Our Homeschooling Basics


My friend Sarah recently sent me the following note about homeschooling, and my response turned into a bloggy post (imagine that!)!

This year we are “officially” going to start school. We’ve had soooo many transitions in the last couple of years (moving 5 times in 2 years, and having a baby), it’s just been too crazy. But I feel like this year, I have it a little bit more together. So, I’m going to pick your brain a bit (hope you don’t mind!): What’s you method? How do you do it? Do you use curriculum? Do you do school in the morning? Or split it up throughout the day? Do you do any school online with the kiddos? At what age do you “officially” start? Questions, questions… =)


Soooo many questions… I’m just starting out so I’m trying to figure it all out myself!

First off, what every book I’ve read about teaching your kids has told me is that reading aloud to your kids is THE most important thing you can do for them. So that’s where I’ve started. I try to make a weekly trip to the library and make a big deal of checking out special picture books for the kids and carve out time each day to read to them. At night, we read chapter books, although getting through a whole chapter every night is a challenge with short attention spans. So far, we’ve read “The Magician’s Nephew“, “Little House in the Big Woods“, “Little House on the Prairie”, and we’re reading the first Harry Potter book now. They like the picture books better, of course, but I always try to read a little above their level to stretch them. When I was in school, I would often read my homework assignments out loud to them, so they were exposed to Chaucer, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and all those guys early on. So far, they aren’t prodigies or anything, but I have hope! =P

I bought a quarter’s worth of preschool curriculum from The School of Tomorrow, but after we got through it, I just ended up jumping to the Kindergarten curriculum instead of buying the rest of the preschool program. I think the preschool stuff was kind of a joke (at least the workbooks were), but I really like the Kindergarten curriculum. It teaches phonics using an animal (Arby Armadillo, Sandy Sunfish, etc.) accompanied by a story that highlights the sound and character trait. After the first week, they start learning how to blend the phonics sounds, so Jonathan is already reading simple words! It’s pretty cool. You can find their website at www.schooloftomorrow.com I do it totally independently, because it’s pretty simple. School of Tomorrow does offer a membership thing to mentor homeschool families, but I don’t know much about it. =-/ Their stuff is really expensive, IMO, but eBay has good deals on their curriculum packages sometimes.

(I forgot to mention this in my original reply to Sarah, but we also have the old classic McGuffey Readers [like they used in Little House!] and I use those to work on Jonathan’s penmanship and reading skills once or twice a week, too.)

As I’m QUITE sure you know, no two days are exactly alike in our house. Some days, we wake up, do breakfast and chores and do a solid hour or so of learning. Other days, I’ll work with Jonathan while Hannah and Josh are napping in the afternoons. I don’t make a whole lot of goals or anything, but I try to get 3 solid lessons in each week. If I only get to the phonics and we don’t do math, that’s fine with me. Honestly, we pushed Jonathan so hard since he was 2 to LEARN (because he had been diagnosed with learning delays) that I’m worried that he won’t enjoy learning. So I try to make everything as fun and lighthearted as possible. Sometimes, with his reading/spelling page, I’ll just leave it on the table and make him do one word each hour… so that by dinner time the page will be done. =P

One of the coolest websites that we’ve found and has really helped with the phonics is www.starfall.com It has lots of games the kids can play, and, if I’m having “one of those days”, I just let them play on Starfall for an hour and call it school. =D

When do you start? Well, technically, Kindergarten starts at age 5. But we’ve been doing homeschooling with Jonathan since January (he’s 5) and Hannah is absorbing a lot of what he is doing because… well, she’s here with him! Some people don’t start doing anything formal with her kids until they are older, and they seem to be doing OK, too. So I think it’s up to you and your boys. Are they ready to learn? Are they showing an interest in reading?

Anyways, Anthony’s laughing at me that I’ve been writing so long. My last advice would be to see if you can go to a homeschooling conference. Arizona’s homeschooling group, Arizona Families for Home Education, had one last month that was awesome, and because we were new homeschoolers, we were able to go for free! See if your state has something like that, it was totally worth it for us!

Homeschool veterans, newbies, and homeschool-curious, please let me know your thoughts, questions, ideas, favorite sites, etc. in the comments section!  I’ve only worked with the School of Tomorrow curriculum, but what else works for the early years?

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About daniellaindie

I'm Anthony’s wife, and mother to Jonathan, Hannah, Joshua, and Isabella. When not making PBJs and cleaning, I like to write, immerse myself in a good book, play my piano, or plan epic couponing trips.

Posted on August 30, 2010, in Homeschooling and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Oh yay! I’m glad you posted on this…I’ve been wondering what specifics you’ve been doing with your kiddos. Especially now that Korbin just hit Kindergarten. Very fun. And I agree…making it fun is a priority in these younger grades. That’s where the love of learning is planted and nurtured.

    So, I refuse to call myself a homeschool “veteran” because then I’ll sound really old ;-). But…I do have 6 years of mistakes, successes, and “what the hell was I thinking?” under my belt so…here’s the gist of what I’ve found works for my kids at this time (until I change it next week because “what the hell was I thinking?” kicked in again ;-)):
    —-Learning Language Arts Through Literature…LOVE it. (And with Korbin–Kindergarten–I’ve started out with “How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” with an addition of early readers.)
    —-Singapore Math…fabulous–especially for the younger ages (and SUPER cheap).
    —-Science…I cater this one year by year, but my one goal is to always go heavy on the experiential side. (There was a study released a few years back that had taken 2 large groups of kids and followed them through grade school. With one group they heavily focused on reading…and they produced early readers! With the other group they heavily focused on science and art and they got later readers. Except at age 13, the science / art kids UNDERSTOOD more of what they were reading. You know the whole premise that science / art / math teaches kids “how” to problem solve…) Anyhow, all that to say that I’m a heavy when it comes to art and science and music. This year we’re going through a “game.” It’s 100 Milestones in Science (http://www.telescope.com/control/gift-center/science-kits-and-games/milestones-in-science-100-science-experiments-kit) that they have to read about, research, and then re-create. Talk about fun!!!
    —-And history…history is always different. A little book work, report writing, and a lot of internet research, reading, DVD’s (have you seen the “Drive Through History” series for older kids?), and field trips!

    Other than Language Arts and Math, I teach the kids’ subjects together. They have different levels of homework obviously, but (like you were saying with Hannah), the younger pick up the older kids’ work anyway…so why not?! And I agree about Pre-school curriculum, by the way…just skip to Kindergarten.
    Okay…I’ve said enough. Is it obvious I’ve just been going over my curriculum for this year???
    😉

    • Wow, Mary! That’s a lot of info and really helpful! Having just returned from a homeschooling conference, I feel like I’m on curriculum overload. My mom was laughing at me asking when I was going to open Indie University when I told her about the 4th program I wanted to buy. =P I like that you have so many different things that you use. I started Jonathan on the 100 Easy Lessons before we left California (it was a library book), and I really liked that it was scripted! We’ll have to check in again in a few months and see how these kindergarten boys are doing!

  2. Hello,
    I have lots of articles, links, and ideas about early homeschooling on my blog, http://www.susanlemons.wordpress.com . I also have our sample daily routine. We base our homepreschool/homeschool on the 4R’s: Relationship (with God and family), routine, readiness, and reading aloud. We use a literature based/unit study method, and add lots of learning through hands-on experiences, art, and music. etc.
    Preschool and Kindergarten don’t have to be hard!
    Blessings,
    Susan Lemons
    Author, Homepreschool and Beyond

  3. We are giving unit studies a try this year and so far the kids LOVE it. We are in a 4-week study of horses right now, then we go on to pioneers, trains, and finally Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Unit studies center all history, science, and literature around a subject. I love this style because I get bored easily. Prew does Math-U-See and Maggie does Spectrum math; I also add in language arts/spelling/writing with various Spectrum workbooks. We read a TO–lots of library books, some new books, and I collect books at garage sales all summer long. I also trade books with local homeschooling families.

    In case you haven’t seen it yet, http://www.homeschoolclassifieds.com is a GREAT place to buy (and sell) used curriculum.

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