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?