Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homeschooling 101

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If you are considering homeschooling or are new to homeschooling it can be overwhelming. Why do people homeschool, how do I homeschool, what curriculum should I use, what are some FREE resources? I wrote Homescholing 101 to help you answer some of those questions. And make sure to follow 123 Homeschool 4 Me by email to keep up with our homeschooling journey with lots of lesson plans & great resources for homeschooling families!
How do I homeschool? Homeschooling 101

Deciding to Homeschool is a BIG Decision!

It means you are personally taking charge of your child’s education. You have the privilege (and responsibility) of choosing your curriculum, how you will organize your day, where to spend your extra curricular time, and over many of the things that influence who your child will become. Homeschooling will take up a big chunk of your time, resources, and energy.

Why do People Homeschool?

There are lots of reasons people homeschool. image
  • Religious reasons – To disciple our children in our faith. To help instill Godly character in them. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
  • Educational reason – Did you know homeschool students score an average of 37 points higher than a public school student. (Rudner Study) When you only have to focus on your kids, instead of the 25+ a public school teacher needs to, you can tailor the curriculum to fit their needs and interests. The struggling student gets the help they need, the average student gets the chance to explore their interests and excel, the ‘gifted’ student can be challenged.
  • Safety – Some families for whatever reason don’t live in an area where they feel their children are physically and/or emotionally safe at a public school.
  • Philosophical – Some don’t agree with the way public education is taught.  Again, homeschoolers in this area run the gamut.
  • Traditional Values – Others just want a tight-knit family with traditional values
No matter why you homeschool it is good to make sure you know why you are doing it before you get started. Don’t do it because your friends are or it is popular. It is a LOT of hard work – make sure it is the right decision for you, your family, and your kids. Write down your reasons and look back at this when you are frustrated or discouraged. (If you are curious, here is why we started homeschooling)

The Legality of Homeschooling

As with seemingly everything now-a-days, there are rules. Homeschooling is no exception. Make sure that you are aware of the legal rules & requirements for your state (or country) before you begin. There are states that require you to be a certified teacher, others require yearly testing, some have great programs where they lend books to homeschoolers for free, and still others have very few rules at all. If you are homeschooling in another country be aware that in some countries it is illegal. Just make sure you know what is required. I am no expert! You may want to start here to get some information on rules in your state. Try doing a Google search for your state/country & Homeschool Regulations.

What you need to know before Homeschooling

For every major decision in life we put in time and do our homework to make sure we understand it thoroughly, the ramifications, and how it will impact us. Homeschooling is no different. Following are some great books about homeschooling.

One of the best resources for you is other homeschooling families. Check for coops near you through your local library, church, and online. Talk to other families in the trenches to see what it is like. Ask them lots of questions.

And finally, in this modern age we are BLESSED with so many wonderful resources and online networks! You can find lots of great ideas, free units, free printables, resource recommendations, encouragement, and support. Check my sidebar for blogs that I love and read regularly! (Also see resources at the bottom of this post)

Find a Homeschool Support Group


Homeschooling can be one of the most rewarding and loneliest jobs out there. The reason I say it can be lonely is that you are not doing the “normal”. You will not run into neighbors at school and have that common connection. It can be time consuming to not only teach, but prepare. And you will not get paid for all your hours and hours of hard work. You cannot call in sick  and have a sub take over.  The majority of your time will be spent with your children – not with other adults. You have to be “on” so to speak 100% of the time!

So make sure you take the time to find some support. It could come in the form of a church group, area you live group, style of teaching group, or a coop where you teach each other’s kids once a week. Some are lucky enough to have supportive parents to encourage and lend a helping hand. Some have other homeschooling families in the neighborhood. No matte what it is – make sure you find other adults who you can use as sounding boards, to encourage you, to network with, and to laugh with.

Support can also come from reading books/magazines to help you feel encouraged, excited, and realizing that you are not alone. I enjoy getting a Homeschooling Magazine with ideas, reviews, trends, legislation that may affect homeschoolers, etc.  There are several to choose from. I suggest asking for a free copy of several to see what you like. I personally like Homeschool Enrichment Magazine.

If you are unsure of where to find a support group try here or try googling your city and homeschool group.


Set up your Homeschool Room



One of the biggest mistakes new homeschoolers make is trying to recreate school exactly. One of the benefits of homeschooling is you are not confined by the traditional desk model. You can “do school” in the backyard, at the zoo, in the car, around the kitchen table, in the evenings, early in the morning, at Grandma’s house, or whatever else works for you. I love that we have so many more choices to keep my kids interested, engaged, and happily learning!
August 2011 796With that being said, kids do learn best with order. So make sure you are comfortable with how your family will do school. What would you want your school space to look like? How are you going to store all the books that seem to come with the territory? Where are your kids going to sit to write? Then consider if you have the space (and budget) to make it look like you want. In my homeschool dream I would have a loft that would be a large space I could design for our families homeschooling style. In it would be an easily accessible,  large walk in closet with room for plastic totes labeled with what’s inside.  But we don’t have that space or money to make that happen……but a girl can dream =-) 

Need a little inspiration? Here are some homeschool rooms that I really like:

Homeschool Room Musts

Our school room had to have: a place for kids to write, bookshelves (for fun books to read and school books), storage for all the odds & ends (maps, manipulatives, science stuff, crafts stuff, stamps, etc.), a large holder for markers/crayons/pencils, computer (for me to print, research, and for educational activities), comfy couch (to cuddle up & read whenever we can), wall space for our US & World maps and alphabet flashcards, TOYS! (I still have little ones so they need to hang out & have fun with us while we “do school” so having it be a fun room was important to me. 

Choosing your Homeschool Curriculum


Choosing your curriculum can be TOUGH! There are SO MANY choices out there!! That’s a good thing! I can’t imagine the pioneer homeschoolers who had to try to
imageconvince text book companies to sell to homeschoolers. But with so many choices come hard decisions. And if you aren’t careful you can end up spending a lot of money.  

So how do you pick the right homeschool curriculum?

  • Right up front you need to know that there is no RIGHT curriculum. They all teach basically the same thing in a different method at a different cost.
  • Don’t feel like you need to stick with something if it doesn’t work for your family. Give it a fair try, but if it isn’t working - don’t feel bad about switching! (You can always resell it!)
  • Try to go to a Homeschooling Convention to look at materials in person. Being able to thumb through books will give you a really good idea if it is something that will appeal to your family.
  • Ask other homeschoolers for recommendations. Most homeschooling families love to tell you about what they really like and what they don’t like.
  • Be realistic – if you have a bottom line budget don’t overspend. There are LOTS of fantastic {free} units online, inexpensive units, and free books at your local library. You can homeschool at ANY budget…..you just have to work a little harder.
  • 100 Top Picks for Homeschooling Curriculum by Cathy Duffy is a wonderful resource! I poured over this book and then looked up curriculum sample pages and reviews on line. (Make sure to shop around for curriculum to find the best deal. Amazon can be a lot less for somethings, but not for others. Make the internet work to your advantage!)
  • If you are piecing together your own curriculum (like we do)  instead of buying an expensive box set and you want to make sure you covered everything they are suppose to know, don’t miss these two wonderful books: (I highly recommend owning at least Home Learning Year by Year as you will reference it a lot)
 
  • When it comes to Elementary school - focus primarily on the 3 R’s (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic). Everything else they learn will build on those. Make sure they have a good strong foundation! You’ve probably heard this before….. but Read. Read. Read!
  • Make sure you know what your state requires as far as subjects to be taught, hours/days spent teaching, work to be saved, grades, and testing. Those will all factor into your curriculum choice.
  • Some people like to have everything come from one place to know they are getting everything in. You can look into companies like Bob Jones, Abeka, Timberdoodle, and Sonlight. They all have an OUTSTANDING reputation and have great materials. The downside is that you will need to teach each of your children individually (no unit studies)  and the cost. You will be looking at about $400 (give or take) per child!
  • Another option for those that want a one-stop-shop is My Father’s World. They group kids for Science/Social Studies/Bible so you will not have to teach everything individually. The curriculum does an excellent job of weaving our Christian faith throughout. There are some creative ideas and for those wanting a less rigorous approach you will be pleased. Expect to spend about  $300/ year for your family plus $20ish/per child for consumable Math workbooks. (Note: This is assuming you check out all the living books from your local library)
  • You could do Unit studies (that integrate most subjects together for all kids K-8th grade). Konos’ 3 year rotation original program that will cost $110-170 a year for 3 years. You will need to add Language Arts & Math of your choosing to this curriculum that will cost about $100/year per child.
  • Or… you can do a little legwork and piece together resources. This may take a little extra effort, but you will save money, can take advantage of the many FREE online units & printables, and will get to use what looks best for your family/situation. (This is what I find many homeschoolers I know end up doing) Again, take advantage of recommendations, look at what other blogging homeschoolers use, check out Cathy Duffy’s recommendations, and use Rebecca Rupp’s Homes Learning Year by Year book.
Here is what we choose for our curriculum: 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 and 2013-2014

  • Sign-up for lots of catalogs. Since I piece together things from hear & there it is good to know what is out there! Did you know My Father’s World sells a year of Singapore Math (textbook & workbooks A & B, including lesson plans from MFW) for only $45!?! 

Homeschooling Obstacles

No matter how prepared you think you are just know that you will forget something. (Trust me they forget things in public schools too!) There is also a good
imageprobability that at least one of the things you plan to do will flop royally (and that’s okay!) Some days you may not get a shower in, run the dishwasher, or feel like the perfect mom. That’s okay too =-) You will also probably run into a neighbor, family member, acquaintance, or nosy fellow grocery shopper that may question your schedule or choice. The choice to homeschool is not for everyone so try to be as gracious as you can, remind yourself why you choose to homeschool, and tell your hubby to prepare the ice cream for some debriefing that night =-)

Just remember, you get the privilege of teaching your children! You get to see them figure out how to read for the first time! You get to spend time cuddling up on the couch reading stories! You get to learn alongside them and from them! You get to spend so many precious hours with your kids that other parents don’t! You get to help preserve their innocence a little longer. And most importantly in my book - you get to train up your children when they rise, when they walk along, and when they lay down! What a privilege!!

Be a good Record Keeper


Like I mentioned before, some states have requirements. So make sure to follow those closely.  At a minimum, you will want to keep:
  • lesson plans with what you studied, resources used, fieldtrips, subjects covered, and number of days (I currently use an Excel spreadsheet which is working for now since we are not keeping grades for Elementary school)
  • sample work – keep a variety of your child’s work in a variety of subjects. This will not only be fun for kids to look back through later, but will also be your proof should a truancy officer ever knock at your door!
  • Other ideas on what to keep: report cards, standardized testing, extra curricular certificates of completion, etc.
Here are some other resources for keeping notes:

Supplies Homeschoolers Need

Much of what you stock your school room will depend on the space you have, type of curriculum you use, and your personal preferences. But here our some recommendations from our homeschool to yours:

Free Online Units

Don't forget God in your Homeschool!

I  sometimes get so caught up doing good things that I forget about the BEST thing – God! And when I am not spending time reading the Bible and talking to my heavenly Father I wear out, get cranky, and am not focused on the things God has for me to do. I urge you, as I do myself, to not neglect time with God. It might seem like you gain a little bit of time or sleep… but trust me you will loose out BIG TIME!
“Now may the God of peace… equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrew 13:20-21
So before you start discipling the precious young lives God has given to you, take the time to feed your own soul first! It’s like they tell you on an airplane. If the oxygen masks come down please put your own on first, BEFORE helping children and those around you. It may seem harsh, but how can you help those around you if you are listless or dead! It is the same when it comes to our time with God. Feed yourself first and you will be equipped to help your precious children!

FREE Online Resources 

Looking for some resources as you dive into homeschooling? I’ve got you covered! And if you don’t see a resource you are looking for, just shoot me an email and I’d be happy to help!

  • {free} Tot/Preschool/Kindergarten Printables

These are my go-to blogs for a large variety or well done free printable packs. You could teach preschool for FREE using free printables from these sites & alphabet crafts.

Photobucket Profile Picture Over the Big Moon Button png 1 Buttons Photobucket 

  • Alphabet Crafts & Activities

No Time For Flash Cards Delightful Learning Profile Picture

  • Five in a Row

Five in a Row is a series of Unit studies that incorporate many different subjects all based upon a classic book you read 5 days in a row. Check out these blogs for both free literature based learning packs and/or WONDERFUL units based on these and other books.
    Delightful Learning image 
     

    • Elementary Homeschool Printables

    Confessions of a Homeschooler | free preschool printablesProfile Picture 

      • Montessori / hands on ideas

        Living Montessori Now 

      • Kid Book Recommendations

      mama smiles Profile Picture Photobucket No Time For Flash Cards image Profile Picture

      • Other

      MOM TO 2 POSH LIL DIVAS Little Wonders Days Fun Family Crafts Erica-button-300_thumb_thumb

      Did I miss a great resource? Please share!! =-)

      Have FUN in your Homeschool

      Homeschooling may be a lot of work and energy, but it is also FUN! Don’t get so caught up in following your schedule to a T or “getting things done” that you miss actually enjoying being with your kids! Enjoy those moments cuddling on the couch listening to your child read. Enjoy watching the look of excitement in your child’s eyes as they understand a scientific principle or finally get that math problem. Enjoy learning alongside and from your kids. Enjoy laughing together and taking breaks to have a popsicle in the tree house outside. Enjoy using math as you make cookies together during the school day (don’t forget to lick the beaters!) . Enjoy the fact that you can stay up late looking at the stars though a telescope in your backyard because you can start school late tomorrow. These are all the moments we want to remember! These are the moments that define your children and their childhood memories -  So don’t miss them. Be looking for those precious moments and encourage them!   This is where my blog name come from – my desire to live intentionally!


      Do you have Homeschool Questions?

      I’ve shared a LOT of information, advice, and resources with you!  So sit back, let it soak in, and explore some of the resources. If you have any questions I didn’t answer, I’d love to help you answer it! Shoot me a message on Facebook and I will ask it for your as a "Reader Question"





      19 comments:

      1. Wow!! This is an amazing resource! Thanks for including my Poetry Unit! We just finished homeschooling preschool and will be starting kindergarten in a few weeks. I'm both excited and a little anxious...and I totally loved this post! Thanks for all the great tips and resources!!

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      2. Wow this is a great resource for people! And you listed me! I'm shocked beyond belief! So strange to see me there.

        ReplyDelete
      3. Beth as you know I have followed you for a long time now and always enjoy trading emails with you. I am both shocked and flattered that you would not only think of my blog but also mention it several times in this article. Thank you for the recognition for all of my hard work. I find the same hurdles and solutions to a lot of what you have presented in this post. Thank you for writing such a wonderful informative post with so many fantastic resources and tips that will help many new and veteran homeschoolers!

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      4. Amazing list & commentary! I have been at it 2-3 years but decided to peruse your suggestions bc I'm a firm believer there's always room for improvement. Especially when it comes to teaching & raising our girls. Thank you for this.

        I worry that new homeschoolers may get overwhelmed by all the info here on top of their decision to homeschool or not- would you consider breaking this down into a few posts linked together? (I know, I know, extra work, as if either of us needs it, lol.) In any case, this list is great and very beneficial. Headed over to Twitter & Pinterest to share.

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      5. You have provided a valuable resource for people who plan to homeschool their children. My children are all grown and I don't know if I would have had the wherewithal to homeschool them. So informative!
        Carol Guchek
        www.kidsbooksbycarol.com

        ReplyDelete
      6. Thank you so much for this amazing resource. I'm preparing to homeschool for the first time this fall. Thankfully I'm starting with preschool, but this was such a big help for me. I'm sure I will be referring back to it often. Thank you again for all your hard work and dedication!

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      7. Awe! Thank you so much for including my site :-)

        Much appreciated!

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      8. Beth, I am amazed at all of the information and resources you presented in this post. My son attends public school but we do many learning activities at home. I am bookmarking/pinning this post so I can easily reference it again. Thanks for including my blog in your Kid Book Recommendations list.

        ReplyDelete
      9. Wow what a wonderful post. A lot of time obviously went into writing this, and it is a great resource. Thank you Beth! I especially love the reminder to be in the Word.

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      10. All I can say is... Wow! I looked at this post earlier via my phone and am definitely going to have to come back and spend more time reading everything! So much great information for newbies and reminders for veterans!

        Thank you also for linking me to the FIAR/ Unit Studies section. I NEED to create a button; it just looks so intimidating I haven't tried. So thanks for creating one for me here!

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      11. This post is an amazing resource!!! Thank you for including me for book recommendations!

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      12. Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm going to start doing some preschool work this year and I love hearing from other homeschooling folks. It is intimidating to think of everything that goes into it, but exciting at the same time. I have a feeling I will be referencing this post many many times!!! :)

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      13. Such an amazing post Beth! Thanks so much for including Over the Big Moon! Good luck this school year!

        Pam
        www.overthebigmoon.com

        ReplyDelete
      14. This is such a great resource. As you know, we don't homeschool, but we do a lot of things at home after school and I still find your post very helpful. Thanks for listing my blog in there too!
        Kelly at Little Wonders' Days

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      15. What an awesome post, Beth! Thanks so much for including Living Montessori Now! I pinned your post to the collaborative Homeschooling with Heart Pinterest Board at http://pinterest.com/kidzoneteacher/homeschooling-with-heart/. Tomorrow, I'll be featuring it at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page.

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      16. Thank you so much for this resource! I will be homeschooling my 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade boys for the first time this fall. I taught Kindergarten for several years, but teaching your own children is a different monster altogether. Am very excited for the upcoming year, but a little nervous as well, of course. Have requested your suggested books from our local library and can't wait to pick them up! Thanking God for this opportunity and knowing He will provide everything I need. Thank you for taking the time out of what I am sure is a busy schedule to help those of us who need that positive encouragement!

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      17. Wow, amazing, you have opened my eyes to such a large world. Everything I click on in this blog, makes me go, wow I love that, and that and that.

        Thank you!!

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      18. This is incredible! I have spent days exploring all the resources you've shared. What is your advice for dealing with unsupportive family? I've started a few activities at home with my toddler but it will be a few years until we face the tough questions. my family knows we plan to homeschool and is very against it. I have tried to explain our reasons but they just don't see it.

        ReplyDelete
      19. Thank you for writing such a great post and sharing your knowledge and resources.

        ReplyDelete

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