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Considering homeschool, any advice?

Posted by on Jul. 29, 2014 at 9:56 PM
  • 9 Replies

So, I've been considering homeschooling for a few years, and finally this year our school district has made some changes that I do not think are best for the kids. I've checked into private school or sending the kids to another district, but both those options are just way too expensive. I am freaking out about homeschooling, though! I have a fifth grader and a first grader as well as a two year old who, of course, still needs a lot of attention. I've looked into the "Time 4 Learning" online curriculum along with the k12 online schools. I'm not sure these are great, I don't want the kids to be on a computer all day, but with a 2 year old I'm not sure what kind of time commitment I can really make. If anyone could give me some pointers on where to start, encouragment, advice, anything would be helpful at this point.

Oh, and by the way, any curriculum we consider must be secular. We aren't interested in a religious curriculum. Thanks so much everyone! I know you ladies are super knowledgeable and can't wait to hear your advice!

by on Jul. 29, 2014 at 9:56 PM
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JKronrod
by Bronze Member on Jul. 29, 2014 at 11:57 PM

I've been homeschooling for years at this point (our oldest is 21 and graduated from college this year, and our youngest is 7).  First of all, you will need some time to get yourself and the children into a routine, and it's likely going to take some experimentation (even if you use online curricula) to get there.  If you possibly can, get some help with the two-year-old for a few hours each day while you get adjusted (we actually had day care for our younger ones -- although since I worked full time as well as home schooling it was necessary for other reasons).  Morning preschool, if you can afford it, may be your best option. 

Second, we're Jewish and generally favor secular curricula,  but don't turn your nose up at Christian curricula simply because it's "Christian."  Whether it is appropriate really depends on what the subject is, and in my opinion some of the best and most rigorous materials out there are Christian (there's garbage, too, of course, but my point is that you actually need to look at it without prejudice).  For example, I used Abeka  in math for the younger grades for a couple of my children.  It's not right for every child, but it does have lots of practice, which some of my kids needed (we're actually using Singapore right now since our youngest needs more practice in word problems, but I digress).  It does have Bible quotes (or other improving quotes) on every page and some of the word problems involve "missions" and converting, but I've used this for discussion of different beliefs, and I think it actually has helped my children understand their own beliefs (or their own uncertainty). 

I tend to favor Classical to the extent a favor any "flavor" of home schooling, and you might want to check out Memoria Press for Latin if you are considering that.  I'd also recommend "The Well-Trained Mind" for general approach and ideas, although IMO their schedule is overly ambitious in some cases.  

With respect to how one "handles" the time commitment, if your fifth grader is already reading and writing (and doing math) on his/her own, it's fairly easy to take a few minutes to review the general concept in whatever math you are using (Singapore, Saxon or Abeka), set a number of pages/chapters, set a writing assignment, etc. and have him work on his own for 30 minutes or more.  

With the first grader, I can tell you that when I was "doing first grade" I started with the reading assignment (we used McGuffey readers as the "reading" book and then provided additional books  for his free reading) even before breakfast.  I worked with him for 10 or 15 minutes while my husband fixed breakfast.  We also did Rosetta Stone quickly.  Thus, we had a significant amount  of work done each day before 7:30 am.  After breakfast and getting dressed, I have him do a timed math drill sheet (3 minutes) and work on his math assignments while I do e-mail and generally get ready for my work.  The writing takes more effort on my part (we're using "Writing with Ease" from Peace Hill Press - and, yes, the author is Christian, but the lessons are not obviously religious).  Handwriting (we started cursive early) can be done easily with a number of online programs that let you print out worksheets -- and you might want to check out http://www.edhelper.com/ -- it's 20 or 30 a year, but it has a wealth of worksheets in all subjects for all levels, including some stuff that is free -- or even make them up yourself as I did initially for the cost of some "learners" handwriting paper (or just search for "free" handwriting paper online).  

Science doesn't have to be super rigorous at this stage, although admittedly I farm it out to the local science museum (and classes of this sort are a great way to get the kids out of the house and working/interacting with other kids).  We do music lessons and foreign language (which I strongly recomment you beging as soon as possible) outsourced as well.          

History/Social Studies depends on you and your preferences.  I've been using "Beautiful Feet" for my 7th grader, and I had success with "My Country and My World"  from Abeka with my first grader (Although I have some hesitation in recommending it.  He loved it, but there were inaccuracies that annoyed me.) 

Hopefully, that should give you enough to get started.  Good luck!

No_Difference
by Silver Member on Jul. 30, 2014 at 7:47 AM

Don't expect the first year to go smoothly... I'm saying that in all honesty. It'll take a bit to figure out the best curriculum for your family unless you get lucky :) Figuring out how each child learns and then going with it, along with your own teaching style all takes a bit to figure out. On top of that, you've got to figure out a schedule that works for your family for your own piece of mind, including carved out time for just you!! 

When I started homeschooling my oldest (she's in 5th this year, was in 1st the yr I pulled her), my little guy was 2 if I'm not mistaken. He's very active, and needed lots of supervision, but we made it lol. Typically, I'd have him in the living room watching Leap Frog videos or Magic School Bus or Super Why - anything educational when I did school with my daughter. Not that he'd sit and watch it...but it was on to help entertain him....along with alphabet and number toys. I had to step back a lot when doing school, but once she got going on her work and didn't need me right there, I was usually able to step away long enough to check on him and engage him with something else. I would try to include him into school too when he was being really hornery. I would give him a coloring sheet of some sort, or let him finger paint if we were working at the kitchen table.

For curriculum - I try to stay as secular as possible HOWEVER, I do not turn away from books that are published by Christian companies. I just ignore any religious references if any are made.
This year for 5th grade:
All About Spelling (which I'd start at the beginning levels unless you absolutely know your older one knows the rules from the beginning levels) 
Math U See (from a christian publishing company if I'm not mistaken, but there are no religious references)
Handwriting Without Tears (both cursive and print for 5th grade - the last of their books)
We're doing our own thing for history and geography this year becuase of reading difficulties, what we've used in the past was both Story of the World (christian publishing, but I don't too much in the books remember many religious references other than when religion in general was discussed during times like the middle ages when it's kind of unavoidable... for instance, this group of people were catholic, this group was protestant, and they didn't get along because of this.... like with Scottland and England, and the German states, etc), and we used History Odyssey, which also uses STOW for the first cycle through history.
Sciecne: This year we're using Elemental Science - Biology for the Logic stage. We've used Real Science 4 Kids in the past, and I've heard good things about Real Science Odyssey.
Reading: We're not doing an all out reading/literature program this year with her (reading difficulties we're still working on), but we've used Mosdos Press last year, and while it is very complete, I actually found the teacher's manual (much like you'd find in a class room) to be a little too overwhelming for me, and my daughter didn't much care for the work - it was very school like and some of the questions/projects in it required groups to accomplish. 
Writing: We're doing a lot of different programs to find the right fit for us. We're using Curtis Hake Grammar and Writing level 5, Just Write and Write! and The Creative Writer. I have no intention of making her do all of the books every day, or even every week, or even complete all of the books. Once we figure out which book is a better fit, we'll stick with that...I just couldn't decide which one I liked better lol  


1st grade: (I'm doing a mix of K and 1st this year with my little guy as he finishes up his K year this year) 
Reading: All About Reading
Spelling: All About Spelling
Math: Math U See
Science: Elemental Science - Biology for the Grammar Stage (they make it so that the two can run parallel to one another, but are still quite different in what they cover)
Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears
Writing: Write Shop Primary (we did use Write Shop Jr with my daughter, but when I was purchasing everything, book E wasn't out yet...it is now... *sigh*...) 
History: See Time Fly Series by Gander Publishing 

For art, with both of them we're using Mark Kissler's Draw Squad. We tried Atlier before and it was "too old" for our tastes, and we couldnt' stand watching the video before doing the artwork. Sometimes I had no clue what the teacher's manual was trying to say and was forced to watch it... Plus it just seemed too expensive... We did Artistic Pursuits last year which also gave a bit of art history, but my daughter is a perfectionist, and this had you working on tons of still lifes and if her drawing wasn't an exact replica of what she was looking at, she would have a melt down...she also would cry for days and refuse to pick up a pencil if I gave her friendly constructive criticism. I couldn't handle the drama, we moved to cartoon style drawing lol.  

ali840
by New Member on Jul. 30, 2014 at 10:59 AM
Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for this wealth of information! I will definitely take your advice about considering Christian publishers. That is a great tip about using it as a conversation starter. I do want my kids to be knowledgeable about all faiths. I will look into all of these curricula. I appreciate this so much!

Quoting JKronrod:

I've been homeschooling for years at this point (our oldest is 21 and graduated from college this year, and our youngest is 7).  First of all, you will need some time to get yourself and the children into a routine, and it's likely going to take some experimentation (even if you use online curricula) to get there.  If you possibly can, get some help with the two-year-old for a few hours each day while you get adjusted (we actually had day care for our younger ones -- although since I worked full time as well as home schooling it was necessary for other reasons).  Morning preschool, if you can afford it, may be your best option. 


Second, we're Jewish and generally favor secular curricula,  but don't turn your nose up at Christian curricula simply because it's "Christian."  Whether it is appropriate really depends on what the subject is, and in my opinion some of the best and most rigorous materials out there are Christian (there's garbage, too, of course, but my point is that you actually need to look at it without prejudice).  For example, I used Abeka  in math for the younger grades for a couple of my children.  It's not right for every child, but it does have lots of practice, which some of my kids needed (we're actually using Singapore right now since our youngest needs more practice in word problems, but I digress).  It does have Bible quotes (or other improving quotes) on every page and some of the word problems involve "missions" and converting, but I've used this for discussion of different beliefs, and I think it actually has helped my children understand their own beliefs (or their own uncertainty). 


I tend to favor Classical to the extent a favor any "flavor" of home schooling, and you might want to check out Memoria Press for Latin if you are considering that.  I'd also recommend "The Well-Trained Mind" for general approach and ideas, although IMO their schedule is overly ambitious in some cases.  


With respect to how one "handles" the time commitment, if your fifth grader is already reading and writing (and doing math) on his/her own, it's fairly easy to take a few minutes to review the general concept in whatever math you are using (Singapore, Saxon or Abeka), set a number of pages/chapters, set a writing assignment, etc. and have him work on his own for 30 minutes or more.  


With the first grader, I can tell you that when I was "doing first grade" I started with the reading assignment (we used McGuffey readers as the "reading" book and then provided additional books  for his free reading) even before breakfast.  I worked with him for 10 or 15 minutes while my husband fixed breakfast.  We also did Rosetta Stone quickly.  Thus, we had a significant amount  of work done each day before 7:30 am.  After breakfast and getting dressed, I have him do a timed math drill sheet (3 minutes) and work on his math assignments while I do e-mail and generally get ready for my work.  The writing takes more effort on my part (we're using "Writing with Ease" from Peace Hill Press - and, yes, the author is Christian, but the lessons are not obviously religious).  Handwriting (we started cursive early) can be done easily with a number of online programs that let you print out worksheets -- and you might want to check out http://www.edhelper.com/ -- it's 20 or 30 a year, but it has a wealth of worksheets in all subjects for all levels, including some stuff that is free -- or even make them up yourself as I did initially for the cost of some "learners" handwriting paper (or just search for "free" handwriting paper online).  


Science doesn't have to be super rigorous at this stage, although admittedly I farm it out to the local science museum (and classes of this sort are a great way to get the kids out of the house and working/interacting with other kids).  We do music lessons and foreign language (which I strongly recomment you beging as soon as possible) outsourced as well.          


History/Social Studies depends on you and your preferences.  I've been using "Beautiful Feet" for my 7th grader, and I had success with "My Country and My World"  from Abeka with my first grader (Although I have some hesitation in recommending it.  He loved it, but there were inaccuracies that annoyed me.) 


Hopefully, that should give you enough to get started.  Good luck!

ali840
by New Member on Jul. 30, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Thank you so much! I love all the practical and specific advice about individual books/curricula. There is just so much out there it really helps to have a jumping off point. Thanks again!

Quoting No_Difference:

Don't expect the first year to go smoothly... I'm saying that in all honesty. It'll take a bit to figure out the best curriculum for your family unless you get lucky :) Figuring out how each child learns and then going with it, along with your own teaching style all takes a bit to figure out. On top of that, you've got to figure out a schedule that works for your family for your own piece of mind, including carved out time for just you!! When I started homeschooling my oldest (she's in 5th this year, was in 1st the yr I pulled her), my little guy was 2 if I'm not mistaken. He's very active, and needed lots of supervision, but we made it lol. Typically, I'd have him in the living room watching Leap Frog videos or Magic School Bus or Super Why - anything educational when I did school with my daughter. Not that he'd sit and watch it...but it was on to help entertain him....along with alphabet and number toys. I had to step back a lot when doing school, but once she got going on her work and didn't need me right there, I was usually able to step away long enough to check on him and engage him with something else. I would try to include him into school too when he was being really hornery. I would give him a coloring sheet of some sort, or let him finger paint if we were working at the kitchen table.For curriculum - I try to stay as secular as possible HOWEVER, I do not turn away from books that are published by Christian companies. I just ignore any religious references if any are made. This year for 5th grade: All About Spelling (which I'd start at the beginning levels unless you absolutely know your older one knows the rules from the beginning levels) Math U See (from a christian publishing company if I'm not mistaken, but there are no religious references)Handwriting Without Tears (both cursive and print for 5th grade - the last of their books) We're doing our own thing for history and geography this year becuase of reading difficulties, what we've used in the past was both Story of the World (christian publishing, but I don't too much in the books remember many religious references other than when religion in general was discussed during times like the middle ages when it's kind of unavoidable... for instance, this group of people were catholic, this group was protestant, and they didn't get along because of this.... like with Scottland and England, and the German states, etc), and we used History Odyssey, which also uses STOW for the first cycle through history. Sciecne: This year we're using Elemental Science - Biology for the Logic stage. We've used Real Science 4 Kids in the past, and I've heard good things about Real Science Odyssey. Reading: We're not doing an all out reading/literature program this year with her (reading difficulties we're still working on), but we've used Mosdos Press last year, and while it is very complete, I actually found the teacher's manual (much like you'd find in a class room) to be a little too overwhelming for me, and my daughter didn't much care for the work - it was very school like and some of the questions/projects in it required groups to accomplish. Writing: We're doing a lot of different programs to find the right fit for us. We're using Curtis Hake Grammar and Writing level 5, Just Write and Write! and The Creative Writer. I have no intention of making her do all of the books every day, or even every week, or even complete all of the books. Once we figure out which book is a better fit, we'll stick with that...I just couldn't decide which one I liked better lol  

1st grade: (I'm doing a mix of K and 1st this year with my little guy as he finishes up his K year this year) Reading: All About ReadingSpelling: All About SpellingMath: Math U SeeScience: Elemental Science - Biology for the Grammar Stage (they make it so that the two can run parallel to one another, but are still quite different in what they cover) Handwriting: Handwriting Without TearsWriting: Write Shop Primary (we did use Write Shop Jr with my daughter, but when I was purchasing everything, book E wasn't out yet...it is now... *sigh*...) History: See Time Fly Series by Gander Publishing For art, with both of them we're using Mark Kissler's Draw Squad. We tried Atlier before and it was "too old" for our tastes, and we couldnt' stand watching the video before doing the artwork. Sometimes I had no clue what the teacher's manual was trying to say and was forced to watch it... Plus it just seemed too expensive... We did Artistic Pursuits last year which also gave a bit of art history, but my daughter is a perfectionist, and this had you working on tons of still lifes and if her drawing wasn't an exact replica of what she was looking at, she would have a melt down...she also would cry for days and refuse to pick up a pencil if I gave her friendly constructive criticism. I couldn't handle the drama, we moved to cartoon style drawing lol.  

Chasing3
by Bronze Member on Jul. 30, 2014 at 4:53 PM

i only have one year under my belt with a 4th grader. He'll homeschool again for 5th and his 7th grade brother will join him this fall. I sort of followed what the public school does in terms of science and social studies content to cover, just because I had to start somewhere. I went with MathUSee and love it. It's a christian publisher, but I can't find anything remotely religious in the math books. I sort of pieced together ELA with reading real books, winging it with writing instruction, I used a SpellWell workbook (I was kinda "meh" on that one) and WordlyWise (I liked that one). I also used a reading fluency program that I had gotten from a school reading specialist that had daily short passages with reading comprehension questions. We also did some classes that were offered through the local zoo, a museum, the local Audobon society, an art studio. And lots of field trips.

I'm pretty much winging it again this coming year with some of the same stuff, planning to cover the same general content in science and social studies. I'm using all children's literature books for ELA with the plan to assign writing and other creative projects to go with each book. I may buy an Institute for Excellence in Writing dvd. I'm stickign with Math U See for younger son, but I'm going to try Saxon 8/7 for my older son.

Then, I'm hoping to get a spot one day a week in a coop for more social and creative stuff. It looks like a nice group of people and they offer classes that are very child-led and hands-on with crafts, science, drama, etc.

I think if I was starting in K or 1st, I'd try All About Reading and All About Spelling. I tend to hear what someone says they are using and then go google reviews to see if it's something I'd like. I also read the Welll Trained Mind forums and you can get a lot of reviews on curriculum pieces there too.

I agree not to automatically rule something out for religious reasons. But, you will find a lot of creationist science curricula, and some may prefer that or want to avoid that. Also, the religious book sellers often have the best prices and sell many secular curricula too. I'd also say, don't rule something out because it's now proudly claiming to be common core aligned. It's a marketing thing now and good, old, tried-and-true educational publishers need to make the claim to compete in the market.

good luck!!

 

Liebschin
by Member on Jul. 30, 2014 at 4:58 PM
My daughter is going into her 3rd year (second grade) of Connections Academy. It's a public virtual school kind of like k12. Most of her work is done offline since she's still in young elementary. We love the program and Kansas Connections in general. She even receives speech therapy through connections. I'm happy to answer any questions you have! Oh, and I have a 3 year old ds as well so I understand that issue.
hipmomto3
by Bronze Member on Jul. 31, 2014 at 5:40 PM

I'm in my seventh year of homeschooling (3 kids). In the beginning, I was also adamant that our curriculum be secular; however, over the years I've found those programs to either be cost-prohibitive for the high quality ones, or low quality. We use Sonlight now and this is our fourth year. It is Christian, and we do use *some* of its religious components, but not all. I would say only about 20% of the materials are overtly Christian and even using those provides an opportunity to discuss an author's beliefs vs our family's beliefs. 

Things I wish I'd known, or could go back in time and tell myself:

-don't stress in the early years (K-2); just HAVE FUN. If your child is struggling with something, stop for awhile. It may be that if you come back to reading or multiplication or whatever, in a month, their mind will be ready for it. Don't rush!

-take lots of breaks - this applies to a daily schedule AND yearly. Short camping trips, a day of swimming, twenty minutes out for a walk... makes a huge difference in focus and concentration.

-don't compare your children to other children (even siblings). Only compare them to how they used to be - are they learning? progressing? if so, chillax. 

ali840
by New Member on Aug. 1, 2014 at 10:05 AM
Wonderful advice, and just what I needed to hear. Thank you!

Quoting hipmomto3:

I'm in my seventh year of homeschooling (3 kids). In the beginning, I was also adamant that our curriculum be secular; however, over the years I've found those programs to either be cost-prohibitive for the high quality ones, or low quality. We use Sonlight now and this is our fourth year. It is Christian, and we do use *some* of its religious components, but not all. I would say only about 20% of the materials are overtly Christian and even using those provides an opportunity to discuss an author's beliefs vs our family's beliefs. 

Things I wish I'd known, or could go back in time and tell myself:

-don't stress in the early years (K-2); just HAVE FUN. If your child is struggling with something, stop for awhile. It may be that if you come back to reading or multiplication or whatever, in a month, their mind will be ready for it. Don't rush!

-take lots of breaks - this applies to a daily schedule AND yearly. Short camping trips, a day of swimming, twenty minutes out for a walk... makes a huge difference in focus and concentration.

-don't compare your children to other children (even siblings). Only compare them to how they used to be - are they learning? progressing? if so, chillax. 

Schaiswife09
by New Member on Aug. 3, 2014 at 8:57 PM
This is my first year of homeschooling I have a kindergartener this year and we are using connections academy :) very excited to start!
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