August is already upon us and it’s time to begin seriously planning our homeschooling agenda for the year. This school year will definitely be a little different than years past because we’re in a completely new environment without access to the little things we took for granted back in the states. Like libraries. And stores filled with every possible book/supply/manipulative known to man.
True, we’ve been here nearly two years so this shouldn’t be new to us, but when we arrived in Ecuador in 2011 I brought down the materials that I had already bought for that school year and we finished them out here, incorporating our Ecuadorian adventures into the learning process. The following year we made the decision to put Justin and Jesse in a private school in Cotacachi so they could ramp up their Spanish skills, get more involved in the community and because David and I were running a restaurant and didn’t have the time to school our sons ourselves. And since Justin and Jesse quickly became fluent in Spanish and made new friends, we consider it a success, but we won’t be doing it again.
Why not? To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the academics. Maybe it’s because I’m accustomed to educating my children and I know that they are capable of so much more, or maybe the school was simply below my standards, but I didn’t feel that my children gained a lot of knowledge last year. There was little to no emphasis put on reading literature (which is very important to me), the math skills were repetitious, and most of the homework was busy work with no real value.
Beyond that I found the school to be quite disorganized, and I could be just too uptight, but sending home the wrong grades on my child’s report card, not informing us of parent/teacher conferences until the afternoon of, and losing my child’s school supplies was a touch more than I could handle. Especially since I was forking out money every month for my sons to attend this school. Oh, and the required uniforms drove my non-conformist husband nuts!
So, back to the present. How to teach with limited resources. Well, I think I’ve got math covered. We’ve used Singapore Math for years and I really love how it is paced and keeps the kids interested. Even better, it’s very very affordable. Luckily, a couple from the U.S. that we met earlier this year is coming back down here in September and generously offered to transport the math workbooks down with them.
We have two laptops with internet access and an Amazon Kindle so we can and will utilize those quite often. Jenn from Edventure Project posted some great resources in her article on Wand’rly magazine and we’ll be taking advantage of some of those. Mostly though, I’m going to be laying out a list of core subjects that David and I feel are important (i.e., mathematics, reading) and then another list of (hopefully hands-on or project based) additional topics that I want to cover.
So far we’ll be doing cooking/baking classes. Yes, I know I have sons, but in my opinion it is important for every child regardless of gender to know how to take care of themselves as an adult. They will not always have mom, dad, or a significant other to rely upon for certain things. By adulthood, all children should know how to do a decent job of cleaning up after themselves, feeding themselves well, and basic vehicle maintenance if they plan to own one. So yeah, there will be an excess of breads, cookies, and easy-to-make dinners at our house for a while, but I’m pretty sure none of the guys will object.
The boys also just bought new cameras with their own money that they earned from cleaning up a construction site earlier this year, so that’s a great opportunity to focus on photography for their art lessons. Justin has asked to learn about how human cells work, so I’m going to have to do my own homework first so I can teach him, and we’ll be doing a unit on explorers since South America’s history is very directly related to many of those guys.
The boys will also be starting their own education blogs, where they can post photos that they take along with information about the places we visit or what particular subjects they’ve been learning about. It will give them a chance to share their knowledge with others while developing their writing skills.
I’m early into our planning stage and open to more ideas, so….
Please leave a comment with any suggestions you have for online resources or topics that would be good to cover with 11 and 9 year old boys!