I have had a lot of friends reach out to me over the last few months regarding homeschool, and while I am most certainly not an expert, I wanted to compose something that I can easily share with those who are seeking further information about the resources surrounding homeschool, while sharing more about what we have found works best for us. First, let me reassure you that if you’ve decided to take a leap from traditional classroom style learning, or if you feel that the online learning format your school is providing during these times of COVID is not in your child’s best interest, and you want to take control of their curriculum, please know that whatever you’re feeling is perfectly acceptable. I personally felt completely overwhelmed and I feared that I was incapable of teaching our three daughters. Self doubt ran on a constant loop in my mind. When I started researching, I found so many options for homeschooling curriculum that it sent my head spinning. I also felt judgment; judgment from those that looked down upon my decision to homeschool and judgment from other parents that felt the curriculum they had chosen was the most superior curriculum and if I didn’t go with it, my children would fall behind and become insignificant members of society. I am also a recovering perfectionist that is conditioned to put an immense amount of pressure on myself when it comes to work ethic, so I was setting the bar for myself really high. I’m sure it goes unsaid, but that is all B.S!
When the dust settled, we ended up using Time4Learning as a foundation for what the girls would learn each day, and we layered in experiential learning based on where we traveled the first year. Since our travels over the first year centered in the heart of where American History began, educational opportunities were abundant, and not just in history. We used day-to-day experiences from tipping on our restaurant bill, to changing a tire, to etiquette while dining, to reading the energy of the room, to cultural experiences, and even grocery shopping, all as teaching moments. It made all of us look at the world through a different lens. I will add that this school year, we chose not to use Time4Learning again, and I am piecing our tools and the girls learning styles together in a way that will allow us all to thrive. This was suggested to me in the beginning, and I was too terrified to take all of that on in our first year, opting for a more “curriculum in a box” approach, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Your wings will form as you jump, and next year you’ll likely find that you’ll take on the new school year either ready to put your kids back in school, or hopefully ready to tackle a new year with confidence you didn’t know you had, and an excitement that can only come from experience.
We put our oldest daughter, who was entering her freshman year of High School, into Ogburn Academy. I am not a believer that accredited schools are extremely important, but we do think they hold value during high school. (Another subject you can find a lot of debate over, and you’ll have to do what you feel is best). To us, this made it worth it to pay for her tuition to this online private school, and let’s be honest, it helped to protect a fragile teen daughter/mother relationship during these rocky first two years of high school. We knew that our daughter would likely go to a traditional high school one day (per her strong request,) and we didn’t want to have to deal with her credits potentially not transferring. We also wanted her to have an actual GPA to submit to colleges come application time, rather than a Pass/Fail grade that most unaccredited schools grade by. While we have not been 100% satisfied with the communication from Ogburn and have had to recognize that her success relies heavily on her/us, the curriculum has been fantastic (although heavy on reading) and she’s really enjoyed the opportunity to attend live on-line classes, in addition to her preloaded schedule.
Half way through last year, we changed math curriculum from Time4Learning to Teaching Textbooks, based on the suggestions of many friends, and I’m so glad we did. Don’t be afraid to make changes to your curriculum or how you do things once or twice a year. Obviously, your kids will need structure and some predictability in knowing what the days will hold, but it’s okay to change things up if something isn’t working for them or for YOU. Don’t forget that just like the old saying goes, “You can’t be a good mother to your children if you’re not taking care of their mom,” the same goes for being their teacher. Going back to the subject of Teaching Textbooks, while we have been happy with their math curriculum, the first steps on their website are pretty clunky and outdated, but push through to enrolling and it gets so much better. I highly suggest going through each unit with your kids right before they complete their quiz and making them put pencil to paper to show you that they comprehend and know how to do the unit.
So, where to begin, right? Here’s where I encourage you to start:
- Find out what kind of learners your children are, and know that it doesn’t necessarily come from a test or evaluation, you might learn this during the first year they homeschool. I quickly learned that one of my daughters loves 100% on-line learning and wants to type everything out on Google Classroom, while my other daughter loves putting her pencil to paper and will do an entire workbook over watching one lesson on her computer. This will determine which curriculum you choose, how you set up your home classroom, and how you will divide your time if teaching multiple children.
- Determine if you want religion tied into your curriculum, or if you feel strongly that you don’t want it tied in, or if it doesn’t matter to you. If you want a secularist curriculum, this will eliminate a lot of choices, but there are some great Facebook groups that will support you towards many fantastic resources.
- In most states, you just have to teach the core four subjects-Math, Language Arts, Science and Social Studies, so don’t overwhelm yourself with thinking you have to teach your kids “the works” to start off. You can add that stuff in later, and we have found Outschool to be an amazing tool for “extra” subjects, while also providing stellar support in things like math tutoring. I always say that you can find any class on Outschool from Cake Decorating to Calculus. (Use our link to receive $20 off your first class.)
- Take lots of field-trips! Invest in museum, zoo, state and national parks passes, or ask for those as gifts for birthdays and other holidays.
- Join your local homeschool co-op and get you and your kids involved. Remember that it takes a village.
- Set up a happy, fun, and safe learning environment that brings you and your kids joy. I recommend reading or listening to the audiobook “The Brave Learner” for some great suggestions and inspiration.
- If you are like me, you will likely want actual links and a direction to start moving, so for those people, here ya go, a list of curriculums that myself and the many homeschool families I know, love and use. You can also follow the links above for more information about the specific curriculum we use. Happy Researching!!
– A Beka
If you choose to separate your learning programs, here are a few that we love:
History-School of Awake “Oh Freedom”
Spelling-All About Spelling (Our kids also journal at least once a week, and I pull misspelled words from their journals and use that as a spelling list more often than not.)
Science-Real Science 4 Kids(We are also big fans of pulling random science experiments from Pinterest and diving into them using the Scientific Method.)
I also suggest looking into learning styles such as Charlotte Mason and Montessori.
We are looking for a great typing program, after trying and disliking many, along with an etiquette/character building program. Any suggestions?
****This post is in gratitude and much appreciation to the countless women that helped me, inspired me, and didn’t laugh at me during my first 6 months of being a homeschool parent when I was quite often on the brink of tears and acting like I was the first person to ever experience the anxiety and pressure that I placed on myself. Thank you for being a beacon of hope, kindness, and patience with me when I needed you most!****