Some people just know that they will homeschool their children. They are confident about it before they even have their first child. I, on the other hand, was not one of those people. In fact, I had considered it many times, but I hesitated for a long time before making that important decision. Honestly, I was scared. Even though I did well in school and I even have a college degree, I did not know if I was capable of teaching my children at home. Did I even have enough time to teach them for 8 hours a day and still do all the things I needed to get done? How was I going to teach them to read, to do long division, and later on Calculus?? And what about SOCIALIZATION?? It all just seemed too overwhelming, I felt I just couldn’t do it. I thought I couldn’t do it as well as someone who had a degree in education could.
Fast forward many years later, and I laugh at all the fears that kept me from making the decision to homeschool. I can’t believe I let all of those ridiculous myths keep me and my children from being happier versions of ourselves. Homeschooling is one of the best decisions we have ever made! Homeschooling has been a learning process for all of us, but it has brought us so much closer together. Like I said, my intentions didn’t begin with homeschooling, as with most things in life, circumstances led us there.
My oldest daughter went to public school all the way to the beginning of middle school. She never liked school. She made straight A’s and had friends, but she was never happy in school. In kindergarten, she was excited about her first day, but when she returned home she announced she would not be going back. She then cried every morning before school, and at least several times a week she vomited in the classroom upon arrival. I was so worried about this new anxiety that my fun-loving child was now experiencing. She had always been somewhat introverted, but still she had been a very happy child up until school. Hence, I became the “Homeroom Mother” and made my presence in her classroom as often as I could. I was working full-time and I was pregnant with my second child, so this was a very exhausting time. We also picked up almost every virus you could get that year from her classroom and let’s not mention the anxiety I felt when a newsletter went out cautioning parents of a lice outbreak!
Wow! That year, was horrible to say the least. That’s when I first looked into homeschooling. Everyone I knew cautioned against it. From family members, all the way to the Board of Education, the mention of homeschooling seemed almost taboo. I felt discouraged, so I didn’t do it. This is right about the time that social media started taking over the internet. I connected with many old and new friends from all over the country. It was then I saw several people, whom I highly respected, were homeschooling their children. So the thought of homeschooling my children still resonated with me. Eventually, throughout elementary school, my daughter’s anxiety eased towards school. On the other hand, that only lasted until the start of middle school, then it commenced all over again.
Years later, we found ourselves living in another state, but in the same ambivalent circumstance because our second child was soon to be starting school. This time it was different. She has a very serious heart condition. She is a social butterfly, but her immune system is compromised. I was faced with the choice of homeschooling or sending her to school, to start the never-ending cycle of viruses and what that could do to her heart. This time I had more encouragement. In fact, my daughter went to a private preschool, and the director was a genuinely, amazing lady who had four children of her own that she had homeschooled. All of her children had flourished into successful adults and they were all very happy. This lady’s inspiring support, gave me the confidence to believe that I was my children’s BEST teacher. I knew them better than anyone else. I knew their strengths and their weaknesses. I KNEW their personality, why in the world would I ever believe anyone could teach them better than I could. My oldest daughter was so happy, that I had finally took the plunge to homeschool her. She was so miserable, it was her first year of middle school, and we all know how dreadful that can be.
To be honest, I had no idea the weight that would be lifted from my shoulders. No more tears in the early morning hours, and the anxiety over what would be happening during the school day not only left my children, but left me as well. To be the one in charge of my children’s education was a wonderful feeling. This was OUR TIME! Our time to learn about important things, not to spend countless hours preparing for standardized tests. Not to do “busywork.” I was appalled to find out that my middle-schooler had never even learned how to indent a paragraph.
To start off, our first year was a complete learning experience for all of us, with two very different grade levels, I had to be creative. Of course, they both were doing specific work to their grade-level, but I also made fun special classes they could do together. We used the book set of Little House in the Big Woods to reinforce history and morals. Using these books, my oldest daughter wrote several essays and my younger one used the Writing With Ease workbook for writing prompts and on sick days, we could watch “Little House on the Prairie”. It just took off the tension, because it was fun. They were learning, but it didn’t feel like school.
We spent time learning about nutrition, where I taught my children the importance of organic food and how to read food labels. We visited a local farm and was able to tour the facilities and they let my children pick crops. We brought them home and used them in recipes together. My children really got a feel for what “Farm to Table” really meant. This stuck with them! To this day, my girls always pick the healthier options.
We have all learned, throughout the years, what works best for each of my children’s learning styles. What works for one child, absolutely may not work the other. We have used different curriculums for different subjects. Some people like to stick with one main curriculum, but I found that didn’t work for us. There was some trial and error, and that’s okay. You will see that I have linked some of the curriculums we use. I buy all my homeschool books through amazon, because I can buy they discounted, and after we are finished with them, I can sell them back on Amazon. Win-win!
My youngest daughter was a blank slate, I had to teach her all the basics myself. Some of my child’s favorites were the First Language Lessons, that we used several levels of. She was also very fond of the Life of Fred series, which was so fun for her, and teaches so much more than reading and math. We tried a couple of different things with math, but the curriculum that worked best for us was Learn Math Fast. She skyrocketed in math! All of these books are written out into lessons. It was easy for me to teach, and easy for her to learn. In fact, by the time she had to take her first state-mandated test, I was nervous because it was not only testing what she had learned, but it would also reveal how well I taught her. She did AMAZING! In fact, she had a perfect score in language, and she scored two grade levels above in math.
Another thing that really helped her reading skills accelerate, was getting the Amazon Rapids app to go with her tablet. On super busy days, or days we were traveling, she would always have her tablet accessible and loved reading all the books in the app. The great thing about the app, was that if she was having a difficult time with a word, she could tap it and it read the word to her. I recommend the Amazon Fire tablet to everyone, because it’s so dirt cheap for all the things you can do with it. They always go on sale, and the most I have ever paid for one is $49. Also, you can’t beat their trade-policy, they even take tablets that don’t work anymore, like the one my son dropped a sink full of water.
My older daughter, who had already been in school for years, had to have a transitional phase. She needed to have a schedule, so we picked curriculums and wrote down a schedule that she promptly kept for the first year. After the first year, she was a little more relaxed and understood that she had more freedom to learn. She is very creative, so I really emphasized on her writing skills by using The Creative Writer series . We also picked many different classic novels, and she had to write about them using a different points of view. One year, she read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and wrote a tear-jerking essay from Johnny’s point-of-view. She also responded well to the Learn Math Fast series, it taught her algebra in no time at all. Another valuable series that we loved, was listening to the Story of the World Audiobook Collection. We could listen to those on trips or over breakfast, they are really thorough, and I enjoyed listening to them as well.
We are really lucky because we live in a community that embraces homeschooling. My children have been able to partake in many different enrichment classes and groups. From science labs, art classes, chorus, gymnastics and even cheering-leading for the high school football team, my children have had a full experience. Every year, there is even a county yearbook full of homeschoolers, and also several proms! My children are very socialized. They are not missing out on a thing! Furthermore, I can’t believe that I thought I would have to teach them from 8-3 everyday. We are usually finished with our studies by lunchtime! Then we have the rest of the day, and if we want to take a trip for a few days, WE CAN! There is no forced schedule. Also, many places offer discounts for homeschoolers on admission tickets. Additionally, some department stores offer discounts and tax-breaks if you show your homeschool certification, just ask.
As you can see, I am very eclectic on curriculum, I just wanted to share what has helped us in our journey. The main things to teach throughout the years is a love of learning and how to research what you don’t know. The rest falls in place through natural curiosity. Education is not the cramming in of facts; it is the knowledge of how to USE the facts you know to benefit you in society. We all are already homeschooling our children by discussing things with them and by sharing the learning that occurs in everyday life.
Have you ever considered homeschooling?