Educationally Speaking: Homeschooling updates or why I have more gray hair now

Based on the title you might think my children are causing me stress during our homeschooling journey, but they are not.

I’m causing my own stress by worrying I’m not teaching them correctly and comparing our journey to the journey of other other students, homeschooling and otherwise.

Or at least this is what I had been doing for part of our school year but in the last month or so, something clicked and I realized my children are following their own educational path and that’s not only okay, but a good thing.

In addition, the students who are attending public school around us right now aren’t even receiving a consistent education with students being pulled in and out of the classroom and tossed onto virtual learning on a whim. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for public school students right now to figure out whether they are coming or going in their subjects.

I think some parents who do not homeschool their children, see homeschooling parents as being foolish, unqualified, and unable to provide their children an actual education. In some cases, this may be true, but in the majority of cases, a parent truly can provide a very well rounded, high quaility education for their children at home. One reason they can do this is because of the plethora of homeschooling and educational resources available to parents, students, and teachers in book form and online.

Another reason they can do this is because of all the support available within the homeschooling community. Homeschooling parents love to see other homeschooling parents succeed, no matter why a parent has decided to homeschool.

One thing I have had to overcome with the idea of schooling at home is my preconceived notion that children have to be sitting at a desk with school work for six hours at time to be properly educated . This really isn’t realistic and isn’t even how children are taught in public schools. In public schools there are breaks for recess and lunch and extracurricular activities, so a child isn’t strapped to a desk for such long periods, but somehow new homeschooling parents seem to think our children should be.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that it isn’t traditional schooling, which means it doesn’t have to operate like traditional school.

I find that Little Miss (6) does much better with short spurts of learning and breaks in between for art, creating or playing. Since we are homeschooling, we have that luxury and flexibility to allow that for her.

She’s also learning a lot more with this style of education than I first realized.

During the beginning part of the school year, I really felt like I was failing her because she is behind on her reading, or at least I feel she is behind. On one particulary frustrating day I wanted to cry I was so frustrated. I gave up on reading for a bit. Instead, I handed her a paper about sea animals and said she could color the animals. The paper suggested the child look at how plants and animals rely on each other, but also how some animals rely on another animal to survive.

I explained this to her and she said, “Oh, you mean like this Oxpecker bird and the crocodile.”

I looked at her with wide eyes and waited to see what else she would say.

Without prompting she said, “So, the Oxpecker bird helps the crocodile because it cleans its teeth and the crocodile helps the Oxpecker because it gets fed. Symbiotic.”

“What’s symbiotic?”

“Their relationship. It’s symbiotic.”

Symbiotic? Whoa. Where had that word come from?

“Where did you hear that word?”

“Wild Kratts,” she announced.

If you don’t know, Wild Kratts is an animated show on PBS about wild animals. It is a shoot off of other shows with the Kratt brothers (Zomoomafoob, etc. ). The brothers travel the world (or at least pretend to) and encounter different animals and teach their young viewers about the animals. Wild Kratts presents them as animated characters who have joined with other characters to rescue various wildlife.

It wasn’t only that she had learned the word that startled me, but that she had retained the information, was able to repeat it clearly, and also remembered the rather large word to describe the relationship.

She moved on as she pointed to a fish on the page and slid her pencil across the paper to indicate it was related to the shark on the page.

“So this is a Remora fish,” she announced, pointing to the picture of the fish, which was not labeled. “Remoras hang on to the shark and when the shark kills something there will be little bits of food for the Remora to eat. It swims underneath this shark because it gets the pieces of food that drop from whatever the shark is eating. They have a symbiotic relationship. Their relationship is kind of different from the others. I mean, Remora is a fish and the shark is eating fish so it’s a little weird for him, but it still gives him a meal and it’s still a symbiotic relationship. It’s good for the environment. It’s how everyone survives.”

I just sat and stared at her and wanted to cry, this time from joy. Thirty minutes earlier I had been in tears because she was writing her “c” backward and blanked on identifying “s”, but here she was now defining symbiotic for me. And when she couldn’t figure out I wanted her to combine the sounds of letters together to create words? I was like “Oh my gosh. She probably has a learning disability.”

Mind you, this was the first week we were really focusing on blending sounds so why my mind went to her having a learning disability, I have no idea, other than I knew I’d have to research how to teach her differently if she did have a learning delay. I wanted to nip it in the bud early so she doesn’t struggle later.

I should have realized she is learning a lot more than I thought by how she speaks about activities or crafts, such as when she was making slime and was explaining to me, “You mix it until, well, you know, you get the right consistency.”

She couldn’t explain what consistency was with an official definition, but she knew that her slime had to be either thicker or thinner and knew that was somehow related to the word consistency.

My son was similar at her age. Reading letters wasn’t really his thing but his comprehension and verbal skills were way beyond his age. It’s the same now, which is why at 14 I have him reading books he probably wouldn’t be reading until 10th grade, at least at the public schools in our area.

Right now we are reading Lord of the Flies, which I think I read in 10th grade, but maybe 9th. I can’t remember.

In the first part of our school year we read Silas Marner by George Elliott, which isn’t really a book I hear about a lot of 14-year old boys reading.

We will read To Kill A Mockingbird in the last half of our school year.

In addition to reading and comprehension, I will be starting a new math program through The Good and the Beautiful with my daughter once it arrives in the mail. The program incoporates storytelling in teaching math and since Little Miss loves storytelling (making them up, reading and watching them) I think she will love this curriculum. I bought it on sale last week because they are going to be phasing it out for a new curriculum sometime this year.

We have also started a science program that I can use for both of the children. It offers an extension for my son to answer questions from for additional information from each lesson. It is also through The Good and the Beautiful.

For my son’s history, we continue to use Notgrass’s From Adam to Us and I continue to supplement with various videos, books, web sites, or activities. We also use resources they provide through their history site.

Two weeks ago I started adding open-book quizes to his History lessons by developing the questions and answers myself. I allow him to use his books to find the answers as I feel it will help to solidify the information for him. It means I have to sit and read every section I assign him and take about 30 to 45 minutes to develop the quiz, but I like the idea of getting even more out of the reading than he can simply by reading the section.

I am trying to add more to his schedule, but I am also trying to not stress if he either misses an assignment or we both forget to complete one. I have learned that homeschooling is a journey in education and the more relaxed we are about it, the better the kids and even I learn, because through homeschooling I am also learning more about the subjects they are studying.

I either forgot a lot of what I was taught in middle and high school or my school did a horrible job at teaching history especially.

I would like to add a government course to my son’s classes in the spring, but we will see if that happens or if we push that off until the fall. With all that is going on in the world I think it would be a good idea for him to know how our government is supposed to work instead of how it is working right now, which isn’t great.

I’m finding one of the benefits of homeschooling is being able to take the time to show my children what actual adults should act like and that bullying, while glorified now by Hollywood and all of the media, is not what we should be doing. In some ways I am sheltering them from this by keeping them in a home education environment versus a public one but in other ways I am exposing them to the cruelty of the world in a slower, less overwhelming and panic inducing fashion.

There are a lot more the kids are learning this year that I haven’t mentioned in this post, but I plan write about that in some separate posts in the next month or so.

Homeschooling is under way

We started homeschool last week and so far it’s going fairly well. The whining from both has been limited, thankfully. We decided to ease into lessons by only working on three subjects a day during the first week for the oldest. I’m adding another subject this week and possibly a fifth by the third week.

So far The Boy is doing Bible, English, and History every day. He does Math Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and Science Tuesday and Thursday. We also plan to add some grammar lessons later in the year (see my rant on Sunday about grammar if you want to know what I think about grammar *wink*. Seriously, though, I think it is important but last year we had an extensive course so this year it will be less extensive.)

We plan to add economics to The Boys homeschooling experience this year, even though the course was written for high school students. I tend to think my child is pretty smart and want to rush ahead into educational territory that might be beyond him in some ways. On the other end of the spectrum, I sometimes pull back and decide not to teach him something because I think he’s not ready but he’s clearly ready and beyond that lesson, because his comprehension is so advanced for a kid his age. My mom says I underestimate him at times and I think she’s right, but then I worry, “But what if I overestimate him and he ends up feeling overwhelmed and inadequate because the subject matter was beyond his capabilities at this development stage of his life and he doesn’t say anything because he thinks I’ll be upset???”

I don’t overthink too much. I don’t. Do I? Maybe I do. I don’t know. I’ll think about it some more and get back to you.

For the youngest, I had to ease into the sit-down work by taking breaks and allowing her to go outside when she asked to (she loves going outside since we moved to a more rural setting) and turning it into a math lesson. I suggested she go outside and collect 20 autumn colored leaves and then we would count them together when she got back.

We need to develop a unit on trees this month I think. She loves collecting leaves. I need to figure out how to collect the leaves in a book. Surely there must be DIY information somewhere about how to do this? If someone reading this knows how to do it, let me know in the comments?

Last week I was reminded Little Miss loves numbers and is a whiz at them. Whose child is she? Oh. Right. My husband’s. Because she certainly didn’t get her love of numbers from me. Numbers make my stomach do weird things and then my head goes all funny and I have to reach for a book (with words) to steady myself. The Boy is good at math but hates it. Little Miss seems to love the counting, but she is only 5 (almost 6) so what does she know?

As for curriculum for The Boy this year, we are using Apologia Exploring Creation with General Science (second edition) for science; From Adam to Us by Notgrass for History/English/Writing/Vocabulary/Bible; American Literature by Apologia (which is also being used as history and writing on some days); CTC Math online for Math; and Exploring Economics by Notgrass for economics. From Adam To Us includes several fiction books to read throughout the year, which count for literature/language arts/English. We also plan to add Wordly Wise in soon for grammar and vocabulary.

(FYI: If anyone is interested in the American Literature book, the hardcover student textbook and the student notebook, where the student answers questions, is currently 76 percent off on Christianbook.com.)

So how about all of you parents out there? Are you homeschooling this year? Virtual school through your district? Or are your kids back in the physical classroom? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to know what curriculum you are using if you are homeschooling.

No. Seriously. We homeschooled before it was the thing to do. And yes, you can do it too.

To say watching parents clamor to homeschool in the United States is a surreal experience for me is an understatement.

When I started homeschooling my son three years ago I was looked down at by former friends and his former teachers. I remember hearing a former friend disparge another friend who had chosen to homeschool her children. I had a feeling similar things were said about me when I chose to do the same. I was ostracized as soon as I chose homeschooling over the small private school he has attended before.

Now here we are starting another year (in a couple of weeks), watching parents rushing to enroll their children in online learning or planning to homeschool their children in other ways. Most of the parents I know who are choosing to homeschool this year will be using their school district’s online programs. They will have access to their children’s regular teachers in one way or another.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

In our state the governor changes his mind about every five minutes on policies and guidelines for the schools so I’m pleased as punch we don’t have to worry about all that mess. Before COVID, we had considered sending my son to the local public school (this county is so sparsely populated it has one school for the entire county.). Now we aren’t even mulling it over. He’s staying home and I’ll be using curriculum I chose that hopefully he will enjoy. Let’s be honest, though: it’s school so he probably won’t enjoy some of it no matter how hard I worked to find curriculum I felt would provide him a proper education while also being slightly interesting.

I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there who are terrified about homeschooling their children or having their children be educated online. No matter how you’re handling your child’s school year this year I am confident you can handle it, Mom and/or Dad. If you are worried about your child’s education then that already shows what a good parent you are.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

If I could give you any advice at all it would be the advice I gave myself just today when my mind started racing about my need to lose weight: one step at a time. It works for homeschooling too. I don’t know if any of you are like me, but I always think I have to apply everything I’ve ever read about weight loss or homeschooling in one go. I have to do it all at once and if I don’t do it like the people I read about did it then I might as well give up. At least that’s what I hear in the back of my head on a loop and today I took the scissors to the loop.

I don’t have to start working out like a madwoman right now after years of not working out. I don’t have to eat exactly like someone online who lost 20 pounds in a month. Their body is not my body.

I don’t have to buy every single curriculum out there for my childen and fill their days so full that their head spins.

This school year will definitely have its challenges but I have a feeling parents and children alike are going to find some moments during it that they will look back on as a memory they’re glad they made. Yes, schooling at home will be hard for parents who work outside the home and sacrifices may have to be made but I have a good feeling those sacrifices are going to be worth it.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

Homeschooling my children hasn’t always been easy and I often wonder if I’m screwing them up but when I see how relaxed they are learning at home, when I see the variety of experiences they are having and when I see the struggles public schools are facing this year, I am glad we chose to homeschool and were in the position we could.

More photos like this can be found on my account at Lightstock.com.

If you have decided to homeschool this year, for whatever reason, here are links to a couple other posts I’ve shared in the last few months (and beyond) about homeschooling. Some of the links might not apply now that we are moving out of the COVID situation and into a new school year, but others will.

Suddenly Homeschooling? Here are some tips and links to help you out. Sorry I can’t send wine.

More Links For Parents Suddenly Homeschooling

How Homeschooling Has Made Life Easier and Less Stressful. Well, sometimes.

Our Homeschooling Journey So Far This Year (2019)

Our homeschooling journey so far this school year

Homeschooling: the ultimate experience in making sure a parent is humbled and made to feel completely bewildered and inadequate.

I’m not totally serious with the above definition but homeschooling my children has brought out some of my worst attributes – the biggest ones being insecurity and extreme self-doubt. This our second year of homeschooling and I have more of a grip on it all now than I did before but I still feel like I’m dooming my children to a life of sub-par education and a future of cleaning toilets. I feel this way until I speak with students who attend local public schools and then realize I’m doing okay and they’re going to make it. Take that last sentence however you want. I get myself in enough trouble these days when I try to explain myself.

This year we are using Notgrass’s America the Beautiful for history and so far we are enjoying it. I like the additional family activities at the end of each lesson, as well as the short lesson reviews that help reiterate for the students what they have already read. I think the curriculum may be a little young, in some ways, for my almost 13-year old, but I like the overall review of the lessons and will use it for at least the first part of our school year.

Last week we made Navajo flatbread (which I’ve only known as Navajo fry bread) as one of the family activities at the end of a lesson. The children helped me make the dough and spread it out and then I did the frying. They, of course, also helped with the eating. My almost 5-year old helped with making a huge mess but not so much with cleaning it up.

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For English, we are using Saxon’s grammar and writing curriculum for seventh grade and also reading various novels. I like the Saxon curriculum because it incorporates actual writing and dictation lessons into the grammar.

We are still plowing through The Hobbit, even though the local homeschooling group already held a book discussion centered on it. My son is alternating listening to it being read aloud on YouTube and reading the actual book. For my part, I am very behind on the reading and need to catch up. I may need to listen to it being read out loud as well.

Science and math have our heads spinning a little. We are using Apologia’s Exploring Creation through Physical Science but honestly, I think it’s geared toward higher grade levels. I’m going to try to keep plowing through it, though, because I know my son is bright enough to catch on. I both like and hate that it features two or three experiments a lesson. I like it because it breaks up the large chunks of text in the textbook and I hate it because I have to find the supplies for the experiments ahead of time and I’m not always the best-prepared person. Hopefully, this curriculum will teach my son science and teach me organizational skills.

For Math, we are using Teaching Textbooks for now but they have had a lot of crashes on their online program this school year so we may look for another program when our subscription runs out in November. What I like about their program is I don’t have to teach math. I have some sort of math dyslexia and I was in remedial math in high school so math is not my strong point. Luckily my husband knows a little about math so I pass that duty off to him when I need to.

We are also attending a genealogy class with the local homeschool group once a week and that has been very interesting. The man teaching the class is a fellow homeschooling parent and he’s focusing not only on the biological information we can learn from our ancestors, but also their values and the importance of passing those values down to the next generation.

I will be adding art and, hopefully, music into our homeschooling routine, as well, as the year progresses.

How about all of you? If you’re a homeschooling parent, how is your homeschooling year going? If your children attend public/private school, how is school going for them? Let me know in the comments. And if you are a homeschool parent who has curriculum recommendations, let me know because I love to find new curriculum we can consider for the future.

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