I just realized that I haven't posted an actual homeschooling update since November. Wow. I can't even begin to talk about everything we've covered since then.
I have to get real for a minute: I've barely been keeping my head above water. I love blogging, but it's been at the bottom of the list. In fact, right now, I should be going to bed. But I just wanted to take a moment. I did update about two of the curricula we are using, because they come up a lot in Facebook groups and I thought I could just drop a link instead of typing out the same thing over and over again (TL;DR: I love Logic of English and Torchlight and highly recommend both).
I actually took a four-month Facebook break. I still used groups as a resource, but I deleted everyone from my Facebook feed and stopped posting on Facebook. I wanted to use that time as a chance to connect with people in a more personal way--I'm not sure that I succeeded. But it was good to take a bit of a break, even if it wasn't a complete one.
I've been doing some reflecting, trying to work on figuring myself out. It's a never-ending, life-long process, of course. I've realized over the past several years that I'm an introvert, and I'm learning how to nourish that so that I can have stronger relationships with others. I'm working on managing anxiety. In reading about parenting, I've learned things about myself too.
I've been spending a lot of time on research and writing for History Unboxed. I love my job, and I take it very seriously. I'm not a perfectionist about everything, but I am about research. It's really hard for me to stop reading and start writing because I'm afraid I'm going to miss some all-important detail. Access to peer-reviewed journals may or may not be a good thing for me!
We also had a major event at our house at the beginning of March. During a major windstorm, a tree fell on our house. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It came through in multiple places, and we are truly lucky that no one was hurt. I am so desperate for life to get back to normal, and we have a long road to go. The two big kids are sharing a room. Himself and I sleep in the basement because Princess CE can't sleep in a room with anyone else. The other two bedrooms are out of commission. Two kids sharing a room wouldn't be such a big deal if it was an event that had been planned and prepared for, but it's a difficult dynamic when one kid is basically a guest in the other kid's room. It's better now, but one of my kiddos has had a lot of anxiety about another tree falling on the house, and the disruption to routine didn't help with that. We are still probably over a month away from completing repairs. As of this point, the only change is that we have a tarp for a roof. At least the weather is *finally* starting to get warmer.
Let's see what else:
Well, that's the short story. You can always follow my homeschool Instagram page for more regular updates. For now, here are some (ok lots of) photos from the past few months. Click for full images.
I’m not huge on big all-in-one curricula, especially those that are really formulaic. A Year of Playing Skillfully worked for me because it was more of a monthly checklist of activity ideas than a strict curriculum. I use curriculum for reading and math because it’s less stressful for me than pulling together ideas cohesively but I tend to use it flexibly as well.
Then along came a secular humanist literature based curriculum. At its most basic, Torchlight is a very detailed and well thought out book list. The books are selected to represent diverse authors and characters, and a secular humanist worldview. There are accompanying discussion questions as the year goes on.
At at the kindergarten level, the theme is Around the World. Each week features a different country. Generally, we read a story from the culture, the biography of a woman from that country, and cook something from the country. We may also read about a local animal. There are novels as well. The curriculum centers around spines, books that we will read throughout the year. The novels and picture books supplement the spines. There are art and music study elements as well. Add in recommended resources for podcasts, apps, even more books, and games, and it’s pretty much exactly how we like to do school. The curriculum was especially appealing to me because it included resources for secular character education. That's not always easy to find.
Here are some of the questions I've seen in groups on Facebook:
1. How much does it cost?
The curriculum costs $30. That price includes the extensive booklist, 36 weeks of lesson plans, and suggested supplements. You can preview the booklist here. You will need to add phonics and math instruction if you are planning on teaching those subjects in kindergarten. I love that they are not included because it makes the program more customizable. Torchlight does recommend curriculum for these subjects.
The booklist includes over 100 books. If you have a great library system, you might be able to do this curriculum inexpensively. Don't forget about Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and used books. I'm not going to lie, it adds up quickly. I spent a little over $500 on books for around half of the books. I had some of the resources already. The rest are available from my library or through Amazon Unlimited. I bought as many used books as I could through Amazon, eBay, and ThriftBooks. Any books that we don't find ourselves re-reading will be sold at the end of the "year" whenever that happens. Torchlight users estimate that if you buy every single book on the list, it will cost $900-1000.
2. How long does it take each day?
We do most of the reading during our Together Time (some people call it Morning Time). We tend to do activities in the afternoon. I'd guess we spend about 30 minutes reading and 15-30 minutes on activities.
3. How old are your kids if they are doing Level K?
AW is the main kiddo, and she is 5.5. Her almost 4 year old brother, DC, tags along for most of the reading but doesn't get much from the character education at this point. I read everything because AW is just learning to read and isn't fluent yet.
4. What other curricula are you using?
We use Logic of English for phonics and language arts, Primary/Singapore for Math, and Brave Writer's Jot it Down for writing. The last is optional for us and not daily, but I have a kid who loves telling stories. We're all about the Brave Writer lifestyle...but that's an entirely different post.
If you're still curious about Torchlight, check back on this post. I plan on adding updates as I think of other answers. I'll likely do a separate post about how things are working out for us, but I'll link it here. If you have a question, drop it in the comments!
If you spend much time in the homeschool discussion groups on Facebook, you will see lots of people asking (and answering!) about reading instruction programs. When AW first started showing reading readiness AND a desire to learn to read, I read the recommendations. Here were the top three recommendations at that time:
How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
All About Reading
Logic of English
AW was only four, and I hadn't planned on starting formal reading instruction until she was 6 or 7. The last two are expensive and felt like a bigger commitment. Since she was so young, I decided to go with the cheap and "easy" route. The first, 100 Easy Lessons, is just a book. While I know other people have had success with this book, it bored both of us to tears. It felt really inauthentic and both of us dreaded the book. We took a break from learning to read. But she was still really interested. We played with the LeapFrog Letter Factory magnets, read lots of good books, and she even asked me to teach her to write letters to label things.
Finally, I saw a used copy of Logic of English Foundations A and B with all of the accompanying materials. I bit the bullet and purchased it. I have zero regrets. We started last July and have finished all of Foundation A and are well into Foundations B. AW is 5.5
Here's what I like:
I just feel like it's a really solid program that leaves no room for gaps. I've seen one or two complaints that it moves too slowly, but you could easily leave off activities that your kid didn't need for practice. I think it's highly adaptable and yet open and go at the same time.
One of the biggest questions I see:
"Should I buy all of the materials?"
At a minimum, you will need the teacher's manual and student workbook. For Foundations A, you need the book "Doodling Dragons." (It's the best alphabet book ever when it comes to actual phonetic examples). I'm very glad I have the phonogram game cards because we use them weekly. We don't use the phonogram tiles very much, so I could do without them. You could make the flash cards yourself, but the tactile handwriting cards are quite nice and it would be a LOT of work to make all the phonogram flash cards with all the information on them. The reference sheets have been really useful but not indispensable.
The other big question:
"Cursive or manuscript?"
I'm teaching manuscript because that's what I was able to purchase used. From a developmental standpoint, there are strong arguments for teaching cursive and it was my first choice. It helps with letter reversals and formation. And this curriculum does a solid job of teaching cursive writing and manuscript reading.
Yes, it's expensive. And I will have to buy new workbooks for each kids. But the rest is reusable. And it's very solid and fun. I feel like it's been worth every penny. I really can't recommend it enough!
In my post about Reading and Relationships, I talked about taking a break from moving forward in our reading lessons. I think it was the right choice. She voluntarily and confidently read me four BOB books in a row the other day. She's going through an emotionally intense time, and I think we need to work through some big feelings before we move ahead with this challenge.
I love being able to change an adapt as we need to for homeschool. I asked her about her favorite way to learn math, and she told me that she liked workbooks and math games, but not doing math on the computer. I ended up switching us to using Primary Mathematics, also known as Singapore Math. The Homeschool Educators' Guide that is made to accompany the workbook and textbook is a fantastic resource for games, and the colorful books are really engaging. It was interesting because the first lessons were pretty easy review but the material moves quickly. I'm interested to see how that works for her. We're also doing Brainquest workbooks for fun...I can't believe how much my kids like workbooks.
We've also gotten into doing History Unboxed. We wrapped our study of Mali and moved onto the Powhatans. She really liked using the bead loom. I also used Pin It Maps to show her where some Native American tribes lived at the time the English arrived. I can't wait for our next box! It's so much fun to get to enjoy my hard work.
I think we are coming to the end of our love affair with Ivy Box. It's been a lot of fun, but I think she needs to go a different direction for art time, and she is going to surpass many of the literacy and math materials pretty soon. I've cancelled our subscription. That leaves more money for our new obsession: games! This month, we've played several card games: Uno and Sleeping Queens, which both have special decks, as well as Go Fish, Crazy 8s, and WAR with regular playing cards (although we have "special" decks for the first two of those). They also like Sequence for Kids and Spot It, Jr.
We had a couple of nice outings with the Traveling Acorns Group, splashing in streams and visiting farm animals.
December should be a nice month. We do a lot of special activities and the formal school takes a back seat. Literacy activities include reading books and writing letters and Christmas cards. Math comes into play with cooking. We will still be schooling, but much more on the unschooling side. Formal lessons can wait until January when we are all fresh and ready to go.
Have you heard of the Five Love Languages? There are a few books, but the basic idea is that your "love language" is the way you both express love and feel love from others. They are:
Acts of Service
Words of Affirmation
I think it's really easy to get cynical about them, especially physical touch and gifts. Physical touch isn't just about romantic intimacy. Gifts isn't just about the gimmes. More on that in a minute.
Anyway, when I was teaching at a Montessori preschool, all of us read The Five Love Languages of Children. Afterwards, I discussed it with my then fiance. We spent some time trying to figure out our own love languages. Someone said to me once that it would be easy to use these as a cop-out. "Oh, well, you like gifts but my love language is quality time so that's what you get." I can see that happening, but it hasn't worked that way for us at all. It's actually helped us, especially me, understand why we might be feeling cranky in our relationship. We both have to be pretty conscious, because when we ranked our love languages, they didn't match up at all. My primary love language is quality time. His primary love language is words of affirmation. My second is words of affirmation, and I think his second is gifts. Physical touch was third for both of us I think. So you see, we are almost completely flipped.
But, knowing is really important. Sometimes, if I start to get huffy, I reflect. Ok, it might be because we aren't having much quality time--maybe because of work, or because of kids, or just the easy trap of staring at a TV (although sometimes TV can be quality time). I know that I can work to make quality time happen. I also can stop and think "what acts of service has he been doing?" He cooks breakfast for our family almost every day. That's a daily act of love for him. I feel better when I realize that he's showing love his way. I am absolutely capable of making my own breakfast, and I'm even willing to. And I know that doing something for him, like unloading the dishwasher before he does the dinner dishes, makes his day better. It's not enough to know that we have different love languages, we have to work with each other's love languages.
Obviously not everything in a marriage boils down so simply, but it's been a very effective shorthand for us.
Now, remember when I said I would come back to gifts?
Gifts are AW's love language. Like any child, she loves receiving gifts. But it becomes more clear in her generosity towards others. She brings something for her dance teacher every single week: a drawing, a beautiful leaf, a feather. She's been busy coloring pictures to give to people for "Thanksgiving presents" even though she knows it's not a gift-giving occasion and that she won't be getting any in return. She's also working on a stack of pictures for Santa because no one else ever gives him anything. It's very important to her that people accept her gifts, because that is how she shows love. One of her good friends is also a "gifts" kid, and the two of them are constantly giving each other little tokens of affection. It's the sweetest thing. And I need to remember that a thoughtful gift goes a long way for her...and that it doesn't have to be fancy or even cost money.
It's hard to tell with kids--they need all of the love languages to some degree, usually. I haven't figured out DC's love language yet. CE is obviously still a mystery because babies are pretty much 100% about the physical touch part.
What's your love language?
This kid. So full of curiosity and spirit and will. One of my biggest challenges as her mom/educator is finding the balance between challenging her and meeting her needs.
At four, she asked me to teach her how to read. We started with How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons because it was the cheapest evidence-based approach and I wasn't sold on academics for preschoolers. It didn't work well for us and we shelved it. Looking back, that was absolutely the right decision. She wasn't ready, even though she wanted to be, and that approach wasn't a good fit for either of us. At the time, Himself asked me how we would know when it was ok to let her give up. I still don't have a straight answer to that question.
Now, we are several months into her "Junior Kindergarten" year. We have been doing Logic of English Foundations, and some of it has been a whole lot of fun. She loves the games (and so does DC). We play card games and bingo, and a lot of it is really physical too.
Parts of it have not been very fun for us. Handwriting, for one. I learned through trial and error to offer her choices. If she doesn't want to do handwriting practice, I'm not going to force it at this age. She can write in cornmeal with her finger. She can write in the air. She can tell me how to write the letters and I can scribe for her. We can skip it. She can use a dry erase board. She can use pen and paper. Or colored pencil and paper. I'm flexible. And it got us over a major hurdle.
We finished Foundations A and moved onto B. She can read basic words. And she's just soaking everything up, and I'm in awe. But something else was happening too. When it came time to read to me, she'd get really goofy. She'd look everywhere but at the page. She'd make up words. Things got tense. The reading lessons stretched long, far longer than they were supposed to. I tried carrots and sticks (not literal sticks of course). We cuddled and chatted. Then I started noticing patterns. She'd read fine until she got to certain words--then she'd get goofy or quit trying.
She was afraid.
Afraid of making a mistake.
And no matter how much I tried to reassure her that she only had to try, I wouldn't be upset about a mistake, it wasn't working for us. She was shutting down. She started fighting even the idea of reading lessons. We tried a couple of things: letting her practice reading alone before reading to me, reading to Himself instead of to me, doing lessons for a certain amount of time rather than trying to complete a whole lesson.
Then, I lost it. It was ugly. I wanted reading lessons to be fun and exciting and a wonderful time to share. She read things so well, I knew she could do it, and why couldn't I make her do it? I swept all the materials off the table and into the box and stormed off. Not my finest parenting moment. She sobbed and told me she would read.
I took some deep breaths. I talked myself off the ledge. It wasn't about me and what I knew she could do. She wasn't confident, and she felt anxious about screwing up. And here I was, yelling. Exactly what she was afraid of. I know exactly what she can read if she buckles down and focuses, after a prolonged battle. It's not about her ability at all. But if I keep pushing and shouting (which goes against my parenting philosophy anyway), it's not going to encourage a love of reading.
After I told myself these things and took my breaths, which took a minute or so, I sat down on the sofa and called her over. I said that we were going to do reading differently for a little while. We were going to practice reading the BOB books over and over again until she felt ready. We weren't going to quit reading because she had been working so hard and I believed in her. We were just going to slow down. We would play some reading practice games.
And, I told myself, I had to prioritize some other things for a few days. It's time to spend a few days reconnecting to my kid and mending the damage of the reading battle. It's time for playing games, coloring together, and reading aloud (by me). These are all still important things for a five year old. It feels like a school break for her, but it's exactly what she needs. Last night, we made dinner together. She was so proud.
I often think about my dad in my homeschooling vision. That might be surprising to some, because he was not homeschooled and neither was I. My dad attended a mix of Catholic and public schools, and I went to public school for all thirteen years of grade school. So when I say that my dad inspires me as a home educator, it's not because of actual homeschool experience. It's because of his own school experiences and his actions as an adult.
My dad was not a good student. He got in quite a bit of trouble at school. Once he got a thrashing for doing a homework assignment in red pen. I know it was the era. And there are plenty of teachers even now who wouldn't accept an assignment done in anything but the typical colors. He was also disciplined once for plagiarism...only he didn't plagiarize. The teacher (I think it was the same one as the red pen incident but I'm not sure) simply didn't believe he was capable of such well-written work. Fortunately, my grandmother pulled him from the school after that.
My dad was brilliant, but he didn't do well with conforming. He didn't always fit in with his family, he dropped out of college, and then when he joined the army instead, he didn't fit that mold either. When he was in basic training and ordered to camouflage his tent, he spent his day uprooting and transplanting bushes, cutting branches, and overall doing a fantastic job hiding his tent. Then he crawled inside with a good book. No one could find him. He ended up having to do extra KP duty as a punishment.
It's not really a surprise that a desk job wasn't his thing. He was a landscape architect, a community management guru, a marketing consultant, and an expert on aging. He wrote books and spoke at conferences. And almost every single night in memory, he went to bed with a book in his hands. His books are filled with annotations, sometimes on a sticky note but mostly right on the page. He read about marketing and landscaping, sure, but he read about neuroscience and anthropology and animal behavior. He read about religion and history. He occasionally read fiction, but vastly preferred nonfiction. After he passed away, I catalogued the remaining books in his library: well over 500 volumes. That was after significant downsizing both during his final days and immediately afterward.
He never did go back to college. Yet anyone who knew him would describe him as an educated man. He had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and he never stopped thinking and writing. He spent his final lucid hours revising his last book, and even his less lucid thoughts were intellectual in nature. In one of our last conversations, he woke in a panic thinking he was supposed to be on a conference call with George Washington, Christopher Columbus, and Admiral T-- (my brother-in-law, who is not an admiral but is enjoying a very successful naval career). I can only wonder what they were supposed to discuss.
My dad encouraged me to be a lifelong learner as well. He taught me to read by accident, simply by reading to me every night and underlining the words with his finger. I valued books from the beginning because he did. He loved surprising me with books, or wandering bookstore aisles together. (Back when we had many bookstores to choose from, even in one town!) He talked to me about things far beyond my understanding, assuming that I would catch up or ask questions. Quantum physics? No big deal. He read the newspaper every morning, and despaired of my lack of knowledge of current events during my young adulthood. Classical music was a constant in our home, and he once paid me to learn how to play the first movement of Moonlight Sonata on the piano. He loved beauty. He loved passionate debate and was not afraid to be a devil's advocate.
All this from a kid who did poorly in school. I'm sure most of his teachers thought he'd never amount to anything. They may have even thought he was stupid. Really, he just didn't fit the mold.
One final thought:
When we were deciding which books to bring home and put on our own shelves, Himself said:
"All of them. It's like having your dad's brain."
October is one of my favorite months of the year. Unfortunately, it's filled with so many good things that I can't get to them all without feeling completely overwhelmed.
Usually we go apple picking and to the Renaissance Festival in either September or October. We didn't get to that this year, unfortunately.
We finished up our apple-themed Ivy Box from September, including an apple seed addition activity. We followed up by reading books like The Apple Doll by Elisa Kleven and The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall. We are planning on making some apple crisp (because making gluten free pie crusts is too much work for me!) and our own apple dolls. We also read a book called Awesome Autumn which was jam packed with information about seasonal changes for plants, animals, and people. It's one I'd like to come back to next year.
We worked on self-help skills, including cooking and doing dishes (both kids) and getting dressed independently (DC). They made pudding a couple of times and we made and decorated cookies. We made alphabet cookies to celebrate finishing Foundations A (our literacy program) and Jack O' Lantern cookies for Halloween.
I've been trying to play more board games with the kids to work on social emotional skills. We have to balance out competitive games with cooperative games to keep things going smoothly. Count Your Chickens is a nice cooperative game. I like that our Ivy Boxes come with games too.
We worked on some new skills with CE too :) She's rolling all over the place so she has a nice safe play yard to play in. We put in a mirror (Montessori inspired) and she loves playing in there. She is occasionally joined by her siblings. In fact, I'm sitting next to her right now! She will be six months old in a few days, which is when we generally start introducing food. With the other two kids, we did "baby led weaning" which basically means giving baby soft finger foods instead of baby food, usually part of what we would be eating anyway. We didn't use baby food much because both of the big kids were so eager to start with the real thing. Plus, store-bought baby food is expensive and making it is more time than I want to spend. But this kid makes sure I don't run on absolutes. Twice a week, I take AW to dance class. I like to go alone because there isn't much space for CE to hang out and she's too squirmy to hold for an hour. I try to feed her right before I leave, but sometimes the timing isn't quite right with naps. She won't take a bottle, something we are working on. She's not quite ready for table food of any kind as far as fine motor skills or concerned, and she's still a little slouchy in her high chair. So, on Saturday we tried some baby food. This baby loooooooved it.
One of my favorite mornings of the year was a spontaneous fall scavenger hunt in our yard. I found the scavenger hunt here.
I've been trying to be more intentional about nature study. We studied acorns from the yard, read about oak trees and acorns in A Handbook of Nature Study, and even brought in a spider egg sac to observe (in the confines of a mason jar). When the spiders finally hatched, we released them outside. I was pretty proud of my ability to handle that particular activity. In the end, it was actually pretty cool. They built webs from the bottom of the jar to the top. All the same, I don't think I'll repeat this (sorry, younger kids).
We have gone on a couple of fall adventures: we walked a section of the Bull Run-Occoquan trail which was absolutely gorgeous. We went to the National Zoo with three families from our childbirth class five years ago. We went to the Claude Moore Colonial Market Fair and the Children's Science Center.
Our Ivy Box theme for the month was "Rainforests" (not the actual shipped box, but a holdover from when we had a backlog). It coincidentally tied in well with our visit to the zoo, where we visited the "Amazon" rainforest exhibit. We looked for the sloth, but didn't find one. They did have an artificial kapok tree, which was the tree in The Rainforest Grew All Around. In the box, we had a kapok seed pod which was really cool. The kids enjoyed observing it and feeling the fluffy seeds inside. We talked about the layers of the rainforest and played a version of chutes and ladders.
And of course we celebrated Halloween. We kicked off the month with our Halloween-themed Kinder Club event with our local homeschool group, Homeschoolers of Bealeton.
We also attended the Trunk or Treat event in town as well as trick or treating at the kids' grandparents' house.
Whew! Like I said, it was a busy month.
Like so many people, I struggle with finding a balance for my social media usage. I love the friendships that have been strengthened through Facebook and Instagram. On the other hand, it's so easy to mindlessly scroll.
I've been on Facebook long enough to remember a time before the Newsfeed. You had to visit people’s profiles to see their status. And yes, I can remember AOL chat rooms and instant messenger too. Recently, I talked to someone about the time we spent crafting our away messages. Now, there is no “away.” We are constantly available, with the internet in our pockets. It's a blessing and a curse.
It's so easy to passively connect in the Digital Age. To be fair, I wasn't a good correspondent before digital connection made things easier. Now I can scroll voyeuristically, clicking like as I go by. And then I feel like I know what's going on in the lives of the people I know.
But I don't.
Don't get me wrong. I love family photos, little snapshots of text, and even commentary on current events. But it's not a whole picture. It's a public face.
Last night, I had an authentic conversation on Messenger with a friend. It felt good. It's hard to talk on the phone with small children around. (And I have a lot of social anxiety around picking up the phone to make a phone call….always have but it's probably something I should work on). But one on one connection is such an improvement.
Awhile ago, I took my friends list down to under 150 people because I researched to find the number of people one person can actually keep up with, and that's the number. It was hard. And yet I still found myself mindlessly scrolling and not feeling any more intimately connected.
I'm friends with many family members on Facebook. While I love seeing their posts, Facebook is not a replacement for actual connection with them. Yet it's easy to fall into the trap of using Facebook in that way.
On top of that, the state of our world is anxiety inducing. I read the newspaper almost every day, so I'm informed. Watching everyone on Facebook share their reactions to the news just increases my nervous system reactions.
I've been relatively open about my experience with postpartum mental health issues. What I realized was that it was part of a longer history of struggles with anxiety. (I had a panic attack that sent me to the emergency room because I felt like I couldn't breathe and somehow thought it was an isolated incident. I was 16.) As I become more reflective and self-aware, I am better at recognizing triggers for anxiety.
Facebook is a huge source of anxiety for me. Yet I value the people it has given me...acquaintances from high school that have become friends in adulthood, connections to people in my community that I would not have met otherwise, maintaining relationships in the living history world in the months between events. Deleting Facebook, or even deactivating my account for a shorter period, would deprive me of many of those people.
I've tried Facebook fasts. They go ok. But it's hard to stick to. I've tried limiting my amount of FB time each day. But it's hard to monitor if I get on the computer.
So here's my new idea: I'm going to use Facebook for connection. I'm going to visit pages. I'm going to try to comment and not just like. I'm going to private message folks and hear the real deal about what's going on in their lives.
(I could say I'm going to write letters and call people, but I’m going to be realistic here. I can’t do that for 150 people).
Want in? Message me! Tell me what’s going on in your life. Tell me what you’re reading or watching. What are you dreaming? (Not Facebook friends? You can still message me through FB, or text me. Email me even).
Many many many people have written about different homeschool styles. It can be dizzying for the new home educator: Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Classical, Traditional, Unschool. I'm not going to go into a full explanation, but you can find one here.
So what are we?
Well, I have a background in Montessori and traditional school (obviously). I was an assistant teacher at Montessori preschool for a year, teaching 3-6 year olds. I'm not officially Montessori trained but I know the basics about how things go. While I like some of the lessons, known as "works," there are elements of the philosophy I disagree with. Initially, I thought I'd be more Montessori influenced, but I'm not at all.
How about traditional schooling, such as what happens in a public school classroom? I tend to teach reading and math in a more traditional format. I have more choice in my tools for teaching, but it's still more teacher-led than child-led. I'm using formal curriculum for reading, and I've started using Moby Max for math because the kids like it. Moby Max is very traditional and clearly prepares kids for testing. But you know, it's easy for me and the kids like it.
For science and social studies, I loosely follow the themes from AYOPS or the kindergarten standards for Virginia. But this is the area where we are much more child-led. I'm happy for them to just get basic ideas from our read-alouds, while we go deeper into the topics that interest them. You'd probably call us unschoolers in this category. Unschooling doesn't mean not teaching--it means that you are led by child interests. Some radical unschoolers don't do any formal instruction, but it's a spectrum. I like the nature study aspect of Charlotte Mason.
So what are we?
Technically, we are eclectic homeschoolers. That just means that we don't fit into any neat homeschool labels. That works for me.