This post will deal with some homeschooling questions.
I love it when y’all ask me questions because it allows me to focus my efforts so that I can be more effective for you. I recently received some really good ones from a reader, so I thought I would share my answers here in hopes they will help you, too.
Here is the email:
Thanks for the helpful post. I’m a first time homeschooler to my two younger children (ages 10 and 8; grades 4 and 2), and we are drowning. I find I am struggling with being disciplined enough to choose a curriculum, and follow a schedule. I feel my kids have not learned any new math this year because of my inconsistency.
I was torn between Heart of Dakota, Simply Charlotte Mason, and the Robinson Curriculum… so much so, that “decision making anxiety” kept me from choosing anything and we’ve just been winging it. With some of the boxed curriculums, I love how the schedules are laid out, but I am scared I’ll be doing school all day with kids in 2 different grades/ teacher guides (especially for HoD). And Robinson sounds intriguing, but I think the developer recommends having kids sit and study for 5 hours a day, and I don’t know what to think about that.
I was gifted with the updated McGuffey readers and have been blessed to find your videos on how to use them. I’ve even considered getting your lesson books to help us through them. We also use Ray’s arithmetic in addition to Life of Fred (alternating), but I’m considering adding another “conventional” math in case my kids ever need to re enter public school (such as Singapore or Math Mammoth).
Anyway, sorry for all that information. I just don’t know where else to turn. I want to know what curriculum to use that won’t leave me feeling inadequate or overwhelmed. I *love* the philosophy of Charlotte Mason, and am drawn to the simplicity that seems to be found in the way you describe how you homeschool. I just feel alone and insecure and like I’m not getting the basics down with my kids. Do you use the Robinson Curriculum? If so, is it CM friendly? I would love to just be able to have a schedule to know what to teach at what time on what days. Sorry for all the baggage… thanks for taking the time to read. I’d also appreciate prayers, if nothing else. Thanks so much!
First of all, let’s talk about “drowning.”
Boy, can I ever relate! I was sitting and thinking back…there was actually a time when I was homeschooling EIGHT children with a toddler and an infant in tow. We did manage to keep our heads above the waves, but oftentimes we were treading water and hanging on to life preservers!
Honestly, it’s OK to feel overwhelmed from time-to-time, but it’s not OK to give in to those feelings. Educating children is not a hobby, it is very serious business. As much as I talk about relaxing and enjoyment, I want everyone to know that homeschooling is very. hard. work.
However, it is some of the most rewarding work we will ever do! It may mean we are giving up a lot of our “extra” time, but we are filling that time with activity that is eternally rewarding.
Here are some of my recommendations for Pulling things back together:
1. Whatever else you do or don’t do, never skimp on reading aloud to your children.
Reading out loud to one’s children is just the best foundation for learning. The reading itself is teaching them the rhythm of language. When we read the written word out loud we are familiarizing them with how good literature is written, and we are increasing their vocabulary.
Besides this, we are introducing them to subjects and content area that would not be introduced from daily surroundings. Things like history, science, etc. are being presented and explored in stories, especially via historical fiction and biographies.
The discussion and interaction that results is priceless. When we read aloud to our children we are constructing connections on intellectual, emotional, and spiritual levels.
So, while you are getting on top of things (like curriculum choices), take at least a half of an hour each day to read aloud and talk with your children (which will actually help you make those curriculum choices).
To keep things organized and handy, I simply grab a basket and fill it with books that I think my children will need and enjoy. At formative ages, these are simple, short, and sweet. I believe young children should be introduced to nursery rhymes as well as folk and fairy tales at about the age of four (we read the best ones over and over throughout the elementary years).
As the children age, I introduce more complex writing and themes. The smaller children are not shooed away for these tomes, but are expected to be respectful when we are reading, although they are allowed to draw and play quietly. It’s amazing how much they can grasp via “osmosis” even when tiny.
2. Make the basics a priority.
Whenever I am fighting for equilibrium, I stick to the the Bible and the three R’s–Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic.
In these seasons I give up trying to cover every subject every day. Seriously, if a child can read well, he can pretty much teach himself all he needs to know about history, science, geography, and even spelling and most math. If he reads extensively, all he needs is consistent practice to become a good writer as well.
As needed, I tack on some grammar and a bit of spelling, but don’t make these my focus or worry.
3. Get your home on track.
When I hear of a fellow homeschooler struggling, I want to do everything I can to decrease the weight I know she is carrying. Homemaking in itself can take every ounce of energy and smarts we can muster, so when we tack on homeschooling the mommy barge is so full that it begins to sink!
What no one ever tells us is how the running of our home can effect the running of our homeschooling. We can’t be effective homeschoolers if our kids wake up and can’t find a clean toothbrush or a pencil to write with.
Of course, when we stay home with our children, our house is not going to look like the “after” pictures of a makeover show (probably more like the “before” pictures, am I right?), but we should be able to pick up whatever mess we make in about 15 minutes.
And this is the test I use: If I can’t pick up my entire house in 30 minutes or so at any time of the day, something is way out of whack. If it takes any longer, then it is usually due to these two culprits:
- Too much junk.
- Too little organization.
I have written a number of posts and videos on how to “‘rastle” the homemaking rascal. Here is a partial list:
What about Curriculum Choices?
Guess what Heart of Dakota, Charlotte Mason, and Robinson Curriculum have in common? They all have kids do two things:
- Read good books.
- Write daily.
And there you have it! It seems too easy, but it’s really so full you won’t be able to contain it all. Children who are taught in this way take off like rocket ships and will astound you with what they can discover on their own.
Conventional schooling puts lead weights on children to keep them from soaring out of the reach of their controllers.
I have written a guide that goes into much greater detail, but that’s really it in an nutshell (with some math and a whole bunch of life mixed in, of course).
For this mom of many children, the McGuffey readers and some good novels, with The Lesson Book (or free lesson pages) I have developed, have really been the bedrock of our homeschooling. For many years I didn’t even assign other books, they naturally read them on their own (it may have helped that I had them in bookshelves lining the walls of the house…).
Just what can this look like?
Here is just a general idea–please do not think of this as the only way–everyone’s family is so very different. What is good for one may be deadly to another. Let the Lord lead you with His peace.
- Get up at a decent hour (no later than 8 am).
- Clean yourself up, have your kids clean themselves up.
- Fill up empty tummies with some breakfast (have this planned out beforehand so only the eggs get scrambled and not your nerves–I like to have an a la carte menu of simple items to choose from). Do some prep for dinner–put something in the Instapot or gather ingredients, etc.
- Clean up the kitchen, the bedrooms, the general areas. Have the kids help, of course.
- Sit down and read aloud–first from the Bible and then some other book that is interesting to you all. This can be a novel, a story, a poem, or even a science or history book. Right now we are enjoying Why Believe the Bible? by John Macarthur and The Genius of Ancient Man by Don Landis. I read about 15 minutes of each and then we sit and have long conversations which start with the subjects we read and then take off in all sorts of directions.
- Do some math, some reading, and some writing. I like to have the kids work in their math books while I hover around and go to each one and either introduce lessons or answer questions. Or, I can have them work on their McGuffey lessons, reading assignments, or essay assignments while I work with each child separately in turn.
Somewhere in there we will break for a quick “lunch snack.” One thing that helps is to have lunchboxes made the night before so the flow of learning is not interrupted.
The little kids are usually done first, then they can go and play (this counts as learning, too). The older children can continue with their studies while you do some things around the house (like paying bills, cleaning out a closet, or calling the insurance company…).
Dinner prep can be done by you or an older child, which should be easier if you have a plan in place (it doesn’t always work out this way, but it is so nice when it does!). Have the kids do one of those 30 minute pick ups while you set the table.
Then, eat, clean up, and enjoy the evening as a family.
We have a lot of these days, but then there are also days when we go to the lake, or take a long bike ride, or maybe it’s time to do some grocery shopping and batch cooking. These all are learning, too.
It took me a long time to realize that the education system I grew up with was unnecessary to actual learning. In fact, it does more harm than good. Learning is natural to children, we are there to add guidance and direction, with some important boundaries and acquired wisdom.