Are you getting ready to start homeschooling for the first time? If you don’t have any experience, you might wonder just exactly how it’s done.
The answer is………..any way you like! That’s why this method of education is becoming so popular – it’s very flexible. That means learning is tailored to your family’s needs and your family’s schedule.
Every homeschool is different and as unique as the family behind it. Did you know that some homeschoolers use a 100% computer-based curriculum? Others use traditional texts and workbooks. Still others do a mix of the two. There’s even a method out there called “unschooling.” The sky’s the limit.
Here’s a quick rundown of our set up, just to give you one illustration:
Start Time: For our family, beginning at 9 am has worked well. It allows time for breakfast, inside jobs and outside chores to be done first. Some homeschoolers start much earlier, and others work only in the afternoons. Again, it’s up to you and you’ll find out what works best as time goes by. Take into consideration the ages of your children. If you have a baby, or a toddler, or both then your older children will probably get more school done in the afternoon while younger children nap.
Curriculum: This took us a few years to sort out, but Seton is now our top choice and is working well. It’s very strong in the language arts, which is important to me, because being well-read and well-spoken and knowing how to communicate effectively are crucial for future success and further learning. A good teacher once told me “If you can read and write, you can learn anything!” However, even Seton doesn’t have everything we like, so I would still describe our curriculum as “self created.” Our science comes from Abeka and our history from the Catholic Schools Textbook Project. Some families find one curriculum that suits them perfectly, but that’s never been the case with us.
Enrichment: This is one of the best parts of homeschooling! It’s fun to go to the library and check out books that tie in to your current areas of study. Schedule a visit to the zoo when learning about zoology. Use games and software programs to reinforce lessons. StartWrite has an easy-to-use program which allows you to create customized handwriting worksheets for your children.
As an aside, I also use a fantastic desktop software program called Homeschool Tracker Plus to stay organized and to save and print our lesson plans for the entire year.
How much time does it take? This depends on the ages and grades you are teaching. When Joseph and Catherine were in First Grade and Kindergarten, respectively, we finished in about 2 hours. The material was easier and lighter. Now that we are doing 3rd and 4th grade, it takes longer. I schedule the subjects that usually require me to be present (like reading, math and English) for the morning. Work that the children can do independently (spelling, geography and handwriting) is done in the afternoon. That gives me some free time.
Extra Perks: Except for a spelling test, Friday is a free day. We keep it open for errands, outings, appointments and anything else that might come up. I love knowing that we have this day to take a breather at the end of the week. It’s been a life-saver, and doing school 4 days a week instead of 5 has not gotten us behind at all. We also participate in homeschool field trips once a month on 3rd Fridays. Some of our free Fridays end up being play dates with other families, when no appointments or errands are needed. As a homeschooling family, you have the freedom and flexibility to do fun “extras” like field trips, community service, charity work or even just visit and socializing with other families.
Dealing with Younger Children: Benjamin (4), Samuel (2) and Susanna (1) are this year’s floaters. How do we keep them occupied in the morning when I need to be at the school table with Joseph and Catherine? First of all, I get them started with toys or a game right before school begins. This buys us 30 minutes, or sometimes an hour. Benjamin and Samuel are great playmates and love all the same toys – Legos, Playmobil, Hot Wheels, etc. – so it’s not that hard to keep them occupied. Susanna just wants to crawl around and explore, and doesn’t get into much trouble. After a while, I’ll offer everyone a mid-morning snack. And then Susanna takes a long nap at 11 am. If Ben and Sam are tired of playing at this point, I’ll let them sit at or near our school table if they are quiet. Benjamin will occasionally do a few pages in his “pre K” workbook and Sam might doodle on paper, or just play with his Lego guys some more. I don’t ever turn on a video or movie because TV viewing is a treat around here (we have 2 days a week set aside for it), and it wouldn’t be fair to the older children, plus it would be a big distraction.
Our Principal: This is my husband, Jeremiah! He does a roundup review at the end of the week with Joseph and Catherine, to see what they are learning and to quiz them on the most important concepts. I read a very interesting study recently where homeschoolers were asked “Which of your school subjects is the most important?” It turned out that the subject most children said was important was the one their father emphasized and took the most interest in. Fascinating! Jeremiah has always focused on their catechism and spiritual formation above all since these are truly the “First Things.”
I would love to hear how YOU homeschool. Share your ideas and experience in a comment below!