I recently wrote a piece for the Ordway Education blog and in thinking about my teaching style, I came up with this: I think I'd call it weaving. I take various strings and pull them together and weave together history, science, literature, culture, art, music, theater, current events and more to make a beautiful tapestry of knowledge. This is how our world takes shape and how we can make sense of the past and present and work toward a better future. In my opinion, this is how people, of all ages, really learn, but most importantly, it works for us.
Having said that, my style is not right for everyone. Again, each family must figure out what style of learning and type of curriculum is best for them. I am an intense and passionate person and serious about learning because I love to learn, but I am not very structured and am pretty laid back when it comes to our schedule.
You could talk to 10 homeschooling families and get 10 different takes on how to learn and what to teach and when to teach it. Again, sit down and do some soul searching and some research.
In Part 1, I listed the 4 questions people have asked me and what I see people asking online: 1. Where do I start? 2. What do I have to teach? 3. Where do you get your curriculum/What do you recommend? 4. How much time does it take each day? See Part 1 for my take on the first two questions.
3. Where do I get curriculum? What do I recommend?
As I stated before, I really have a hodgepodge of materials from many different sources. We LOVE books. Consequently, we have quite a few sources to pull from when studying a particular subject. I find lots of great books at Half Price Books (and homeschool teachers can get the teacher discount). We use the internet to look up information and find resources and opportunities for further learning. I have bought some grammar and spelling and cursive workbooks from christianbook.com (Disclaimer – not all of their homeschool curriculum is religious based. In fact, I do not ever buy religious based curriculum. We are Christian and do study scripture, but I do not like religious based school materials…EVER. However, you can carefully search their website and find some good deals on basics like math, grammar and spelling.) Additionally, Amazon has many homeschooling materials. And there is Heppner's Legacy Homeschool Resources store up in Elk River. I hear good things, but I have never been there.
I will say that I do like the Everything You Need to Ace (Science, English, Math, History) in One Big Fat Notebook series, as an overview or reference point for the boys. We have found that TeachingTextbooks.com works well for us for math. Typing.com is free and a good typing curriculum. The MENSA reading list by grades is a nice resource. I follow all kinds of pages on Facebook from NASA to The Smithsonian Institute to The Spy Museum to Minnesota Historical Society to National Parks to National Geographic to Politico to The Atlantic to Washington Post to Minneapolis Institute of Art to The Museum of Russian Art to the Minnesota Science Museum and much more. We often look to current events as a starting point for research, study, projects, etc. and information on these pages is helpful. Additionally, we are liking the Outschool class options to supplement our studies and we are fans of the local Ex Ed Homeschool classes taught by 2 homeschool moms.
I recommend nothing specifically to you because again, you must figure out what your family goals are and what you want to study and how you want to study it. It can be overwhelming. So, just stick to your goals and don't go overboard.
4. How much time does it take each day?
Homeschooling can take just a few hours a day to 4 or 5 hours a day or so. If you choose an online option, your kids will be tied to that school's schedule and curriculum and lesson plans. If your kids are just starting elementary school, it won't take as much time (play is still really important at this stage) as if say your kid is starting 9th grade. Some people get up with the sun and are finished before lunch time. Others (us) sleep in and start in around noon and finish by 4 or 5. I know of some families who do their assignments/study during the evening or on weekends because of the parents' work schedules/ custody schedules. Any of this is fine. Again, it's up to you….have you gotten that part yet?
I think the key is lessons in increments of 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the ages of your kids, with lots of 10 to 15 minute breaks in between. We have outside activity breaks, reading breaks, eating breaks and puzzle/game breaks throughout our day.
I now have a 6th grader and a 9th grader. Each year, they are able to do more independent work with little or no help from me. I assign them grammar/spelling, math and typing work to complete on their own. Together, we study history, science, literature, art, current events, government/politics, scripture and anything else that comes up. They do read independently each day, and I read aloud to them too. Yes, even at this age, I read aloud to them. We all enjoy it and it allows us to weave in discussions of the time period, history, culture, etc. I choose the classics that we read together, and they choose what they read on their own.
If you work outside of the home full-time, part-time or not at all, you can homeschool your kids. YOU REALLY CAN! If you work outside of the home, you may have to get creative with your schedule – either work or school schedules. I do legal editing contract work at night and homeschool during the day. You can make it work, if you choose to do this.
Based on Minnesota law, at the end of your school year, you must have each child tested, but you can choose the test and you alone get the test results. It is not something we sweat over or prepare for. It's easy and not too expensive, and not a burdensome requirement.
Once you've decided to homeschool your kids, even if it's just for this year, check out the Minnesota Homeschoolers' Alliance website for the forms and laws and information you need to get started.
To conclude, you, too, can homeschool your kids, even if it's just this one year. Whether you choose an intense course of education or choose to read lots of books, do some Outschool online learning, teach math in the kitchen while teaching baking basics, watch lots of documentaries and visit museums virtually or some course of study somewhere in the in the middle, it is all doable and totally OK. You and your kids have an wonderful opportunity in front of you. It's all about perspective…
Over and out…