Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"I Am An Invisible Minority," The Ballad of the Lonely, Canadian, Secular Homeschooler.

This year will be our fourth year homeschooling. Zarf attended public school for kindergarten, and is now 9 and in Grade 4.  Seven-year old Klaxon has been exclusively homeschooled and will be registered as a Grade 3 student.

I've spent the past few weeks researching and ordering curriculum that jives with the British Columbia Prescribed Learning Outcomes, in accordance with the provincial government's Distributed Learning program. Ordering curriculum is both exciting and demoralizing. It's fun to plot out the year, and find resources that will inspire the boys' imagination and intelligence. But it's frustrating that many programs and texts don't meet our needs. Retailers, publishers and authors neglect Canadian, secular homeschooling parents. We are a small splinter group in a marketplace dominated by American and/or an evangelical-Christians. This makes choosing curriculum difficult, but I am happy with our selections for this year:

I'll break them down by subject.

Fine Arts:

Making crafts! Getting messy! Learning artistic expression!


I hate health. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for germ-filled, sloth and emotional emptiness. But as a homeschooling subject, it's hard to buy or even create a concise health curriculum. Healthy habits and attitudes are a natural extension of living a good life. I use a lot of public health websites for activities and videos.

Social Studies:

(Do other nations teach social studies, or is it a Canadian thing?)

We'll be learning about Canada's geography, culture, national symbols, government and politics. To get a true sense of our nation and quality of life, we'll also read about other countries. Current events will be discussed in a gentle age-appropriate fashion.

Although not mandated, I devote a lot of time to history. But it is an area that's problematic. Many world history texts (ie Story of the World, by Susan Wise Bauer) use American landmarks, milestones and leaders as a reference point and assume that all children (and their parents) will know their significance. Who the hell is Paul Revere, anyway?

This is why I'm grateful to have found Modern History Through Canadian Eyes: A Canadian History Guide for All Ages, by Heather Penner. It provides an excellent framework to use other resources to teach Canadian history within the context of world history. I'm learning a lot.

Language Arts:

I'm not a big fan of the recent trend in language arts (in Canada) that emphasizes creative writing from an early grade. It's counter productive to assign emerging readers the additional task of sitting and writing stories. Every. Single. Day. I suspect this movement has caught on because teachers know that writing is an easily quantified task. But it requires a skill set (manual dexterity, prolonged focus, sedentary position) that very few boys (and many girls) are capable of before the age of 10. This anti-boy bias (the repercussions of which, we are only now beginning to understand) is one of the reasons I'm glad that we've kept our active, boisterous boys out of a traditional school.

I believe that the goals of language arts is:
to make a child literate,
instill in him/her a love of the written word, and
teach him/her to communicate effectively via the written word.

In our house, this means a lot of read aloud books, exposure to complex vocabulary, opportunities to write and edit their work. The boys will also be practicing penmanship, learning the rules of spelling and grammar, and reading everyday.


This will be our third year using JUMP Math. This program is made in Canada, for Canadians. Everything is taught using metric units, not inches, pounds, or pints. It also uses Celsius measurements for temperature, and Canadian denominations for currency.

The boys are completing Kumon workbooks on the times tables. Concepts will be reinforced with the use of manipulatives.


This is the toughest subject to plan, but also the one Zarf and Klaxon love the most.

I will not use a "science" book that is really Creationist-propaganda employing scientific phrases and terminology to make that dreck more palatable. Attention people who refuse to believe the world is 4.54 billion years old: acknowledging Genesis is an allegory is NOT going to get you a free pass to hell, but perverting the fundamental principles of science because you lack faith in your faith makes me feel like I AM IN HELL.

We follow the Canadian education system's framework that breaks down scientific study into the units of Life, Physical and Earth/Space. As much as I love REAL Science Odyssey, I can't use their resources because we can't dedicate an entire year to ONLY biology or chemistry. Instead I pull together different experiments and readings from many different sources.

If you take all these books, and a few dozen others from the library, add in several sessions of swim lessons, membership in the ski club and assorted field trips, you've got our school year:

(Wow -- I think that shelf is going to break under the weight of these books. I better go rescue my particle board bookcase pronto.)


  1. I will not use a "science" book that is really Creationist-propaganda employing scientific phrases and terminology to make that dreck more palatable. Attention people who refuse to believe the world is 4.54 billion years old: acknowledging Genesis is an allegory is NOT going to get you a free pass to hell, but perverting the fundamental principles of science because you lack faith in your faith makes me feel like I AM IN HELL.

    As an evolutionist evangelical Christian, I would like to say a hearty amen to this.

    I have drunk the classical Kool-Aid, so we are doing only one science subject per year. We're using Elemental Science. We'll see how it goes.

    My oldest sons godmother home schooled her now in their 20s kids when there was very little curricula to choose from. When they got to the young earth, Genesis-is-a-science-text portion of their science book, Ruth turned it into a lesson on critical thinking and propaganda. It was awesome.

  2. HAH, @Sherri, you self-identified as an evangelical. HAHAHAHA.

    @Nan, have you expostulated before as to why you decided to hs after Zarf's K year? Would be interested in hearing that.

  3. My sister is part of a homeschooling co-op where parents volunteer to teach classes in a weekly Friday school. She always tailors her classes to active 4th-6th grade boys, because she finds so few of the other classes suited to them. Even the other homeschooling parents are assuming a class of sedentary, calm kids.

    Her last class was a six-week history class called "World War II Re-enactment." It went over big.

  4. @ Veronica - My kids would love the "WWII re-enactment class". That sounds amazing. My boys already act out scenes from the American Civil War and the Titanic sinking.

    @ Nan - love this post. I also am stymied as to teaching Health. We do a virtual public school (in the southern US), and they give us no direction except "do 30 hours of Health" over the course of the year. How many years in a row do we have to watch those dated videos about fire safety and nutrition from the library? Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. I was too busy trying to read all the book titles...what did you say? You are awesome at homeschooling? I thought so.

  6. Okay, for a change I'm going to go totally non-smart-ass here. I am speechless with admiration. I actually think my kids are fine in our school system, but the idea of being able to tailor a curriculum to their needs and have the freedom to decide time allocation is really appealing. I think they both enjoy and need the social aspect of school also, but the bottom line is probably that I'm just too lazy. You're awesome.

  7. I always get jealous at this time for home schoolers...I love the planning and resources and books! But it is the follow through where I would fail. Where I would be an impatient, shouting, jammie wearing teacher for my poor kids.
    I do worry a little for my little guy, I do believe that schools set up our boys to fail (not giving them enough active time, expectations for behavior that is not innate for boys' natural energy/physical learning, etc) but we will just do our best to support our boy and our school and find a balance. The bonus being that our school gives lot of recess and p.e. They do a health grant that builds physical activity and nutrition into the day. I think that helps a little.
    We do social studies in the U.S. Absolutely. It is very U.S.-centric, as you have found. We like to tell the entire world's history from our own perspective. :-)

  8. Thanks for sharing! Hope you are getting plenty of "virtual" support for your secular homeschooling! If you would like to have your blog added to our secular homeschooling blog list, contact me via the site and let me know. Kudos to you...

  9. I hadn't thought about what a pain it must be to get world history curricula for Canadians.

    We do teach social studies down here in the states, even if you can't tell it from watching Jay Walking.

    Do you teach both boys at basically the same level? Girl child's science & language arts education was so awful in her public school that we teach those subjects together. Math is separate. I have to say that it's totally awesome for the Boy Child.

    Thanks for posting this, Nan.

    I'll be blogging about a dinosaur book the boy child was reading recently.

    It made me want to stab people.

  10. Reading this made me sick to my stomach. Not because of what you wrote, but because I will not be homeschooling this year despite my misgivings about the school system and my son. I am desperately hoping that all of the years (way before I had kids) of distrusting our system will be completely and magically washed away in the first week. That would be fantastic.

    Also, I greatly admire your curriculum and effort. It sounds like you've planned a great year...even with the difficulty in finding what you need.

    PS. As someone who does go to church, I can't tell you the number of arguments that I've had over the age of the earth, and evolution. It had gotten pretty ugly at times. Makes me insane.

  11. Oh how exciting..I love all the cool books. I would be excited. I always wanted to be home schooled.. Alas I braved the public school system to the bitter end.