So I did the ill-advised: got involved in a land war in Asia. No, no. But I did switch our homeschool curriculum in February, a classic rookie move.
It’s working out GREAT though. First, a little history.
I used to be an unschooler. I thought the kids would learn everything they needed if I provided an information-rich environment. Well, they didn’t. They learned no math at all. Some of them learned to read, some didn’t. So I gave up on that. I started nudging them into phonics and arithmetic.
I still felt bad about it though, for years. Like, who was I to tell them how to spend their time? I finally came to terms with that. Who I am is their mother, and my job is to prepare them for adulthood. And I was doing a piss-poor job of it. So we got a boxed structured curriculum, and everything went pretty good. Nobody hated it, or me.
We started with Bookshark. Bookshark is lovely. It’s the sister company of Sonlight, and the two programs are almost the same, but Bookshark is secular while Sonlight has Christian content. (I chose Bookshark because I haven’t had good luck with generically Christian, which is to say, Protestant, things, coming from a Catholic worldview.) Bookshark is literature based, which means lots and lots of books. The kids read so. many. books. But I had a hard time keeping up with it. I wasn’t sure if they were retaining it, at all. (Spoiler: they weren’t, much.) I think if I could have done more with each kid, it would have stuck better, but I can’t. Much of the reading is intended to be read aloud and we never had the time, with babies and autism and a dozen people in the house all being Very Loud Environmental Noises. I pushed the kids to do most of the reading alone, and I read some of the books they were reading. It wasn’t great. There aren’t really any tests, so there’s no reason for the kids to hold on to the information if they aren’t discussing it. If I was able to do the read-alouds I would love to stay with it. As far as the kids went, some of them like that level of reading and some do not.
So we switched to Memoria Press. Much less parent-led literature, it’s a classical Christian curriculum. There’s literature but it’s on a more reasonable level, a few books a semester. They come with literature guides, and they are neat. The kids didn’t love it, but they didn’t hate it. Memoria Press has a really unique English composition program and they thrived with it. They also started Latin, which they enjoyed. But… it was too hard to implement. I had Dorothy, first grade, Gloria, sixth grade, Trix, eighth grade, and Gilbert, ninth grade. I had the older three together for Latin, Composition, and Christian Studies, and apart for all their other subjects. We were all over the place in the curriculum manuals, and keeping up with it was really difficult. Keeping them together seemed like it would be a good idea but it was hard since they all worked at different speeds. I started to dread homeschooling – not fun! Again, I think this was a Gleeson family problem due to our family dynamics. Another family might have a much smoother ride. Also, the Christian Studies component had the same trouble I mentioned above with Protestant material. Nothing bad, just not Catholic.
Back to Bookshark. I thought, this time, I’ll keep my hand in more, really lead the discussions. And I did, but the texts were so secular that they had outright falsehoods about Catholicism. I don’t like arguing with the textbook. And I wondered, if this is what I’m catching because the kids mention it and I happen to notice, what am I missing? How bad does it get? No thanks.
And now, if you’ve made it this far, you are rewarded. We have switched to Seton, the Catholic-est of the Catholic homeschool programs. It’s workbook-style study, like Memoria Press, and it’s very rigorous. It’s so easy to implement – we enrolled, so we got the lesson plans. I toyed with just getting the books alone but I know me, and if I don’t have clear-cut instructions I won’t fuss with it, and it just won’t get done. We are a week in and liking it. It’s super Catholic. I’m not worried about the kids missing any other viewpoints because, hello, that would be Everything Else They Ever Encounter. For right now my plan is to keep them all enrolled so I get the lesson plans, and to add Dorothy in next year as well. (Clementine, I haven’t decided. She might fit better with Memoria Press’s Simply Classical.) It’s a five day program, generally, so we are just chugging along a day at a time (since we take a day off for art/drama/PE through the Parks Department here.) I sure hope it continues to be a good fit for us.