Washington Co., WI – As another school year rounds the corner, more and more families are choosing the option to school their children at home.
Whether the reason behind this surge is related to new school policies such as mask-wearing and social distancing, a child’s need for change in educational approach, or some other personal conviction, the task can seem daunting.
Add to that the initial unknown and the search for and filtering through of ideas and curriculums, most any parent can feel like they are drowning. With this in mind, I encourage you to articulate your reason for your decision to homeschool your children.
This is a necessity as you will need to review and be reminded of this reason many times through your journey as you make decisions or as difficulties arise.
Although academics play a large part in our decision to homeschool, as followers of Jesus Christ, our family’s primary reason to homeschool our children is so we can “raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 ).
As you journey down the homeschool road, it’s important to remember that comparison is the stealer of all joy – do not give in the to temptation of comparing your journey to that of other families. Every family choosing to homeschool will do so uniquely because our families are unique.
To begin, if your child is young, kindergarten (even first grade) age or younger, I encourage you to focus on character development and household chores until about age 7.
Though a few children will be ready for formal learning before this age and will show their readiness with the ability to learn quickly and without tears, the vast majority of children will benefit from a delay until 7 years old.
If this idea of delayed formal learning causes concern let me tell you that in our home, by age 10 or the end of fourth grade, our eldest child was fully caught up and even ahead of his peers.
Of course, informal learning happens every day of the week in our homes. Children will learn shapes, colors, counting, alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, and more just by living in a home with other children learning ahead of or alongside them.
Read aloud many books to your children in their early years (they are a captive audience) and they will be well on their way to formal learning by age 7.
Homeschool is “school at home” but it is also “school of the home.”
Homeschooled children have the opportunity to learn how to run a household and function within a family unit. Chores and household tasks are a high priority in our home.
For our family, we have found they learn best after they’ve eaten breakfast and their chores are completed, including a morning tidy-up. We have also found the “school” part takes very little teaching time.
By 4th grade, our child was very independent in math, grammar, reading, and cursive; Bible, science, and history/geography were done corporately.
Now on to curriculum choices. First, big-box curriculum can be expensive and many times you will not like every subject from that curriculum. Aim to purchase curricula that can be reused for every child and avoid single-use books if possible.
That being said, very few subjects are best done with single-use workbooks. Subjects such as Bible, math, grammar, and phonics/reading are best done daily. Subjects such as science and history/geography can be done in a block or unit schedule. Complete a unit in science then switch to a unit in history/geography and continue this back and forth schedule. This allows for more focus to be given to each subject.
A common trap many parents (new and old) fall into is purchasing new curriculum or books just because they “sound nifty.” Unless your child needs a different approach, or you are actually searching for something, there’s no need to change it.
You will end up spending unnecessary resources and your bookshelves will fill to overflowing with unneeded books. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
That being said, changing something that’s not working or adding one resource to take the place of two is worthwhile. Many times the most cost-effective curriculum will be a non-graded option. These options can be used among our entire family corporately and, when done independently, it allows for a child’s pace to be modified without the pressure of grade timelines. Because we teach several subjects corporately and repeat every few years from the beginning, there is much overlap of ages/grades in our method.
I am giving our list of curricula, but not as a once size fits all plan. There is no one size fits all in homeschooling! These resources have served us well, but they may not serve your family in the same way. I encourage you to pursue several ideas, but don’t spend weeks researching or you will be overwhelmed by your options! Ask a few families, read a few blogs, then make your decision and don’t fret about the other hundreds of options you may have overlooked. This is a basic list of our Home School curriculum, and although a helpful guide, I cannot emphasize enough that it will be beneficial to build your own routine and books as fit your family.
Phonics – begun around age 7 using Phonics Pathways. If your children like to have a reading book of their own, we highly recommend starting with McGuffey’s Readers.
Spelling – Done with phonics using Phonics Pathways.
Grammar – Easy Grammar student workbooks. They are graded and single-use, but work very well and encourage mastery. We have our kids do grades 1 and 2 the year after they have learned to read, and grades 3 and 4 the next year. By then they have caught up to their appropriate age/grade and need to do just one workbook each year.
Math – We use a combination of Life of Fred and Professor Bee math, both of which are non-graded. Life of Fred is reusable; Professor Bee has a single-use workbook for each level. Recommended resources are an abacus and flashcards.
History and Geography – done corporately using The Mystery of History. Non-graded with the intention of repeating several times through the course of their education, each time increasing their understanding. We like the audio version so history can be done on the go, in the car, while children are drawing or doing art projects. Recommended resources are a world map, a globe, and dry erase maps.
Science – done corporately using Christian Liberty Press God’s Creation Series and Master Books God’s Design for Science. God’s Creation elementary series is 4 graded books and we take 2 years to get through them. We use the God’s Creation series along with the God’s Design for beginners for grades 1-3. God’s Design for Science is non-graded but designed for 3rd-8th (we don’t start using until 4th grade) with the intention of repeating several times through the course of their education. There are options for extra learning in the higher grade levels. We have found the teacher guides unnecessary, but some families may appreciate the extra guidance.
Bible – We like to alternate from one book in the Old Testament to one book in the New Testament with one Proverb being read every day correlating to the date (on the 1st day of the month read Proverbs chapter 1; on the 2nd day of the month read Proverbs chapter 2; and so on). Scripture memory and hymn learning are also good things to incorporate at this time. We also add A Child’s Book of Character Building, Books 1 and 2 by Ron and Rebecca Coriell as time allows.
Cursive/handwriting – Cursive First by Spell to Write to Read
Reading – Autobiographies and biographies make for excellent reading books after children have learned to read. It also doubles up on history if non-fiction or historical fiction books are chosen; see book lists at the end. There will always be a large stack of read-aloud books we try to get through. It’s a slow process because, after the other school subjects, we don’t always want to keep reading. The local library and the Hoopla app have so many audiobook options that make “reading” all those extra books much easier. We highly recommend getting your children used to listening (as opposed to the listening and watching that happens with TV and movies). It develops their language skills and listening comprehension. Our children also absolutely love the Lamplighter Theatre audio dramas for wonderful character-building stories.
Typing – Keyboarding Skills by Diana Hanbury King
Recommended book lists for students –
–Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson
-Lamplighter Publishing books
–The Good and the Beautiful (I do not endorse their curriculum, but their booklists have been helpful resources for me)
–Carol Joy Seid (her book list requires the purchase of her seminars)
Recommended reading for parents –
The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick
Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore
Will They Stand by Ken Ham
The Relaxed Homeschool by Mary Hood
Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson
Homeschool Made Simple by Carole Joy Seid
Audio resources kids love:
Lamplighter Theatre (see above)
I wish to end on the same note as I began, by asking you to find and own your reason for homeschooling your children. And by reminding you that, as you journey down this homeschooling road, remember that comparison is the stealer of all joy – do not give in the to temptation of comparing your journey with that of other families.
Your unique family will have its own unique journey.
About the author: Katie Housel and her husband are homeschooling parents of seven children. Housel is a former West Bend resident who currently resides in Burnett, WI.