the Nintendo DS, so he does them a lot.
For music, I only have time to nurture them on the keyboard, so all of them do the same instrument. All the first 4 children finished their grade 8s at 10 or 11.
After grade 8, most of my kids pick up another instrument of passion mostly without teachers. DS1 took up clarinet and guitar, DD1 voice, DD2 voice and cello, DS2 - nothing.
I also cover the Bible on a daily basis, still using the CLASS books. We spend about 15-20 minutes on this everyday.
Other enrichment: My children all bake cakes. I don't have a proper syllabus though I think I might come up with one soon. We bake about once in 2 months together. My girls sew dresses and knit.
I am no expert in homeschooling, I just do what makes sense for my kids. I believe any system you adopt should not stifle a child academically, and when they want to move on to more difficult things, we should never delay, something totally in opposition to any education system.
I don't believe in 'age appropriate material'. I believe a kid should lead in a learning process, so I let them do what they want, but first they must cover a sensible requirement or syllabus, they cover their 'staple' quickly in a day, and then move on to do what they have passion for.
For passion, different kids have different definitions : Maths, computer programming, art, animation, playing the piano, or just sitting there doing nothing. I believe a kid should not be sitting down 6 hours a day in school and spend half of that being scolded or watching others being scolded. My kids do not spend more than 2 hours on their academic work daily when being homeschooled.
I also believe kids should be outdoors and not kept inside, this is to protect their health and eyesight. So all my kids do their sports diligently with discipline.
note on the times. I set the times and ensure that is never exceeded.
For example, even though his piano lesson is 1 hour, he normally
finishes in 20 minutes, that's fine. His Maths is 45 minutes, but if he
cannot finish the 5 pages he is allocated, I take note of how much he
can do (e.g. 4 pages) and reduce the workload to 4 pages going forward.
That way, we tailor the pace the child moves through his grades.
It is important never to 'cheat' on the time (that is cheat on your kid by asking him to do more!). I believe that if you do that, you'll take away his trust in you, and the passion he has for any topic. That is too much of a trade off. I prefer to raise a motivated, enthusiastic kid than a head-knowledge-walking-dead-genius.
I also made my little boy a
booklet to let him keep track of his own progress and to inform him of
what is expected of him. The goals (set by him) are clear, and the
progression of his work is also clear.
He also collect his stars from his teachers (either my daughters or I) and puts them on this same booklet. If he collects all his stars for the day, he gets money to buy hot cocoa at the sports center when he goes for sports or he can walk down to 7-11 for a slushy if we are in Singapore. Something he really likes.
Though done in a fun way, this is our little 'contract', curriculum book, and the teachers' (my daughters') guidelines when I am not around to monitor.