Ten pieces of advice to make your homeschooling experience easier

If you’re a new homeschooler, or even a veteran one, it can help to have homeschooling families offer you tips they’ve learned over the years.

I don’t know if I am exactly a “veteran” homeschooler, but since we are in our fourth year of being a homeschooling family, I guess I do have more experience than some. That’s why I consider myself semi-qualified to share the following twelve tips on how to homeschool your children without losing your mind.

 I also offered a few tips in a post I shared yesterday, which reminded parents that you don’t have to have a teaching degree to homeschool your child.

  1.  Don’t treat homeschool like regular school/Be willing to be flexible

I feel this is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give a new homeschooler. It is advice I needed to hear early on in our journey because I was treating our homeschool as if it was a public school in a home setting.

The whole point of homeschooling your child is to offer them a flexible style of learning which works for their personality and learning style. You shouldn’t expect that your child will be “in school” for six to eight hours a day like they are in public school. I always remind new homeschooling parents that their child isn’t actually at a desk learning for all six hours they are in a brick-and-mortar school. Most children probably only receive about 3.5 hours of actual instructional time. The rest of the school day is spent sitting in homeroom, eating lunch, recess if the child is younger, study halls if they are older, extracurricular activities, and then riding the bus to and from school.

When my dad and son built a shed as part of my son’s “life skills” class. My dad didn’t even need the shed in the end. *wink*

In other words, your child does not need to sit at a desk and do six straight hours of work. Not only is that unrealistic but it would also kill their love of learning at rapid speed, making school feel more like a prison. Most homeschool children complete their work in less than four hours, but there is no magic number of hours suggested to ensure your child is receiving a quality education. In education, like in many aspects of life, quantity does not always equal quality. You shouldn’t, in my opinion, force your child to study science for two hours, believing that amount of time will ensure they are receiving a quality education in science. In fact, making your child sit that long to learn a subject could have the opposite effect, as they will be so burnt out and overwhelmed from trying to comprehend so much at one time they will most likely forget what they read or studied at the end of their session.

Many younger children can finish their subjects in even less time, such as 1 to 2 hours, depending on what assignments they have that day. Teaching a younger child can sometimes take longer because they won’t be able to work independently. Not only will you have to teach the lesson, but you’ll also have to do the work with the child. How long this takes all depends on the child and should never be rushed or stretched out. I “play it by ear” with my children. Some subjects take longer than others on different days.

 I am starting to learn that I need to be flexible when it comes to how my children learn. If I don’t like the idea of my child sitting at a desk for six hours, then there is no reason I should do that when they are homeschooled.

Earlier this week I became frustrated because my youngest would not sit and listen to the history lesson I was reading to her. She was flipping the handle on the recliner repeatedly, standing up, and even started to put on her new roller skates. After a crying session from both of us, I finally convinced her to take off her skates for her reading lesson, but then allowed her to skate around our dining room while I read science to her and she watched three videos about whales.

Let’s be clear: I am very bad at following my own advice. I am not as flexible as I would like to be with our homeschool. I need to learn to “let it be” and “go with the flow” more when it comes to how I teach my children. If what they are doing is too distracting and won’t allow them to learn, then I shouldn’t allow it. But if my daughter can listen to our literature while creating with her clay, painting, or roller skating laps around the dining room table then why not? Learning doesn’t only happen at a desk, as I have mentioned before (link)

2. Don’t expect to fit in every subject every day.  

Along the same lines of not treating your homeschool like a public school, I remind myself and other parents that you do not need to complete every subject every day. There will be some days your child will be able to complete a lesson in every subject, but many days one subject will take longer, pushing other subjects to the following day.

 “Are you suggesting my homeschooling student might run out of time?” A new homeschooling parent might ask. “This isn’t regular school with set times. Why would there be a specific time limit for them to do their work in?”

A homeschooling student can indeed complete their work whenever they want to, as long as it is done that day, but for me, I was attracted to homeschooling because it allows them a life outside of schoolwork. When I was in high school, I did work in class, and then I took work home with me to do there as well. I have a feeling that students bring even more work home now than they used to and that doesn’t leave much time for kids to be kids.

What I like about homeschooling is my children have time for education but then they also have time where they don’t have to worry about the tests or the worksheets or the assigned reading. If they want to push a subject off to the next day because they spent a long time on another subject on one specific day, I’m totally fine with that, as long as the assigned work for that subject is completed by the end of the week.

If you start homeschooling and you want to fit every subject in every day, then that is totally fine too. I have just found that cramming every subject into one school day overwhelms me and my children. It leaves them dreading their day because they know it will be filled to the brim with work and leave them little time to expand or explore a topic they discover they are interested in.

Remember, homeschooling is you and your child’s opportunity to take as little or as long as he or she needs on a subject. Math may take longer one day while English is short and on another day, it might be switched. One day your child may be fascinated with the science lesson so they will want to spend longer on it and explore it more. Another day, math may be what fascinates them (writing that caused me to physically shudder. Who would want to spend more time on math?! Ha!) If you have the day so regimented that you aren’t allowing for time to further explore a subject, you may suffocate not only their opportunity to further explore not only that one topic but their overall love of learning.

3, Don’t be afraid to supplement your curriculum 

I rarely only use the curriculum I have chosen for the school year for each lesson. I often supplement the lessons in the text with either a video, a field trip, or a book to bring the lesson home even more.

For my son, I add videos to the lessons to bring the message home more and give us more of a well-rounded lesson. Last year we also add fiction books and this year his social studies curriculum comes with a set of literature books both fiction and non-fiction, on a variety of topics.

For my youngest, I also plan to start supplementing with crafts related to the subjects we are studying. Supplementing your student’s curriculum can assist them in delving into the topic even more.

For example, for the past couple of weeks, my daughter and I have been studying early American history. There was a cartoon in the early 90s called Liberty Kids that focused on this time in history, and I found it on YouTube last year. It may be streaming somewhere as well, and I know it is out on DVD. I have been able to match up many of the episodes with the topics we are discussing in history, which works out well. Watching the cartoon gives Little Miss a visual of what was happening at that time, in addition to what I am reading to her in the textbook. Of course, there are extra, fictional characters in the stories on Liberty Kids, so I do explain that those characters aren’t historical, but the characters they interact with are.

4. Don’t be afraid of taking mental health days 

This one is very hard for me to follow. I often feel that if I don’t do schoolwork on a school day, I am somehow failing my children. This is an example of where outside influences have tried to shape how I run my homeschool and my household.

My parents are well-meaning, caring, and lovely people but their view of education is still stuck on the traditional, public school mindset. When my mom calls me during the day she says ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I hope I’m not interrupting your school day,’ and if I mention we haven’t started yet or the kids are doing something else at the moment, I feel the judgment, even though she probably isn’t even throwing any out my way. In my mind, though, she is thinking, “They need an education. Is she shirking her duties as a mother and not making them do their lessons?!” I feel this way because when we started homeschooling our son my parents were very leery.

“What do you mean he’s done with his lessons already? That doesn’t seem long enough to learn anything.”

“He’s done with work already? But it’s only 1. Shouldn’t he be working until 3?”

“But he can’t be in sports if he’s in homeschool. I was in wrestling when I was in school and it was good for my confidence and self-esteem.”

“Is he getting enough socialization?”

You will get all of these questions and more and sometimes they will keep coming, but sometimes, like in my case with my parents, they will eventually stop. Your family and friends will begin to accept that you are homeschooling your children and you are doing it the way that works for you.

Whether that acceptance comes or not, though, you need to tell the little voice in your head that says you can’t take a day off to recharge or relax, to shut it. There will be days where everything falls apart. There will be days your kids get sick, or you get sick, or a neighbor stops by to visit and throws it all off the rails. Don’t be afraid to put the books away for a day and take a breather. In our state, you need a certain number of hours or days (depending on how you want to track it) of instructional time to meet the requirement for the homeschool law, but you keep track of those days and hours. That means you can make those days and hours up at any time when your schedule allows. Your children can even finish some work on a Saturday if you so desire.

You are in charge of your homeschool, which means you can take a mental health day if you need it and not feel a bit guilty, Lisa. Er…I mean — you, whoever you are, shouldn’t feel guilty.

5. Double up on work on some days so you can have plenty of time for play

Bouncing off the above reminder that you can set the days and times for your children’s instruction, it is very easy in homeschooling to double up on work one or two days out of the week so you can take a day off for play guilt-free. You can do two math lessons one day or two reading lessons, or whatever you need to do to make sure you can take a day off and not feel “behind.”

There is no “behind” in homeschooling since you are working at your child’s individual pace, but I still feel like I have to be at a certain point in their instruction at certain points of the year. This is leftover from traditional school and their strict lesson plans, which they need to have for how a traditional school operates. It is not a bad thing to have strict lesson plans or goals you want to reach by a certain point in your school year, so if you do have a strict plan of where you want to be with your instructional material at certain points in the year, please do not think I am criticizing. Not at all.

I’m just encouraging you to also find days for play. The importance of play for the development of children and adults has been well-documented over the years. I won’t link any of those articles here, but there are plenty of them out there on the interwebs.

6. Take field trips

Perhaps you still don’t like the idea of taking a day off of learning. In that case, take a field trip. Field trips combine fun and play with learning. Many people live in larger cities where there are tons of opportunities for field trips. Ideas for field trips include museums, parks, or even stores and factories where your children can see how something is made, libraries, historical landmarks, etc.

When you live in a rural area as my family does, your field trips will require a bit of a drive, but even that can be fun because you can shout “road trip!” and the children perk up at the idea of getting out of the house instead of sitting and reading their textbooks.

We have even combined family outings with field trips. If our weekend family outing is going to take us somewhere that is also educational then I count that as a field trip and even a school day. I ask my son to write a couple of paragraphs about what he learned on our visit and make it part of his English/Writing curriculum.

Field trips are not only great opportunities to learn, but they are also great opportunities to bond as a family.

7. Don’t forget you’re a family first and a homeschool family second 

Bouncing off the idea of bonding as a family, I think it is important for us homeschooling parents to remember that our children are more important than reaching a certain point in your curriculum by a certain time of the school year.

Helping our children grow as well-rounded human beings, Christians, and kind members of society will always be more important than drilling math facts into their brains. I know this thought may bother some who see education as the number one priority of their homeschool and I don’t mean to dismiss the need for consistent and high-quality instruction, but at the end of the day, the relationship we have with our children will determine the outcome of them as human beings, not whatever math lesson they learned that day

8. Connect with other homeschool families 

Homeschooling can be very lonely. Because you are schooling at home, your children will not have the same socialization at traditional school, but that’s not always a bad thing. In homeschooling children can socialize with a variety of ages, not only their peers, as long as you introduce your children into situations where they can do that socializing. Taking your children with you on errands can help them interact with adults, which will help them with their communication skills, but you will also want to find a way for them to interact with children around their own age.

To do this, you will want to find a group of homeschooling families around you and hopefully, that group will be an organized group like a co-op.

This one has been a huge challenge for me since we live in a rural area, but if you live in a more urban area, this might be easier for you. In my area, many homeschooling families travel 45 minutes one way or another to connect with other homeschooling families. I have reached out to these groups in the past but have always felt like an outsider.

I have not felt welcome in any of the groups, which seem to be formed among friends and family. Many are not friendly to those who don’t fit that category.

I’m hoping to try to find a group again this year, but until then I am working on finding other ways for my children to socialize, whether through a church program, a community organization, or classes being offered locally. The benefit of finding a homeschool co-op or support group locally is being able to connect with other parents who can relate to your journey and experience. So, even though I haven’t been able to zero in on a local co-op or support group, I still believe this is an important part of the homeschooling journey.

9. Ask your children what subjects they want to study

Don’t be afraid to ask your child what they want to study. I realize that sounds dangerous. What if your child says, “I want to study creative writing all year and nothing else!” Or “I want to study only Minecraft! That’s learning, right?!”

When I suggest asking your child what they want to study, I mean asking them what aspect of science are they interested in right now, or what time in history interests them. This doesn’t mean you will study that specific aspect of science or history the entire school year, but you can carve out a unit that will allow you to focus exclusively on the topic your student is interested in. Being interested in a topic makes a student much more willing to learn about it. 

 You won’t always be able to do this, obviously. Your son or daughter might hate math, but they still have to learn it. They may dread grammar, but it still needs to be tackled. They will have to push through subjects that bore them practically into a coma each time they open the textbook, but that will make the opportunities they have to delve deeper into a topic of interest for them even more special.

Teaching your children that we often have to push through what we don’t want to do to get to what we do want to do is an important life lesson.

10 Don’t be afraid to change direction or even curriculum if it is not working.

I know some parents purchase curriculum, dive in, and discover partway through the school year that the curriculum isn’t working for them but are then afraid to change curriculum. This is a fear that new homeschooling parents should learn to dismiss as soon as possible. The point of homeschooling is educating your child in a way that benefits them the most so if they are using a curriculum that is impeding their learning then it needs to go.

Much like you should never waste your life doing things that make you unhappy, you should never waste the precious time you have to homeschool your child with curriculum that isn’t serving their educational needs.

Use one set curriculum, combine a couple, or change to a new one, but never keep pushing through curriculum that is making you or your child dread learning.

Bonus Tip: Listen to your children not everyone else about how homeschool is working for you.

This bonus tip might be one of the most important of all. Is your child flourishing, showing progress in their education, and seem well-adjusted and happy overall? Then what does it matter if grandma or grandpa or your best friend or a neighbor says homeschooling isn’t good for your child? It doesn’t matter what others say about your homeschooling journey. All that matters is what your child is saying, or more importantly, how they are acting.

Is every day going to be rainbows and flowers? Um…no. It’s school. Children are going to complain, whine, flounce, flop, and even have tantrums at times when you tell them it is time for their lessons, but if you have more good days than bad and your child shows that they are learning despite “hating school” then you are on the right track.

Will you need to rethink homeschool and consider sending your child back to a brick-and-mortar school or sign them up for an online school? You may and if you feel that will benefit your child’s emotional wellbeing then do it. Just as you should push aside the opinions of others about how you homeschool your child, you should also politely push aside the opinions of other homeschoolers who try to talk you out of sending your child back to a “regular” school. How you educate your child is your decision and you need to do what is best for your child. It isn’t that you shouldn’t ever listen to opinions, especially from the well-meaning in your life, but you also don’t have to accept every opinion as fact when it relates to the personal decisions you make for your child’s education.

The bottom line of all these tips?

Do what works best for you and your family when it comes to your homeschool journey. Pick a direction and take it, only letting outside influence affect you if you feel that outside opinion is going to enhance your experience, not harm it.

 Have more questions about homeschooling?

 Feel free to use the search bar to the right and type in “homeschool” or “homeschooling” to find past blog posts I’ve written about the subject. Also find more information at the following websites:

Homeschool Association

Notgrass History/Daily Encouragement

My top 16 tips for beginning homeschoolers (The Survival Mom)

The Beginner’s Quick-Start Guide to Homeschooling (The Survival Mom)

Choosing Curriculum: The Confident Homeschooler

Yes, you can homeschool your children. No, you don’t need a teaching degree. Links for parents ready to step into the world of Homeschooling

From what I am seeing online, there are even more new homeschooling parents this year than last year. Also again this year I am seeing parents doubt their ability to homeschool, questioning if they can do so if they don’t have a teaching degree. As a parent who just started her fourth year of homeschooling, I can tell you that one, you don’t need a teaching degree, and two, yes you can do it. It might have challenges, but, yes, you can do it. I am saying this even after having a mini breakdown this morning as I worried I am not doing enough or doing it right.

Last year I wrote a couple of blog posts aimed at helping new homeschooling parents connect with some resources to help them. My posts were aimed more at “traditional” homeschooling parents — those who choose their curriculum and teach their children themselves — versus those who sign their children up to a cyber charter school or online school.

With cyber/online schools, your children are given their assignments and lessons exclusively online. In traditional homeschooling, which is what I am doing with my children, the schedule is a little more flexible and what you teach can be changed, adjusted, or updated, even if you are using a set curriculum.

Neither way is superior to the other, but one way or the other can be superior to a family based on their personal situation.

For us, our option for schooling had to move away from the stricter educational process due to the fact my son had lost all love for learning at his past school. He needed a more relaxed, flexible approach to help encourage an interest in learning again. It hasn’t totally worked because school is still school and kids don’t always love school, but he can explore topics further at his own pace if he wants to, versus waiting for his class members to catch up.

Because my experience comes from a place of “traditional” homeschooling, my post today will mainly offer advice to parents who have chosen to educate their children this way.

As an aside, related to online school, my neighbors’ daughter is currently doing her classes at home through the local school district and she is able to have a flexible schedule similar to ours. Not all online schools keep a child or parent from being flexible, though some do.

The flexibility for my neighbor’s daughter has benefited her because she can work at her own pace, work a job, and also have a schedule where she can visit more with family. It benefits her parents because all of her assignments are on the computer for her and she does them on her own and at her own pace, as long as all assignments are handed in by the end of the week.

For our family, I like the flexibility of being able to give my children assignments and even changing them if need be so we can study an aspect of a subject less or longer or take field trips, outings, etc. I like being able to use different curriculum and maybe even changing it in the future or in the middle of the school year if it isn’t suiting my child’s learning style.

Most parents I see jumping into homeschooling this year are completely lost, just like I was three years ago. I see them in groups asking, “Where do I even start?”

That’s a good, scary question, but it doesn’t have to be scary at all. Online searching is your friend. You will find that homeschooling parents love to help other homeschooling parents by sharing resources on their blogs, sites, or social media. Here are a few I pulled offline after a quick search.

This list will also not be the most definitive list. There are so many options out there for homeschooling and so much information that it literally makes my head spin. Looking it all up gives me hot flashes and makes me dizzy so I search only so much.

https://hslda.org/legal

https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/thinking-about-homeschooling-heres-what-you-dont-have-to-do

https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/8-homeschool-tips-and-tricks

https://thesurvivalmom.com/my-top-16-tips-for-beginning-homeschoolers/

https://www.horizoncharterschools.org/5-tips-for-homeschoolers/

https://simplehomeschool.net/advice/

https://www.thesimplehomeschooler.com/8-homeschool-moms-share-their-best-advice/

One of the main aspects of homeschooling that a new homeschooling parent is worried about is, of course, curriculum. It was my first concern as well.

There are literally hundreds of curriculum options available for the homeschooling parent. Some are online, some are in textbook form, and some are a mix. I found a couple of sites/blogs with curriculum ideas and a couple with actual reviews. One of the most popular sites for curriculum reviews is Cathy Duffy’s Homeschooling Reviews https://cathyduffyreviews.com/. She reviews a variety of curriculum, much of it, but not all, faith-based.

A quick internet search also brought up a couple of other blogs with curriculum suggestions:

https://www.verywellfamily.com/best-online-homeschool-programs-4842632

https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/homeschooling-101/choose-best-homeschool-curriculum/

https://www.howtohomeschool.net/homeschool-curriculum/the-best-homeschool-curriculum-list

https://nyhen.org/homeschool-curriculum-reviews/

https://hslda.org/post/selecting-my-curriculum

For us, we are currently using the following curriculum (but this could change in the future, which is a tip I give to new homeschooling parents: don’t be afraid to switch up the curriculum when it isn’t serving your child.):

For the first grader

Math: CTC Math (online program) and The Good and the Beautiful (finishing the K-level and will start the level one later in the year.)

History/Literature: Notgrass Our Star-Spangled Story

Science: Right now we are using School Zone Big Science 2-3, but I am searching for a set curriculum and hope to purchase one later this month.

Reading/Grammar: The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts for Kindergarten (will be moving to the next level by end of October or beginning of November. We are just finishing up last years.)

Art: various lessons

Music: None yet. Searching.

For the Ninth Grader:

Math: CTC Math (online)

History/Literature/English: Notgrass World Geography (comes with a set of books for the literature/writing/English component so it can be used for social studies and English credit), Apologia Literature.

Social Studies: Notgrass World Geography

Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd edition (there is now a third edition, which we chose not to use after the author of the second edition pointed out some major areas in the textbook).

Economics: Notgrass Exploring Economics (also can be used for a half an English credit)

Grammar: Fix-It Grammar (our first year using this. May be a little too simple for a ninth grader. We will see how it goes.)

Art: various lessons

Music: none yet. Searching.

Books on our lists to read this year (or try to) through the Notgrass curriculum include:

First grader (I am reading them to her):

  • Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
  • Toliver’s Secret by Esther Wood Brady
  • Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark
  • Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Mountain Born by Elizabeth Yates
  • Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
  • The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
  • Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass

Ninth grader:

  • Know Why You Believe by Paul Little
  • Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour with David Hazard
  • Patricia St. John Tells Her Own Story by Patricia St. John
  • A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park  
  • The Day the World Stopped Turning by Michael Morpurgo
  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat
  • Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth
  • Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine
  • Ann Judson: A Missionary Life for Burma by Sharon James
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett
  • Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger

We may not get through all these books, but they are part of the curriculum so we will see how we do.

Tomorrow I’ll offer some additional homeschooling tips, especially if you are homeschooling outside of an online school setting.

Until then, here is a link to a few other posts I wrote about homeschool in 2020 and a couple I shared about how own homeschooling journey recently. Some of these post may have links that have since expired.

Homeschooling Notes: Learning doesn’t have to happen at a desk

More links for parents suddenly homeschooling

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

How homeschooling has made life easier and less stressful. Well, sometimes anyhow.

Educationally Thinking: Homeschool wrap up

We finished our school year last week and then tied up a few loose ends the beginning of this week. On Wednesday we met with our homeschool evaluator who wrote up a quick letter to the local school district to confirm we had completed all the requirements under our state’s homeschool law.

Honestly, it’s a little disconcerting and depressing to have your entire school year — all that hard work and volumes of text read and answers to math problems hammered out — boiled down to three vague paragraphs. I understand that it’s all that is required by the state and my evaluator doesn’t feel that she should provide more than is necessary, but it’s still a bit of a let down after an entire year of lesson planning for six subjects every weekday, gathering together a portfolio, selecting examples of your child’s work, organizing a list of all the textbooks you used and books your child read, and then not having most of that mentioned in those paragraphs.

The school district or state never even sees all the hard work we did when all is said and done and in some ways that might be a good thing. But in other ways it would be nice if they knew we actually take homeschooling seriously and really do educate our children, not simply let them play video games all day and call that school.

It should be noted that none of this  is a complaint against our evaluator in the least. She’s amazing. She homeschooled both her girls from grade school to graduation. She knows her stuff. She’s doing her job. It’s just a reminder not to look at that one sheet of paper and draw the worth of our entire school year from it’s contents.

Since I didn’t have to report what we did to the school district, I will use my blog to brag on my 14-year old. He read seven books this year, including four classics: To Kill A Mockingbird, Silas Marner, Lord of the Flies, and A Christmas Carol. He also read the three final Harry Potter books. We almost finished a course in economics as well and plan to continue that course next year. And of course he finished courses in Math, history, science, grammar and English.

We did have to  complete a standardized test this year since The Boy was in 8th grade. Standardized testing is required in fifth, eighth and eleventh if I remember right.

I did not have to provide a portfolio or any information for Little Miss because under state law she doesn’t even have to start attending school until she is six and she was not six when the school year started. I will file an intent to homeschool form for her with the school district for the upcoming school year and I will consider her in first grade since we worked on kindergarten curriculum this year.

Overall, our homeschool year went well. We learned about a lot of things but I do see a lot of room for improvement for The Boy especially. We will have to increase our focus on science this next year and also add some more music and art as well as a writing and spelling curriculum for him.

For Little Miss we will focus more on science and history this upcoming year. Little Miss is also going to be having a few days a week of lessons during the summer so she doesn’t forget what she has learned.

We may choose to have set curriculum from one curriculum company this year as well but I have not decided that yet.

I know most parents love when homeschool or school is over for the year and they have a break all summer but I actually miss it. I liked making lesson plans and reading the lessons with The Boy. I liked knowing that each day I had a purpose other than cooking dinner and letting the dog in and out of the house and writing my silly stories. Luckily I now have a summer to begin planning for next year. I also will be teaching Little Miss some starting next week, as I mentioned, and starting in July The Boy will begin reviewing math lessons so he doesn’t forget everything he learned this year.

If you are a homeschooler, I’d love to hear about your homeschool year. Is it over yet? What are your plans for next year? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

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.

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)

Tell Me More About … Debby Frisk, Mom and homeschooling parent

Debby Frisk is a homeschooling mom from Athens, Pa. She is also simply a mom who cares about her children. She encourages other parents who want to homeschool their children, for various reasons, but don’t believe they can.  I asked her if she would tell my readers a little about her journey in homeschooling and offer some advice for parents who might be considering  this style of schooling for their children.


 Photos by Lisa R. Howeler

Photos by Lisa R. Howeler

Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, your family, your interests.
My name is Deb Frisk, married to Tim Frisk for 25 years, with 2 daughters, Elizabeth age 19, and Leah age 16.  I’m originally from Ellwood City, PA.  We moved to Bradford County upon finishing college.  I enjoy reading, puzzles and games of all varieties, watching musicals, going on walks, cats, and spending time with my family.

What careers have you held or do you hold now?
I was hired by Towanda Area School district in 1992 to teach math and work with the deaf and hard of hearing students in the district.  I worked there for 6 years before starting our family.  Since then I’ve mainly been raising our children and homeschooling, but have worked for short times as a sign language instructor and for Early Intervention. 

You are a homeschooling mom. How did you get involved in homeschooling?
Homeschooling was always on our radar as an educational option even before we had kids.  Because I have a teaching degree, I was asked to perform homeschool evaluations for a few homeschooling friends of ours.  I was impressed with the quality curricula that is available to homeschoolers and with the character and academic excellence I saw in the homeschooled children that I met. 

When our first child was diagnosed with autism, we were strongly encouraged to enroll her in school to help with socialization.  We listened to the experts and put her in a year of private preschool and a year of public school for K-4.  Although she had fabulous teachers and aides in both places, it was obvious to us and her teachers that school was not a suitable environment for her to learn, so the decision was made to bring her home for kindergarten. 

We first enrolled her in a cyber charter school, which is public school done in the comfort of your own home.  This worked well for us for several years, but whens he reached middle school, it became cumbersome to jump through all of the hoops that the school set before us and the decision was made to begin pure homeschooling. 

What is your advice to parents who are considering homeschooling?
I have a lot to say to people who are considering homeschooling.  The first thing is that you CAN do it.  You do not need a teaching degree to be a good teacher to your own children.  Research has shown that parents without a teaching degree are just as successful as those with one. 
The next important thing to know is that there is no one right way to homeschool.  It looks different for every family.  Sometimes it takes a year or two (or three) to figure out what works and doesn’t work for your family.  It’s good to talk to other families and see what they like and what works for them, but trying to copy others will likely make you unhappy.  Do what’s best for your family. 
Next I’d suggest that you try to connect with other homeschoolers.  Some people desire a lot of support others do it all on their own.  There’s no right or wrong amount of connection either, but initially it’s good to talk to others to get ideas and to look at curriculum.  Pennsylvania has an amazing homeschool convention in early June in Lancaster that I strongly recommend. 

It’s a good place to attend seminars on homeschooling, pickup curriculum and examine it, possibly purchase some materials, and begin to network with others who’ve been-there-done-that. 
My personal preference on curriculum is to buy used, sell used.  This keeps cost to a minimum for us.  There are several different places where you can do this — used curriculum sales in your area and online sales being the main ways. 

Do you have suggestions for resources or web sites where parents can learn more about homeschooling?
For PA residents, my favorite resource is askpauline.com
For anyone in the United States, I’d recommend hslda.org
These 2 resources are great for telling you your state’s requirements for getting started and other required record-keeping. 

Many use ebay for curriculum shopping, but my favorite is homeschoolclassifieds.com.  I also use the Facebook group Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace. 

There are probably hundreds or thousands of other quality websites to learn about homeschooling.  I just don’t have specific recommendations.

What does homeschooling look like at your house?
Homeschooling looks different for every family.  Some people do school at home, copying what they’ve experienced in the classroom.  Some people use a variety of materials including textbooks, workbooks, instructional DVDs, computer programs, field trips, hands-on projects and experiments, etc.  While still others  throw out conventional methods of learning and just follow their child(ren)’s interests and explore the world with them.
One thing that we always say about our schooling is that the only subject that’s ever done at a desk or table is handwriting.  Often you’ll find us curled up on the couch or in a bed reading together or alone.  We use clipboards a lot when writing needs to be done. 

We’re pretty eclectic meaning that we use a wide variety of resources for our learning.  I prefer literature based curriculum.  Usually whatever books the girls are reading for literature is related to the same topics they’re reading about in history.  For some subjects my girls rely pretty heavily on traditional textbooks.  In recent years we’ve moved towards instructional DVDs for some high school topics like chemistry and writing.  They’ve both used computer programs for learning foreign languages. 

I have one child who enjoys art, drama, and dance and we use a lot of outside lessons to provide instruction in those areas since that is not my area of strength.  I also should add that what works for one child often is not appropriate for another.  My girls have very different learning styles and strengths.  I’ve often used totally different curriculum to cover the same subject material for them. 

Some people have found that having a schedule is necessary for school work to be completed in their home. We’ve found that our girls work best when they can choose the order of their subjects and when they work on them.  My only rule is that the assigned work needs to get done each day (though exceptions to the rule do happen).  The girls have learned very good time management and planning skills.  For example they’ve learned that it’s not wise to save their hardest subject for late in the day.  One of my children likes to get up and get all of her work done as quickly as possible in order to be free for the rest of the day.  This works really well for her.  My other child does a subject and takes a break, does another, then takes a break.  School takes her all day, but the result is the same at the end of the day and Mom is happy. 

What do you like most and what’s the hardest part about homeschooling?

The answer to these questions is the same —  Time spent with my children.  I love the amount of time that I get to spend with my kids.  I know them inside and out because we spend so much time together.  I love being part of what they’re learning.  We tried public school for a year or two with each of my girls and I really hated not being involved in what they were learning.  I love being able to tie what they’re learning into everyday life, but if you don’t know what they’re learning in school, you’re not able to do that.  I think my absolute favorite part of homeschooling ever was teaching them to read. 
I will be honest though.  As much as I love spending time with my kids, there is never a break.  When they were younger, sometimes they would be the only people I’d see for days at a time.  It’s easier when they’re older and do activities on their own and aren’t always in the house, but the younger years were sometimes tough, but just sometimes.  Mostly the time is a gift and I try to enjoy every moment of it. 
Oh, another perk for us is taking family vacations during the off-season.  The crowds at most places are lowest in September right after all the kids go back to school.  It’s the perfect time for us to hit the road.  The same is true for any kind of activity or field trip.  My kids have never been to Chuck E Cheese on a weekend. 

What misconceptions do you think people have about homeschooling?
The most common thing I hear when I tell someone that we homeschool — “Oh, I’m not against homeschooling or anything, but I just worry about socialization.”
There are always exceptions, but I think it’s fair to say that most homeschoolers are better socialized then their public school counterparts.  Most homeschoolers joke that we don’t know why it’s called home schooling because it sometimes feels like we’re never home.  First of all, because we spend so much time with our kids, homeschool parents have lots of opportunities to train them on how to interact with people.  Homeschooled kids as a group are extremely respectful and courteous.  We attend a lot of group events (like roller skating, bowling, play practice, science fairs, and field trips) with other homeschoolers. 

This gives our kids a chance to interact with other kids, but not just their age peers; they become comfortable with kids of all ages.  Our kids spend more time in their communities than their public school peers.  They go with their parents EVERYWHERE.  They go shopping with us, to the dentist, to the post office, the gas station, you name it.  They become very proficient and comfortable interacting with adults, not just other children at a young age.  And like public school kids, you’ll find us participating in other things in our communities such as soccer, swimming, Little League, dance class, art class, piano lessons and recitals, etc.