Micaela of the multiple wonderful homeschool link-ups is asking for posts on how different families homeschool. Since these are the kinds of blog posts for which I scoured the Internet at all hours of the night when I was starting out, or even now when I’m needing some new ideas, I’m going to add in my two cents, answering Micaela’s questions as well as a few of my own.
How long have you been homeschooling?
5 years total. We started when our oldest was 4 1/2 and needed some structure to his day. We took a break for a year and a half when we remodeled our home after two floods. We returned to homeschooling when life settled down again.
How many kids are in your family? How many are homeschooled? Are any schooled in a more traditional way?
We have 5 children ages 10 1/2 to 1 1/2. The older four were all homeschooled this past year, but next year one of them will go to the private school where my husband teaches.
What laws, if any, are there in your state regarding homeschooling? How does your family meet compliance?
In Texas, a homeschool is considered a private school and is not regulated. There is a law stating that homeschools are required to teach reading, spelling, grammar, math, and good citizenship, but no one checks to make sure we do that.
Because we used some special education resources in the public school for a time, we received a few letters from the school asking us to register our homeschool with the local district so we could continue to receive services. We didn’t need the services. Texas doesn’t offer any other help or resources to homeschoolers.
We teach a lot more than the 5 required subjects, and I keep some records, so we’d be fine if we ever moved to a state that actually regulated homeschooling.
Switching gears here: if you could summarize your homeschool philosophy in one sentence or mission statement, what would that be?
Love God and love learning!
What is your homeschooling style?
Eclectic, I guess–I plan my expectations in terms of the classical stages of learning, but I use Charlotte Mason’s methods for science and writing. But I tend to think Charlotte Mason is a classicist too.
Do you follow any set curriculum?
Over the 5 years we’ve been homeschooling, I have purchased complete curriculum from 3 different providers–Mother of Divine Grace, Catholic Heritage Curricula, and Sonlight. Although I never used any of them exactly as written, these lesson plans gave me a good sense of what is typical work for each elementary school grade level.
Now I’m comfortable compiling my own curriculum, and this is what we used last year.
Math–Singapore and Saxon
Phonics–Sonlight beginning readers with Explode the Code workbooks, and All About Spelling
Memoria Press Latin, Saxon Grammar, The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child
We read a lot of books from the Sonlight cores but also draw from our own bookshelves of classic children’s literature.
Our garden produces only a handful of vegetables each year and is usually overrun with weeds. But it is an invaluable learning resource for our homeschool.
What do your best homeschooling moments look like?
My favorite homeschooling moments are when we are all engrossed in something together–either listening to a wonderful story or exploring the natural world.
Park near our home after all the bluebonnets have gone to seed.
This spring, we did one whole week of just gardening and reading. We all worked in the yard all morning, five days in a row, pulling weeds and planting seeds.
The kids were an enormous help and they learned tons. They picked grubs out of the dirt, found a garden snake, played with lizards, re-potted all our houseplants, and planned a little pond. Then we came inside after lunch and read stories together. That was an almost perfect week for me.
What do your not-so-good moments look like? How do you stay on track?
A not-so-good day usually involves me not starting school on time but still expecting the kids to get the same amount of work done. They do not like to be hurried.
I stay on track by getting up early in the morning to read the Bible, pray, and go to the gym. I make time to see my friends and to keep up my intellectual life. I also have a weekly homeschool check-in with my super-supportive husband.
How do you keep any non-school-aged kids busy?
Toys, markers on the white board, holding him on my lap, and asking the older kids to take turns playing with him. Sometimes this works better than others.
What about socialization?
There are tons of studies out there showing homeschooled kids are just as well socialized as other kids. In some areas (political engagement and volunteerism), they seem to do better. However, day-to-day, I’ll be honest and say it can feel lonesome when we’re taking our nature walk through an empty, ghost-town-like neighborhood. And then later drive by the elementary school playground teeming with kids.
Homeschool support groups are really important for making friends you can hang out with during the day. Sometimes you gotta drive a ways to the events, and it can be a real pain with a fussy baby or a toddler who needs a nap. But it’s worth it.
I’m also going to go ahead and say sometimes it’s still not enough. Many days you’re going to have to stay home and let the baby take a good nap and the 5th grader finish a complicated math lesson. I have a very extroverted child for whom once-a-month, once-a-week, even twice-a-week homeschool support group events are not enough. He wants to be with friends every day AND play with siblings and neighbor kids every afternoon. He’s the one going to school next year. :)
When do you do housework or run errands?
When our oldest was just starting kindergarten, I often did housework, errands, and playdates in the morning and did a little schoolwork with him in the afternoon while the little ones were resting. This worked well for awhile, but as the homeschool has grown to include more students, we can’t finish it all during the space of the toddler’s nap. Also, now I need a nap most days!
I think of homeschooling as my job and plan life differently than when I was a stay-at-home mom of just little ones. Like many moms who work outside the home, I do errands on the weekends. I get laundry and house business done in the late afternoons.
At several different points in time one or another of our kids has needed medical therapy, which we’ve done in the afternoons after school hours. We hired a housecleaner during those times. Right now, the kids and I devote one afternoon a week to cleaning the house.
I don’t cook fancy meals at all. I had minor surgery about a month ago, and several people brought us absolutely delicious meals. The kids were rather astonished to eat flavorful, well-prepared food (ie, something other than a slab of meat in the crock-pot). I guess our palates have really taken a hit due to homeschooling.
What do you do in the summer?
Older kids practice math facts and piano; everyone reads. We’d do that even if they went to school, and I am always so grateful to be “just” a stay-at-home mom during the summers.
If you could give any homeschool advice to a new mom starting out, what would it be?
1. Take it slow and easy. (That’s also the advice I need to give myself most of the time!)
2. Get to know older, experienced homeschooling moms who can give you perspective. I once went to a mom of 10 and asked her if I could watch her homeschool for a day. She was too self-conscious to let me do that, but she did invite me over and show me all her set-up and books and organization systems and answered millions of questions for me. Those conversations were more helpful than most of the books I’d read.
3. NEVER stop having afternoon rest time.
Also check these out from the files…
Our Educational Philosophy
What worked/ What didn’t this school year (including recordkeeping)
One of our “best homeschooling moments”
Mid-year review with extracurriculars
The new school year always begins with such grandiose plans