articles / Family life / Homeschooling

Starting the homeschool journey

There have been several people over the past few weeks who have asked me about what I’m planning on doing with schooling or how I’m going to go about it.

The thing is, before I go any further — everyone goes about this differently. There are different methods and different things that work for different families. Anything I say about what I’m doing is exactly that — what I’M doing. That does not mean that’s the norm or what works for someone else…OK. Now that that’s settled I’ll move on.

Curriculum

Many people have asked me what I’m doing as far as curriculum. The thing is there are TONS of places to get curriculum. Of course the first thing is you have to decide you and your child’s “style”. There are different methods. You can go traditional and do lecture, worksheets and tests or you can go non-traditional with “unschooling” and go with student-led learning — basically we learn by experience — which involves not so much lecture, worksheets and tests. There are also unit studies. This is where all subjects revolve around one particular thing. For example, for a unit on horses the student would read about horses, taking about horses in science class and possibly even discuss the social aspect of raising horse or racing horses. This is a basic description, but hopefully slightly helpful. For a more in-depth explanation of the three just google it. The other method is eclectic. This method is actually a mixture of the others. There is some lecture and worksheets, but also plenty of room for learning through experience and even throwing in a few unit studies.

Pretty much we’re going the eclectic route. I don’t like feeling bound to a particular method because honestly, every subject or new concept could be taught differently. Even though I’m sure it can be done, I’d find it difficult to teach phonics the unschooling method and plan to do a more traditional route (but with plenty of hands on supplements). However, when it comes to teaching fractions, I think the best thing in the world is to teach fractions by cooking and using measuring cups/spoons.

You can buy complete curriculum’s from various websites including mardel.com and christianbooks.com and other popular websites. The package includes everything you need

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My resource area and many binders…

for whatever grade you’re teaching. You can also buy the subjects separately. For example, you may like how this particular group teaches language, but prefer a different publishers for science. You sort of mix and match — this is good for those doing eclectic because many publishers tend to lean toward one type of learning or learning style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic). These curriculum’s guide you step-by-step on what to teach and how to teach it. This is good for people who don’t want to worry about a lot of planning or who are uncomfortable writing lesson plans and working without a set of instructions.

If you’re really brave you can build your curriculum completely from scratch. You basically find out exactly what the student needs to know for that grade level and you find the materials and develop your own curriculum for it based off of your income needs and your style. There are tons of free/cheap printables online or activities online and books at the library to help you go this route. The amount of free resources on the internet is amazing, you just have to go looking for it (Pinterest is a good place to look).

For kindergarten, first grade and *possibly* second grade, this is the route we’re going in. My original major in college was education and so I have experience in developing my own lessons plans and am comfortable doing so. FYI, not saying that you have to have a degree in order to develop you’re own curriculum. For the later elementary years and beyond I will most likely go to a handy dandy packaged curriculum, but for now, I’m going the cheap/free route.

My lesson plan book

My lesson plan book

Organization

Despite the fact that cleaning my car is near the bottom of my priority list, I’ve been super organized when it comes to getting stuff together for Josiah’s schooling. We actually

have a designated classroom that has tons of books and a growing art supply/science closet and a giant chalkboard and maps to do stuff with. We will spend a lot of time in there doing the traditional type stuff, but we will also plan on spending a lot of time outside of that room for learning too. I did want a designated area though where we can focus on

learning because for Josiah (and me) there needs to be structure and consistency and little distraction.

Especially since I’m building my own curriculum, I have a resource area for myself that has my teaching books and an area to build lesson plans (this area also doubles as my sewing area). I also have a lesson plan book that shows what we’re going to be doing in each subject day-to-day. There are different colored highlighters that note when I’ve planned for a physical activity, art project or journal activity. We will go to the library once a week and I also have a sticky note to remind me of the kinds of books I need to check out when we go.

Part of the classroom

Part of the classroom

I’ve planned far enough ahead that each subject has a binder and I have a separate binder that I put the lessons for all subjects for the month in. I also have a binder that serves as a portfolio for Josiah. It’s not super important now other than for ourselves, but later on we will have to start recording transcripts and I want to be in the good habit of

accurately recording his progress — especially since I think it is ridiculous to give grades such as A, B, C, D and F (that’s another post…).

This is all very structured and many people may be thinking “Wow, there’s no way I could do this.” That may very well be true. You’re brain may work differently than mine. I

know a few homeschooling moms that are super structured and I know a few that couldn’t tell you what they plan to teach tomorrow, but that there will be learning at some point. This is how I want to do it. It’s what makes me comfortable — it doesn’t make it the only way to do it.

The other part of the classroom

The other part of the classroom

School hours

Contrary to popular belief, homeschooled students DO NOT have to be working on school work between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. like other students (at least in Arkansas). I plan for us to

have a schedule (a VERY flexible one) to roughly go by every day. There will be days where we may work on school from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. Then there may be days

where we do an hour here and an hour there. The only requirement is that we get through all of his lessons within a set amount of days. He may go through three days worth of Language Arts on Monday, but then on Thursday not do any Language Arts work at all. That’s the beauty of homeschool — you go at the students pace. The goal is not to ensure that X amount of lessons are done in X amount of days, but that X amount of lessons are LEARNED and UNDERSTOOD.


Socialization

This one is fun to answer. People who don’t know any better assume that children who are homeschooled do not get socialized — that’s one of the biggest myths out there about homeschooling. Here’s my response: You first have to ask yourself, “How much ‘socialization’ does a child get when at public school?”

Well, you have the 15-20 minutes before school, about 30 minutes of recess throughout the day (in the younger grades) and an hour for lunch. So about 2 hours of socializing? In the classroom kids get in trouble for socializing so you know that’s not happening. Also, when at school, most of the socialization that occurs happens between peers. There is little to no meaningful interaction between kids younger or older or between the student and an adult. Basically, school is primarily for learning and socializing is a secondary goal.

Josiah will be interacting with kids his age while in Sunday School and children’s church on Sunday, AWANA on Wednesday, Mother’s Day Out on some Friday’s and we also plan to be involved in the local homeschool co-op. In the co-op he’ll meet other kids his age and those younger/older than him who are also homeschooled. There will be field trips and activities, just the same as public school. Basically, Josiah will not be an un-socialized enigma just because he’s homeschooled.

He will also be in organized sports. He will play soccer this spring/fall and play basketball when that time comes around next year. Neither one of these teams are through the public school, but due to the changes in state laws, if he wanted to play a sport for the school district he could.

A final note

The thing is, none of this is set in stone. My lesson plans and schedules are structured, yet flexible because with a 4 year old and an infant you have to be able to be both structured and flexible. Just because I “planned” for a lesson to be taught on Tuesday doesn’t mean it will be. It may be taught a few days late or a week early. Halfway through this school year I may decide that we’re doing too much lecture/worksheets and work on more hands-on stuff or vice versa. I may decide closer to the end of kindergarten that I don’t want to build a first grade curriculum and I’ll buy one.

And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. You have to plan in order to do something, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. It certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for fear that you might change your mind.

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One thought on “Starting the homeschool journey

  1. Pingback: The many faces of homeschool | Working to be a Proverbs mom

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