Friday, May 20, 2011

Our Homeschool

So, how's the homeschool going you ask?

Or maybe you don't ask. But you're gonna find out anyway!

We've been homeschooling now for about four months. Paige who was in first grade at the beginning of the year will be starting third grade in the fall, and Josh who was due to start Kindergarten will in fact start first grade.

How are my kids up a grade? Because they are so incredibly smart? Because I am such a perfect and smart teacher?


No. Not really. Yes my kids are smart, and yes I think I am a pretty good and intelligent teacher, but those are not the main reasons for our success. They are academically advanced for their age simply because homeschooling works.


Like a dang charm.

Here's a rundown of our homeschooling experience:

1. Why homeschool?

We decided to homeschool simply because the local public schools are sub-par, and even the local private schools are awful. If I wanted my kids to actually get an education, and not a free government supported daycare service, I was going to have to teach the kids myself.

2. How can you stand to be with your kids so much?

My kids are high energy. Paige is wild and has a flair for attitude. Josh is at times whiny with a flair for moaning and groaning. Phoebe is two. Nuff said.

The main issue that has to be addressed BEFORE, or soon after, beginning homeschooling is discipline. You must have children who obey your rules and house laws or homeschooling will be impossibly difficult. The first week of school our kids huffed and puffed, whined and rolled their eyes, or worse, every time I mentioned school or chores or anything.

After a week of that crap I put my foot down and they put a book up. What?

Now, some of you will think this is harsh. Maybe it is. But I don't think so. Jerry and I decided that what we needed from the kids was FIRST TIME response. Meaning, when we asked them to do something, they were to do it the very first time we asked them, with no complaining or whining. No more, "Josh, go clean your room", followed, "Oh MOM! I'm sooooo tired! I can't do it! WAAAHHHHHHH." The consequence to NOT responding to our requests the first time we asked was to hold a heavy book over their heads until they were uncomfortable.

I'll let that sink in.

Before beginning this training technique, I sat the kids down and explained to them what I expected from them, what they were and were not allowed to do, and what would happen if they were disobedient. I also explained that when we adults disobeyed OUR given laws, like speeding or stealing, we were made very uncomfortable with things like fines, fees, or jail-time. Therefore, our job as parents is to teach our children to learn to obey laws and rules, even if they seem stupid, so they won't have to suffer bad or uncomfortable circumstances later in life.

Within 24 hours, and maybe 8 times holding the book over his head, Josh stopped complaining. He stopped complaining about ANYTHING. When asked to clean his room he would say OK and go clean his room. When told to do this or that for school, he would do it. Quietly.

It was, and is a miracle!

Paige took about a week to train because we had a few more years of built up disobedience to carve through, but eventually she came around and started responding the FIRST TIME.

Even now our kids are (mostly) FIRST TIME responders, and when they do relapse into their nastier habits, a good session with the book sets them straight again for a long while.

Sound barbaric? It's better than spanking or yelling or threatening. Time-outs didn't work, taking away things they liked didn't work, bribing didn't work.

The book works.

Without well-disciplined children, homeschooling would be a stressful nightmare for everyone involved.

3. How do you know what to teach?

That's a good question. When we first started, I looked and looked for a curriculum guide so I could make sure I was teaching the kids appropriate material and neither going too fast nor to slow. Guess what? There is not one set of curriculum for any grade. One school teaches this, another teaches that, etc.

You can buy what is referred to as an "umbrella" curriculum from companies such as Alpha Omega, Calvert, or Abeka. These umbrella curricula have all of the lessons and subjects laid out for you, worksheets are included as are tests, answer keys, and even line by line teaching. There is basically nothing for you to plan or design.

And there is no flexibility or creativity.

I am too much of a micromanager to go for something like that. Instead, I bought some grade appropriate workbooks from a teaching supply store and sort of planned my curriculum to follow their layout. I did that for math and science primarily. For language arts for Paige, I used some great workbooks I got from my aunt who taught English as a Second Language classes. I started at the beginning with capital letters and just kept going; through parts of speech, synonyms, compound words, etc. Josh was easier. His job in language arts was to learn to read. I taught him using a dry-erase board, BOB books, and oodles of patience. He's doing really well.

4. What's your day look like?

If you know me, you will know that I tend to do things differently than the norm. So instead of the typical homeschool curriculum schedule where the student does each subject every day for a short amount of time, I have established a schedule more like a college schedule.

Yes, I know. They are elementary students. But whatever. If the goal of secondary education is to get them into and out of a good college with good grades and thus a good job, why not teach them the same way a college does?

Here's what our weekly schedule looks like:

Monday: spelling, writing, American History, music.
Tuesday: reading comprehension, math, science, science lab
Wednesday: grammar, world history, art
Thursday: reading comprehension, math, science, Spanish
Friday: Co-op*

Wow, that seems like a lot! How long do you "do" school every day?

Typically we start after chores and breakfast, usually around 8:30 or 9 am. We work for 30-45 minutes, take a 15-20 minute break, then work for another 30-45 minutes. We usually stop for lunch around 11:30- 12:00. After lunch we get going again around 1:00, and finish our day usually no later than 3:00. That's about 4 hours of school per day.

4 hours and you're done and you're kids have learned A LOT!

(I could go on and on but I won't.) (Did I mention I typically don't get out of bed before 8 am?)

5. What about socialization?

Yes, we're together a lot. Yes, I have less free time than I did before. Yes, I sometimes lose my mind. But not usually.

Because we live in an area with TONS of homeschooling families, there is an awesome homeschool cooperation started by three awesome moms. We meet most Friday morning for classes. True classroom classes. Each mom is expected to teach or be a helper for at least one class. I taught an Eric Carl class to 5-6 year old kids. We used these books to teach about science, art, manners, and community. The kids also took classes like Spanish, Odyssey of the Mind, American Girl classes, and music.

Over the past four months we have gotten to know very well most of the co-op families. We micromanaging mothers are all very much alike so we are a happy, mostly content group. There are 50-60 kids in the co-op and they all have a ball together.

Also, since we are done with school so early in the day and as they have NO homework, the rest of the afternoon is theirs. On most days, after school, Paige and Josh head off to a friends house or their friends come here to play. They play from 3 until 5 or six. EVERY day.

We also have more time for sports and activities like baseball and scouting simply because the kids have NO HOMEWORK.

On a whole, I think our homeschooled kids are MORE socialized than public school kids.

We also take off from school whenever we want, for vacations, field trips, sick days, or I-don't-feel-like-it days. Since the kids are so far ahead already, it's no big deal if they get one or two days or weeks behind. They're still ahead!

6. How do you know what grade to teach them?

In getting ready for the Fall, I have been giving the kids some of the placement tests that the umbrella curricula have created. Even though each curriculum teaches slightly different things in very different ways, you can get a great idea of how your kids stack up to other kids using a more rigid curriculum.

Paige placed into 3rd grade math and 4th grade language arts.
Josh placed into 1st grade.

We will continue to homeschool this Spring until the end of May, and then do some summer bridge workbooks throughout the summer to keep the skills they have gained and get them ready for next year. We'll begin again sometime at the end of August.

So, that's it in a very long nutshell!!

I'll be writing more about it later. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them here on my blog or send me an email at

Thanks for stopping by!