Within the past two weeks, the face of our home-school has completely changed. Since our oldest (who is now in 6th grade) began school, we used textbook curricula. This was the best way for me to gage my children's rate of learning and it helped me to stay on track. Textbooks are helpful in keeping the school day organized and predictable.
We began our home-school with books mainly from Rod & Staff Publishers. A Mennonite-based publishing company, their textbooks were completely black & white, but were quite thorough. Some of the history had philosophies reflecting their beliefs, but instead of shielding my children from these, I took the opportunity to show them how others believed and why we believe what God says in His Word. After 3 years of Rod & Staff, my children were getting weary of the pages of rote math problems and having to copy 20 sentences out of their English texts to diagram every day. When you're experiencing burn out in the 3rd grade, it's a sign that things need to change.
Unfortunately, using just textbooks in several different grade levels I was pulled in several different directions at one time. When one child had a question while I was working with another, they had to wait. Inevitably, this would result in the waiting student going off to play or finding some sort of trouble to get into. Not to mention, I had 3 little ones in school, 2 toddlers that kept getting pushed to the side so I could help the students, and I was pregnant again. Whew! I'm getting tired reminiscing!
Halfway through Michael's 3rd grade year, we began to investigate DVD schooling from A Beka and Bob Jones. After much research, we decided that BJU's Home-Satellite program would be best for us. It required a bit more work on my husband's part (recording and burning dvds), but it would grab the interest of our children, they would have "real" teachers teaching them, and it would free up some of my time for other things - such as making sure our house didn't fall down, nursing a baby, and paying attention to our pre-schoolers.
For 2 school years, BJU HomeSat was a life-saver for our family. We knew exactly what our children were learning and they were enjoying most of their classes. As with most schools, you had some favorite teachers and some teachers who really seemed to have picked the wrong occupation. But, it worked for us while I was pregnant with another baby and nursing him.
We began this school year continuing with HomeSat. I now have 4 full-time students and one little guy in K4. Mike began doing the A.C.E. curriculum this year, for various reasons and it seemed to be working for him, though I felt a bit out of the loop with what was really going on. But, if it was working and he was giving me less trouble, I count it a success. My other 3 1/2 students were using BJU. Often, I would find myself pulled in 3 different directions looking for materials for this person's class, helping this one with their assignment, and re-teaching the other one their math lesson. On top of that, my bright fourth grade student was spending 7-8 hours on school work. Something is wrong when a student gets about 2 minutes of play outside and little time to practice her piano or send notes to a friend or someone who is ill.
About a week into the school year, we received a notice from BJU stating that they would be cancelling their satellite program at the end of the 2008-2009 school year. The program is no longer cost effective for them - in fact, the college has been subsidizing HomeSat for a couple of years.
We could go on and continue recording classes for future use - until they update the books and the classes and work are not longer coinciding. But, we thought that this was a good time to see what else was out there.
So, the hunt began and I was led to something I was always interested in, but somewhat afraid of...
The Unit Study.