Considering Homeschooling? Ask These Three Questions First

Homeschooling continues to gain more traction and become a viable option for many families in the United States.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of homeschooled children grew by a staggering 61.8% from 2003 to 2012.

We have been homeschooling for a decade and my oldest is now entering high school, but I still remember the feeling of overwhelm at each new stage of homeschooling.

How do you do it with babies?  with toddlers?  with multiple ages?

Can we afford this?  How do I practically schedule the year?  the month?  today?

I noticed that many people who were drawn to the homeschool option just needed a dose of realistic expectations with a bit of encouragement as they pursued the homeschool lifestyle.

With this in mind, I created a simple online course for parents who are considering homeschool.

So, do you have what it takes to homeschool?

This course analyzes the three essential questions to ask before starting the homeschool adventure.

Homeschooling 101 is a course in self-discovery for parents who are interested in the homeschooling option, but just need some insider information to help bring clarity to the decision making process.

I include lectures in short segments so that they easily fit into your busy schedule.  You will benefit from the course handouts that help you dig deeper into each topic and show you areas where you might need to give more attention.

Finally, this course will help you analyze the strengths, weaknesses, and passions of yourself and your kids and see how that fits into a homeschooling style.

As a former public school teacher turned homeschooling mom of five, I want to be a cheerleader for parents who want to homeschool but just need some confidence and practical strategies for getting it all done.

So, if you’d like an insider tour as you explore the homeschool option, jump on over to Homeschooling 101 on Udemy.com and check out my course today!

 

A {homeschool} Day in the Life of a Middle Schooler

I recently shared my curriculum choices for my three middle schoolers.  A few friends asked to see a sample schedule of how this would all flesh out.  What a great request!  It was helpful for me to map out what a sample day might look like with this particular pile of curriculum.

We are not rigidly structured with certain subjects at specific times.  Rather, our homeschool style is a relaxed and flexible flow (I like to think I’m relaxed and flexible too, but some days that is not so much a reality!)

No two days are ever the same, and if you homeschool, you will probably agree.  So, I’ll share what a typical day {might} look like for my middle schoolers this fall.  Of course, it all remains to be seen, and we might have to change some plans mid-flow.  But that’s okay – we can use the flexibility that comes with homeschooling to make the curriculum work for us, instead of the other way around.

day in the life of... homeschooled middle schooler

{These are sample times only — of course, the earlier the boys get up and “get going” the earlier their day will finish.}

Sample 8th grade schedule

  • 7:00 – 7:30 wake up, breakfast, chores, personal Bible study, instrument practice
  • 9:00 Morning Subjects Together (multi-grades)
  • 10:00 Start independent work until lunchtime

{it MIGHT look like this, but can really be in any order}

12:30 Lunch Break

School day could be done before 4pm.  We don’t have “homework” like traditional schools.  So the rest of the day is technically free.  Of course, we may have scheduled activities, or side jobs, or music lessons to go to.  If the boys start early and work diligently, they could even be done earlier than this.

  • 8:00pm Free Reading (1 hour)

When I wrote out a sample day’s flow, my 7th grader could be done his work by about 3pm, with no homework required.  My 6th grader would finish by 2pm and have the rest of the day for hobbies, play, and free time.

One final thing – I ask the boys each year if they want paper checklists, assignment notebooks, or laminated cards with their schedule, and they still seem to like the cards.

task cards

I simply write a bullet list of daily requirements onto an index card, then “laminate” it with some contact paper.  The boys can use dry erase markers to cross off subjects as they complete them each day.

And in case you’re wondering what the “task folder” is?  It’s a folder that good old mom can put extra work in that is tailored to that child.  It might be states and capitals review sheets, fire safety assignments (required by our state), or a poem to memorize.

This schedule also helps to ensure that I will have some much needed “free time” when the toddler naps and into the afternoon to get all my own tasks done.  I am around all morning to help as needed, but most of the afternoon work can be mainly independent.

Hope this helps!

What about you?  Would a day in the life of your homeschooled middled schooler look much different?  What are your non-negotiables?  Are you more flexible or structured?

I love how we can craft our curriculum choices and styles to fit both mom and kids.  There is no one right way to homeschool.  This is just what works for us right now.  Happy homeschooling!

 

 

Homeschool Curriculum for Middle School

I loved having babies.

I loved having toddlers (mostly, although it was quite a blur, and those years of my life are hard to remember!).

I loved teaching my kids how to read.

But this fall, I will have reached my favorite stage in teaching — middle school!  I will not have just one or two, but three boys in that coveted age.

I know most of you are probably feeling bad for me right now, but I am convinced that this stage is full of possibility.  The boys are moving past the foundational grammar stage of their education, and gaining some increased reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical skills.

homeschool curriculum for middle school

My years in a formal teaching position in the public school were spent with this age group, so I feel quite comfortable here.

I have enjoyed culling an eclectic mix of curriculum to fit my three middle schoolers.  Let me share the list with you, not because it’s perfect, but it might spark some ideas for your own situation.

{This post contains affiliate links.  Please see my disclosure policy for more information.}

LANGUAGE ARTS

The best decision in our homeschool last year was to chuck the formal reading curriculum, in favor of wild reading, and lots of it!  We gain our structure from this classical reading list, but since a friend shared the Classical Reader website with us, we have been regulars there too.

Grammar and Diagraming instruction continues based on learning styles with each boy.  One is using the Analytical Grammar curriculum.  One son loves the King’s English book, which is color coded and visual.  We also use Daily Grams for short bursts of grammar review.

The best writing curriculum I have found is Writing with Skill by Susan Wise Bauer.  It is designed to be used mainly independently by the student, which is great for mom!  Rubrics are included for grading your child’s work.  My middle schoolers’ writing has improved greatly with this resource.  They are learning things that my high school didn’t teach until that dreaded research paper in twelfth grade.

Spelling has been a hit or miss subject most of our schooling.  I have tried half a dozen different programs and never really was satisfied.  Since finding All About Spelling, we have stayed put quite contentedly.  My kids enjoy it, and their spelling is improving.  It can be passed down from child to child, which makes it great on the budget when schooling several kids.  My rising eighth grader will have completed all its 7 levels, so he will be studying Vocabulary Vine this year.

 

LOGIC

We will continue with Building Thinking Skills and Mind Benders, both from the Critical Thinking Co.  Our next book will be the Fallacy Detective, which I have not used yet, but it comes highly recommended.  And I think that studying logical reasoning skills will be a fun task during an election year, don’t you?  **Cough, cough** lots of fallacies in reasoning to sniff out this year.  What a skill!

 

MATH

We continue to love BJUP math at every stage.  Complete, spiral, mastery education, with an emphasis on understanding the reasoning behind the math.  From K-5th grade, the books are consumable, and I don’t purchase the teacher’s editions.  For grades 5-7, the texts are not to be written in; rather, the kids do their assignments on their own paper.  So, the book is reusable year after year.  I do purchase the teacher’s manual starting in 6th grade, just for the answer key.

For my eighth grader, we will purchase the DVD curriculum and see how we like it.  That way, the pressure is off of mom in the upper-level math department, and they will get to experience listening to another teacher.

 

FINANCES/ECONOMICS

“What Ever Happened to Penny Candy?”

Personal Finance for Middle School by Dave Ramsey

 

HISTORY

We still love MOH!  This coming year will find us studying volume 4, which includes American history and modern history.  Downloading the audio version as well keeps it interesting.  As we listen to the lessons, the boys are drawing on their timelines.  This curriculum is easy to use for multi-ages.  My older kids will have extra outlining, reading, and reporting requirements.

 

SCIENCE

Answers in Genesis has served us well as a multi-grade science foundation.  We have added the Usborne Science Encylopedia to our curriculum.  This book makes it easy to find relevant videos that relate to each days’ topics.  The boys keep an illustrated science notebook.

 

BIBLE

We will continue learning catechism with this method.

In addition, our family will try to memorize chapters of the Bible this year, instead of one verse here or there.  Context is so important and healthy when understanding Scripture, so I hope that this endeavor will be very helpful for all of us.  Some friends on Facebook were sharing their own Scripture memorization strategy, and they learned two verses per week until the chapter was memorized.  I think that’s a great place to start!

Bible Commentaries for Children, by Nancy Ganz, have been great resources for understanding the first five books fo the Bible, which can seem very cryptic, especially to kids.  How do they relate to the whole Biblical narrative?  What’s the point of a book like Leviticus, especially to 21st century kids?  These books are written especially with children in mind, and have the goal of pointing everything to Christ.  We will continue on with our study of Numbers.

And finally, the boys and I will read through the book of I John with an inductive study method.  This method is one of the most helpful I have personally used.  It requires more work than simply answering comprehension questions, but it reaps more bounty in the understanding of Scripture.  Find more about this method here.

 

OTHER
Typing

Art

French

Art History & Music History as it meshes with our history studies

PA history

Gym class at the YMCA with other homeschoolers

Private music lessons in their instruments

 

Whew!  I’m eager to jump into this school year.  So much to learn!

What are essentials for your middle school curriculum?  I’d love to take a peek into your homeschool tool box.

 

How Our Homeschool Reading Time Has Been Revolutionized

Homeschool reading time @4onemore.com

One of the best changes in our homeschool curriculum, routine, and philosophy this year has been in the area of reading.  I wish I could turn the clock back and implement these ideas years ago.  My strong and interested readers have grown, as well as my reluctant reader.  My sanity has been saved in this area and it has been easy on the budget!

Three items have contributed to this reading revolution.  Let me unveil them and then I’ll explain.

{This post contains affiliate links.  Please see my disclosure policy for more information.}

Read “The Book Whisperer”

thebookwhisperer

If you haven’t read this book yet, put it on your list.  If you are a parent (homeschool or not), “The Book Whisperer” is helpful in forming a reading philosophy for your family.  It also provides encouragement and will equip you for the practical side of follow-through.

The author’s basic philosophy is that every child can be a reader, but you have to model it authentically and give space and time to pursue it.  

We used to follow the traditional school model of graded reading books, worksheets, and book reports.  Reading was just a subject to get through as fast as you could and there wasn’t much enjoyment in it.  When classic literature was included in reading books, many times the story was abridged or dumbed down.  

Now we have embraced a reading culture in our home more than ever.  Hubby and I always have several books going at a time.  But how do you pass that on to your kids?  Give them the time in their schedule to read and enjoy it!  Require grade-level timeless literature but also allow them to find what they enjoy.

homeschool reading @4onemore.com

My history loving son conquered a book about the 1001 top battles of all time.  And it was nearly 1000 pages!  But it was fun for him.  Another boy loves cats and for his “fun reading time” he dives into the Warrior Cat series.

After I tossed the grade-level reading textbooks (that, by the way, cost a pretty penny!), I had to find a great resource for required school reading for each child.

Find a Reading List

For this, our homeschool has turned to this classical reading list organized by grade level.  We are able to borrow some of these titles from our library, while others have been purchased and added to our bookshelf for younger siblings.

homeschool reading @4onemore.com

Buy a timer for each child

And finally, the biggest change in our homeschool reading culture has been the freedom to linger longer in our favorite books.  Who doesn’t love to be required to lounge on the couch in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate and just read for a whole hour?  And this is school?  Oh yes!  

If my children can become better readers by reading several hours a day, and if my children can learn to love learning, and if my children can embrace their natural curiosity and interests, they will be lifelong learners!

homeschool reading curriculum @4onemore.com

So, instead of zipping through a “story” in a reading textbook, we have minimum time standards for Reading List titles and Free Reading time.  (I have looked to “The Well Trained Mind” for great guidelines in organizing our school day with time suggestions per grade level.)

Enter the simple digital timer.  We have several floating around our house.  Grab a timer, your current book, and cuddle on the couch for the next hour, able to enjoy reading.  It’s not a task anymore!  We all love the change.  And it’s great for mom — do you know what happens when four boys are quietly reading for several hours each a day?  Yeah, I can hear myself think 🙂

Now, maybe your kids don’t need timers.  My oldest reads much more than his required time each day.  But for some of the others, it helps with responsibility.

It may seem simple — a new reading outlook, a great book list and freedom to enjoy reading?  Yes!  This is the best change we have made in our homeschool.

Visit my pinterest board for more great book lists!

Homeschool Curriculum for 7th Grade

Where has the time gone?  Seven years ago when my oldest was in kindergarten and I had two toddlers and a baby in tow, I seriously wondered how I would manage life let alone homeschool.

Fast-forward to this year, and I am amazed how well things are flowing.  Those early years are very mommy-intensive.  We are now enjoying the middle grades with more independence even in schooling.

7th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

Here are the driving forces that I consider as I choose curriculum for each child.

  • Does it fit with a Classical Education model?  I appreciate that this educational philosophy values a focus on language as well as the interrelatedness of each subject.
  • Is is mom-intensive, or does it encourage the student to take responsibility for their own learning?
  • Is it re-usable?  This is not essential, but with many siblings potentially using this curriculum in the future, I lean toward choices that I can use again and again while only purchasing once.  {Analytical Grammar is an exception}

7th Grade Homeschool Curriculum @4onemore.com

My seventh grader has a laminated index card which he refers to each day.  He can complete subjects in any order, but they all need to be done by dinnertime.  The harder he works, the earlier he gets done.

7th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

Math

We have used BJU Press math curriculum all the way through and I am still happy with this choice.  My only complaint is that you have to purchase the whole teacher’s manual just to get the answer keys.  That’s the only part of the teacher’s edition that I use.  These books are laid out so well that my seventh grader essentially teaches himself.  Of course, I’m always available to help.

7th grade homeschool

We purchased the student book, but he completes all his assignments on notebook paper, so we will be able to reuse this textbook again and again.  We’ve also purchased the tests and answer keys.

{one-time price for 7th grade math curriculum:  approximately $184 –> this price also includes a separate student activity manual and teacher guide that we aren’t using right now}

After having used several different spelling curricula over the years, we are finally settled on All About Spelling for all grade levels.  We love its multi-sensory style.  The review and mastery approach to AAS is what keeps this in our curriculum toolbox.

The AAS curriculum is open and go, so very practical for mom!  And it does not require the filling out of spelling worksheets ad nauseum.

Writing With Skill is an excellent program that we highly recommend.  It continues past the elementary or grammar stage Writing With Ease curriculum.  We love it because it fosters independence and initiative in my student, while setting great works of writing in front of him as models.  And this book is reusable.

Our study of grammar started with First Language Lessons in grades 1-4.  We continued with diagramming practice and Daily Grams for refreshers.  But this year I just felt like a comprehensive study of grammar was needed.

So after much research, I found Analytical Grammar.  It was on the pricey side ($95 for one student book and one teacher book).  Since the student book needs to be written in, I will have to purchase additional copies for my other children.  It is not flashy at all but rather a very basic and complete study of grammar with exercises and tests to ensure mastery.

7th grade curriculum

He spends about 10 minutes daily working on typing at classic.typing.com

I am behind in teaching Logic to the boys.  So, all three are working through deductive reasoning skills with Mind Benders and Building Thinking Skills books.  This is in preparation for a formal study of logic in the future.

Homeschooling allows us to have the time and energy to put into individual music lessons and the practicing this requires.  We are reaping the beautiful results of years of little-by-little, minute-by-minute hard work in this area.

A complete Classical Reading list for Grades 1-8 with amazon links can be found here.  We love it!  What a great find for this school year.  The boys’ schedule allows a lot more uninterrupted reading time this year.  They are thoroughly enjoying the pleasure of digging into great books for hours each day.  And mom enjoys the quiet it brings 🙂  Little sister likes to sit and read with her brothers, too.

7th grade curriculum

7th grade curriculum

In addition to these grade-level choices, my boys are all learning these subjects together.

We add in all sorts of other learning topics and experiences as needed to round out our year.  Never a dull moment over here, but I’m very blessed and thankful to be able to invest my energy and time into my kids in this way.

{Check out my other homeschool posts here}

 

 

Homeschool Curriculum Combined Subjects {Grades 7, 6, 5 & 2}

Fresh start.  Sharpened pencils.  New year — bring it on!

Today I’m sharing our homeschool plan for the year.  I’ve never done this before.  Why in the world would I want to?

I think it comes down to encouragement & inspiration –> you can do this!

I can’t tell you how many homeschool blogs I visited in the early years when I just wanted a sneak peak into another family to see how they did it.  What about the toddlers?  How does first grade look?  What about when the kids enter middle school?  How do you educate multiple kids on multiple levels?

So, I’m sharing our plan, not because it’s the best plan ever, but just for plain encouragement if you’re another mom in the trenches.  Just to share ideas and curriculum choices that I think will work for us in this season at this time with these kids.

So, without further ado… our mostly classically-inspired yet eclectic homeschool curriculum for 2015-2016.

Homeschool Curriculum Combined Subjects @4onemore.com

Combined Subjects

This is how I keep my sanity.  This year we will have kids in grades 7, 6, 5 & 2.  Did I also mention that we have a new adorable sister in the mix?!

Combining subjects brings more order from the potential chaos and streamlines the day.  Since we {mostly} follow a Classical Education model, I know that subjects like history and science don’t have to be taught “on grade level.”  My kids will get these subjects at least three times in their educational careers, each time at a deeper and more age-appropriate level.

For example, we all studied The Early Church & Middle Ages for history last year.  My first grader got a taste for it (grammar stage).  He will study it again in upper elementary at a deeper level (logic stage), then again in High school (rhetoric stage).  We gain more than we lose by having everyone “on the same page” in these subjects.

Looping

This is a new concept for me, but it looks like a great way to get all the little extras covered without going crazy!  Check out this helpful discussion.  Looping basically helps you navigate the frequency of subjects that don’t need to be taught daily.

So, we will be combining and looping the following group subjects this year:

Homeschool Curriculum Combined Subjects @4onemore.com

{This post contains affiliate links.  Please see my disclosure policy.}

Mystery of History –>  We are studying Volume III: The Renaissance, Reformation, and Growth of Nations.  We will listen to the lessons, add information to our timelines, work on related mapping exercises, and read additionally from The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia.  My 5th, 6th & 7th graders will complete outlining and summary writing several times a week from their outside reading.  Their personal reading lists will include titles that correspond to our history study.

 

Homeschool Curriculum Combined Subjects @4onemore.com

Science –> For several years now we have used God’s Design science curriculum. Written for use in grades 1-8, your students will have an opportunity to circle through once in lower elementary and again in upper elementary and middle school.  Great for including multiple ages together.  This year we’ll be studying “God’s Design for Chemistry & Ecology.”

GreatCommissionLanguages-logo

French –> Since we started our homeschooling journey in the bilingual province of New Brunswick, we purchased The Easy French by Great Commission Languages and studied the Junior level several years ago.  This year all four of the boys will work through Level 1 together.  We will work on French daily (not looped).

Bible –>  Our morning loop will alternate between the following:

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

Herein Is Love, Volume 2: Exodus

The Westminster Shorter Catechism

Daily Life at the Time of Jesus

Daily Scripture memory review using this system.

Fine Arts –> this is the subject matter that usually slips through the cracks!

Music:  All of my kids take private music lessons, but I hope to incorporate a study of composers and music styles alongside history for context.

Homeschool Curriculum Combined Subjects @4onemore.com

Art:  I have found the Deep Space Sparkle blog to be my go-to source for great art lessons.  We have gotten comfortable with many different mediums and techniques, but I do need to be more consistent with art this year.  I would love your input!  Any other great art resources that you have used?

Individual Subjects {coming soon!}

  • Seventh Grade
  • Sixth Grade
  • Fifth Grade
  • Second Grade

How do you manage multiple levels in your home school?  Share your favorite combined subjects and curriculum in the comments.

5 Reasons We Love Using the Mystery of History in our Homeschool

It’s that time of year again when many homeschool families are gearing up for the new year, making plans, and ordering curriculum.  Today I want to share what we use for one of our favorite subjects — history — and why we love it!

5 Reasons We Love MOH @4onemore.com

 

First, a few things you should know about our homeschool:

1.  While not purists, we do follow a Classical Education Model.

2.  Our family has been using the Mystery of History for seven years.  We have used this curriculum through the grammar stage and now the logic stage, and it has served us well.

3.  I have four energetic boys who have been captivated by our study of history!  With their interest piqued, they are eager to continue studying the topics that have fascinated them the most.

5 Reasons We Love MOH  4onemore.com

Why do we love using MOH in our homeschool?  Here are my top 5 reasons.

Chronological

You wouldn’t read the chapters of a novel out of order.  Why on earth would we teach history and do it out of order?  Have you ever looked at how most traditional history curriculums approach the subject?  In about second or third grade, the history textbook teaches about the Pilgrims just in time for Thanksgiving.  You might have a little Revolutionary War excitement thrown in around February.  And of course, a coloring sheet on Abe Lincoln for his birthday.  Really?  Kids can handle the real story, in order, from the beginning!

I am a certified social studies teacher with classroom experience, and it pained me to see how most middle schoolers entered my classroom at the beginning of the year — totally bored to death with history and geography!  But of course they think it’s boring.  A mishmash of dates and names to memorize without a coherent flow would make anyone frustrated with the content.  Not so with our homeschool.  The boys ask to do more than one lesson many days because it is just so very interesting.  Who doesn’t like a good story?

5 reasons we love MOH - 4onemore.com

With MOH, my kindergartener and preschoolers and I started with the very beginning of Creation and progressed from there.  Of course, the first time through with mostly young children, we could skip certain topics that were just too deep for them.  But because this curriculum is chronological, my kids have a good basic understanding of the whole flow of world history.  I can’t say I had that until college!

Christian World View

This curriculum is written from a Christian World View.  We loved learning the Biblical stories right in line with world history.  This kind of study fights against the compartmentalization of our faith.  And Biblical history makes so much more sense when you know what’s going on in the broader world at the same time.  As a Christian, I believe that all of human history is God’s story of redemption.  This curriculum supports me in my endeavour to pass that worldview on to my kids.

Multiple Ages

This fall we will study the third volume of MOH with a 7th grader, 6th grader, 5th grader, 2nd grader and toddler 🙂  The beauty of this curriculum is that instead of juggling four different levels and topics of “graded” history curriculum, we can all enjoy learning together.  Of course I have a different set of expectations for my 2nd grader than my middle schoolers.  But this curriculum gives activities, projects, extra reading resources, and map activities that are divided among Younger, Middle, and Older student levels (in keeping with the Classical Education Model).  The more subjects that can be learned as a group, the better.

5 reasons we love MOH in our homeschool 4onemore.com

Open & Go

If you try to use curriculum that was written for a traditional classroom, you may have to wade through excessive teacher’s manuals.  The MOH is a breath of fresh air in this regard.  I have followed the book’s recommendations to copy the maps prior to the start of the school year.  This has been helpful, but it’s not required.  Prepping timeline materials is also helpful.  But really, this curriculum is “open & go” — no need for lesson plans or detailed prep work!  There is plenty to do each day by listening to the lesson, checking out the atlas or a good history encyclopedia, and completing timeline work.  If you want to do extra activities, then go for it!  If you’ve got to much going on that day, not a problem.  I find this curriculum very user-friendly and not a stressful option at all from the homeschool mom’s point of view.

Cost Effective

I love the idea of a curriculum that can be used over, and over, and over again without extra cost for each child.  And because MOH is meant to be used in three cycles during your child’s schooling (Young/Grammar Stage, Middle/Logic Stage, Older/Rhetoric Stage), with ever-increasing levels of understanding and depths of study, you can feel confident buying these books once for your kindergartener and use them all the way through!

why we love MOH @4onemore.com

How We’ve Used It — then & now

Finally, I want to briefly share how our use of MOH has changed in these last seven years.

First — we use the audio version now.  It saves my voice and the boys like to listen to Linda Lacour Hobar read the lesson.  While they listen, they draw a picture in their history timeline notebook with the date and lesson title.  If you don’t homeschool, you could listen to the audio version in the car!  Great resource.

5 reasons we love MOH l 4onemore.com

Second — when I had four littles and we started Volume I, we did the super large timeline on the foldable board.  The boys loved it!

5 reasons we love MOH @4onemore.com

Now that they’ve grown older, they prefer their own hand-drawn timelines in three-ring binders.  They enjoy looking back and reminiscing about their lessons.

Third — we were heavy on activities when the kids were little.  We loved creating salt dough maps, Viking masks, and cuneiform writing. These days we haven’t done as many projects.  Looking forward, we’re going to incorporate more historical fiction and biographies relating to our MOH study.  I also want to focus on narration and and a short written analysis of each lesson this year.

5 reasons why we love MOH 4onemore.com

I highly recommend this curriculum and am confident that my children are receiving a solid history education.  I only wish it had been around when I was their age!