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HOMESCHOOLING!!!!!

This may be my first and last post on homeschooling, so brace yourself.  This means that I am going to cover a lot of ground.

I’ve been homeschooling for, well,  I don’t really know.  It’s been a long time.

My oldest child is turning 17 this spring.  I’ve been homeschooling since he was 6.  I have 3 other children who all joined the homeschooling adventures.  I supposed when you total the years I’ve been at it & multiply that times 4 children – that’s quite a bit of homeschooling.

Homeschooling is one of those topics that is highly personal, touchy and most folks feel very passionate about it (whether they are for or against).  I don’t think homeschooling is for everyone.  I also think that there are many great choices for education today.  It’s a personal decision and you are not right or wrong no matter where you land on the whole debate.

There are as many styles and approaches to homeschooling as there are people doing it.  Lots of options.

I am not nearly as evangelistic when it comes to homeschooling as I used to be.  Ten years ago I would have tried to talk all of you into homeschooling your children.

The girl I am today would not do that.

I have seen, learned, experienced and been touched in remarkable ways by other rockin’ school options.

Why I don’t think everyone should homeschool:

  1. If you are not called to do it, don’t want to do it and don’t want to be around your kids 24/7 you will probably kill your children or vice versa if you try to homeschool them.
  2. Extracurricular stuff.  Although some local schools will allow homeschooled children to participate in clubs, sports and groups, many of them don’t.  We have experienced this first hand.  If you have a child who excels or wants to be a part of something at the local school – sometimes the only way to do that is to attend the school.
  3. If both parents work outside the home.  Let’s face it, sometimes homeschooling isn’t an option simply because there is not a parent at home to run the school.  I know there are video driven curriculum, but my children would accomplish pretty close to nothing if there wasn’t a parent overlooking the progress.
  4. There are times that other people can teach our children better than we can.  I’m gonna admit it.  I may love my children more – but that doesn’t mean I can teach them trig.  There have been occasions where someone else could get things to “click” for my child when I couldn’t.
  5. If you have a child who excels, thrives and just enjoys going to school – I don’t think it’s a bad thing for them to attend.  I know plenty of fabulous Christian people who came out of the public school systems.
  6. I think it’s good great that Christian children are attending public & private schools.  We are called to be a light and salt.  There are few other opportunities where these young believers can have such a wide influence.  I know it works both ways.  I also know that when our children are very young, they will not be able to share their faith like older kids can, but I still see value in Christians being present.
  7. HSM (High School Ministry).  Also known as NextGen (Next Generation Ministry).  Also known as my love.  HSM (High School Ministry) has rocked my isolated, homeschooling world.  I am a privileged girl who gets to spend Wednesday evenings with some of the coolest teenagers you’ve ever met.  They love the Lord and almost everyone of them attends some school.  Most of them attend the public school in their area.  They have opened my eyes.  Their schools make them strong.  Their schools keep them on their knees.  Their schools challenge their faith.  Their schools push them out of their comfort zones and they are (mostly) better for it.  Again, I know this is not for everyone but there are some incredible teenagers proclaiming Jesus to the world at their schools & I am so glad they are there.  🙂

I’ve been called to homeschool.  For sure.  I am a Christian and God led me down this crazy homeschool path a long time ago.  Until He tells me to do something different, I’m going to keep homeschooling.  My faith is by far the #1 driving factor in our decision to homeschool.  My hearts desire is for my children to know the Lord.  In addition to knowing Jesus, I want my children to have fun, to explore, to research, to read, to do their best and to love learning.  For more on my faith & a crazy story go here.

I have 4 children and they are all different.  We use a variety of educational options and these arrangements change from year to year depending on who needs what.  It’s a bit crazy, but I’m flexible.

Every day is not a picnic.  Some days are miserable. BUT at the end of every day I have that peace that tells you – you are doing the right thing.

I love homeschooling, bad days included.

Homeschool visitors.

Real Life As a Homeschooling Mom:

I’m a homeschooling mom of 4 very different kids.  Some of them LOVE school and can’t get enough.  Some of them would rather be in a barn.  One of them gets started at 7am so she can be finished before breakfast.  I have another one who can’t stay in his chair.

Pretty normal.

Child # 1

He is 16.  He tested “Post High School” on the Iowa State Test (in nearly every category) when he was in 6th grade.  I don’t know how or why.  God has plans for this boy.

He finished high school and started working on college credits when he was (supposed to be) in 9th grade.  He has 60 hours of college credits now (remember, he’s 16).  He started classes at the local 4-year college in our area this January to finish his bachelor’s.  He would like to be a Dentist, but recently told me he is open to whatever God has for him.

Child # 2

She is 15.  Her story is unsimilar.  She learns differently and we have had to take a slower more repetitive approach with her education.  She loves being around others and enjoys her peers.

She was homeschooled k-8 & really wanted to go to a school for high school.  We found a small Christian school we liked and she is attending there 3 days a week (she’s in 9th grade). I have been very happy with the school, the teachers and what she is learning.

I think she is regretting the whole school idea and wishes she was homeschooled again.  Grin.

If you have a child who was homeschooled, and they make the move to a school, be prepared for a lifestyle shock:

  1. There’s the 15 kids they will be stuck in a classroom with all day (who my daughter has decided are all crazy.)
  2. There’s the homework (When you homeschool, the work is finished during “school time” – no homework.)
  3. There’s the tests (No, I don’t give tests.)
  4. There’s the loss of free time.  (Yes, the kids seem to always be at school, and when they are not at school they will be doing homework or studying.)

She is definitely having second thoughts about attending school.  Homeschooling has it’s perks.  🙂

Child # 3

Number 3 is on the fast track her big brother followed.  She is doing work beyond her “age appropriate” grade and says she would like to begin earning dual credit (college & high school) when she is 14 like her brother did.  She has dreams of becoming a vet some day.

She is still young & I am trying to decide if the whole vet thing is just a childhood phase.  As her mommy, I will support her, teach her and guide her anyway possible.  If she wants to be a vet – I’ll do everything I can to help her succeed.  🙂  If she decided just get married & have 10 kids – I’m good with that too.

Child # 4

This guy is my baby and is still running around the farm without clothes on and pooping in the woods.  He’s a little sponge and I love seeing him learn.  We read.  We snuggle.  We explore.

Teaching the elementary years is by far my favorite.  Everything is new, magical, exciting and algebra hasn’t showed up yet.  It is a glorious time of fun and learning.

How I Do It?

Homeschooling is a touchy subject and everyone does it differently.  I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to homeschool.  All homeschooling parents are different and all children are different.  What works for some won’t work for others.

This is one of the reasons homeschooling is so successful.  You can tweak and modify and speed up and slow down whatever you are doing to meet the needs of the child.  Or your life.  Or your situation.  Or whatever.  It’s very flexible.

I have 3 rules in my homeschool:

  1. It has to be fun.
  2. They have to learn.
  3. I have to be done by lunch.

Can I get an AMEN?

FUN

I love being a mom.  I love teaching (I was a certified teacher when I graduated from college).  I love being around my kids.  If we are going to spend every waking moment together learning – let’s have fun.

School can be fun.  I want my children to have a love for learning so I try to keep it interesting, entertaining and fun.  If “school” and “learning” bring about happy thoughts of childhood exploration and adventure, then I think there is a positive association that will turn into lifetime learning.  Likewise, if “school” means hours of busywork, unnecessary repetition and general misery, they aren’t going to like learning & may want to stop doing it as soon as possible.

There’s a saying that if you teach your children to love to learn they will be students for life.

In our homeschool we hike, we make, we build, we read, we draw, we write, we cook and we even eat.

LEARN

I want learning to be enjoyable, but I also want to be sure they are learning what they need to know.  Somethings just aren’t fun (like calculus).

I look to proven curriculum to guide me.  I do make alterations and skip some materials, but for the most part I follow a proven, researched homeschooling curriculum.  I am very thankful that we, as homeschoolers, have so many wonderful choices for our children’s educations.

Some of my Favorite Curriculums:

  • The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.  All 4 of my children learned to read when they were 4 years old.  This book is the reason.  It takes 15 minutes a day.  This book goes on and on and on – I only use it until my kiddos can read (only a few months) and then let them soar.  There is some great information in the beginning and at the very end of this book that I have used for years.  Because of this book, I still give my kids a book bag & list of book categories when we visit the local library.  I have each of my kids pick out a book from each category (Biography, Geography, History, Art & crafts, Christian, Science, Classic, Fairy Tale, Agriculture, Music, technology and any books of your choice).  You can come up with your own categories and make this your own.  It’s a great way to get your kids to explore the library and the world through books.  We have times in our days that we all grab our bags of books & dig in.
    • Fun Fact – A couple of years ago we walked into the library (4 kiddos hauling bags of books & me) and one of the librarians stopped me.  She said, “You guys are our #1 in our circulation.”  I was confused.  I asked her what she meant.  She responded that our family checks out more books per year than any other family in the county.  I grinned, but was not too surprised.  At any given week I typically have around 100 library books in my house.  All the librarians know my kids by name.  We love the local library.  Oh, and we’ve never lost a book.  This is a miracle!
  • Memoria Press (I use some of this for Kindergarten, 1st & 2nd Grade)  This is a gentle, thorough beginning to any child’s school experience.  I do not buy this entire package.  I get the read alouds from the library.  I don’t use these flash cards.  I don’t teach Latin until older grades.  Basically all I use from Memoria Press is the Phonics, Spelling, Math, copy book, sketch book, and penmanship books.
  • My Father’s World (I use for 3rd – 8th Grade)  I have used this for over 8 years and LOVE it.  History, Geography, Bible, Writing, Read Alouds & Art all in one curriculum – I can teach all 4 of my children these subjects at the same time – Stupendous – Marvelous – Fabulous – LOVE LOVE LOVE  this program.  It is a chronological study of the history of the world from a Biblical perspective.  It is a 5 year rotation that starts with a year of geography & then travels through time from the creation of the world to today.  I am on my second round through the 5 year cycle & cannot express how much I ADORE this material.
  • Singapore Math (I use for K- 5th) Singapore has few rivals in the math department.  When students from dozens of countries were tested – the students from Singapore not only came in first place, they were set apart in that most of them attempted every problem on the test.  It was about 10 years ago when I was shown the multi-country rankings;  I don’t remember much, but I do remember that on a ranking of 30 countries United States was 2nd to last only beating Mexico.  Singapore was in first place and it is an English speaking country – this seemed like a no-brainer to me.  Singapore math is completely different from American math programs.  There is a HUGE mental component (which is awesome).  Singapore teaches math very differently from the way I was taught math, so I had a learning curve as a teacher.  It is not difficult to teach & I have been happy with it.  I’ve used it for all 4 of my children.
  • Saxon Math (I use for 6th up) When Singapore stops we switch to Saxon.  It does have some qualities that make it very appealing.  Saxon math repeats, repeats and repeats some more.  It is constantly reviewing previously learned concepts while introducing new ones.
  • Rod and Staff Math.  Singapore does not include much in the “drills” department so I have always added in some of these workbooks just to keep all those math facts fresh.  These books are filled with addition facts, subtraction facts, multiplication (in older grades) and more.  They have really helped my kids memorize their facts.
  • Rod and Staff penmanship – I use these books for everything from learning to write letters in kindergarten to learning cursive.
  • All in One English.  Simple, Straight forward grammar.  And you don’t have to diagram sentences.  Blah.  I am not a fan of diagramming – and I was an English minor in college.
  • Memoria Press Latin.  If you want to teach Latin – this is a great curriculum.  My Kids looove Latin.
  • Rosetta Stone (We’ve used French & Spanish)  I’m not sure if it differs from state to state, but around here if you are college prep 2 years of a foreign language is needed in high school.  We use Rosetta stone.  It’s great, somewhat fun and easy to use.
  • Apologia Everything.  Apologia is a wonderful Christ centered science curriculum.  I use it for 3rd & up.  It is dry, dry, dry and incredibly thorough – so it’s not for everyone.
  • Queen Homeschool Science Curriculum.  For the child who wants to read and write and not do science or math – this is the answer.  I love these books.  My favorite is this one.  It is an introductory course focusing on natural (alternative) medicine and anatomy.
  • Wisdom With the Millers.  This tiny book has impacted my children for years.  It is simple.  It is sweet.  It is $3.  It teaches so many of the life lessons and character traits we want our children to possess.  It is a book of entertaining stories each with a Proverb.  I am not big on “devotionals” or bible study books.  We like to study the word itself.  That being said, I LOVE this little book.  I will continue to reach for it over and over again.

DONE BY LUNCH

I didn’t say my children were done by lunch – I said I was.  There’s a difference.

I like to get started early and get our homeschooling subjects covered before anyone asks me, “Mom, what’s for lunch?”

We follow a loose schedule that doesn’t include time-frames, but has order, tasks and freedom to wander off subject.

It looks something like this:

  • Everyone up and dressed
  • Do chores & eat breakfast
  • Meet in schoolroom (about 9:30)
  • Bible, History, Geography, English Grammar, writing & Latin I teach all my children together (older children are given more complex assignments, younger ones simpler – but they hear the same lesson)
  • I teach individual math lessons to the kids
  • They work independently on:  keyboarding (typing), math drills, completing their math seat work, grammar seat work as well as literature (reading & journaling)

Younger children do math drills (multiplication tables) and keyboarding lessons daily.  Older children (who have already mastered these skills) no longer need to do them.  This allows them more time to devote to things like physics.

ALL CHILDREN ARE DIFFERENT

I know, everyone says this.  It’s true.  They all have different learning styles.  They all have different strengths.  And they all have weaknesses.

I’ll just say that we have always considered the child when deciding what “schooling” path to chose.  We talk to them about it.  We listen.  We pray.

We have used cottage schools (part time schools who come alongside homeschooling families) with great success.  We have homeschooled entirely.  We have used online classes.  We have used DVD driven curriculum.  We have used local technical colleges for classes.  We have used CLEP & DSST.  We have even let our kids chose (some of) the curriculum they studied for the year.

What Works & What Doesn’t (for Our Home)

Cottage Schools – Yes!

All 4 of my children have attended a cottage school or co-op at one point or another during their education.

A cottage school is a part time school, usually designed to come alongside homeschoolers and help them on their journey.  I live in an area where homeschooling is spreading like wildfire.  Thanks to all the homeschooling families, many programs have popped up to help us out.

They are all different.

  • Some are a-la-cart – you can select the classes/ subjects you would like to sign your child up for & just participate in those.
  • Some do it all.  Your child goes there 2 or 3 days each week and the school teaches everything.  On the days at home, the kids are given work to complete and reinforce learning.
  • Some do half of it.  There is the sweetest, little school around here that teaches science, creative writing, history, art and Spanish.  It meets 2 days a week (Tuesdays & Thursdays) from 9-2:30.  They do those subjects & you are responsible for Math & English (Reading, literature, grammar).  Even the most intimidated homeschooling parent can usually get a handle on Math & English if someone else will cover everything else.
  • Some meet more than others.  I don’t know of all the cottage schools around here, but I know of many.  Some meet twice a week others meet once a week.  Some of them will do as little or as much as you want.  I know of a couple of schools who provide a 4 -5 day a week program for kids who want to go to school, but offer a one day a week program for homeschoolers.  The same material is covered, you just do it at home if you’re in the homeschool program.

Co-ops & Field Trips – Yes!

Co-ops are a bit different from cottage schools.  At a cottage school you pay them and you don’t have to stick around.  You drop your kids off at 9 and pick them up at 2:30 and someone else teaches them.  It’s just like normal school – but fewer days a week.

At the co-ops I’ve participated in, I am responsible to stay with my children the entire session, or teach a class.  The co-op was free (or had very minimal material costs), but I am an active participant in the group.

Some co-ops happen one day a week.  You child attends a class or classes & you may even stay and teach a group of kids.

Some are just for fun & field trips.  I was in a great co-op that met every Friday afternoon for a fun excursion.   We went to Forts, Museums, Parks, a Salt Mine, and even took a field trip to Chick-Fil-A where we toured the kitchen, made ice-cream cones & learned about business.  That was my kind of co-op!

DVD driven – NO thanks.

This did not work for our family because we have other things to do.  I had one child decide he really wanted to use a popular curriculum for 7th grade.  One of his best friends was using it and liked it.  He went to the friends house & sat in on the videos before deciding he wanted to go that route.  It was video driven and MANY homeschoolers use it.

Four weeks into the school year he begged me to let him out.  The videos were LOOOOOOOONG.  They were thorough.  They reviewed, taught and reviewed some more.  This particular child (of mine) did not need to hear a lecture, read the lesson, answer the questions, review the questions, and take a test to learn the material.  He just needed to read it.

We stopped the DVD-driven time-vampire & I got him an Apologia book instead.

Teaching all 4 Children at the Same time – YES!

I use My Father’s World for 3rd through 8th grade. Even when I have had 3 & 4 year olds, they would sit at the table with the rest of us while we covered the material.   I can’t say enough about his program.  In addition to being fun, informational and Christ centered;  it has always allowed me to teach all 4 of my children AT THE SAME TIME.  There is no better way to homeschool (if you ask me).

If I had to individually teach 4 children all their subjects every day – we would have a problem.  There just aren’t enough hours in a day nor enough “Mommy” to go around.

With this curriculum I can teach:  Bible, History, Geography, English Grammar and writing to all my kids at once.  It also includes fabulous read alouds (yes, the 16 year old still likes when I read to him).

If I want to make the material more challenging for my older kids I can assign a research paper.  If I want to make it easier for younger children I can have them draw a picture.  The material covered is the same for all the kids – the seat work just looks different.

Dual Credit – YES!

Dual credit is complicated.  It is confusing.  It could be hard to manage, keep track of and a waste of time if you don’t know what you are doing.

We have a 16 year old who has over 60 hours of college credit thanks to dual credit.  Basically, dual credit means you are getting high school credit and college credit for classes at the same time.

I’ll give you 2 examples:

  • When my son was 15 he took the College Mathematics CLEP – This earned him 6 college credits & counted as a year of high school math.
  • He also passed Analyzing and Interpreting Literature CLEP – this earned him 6 more college credits & this counted as a year of high school English.
  • He did it again with Psychology, Sociology, College Algebra, Western Civilization, Business & Professional Speaking, and on and on and on.

This entire process and approach to high school is complicated and I don’t really want to get into all of that.  There is a lot to know & I am not the right person to tell you.  It’s definitely a unique, school path and it’s not for everyone.

Some thoughts on Dual Credit:

  1. If your child has too many college credits when entering college he will not enter as a “first time freshman” therefore will not qualify or be considered for the “first time freshman” scholarships.  There are other scholarships available.
  2. Some CLEP and DSST tests will not transfer or be accepted by some colleges.  Do your research.
  3. When you bring your 16 year old (who has 60 credits)  to the local college, they will have no idea what to call him (is he a Freshman or a Junior?) or what to do with him.
  4. Having 60 hours of credits will bump you up in the ranks as a student and you’ll get first dibs when registration opens.  This is awesome because you get first pick at classes & can formulate a convenient class schedule.

There are many more things to think about, but it’s just too much information.  It could be it’s own blog.

Homeschooling is an adventure.  I certainly haven’t seen it all or been exposed to everything that is available.  I have truly enjoyed my path and hope this information has been a bit helpful.

Wishing you guys the best in your schooling adventures!

XO,

Candi

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