Homeschooling My Way #1

You’ve stumbled upon my very first “how I homeschool” note.  I first shared this as a note on Facebook in September of 2009.  At that time I had been homeschooling for three and a half years.  In this note I share in detail what I was using at the time and my philosophy of homeschooling.

I now have a fourth son and some of what I used with the first three will find its way into his education while other things will not.

I still stand by my caveats.

(Note: Update added 12-13-10 at bottom.)


September 2009 – I’m finally sitting down to do this. I’ve had good intentions the past six months to sit down and write this out, but life keeps happening and the time never arose. Well, thanks to an absolutely wonderful Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino enjoyed with my dinner, I am wide awake while the rest of my house sleeps peacefully.

Please let me state a few things for the record before I even begin writing this note:

1. I do not claim to be the best homeschooling mom. In fact, I admit that part of the reason I put this off for so long is that I dread the criticism I will bring upon myself. I just know for a fact that I am the ABSOLUTE BEST teacher for my children and I don’t make any apologies for that. I am well aware that there are other homeschool moms who do MUCH more for and with their children and I bet those kids are beyond blessed to have that kind of mom. For me, however, I do not believe that education is the #1 aspect of our lives and so I live that way. We are to live to glorify God and that is done in all arenas of life, including education.

2. I do not claim to have the most Christian of homeschools. I feel that many people expect me (and all homeschoolers) to focus all our studies around the Bible and to use only Christian texts. Nope. I do have a curriculum that is Christian (KONOS) and I really love it, but I also use secular curricula (Saxon Math, Shurley English, and (insert gasp) library books!!

3. I do not claim to have the smartest kids out there, nor do I intend to line mine up side-by-side with other kids (homeschooled, or other-schooled) to determine just where they fall in relation to others. That’s entirely up to God and how HE created each one. I also do not compare them to each other. (Okay, I admit that I do compare them to each other, but they do not know that Bailey is taking longer to learn to read than the others did or that he uses extra flash cards to help him learn his sounds. He thinks that is normal, and the other two think I added an extra game for him!) I pray they all grow up with a love of learning that stems from genuine enjoyment rather than a need to compete or excel beyond others.

4. Finally, I do not expect anyone to copy what I do because they think I’m sharing my plan as a way to “lead others to the correct way to homeschool” No, not at all. The main reason I’m writing this is because I am asked at least on a weekly basis, “What curriculum do you use? I’d like to come over and see what you use so I can get an idea what I’m supposed to be doing.” (Most of the time this comes from potential homeschool moms.) Because of the way I homeschool, I don’t have a quick answer. (Meaning, I don’t just use “Bob Jones” or “A Beka” but rather, I use an eclectic mix of stuff.) Because so many people are on Facebook, I thought it would be SO convenient if I could just shoot them this note and give them my long answer in way that they could read it and take what they want, and leave the rest.

5. Last thing: I’m not asking for critiques to my program, nor am I in any way looking for compliments. If there were a way to turn off the “comments” section, I would. I have seen other homeschool articles torn to shreds and I feel so badly for that mother. We all parent differently, therefore all homeschooling moms will teach differently.

So, those caveats are quite extensive, but you’re reading the midnight ramblings of a mother who loves her kids and relishes each moment spent in teaching them… What did you expect?!?

Now that I’ve done that I’ll dive right in:

———————————-Kindergarten—————————

READING – Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Dr. Phyllis Haddox and Elaine Bruner) – As I mentioned in Caveat #3, I am making flash cards of the sounds as new ones are introduced because Bailey was having trouble remembering the former sounds once new ones were added. As soon as I started reviewing the flash cards with him before we did the day’s lesson, he began to feel more successful and was actually remembering the old and new sounds. This is very common with all students, but Bailey was the first of mine to need the extra help. As I mentioned above, he has no idea that he was having trouble or that the flash cards were not used with his brothers. He loves the success of flipping through the cards so much that he usually wants to go through them “one more time” before starting the lesson because he sees it as sort of a game. One rule I follow without exception with him is that we only do ONE lesson a day. If we miss one for whatever reason, we do NOT double up to catch up. It’s better to take it slow and let this sink in the right way than try to cram it and frustrate him.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION – Yes, I schedule this for every single day. (As a former el. ed. teacher I am pretty rigid in my lesson plan making and attendance taking. Some things stick with you…) At the beginning of the school year we were still going to the pool 2-3 days a week, so I made sure that I made my lesson plans to include swimming. Now that the pools around here are closed, I schedule in one “skate park” day and the rest of the days are, “Playground, bikes, scooters, and skateboards.” Not a day goes by that my kids aren’t doing one of those activities. And I can PROMISE YOU, if it’s raining, they are plenty creative and get their energy out in other ways. (Current favorite…piling pillows at the bottom of the stairs and seeing how high up they can jump from. Not MOM’s Favorite, by any means.)

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION – I schedule in that they go to Chapel and Royal Rangers each week. KONOS also includes Bible stories, scripture, character studies, etc. (You should really do some research on KONOS. Amazing curriculum.) I also include that they listen to Adventures in Odyssey every single day. They have learned so much from those radio dramas that it is worthy of inclusion.

MATH – Saxon K – I taught Saxon while I was in the public school system so it was natural for me to use something I was familiar with. Hayden completed Kindergarten Math in 3 months, Carson in 6, and it’ll take Bailey most of the year. This has very little to do with how well they understand the information. In reality, I had SO much time I had to spend with Hayden doing his Kindergarten school work because he was the only “student” I had. I had time to do as many lessons as he was up for in a given day. Even if it was 6-7…if he wanted to, we kept on. When Carson was going through that book, I had less time as I was teaching him and a 2nd grader. Now that Bailey is going through it, I have a 3rd grader, 1st grader, and him. So, by the time Bailey and I have done Reading and Math, his brothers are done with their independent work and are in need of direct instruction. I don’t have the luxury of spending as much time with him as I did with Carson, much less than I had with Hayden. I just mention this to give you an idea of how quickly one might finish the K book…it’s based on how much time YOU have to give as well as the understanding of the student.

LIBRARY – We go to the library about every 2 weeks. (I use the website to put books on hold and then when I get to the library they have a huge stack waiting for me to pick up. Usually 50-80 books. These books range in levels from K – 8th grade. While we’re there we get to sit and play. Computers, books, magazines, etc. When we leave, I just have to grab my basket and check out the books I previously reserved. SUCH a blessing to have a great library system.) I find it important to give the boys access to the library for many reasons, including wanting them to know how to behave in that setting. They do great: they’re quiet, take turns on the computer, and are figuring out how to find the books they’re interested in.

PEER INTERACTION AND OUTSIDE AUTHORITY – Laugh if you want, but one of the main critiques of homeschooling is that “the children need social skills.” Okay, so fine. I give my kids opportunities to be “social” and to learn how to behave in public settings. Not just public, but (gasp again) NON CHRISTIAN settings. Every week I go to a Bible Study at a Chapel on post. The child care is paid for by PWOC and is provided at the (secular) hourly child care center. In this setting my kids must obey and respect authority other than their parents; they must learn how to walk in line, share, and take turns. They have had to learn how to deal with bullies and kids who use AWFUL language. The have even had to deal with one child who told them he loved the devil more than anyone else. (Yeah, that was a strange month of trying to explain that to the boys, but they learned that their only requirement was to be nice and pray for the kid. They didn’t have to be his best friend, and they weren’t but they learned how to co-exist pleasantly.)

FAMILY & HOME MANAGEMENT – I don’t include this on a regular basis, but I should. They each have activities they are required to do on a daily basis. Most of these “chores” are paid but some are just part of being a family. There will be a time when we are about to move and I’ll schedule a day where they will help us by sorting out their toys into categories: GIVE AWAY, KEEP, and CHUNK and this is a skill they are going to need for their future. Hayden can cook Mac and Cheese on his own (with supervision, but he’s got it down pat) and Hayden and Carson both wash their own clothes. They are a great help around the house and I think their lesson plans should reflect that. (Now, I do admit that if they were in school 8 hours a day the house wouldn’t BE as messy and I’d have more time to work on it, BUT, at least they do their part.)

SCIENCE – Part of what the kids do for Science is Jonathan Park. (Another radio drama, similar to Adventures in Odyssey.) It focuses on teaching children what the Bible says about creation and how they can defend what they believe. They listen to the same episode every day for 5 days and then (in theory) we talk about it and review it. I’ve not been so good at that part, but they are really learning and interested in it. In fact, they have heard a lot about the Aucilla RIver in Florida. While talking about our Disney World trip coming up in November Hayden (8) asked me if we could go to the Aucilla River. This science is real and my kids are learning! LOVE THAT! As for other science, some activities we do are straight out of KONOS and are based around the topic we are studying. Others (like our Plant Notebook) come from the NCSCOS. (That stands for North Carolina Standard Course of Study, which is the scope and sequence that NC uses to teach all its students. As an el. ed. college student I had to be sure that my lessons were DIRECTLY tied to the NCSCOS. As a homeschooling mother, I get to do what I want! But, I do want my kids to be at or above their peers (and I consider NC home) which is why I chose the NCSCOS to use as a LOOSE guide.

SOCIAL STUDIES – Library books and ideas from KONOS, as well as information directly from the NCSCOS. (I do recommend that homeschoolers pick a state* and look at their “scope and sequence.” It is helpful to get ideas and to know what kids in the public schools are learning. I don’t feel one should feel forced to follow it exactly, but knowing what other kids are doing or are expected to know will give you a good feel for where your own child is. (* About the phrase, “pick a state…” I’m mainly referring to military families. If you’re not military, you’d naturally pick the state you reside in. But because military families move all over, I think it’s better to pick one and stick with it the entire time you’re schooling. As you know, what is covered in 2nd grade in one state might be covered in 3rd in another. If you’re following your ORDERS to pick a state, you might end up frustrated that you’re repeating information or missing crucial info. Best to pick a state and stick with it. Continuity is helpful!!)

HANDWRITING – Oh, one of my biggest homeschooling mistakes thus far is in the area of handwriting. I was using the “100 Easy Lessons” to teach writing for Hayden. He does not have good handwriting and it has been SO difficult to un-teach what he learned. It wasn’t that the 100 Easy lessons taught him incorrectly, it just wasn’t sufficient! So, while Bailey was in OT for SID (that’s another note for another day) his therapist suggested that I use Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) for him. I did a very brief research and ended up buying the entire thing, K-2 for all three boys. (Mat Man, Chalk board, Flip Crayons, Wood Pieces, etc.) I started Hayden at K and moved him up as he got better. Carson started K with it and he has incredible handwriting! I won’t have to UN-TEACH incorrect habits. One note, from Carson on, I will not use the 100 Easy Lessons writing section at all. The “font” of the letters they teach is very different from what HWT uses, so I choose not to confuse them. We do HWT and that’s IT for handwriting (for grades K-2…looking at something different for 3rd grade and up.).

ELECTIVES AND FIELD TRIPS – When something neat is coming up, like when we spent the night in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I plugged it into our lesson plans as a Field Trip. When they do Soccer or something extra curricular, I might stick it in as Electives.

FOREIGN LANGUAGES – Last year I did Rosetta Stone Spanish with Carson (in K – above his head… not really worth it) and Hayden (2nd Grade – he was doing great). I really like the homeschool version, but my fault in this was that I did not keep up with it. If I had put forth the effort that I should have then he and I could be holding conversations in Spanish. Now that we’re heading to Germany I wish we had the German version and I really don’t want to overload them with two new languages. Not sure what to do about this so right now they’re not doing any foreign language. I might have just convinced myself to at least stick Hayden back on it…

———————————-1st Grade——————————

Many of the things above I continue to do in all the grades, so I’ll copy and paste just a quick summary of those things.

READING – I use library books exclusively for Carson’s reading. Our library has books that have color coded stickers and he knows what level he’s supposed to be reading. (They are color coded but also lettered, A, B and C, with C being the more difficult of the “easy readers.”) I allow him to read any of them, but at least one a day must be C. We have discovered a great website that is a great substitute for “AR” or Accelerated Reader, a program found in many public schools. www.bookadventure.com The boys can read a book and then take an online test. They earn points and then can use those points to buy books, book marks, or other prizes. Their favorite so far has been a candy bar for 900 points from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION – “Playground, bikes, scooters, and skateboards.”

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION – Chapel, Royal Rangers, KONOS, and Adventures in Odyssey

MATH – Saxon 1 –

LIBRARY – We go to the library about every 2 weeks.

PEER INTERACTION AND OUTSIDE AUTHORITY – opportunities to be “social” and to learn how to behave in public settings. They must learn how to walk in line, share, and take turns.

FAMILY & HOME MANAGEMENT – They each have activities they are required to do on a daily basis.

SCIENCE – Jonathan Park. As for other science, some activites we do are straight out of KONOS and others come from the NCSCOS.

SOCIAL STUDIES – Library books and ideas from KONOS, as well as information directly from the NCSCOS.

HANDWRITING – Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) (for grades K-2…looking at something different for 3rd grade and up.).

ELECTIVES AND FIELD TRIPS – When something neat is coming up, like when we spent the night in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I plugged it into our lesson plans as a Field Trip. When they do Soccer or something extra curricular, I might stick it in as Electives.

FOREIGN LANGUAGES – Last year I did Rosetta Stone Spanish with Carson (in K – above his head… not really worth it) and Hayden (2nd Grade – he was doing great). (Currently not doing any foreign language for my 1st grader)

SPELLING – I use the McGuffey Readers for spelling. On Monday I go through the list and ask him to verbally spell the next word on the “reader. ” If he gets it correct, I move on to the next. If he spells the word wrong it goes on the spelling list for the week. Once he has 10 words we have a spelling list. He has to write the words each 4 times and practice saying them. Now that he’s getting to words that are actually challenging to him, I am going to need to incorporate flash cards for him so that I, his dad, or big brother, can quiz them on these words. This particular week week we’ve stopped the “reader” and are doing numbers: ONE, TWO, etc. For whatever reason, these are not sticking with him the way they should be.

———————————2nd Grade——————————

Since I don’t have a 2nd grader this year, I’ll just tell you that what I did with Hayden is almost identical to what he’s doing this year. He did Saxon Math 2, “Shurley English Level 1 (you’ll read about it below) and Handwriting Without Tears K-2, all three books. We did not have Jonathan Park last year. The rest is quite similar to the 3rd grade year, with the level of reading material increasing appropriately.

———————————3rd Grade——————————

Many of the things above I continue to do in all the grades, so I’ll copy and paste just a quick summary of those things.

READING – I use library books exclusively for Hayden’s reading. He loves the Magic Tree House but has also read the Chronicles of Narnia book, “The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.” He does the tests on Bookadventure.com when they are available and loves the chocolate he earns!

PHYSICAL EDUCATION – “Playground, bikes, scooters, and skateboards.”

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION – Chapel, Royal Rangers, KONOS, and Adventures in Odyssey

MATH – Saxon 3 – HOWEVER, PLEASE NOTE THIS; I am expecting a new baby in March and am homeschooling 3 kids. We are moving to Germany and I really need to find something that he can work on independently. I have done a lot of research and have decided to use “Teaching Textbooks” for his 4th grade Math once he’s finished with Saxon 3, which will be sometime this semester, I believe. I can’t vouch for it yet, but I pray it is as good as the reviews and personal testimonies have claimed it to be!

LIBRARY – We go to the library about every 2 weeks.

PEER INTERACTION AND OUTSIDE AUTHORITY – opportunities to be “social” and to learn how to behave in public settings. They must learn how to walk in line, share, and take turns.

FAMILY & HOME MANAGEMENT – They each have activities they are required to do on a daily basis.

SCIENCE – Part of what the kids do is Jonathan Park. As for other science, some activites we do are straight out of KONOS and others come from the NCSCOS.

SOCIAL STUDIES – Library books and ideas from KONOS, as well as information directly from the NCSCOS.

HANDWRITING – NOTE: The OT who recommended HWT also told me that she does not like the way HWT teaches cursive. She said she prefers Loops and Other Groups, so once I have saved enough money (around $60) I will be purchasing that for Hayden to use. I can’t vouch for this personally, but am excited for it! And it’s amazing how kids in 3rd grade, even if they’re not around many public school kids, just start wanting to try cursive. He’s been making up his own “cursive” letters lately! Adorable!

ELECTIVES AND FIELD TRIPS – When something neat is coming up, like when we spent the night in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, I plugged it into our lesson plans as a Field Trip. When they do Soccer or something extra curricular, I might stick it in as Electives.

FOREIGN LANGUAGES – (Currently not doing any foreign language for my 3rd grader but might start him back up on is soon.)

SPELLING – I use the McGuffey Readers for spelling. On Monday I go through the list and ask him to verbally spell the word. If he gets it correct, I move on to the next. If he spells the word wrong it goes on the spelling list for the week. Once he has 10 words we have a spelling list.

The following is different from Carson’s spelling work: I select 5 of the 10 words for Hayden to define. If he does them neatly (handwriting practice as well as learning to use a dictionary) then he’s done with definitions. If they’re messy, he must define all 10. He also must write each word 4 times each and then he’s tested on the words on Friday. Words he spells incorrectly on the test automatically go on the next week’s list of 10 words.

GRAMMAR – Shurley English, Level 2 – Do some research on this! I am really pleased with it. It can be repetitive in the beginning but it works. Hayden is able to tell me all the parts of a sentence and diagram it in a VERY short time. Usually 1 minute or less. (He did Level 1 last year. Since I don’t currently have a 2nd grader, I skipped that grade in my summary. I think this is the only thing different for him…this and that he did HWT for 2nd grade and will use Loops this year.)

So, that is what I do. There are many things my kids learn that I don’t write down, and many advantages to homeschooling that I absolutely love. But my reasons for homeschooling were not the purpose of this “note.” I just wanted to share what I do with my kids. If you really want to know the many reasons I homeschool that’ll have to wait for the next time I splurge and drink a coffee way too late in the day. I’ll give you the number one reason, and it’s probably not what you’d expect… I feel like kids waste their time in a classroom and it makes me sad to see how much time is eaten away with frivolous activities. I taught. I know what it’s like. No, I don’t think it’s torture or cruel and unusual punishment, but I get done in a few short hours what it takes a school all day (and apparently all night, with the amount of homework given these days) to accomplish. My kids are kids. They do their work, then they eat and rest (yes, they rest each day for about 3 hours… sleep or not, I don’t care. Rest, they must.) Then they’re free! They play, color, sometimes watch TV. But for MOST of the day they’re just KIDS. They have the rest of their lives to work and be grown up. I want them to have as fulfilling a childhood as possible.

NOW, one last caveat, one I did not mention above. As I was writing that last paragraph I got to thinking… one might start to think that I look down on other parents who choose not to homeschool. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I truly don’t have a preference as to whether or not you homeschool. I absolutely respect each parent’s right to make the decision that is best for their family. I do not believe that all kids should be homeschooled. That is why Matt and I have chosen to take this homeschooling thing, “Year by year and kid by kid.” While I can see the value in homeschooling through high school, I can also listen to the Lord and if He ever says, “Put ’em in school,” I want to be obedient.

So there it is. My “program” and my caveats. Take it or leave it. I apologize if I sound overly defensive. It sort of comes with the territory, I guess. When you write something that is so tender and close to your heart as your kids and the choices you make in raising them, you know there are bound to be people who disagree. I guess that’s a risk I’m willing to take at this moment.

I am so thankful to live in a country where I have the freedom to homeschool. I feel so sad for the German families near whom I’m going to be living. They don’t even have the OPTION. The are jailed on a consistent basis for homeschooling. (I guess that’s a note for yet another coffee-driven late night.)

~Jennifer

12-13-10

So much has changed in my homeschool that I had to add this link a new post I’ve titled “Homeschooling My Way #2.

The main difference is that I look back at how pleased I was with Shurley English.  I guess it wasn’t the curriculum itself that I wasn’t happy with but rather, my priorities changed.  I no longer care whether or not my son can tell me all the parts of speech perfectly.  I’ve found something that has helped him become a good writer and I am VERY excited about that.  So, what is this magic curriculum? See this link for more info: http://www.advanced-writing-resources.com/

About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
This entry was posted in About my faith, family, homeschooling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Homeschooling My Way #1

  1. patsy says:

    Lady, you simply amaze me. Your boys will grow up to be great men – just like their dad. There is no such education than from a God-fearing, Jesus loving, Saint of a woman. I love you as everyone who truly knows you.

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you for your sweet encouragement! I pray my sons are taking note of the amazing example of Godliness that they have in their own home and will do their best to follow in Matt’s footsteps, right to the cross.

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