Let’s talk about homeschooling
“Hey hon, we need to talk…..
“I think I know what we need to do for homeschool.”
We had this conversation no less than three times over the last 9 months since we started schooling our 5 and 3-year-old boys.
In truth, we are learning as we go, despite my desire to have all the answers from the start.
Now, as we are coming close to the end of our first year of homeschooling, I’ve been able to reflect on the lessons I have learned.
If you are just starting out, I hope that this can provide some clarity and perspective. If you are a seasoned homeschool family, I trust there are many more lessons that you have learned along the way and I look forward to all the things I have yet to learn.
The curriculum struggle
Turns out, choosing a curriculum is hard. We have tried out a few this year and spent more money than was necessary.
I started with Five in a Row (FIAR) and The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading for our reading lessons. But FIAR didn’t provide enough direction, and the Ordinary Parents Guide was too dry and mundane.
So we switched to My Father’s World and I loved it at first.
I loved the Biblical focus, and that it provided me specific instructions for each day. But after a few weeks, the lessons became repetitive and the phonics program was way to slow for my son. I also didn’t care for their math program.
So we ended up going back to The Ordinary Parent’s Guide (with some modifications) and adding in Math U See. We are still using My Father’s World for Bible and Science, but that’s a pretty expensive program to only be using pieces of it.
In the end, I learned that buying an all-in-one curriculum isn’t for us, but also that I like lessons with good direction. We are continuing on with Math U See and The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and plan to add Classical Conversations at some point.
Comparison in homeschooling
At the end of the summer, 2017, we made a last minute decision to start our oldest in the homeschool enrichment program that is offered through our public school district. It is one full day a week, and our son just barely made the cut-off date for age.
This seemed like a great idea because I was pregnant at the time and one day a week to be without kids sounded fantastic. I would send our 3-year-old to daycare and have a day to rest and catch up on things.
But in the end, I found myself worrying that my son wasn’t keeping up with the class material, and i was stressed thinking that I wasn’t doing enough!
In the end, there are many reasons why we choose to homeschool, and even in one day, I felt the influence of the public school system. His teacher was fantastic and I think the program is good, but we will not be returning next year.
Structure and Routine
Structure matters, but it isn’t everything.
When I first realized this and spoke it out loud, I just about gagged on my words.
Before we started schooling at home officially, I had configured a carefully planned out schedule to reflect when we would do each subject, play, eat, etc. The routine was important and structure was everything.
Suprise! It didn’t work out that way.
I kept trying to find the right schedule and routine that I was almost crippled when things didn’t go as I had planned. I typically operate with an all-or-nothing mentality. I found that I struggled with just doing “some” school.
But homeschooling is about freedom, and a lesson here and there works better for us than focused lessons for a period of time or no lessons at all. This became even more obvious after our daughter was born halfway through the “school year.”
A structured routine is something that doesn’t really exist with a newborn, and I had to find a way to fit learning in between naps, feedings, and diaper changes.
So I threw away my color-coordinated schedule (twice!) and settled on a few daily habits. These habits are:
- Daily Chores: we do chores after breakfast and after dinner. Because teaching responsibility and contribution is non-negotiable.
- Morning Basket Time: after chores, we sit down together in the living room and go through the days of the week, review past lessons, and do a devotional or our Bible lesson. Then we pray together. When we start our day off this way, we get our hearts in the right space before doing anything else.
- Outside time: All kids need time to do their natural learning through play, but especially boys.
- Reading: lots and lots of reading. And audiobooks. We do very little TV but we do A LOT of reading.
When we keep up with these habits, I don’t worry about the rest of it. Not at ages 5 and 3. For now, we are doing enough.
We are always learning. There are opportunities to teach and to learn constantly. I have to get out of my “school box” and remember that lessons in the car and at the store are just as important as worksheets and writing practice. When you homeschool, lessons happen anywhere and anytime. We don’t have to be confined to “school hours”.
We do life and we do school. Whenever, wherever, but always together.