Today’s post is a little different, but has lots of information that I’ve been wanting to share. If you’re not curious about homeschooling, just skip this post and tune in next time for more DIY, Design, and Decor.
This week we moved to a new town and I enrolled all three kids in our local public school. This is after spending the last year and a half homeschooling the boys. Many people have asked why we’re making the switch from homeschooling back to public school and it’s a complicated answer. Honestly, I don’t even want to get into it all here, but we’re giving public school a try and maybe we’ll stick with it, maybe we’ll end up homeschooling again. While homeschooling is still fresh in my mind though, I wanted to talk a bit about Homeschooling Tips and Tricks from a first time homeschooler.
When I first decided to homeschool I was OVERWHELMED. There were so many curriculums. So many methods. Charlotte Mason vs. Classical vs. Unschooling… I was lost. Thankfully my good friend introduced me to Classical Conversations and that started me off in the right direction.
Classical Conversations is a comprehensive curriculum that you need to add math and reading to. It involves meeting in community for three hours once a week where a tutor introduces the curriculum and reviews it with the kids. During these meetings parents stay in the class and participate with the kids. I absolutely LOVE the CC curriculum. Every week the kids learn a history sentence, the world timeline, English, grammar, latin, skip counting, science, fine arts, and geography. The best part is that all the materials are in one Foundations Guide. Then during the week it was my job to review that weeks material with the boys. Even though the boys are in school now we will still listen to the timeline song and Jack told me how helpful the skip counting has been in school.
Now let’s talk about what the other four days of our school week looked like. Every morning I had the boys start with their journal. Their journal was one of the items in their binder. In their journals I have them write the date, day of the week, the temperature, their name, their address, number sentences, and a sentence. Some days their sentence is their Awana verse, other days it’s their history sentence from CC for the week, other days it was a character trait.
Another item in their journal was their drawing pads where they would work on geography. Some days we’d trace the map, other days try and do it from memory. Sometimes I’d have them label their map with states and capitals, other times with abbreviations. This was one of their favorite activities and through it they’ve really nailed down their geography.
For character traits we used these parenting cards from “we choose virtues”. This was another gem introduced to my by my friend who does CC. These are another item that we will continue to use whether we are homeschooling or not.
After journals we used the “Handwriting without Tears” curriculum. I felt like the teacher guide really wasn’t necessary, and it was easy to just ask the boys to complete 1-2 pages each day. Through this curriculum Jack has outstanding printing and cursive handwriting!
For our math curriculum we used Saxon math. This includes a meeting book, workbook, flashcards, and teacher guide. You also need to purchase the manipulatives. After a year I stopped using the meeting book and just integrated this into their journal. Math was always the longest and hardest part of our day, but through this curriculum both boys excelled at math.
I didn’t focus on spelling until this year, but I discovered the Spelling Assistant app that I love. I would use these lists to add weekly spelling lists into the boys’ kindles. Every day I’d have them play the games and take the spelling test until they mastered each list. Another app I found really helpful was the Raz Kids reading app. It’s expensive at $100 per year, but I was able to split this with another homeschooling friend. Through this app the boys had access to tons of reading material and quizzes based on their reading level.
During the boys school day we also took time to study their Awana verses. We’ve always loved Awana and I really loved getting to work with them during the day when their minds were fresh versus after school when they are exhausted.
Most days we would start school at 9:00 and work hard until noon. Anything that wasn’t done at noon got pushed to the next day, other than 30 minutes of reading in the afternoon.
You’ve heard me mention the journal quite a few times, here were the items we’d keep in their journals:
- Loose leaf paper for journaling
- Drawing pad for state mapping
- A One page calendar
- A printout of the days and months
- A 100 number chart
- A multiplication chart
- A map
All of that stuff was mainly curriculum, because that’s what TOTALLY overwhelmed me at first, but here’s a few other tips:
-Don’t overdue it on STUFF. We don’t have a homeschool room and all of our materials are in this small cabinet.
-Get dad’s help. Some days when things weren’t clicking, we’d pause on a subject and get back to it at night with Matt. With a fresh approach it usually went much smoother.
-Find other homeschoolers. Thanks to our Classical Conversations Community we became connected, but there’s also tons of great facebook groups in our town of other homeschoolers.
-Take LOTS of field trips. Many organizations are open and willing to give tours to homeschoolers. I can’t even count all the places the kids got to explore this year. Just to name a few were: the landfill, a lighthouse and marittime museum, the fire station, the food co-op, a mining museum, and more.
-Get active. After three hours of hard work my boys needed to get out and burn steam. Our favorite places to go are our local college’s football field and a gymnastics open gym. Some days though it just meant playing out in the yard while I worked.
Honestly, the things I loved the most about homeschooling had nothing to do with our school table time! I loved that boys had time to play. I loved that we got to go on frequent field trips with other homeschoolers. I loved that on a snow day we could head for the hill and go skiing. I loved that we could snuggle and read in the afternoons. I loved that I didn’t have to pack backpacks, check folders, sign permission slips, go to conferences, and do fundraisers! I loved that the boys were each others best friends and had to create their own entertainment together.
If you’re considering homeschooling, or if you’re a new homeschooling mom, I hoped these homeschooling tips and tricks from a first time homeschooler helped you! Obviously every parent can choose to do things differently, but this is what worked great for us. On Mason’s first day of school this week his teacher said, “You’d never know he was homeschooled”. I’ll take that as a compliment. Down the road we’ll see if we end up homeschooling again or if we decide public school is a better fit!