I haven’t shared much about homeschooling on Instagram lately, mostly because when we are immersed in learning I don’t have my phone with me. You know, trying to be more present and not have my kids always see me with a phone in my hand and all that. So I crowdsourced to see if there were any questions and got some good ones that I am answering below.
At this time, the girls are 10 and in 4th grade, and 7 and in 2nd grade. It’s hard to believe I’m 5 years into being a homeschool mom, but the level of comfort I have in choosing this path has increased greatly since the beginning, so I suppose there is proof of the years gone by after all. I’m no professional homeschooler, but I’m always happy to share life from my experience, so I hope the answers are helpful or at the very least, give you a peek into our homeschooling world.
Where is a good place to start? Do you have to register somewhere? I have no idea what to do first. The first thing to do when considering homeschooling in the US is to check your state’s legal requirements. States differ greatly on what they ask of parents. I wrote a step by step post here that will outline exactly how to do that for your particular state, as well as next steps.
How did you build out your curriculum? Our preferred materials have been ever-evolving as I learn more about what works best for my kids and as they grow. You can find all my posts on our curriculum choices here.
When figuring out where to start, I recommend going to a homeschool conference, a local homeschool consignment, or asking friends to share their curriculum picks so you can get your hands on the material and thumb through it. Being able to see it first hand and speak to someone about why they use it (or don’t) is so helpful when trying to match your child’s specific learning style and needs to the right material.
What do you do for science? I feel like there are so many options! Science has been a subject I’ve always struggled with, too! I felt like I needed a “full” (whatever that means) curriculum. For our current ages, 10 and 7, I have found great success in using a combination of Mystery Science and Tinker Crates. They have made science engaging, hands-on, and exciting for the kids; they always beg for more science, and to me, that is the goal of home education- igniting a love for learning.
Next year we might try a more focused unit-study because of my kids’ love for anything relating to the human body or chemistry. For this, I’m considering The Good and the Beautiful unit studies, but am open to and will look around a bit at other options, too. Recommendations?
Tell me everything. Happy to share our experience in any way, but I can tell you that it’s even better than I would have expected. At the beginning it was a means to an end, a necessary path to achieve the freedom of schedule we desired. Now it feels so natural for us to do life side by side.
How do you handle writing and grammar? I bounce around a bit for language arts as sticking with one curriculum got dry for my kids. We use First Language Lessons primarily, but also The Good and the Beautiful and Fast Phonics here and there. I’m might do an Arrow from Bravewriter this summer with them (The Penderwicks). This year we began IEW’s SSS writing program with Hailey and I’ve been very impressed. We will continue with that for her.
How much do they use a computer for work? Before this year I would have said scarcely. However this year they have both used it for typing practice and for math. Hailey uses it for her writing lessons. They also use it for Mystery Science and for coding. It all averages out to about 25-30 minutes a day, I’d guess.
How long are you going to homeschool them for? This is such a popular question which is funny because I never really think about it. In the beginning I said “we’ll evaluate year by year.” However, now it fits us so well in so many ways that I don’t see us ever choosing to switch to a traditional school set up.
I imagine as they get older we will continue to add in outside instruction, like we have with coding, Spanish, and starting this week, Synthesis, a SpaceX program, for Hailey. Possibly dual enrollment in college classes during the high school years, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Do you abort when you have a bad day? A bad day school wise? Here’s a list of the hacks we use to get through the hard days. If I’m having a personal hard day (sick, etc), I go “school-light” and stick to things that don’t require much of my involvement.
Do your girls ever ask to go to school just to see what it’s like? I never know how to handle this. Starting out I always braced myself for this question, but besides wanting to ride a school bus, they have not any desire to go to a traditional school. I think the getting up early and not getting home until mid-afternoon is enough to deter their curiosity.
Would love to see your routine with two kids. I need to write a day in the life or a homeschool journal post soon because I haven’t in a while. After feeling like I had a younger child to entertain for so long, ages 10 and 7 feel quite relaxed. In general though- I get up at 6:00 and wake the kids up at 8:30 for breakfast. I often do history at the breakfast table because it is fun and story-based. Then we spend the morning with lessons- math, language arts, typing, piano, getting dressed, and doing chores in a relaxed fashion, finishing up around lunch time with science. We don’t do everything everyday, and some days we have appointments or commitments in the morning and have to switch things up, but that’s a general flow. At lunch sometimes I’ll read aloud and sometimes they will watch the mini lessons on Mystery Science. From 2:00 on it’s outside play or cooking or reading or if you’re Kaitlyn lately, made up science experiments. They usually have some sport in the evening.
Do you ever have mornings where the kids just don’t want to do school? Solution? A year or two ago we had mornings that were met with whining and not wanting to do school. I’m so glad we’ve outgrown that phase because it was draining!
Things I think helped:
- Using My Day charts (free on my resource page) so they could see what was expected of them.
- Setting the expectation that we do school Monday-Friday, though each day differs a bit- Friday are usually left for games, reading, playing, or exploring.
- Finding a math that better suited us, as that used to be the struggle for all of us.
- Rotating curriculum to keep things fresh and adding in games.
- Me learning to plan in reverse so I didn’t feel stressed about checking arbitrary items off a list.
- Reminding them how good they have it (such a parent move right?). My kids love sleep so reminding them that other kids have already been at school for an hour before they even woke up brings some perspective (I hope) to how good they have it.
Do you ever wish you had more time for yourself? I’m considering for next year and worries about that. Sure, there definitely have been days when I daydream what it must be like to drop the kids at school and have all that glorious time to fill however I desire. I’d probably have a cleaner house, get to join the tennis team, be a more consistent blogger, and be able to help more with the behind the scenes rental business requirements. However, this is all we’ve known and we quite love it. We’ve learned how each other functions and are aware of when any of us need some alone time or quiet time (audio books for the win).
It was more demanding of me when they were younger, but now that they are 10 and 7, I can create time for myself when I need it. I take the dog for a walk or send them to play if I need quiet. Early mornings are my favorite because it’s just time for me. Sometimes I run an errand and leave them home, which is a whole new crazy world of freedom.
How long does it take to do each day? I crowd-sourced some friends on this one, all which have differing schooling styles, and most of us agree it takes about 3-4 hours. However, this is not akin to them sitting at the table working for that long. Our rhythm is more like- eat and history, get dressed/brush teeth and do math, take the dog for a walk and work on a craft, then do some language arts, start dinner while making lunch and bake something then do a read aloud. It very much feels like just part of our flow for the day and with that, we are usually “done” by lunch time/1:00ish. I’m team “every minute we are awake is school because we’re learning something” but I’m assuming this question is geared towards actual book-based lessons.
How do YOU (mom) get enough social interaction with being home so much? At first it was easy with kindergarten and preschool ages. All my friends were on the same light schedule so we’d do play dates and coffee dates at houses. Now it’s harder.
Regular school or homeschool, at these ages of kids we are all quite busy from schooling to extra curricular. I’m really grateful for co-op because I get a good fill of my chatting and social connection time in there. I’m grateful for friends that let me know when they have a half day at school and are up for a mid-day walk. I guess I would say it’s still tough sometimes, but I don’t know if it’s a homeschool issue or just a stage of life issue because many of my friends that do traditional school feel the same way, busy and booked.
Curious about which educational apps the girls use. They use EPIC and Reading Eggs. We really liked Todo Math, but have mostly aged out of it now (it’s geared to 4-9 years old).
Favorite math and language arts for early elementary? It’s going to sound like a cop out answer, but it depends so much on the child. I’ve never heard a consensus arise from friends about what constitutes as best. We like Singapore Math and First Language Lessons; also All About Reading/Spelling; and I know some people like The Good and the Beautiful for their easy to follow open and go ability.
How do you handle fears? I’m thinking about it for next year, but nervous about the what ifs! I believe we all worry about our children no matter what schooling path we take, so I don’t feel it’s different for homeschoolers, though what we worry about may vary.
In the beginning I was scared I’d screw up my kid somehow but I’ve become so much more relaxed as I’ve learned to trust the process. No one loves your kids more than you do and because of that you will not fail them.
We take each day as it comes and adjust as we need to. That eases my fears. I fear they aren’t understanding math? I slow down, try some new methods, ask around for help or input or tutoring. I fear they need more friends? We join a play group or another extracurricular or invite new people to play.
I know it’s not the right path for everyone, but homeschooling is something I’ve become increasingly passionate about as the years tick by and I’m able to see how much joy, peace, wonder, and connection it has brought to our family. Once you get rolling, you see how completely natural it is; a natural extension of parenting. I’ve learned that homeschoolers are not separate from the world; if anything, many are even more immersed in it. Daily we are at the library or the grocery interacting with all kinds of people of different ages and backgrounds, playing with neighborhood kids, involved in extra curriculars, meeting friends for lunch, and learning at a natural pace that keeps the fire of curiosity and creativity burning brightly. I guess my passion for it is shining through isn’t it?
Any question I missed? Let me know in the comments! Are you a homeschooling family? I’d love your two cents on any of the above questions; I know it can differ greatly for each family.