The Survival Mom » Homeschooling http://thesurvivalmom.com Helping moms worry less & enjoy life! Wed, 27 Aug 2014 06:00:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 What if You’re Forced to Homeschool? http://thesurvivalmom.com/youre-forced-homeschool/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youre-forced-homeschool http://thesurvivalmom.com/youre-forced-homeschool/#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 15:32:24 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=16701 A new school year is almost here. If your children attend school outside your home, have you ever thought about what would happen if their school was closed for an extended period of time? The most likely to occur disastrous events Read More

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AVR Forced to Homeschool TitleA new school year is almost here. If your children attend school outside your home, have you ever thought about what would happen if their school was closed for an extended period of time?

The most likely to occur disastrous events don’t have a long duration before order begins to be restored. Natural disasters can be devastating, but most are relatively localized and the response and recovery time is a couple weeks to a month at the longest. Your children might miss some school, but the time is usually made up at the end of the year or possibly by extending the school day.

Think Katrina

But every now and then a major event happens, like Hurricane Katrina, that disrupts entire geographic areas and devastates schools.

Katrina completely destroyed 110 of 126 New Orleans public schools, displacing more than 60,000 students. A year later, the school system was only able to accommodate the return of half the students. It is estimated that more than 400,000 students in the Katrina ravaged regions had to move to other cities to attend school.

Another issue is pandemic. Experts believe that it could take at least 4 to 6 months to prepare a vaccine for distribution during a flu pandemic.

Schools have varying response plans for outbreaks. Some close as soon as an outbreak has been identified. Others will not close until the school itself has a certain percentage of confirmed illnesses. Either way, schools could be closed for months to help reduce transmission rates. Depending on the time of year and how long schools are closed, recommendations could be made to hold all students back until work is made up or promote them all as if they completed the current grade. Neither is a good option.

Homeschooling Your Public School Children

If you find yourself post-disaster with school aged children at home for an extended period of time, you will likely need a way  keep them occupied. You may also want to continue their education so they don’t fall behind.

If they have their school books with them, you can simply progress through each subject as if they were attending school. Have your children read the text, work in workbooks, and take chapter quizzes and tests. If there are no tests, create them by reading through the text yourself.

AVR Forced to HomeschoolMaintain good notes on what the student accomplishes each day and keep a copy of all finished work. This will provide proof that your child has successfully completed missed curriculum and could prevent him from being held back a year. If the students are promoted to the next grade automatically, you will be confident that there won’t be any learning gaps because they did the work.

Online Resources

There are other study options whether your children have their school textbooks or not. Assuming you have power and an internet connection (for example, in a pandemic scenario), there are no limits to the education that can be provided to your kids. You can enroll your children into full time online schools like Freedom Project Education, K12 Online Public Schools  or Connections Academy, Time4Learning, or Easy Peasy.

If you’re looking for specific courses, here are some of our family favorites:

This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to teach your children at home using a computer, it will be easy to find the curriculum you need. (These are also great resources for your children to use ANY day!)

Let’s assume though that for whatever reason you won’t have your children’s textbooks at home, you don’t have internet access, and you are looking at weeks to months of educating your child yourself. What should you have in your home to prepare for such a time?

Books, Books, Books!

It’s ideal if every home has a large library anyway, but if you don’t, consider picking up a few books that you know your children will enjoy and keep them stashed away until needed.

Like clothes and food storage, these may need to be “rotated” as your children get older. Most books are fairly inexpensive and easy to pick up here and there as the budget allows. Others can be found at garage sales, library sales, and used book stores for pennies on the dollar.

Ebook readers, such as the Kindle, can store hundreds of books and all it takes to keep them charged is a small solar battery charger. Load up on the classics, of which nearly all are free. Go through reading lists for your child’s age and grade, and begin adding those books as well. One good source of book recommendations for both fiction and non-fiction is Ambleside Online.

Besides “pleasure reading” books, what kind of books should you buy?

A workbook that covers broad topics for the entire grade. You buy and use them throughout the year, save them for use during the summer before buying the next grade’s workbook, or not use them at all and save them for younger children or to sell or donate to others.

Textbooks that cover an entire year of information like the “What your Kindergartner Needs to Know” series. There’s a book for each grade up through sixth and covers math, literature, history, and science.

Encyclopedias have mostly gone by the wayside with the advent of the internet, but nothing beats a full set for concise information on so many topics. One could use nothing but encyclopedias to get a great education. Unfortunately, a new, updated set can cost over $1,000. If your budget can handle that, I would encourage purchasing a set.

For most, that’s too big of an expense. An alternative is buying a variety of “encyclopedic” books for a fraction of the cost. There are thousands of encyclopedic books like these that are available for pre-schoolers through adults (and are likely your best option for find relevant educational books for teens) and it would be impossible to list even a fraction of them here.  Just a few of our favorites include:

You can also find sets of encyclopedias for sale on eBay, Craigslist, in used bookstores and thrift stores.

Don’t Forget School Supplies!

Whether preparing to educate on- or offline, remember to have a stock of school supplies on hand. This would include pencils and sharpeners, erasers, crayons, lined and unlined paper, folders, a calculator, ruler and protractor, dictionary. We keep a large stock of the consumable items at home because we know we will always need them, in good times or bad. If you are able, double up one what you would normally buy for your children when you go school supply shopping this year. Send half to school and keep the other half at home.

You’ll find these supplies at their very lowest prices in the weeks leading up to the first days of school.

Worst Case Scenarios

While some people maintain moderate levels of preparedness to protect themselves during common or expected disasters, some also prepare for “The Big One,” whether that means EMP, zombies, total economic collapse, super-volcanoes or polar shifts.  Even if these events are extremely unlikely, there is always the potential that something catastrophic could happen which would keep kids out of school for years. For those that prepare for this possibility, there are two main schools of thought.

First, the idea is that if things got that bad, there would be little need to learn higher level math and science or to analyze literature. Everyone will be too busy trying to survive to have time for such things. If this is your philosophy, then you should consider stocking up on survival type books. Knot making, gardening, how to repairs, trapping and hunting, identifying edible plants, and so on. The “education” that your kids will receive will be geared directly toward their survival.

At the opposite end of that spectrum are those that believe it is imperative to maintain the higher level of learning even in survival situations. Eventually, the knowledge needs to be passed on in order to make a strong recovery. After a TEOTWAWKI event, the world will need individuals who understand electronics and power, who have a strong grasp of mathematical and scientific principles, and even a comprehensive understanding of history and literature. Filling your shelves with textbooks and specific topic manuals should be your goal if this is your belief.

Maybe you’re like me and you’ll fall somewhere in between and work on building a library that helps cover both ideas.

Head to your local book store or peruse Amazon for more ideas. The wider the variety of books you have available, the more options you will have when you find yourself forced into homeschooling.

Are there any subjects you specifically plan to teach your kids if you were forced to homeschool? Subjects you would set aside? Do you have resources you would like to share with others? Post your ideas in the comments. 

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The smartest and stupidest things I’ve done as a homeschooler http://thesurvivalmom.com/smartest-stupidest-things-ive-done-homeschooler/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=smartest-stupidest-things-ive-done-homeschooler http://thesurvivalmom.com/smartest-stupidest-things-ive-done-homeschooler/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 12:19:17 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=13495 This article originally appeared on the blog of my dear friend, Patrice Lewis, Rural Revolution . As the school  year winds down and amid a lot of controversy about the Common Core curriculum, many parents are wondering if homeschooling is Read More

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This article originally appeared on the blog of my dear friend, Patrice Lewis, Rural Revolution . As the school  year winds down and amid a lot of controversy about the Common Core curriculum, many parents are wondering if homeschooling is for them. Here in all its glory is a list of the smart and stupid things we have done as a homeschooling family. Trust me. If we can homeschool, anyone can!

image by jimmiehomeschoolmom

image by jimmiehomeschoolmom

For the past ten years I have homeschooled our two kids.  My daughter is now finishing 9th grade, and my son is a 6th grader.  I’d like to say it’s been smooth sailing, but I have made some pretty stupid mistakes.  I’ve also made some smart decisions that have ultimately been responsible for ten wonderful years.  Here are a few of the smartest and stupidest things I’ve done.

SMART:  We decided to homeschool long before my kids were ready for school.  This gave me lots of time to research and time for our families to get used to the idea.  All the other grand kids were headed off to public schools.  Ours weren’t.  That took some getting used to.

STUPID:   It was futile to argue with family members about our decision.  With time, they saw that our kids were turning out just fine.  In fact, just two years into our homeschooling venture, I heard my mother-in-law comment about a particularly well-behaved kid, “I’ll bet he’s homeschooled!”  Bottom line: you make the decision to homeschool based on your own beliefs, research etc., and let family members think what they will.

SMART:   I introduced my kids to literature that I thought was too advanced for them.  We either read it aloud, listened to the unabridged recorded versions, or they read it on their own.  I was so proud of my daughter for reading Little Women, Robin Hood, Mary Poppins, and other unabridged classics that no longer appear on public school reading lists. As a former teacher, I’d been used to basal readers, aka dumbed down literature. It was refreshing to see my kids enjoying the real thing. Currently, my son and I are both engrossed in Treasure Island.

STUPID:  Initially, I thought we would always use the same curriculum.  We began with an activity based curriculum, KONOS.  It was fun building our own model of a medieval castle and turning a chicken into a preserved mummy, but after a while, it became burdensome to constantly have major projects to prepare for.  When I saw that our next unit included making leather moccasins by hand, I started looking for something different.

SMART:  We formed friendships with other homeschooling families.  We’ve vacationed with one particular family at different times of the school year, gone on numerous field trips together, and it’s turned into a whole-family friendship. We now belong to a very large homeschool group that offers clubs, sports, field trips, and numerous other activities. It’s a matter of picking and choosing what we want to do. I highly recommend connecting with other homeschooling families, if for no other reason than you can schedule playdates in the middle of the day and aren’t tied to a public school schedule.

STUPID:  I was naïve in not realizing that politics and personalities can cause problems within homeschooling groups.  The first group we joined was wonderful, or so I thought, until I learned that one of the moms had taken a singular dislike to my six year-old daughter.  The woman was deranged, but we ended up leaving the group when we realized she had influenced other families and we no longer felt welcome.  Yes, it was bizarre and maybe not the norm, but I was probably too trusting.

SMART:  I’ve been willing to stop using a particular curriculum or method when I found it wasn’t working.  Saxon Math was a terrific choice when my daughter was in kindergarten, but halfway through first grade, she started freaking out when faced with a page of dozens of math problems.  After a few weeks, I switched to Singapore Math, and it was a much better fit. As a freshman, she’s back in Saxon! Flexibility is key, as is giving yourself permission to say, “This just isn’t working. Let’s find something else.”

STUPID:  At times we really overdid it with field trips and extracurricular activities.  In our city, there are dozens of possible field trips.  We belong to an email loop that informs me of every ballet, play, and other cultural event, all with unbeatable ticket prices.  After two years of one, and sometimes two, field trips a month, I realized it was too much.  The field trips were great but between traveling to and from and then a good dose of socializing at the event, we ended up losing entire school days.

SMART: Choosing the best over the good.  Field trips and extracurricular activities are all well and good, but ultimately, you have to remember that you’re supposed to be doing school!  One year, we dropped everything: a Tuesday morning Bible study, AWANAS, ballet, and sports.  It wasn’t that those things weren’t important.  We had just started spending less time with school, and I needed to refocus.  Bit by bit we’ve added some of those activities back into our schedule, but I constantly have to maintain a balance and drop the good when it starts overtaking the best.

STUPID:  At first, I didn’t think I needed guidance.  I was maybe a little too cocky my first year of homeschooling.  After all, I had been a classroom teacher for several years and had trained teachers, so homeschooling would be a piece of cake, right?  Well, not quite.  I had some real difficulties with coming up with a schedule that worked for us.  I also hadn’t counted on trying to do school with a three year-old climbing all over me, the table, and the math manipulatives.  It was our third year when my daughter was in second grade, that we started using curriculum that came with a weekly schedule.  It was such a good feeling to check off each activity and lesson and a little humbling for this know-it-all.

SMART:  Not trying to duplicate school at home.  We’ve only used one or two books I suppose could be called textbooks, and my kids have never sat at desks.  Years ago, before we began homeschooling, I saw a poor little eight year-old boy sitting at his family’s kitchen table with a stack of textbooks and workbooks two feet high.  I felt sorry for him and knew instinctively that this wasn’t how I wanted to homeschool.  We’ve always been, what I call, casual homeschoolers.  Definitely not the textbook/desk type.

STUPID:  I tend to be pretty independent and I didn’t think I needed a boost of motivation every now and then.  I’ve missed several homechooling conventions, but when I go, I leave charged up and ready to take on a new year.

SMART:  Early on we realized that homeschooling is a lifestyle.  Learning becomes a whole-family activity.  Family vacations become long distance field trips.  Questions from the kids become research assignments.  Yeah, it doesn’t always make us popular with the kids, but life is all about learning, and we try to reinforce that concept every day.

STUPID:  Doing something just because other families are doing it.  It was cute watching my little five year-old doing ballet, but it took her taking me aside, as a nine year-old, and saying, “Mom, I just don’t want to do ballet anymore.  It isn’t me,” for me to realize we’d overstayed our welcome with ballet.  I had fun visiting with all the other ballet moms, but while I was busy chatting and sharing recipes, my little sweetie was feeling like a clumsy misfit.  We immediately dropped ballet and never looked back.

SMART:  Taking comfort that tomorrow is another day.  When we have a day when we’ve been busy with errands, chores, and other stuff and no “school” happens, I know that tomorrow we get to try again.  Besides, the kids are always learning something, even if it’s the fact that the dry cleaners will donate a bedspread to Goodwill if it isn’t picked up on time!

My takeaway lesson is that homeschooling doesn’t demand perfection.  It’s more a matter of enjoying the journey, learning from mistakes, and focusing on what is most important, fostering a love of learning in our children.

 

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Homeschooling challenges, grade by grade http://thesurvivalmom.com/homeschooling-challenges-age-by-age/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=homeschooling-challenges-age-by-age http://thesurvivalmom.com/homeschooling-challenges-age-by-age/#comments Wed, 05 Jun 2013 10:04:05 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=11857 Now that another school year has come and gone, I wanted to bring up the subject of homeschooling once again. Today’s episode of “The Survival Mom Radio Hour” discusses how to decide if homeschooling is right for you and what Read More

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image by jimmiehomeschoolmom

image by jimmiehomeschoolmom

Now that another school year has come and gone, I wanted to bring up the subject of homeschooling once again. Today’s episode of “The Survival Mom Radio Hour” discusses how to decide if homeschooling is right for you and what are some of the challenges you might face.

You have all summer to think about it!

As I’ve thought about our 9 years of homeschooling, I have to admit that some ages and grades were easier than others. Here is what was true for me:

Kindergarten – 2nd grade

On one hand these grades were super easy because the material was so simple. I taught my kids to read using How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and sure enough, it worked. Our school days were super short, and I read a LOT to my kids. In fact, for the first several years of my daughter’s life, her favorite “toys” were books.

What made these grades a little complicated at times wasn’t my student, it was her younger brother. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with her going over a math lesson (we started out using Saxon Math) while my son climbed onto my chair and tried to sit on my shoulders. He was old enough to know he was missing out on something but too young for those school lessons himself.

I tried many, many different diversions to hold his attention during “school hours” but it was a struggle. Life became easier when he was doing real live school work himself.

In most families with a kindergartener, there’s a high likelihood of younger siblings. There are lots of creative ways of juggling all these little ones at once but my very extroverted son just wanted to be in the middle of things. Literally.

One other complicating factor was that I still had to read almost everything to my daughter. We didn’t use traditional textbooks, but still we had lots of reading in subjects like nature and history.

However, during these years “school” can be finished in just a couple of hours, leaving time for field trips, park days, and play dates. We included all of these in our schedule.

3rd – 5th Grades

Gradually, as my kids became more proficient readers, they began doing more and more lessons on their own. However, since we were using Ambleside Online, and it’s still our curriculum of choice, the book selections were very advanced.

image by whgrad

image by whgrad

In 4th grade we had Robinson Cruesoe on our reading list. That is no easy book for a 10 year old! We read it together and there were many times I had to stop and explain some of the archaic words and terminology. Still, it was a great book.

What this has developed in both my kids is a no-fear attitude when it comes to books of any genre or copyright date. My daughter thought nothing of reading Peter Pan or Oliver Twist. She has read plenty of twaddle but is more than willing and able to read any classic that might show up on a “Must Read” book list.

She’s 13 and recently finished Animal Farm. “I hate pigs now more than ever. Except when they’re bacon.”

Math at this level is still very easy but requires plenty of ongoing practice. By this time we were using Math-U-See, which incorporates math worksheets, video lessons and some manipulatives. Usually I was able to assign a lesson and the kids did it on their own.

They learned about science and history from books such as This Country of Ours, Minn of the Mississippi, and The Handbook of Nature Study. Whenever I felt that a particular book was a little too advanced, I would read along with my kids.

6th grade – Jr. High

By this age, my daughter was a highly proficient reader and could tackle even the most advanced books on her own. However, when it came to reading Plutarch’s biographies, I opted to read them with her. In 7th grade she began reading full-length plays by Shakespeare, but I let her cheat a bit by having a version in modern English on hand as well.

You can take a look at her 8th grade reading list here. It’s not for the squeamish! Reading challenging material has given her the mental acuity to challenge what she reads! At one point during The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson, she asked, “Mom, what was wrong with this lady??” I loved that she could read something and process the author’s message through an intelligent filter, not just accept every word as the gospel truth.

In these grades, math becomes more complicated, and I had a choice. Do I re-learn algebra or hand the subject off to someone else who teaches it all day long? I’m only kinda, sorta ashamed that I opted for the latter! In our city there is a large homeschool co-op that offers classes ranging from ballet to graphic design to Latin, American Sign Language, and yes, algebra!

I decided to give her a little push into a world in which there were firm deadlines for assignments and tests were graded by someone other than Mom. Very, very often, homeschooled kids begin taking community college classes when they’re about 15 or 16. Since I knew this is the path we’ll be taking, I wanted her to have a taste of a demanding school schedule, and that’s exactly what she got!

At this point, selfishly, my life became much, much easier. I wasn’t reading any subjects with my daughter and only read aloud to my son in a couple of subject areas, partly because he still loves sitting close to his mom and listening to her read aloud and partly because some of his books were still pretty advanced. This opened my days up to writing articles for the blog and taking on other projects of my own.

I can see now how homeschooling has created two very independent learners. Most days my daughter just looks at her Ambleside schedule and decides what needs to be done. My son still needs some prodding but once he gets going, he’s fine with working on his own.

I’ve written before about the difficulties of homeschooling but now that we’re on the home stretch, I almost wish we could start over. I loved those crazy days of reading aloud to my son and daughter and even those moments when one or both would crawl all over me, knocking over the book, and fighting about who got to sit on Mom’s lap. The TV commercials tell us that the Army is the toughest job you’ll ever love, but I disagree. Being a homeschooling mom is tougher but having your kids close by and learning together is priceless.

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Sometimes, Homeschooling Ain’t All it’s Cracked Up To Be http://thesurvivalmom.com/sometimes-homeschooling-aint-all-its-cracked-up-to-be/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sometimes-homeschooling-aint-all-its-cracked-up-to-be http://thesurvivalmom.com/sometimes-homeschooling-aint-all-its-cracked-up-to-be/#comments Thu, 31 May 2012 13:00:33 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=9500 My kids and I finished our 8th year of homeschooling two weeks ago.  It was the very best year we’ve ever had, in spite of being interrupted by endless sessions of editing my book and then launching the book in Read More

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image by whgrad

My kids and I finished our 8th year of homeschooling two weeks ago.  It was the very best year we’ve ever had, in spite of being interrupted by endless sessions of editing my book and then launching the book in March, complete with lots of interviews and excitement.

As I think about our 8 years as a homeschooling family, I have to be honest.  It hasn’t all been happy faces and gold stars.  There are some downsides that not many of us like to talk about.

  1. At times, your children will be outsiders.  They won’t be hip to all the latest fashion trends, video games, music, and fads.  Many of these are fun and harmless, but it will be your kids who may seem like the odd man out because they won’t fit in.
  2. Sometimes you will be the outsider as other moms talk about the teachers at their kids’ school and which sports their kids are into this year.
  3. There will be times when school will be no fun at all.  For anyone.
  4. You’ll have to listen to public school parents brag about their kids being accepted into gifted programs and how great their kid’s school is. You might detect a bit of defensiveness but it wouldn’t be polite to point that out.
  5. Sometimes virtual strangers will confront your decision to homeschool.  “You can’t shelter them forever, you know.”  Yes, I was told that when I informed someone I would be homeschooling our 5 year-old.
  6. You’ll spend a lot of time second guessing yourself:
    • Should we have chosen that other curriculum?
    • Am I doing enough?
    • Am I doing too little?
    • Are my kids well-adjusted?
    • I thought homeschooled kids weren’t shy but my daughter is.  What did I do WRONG???
  7. It will be hard to gauge how “normal” your kids are because you will seldom see them in a large group of kids, all the same age.  I’m pretty sure my son is really big for his age, but it’s hard to tell because he hangs out with kids of all ages.
  8. When it’s time for your “female annual exam,” you may have to bring the kids with you.  My doctor is used to it.  They sit in the hall and she gives them each a lollipop.
  9. Ditto for bra fittings, but no lollipops.
  10. There have been lots of time when I wanted privacy just to have a good cry.  Maybe I was discouraged, disappointed, sad, whatever, but it’s hard to cry when you have little people examining your face for any sign of tears.
  11. Did I mention that a mom’s privacy is pretty much a thing of the past?
  12. Friends and relatives look forward to sitting you down with the news that your child doesn’t know their math facts, or your son has terrible handwriting, or your kids don’t know how to play dodgeball, and you suspect they gossip about this behind your back.
  13. When your kids are confronted with bullies, they will be completely unprepared for it.  Life with bullies is a way of life for public school kids. Not so much for the homeschooled.

So why are millions of us sticking with our commitment to homeschooling?  Our kids are worth it.  Our family is worth it.  At the end of my life I’ll never be able to say, “I missed out on some of their most important moments.”  Nope, I was there for every single one of them.  Our family bonds are tighter than ever, in spite of, or maybe because of, the squabbles and rubbing each other the wrong way because we are together so much.

Homeschooling may not be perfect, but it’s perfect for our family.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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Our journey to the “best” homeschool curriculum http://thesurvivalmom.com/our-journey-to-the-best-homeschool-curriculum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=our-journey-to-the-best-homeschool-curriculum http://thesurvivalmom.com/our-journey-to-the-best-homeschool-curriculum/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2011 19:18:04 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=7890 When I first began homeschooling, I thought my chosen curriculum (KONOS) would be the one to see us through high school.  It was activity based with lots and lots of great ideas for every unit, as well as an emphasis Read More

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image by jimmiehomeschoolmom

When I first began homeschooling, I thought my chosen curriculum (KONOS) would be the one to see us through high school.  It was activity based with lots and lots of great ideas for every unit, as well as an emphasis on character building, which my 5 year-old daughter needed at the time!  (Our first unit was ‘Obedience’!)

I think we were about halfway into our second year when I noticed that one of our next assigned activities was to make handmade deerskin moccasins and pemmican.  Now, I have nothing against either of these but at the time I was running a business and had to draw the line somewhere.  Moccasins and pemmican was that line.  I simply didn’t have the time for grandiose crafts and projects every week.   I also wasn’t convinced that we were covering the most important basics by building a “castle” out of the dining room table, chairs, and bedsheets.  So, I began searching for the next “best” curriculum.

It took a couple of false starts before we found Ambleside Online, a curriculum we all love.  First, the curriculum is free.  I didn’t have to pay money for a weekly schedule of assignments in addition to a collection of books and workbooks.  Rather, we use the schedule online and track down the books we need via eBay, Kindle, and Amazon.  Since my son is following in his sister’s footsteps, I only need to buy her set of books once and then sell the books once he’s finished with them.  That’s not all, though.  My kids help put together this list of reasons why we love Ambleside.

Daughter

  1. It’s a lot of reading and history, and I like both of these subjects.
  2. It’s easy to understand.
  3. If I work hard, I can get all my work done in four days.
  4. It’s a Christian curriculum.

Son

  1. It’s easy and fun.
  2. I get to read a lot of adventure stories.
  3. It doesn’t get boring.

Mom

  1. My kids are reading real literature, like the original Mary Poppins, Oliver Twist, King Arthur, and other top-notch books that are rarely used in the public school system anymore.  They aren’t intimidated by these titles or under the impression that anything more difficult than Captain Underpants is beyond their ability.
  2. Their written and verbal vocabularies are amazing.
  3. I use the weekly schedule online to create individual, daily schedules that I can adapt to whatever is going on in our lives at the moment.
  4. Four-day school weeks are entirely possible.
  5. The curriculum includes art history, drawing lessons, classical music, foreign languages, hymn/folk song studies, physical education, biographies, memory work, nature studies, Latin, Shakespeare, Plutarch, and poetry.  Got all that?  The variety of what my kids are learning is impressive, and there are no workbooks!
  6. Ambleside is based on the techniques, practices, and in some cases, the actual books used by educator Charlotte Mason in her schools.  The more I read of her philosophy, the more I found myself nodding in agreement.  For example, she believed it was important for kids to verbally summarize what they learn and have read long before they’re assigned written summaries.  Coming from the public school system, I was exceedingly familiar with the difficulty kids have with summarizing information in their own words, and Charlotte’s method makes so much more sense.
  7. My kids scarcely know what a textbook is.  They learn most things from “living books” written not by a committee of adults who haven’t taught real kids in a real classroom in more than a decade.  They do use textbooks for math (Math-U-See) and Latin.
  8. I’m learning right along with them.  I’ve been reading the original Marco Polo to my son, and I love learning something new!

If you’re considering homeschooling or are taking a second look at your own curriculum, spend some time learning about Ambleside Online.  I’ll be happy to answer questions via email or your comments.

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Q&A: Advice to a homeschool wannabe http://thesurvivalmom.com/qa-advice-to-a-homeschooling-wannabe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-advice-to-a-homeschooling-wannabe http://thesurvivalmom.com/qa-advice-to-a-homeschooling-wannabe/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2011 10:17:03 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=7130 Jumping into homeschooling can be terrifying.  Not only is a parent going against the flow, but most homeschooling moms don’t consider themselves to be teachers and are unsure of their own abilities. I know there’s a lot of interest out Read More

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Jumping into homeschooling can be terrifying.  Not only is a parent going against the flow, but most homeschooling moms don’t consider themselves to be teachers and are unsure of their own abilities. I know there’s a lot of interest out there when it comes to homeschooling, and when one of my readers submitted several questions to me, I decided to share them with you, along with my responses.

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Survival Mom: Thanks for your email.  It sounds like you’re very excited about homeschooling!  The first thing you should do is slow down and take it easy!  Your son is still in preschool, and the two of you can enjoy making learning a relaxing, everyday experience.  At his age, just run with whatever fascinates him.  He’s at that ‘sponge’ age, ready to soak up every bit of information he can.  If you can tap into that natural love for learning and nurture it year after year, you’ve already done far more for him than any school ever could.

Q: Can you recommend a preschool/kindergarten program?
A: All of the homeschooling parents I know end up using a mish-mash of curriculum and learning materials.  As you progress together, you’ll find that one program or another really works with him and others do not.  Saxon math was a great choice for my daughter in kindergarten and 1st grade but in 2nd grade we switched.  The emphasis on fact memorization and lengthy worksheets freaked her out.
Don’t be surprised if, in a couple of years, you’re using a math curriculum from one company, phonics from another, and an assortment of children’s classics and reference books for everything else.

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One program we used when they were in that pre-schooler age, was Five in a Row.  The concept of this program is to use a different children’s picture book each week and read  it aloud every day for five days in a row.  Each day you pull different lessons from the book.  The child really enjoys the repeated readings, and you get a chance to draw lessons from every subject area from a single book.  You can talk about the artwork, or the location of the book (find it on a map, globe, maybe make a recipe from that town/country, etc.), the characters, nature lessons from the book, etc.  There’s a different content lesson each day, all pulled from the same book. The main problem with the program is that many of the books are out of print, and it can take quite a bit of effort to track them down.  However, once you see how the author creates her curriculum for each piece of literature, you could easily replicate it yourself using different books.

I taught my daughter how to read using a phonics program, Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons.  The lessons were boring to me, the illustrations were dorky, but golly, if she didn’t learn to read!  She is now a voracious reader, easily reading at 11th and 12th grade.  (She’s 12 years old.)  Yesterday she was reading ‘Taming of the Shrew’, the original version.

Q: Is there funding available for supplies, books, etc.? If so where do I start finding that information?
A: Welcome to homeschooling!  There is no funding available, whatsoever!  The closest you’ll get is your state’s pseudo “homeschooling” program in which they might give you a ‘free’ computer and a stack of textbooks.  You check in once a week with a ‘certified’ teacher and keep a written record of the assignments, quizzes, and tests.

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Friends of mine who have done this eventually drop out.  One friend complained about the massive amount of time involved.  Longer than a public school day sometimes.  When you think about all the classroom crap that doesn’t exist when you homeschool, e.g. taking roll, lining up to go here and there several times a day, time consumed with discipline problems, etc., it mystifies me why so much work should be piled on homeschoolers using these programs.  Unless the ploy is to actually lure them back to the public schools in frustration.  (Disclaimer: I taught school for numerous years and was a teacher trainer for several more.  I may be a little more critical of public schools than the average mom.)

A lot of moms go for these programs because of the lure of the free computer and curriculum and their own insecurity, but in my opinion, there’s a high price to pay.  Homeschooling can set you free of tight schedules, questionable curriculum (as in ,”Tell me again why my kid has to learn THIS????”), one-size-fits-all-10,000-kids-in-our-district curriculum.  My recommendation is that you take a deep breath, go to the library with your child, look for books on every subject he’s interested in, and then just dive in together.
Q: What are the basic materials I need to get started?

A: Books.  Lots of books.  A good math curriculum.  Math manipulatives, although you can easily substitute buttons or beads or any number of manipulatives you already have around the house.  You truly need so few materials that you’ll begin wondering why on earth our public school system needs billions and billions of dollars.  As time goes on, you and your child will work on various projects together and you’ll need materials for those, but that really is about it.  You’ll find many free materials and resources online, everything from handwriting pages to flashcards.  We’ve enjoyed using a free

image by photogramma1

curriculum called Ambleside Online.  The curriculum is free.  You purchase the books (many are free on Kindle).

Q: What would a typical day look like as far as the book learning segment?
A: Are you envisioning you and your son sitting down together over a textbook, answering the questions at the back of the chapter, and then taking chapter quizzes?  I hope not! Kids soak up an amazing amount of information in so many ways, and as it turns out, textbooks may be the worst source of information!  They’re written by adults who have been away from actively teaching children for decades.  They’re written by committees and have to conform to a pre-set reading level, well below what it should be.  The committee determines how many words or paragraphs are devoted to herbivores, George Washington, the Pacific Ocean, etc., etc.!  You’ll be dismayed when you realize that significant pieces of information are left out or minimized, but that an entire page is devoted to an insignificant character or event just because it’s politically correct.
The very best books you can buy and use with your son are those written by people who have/had a deep love and fascination in one area or another and want to pass along that information to children.  Why limit yourself to a half page about birds in a science textbook when your son can enjoy reading the stories in The Burgess Bird Book and learn massive amounts of information about all types of birds without even realizing it?
Okay, that little lecture aside, there is no “typical” day in the life of a homeschooling family.  In some families the dad is very involved and good chunks of school time happen in the evenings and on weekends.  Sometimes families have to work around medical issues, work schedules, and just life.  For a pre-schooler/kindergartener, “school” really shouldn’t last more than a couple of hours a day, if that.

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Just think.  You can combine books, field trips, family travel, nature walks, visits with friends and family, camping trips, home routines and chores, and errands to create an amazing lifestyle of learning for your little guy!  He’s probably a bundle of energy and will become even moreso.  Sitting down with a pile of books will drive both of you crazy.  That’s actually one of the main reasons I avoid recommending an all-in-one curriculum because they tend to be very heavy on the textbook/workbook system.


Q: How will I know if his skills match up with the public school requirements? Are there tests he will need to take to prove this information?
A: At this point, this isn’t something you need to worry about.  Your state will have its scope and sequence on their website, and you can use that as a reference point or to give you ideas of content areas to explore.  However, let me tell you a secret about public schools.  In all my years of teaching, I never once, not once, ever finished a textbook.  There were many years that we threw away workbooks that weren’t even half-used.  When I taught U.S. history, we used to joke that our students thought American history ended right after WWII because that’s as far as we ever got!
So don’t be intimidated by your state standards or their scope and sequence.
As far as standardized testing goes, that depends on where you live. Where I live, Arizona, testing is optional.  Many homeschooling parents choose to test, just to give them a bit of guidance as to where their children are excelling or may need additional help.  The scores are not reported to anyone, as far as I’m aware.
Even if you should enroll him in a public school at some point, you won’t need to show past schoolwork, test scores, grades, or anything else.  Now, some states do have more stringent rules, so check your state’s requirements at Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to find out if you have to meet any state requirements.
Because almost all of us adults spent some 12+ years in the public school system, it’s really all we know!  It’s hard to imagine that kids can learn any other way other than being grouped by age, sat in desks in rows, given a set number of minutes each day to learn a given subject, have that learning interrupted over and over again by a bell, herded outside for a few minutes of play time, etc.  I could go on and on about the artificiality of the public school system.  What you’re offering your son is an amazing, customized, and authentic education.  It will be centered around his strengths and interests.  You’ll be right there alongside him to see his struggles, and you’ll be partners in learning.  That is such a rich gift you are giving him, and you have my admiration.
Q: Is there paper work I need to fill out, something I need to register in order for him to be recognized as “going to school”?
A: Again, go to the HSLDA website, and find out what your state requires.  As a FYI, HSLDA is a Christian organization, but they are the only organization in the country that goes to bat for their members, regardless of personal beliefs or non-beliefs.  Membership is less than $10 a month, and if there is ever a time an official from a school district, the state, or wherever visits your home, asks for additional paperwork or documentation that isn’t legally required, or anything else, HSLDA will be on your side.
I’m very passionate about homeschooling and pray that we always have the right to educate our own children.  You’re in for thousands of delightful surprises along the way.  Some frustrating days, to be sure, but the joys will far outweigh everything else.

 

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Smart & Stupid Things I’ve done as a Homeschooler http://thesurvivalmom.com/smart-stupid-things-ive-done-as-a-homeschooler/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=smart-stupid-things-ive-done-as-a-homeschooler http://thesurvivalmom.com/smart-stupid-things-ive-done-as-a-homeschooler/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2011 19:57:28 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=6858 I promised you that I would share some of the smartest and stupidest things I’ve done in my seven years of homeschooling, and I have.  They’re just not posted on my blog! My friend, Patrice Lewis, has posted my list Read More

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I promised you that I would share some of the smartest and stupidest things I’ve done in my seven years of homeschooling, and I have.  They’re just not posted on my blog!

My friend, Patrice Lewis, has posted my list over on her blog, Rural Revolution.  You can read it there.  See, I owed her an article from a couple of months ago and had to keep my word!  I hope you enjoy my list and feel free to add your own.

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How to Decide if Homeschooling is Right for You, Part 3 of a series http://thesurvivalmom.com/how-to-decide-if-homeschooling-is-right-for-you-part-3-of-a-series/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-decide-if-homeschooling-is-right-for-you-part-3-of-a-series http://thesurvivalmom.com/how-to-decide-if-homeschooling-is-right-for-you-part-3-of-a-series/#comments Sun, 29 May 2011 10:00:54 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=6830 Surely by now you know at least one family who homeschools. Perhaps you’ve wondered if this choice might be a good fit for you and your family. As a homeschooler for the past seven years and a professional educator for Read More

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Surely by now you know at least one family who homeschools. Perhaps you’ve wondered if this choice might be a good fit for you and your family. As a homeschooler for the past seven years and a professional educator for fifteen years before that, here are a few things to consider.

1.    How happy are you with your child’s school?

image by QUOI Media

Many different elements make up your child’s school experience. The mix of children in his or her classroom, the homeroom teacher, special area teachers, curriculum, and the school principal all combine to create a positive educational experience, or not. A change in even one element can make a big difference in the total experience for an individual child. When forming an opinion of the public school, be as informed and active as possible, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

2.    Has your child expressed an interest in homeschooling or expressed concerns about his or her public school experience?

No parent ever knows everything that goes on in their child’s classroom, the school bus, or on the playground. That’s not an accusation. It’s a fact. If your child expresses feelings of fear or an inordinate amount of stress, it’s time to begin asking questions, visiting the classroom, and evaluating if a change needs to be made. On the other hand, if your child is eager to attend school each day, expresses affection for his or her teacher and fellow students, and is maintaining an excitement for learning, it’s probably a great fit!

3.    Is there a specific area of concern?

Do you have reason to believe your child may not be physically safe at school?  What concerns have other parents expressed about the school or school employees? Is your child’s education suffering for one reason or another? Trust your eyes, your ears and your child. If there are serious issues, you will have to weigh them against the option of homeschooling or switching to another school.

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4.    Is your spouse on board?

Trying to homeschool with only one parent in favor of the idea is like two people rowing a boat with each headed in the opposite direction. Talking with other homeschool parents and learning more about homeschooling can be reassuring to a parent concerned about things like socialization and academic achievement. Remember, homeschooling isn’t necessarily a forever decision.  Many families commit to trying it for one year and then evaluating whether or not to continue.

5.    Do your circumstances allow for homeschooling?

Taking on the responsibility of educating your children is a big job. What obstacles might you have to overcome so you will have the time, energy and materials to be successful? Most homeschool families make do with just one income since Mom usually becomes the primary educator. Would this be feasible for your family and your budget?

Here are a few more tips.

  • Make this decision with both your head and your heart.
  • If you decide to homeschool, give yourselves at least a month to ease into it.
  • Scour the internet for loads of free curriculum and materials. It’s possible to homeschool without incurring any cost whatsoever.
  • The library is your new best friend! Learn about and utilize their many services.
  • Find other homeschoolers in your area. You’ll need to interact with other parents who are in the trenches right alongside you.
  • Don’t expect too much during your first few months. You’re moving from a highly programmed and regulated public school setting to something far more relaxed.
  • Don’t give up too soon!

Check out:

Homeschool Survival: How to get through tough times

My Top 16 Tips for Beginning Homeschoolers

Stepping into Homeschooling, Part 1

Why Preppers Should Consider Homeschooling
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My top 16 tips for beginning homeschoolers http://thesurvivalmom.com/my-top-16-tips-for-beginning-homeschoolers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=my-top-16-tips-for-beginning-homeschoolers http://thesurvivalmom.com/my-top-16-tips-for-beginning-homeschoolers/#comments Wed, 18 May 2011 10:29:24 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=6740 Taking on the education of your children is a daunting task, and most of us need simple baby steps to get started.  Here are a few that have worked for me and other homeschooling families. 1.  Just forget trying to Read More

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Taking on the education of your children is a daunting task, and most of us need simple baby steps to get started.  Here are a few that have worked for me and other homeschooling families.

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1.  Just forget trying to duplicate a classroom environment, schedule and curriculum in your home.  There’s nothing sacred about sitting at desks, having set amounts of time per subject, or using only textbooks.  In fact, until my daughter was 11 years old, she didn’t even know what a textbook was!

2.  Ignore the strawman argument about homeschooled kids not being socialized.  I challenge the assumption that putting 20-30 kids, all the same age, in a room for nine months is the best method for teaching empathy, self-control, patience, generosity, and other desirable traits. Often, it achieves just the opposite.

3.  Ultimately, your role will be as a facilitator to your child’s learning.  There’s no need to lecture, and very often you’ll find yourself learning something new right alongside your child.

4.  Connect with other homeschooling families.

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5.  Once you get inside the homeschooling ‘inner circle’, you’ll be AMAZED at the resources available to you!  Here in the Phoenix area we have access to special homeschooling classes at our Science Center.  We get incredibly low rates to virtually every cultural event in town, including the ballet, opera, and museum tours.  You’ll find local homeschooling email loops, forums, and more!  Jump in and enjoy!

6.  Try to attend a homeschool conference if possible.  You’ll have the chance to inspect a multitude of curriculum, listen to inspiring speakers, and network with others.

7.  Don’t assume that you’ll always use the same curriculum or belong to the same homeschooling group.  You’ll be surprised at how your educational philosophy evolves and how one group or activity turns out to not be the best for your family after all.  Just roll with it.

8.  Use technology but don’t become dependent on it.  I used a computer based curriculum this year and when we experienced computer problems, my kids couldn’t do any lessons until the problems were fixed!  I couldn’t believe how often we had issues with this during the year.  We have tons of books on the Kindle, but when we misplace the charger, forget it!

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9.  If something, anything, isn’t working, give it one more try and then move on.  There’s no use being a stubborn idiot about it.  I loved the idea of my daughter taking gymnastics, but when it became a fight to get her to class, I gave up and we moved on to another activity.

10. At the beginning of the school year, get your feet wet gently.  Begin with just one subject for the first week.  Add the second subject the next week and another subject or two the third week.  This helps ease everyone back into the school year.

11.  This may go against your nature, but there’s no need to do every subject every day!  Keep in mind that public schools offer music once a week, maybe twice.  Science is taught only two or three days a week, and the same goes for history, geography, social studies, foreign language and more.  You’ll kill yourself trying to fit in six subjects every day.

12.  You’ll be surprised by how few materials you need to teach.  I taught my daughter to read using the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  The lessons were ghastly boring, but she’s an astonishing reader!

13.  I can’t over-emphasize the importance of reading and math.  They’re the keys to everything else your kids will learn.  Do everything in your power to develop strong readers and little mathematicians.

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14.  This is YOUR school.  If you want to spend an entire day playing math games and then going for a nature walk, do it!  The flexibility and spontaneity are part of the adventure.

15.  Join HSLDA.  It’s a Christian based organization, but if you are EVER contacted by a school district, Board of Education, Child Protective Services or any other agency questioning your homeschooling, you will be grateful you belong to this organization.  It’s worth the monthly fee of $7 or so.  You can also learn about your state’s laws at the HSLDA website.

16.  The world is your classroom!  Use it!  Track down every resource available.  Plan family vacations that will reinforce what your kids have been learning.

 

Next in the series:  Smart and Really Stupid Things I’ve Done as a Homeschooler!

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Stepping into homeschooling http://thesurvivalmom.com/stepping-into-homeschooling-part-1/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stepping-into-homeschooling-part-1 http://thesurvivalmom.com/stepping-into-homeschooling-part-1/#comments Tue, 17 May 2011 16:21:08 +0000 http://thesurvivalmom.com/?p=6738 As the current school year comes to an end, a lot of parents begin wondering if homeschooling might be the right option for next year.  My family is finishing our seventh year of homeschooling, and there’s never been a doubt Read More

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As the current school year comes to an end, a lot of parents begin wondering if homeschooling might be the right option for next year.  My family is finishing our seventh year of homeschooling, and there’s never been a doubt in my mind that it was the right choice.

I believe that homeschooling is the best option for many, but not all, kids.  When I was a classroom teacher, it was impossible for me to know in depth the strengths and weaknesses of every student.  There was only one of me and 25-30 of them.  A lot of my time and attention was spent on classroom duties and maintaining order.  As I taught, I envisioned myself at a bowling alley.  I rolled the ball, or lesson, down the center of the lane, hoping to “hit” as many pins, or students, as possible with the concepts and skills I was teaching.  Kids at the lower end of the spectrum usually received special instruction by remedial experts, and the kids at the upper end were, well, just there.  In my school district, gifted kids were pulled out for three hours of in-depth instruction once every seven days.

There are definite benefits to homeschooling

Now that my attention is focused on just two children, and the two that I know and care about more than any others, I can discuss in detail which subjects and skills are their strengths and where they

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need more practice.  I can observe them work a math problem and know whether or not they understand the concept.  If one curriculum doesn’t suit us for some reason, I know that we can switch to another.  Customized curriculum and individualized instruction are major strengths of homeschooling and reason enough to give it serious consideration.

A huge benefit of homeschooling is that it gives the gift of time.  The kids can be finished with their lessons and learning activities in 2-4 hours, depending on their age and grade level.  That has freed up time for them to take horseback riding lessons, music lessons, skating, drama, sports and P.E. and so much more.  My daughter spends time working on a quilting project, and we’re able to travel during off-peak times, avoiding crowds wherever we go.  Compared with friends whose homes are frantic in the morning with everyone trying to get ready and out the door for school and then filled with homework at the end of the day, our days are much more relaxed.

When I’ve been asked why we homeschool, my reasons have changed over the years.  At first it was just because I thought it would be fun to explore and learn as a family.  Now, I’d say it has more to do with the cohesiveness of our family and the ability to develop two human beings that love to learn, have a positive outlook on life, and have a complete education.

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It’s not all a bowl of cherries

Over the years I’ve appreciated the freedom it gives our family and watching my children enjoy learning, but there are definite drawbacks.

In most families, it’s the mother who is responsible for most or all of the schooling.  Sometimes this has made my life complicated and frustrating.   Even though diaper bags are ancient history around our house, I still have to stop and think what we need to pack in order for my kids to stay out of trouble when I have a hair or a dentist’s appointment.  When I’ve had a doctor’s appointment, my kids go along and sit out in the hallway.  Pretty much every errand takes longer.  I’m blessed that I have family within ten miles or so of our house, but dropping the kids off every time I have to go somewhere isn’t usually practical.

Another drawback is that it can take time to find your family’s unique combination of curriculum, activities, and schedule.  Many new homeschooling parents want to duplicate school at home, along with stacks of textbooks, workbooks, and a strict schedule.  This almost never works and they become frustrated.  I’ll share ideas for working through the process of finding what works for you later in this series, but don’t be tempted to give up too soon just because nothing is flowing the right way and the visions you had of laughing together over a science experiment or sharing the excitement of discovering the nuances in Alice in Wonderland just aren’t happening.

It can be tough to be a homeschooling mom

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As a mom, I have to admit there’s a third serious drawback, and that is maintaining my own healthy self-esteem.  I  have always known that I would be the weakest link in our homeschool journey.  I tend to rebel against schedules and am way, way too spontaneous.  When we get off track from school for a few days, I beat myself up.  Over the years I’ve heard so many other homeschool moms do the same thing.

“We’d be further ahead if I could just…”

“My kids are behind in math, but it’s all my fault.”

“I just can’t seem to find the right curriculum…”

Because homeschooling falls mostly on our shoulders, it’s very easy to set a standard so high that, really, no mom could ever reach it.  Every day you do the best you can do.  You’ll see results, I promise.

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Still want to jump in?

My advice for families considering homeschooling is to consider:

1.  Why do you want to homeschool?

2.  Why do you think it’s the best choice for your kids and your family?

3.  Who will be responsible for the instruction?

4.  Will the family be able to live on one income (assuming the mother will stay home and teach)?

5.  Are there any special circumstances to consider?

If you have spent time thinking about the why of homeschooling, it will be easier to stay committed on days when nothing goes right.

Homeschooling is a radical path.  It changes the way you look at education.  It changes the way your family interacts with each other.  It’s more than just having your kids learn academic subjects at home instead of at a school.  It’s a lifestyle change.

Knowing what know now and having lived through some incredible school days and others that tested the limits of my sanity, I can say that this is the only lifestyle for us.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Coming next: My top tips for beginning homeschoolers.

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