We made the choice to join a homeschooling community called Classical Conversations this year. It is a Christian curriculum that is centered around the classical model of education in which students in the elementary or grammar years are taught to memorize huge amounts of information - because they can do it. At that age, memorizing is as natural as anything else, and this is the ideal time to fill a child's mind with information that will be useful to him or her later. The next stage is the dialectic stage, typically grades 7 and 8, when students are ready to ask, and to get answers for, the question "why". It is at this stage that all of that information stored during the grammar years starts to make sense. This is CC's Challenge A & B program. In ninth grade, students are ready for the rhetoric years, which are addressed through CC's Challenge I-IV program, when they are taught to express themselves with logic and eloquence. (There are many more eloquent explanations of this elsewhere on the web, but that is it in a nutshell.)
With DD beginning kindergarten, we are in the grammar years and are part of the Foundations program in CC. Every week, for twenty-four weeks (four six-week sessions), we have a set curriculum of memory work in seven subject areas - history, science, math, Latin, English grammar, geography, and a timeline of world history (which is taught through a song that DD has listened to about a hundred times already!). The entire curriculum is presented in three year-long cycles, so students get to rehearse the same material every three years. This year, we are in Cycle 2, and our emphasis is on medieval history through the modern times.
Memory work generally involves committing a sentence or a list of facts to memory. Children may or may not understand everything they learn - depending in part on how much parents want to teach them at home and in part on the age of the child - but they still memorize them, giving them a "hook" upon which they can hang future learning. Some parents choose to have their own curriculum and use CC just for memory work and to be part of a community. Others use CC as their primary curriculum and use the history and science topics each week as a launching point for deeper studies at home. We are in the latter category.
Every week, we meet with other Foundations families and the children are grouped with others in their age range. Together, we (students and parents together) practice the memory work for that week, review material from past weeks, do science experiments together, learn about a fine arts topic, and listen to the children's presentations - anything from show-and-tell to more academic reports. Classes are less by trained tutors (including yours truly) whose job is to model creative teaching methods to their fellow parents, as much as to lead the children. After the morning session, families eat lunch together and parents get a chance to talk with each other. One of my favorite things about this has been getting to know the other parents. The moms have even begun meeting monthly to pray with and for one another as we teach our children. It is a great, encouraging community!
The rest of the week, we are on our own. Our state has some pretty basic requirements for homeschooling families. We must register with an accountability organization that reports minimal information back to the state. We must keep records of our school activities, and we must record 180 days of school from July to July that cover the basic subjects of reading, math, science, and social studies. Our weekly CC time counts as one school day. Check back in tomorrow to see what we do with the other four days of the week!