Why is your style of Homeschooling called the "Experience" approach?
WinterPromise is so unique, we’ve come up with a new term to describe what learning approach we embrace. WinterPromise is more than a unit study, more than a literature program, and even more than Charlotte Mason. We are in fact all of these, and more besides. We utilize these learning methods and ideas, as well as adding in some workbooks, a flavor of the “classical” method, and integrate technology. In addition, rippling throughout the curriculum are activities based on “Multiple Intelligences” research. In essence, we’ve taken the best of all these approaches and left behind the downsides.
The result is a cohesive “mosaic” of learning, a multitude of “Experiences” — many different small pieces that together form a wonderful learning opportunity and a chance to build your family culture and make some memories!
This “Experience Approach,” then, relies on wonderful literature, fantastic do-able activities that support intelligences goals, repetition that is exciting (not simply repetitive!), and a “joy of learning” approach.
The “Experience Approach” allows students all different types of experiences:
- Going inside books of quality to ride the seas or blast into space!
- Delving into experiments that demonstrate a truth about the world around them.
- Trying craft or building projects that use what they’ve learned and reinforce it in their minds.
- Observing nature around them and recording what they see.
- Completing interactive notebooking pages that reinforce daily learning.
- Engaging in directed play that supports learning goals — like building a pyramid tent or fighting an Israelite battle.
- Learning important dates and their significance through games played with our own timeline cards.
- Involving themselves in community or ministry service that reinforce what they’ve learned and give them a heart for lifelong self-sacrifice.
- Creating their own works of art and studying the works of great artists that have gone before.
- Listening to music of the period.
- Building topical, event or place maps that help history unfold and reinforce important facts in history.
- Watching documentary films that really take you “there” in history or science!
- Completing easy-to-use, well-illustrated or colorful worktexts.
- Coming up with their own innovative ideas and seeing how well they work.
- Learning Bible truths, and then putting them into practice with service ideas or prayer journaling.
- Experiencing various media online, like listening to a radio drama or meeting a Dust Bowl family.
- Building a timeline of their own, and even adding their own art, reports, and even field trip photos and memories to it!
- To help you remember the core of what we are, just remember the “Experiences” form a “Mosaic” of Learning . . .
M – Mason-Inspired Joyful Learning
O – Open and Go Schedules & Ideas
S – Simple, Practical Homeschooling
A – Active Learning & Admirable Literature
I – Intelligences-Based Learning Opportunities
C – Christian Instruction
What does the "Experience" method involve?
The “Experience” method is loved by our parents because it offers a small amount of planning, wonderful books, and a format that allows teaching multiple ages together. The “Experience Method” is centered around the literature approach. The literature approach is focused reading and enjoying both fiction literature and non-fiction books that are filled with exciting content and hold your family’s interest. These literature materials allow several desirable learning goals to be accomplished:
- Families read many of the books aloud together, which allows a format for open discussion. The open discussion (combined with the quality of the books themselves) fosters thinking skills and encourages discussion about important issues.
- Over time, these discussions bear fruit in your children; they will develop an ability to answer open-ended questions, make educated guesses, propose possible solutions, and even defend a point of view. This is true education!
- The literature and discussion format means you can school several different ages at once, since you can tailor what you focus on and what you skip over depending on the ages and interests of your students.
- As an added bonus, the books provide a flexible learning environment that is portable and easily adaptable to the needs of most families.
- Program guides schedule all of your resources and let you simply “open and go” each day.
BUT REMEMBER! It is important to note that WinterPromise combines the literature approach with some of the best aspects of other approaches to form a multi-faceted program. These aspects include the ideals championed by Charlotte Mason, a flavor of the “Classical” method, and fantastic, do-able activities. We also add the fun of notebooking and timeline building, plus a few workbooks, DVDs and technological media, too! Notebooking resources aid in retention, workbooks allow students some independent work, and activities help make memories together as a family. Finally, our programs are linked to the internet and have DVD suggestions to really pull together other media avenues for learning. In addition, rippling throughout the curriculum are activities based on “Multiple Intelligences” research. In essence, we’ve taken the best of all these approaches and left behind the downsides. It’s the best of all worlds!
How does your program use both Charlotte Mason and Classic homeschool methods?
Yes, our program does incorporate many of the best methods and ideas brought into homeschooling.
While much of our methodology is based upon the ideas and ideals of Charlotte Mason, we also include ideas and perspectives of merit from other approaches. We hope to “marry” them into one substantive and joyful approach that stands apart from other curriculums.
It may be helpful to remember that one of the ways in which the classical approach differs from the Charlotte Mason method is that the CM method advocates joy and exploration in learning, while the classical method is a more regimented methodology, having identical learning goals for all students and reaching those goals through methods such as memorization, challenge and argumentation, and oral presentation. While in this way, these methodologies cannot be reconciled while adhering strictly to both, we embrace the joy and exploration of the CM method while keeping many of the principles of the classical method, but reinterpreting them in a more “joyful” presentation. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the methodology of the classical approach, and then look at what we’ve taken from this approach that fits classical goals, if not the strict methodology.
The classical method of homeschooling is attractive to many parents for several reasons:
- It places an emphasis on stages of development of the mind and use of knowledge.
- It teaches toward these stages of development (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric) and changes the approach as students progress through their education.
- It spends time working through great books and classical literature, often including a study of the Greek language.
- It embraces a chronological approach to learning, keeping this as a primary guide for how programs are assembled.
- It often advocates teaching history in three four-year cycles throughout a child’s education (Ancients, Medieval, Early Modern, Late Modern). Thus, the repetition of the history is an important cornerstone in classical learning.
How does WinterPromise incorporate these ideas into its curriculum?
WP programs change in their approach and requirements as students progress through our curriculum year by year to meet changing educational goals. However, this is not attained by adhering to methods such as memorization, argumentation and oral presentation, but by a wider variety of learning avenues, including narration, creative writing, educational notebooking, timeline building, service to others, oral sharing in real-life settings, practical skill development, and so on. We also provide assignments tailored for various learning styles, to reach children differently based upon their own unique way of learning about their world. For more information about how the program changes, see another FAQ, “How Does This Program Change from Level to Level to Meet the Changing Needs of Students?” WP also incorporates great books and classical literature, as this is key to the Charlotte Mason method. We do not include a study of Greek, simply because we offer so many other learning avenues and opportunities; however, this can easily be added if a parent would choose to make it a part of their children’s regimen.
WP programs, within themselves, basically use the chronological approach, although when it better serves the student to follow a theme or civilization for awhile, strict chronological adherence takes a back seat to presenting the material in a way that makes it more memorable (and, we find, often more enjoyable) for the student. For instance, most of Egyptian history is studied together and followed in our Ancient World program before returning to the “main” timeline thread of our program and resuming with the world history thread. We feel that to adhere too strongly to strict chronological order can confuse students in some cases, and leave them feeling they are not following the progression of individual civilizations or movements in history very well.
WP also offers our four-year history cycle — Quest for the Ancient World, Quest for the Middle Ages, Quest for Royals and Revolution, and Quest for the Modern Age — and these can be approached at least once during a student’s education, and can be worked through twice if a parent chooses to do so, using our two-part American history series as a substitute for the last two programs when the student is in the middle grades. However, we also have found that the predictable repetition of the material three times during a student’s education to be a little lacking in the spirit of joy and investigation that Charlotte Mason advocated. So, instead, we take the idea of repetition and reinterpret it. Instead of gaining repetition by simply repeating, we help a student encounter facts in world history by looking at them again and again, but from entirely different perspectives. Take a look at a summary of several of our programs summarized from their “perspective.”
Hideaways in History – A one-year look at world history from a “story” perspective, adding the joyous fun of re-creating places in time, inspired by the childhood fun of “playing tent.”
Children Around the World – A look at world history, but country by country, something that emphasizes the repeated movement of nations from agrarian settlements, to connected towns, to feudal states, to modern nations.
Adventures in the Sea and Sky – A look at world history through the history of transportation, which allows students to see how key developments in shipmaking, navigation, air travel and space exploration affected pivotal events in world history and influenced movements such as the age of exploration, merchant trade, colonization, nation-building, and more throughout the ages..
In addition, our four-year history cycle (mentioned above) and our American history studies offer a straightforward look at history in the traditional sense. This adds up to a lot of repetition, but in a way that never feels predictable or plodding. You’ll never have the “been-there-done-this” feeling with WP. Future releases will include at least one more one-year world history program from another perspective, giving students another facet from which to look at their world.
So, WP seeks to incorporate the principles and goals of the classical method, but reinterprets some of them to create a sprit of joy and discovery that is a hallmark of the Charlotte Mason method.
What other methods are used in your "Experience" approach?
As mentioned in the previous question, WinterPromise is influenced by Charlotte Mason’s ideas, includes a lot of great literature as you’d find in most literature approach programs, and incorporates many of the goals and principles of the classical method. We add to these approaches a strong flavor of the unit study, with its cross-curricular emphasis, so that your student will encounter activities that allow him to investigate ideas in other areas of study related to what he encounters in his main themed study. For instance, not only might your student learn about Tudor kings and queens, but he might complete activities that allow him to delve into Tudor architecture (art), discover navigational advancements (science), read a Shakespearean play (language arts), or run a Tudor-era store (math). Unlike many unit studies, however, most of our activities are designed to be very low-prep, but still retain a high learning impact. In addition, we add our own line of educational “scrapbooking” materials to create historical notebooks, timelines and maps that are a new reinforcement method often referred to as “lapbooks” or “notebooking.” We use some traditional textbooks to allow students to get a feel for a more traditional presentation of facts and learn traditional testing skills. We also include some workbooks — a simple, ready-to-use solution that allows parents the freedom to work more closely with another child while the first is engage in a ready-to-complete worksheet. We always include website and DVD suggestions to harness today’s top-notch learning resources, and we add a dash of up-to-date multi-media suggestions for computer- and electronics-savvy young adults. With so many learning avenues, students of every type of learning style are engaged, and there are enough avenues so that if one or two don’t connect with students, there’s still a full program waiting to be explored!
How does your program adapt to the changing needs of students?
Our youngest learners begin with programs that focus more heavily on crafts and do not have as many different kinds of activity suggestions as older programs do. “Animals and Their Worlds,” for example, has fewer suggested videos and “activity-based” ideas like games or cooking. Instead, this program focuses on giving this additional space to alphabet activities written into the program, designed for learning and reinforcement for young learners. It has less written work, no independent work to speak of, and includes a few picture books (which our other programs do not); primarily because this is written to target young learners. You see, this program is specially designed to meet the needs and interests of young learners, and to give them plenty of time to master reading, which is their top priority at this time of their education. As students mature, the programs Amer 1, Amer 2, Adventures in the Sea and Sky, and Ancient World 4/6 all focus on interactive opportunities with written work as well, with an emphasis on hands-on, experimental learning. Independent work is introduced and gradually becomes a greater part of the program for middlers. Students enjoy many different avenues for learning, and can tailor those opportunities to their preferred learning style. Skills increase in formulating and expressing ideas both spoken and written, proving hypotheses, planning and completing work independently, and taking the initiative in projects, in addition to subject matter skills. As we move into our high school programs, the emphasis changes once again. These programs focus on a balance between the hands-on experimental learning, research opportunities, written work, great literature and discussion sessions. Hands-on learning is geared toward opportunities that really appeal to teens. Some of these active learning options are “true-to-life” experiences in which students try their hand at a historical or current experience, profession, hobby, or trade. Having gained basic skills listed during the middler years, students also gain proficiency in research, self-directed study, and leadership, as well as perfecting written and spoken skills and personal expression. In short, our program grows and changes as a child’s skills, mental development, and interests grow over time.
What kind of Advanced thinking does WinterPromise encourage?
Five things encourage advances in thinking in the WinterPromise program, and our parents are partners in encouraging growth in these areas. Opportunities for advances in thinking skills are available within the subject matter itself, in proving hypotheses in student assignments, in discussion settings, and in intrinsic program requirements. Here’s the scoop:
SKILLS DEVELOPED IN SUBJECT MATTER: As students learn their subject matter, some of that subject matter in and of itself translates into skills, because they practice those skills as part of the learning. The scientific method, for example. Students may “learn” it as part of their subject matter, but they utilize it and gain skills through learning it, then trying it, practicing it, and understanding it. Students learn a lot of subject matter or content, but there’s always some of it that translates into skills. This is even more true when you are participating in active learning (as in the science method example above.) WinterPromise offers a lot of active learning whose focus is educational and practical. Many of these opportunities — or even most of them — require students to draw upon content learning to develop skills and put them to practical use. It is a strength of active learning, at least active learning that is focused on educational goals, not fluffy busywork. That’s what you’ll find at WP. A focus on practical, rich learning .
PROVING HYPOTHESES & LOGICAL ARGUMENTS IN STUDENT ASSIGNMENTS: The proving of a hypotheses and making logical arguments is more commonly thought of as proposing an idea, and setting out to discover whether it has merit or is without basis, then structuring a logical argument. A student commonly proves hypotheses in science, but this thinking cycle infiltrates any discipline where the student must think through why something happened, for example, and support it with examples. This requires students to think through a premise based upon the content they have learned, conduct research, and (hopefully) support their premise with examples. This can be done in language arts in a research paper, or history in a project or paper. As an example, a student could decide to discover why the Mongols were successful at building an empire. From what they have learned, they could feel that their fighting style and their policies in ruling conquered peoples were the reason. As they researched, they would discover their hypothesis was proven correct, disproven, or that is was partially correct, but incomplete. Students can complete this cycle less formally in WP’s notebooking, discussions with parents, narration about choices a character makes and where they will lead, long answers to questions posed by parents, and more. These are all learning situations encountered in WP. It can be encouraged by parents, who guide choices for paper topics, discussions, questions, and narration. For you the parent — ask open ended questions that require students to draw upon content knowledge, take that knowledge and use it. WP’s entire set up provides opportunity for students to practice these skills again and again. This skill set, like many others developed in a good educational setting, translates in innumerable ways to further education and workplace situations, even ministry.
DISCUSSION SETTINGS: As mentioned above, parents can encourage thoughtful discussion that develops thinking skills in students. Some WP programs offer discussion questions or literature-based discussion in language arts programs. However, parents can really formulate the very best questions, based upon what catches a student’s interest or what the student personally struggles with. Discussions can take place on something a fictional character also struggles with, on why people in history behaved or thought in a certain way at a given time, or on talking through social movements, their ramifications, and more. The possibilities for discussion are limitless.
INTRINSIC PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS: Finally, the requirements of WP’s programs themselves build thinking skills, leadership, and self-motivating learning skills in your students. Many of WP’s assignments require open-ended thinking, and defense of answers. This takes place in notebooking and other assignments. Many assignments suggest service or volunteer opportunities that are designed to encourage and grow your student’s leadership skills, and allow them to build self-confidence as they create a plan, manage their project, overcome obstacles, and work with others. Parents need to remember these are growth opportunities, and encourage students to include some of these types of assignments each year. WP also includes independent study worksheets in most of our themed program guides. These worksheets allow parents to give assignments to students, and, as students move from middle grades to high school, allow parents to require students to complete more and more of their work independently, building the student’s ability to work on their own, and toward self-motivated learning.
How do I know my student is meeting state standard?
First, when a parent asks this question, he or she usually means, “How do I know my student is studying the right thing at the right time?” and is wondering if their student should be studying American history in third grade, or volcanic activity as a middle schooler. However, the issue of state standards more often relates to skill ability rather than content studied. Therefore, the meeting of state standards is really a question of “How do I know my student is acquiring the right skills at the appropriate pace?” We’ll answer both of the above questions here. First, the matter of studying “the right thing at the right time” as relates to state standards is an impossible task for any curriculum for two reasons: (1) content that ought to be studied in a certain year varies from state to state as states or school districts, not the federal government, determine content for certain grades, and (2) these content standards are constantly changing as states or school districts update and rearrange their schedules. So, really, the more important question about state standards is “acquiring the right skills at the right time.” WinterPromise usually exceeds these state standards if the entire program is used as written (with the elimination of some activities, of course, as we have given you more than you should be able to use). If you’re still curious, it may be helpful to look at your state’s standards. Here’s a website that has compiled most of the state’s standards: www.greatpyramid.com. Click on the “Educational Standard” link about halfway down the page.
Do you incorporate tests in your curriculum
This is not a simple question, as the Charlotte Mason methodology and the literature approach method on which our curriculum is based generally do not advocate a strong testing paradigm. One thing many parents find as they investigate homeschool methods is that really good methods turn many “traditional” schooling methods on end! Assessment is definitely one of these issues. Assessment in the traditional schooling sense is designed for a teacher of 20 or more students must determine their mastery of material. This goal for testing diminishes in relevance when you as teacher have direct contact with just a few students in such a way that you are not “teaching” them as much as you are “learning with” them. The Charlotte Mason method our curriculum employs encourages discussions, open-ended questions, and instant feedback that, in a homeschool setting, is leisurely and increases with time to a way of life. For clarity, let’s consider an example. One of our families recently reporting being engaged in a conversation about the Romans’ development of naval ships. They discussed at length why that was important and what happened on the international scene as a result. One child offered that the Romans fought at sea as if they were still on land, using hand-to-hand techniques. Another mentioned that their techniques required the use of elevated platforms for archers. Another brought up their use of the gangplank to bring enemies into their type of fighting. Another talked about how their dominance at sea allowed a peace that brought trade, prosperity and connection between peoples. This conversation is precisely what our methologies desire as an educational outcome; an ability to ask an open-ended question, require reasoning, and receive answers that combine facts to make a conclusion. The goal is not to simply recite facts. Now, I could assess them each with a test, but to test them I’d actually have to test them for information – reciting facts — that isn’t really my goal for them. My goal in teaching them really isn’t to establish that they know isolated facts like “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 …” Instead, my goal is for them to know in what period he sailed, why it was important, and what happened as a result. With this goal in mind, assessment changes totally. Assessment of my success with my student must be gained differently.
Decide what your true goal is for your student. Set your mind on your goal for your student, then ask yourself how to get that. Usually you’ll find you’re very in touch with what your student does/does not know on your own, so assessment may be more often for the benefit of state agencies, than even for the benefit of you, the parent. But, it’s still nice to have peace of mind as a parent! So, below are some ideas we’ve used for assessment for these agencies with great success (and for giving a parent peace of mind that he is holding the student to a standard for success). The big thing here is, you’ve redefined the “test” to meet your own goals for your student, which more closely reflect your methodology and your ultimate desire for them to be “well brought up,” as Charlotte would have said. We’ve never had a state agency question these types of grades.
Use varied techniques to assess that more closely represent your true goal for your student. Use the narration starters we’ve provided for you in our guides, and give a daily grade for student success with them. Assign a daily grade for discussion participation. Assign grades for reports done/projects completed based upon activities we’ve given you in the guides. Elaborate with learning goals accomplished. Give a student a “narrated test” that simply allows them to tell what they know, rather than a Q & A format. Assign grades for daily review that you incorporate. Assign grades for volunteering or skill learning that supports your learning goal. Assess student achievements as an overall in a set “rubrick” that defines your own goals. These are just some examples for assigning grades.
Use traditional techniques if you really need the peace of mind, or to reassure yourself you’re doing well until you grow in confidence with this new way of “teaching.” If you’d still like to do more traditional testing, an easy way is to underline key facts in key resources as you are reading them aloud to your students. Then, use these underlines to perform daily review. Finally, every 1-2 weeks, simply read aloud a “question” based upon the fact you’ve underline and have your student write the answer. Grade the impromptu test right away, and you’ll have an instant, low-prep test. This is an easy way to feel as though you’ve done some more traditional assessment. Some of our programs do have some quizzes and tests, including Ancient Sr High, which features quizzes and tests in Mystery of History Volume 1 and the Holman Bible Atlas, as well as Middle Ages Sr High, which features the same from Mystery of History Volume 2.
A couple of practical notes – -You might be surprised that the state agencies parents often “worry about,” for their turn rarely worry too much about assessment techniques. Why? It’s hard to say; perhaps it’s because the state knows assessments can be manipulated by parents anyway. Most agencies want to see work samples and sit down with parents to make a judgment about the probable success of their students. It is likely that any assessment you do will demonstrate a far more personal understanding of your student’s progress, and also demonstrate your commitment to their success, than any assessment the state could perform. Then — as to getting to know more about these different approaches — we’d encourage you to read “A Charlotte Mason Companion” by Karen Andreola. It is a great resource for additional, practical ideas, and a comfort in those moments you might feel unsure. If you have read it, we’d encourage you to try to take her ideas the next step to a home setting. I say all this to reassure you that, as you slowly immerse yourself in this world of homeschooling, you may find a new freedom to leave behind some constraints to be found in the practicalities of managing a multi-student classroom. When you work one-on-one with your child, you just know a lot more about what they are learning! Enjoy the journey!
I have a child identified as autistic. What parts of the program work for him/her?
We have received some feedback from parents using our program with autistic children, and these are some of their thoughts. Autistic children often have trouble with caring to learn if they can’t see how it relates to their lives. They may also have difficulty with too much sensory input, and do not do well with multi-tasking. They do, however, learn well when they are motivated, work well in a sensory-controlled environment, and apply themselves well to tasks broken down step by step. Therefore, before you begin our program, it may help to remember to set up a learning environment that reduces distractions and interruptions, and does not over-stimulate your student. It may also help to develop a pattern of breaking any assignment down into smaller steps. And most of all, it may help for you to “follow” your student toward those things that catch his or her interest, especially as you begin. Parts of our program have been successful for some parents, although you will want to follow your child’s lead as you choose what to do.
Our history books are often well-received as they are quite visual and interesting to read. It may help to ask the child to read some of the titles on their own or aloud, then read aloud the rest to him or her. The activities have been successful if they are not too easy, nor too difficult, and if you plan to break it into steps. Plan to set the activity aside in the middle for a time if your child becomes frustrated by the process; plan to come back to it later, not by forcing the child, but by interesting the child in completing the project. DVDs have also been highly successful, and some parents have noticed children taking material from the DVDs and using the information learned by setting up play scenarios, literally reinforcing their learning in their play activities. Our program does offer many learning avenues, and often one or another of them will catch the autistic child’s interest. Let him or her explore areas of interest, and gradually, with time and patience, you might find you’ll be able to do more and more leading into areas that aren’t of strict interest to the student. One parent’s best advice was to make sure above all else that the child is developmentally ready for whatever level you choose to do. As to math, one parent recommended using real-life kinds of simulations, such as shopping situations or playing money games like Monopoly, and using manipulatives to make the math three-dimensional and practical for your student.