I have been getting a lot of texts and emails from friends from all parts of my life wondering about home school. They never thought they’d consider it, but coronavirus is changing what school looks like, and they just want to know more. Could homeschool be an option?
I wrote an email to my cousin recently that I thought I’d post here, in case this helps anyone trying to make decisions for the year ahead.
The way I homeschool is so minimal and simple (and effective!), I think it is worth sharing.
The first thing I would say is that there is a massive paradigm shift I had to have as a mom, realizing that my school-at-home would not look anything like school-at-school. This is hard to accept at first. This means actual academic time can be just 2 or 3 hours a day (even less in younger elementary years). And even those hours may have huge interruptions because little siblings are always around. That’s not to say that homeschooling is unproductive, but there is a reality that it will be full of interruptions and this is hard to get used to.
But the second major paradigm shift I had sort of saved the day! Because this shift came in discovering what education really is. It is reading, writing and math to be sure. But eventually I realized that every minute of our day was teaching time, not just what is taught in the classroom.
Every trip to the store or walk outside is an opportunity to teach. Whenever my husband has a task that is kid-friendly, he tries to include the kids and teach them a skill while they work.
Character development may be the very most important thing taught in a day. Learning to play nice with siblings, doing chores without complaining, speaking politely to other people, helping when not being asked, finishing a project you started… none of these things would fit under a particular subject, but I think we would all agree these are important character skills for life!
So those were the big shifts for me. Education is just part of our life, all day, every day. Some days we get more classroom work done, like math or reading. Other days we are in the garden the whole day harvesting onions and potatoes. But it’s all learning. Recognizing this opportunity to shape their hearts and minds in this way actually got me the most excited to home educate.
Keeping it Simple
I am an advocate for keeping homeschool simple. And most of that has to do with how we schedule our day. Currently, I am super excited about Block Scheduling. It means my whole day is divided into three-hour chunks, and within those blocks of times many things can get done, in any order. They just have to get done during that block of time.
By nature, I am very flexible and free-spirited. And by nature, my first-born is not. Block scheduling saves the day for us because 1) he knows the plan for the day and 2) there is wiggle room and grace for moving things around within each particular block.
Also along the lines of keeping it simple, we do not have an elaborate classroom set up. I have friends who have darling rooms devoted solely to homeschooling. But our house doesn’t have an extra room for that. I keep any extra books and supplies that I need to store in a cupboard above our dryer. And then each kid has one binder with multiple dividers, their math book and a pencil pouch. I keep our other five or six books on a bookshelf, visible so they serve as a daily to-do list of subjects to work through. I believe I would be considered a homeschool minimalist. 🙂
This could be a post all its own, but I thought I’d share a few tips because most people new to homeschooling start with selecting a curriculum. Just remember, you are the teacher. If a certain curriculum isn’t working for you, then change it. We went through 3 different math curricula before we found one that worked for us.
But in case you want to know what curriculum I use:
I use My Father’s World for our main curriculum. I love it. Every unit has a list of books to check out from the library and they are fantastic books. I check every book out through inter-library loan a week or two before that unit begins. This is a very awesome and affordable way to homeschool! So much of my homeschooling involves sitting on the couch reading picture books and other read alouds to everyone. I also have friends who use Beautiful Feet and they really like that curriculum.
For reading, I use Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This book is $13.07 and a total miracle book, in my mind. Ivar and Elsie are voracious readers and I credit this book for that (and the fact we don’t have a TV :)). Also, to watch your kid learn to read—and to be the one teaching them—is one of the best experiences to be had. It seems so insurmountable, but then it happens. And it is like a miracle.
For math, I use Masterbooks. This is life application math, with super cute stories of a family for each week as they visit a farm or go to another country. Great foundational stuff here. Take a look at the scope and sequence for all that is covered in each year. I think this site even has a pretest to help you know how to place your child.
For spelling and grammar, I use a K-5 learning website that I found to print out spelling, grammar and sometimes math worksheets as needed.
We don’t teach science in the early years, but there are a lot of fun books out there that just introduce concepts with fun experiments. For me, it feels like too much to fit in. And basically I’m like, “you live on a farm. boom. there’s science.” I know the upper elementary and middle school years will be plenty of time to learn these things. But because Ivar is beginning 4th grade we just started Science in the Beginning this last semester and it’s awesome.
My hope in writing this all out, is that now you have a few places to click around and get inspired and maybe even excited. 🙂 If I missed anything please drop me a line and ask!
You always amaze me, Becca. So fun to see your life evolve at the farm and with school.
Did you have to sign up for classes online or anything?
Due to COVID we do not have any regularly-scheduled classes right now, but we do have some one-off events. Sign up for our mailing list and we’ll let you know when any of these come along. Online classes are an interesting idea but we haven’t gone that route yet. What kinds of things are you interested in learning?