I’m not an education expert but I do think that I’m expert on my own kids. I didn’t start out thinking that I wanted to homeschool my kids but here I am. The homeschooling lifestyle fits our family very well.
The first time I homeschooled–my son was in 2nd grade, I had a preschooler, a toddler and a baby. Our days were simple, filled with picnics, trips to the library, going to the cabin, the world was our classroom. We eventually joined a fabulous coop where I was invited to teach writing. We followed a curriculum of:
- Math (several different books, online programs and finally chose Saxon Math)
- Spelling (Spelling City)
- Wordly Wise (computer based off and on if we had lulls in our schedule or needed a break)
- Grammar (Catholic Heritage curriculum)
- Handwriting (Catholic Heritage curriculum)
- Science (cooking, Catholic Heritage curriculum, and everyday as it comes up stuff)
- History/Social Studies (Catholic Heritage curriculum Lesson plans for 2nd and 4th grade)
- Music (he plays Spanish guitar)
I was blessed to be given science and math books for grades K-8 that the local school did not want anymore and they couldn’t recycle them. I gladly took them. I did not really use the textbooks as they were intended but I loved the wrap around teacher editions of the books. The teacher books gave me the tools to accommodate where my son was. He flew through the science completing not only the local schools science books but also the Catholic Heritage science. I also let him watch all the science shows on TV–Magic School Bus all the way to Sid the Science kid–now he still loves to watch Wild Kratts with he little kids!
In my search for a math program I found that my son needed a math book that was not cluttered with pictures and lots of colors. I ended up with Saxon Math for many reasons. It is boring–black and white with a few illustrations. Perfect for a child who gets overloaded with too much visual stuff on the page. The other consideration was the amount of writing that needed to be done with the problems. I liked how Saxon had an answer sheet for each section. Finally, I really liked how the sequence of mental math, new concept, problems on new concept and then review.
For our Reading we tried reading stories and then filling out worksheets but that didn’t really work for us. He read the books and sometimes we read together and I would ask him questions that were prompted by the study guide. My son loved sharks in 1st grade and I used that natural curiosity to give him all the non-fiction books that I could find on sharks, then other huge fish, then smaller fish, then birds that eat fish, lead to birds of prey, then a discussion of predator vs. prey . . . you get the idea. We tried to keep a science journal but that didn’t work out so well. He also read ton of books. He wrote a book report once a week and kept a reading log–that was a great idea–he loved seeing his numbers growing.
Social Studies and History I had to be creative with. My son talked about football with Grandpa and we passed the University of Michigan football stadium everyday so I decided to enlist Grandpa in teaching the states by football teams. It worked. I was amazed that he knew all the states and capitols within a few weeks!
Now that we have an iPad he loves Stack the States and now Stack the Countries. I used World Cup Soccer to teach the countries–ok, let’s be clear–I didn’t teach him anything–he taught himself! He also memorized all the flags that went with each team. At the University of Michigan Hospital they have an area that has over 100 flags hanging so I would quiz him on flags and countries. I loved being able to see the flag rather than just look at it in a book.
Our Social Studies and History was sort of informal but fun. He had the continents memorized in 2 minutes so I had him research the food from each continent and we either made dinner or went out to eat. A food exploration!
Half way through “4th” grade we began a more formal history curriculum. We used “From Sea to Shining Sea” from Ignatius. This is a Catholic history book–just want to be clear–we enjoyed learning about how our faith was involved in history–we read the book together when the other kids were down for nap–I think his love for history is directly correlated to “mommy time” on the couch. Whatever works! I am horrible with history (too much memorization), geography (can’t spell crazy place or our own states), and all that reading . . . so not my best subject. For me it was fun to really learn in a way that worked for me and figure out how to make it come alive for him.
We did tons of different art projects along the way. I have a book, “Teaching Art with books Kids Love”, and that worked very well for him. The other kids could follow along and it is always nice when something works for more than one kid. We also cooked a lot and he would decorate cakes using candy or different colored icing, pudding parfait type treats were also a favorite. For me art is creating–in the process of having an idea and then making your idea come alive encompasses math, science, reading, . . . I would have him figure out my guage for a knitting project or cut fabric for a quilt.
I never worry about Physical Education for my kids–we swim, bike, fish, run, play soccer, go the park, they are constantly jumping off and over things . . . we keep it safe but encourage them to move in new ways.
Now my son is in middle school. I miss him and he misses being home but we both know that he is ready. Academically, he is top of the class and socially he fits right in! All that time I spent worrying was wasted time.