Homeschooling: Where Do We Begin?

Blogs to read!  Forums to follow!  Conventions to attend!  Holy cow!

Where to begin?  Why are we doing this?  What’s our philosophy?

I want to spend more time with my kids while they’re young and help my oldest develop some better coping skills for stress and frustration.  I want them to be lifelong learners not just when “school” is in session.  I want them to be best friends and good citizens, starting with helping our family more.

I’m certainly not saying these things couldn’t be accomplished while working full-time, I was doing it, more or less while working.  We had school work (workbooks, reading lists and flashcards) during the summer to keep things going year round.  We discussed strategies regularly – like deep breathing or “walking away.”

I tend to have an all or nothing kind of personality, and get unbalanced easily.  I am aware of this and readjust regularly, but often found that I was putting more time into work than into my family.  I was afforded a wonderful opportunity when I was laid off to try something different.  Pour all my time and energy into my family and look for work on the side, at least for a couple years.

How do we want to structure our learning?  Do we want to structure our learning?

school sign

Child led learning, parent led learning, setting up a formal classroom, or relaxing anywhere in the house.  Those that know me, would probably think I’d pick parent led learning with a formal classroom setting.  You sure do know me, at least as well as I know myself.  I thought that’s what I wanted too.  But, then I thought more about what a day would look like and what a week would look like.

I want to also have fun with my kiddos and they’re young, play is a form of learning.  I want to wake up one day and have a structured morning with some work, then a fun afternoon at the park, or zoo, or for a hike, or children’s museum.  Then we started our first week and I realized that sometimes I’ll want to have a fun morning and a more structured afternoon.  Sometimes I want us to take our work with us to the park or the library.  Or have a picnic in the backyard with a good book.  The whole point of this homeschooling thing is to have flexibility right?  What if daddy works on Saturday and Sunday and has Wednesday and Thursday off…we want to go do something as a family, so we can push our “formal” learning activities to Saturday and Sunday instead.  What if we go on a road trip?  What if they attend a camp?  Flexibility was what I wanted.

Okay, that’s a start, but I’m not a naturally flexible person, this was going to have a bit of a learning curve!

There are a ton of resources online and in the community….just search “homeschooling” and you’ll be amazed.  And by the way, working moms….I urge you to do this search too, there’s some great resources/activities/ideas that any family would enjoy.  One of the first things they say you need to do is decide on a curriculum.  But oh my, there are so many choices.

Ambleside Online  – this website is very comprehensive, I’m impressed.  Everything is laid out, by year, term and week, but we decide which day(s).  Its very comprehensive and it’s a nod to the “old school.”  I really like the idea of being literature based vs. textbook based.  Meaning that reading and history come from literature not textbooks.  I also like how its not “dumbed” down to a 1st grader or any other grade.  Small children can learn to appreciate amazing art, beyond simple finger painting.

Math Mammoth – this was a tough one.  Most of the curriculum out there are hundreds of dollars.  There are homeschooling resell stores online where you can purchase used materials for less, but its still pricey.  I spoke with my oldest daughter’s 1st grade teacher for some advice and she recommended that whatever we choose it needs to be investigative math.  Meaning math that focuses on how numbers combine and work together and break apart, not just rote memory.  I found Math Mammoth and so far, I’m impressed.  You can choose to go by grade or by topic or a combination of both if you child needs more time with a certain topic.  It has chapter tests, cumulative tests and end of year tests and lots of review throughout the tests and a tool to create additional worksheets on topics your little one needs some additional help with.  It teaches investigative math and multiple strategies to complete math problems, not memorization and the best part, its way affordable.

Learn to Read in 100 lessons – so far I love the approach of this book, its all based on letter sounds not letter names and it incorporates reading, speaking, listening and writing.  But, after doing 7 lessons, my 4 year old was loosing interest – I have a feeling its boredom, so, we backed off for a week or so, then tried again, but instead of doing a lesson every day, we’re doing it every other day. And trying to keep it light. She gets really bored during the rhyming activities, so for the last couple lessons, we’ve skipped those, I might integrate them back into the lessons soon.

Lapbooks & notebooking – this is cool!!!  I can’t wait to complete our first lapbook.  I’ve decided we’re going to do one for Geography and one for nature study this term.  A lapbook culminates a series of lessons/information on one related topic into a small sized book so the children can regularly review, re-read, look at, etc.  And its their artwork and writing.  Just search in your web browser “lapbooks” and you’ll find a ton of resources.  I’ve bookmarked homeschoolshare.com as my go to.  I haven’t read this one yet, but intend to.

Gradebook….

How exactly do I want to be tracking our progress?…now, I love spreadsheets, so at first I started to build an elaborate gradebook, but then once I started using it, I realized that I didn’t really want to get that tactical.  So, I landed on Pass/Fail for the following regarding daily/weekly work, but with me documenting specific comments about areas that need improvement:

  • Reading, journaling, discussion: (literature, history, bible study)
  • Reading comprehension & grammar
  • Art & Music appreciation
  • Nature study
  • Physical Education
  • Handicrafts
  • Spelling & copy work/transcription
  • Geography

And the following would be graded with more detail:

  • End of term test that covers: History, Bible Study, Literature, Nature Study/Science, Music & Art appreciation
  • Weekly spelling tests
  • Math…daily work, worksheets, reviews, chapter tests, end of year tests, all of it.

So, that’s our roadmap, I’ll keep you posted along the way to what works for us as we get further along.   Remember every family is different, every child is different, every parent/child relationship is different (even within the same household).  And, even if your not homeschooling and your babes are in a traditional school setting, I think there’s lots of great info in the links I’ve provided.  I suspect that I’ll be re-reading this post regularly to remind me of why we’re doing this.  If you see my at the grocery story repeating to myself “Flexibility, Patience, Flexibility, Patience”  remember this post, I’m a work in progress.

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