Homeschooling Basics- how do you put it all together?
How do you put it all together to create a cohesive homeschooling year when you have curriculum, kid’s abilities, goals, family size, and extra-curricula to consider?
Set your Goals – Long and Short Term
One of the biggest homeschooling basics is to set your goals! I’ve talked to hundreds of parents as I’ve done Academic Advising with students from around the world with all sorts of goals and abilities. It is often apparent to the parents what direction their students will take by or around Junior High. Most parents can sense if their kids are going on to Vo-Tech, College, Military or Ivy League, if not specifically, at least generally.
Most parents also realize around Jr. High (if not before) if their kiddo has a learning disability, processing disorder or other issues or limitations.
If your kids have a specific skill set, like setting swimming records in your state and going for an NCAA scholarship, or dream of going to the Air Force Academy, you’ll want to be even more intentional and goal-directed than not, in order to make those dreams come true.
Have a good sense of a solid academics
The “Core 4” consists of Math, English, History, and Science. Of course, these all look slightly different depending on ages/ stages, abilities and long term goals, but it’s a good place to start with covering the basics.
“Extra-curriculars” include, but are not limited to, foreign language, computer, art, music, theater, dance, sports, health, speech, animal care, life skills, soft skills, Scouts, all manner of interests, and specific areas of interest within the core classes.
Learn the Value of Homeschool Extras here.
Family Interests and Values
What is important to your family and values that you are willing to invest time and energy into?
Find out more about Pursuing Interests Through Electives.
Field Trips and travel
What field trips and travel do you plan to accomplish and how will you do this- with a co-op, camping, trading spaces with other homeschooling families? There is so much rich learning that happens when takes amazing field trips and travels, it should definitely be included in your overall homeschooling plan, if at all possible.
You can’t do it all, but you can do a lot of it.
One of the biggest homeschooling basics there is! You don’t have to sacrifice education for character training or juxtapose one set of priorities over another. Getting through difficult subject matter can be a part of character development and a good curriculum can support your child’s growth in ways that extend beyond academics. You don’t have to sacrifice or juxtapose one set of priorities over another. You do have to be intentional or something is bound to get lost in the shuffle.
How to manage it all?
Homeschooling is best goal-driven rather than curriculum-driven.
Start with the end in mind. Write the vision, make it plain, and feel free to make it outrageous and personal and epic and all yours.
- Set your goals first
- Name the course
- Determine the curriculum you’ll use to accomplish your goals.
Student Morgan Grade 1 School Year 2019-20
|Morgan reading by end of the year||English I||Alpha Phonics, Explode the Code|
|Developing creativity and fine motor skills||Art||Kumon Workbooks, MP’s Art Cards|
|Understanding Numbers||Math||Right Start Math|
|Discover the world around us||Science||Magic School Bus Books, Usborne, Nature Walks|
|Understanding broad overview of Bible and familiar stories||Bible||The Golden Children’s Bible, Arch Books|
|Develop Memory Work Skills and memorize various subject areas||Classical studies||Invictus or Claritas Memory Work, IEW’ Poetry|
|Begin to understand the sweeping course of History||History||SOTW, Timeline, History Cards|
|Language literacy and development of foreign language skills||Spanish||Spanish for Children|
Student Reagan Grade 9 School Year 2019-20
|Reading novels, plays, short stories, poetry, Writing persuasive and Compare and Contrast Essay||English I||EIW, LTW|
|Developing Creativity||Art||Music, Art, Theater|
|Algebra I||Math||Life of Fred Algebra I|
|Understand the scope of Church History||Bible||Memoria Press Church History|
|Develop Memory Work Skills and memorize various subject areas||Classical studies||History and Lit Timeline,|
|Develop an understanding of how historical events interacted and contributed.||History||HOTW, Timeline, History Cards|
|Develop fluency in Foreign Language||Latin I||First & Second Form Latin|
No plan is worth a thing without your willingness to implement it. Chart your course, headed True North, and then engage with passion and perseverance.
If you enjoyed this post on homeschooling basics be sure to check out our Homeschooling 101 post as well!
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:
(Still unsure about homeschooling? Check out Should I Homeschool?)
Reason #1 – Education
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?
(Just now deciding to take the homeschooling plunge? Check out our post on Homeschooling 101.)
Homeschooling 101 – The Basics
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.
(Need more homeschool encouragement? Check out our post on what to do when homeschooling gets hard.)
What are my main homeschooling 101 tips?
- 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 that YOU 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!