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How We Homeschool {And my 2 cents for what they’re worth}

I’m preparing for my 4th year homeschooling–and this year ahead will be my fullest yet with 2 in K, one in 3rd, one in 4th and another running around in a diaper:) Next year, we’re opting out of preschool for the youngest and letting him roll with our crazy homeschooling. (For us having them in preschool has added to our crazy!) Now–if you are thinking about homeschooling and you have a tiny one and you know you have to put him/her in preschool so the others can focus–then try it! There was a season we had to do this as I was learning what worked for my kids–and it’s okay! GRACE. Lots of grace. And for many families this is the only way homeschooling works!

(Might I thrown in a 2 cents?? DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. Find what your family needs. Give yourself lots of tweaks. And remember what you try isn’t forever. If something isn’t working–change is always an option!)

We have all types of learning needs. But let me just start off by saying that it was dyslexia that led me to homeschool and not something I was very excited about AT FIRST. Now I can’t imagine anything but this–as I see the hearts of my children day in and day out…and I can guide them and simply be with them. I’m so thankful for what called us to this–although it felt crazy at first. I’m a former public school reading/language arts teacher–so I was at one time passionate about my kids going to public school…and now I’m just thankful I have the option to homeschool and get to be with my kids and to be the one watching them grow and learn. Not everyone has this opportunity–so it’s not one I ever take for granted.

(Now–might I throw in 2 cents #2? EVERYONE home schools differently because every child learns differenTtly. If you homeschool, you have the blessing of tweaking learning to your child–so it will look different for every family. ADD ON TO 2 CENTS #1…Do not compare yourself OR YOUR CHILD to others.)

I’ve been asked several times lately about what we use for homeschool–so I thought I’d document that here too:). You never know who might be blessed, encouraged or get ideas from what you share…just as I love reading what others do too!

SO…in a nutshell this is what works (and what hasn’t worked) for our family!

1. We learn together what we can together.

We have more than one child learning at home–so for us…it makes sense to learn from home. There are LOTS of options out there for homeschool like hybrids where kids can go 2x a week where they do the teaching at school and work at home and your home days are “homework” days. We’ve tried this but it didn’t work for our family because we want to be and learn together. I found myself running from the dining room with one child learning World history to the living room for another child learning U.S. History. I was wearing myself OUT. In many ways, it was separating our learning rather than drawing us closer together as a family. {*Hybrids are AWESOME if you don’t want to pick your curriculum, you’d like someone to teach your children while you focus more on the “practice” or homework, you want all of your children to learn individually by grade level in every subject, you want/need a few days to work part-time or focus on smaller children at home. If you have a hard time connecting with other homeschooling families, they can also be a great source for community!) Co-ops are also another thing to think about–but again–you can’t always speed up or slow down as your children are ready for as you really need to stay in sync with the rest of the co-op.}

FOR US…part of homeschooling was being together. SO we wanted to learn together. There are so many subjects that a kindergardener to even a high schooler can actually do together but on different LEVELS. With 5 children, we need to SIMPLIFY, be together and jump ahead OR stay behind when we need to. I also love choosing curriculum that fits our needs and having the flexibility to change things up when we need a change too–but learning together is the most important part and one of the main reasons we homeschool too!

We do our history, science, art, music and most of our reading TOGETHER. (Can you imagine having more than 2 histories, science, reading, etc to teach EVERY day?) Me either. So we do many of our things together. Some awesome curriculums that we use that are designed already for different ages to do together are:

FOR SCIENCE: APOLOGIA (CLICK HERE TO SEE DIFFERENT BOOKS TO CHOOSE EACH YEAR TOGETHER) We’ve tried lots of different science books–and many are weak and all over the place. This is consistent, solid and will engage many different ages TOGETHER.

FOR READING/PHONICS: ALL ABOUT READING (CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE) Being a former reading teacher, I’m a bit picky about phonics and foundation. THIS is hands down the best place to start…and finish. Truthfully, it wouldn’t hurt for anyone (including ME) to start on Level 1 and work my way up with the kids because many of us were not taught proper foundational phonics. This is hands down the best phonics program I’ve used, and I’ve used a billion between teaching public school and my own flock. This is just good stuff. It will help a struggling reader or sharpen a strong one.) We also use for our SPELLING the program that goes along with All About Reading which is called All About Spelling. It’s also available through the site listed above. We are trying a few other things for spelling also (our love with dyslexia needs extra, extra…but for most kiddos–that should be plenty! I just stay far away from worksheets and things that do no tie into a phonics program too).

We also do a novel study a month–again together. The kids old enough to read–take turns reading aloud so the ones who can’t read on the reading level of our novel can also participate. (We LOVE doing Lapbooks and units put together by Confessions of a Homeschooler! They are affordable and worth every penny..and kids of all ages can do them together too! We also love her art, music and other unit studies when you want to mix things up for a bit! That’s the GREAT thing about homeschooling–you can mix things up whenever you want!)

In addition to novel studies, we encourage 30 minutes of reading alone too. If you can’t read yet–then an older sibling can read to you–OR you can use Tag read along books or books on tape (We have TONS that were passed down to us with old school headphones…so fun for the littlest ones. The “ding” to turn the page takes me back to my childhood and my mom taking us often to the library!!)

FOR HISTORY: STORY OF THE WORLD (CHECK IT OUT HERE) This is just MY favorite:) (My Father’s World has a close 2nd for me! You can check them out HERE!) What I do love about My Father’s World history is how they create “synergy groups/family learning cycle” for you! They want their curriculum to be done as a family–so they have created a way for a 1st and 5th grader to rock out history as a family. THIS is a really fun one to do as a family too! We LOVE going on field trips as a family of course–so it makes sense for us to learn together and do the same history for all of our kids so our field trips together go with our learning. We happen to live close to a city with museums–so there are always different exhibits that go along with our learning–so I can’t imagine doing different histories for my loves! It’s so fun to do together as much as we can!! (I loooove this book because everything is done for you as a teacher and the ideas they give you to be creative…oh my–just fantastic!)

FOR MUSIC/ART/ETC: We do take part in a 1 day program at a church for homeschool kiddos called Timothy Ministry. This is where my kids pack in a day filled with art, music, karate, cooking, crafting, etc! They sign up for what they want to do each semester…and it’s fun to see when they intentionally sign up to be in classes TOGETHER!! And it’s pretty nice to have 1 day a week to get things done or to just hang with the toddler:)

FOR BIBLE: We work out way through the Bible by reading the “Live It” application sections along with the scripture that goes with it in the Kids Adventure Bible. You can check it out HERE. Then they play on their own reading and telling stories from Betty Lukens Read Through the Bible. You can find it HERE. YES. It may look old school. It may look weird. But y’all. Old school. And some things old school are just good. We bought the Bible Deluxe Set for $300…and oh my…best purchase ever. If you don’t want to buy that–just buy the teacher’s manual for $22 RIGHT HERE and tell your kids to imagine the felt characters;) It’s tight to scripture–so well told and written…it will have your kids on the edge of their seats what happens next in scripture. No need to reinvent the wheel or water it down when you can have ole Betty. For real. Just good stuff!

2. What we learn separately–we find independent curriculum so we can still all do at the SAME TIME and finish together.

FOR MATH: (This is where it really matters HOW your child learns!) My 2 favorite math programs are Singapore Math AND Math-U-See. My personal favorite is Singapore Math–simply because my kids get it! I like Math-U-See simply because you can buy the DVDs and have the teacher on the DVD teach your child. I would do this if I were in a hard season with lots of kids or if I stunk at math:)

(Time to chime in for 2 cents #3! NEVER change what is working for your kids!! My kids were rocking in out with Singapore. We tried a hybrid that did Math-U-See…and I discovered the DVDS…BUT we switched back to Singapore once I discovered the hybrid deal wasn’t the best fit for our family. When you find something that works–do NOT change it:)

(While I’m thinking about it 2 cents #4–do NOT spend too much time researching curriculum. There is TOO MUCH out there–and you can overwhelm yourself. Find a friend you trust–ask their advice–get the low down…and stop by to scan through a book if you can!! Visit a local store that sells homeschool materials and compare there–and choose the one that looks like it will fit best for your family. And don’t question or look back!! If it works–roll with it and have fun being with your kids!)

FOR LANGUAGE ARTS: Okay…so this is my area. I’m a former language arts teacher. Now–you could get fancy and jump into IEW early–but y’all–that’s INTENSE!! Being a writer and a former language arts teacher–my advice is to not burn your loves out early. Much of the intense report writing, proper paragraph formation, etc can wait until middle school–for real. This is an AWESOME program for 5th grade and up!! But before that…just let them enjoy reading, taking it in, learning how to summarize and grow in their writing skills through something like WRITING WITH EASE, THE COMPLETE WRITER and FIRST LANGUAGE LESSONS. Honestly…this is just sweet, wholesome but offers a strong foundation. I can’t say ENOUGH about this classical trio! Your child will be challenged to memorize, summarize, dictate and learn foundational English as well. Bring in the IEW come middle school…and you’re golden!

Those are our basics…but we do add a few things like Latin/Greek and foreign language too! The kids LOVE learning Latin and Greek and it helps build their vocabulary without having to look up all the definitions because they being to know what words mean by the roots instead. They amaze me how quickly they learn!! We use From the Roots Up (the book and flashcards) for Latin/Greek, and we use different programs for our foreign language. We are still learning Mandarin over here as it’s the most widely spoken language in the world.

(2 cents #5. If you are new to homeschool and the ONE thing you are worried about is socialization. UM. Don’t be. Looking back…I realize when I taught public school all the teachers around me told their students to be quiet and not talk when they entered the room. If they talked–they got in trouble. Your children will have more opportunities to socialize, to answer questions, and to interact constantly with people other than kids just their age as you provide them with different opportunities. We have done everything from homeschool soccer programs–many businesses offer these during school hours just for homeschool kiddos—to volunteering at nursing homes where my kids literally became good friends with the elderly. They were in a PRECIOUS school for 2 years before I decided to homeschool–and I have to tell you that I’ve seen them challenged socially with more opportunities than we ever had in “school-school”. You will need to learn BALANCE and learn how to say “no” often to social opportunities so you keep the “home” in homeschool;) Otherwise you will just be socializing constantly–so you have to balance all the opportunities with the books too.)

(And finally 2 cents #5. ENJOY this sweet season with your kids! Take breaks when you need or want them. Be spontaneous. Learn with them. Explore with them. Find friends to do life with…take breaks together…go on long field trips related to what you are learning…and a few that have nothing to do with what you are learning:). When you have a bad day and you think you are messing your kids up;)…go out for ice cream. Listen to your kids–and share your heart with them too. Fly kites. Swim. Eat ice cream. Cook together…using your times tables. And HAVE FUN.)

If you ever have any questions–please feel free to ask! I’m still learning…and if you have a gem you have discovered…please pass it my way through a comment or by contacting me!

Hope you have a blessed day!



Meg - April 30, 2014 - 7:56 am

After 7 years of homeschooling, I’m still learning, too. Just started using the “workbox” system and we all love it! I am certified to teach Reading/Language Arts also. Through homeschooling, I have discovered that I knew very little about these subjects. I love learning right alongside my children this go around. This post was filled with such great, great advice. It’s always fun to see what curriculum works with other families.

shana - April 30, 2014 - 11:52 am

We are in the midst of our 7th year of homeschooling. We have 4 girls, ages 7, 8, 10, and 12 and in grades 1, 3, 5, and 6. What a blessing and treasure it is to homeschool! What do I love most? The ability to instruct our girls in the way of the Lord. We have had the most amazing conversations about spiritual things.

We also use Apologia and The Story of the World, and find them both to be wonderful.

Sometimes the days get long. Sometimes we have to take a mental health day. I don’t worry too much about the little things anymore. The girls are all getting to be self-taught in their work, which is a life skill that we’re trying to encourage.

Hang in there on the hard days, and enjoy the ride!

Kendra Balassone - April 30, 2014 - 12:02 pm

Hi Andrea,

I love your blog and your heart for Christ and your family. I enjoyed this post especially and have researched the links you provided. I have a 2 year old and a 7 month old, and am wanting to homeschool as they get of age. I have looked into the Sonlight curriculum and had intended to go that route until reading your post. I like the idea of teaching them together. Can you weigh in on your thoughts of a program like Sonlight compared to what you currently use? And, can you (if you have time) provide a sample “day/weekly” schedule of what your days look like, regarding homeschooling, play time, etc? I like organization and routine. Any advice is helpful. Thanks so much for your time (and for your time in writing blog posts like these). Thanks again!

Suzy - April 30, 2014 - 4:10 pm

What a great post! Thank you! I love to hear what is working for other homeschool moms 🙂 i was wondering if you have ever heard of Brave Writer? I am looking into it as a writing program. IEW is a little to intense for me! 😛 I love her blog posts and her ideas of how to teach. I have an email that I can send if you are interested in looking at a condensed breakdown of how it works. Thank you again!! Y’all are awesome!

Dawn - April 30, 2014 - 7:53 pm

LOVE!~!!! We do many of the same exact things!!! 🙂 It works for our crew. We have ADD, dyslexia, auditory processing, sensory needs, and a heap of other things, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!! We get to be together!

And our ages span from 4-14! Still works :).

Drea - July 5, 2014 - 2:21 pm

Wanted to thank you for this post. Was super helpful. I have a 4th, 2nd, pre-k and 2 yr old for this coming school year.. all dudes 😉 – and as this year ended I just felt a bit burned out. We have only ever home schooled… moved 9 times in 10 years… and had babies in every place we lived it seemed HAH! My husband a former pastor had to take on a new job as a cop (long complicated story hehe) – which brought us to atlanta… and as of right now we are unsure where the Lord will take us next. I know or at least feel he is not meant to serve as a cop forever 😉 – for now it works but he is called to Pastor and so we are hoping to be called to a church or mission some time in the next year or so.

With the thought of moving again I dont want to do public school but as I began to prep for this fall I just felt a bit bogged down and tired… wondering if my home schooling was worth it…

Your post encouraged me. So thank you!

Btw my names Andrea too 😉 – and I am a photographer as well. Started my business in 07′ after my 2nd was born. Its been a huge blessing to our family – provided for us during a 10 month jobless season for my husband. Was thankful for the ability to do something creative yet make ends meet and provide for my family.

Rock on fellow Andrea 😉 – love your blog.

Deanna - July 13, 2014 - 3:19 pm

I just purchased all of Sam Man’s books for 1st grade and I’m SUPER excited 🙂 I’m trying out some of your suggestions and sticking with a couple that have worked for him. Thank you SO MUCH for your honest and sincere advise! On behalf of all us mamas learning how all this works, THANK YOU!