Saturday, 7 September 2013

2013-2014 Curriculum

Curriculum Week in the 2013 Not Back to School Blog Hop

Every now and then someone will ask me which school year group Tiger is in.  Since Tiger has always learned at home and we work at his pace in different areas to cater to his asynchronous development, it always takes me a while to answer this question.  To those who follow the traditional school approach, a mother who can't rattle off the school year that her child is supposed to be in instantaneously looks slightly lame.  To make life easier for myself (so that I don't have to go into a discourse of how my son is all over the place in terms of what he is learning), I found the Grade Equivalents table which will no doubt be of enormous help to the next person who asks me this question.  So, for the academic year of September 2013 - July 2014, in the conventional school system, Tiger would be in the equivalent of:
  • Year 4 (in UK); or
  • Grade 3 (in USA); or
  • Primary 4 (in Asia)
Grade level is quite meaningless around here, to say the least, but that'll do for now.

To sum up what I foresee as the way forward for our homeschool in three words: integration, relevance, engagement.

If I saw the previous academic year as a year of change from a structured learning environment to an autonomous environment, the coming academic year will be one of an increased application of the living principle whereby we strive to make more connections among different subject areas.  That also means that we will be slowing down and going into deep learning, rather than skimming over the surface of many areas and ticking boxes to show "achievements".

We shall enjoy the process of learning rather than rushing through anything just to 'get it done'.  Therefore, we may not have a lot to show in the coming year in terms of output -- which is going to be hard for this results-oriented mum -- but that's only because we are switching our focus to the joy of discovery and to obtain a real understanding of whatever we are going to learn.   I don't think learning through discovery can be rushed, certainly not in the same way as spoon-feeding the student with answers or the right formulae can.

A large part of my own growth from the previous year has been to recognise and honour the interconnectedness of various aspects of what we were learning as parts to a whole picture of life, rather than disjointed, artifically-separate "subjects".  As such, I am putting forth a broad scope of what Tiger and I will be covering from September 2013 to July 2014 in themes rather than specific curricula materials.  If our Marco Polo study is an indication of the scope that we can achieve for a topic/theme, then it makes more sense for me to plan in terms of broad themes
  1. The Wind in the Willows (finishing up from the summer)
  2. Marco Polo (carry on from where we have left off before the summer)
  3. Magic (we'll take time out around Halloween to do this)
  4. Explorers (if and when we complete Marco Polo)
  5. Mystery (postponed to next summer)

Now for the specifics for 2013-2014, where applicable:

1) Language Arts
  • Literature, Vocabulary, Writing, Poetry
The biggest area of integration for the coming year is in language arts.  Even though we plodded along with grammar, vocabulary and other aspects of language arts last year, it became obvious to me by early spring that a segregation of topics only resulted in busywork for us.  That took the joy out of what should be an enjoyable learning journey, since Tiger loves languages.  Therefore, this year I am going to adopt the Brave Writer Lifestyle, and slowly work towards a fully integrated language arts programme via The Writer's Jungle.  This book contains many gems that can seem overwhelming to implement all at once, so I am taking my time to introduce one element at a time.  For the specifics, we will be using
  1. Friday Freewrite
  2. Poetry Teatime
  3. Nature Journaling
  4. Partnership Writing
  5. fortnightly drama class*
  6. monthly literature and creative writing club*

2) Other Languages
    • Latin:  
      1. Cambridge Latin Course 1
      2. Latin for Children Primer A 
    3) History, Geography, Maths, Craft, Science, and Nature Study
    • theme-based study using various resources
    • weekly general science class*
    • weekly chess club
    • monthly Young Archaeologists Club*

    4) Art
    Details in Planning: Art.

    5) Music
    Details in Planning: Music.

    6) Sports
    • weekly tennis club*
    • monthly swimming

    7) Life Skills
    Details in Planning: Life Skills - Cooking.

    * external classes

    This post is linked up to the iHomeschool Network Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop: Curriculum Week 2013.

    **Update in January 2014: Our plans have altered a fair bit at the half-year mark.  Please refer to the termly plans for the changes.


    1. How cool you're learning Chinese! I don't know how well I'd do with that one because it's so tonal, and I'm not good with that.

    2. Yes, the Chinese language is very different from the English/Latin-based languages. Starting from the very basics of the 4 tonal sounds is your best bet, and listening to CDs of native speakers to get the tones right will help. :-)

    3. I don't know whether it'll work yet, Julie. Let's hope so! :-)

    4. I love what you've written here, Hwee - I really appreciate these posts of yours about your evolving approach. I'm looking forward to following your year. We love Brave Writer!

    5. Thank you for your encouraging words, Lucinda. I am still coming to terms with the fact that homeschooling is very much an ongoing, evolutionary approach - at least it is so in my household! Being a creature of habits, I am not particularly fond of changes, but change seems to be the most natural way to respond to a growing child's needs. There is much to learn, constantly.

      I have high hopes for Brave Writer. Reading your posts about it has inspired me to give it a try. :-)

    6. I love this post! It must be so interesting for you to look back on the years gone by and compare. I think it is one of the great things about keeping a blog. I really hope you have a wonderful year!

    7. As you've said, Claire, homeschooling continues to be an interesting journey. Writing the blog helps me to keep track of developments and changes that would otherwise elude my memory after a few years. I'm also keeping my fingers crossed for a good year ahead. :-)

    8. Are you still using BraveWriter? I have the Writer's Jungle, we started free-writing...I'm wondering if I need to return back to it. It's such a gentle way to approach writing. We've been using Institute of Excellence in Writing, which is more formulaic, which does help because it's more concrete and easy to see progress and change. I also have used Writing Strands, and seems OK for organization, but not writing style. I guess each different program has different strengths.

      1. I think you'll struggle to find one curriculum that works consistently well throughout your child's development. Most people use a combination to suit their children's changing needs as and when they arise.

        I have the Writer's Jungle but freewriting doesn't work for my son. I still like much of Brave Writer's approach so we tend to use issues of The Arrow and/or The Boomerang when the need for them arises. I also use use some of the ideas from Brave Writer but tweak them to fit our own learning style so we end up with our own approach. :-)

    9. I love the poetry tea time idea too. I don't know how to find time to incorporate all these ideas!!

      1. Take one thing at a time, and build upon it slowly. Try to do poetry tea once a month and see how that goes. If it works consistently for a few months, then think about increasingly its frequency to maybe fortnightly. Nobody does poetry tea every single week, although it sometimes look like that on the internet. :-)


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