Everyone decides to homeschool for different reasons, but I want to share with you our top three reasons to homeschool.
Our homeschooling story began in 1991 way back in Southern California. We have continued to homeschool across the country, with numerous children (most of whom have now graduated) for the following reasons:
Our kids are getting a solid education. Is it perfect? No. Are there gaps? Yes. Is that normal? I think so. Do we continue to hone and improve what we do? Yes.
Educating our kids at home has streamlined the academic process for the simple reason that there are fewer people to manage, no classes to change or halls and lockers to navigate, and no worksheets to slow us down. We learn the lesson; we move on. This pace has given our kids plenty of time to do things like scouts, sports, travel, read voraciously, study art, plant gardens, create things, help us re-build an acreage, serve others, write novels, participate in horseback riding, karate, and soccer, and pursue so many other interests.
Reason #2 – Faith
Homeschooling allows your kids to have time to refine, define, and own their faith.
Of course, it doesn’t take homeschooling to allow kids to own their faith, but it does allow them time to own it before the world and peers, and a whole host of other voices, come along to batter and beat it into something almost, but possibly, not quite Christian. Our kids leave our home with a solid understanding of the Bible, including its history, language and culture, the history of the church, the importance and personhood of Jesus, and a glimpse at how imperfect people attempt to live a life of vibrant faith.
Is it perfect? No. Do we fail? Yes. Is that normal? I know so.
Kids grow up and decide and determine what values they’ll follow, what memories they’ll treasure, and which they discard. The voices of the world are loud and noisy, and there is no guarantee that any of our kids will grow up to follow much of anything they’ve been raised with. The whole idea that if we raise our kids a certain way, it will guarantee specific values and lifestyle in our kids is idolatry, pure and simple.
We get to follow God and be faithful to what He has called us to do. Our kids also have that choice- to hear and obey, or not. Twenty-eight years into this stint of homeschooling has taught me some hard lessons, and one of the most challenging has been to realize that everyone works out their own salvation with fear and trembling. We don’t get to take our kids, or our spouses, or anyone else to heaven — just us. But we can sure do our part on behalf of others, including our kids.
That being said, raising our kids with an understanding of the Bible, history, literature, critical thinking skills, and a knowledge of Faith is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids. What they do with that gift is up to them.
Reason #3 – Family
It’s a busy world. Homeschooling has allowed us to spend hours together, playing, reading, learning, building, re-modeling, cooking, gardening, arguing, and laughing together. The good side of that is that everybody knows each other. The downside of this is that everybody knows each other.
Is it perfect? No. Do we get on each other’s nerves? You betcha’.
But really, how many people do you ever get to know well in life? Precious few. Add in social media and life online, and it’s no wonder that people are, literally, getting lonelier. Homeschooling has given our family time to sit around the fire watching fireflies and the Milky Way, discuss great books, history, literature, and ideas for hours. We can travel, sightsee, and fall in love with God’s world and each other. Quality time almost always demands quantity time. Our family has been blessed with plenty of both, and it has enriched each of our lives.
What are your top 3 reasons for homeschooling? Are they the same as when you first started or have they changed?
Homeschooling is a job many of us have taken on with little to no training. We weren’t versed in educational terminology, aren’t sure about what criteria to adhere to when choosing what to do or how to do it and have these kids who don’t fit neatly into any category. Here we are, however, homeschooling.
How do we start homeschooling when we aren’t even sure where to begin?
Start simply. What are your goals for this year, this semester, month, or week? Here is a very basic break-down of what kids should be doing by age/stage:
It should be simple- cut and paste, learning numbers and letters, skipping, exploring nature, reading good books together, listening to music, setting a routine, and forming good habits.
For Kindergarten through Third Grade:
In the early years, we can focus on reading, writing and number literacy, including the basics of phonics, art and nature exploration, the discovery of the world, more great books, field trips and the development of routines and habits.
For Third through Sixth Grade:
Now is the time to start math and literacy development, including all math function and ease in reading silently and out loud, writing fluency. Science, nature and history exploration, developing creative expression, PE, art, music, and of course, great books.
Seventh & Eighth Grade:
It is now that we should begin transitioning into more ownership of one’s education. Your students should be pursuing math or reading on their own. He should also be conducting more skilled science/ nature exploration, developing specific skills in various areas, logic, pre-algebra, and moving from concrete to abstract operations. It is also important to consider further development of routines and habits, especially those soft skills.
Ninth through Twelfth:
Now our students must begin developing critical thinking skills in various areas, building skills in various types of writing, the ability to read fluently and critically, scientific inquiry and math exploration, developing and furthering one’s understanding of history from ancient through modern, developing specific skill areas depending on ability, resources and interests, branching out into the world of work, community service, perhaps college credits and career exploration. It is also a good time for further development of habits and routines.
Once you have a simple understanding of basic expectations by grade/ stage level you can begin to think about what you want each kid to learn at this point. For me, it’s most simple to think about “by year” as many curriculum suppliers organize their studies that way, but I know others like to consider by quarter or season. Start simple.
I have worked for 10 of the twenty-eight years we’ve homeschooled- some at the front end and most at the back-end, and when I say simple, I mean it. Working is a job. Homeschooling is a job. Managing a house is a job. Like you, I need things that work, are time and cost-effective, and don’t cause me to want to pull my hair out.
Choose open and go curriculum that is not teacher intensive. This tip means you may have let go of the curriculum that you love because it takes to long to prep or get through.
Choose curriculum thatYOU love and understand because if you don’t love it, you won’t use it.
Consider your kids learning styles but don’t cater to them. Capitalize on your kids’ strengths and shore up their areas of weakness. The research on learning styles suggests that teaching to the kids learning styles has no significant benefit in the long run.
Chose a curriculum that gets the job done. Know what you’ll be learning. Learn it. Know what you’ve learned.
Don’t shy away from complicated subject matter but choose a curriculum that makes the difficult subject matter accessible. I like Henle Latin, but it’s archaic, and other curriculum get the job done much more efficiently.
Don’t look at and consider everything- you don’t have the time or money for that.
Don’t worry so much about if your kids are having “Fun.” Education can be fun, but it can also be hard work. You don’t want to sacrifice the real sense of fulfillment that comes from hard mental work. Finding the balance between fun and educational sweat is a delicate task.
Choose overview programs for some learning and mastery for others. Some curriculum camp in overview and after the first go-around they are a waste of time and money.
Read, learn, and grow as an educator.
Choose a curriculum that works for multiple kids, if at all possible.
Utilize homeschool “helpers” – co-ops, class days, on-line classes, Audible, YouTube, Videos, computer games, Tutors, and more. There are so many fantastic resources to help you get to where you need to go.
Keep the end in mind- what are your kids going to do after high school? Vo-tech, internships, travel, entrepreneur, College- Ivy League, NCAA, Military, Military Academy? All of these options and paths will require a different plan, different courses, different extra-curricular, and test scores to get there.
So there you go, a crash course in Homeschooling 101. We’ll continue the discussion this month on Homeschooling Basics. Stay tuned for more great info!
(The following is a guest post from Tammie Polk, True North Homeschool Academy blog contributor, speaker, and author.)
Manage My Home and Time? PSSSSH!
Them’s fightin’ words, aren’t they? Though they may be, it’s important as working homeschooling mamas that we get a routine set in place so that we aren’t wondering if the insurance money is really worth it or before we decide to put them on the big yellow bus that rides by our house every morning!
Here are some things that you can do to make it easier to manage your home and time:
Use a curriculum that teaches all of your kids at once—there are some out there that will teach them all the same thing, but on a different level, which minimizes your prep time and allows you to put that time to better use.
Use visual and written checklists—put your kids in charge of their progress, giving them something to work towards.
Get a solid meal prep routine—even if you start with family favorites, having meals prepped and ready to cook at a moment’s notice will definitely help.
Take a break to catch your breath when needed—if chaos seems to be coming through the air vents at every turn, then you might need to catch yourself. BURNOUT IS REAL!
Toss out your plans and let the kids lead—there will be times when what the kids want to do will outweigh the pros of our well-oiled plan. Child or interest-led learning works, too!
So, how is all of this going to help me manage my home and time?
Even using ONE of these will give you one less thing to do on a given day. The more that you have in place, the more you can breathe, and your home will run more smoothly.
The key to making all of this work is to encourage your kids to be as independent as possible. Make it to where they don’t have to come to you every second while you’re working! You know how it goes…they don’t need anything at ALL until you sit down and start to work, throwing you into a Mom Tantrum. Sit down with them and let them know that you aren’t to be disturbed when you’re working unless it’s an emergency and don’t be afraid to ask a friend, family member, or fellow homeschool mom for help!
If at all possible, teach your kids to help each other! Their methods may not be the same as yours; however, if they get the concept, just smile, shake your head, and walk away. Who cares if they are using a stuffed alligator and Oreos to help teach greater than and less than!
Another thing—know that outsourcing doesn’t make you a bad parent! If there is a co-op, tutorial, or drop-in program in your area that has what you need, USE IT! There are programs out there that don’t require that moms teach a class in order to stay involved.
Lastly, if you have little ones, consider working in a place where they can play while you work. A mom I know packs her kids up and takes them to Burger King, where they have a play place for the kids on those days when she REALLY needs to focus. Where can you go?
Tammie Polk is a Mompreneur on a Mission! She is a married, homeschooling mother of three girls ages 15, 10, and 5 from Memphis, Tennessee. When she’s not pouring into her girls, you can find her writing, doing crossword puzzles, or playing games! Her major claim to fame is being the author of over 30 books on life, faith, family, and business- all of which were written in the last three years. Tammie is also a business coach, homeschool consultant, motivational and inspirational speaker, and international radio show host! To find out more about Tammie, please visit her website.
If you are reading this, I will assume you are like me…A momma trying to figure it all out, a busy mom. A mom wanting to rip the capital “S” off your chest, so you can just BE. Amongst all of the to-do lists and responsibilities, you just want peace and sanity. I’m sure you have lessons to plan and teach, meetings to attend, errands to run, meals to cook, date night, gym time, Dr.’s appointments, cuddles to give, blogs to write, reports to finish, bathrooms to clean…The list could go on for days! It’s exhausting reading it all!
I get it! As we speak, I am multi-tasking. Armed with my noise-canceling headphones, I attempt to write this blog uninterrupted. Unrealistic, I know. I still can hear the whines of my daughter; I get asked for a snack 100 times and have to break up fights. Saturdays are supposed to be a day off. For me, Saturday is MY business/studying workday. The problem, however, is my other responsibilities don’t cease. So, how do I manage? How do I find balance between all on my growing lists? How do I keep my sanity sacred, so I don’t burn out and yell at everyone due to my stress? These are on-going questions running through my mind on a daily basis. And I’m sure you too in moments of silence have similar questions.
After a season of extreme burnout and anxiety, I embarked on a journey to figure out how to homeschool, grow my business, and manage my home without losing my sanity.
Here is what I have discovered to keep my sanity:
MySanity is Sacred: If I am not at peace and in a healthy place mentally, emotionally, or physically…everyone suffers. If we put ourselves 1st and fill our cups intentionally every day, we can pour out to our jobs, businesses, children, spouses, and homes from an overflow. Then, we will not be empty by days end. So, find your source(s) and fill up.
I MUST Ask or Pay for Help: I let go of the idea that it is only my responsibility to manage everything in my home. It is just not possible; Not every day. I made room in my budget for someone to come clean my main living area and bathrooms. I also increased the kids cleaning responsibilities. Doing so made room and time for more creativity in my lessons and also my business plans. Why? Because for many of us, cleanliness=clarity & creativity. Putting my oldest two boys in a drop-off Tutorial that meets 2x’s per week gave me some much needed time for quiet, cleaning, work, or even to shop.
Take Deep Breaths: Oftentimes, we go through each day shallow breathing. I recently began implementing several “breath breaks.” Every hour or so, I take at least three deep breaths. It is amazing how this simple act can bring calm, clarity, and gratitude. Slowing down in this way can give us perspective and guide us appropriately through our daily decisions, whether career-related or personal.
Set specific priorities: For me, home comes first, then business and career goals. I prioritize my goals within each of those categories and focus on 3-5 at a time; per season. For me, my capacity is limited, and I am ok with that. With a small list, I can operate at a level of excellence without feeling overwhelmed or burned out.
Stay in my Lane: I do my best not to compare. This requires I frequently disconnect from social media. Comparison oftentimes keeps us “grinding” to the point of severe burnout and exhaustion. Find your flow and operate in it. Don’t worry about how much everyone else can get done in a day with ten kids on their hip. That may be great for them, but detrimental to you and your family. Every family has a natural flow or rhythm that leaves room for everyone to thrive. Figure out what works and stay there.
While this is my personal list for keeping my sanity sacred as a busy mom, I hope you can glean some helpful nuggets to implement so you can grow successfully both at home and professionally.
Ashley Gilbert is a Certified Life and Recovery Coach and the founder of I Can. She is passionate about creating dynamic classroom and one-on-one coaching experiences to promote self-awareness, freedom, and empowerment for women. Her unique twist on dance and movement classes help women walk in confidence and self-love…beyond the dance floor. Ashley and her husband are also co-founders of Ground Zero, where she serves as a women’s addiction Recovery Coach. Most recently, she authored a book called “Real Women on the Journey.” With all she does professionally, Ashley’s first priority, however, is to her family. Being best friend and wifey to her husband of 12 years, and homeschooling her three amazing children.
(This review, written by Lisa Nehring, was originally posted on the blog Golden Grasses. This product was received in exchange for an honest review.)
Spelling You See brought by the good folks who brought us Math You See, is hands down, FANTASTIC. We reviewed both Wild Tales (Level C) and American (Level D). After homeschooling five kiddos I’ve learned that spelling is a mixed bag in our home. We have some natural spellers, some okay spellers and some “shoot me now, ’cause I’ll never be able to figure this out,” spellers. I would almost count myself in that last category, and I thank God regularly for online dictionaries, and the creator of spell-check.
My mathy girl, age 11, struggles greatly with spelling. We’ve tried other spelling programs, and they’ve left her in tears. She is an excellent writer, but a hurtful comment about what a miserable speller she was, as well as her insecurities about spelling, left her with wounded confidence. With this came the belief that she just wasn’t ever going to “get” spelling. We’ve tried several programs, with success ranging from terrible to hopeful moderate.
Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We received a very slim teachers manual, two workbooks, and a well-packaged set of erasable colored pencils. Both my children were curious about the program straight off, given the pencils.
I had initially signed up to review American (level D). My daughter is a solid and confident reader. Due to a shipping snafu, we receive Wild Tales first, and then later on Americana. She and I looked through Wild Tales and decided to give it a go. Oh, I am so glad we did! Here’s what we found.
First, the layout of Spelling You See…..
Each lesson is formatted the same and divided into five sections; A, B, C, D, and E. The lessons focus on identifying and learning one of the following:
bossy r chunks,
The genius of this program is that the kids identify these areas and circle them. The vowel chunks are always yellow, the consonant chunks blue, etc. In this way, the kids learn to see the words in phonetic “chunks” versus individual letters. The lessons have loads of built-in repetition, and by the end of a lesson, the kids are writing it from dictation.
Wild Tales – Level C
Wild Tales begins with nursery rhymes and has an animal theme. The layout is simple but bright and colorful, and each picture coordinates with the text. While my daughter was far beyond the reading level of Wild Tales, this was a perfect place to start with spelling. From day one, her spelling improved. Not just a little, but significantly. She began writing letters to friends again (something she’s been avoiding since she realized she wasn’t quite up to speed with spelling), as well as leaving little notes around the house and in her Dad’s lunch. It was a joy to see her confidence grow by leaps and bounds!
Americana – Level D
Americana focuses on all things American. Part two even has Mt. Rushmore on the cover (we live in the Territories y’all!). Each day’s worth of spelling reiterates some small snippet of American History. Part of our daughter’s history for the year is to finish reading an American History book used in Co-op last year. Spelling You See’s American ties in beautifully, reiterating simple stories.
What did I love about Spelling You See?
One of the things that makes this so successful is that the program is not “grade level” dependent. The student starts wherever they are, gaining mastery quickly and painlessly. My daughter did several components of a lesson a day, blazing through Wild Tales, gaining spelling mastery along the way. In no way did she feel that she was behind or less than. The sentences and stories are complex enough to engage even those way beyond reading-wise.
Each section of a lesson takes about 10 minutes. We did spelling every day because she was highly motivated and enjoyed the lessons. The copy work and dictation are something we have used in English for years, so this was nothing new. Also, the spelling has to do with words the kids would use in everyday language. The focus is on spelling mastery; so there’s not a lot of bells, whistles, and extras thrown in. And for that, I am grateful. I’m all about the simplistic, straightforward, and effective!
How much will I have to spend?
Spelling You See is really middle of the road price-wise. Sure, you can find things cheaper, but for the quality, you really get what you pay for with this program. Below are the prices for each individual level.
This program is geared for elementary students, or for those who need remedial help in spelling.
Spelling You See is worth every penny. This is a fantastic program for the spelling weary, the visual learner, and those invested in classical methodology. Really this program is perfect for anyone interested in an effective, affordable, excellent spelling program. I’m so thrilled to have found something that has given my daughter the skills she needed to unlock the mysteries of spelling. Major kudos to Spelling You See on being one of the best spelling programs we’ve ever used.
(If you loved this review be sure to also check out our thoughts on Math U See.)
(The following is a guest post from Lolita Allgyer, Marketing Associate and advisor at Praxis.)
What is Project-Based Learning?
Learning by creating a tangible project is one of the best ways to build a new skill, explore new opportunities, and discover what you enjoy.
Rather than focusing on getting specific subjects done lesson by lesson, project-based learning uses completed projects as educational mile-markers. This approach gives students physical representations of the skills they have built, and a sense of satisfaction in their creative ability at the end of every project.
The best part about project-based learning is that it can be plugged into many different homeschool methods. Into roadschooling? Add a couple projects related to your travels. Like a highly-structured approach? Include small projects as assignments. Unschooling? Help your kids craft projects that are related to the interests you see them building.
How to Build a Project Around a Learning Objective
There are two ways to use a project as a learning opportunity:
Use the project as the end goal.
Use the project to get to a goal.
When you use the project as an end goal, you focus on learning whatever you can to get the project done. An example of this would be “I’m going to build a tepee.” Then you’d study tepee-building techniques, learn about American Indians and their survival skills, build a science journal documenting what you need, and go on a field trip to source the building materials you need. Each of these skills and experiences would be a byproduct of your end goal: building a tepee. This is a great way to help a child or teen who has big ideas but needs some guidance on actually putting them into action.
Using a project to get to an end goal is slightly different. With this approach, a specific skill set is often an end goal, and the project is simply a way to get to that goal. A great example of this would be “I want to build writing skills.” Then you’d put together a project idea based on this goal: maybe you’d plan to publish a book, put together a creative writing journal, or use one prompt per day to push your writing ability to the next level. The options are endless!
If you’re helping a younger child learn, I highly recommend focusing on the first method of project-based learning. Watch any child at play and you’ll see they learn quickly and easily when they have a specific project to learn by! The second method is great to implement with an older child or a teen who really wants to focus on building a specific skill.
Using the Project As the End Goal
I’m convinced that projects teach you a combination of more skills than anything else can. Most of the time, you won’t even know the skills you’re building until you look back on the project.
I coach the Philosophy module at Praxis. Instead of just studying philosophy, we focus each week around a project: a video that relates to the concepts we covered in the week’s worth of content. Every participant that comes through this module is amazed at the skills they build just by creating something to go along with the information they’re studying.
They build public speaking and debate abilities.
They figure out basic video editing.
They learn how to boil a big idea down into concepts that anyone can understand (sales!).
They learn to quickly pick out what makes a good and bad video.
They begin to understand basic filming technique like lighting, posture, enunciation, and much more.
After making one video every week for a month, participants at Praxis suddenly realize how much they have learned from the video creation!
Do you or your child have a great idea for something to create? That’s your project.
Expand on the project idea, brainstorming the possible skills that can be gained from it.
Build a plan that will help your child maximize on the skills they can gain from the project.
Figure out a daily and weekly action plan and goals that you can work toward.
Document the project at each step of the way. A good completed project has plenty of documentation to go with it, whether it’s a little science journal, a slideshow with videos showing progress, or a write-up that showcases what your child has completed.
Using the Project to Get to a Goal
Projects make learning fun again! They’re also easier to showcase than tests and other methods of scoring learning ability, and they’re much more pleasant to look back on.
Using this method of project building requires you (or your child) to be highly goal-oriented. It means that you need to see past the project you are creating to the end goal of the skillset you will have built in the end.
In my work at Praxis, I always look for opportunities to branch out and learn new things that make me more valuable both to the company and otherwise.
I’ve always wanted to build a skillset in video editing, but that dream never got past the “great idea” stage in my mind. But when an opportunity came around to film and edit the Office Hours Podcast, I recognized that this was my opportunity to fulfill my dream of getting into video editing.
So I took on the project of producing this podcast. I made a lot of mistakes, stressed out some, and watched countless Youtube videos. But by now I’ve had over 50 hours of editing experience with Premiere Pro, having worked on anything from simple social media videos to ads to podcast episodes. I’ve still got a long way to go, but this project helped my dream of being a video editor come true.
Break the goal down into manageable chunks depending on the child’s age and experience level.
Brainstorm 3-5 possible project ideas with your child.
After letting the project ideas sit for a little, narrow the project ideas down to the one that you both like the best!
Break the project up into daily and weekly goals that you can keep track of.
Don’t forget to document the project as you build it! This is the fun part- make a daily drawing of where you are in the project if it’s applicable. Take a picture every day of the child with the project. Let them make short videos talking about what they learned in the process. The options are endless!
A couple of final thoughts
I’ve laid out a step-by-step plan that can be used for a 6-month-long project like a research paper on a topic your child is passionate about. But it can also be applied to a field trip that you’re taking to a science museum for another child with a curious mind.
I’ve geared this article toward homeschool moms looking for ways to teach their kids new skills via projects. But this method is applicable to projects you’re completing for yourself as well. Projects don’t stop when you turn 18 and graduate. In fact, they give you a method for teaching yourself anything, anytime in life!
My point is that project-based learning is a mindset and a way of life, not just an educational plug-in. That’s why it’s so valuable.
Lolita Allgyer is a homeschool grad who is passionate about education, specifically in the arena of helping individuals learn how to educate themselves. She works for Praxis, an alternative education company that combines a 6-month professional bootcamp and a 6-month apprenticeship at a startup. This post was originally published here on the Praxis blog.
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