Friday, August 12, 2016

Homeschool (why and how we do it)

The other day, I texted a friend to ask a question about the math curriculum we're planning on using. At the end of the text, I added "I feel like I'm the biggest failure when it comes to schooling my everyone else has it figured out (and organized) way better than I do." When she told me that most of the homeschool moms that she has talked to feel the same way, I realized that it really doesn't get talked about as much as it could. 

Every year at this time, I notice all the "back to school" items filling the stores. That's when I realize "Oh, I should probably start thinking about curriculum!" I feel very scatterbrained and lost about where to start. So when a mom on instagram (hi @jordynspeakman!) asked me homeschooling advice, I thought I would share a few thoughts. I know, that whole introduction really makes you want to read what I have to say ;) 

I thought it would be best to start with sharing WHY we chose to homeschool. But before I start, I want to make sure it's clear that I am not implying anything negative about those who choose to use a public/private school! Not only is homeschooling not an option for every family, but everyone has their reasons for how they school and I think it's a personal choice that each family needs to make for themselves. We've been asked multiple times why we homeschool so I'm simply sharing why we felt it was best for our family. (These are in no specific order and some thoughts kind of overlap each other)

  1. Time. Public and private schooling take up many hours in the day. In my opinion, too many hours! When the child comes home, they often have to spend many more hours completing homework. Homeschooling for us right now only takes an hour or two, max, depending on distractions that day. That leaves us more hours to play and encourage them to develop any interests or hobbies. 
  2. Family. We feel that (especially in these early years) we want our children to be home with us, learning from us. If we send them to school somewhere, they would be spending a good chunk of the day away from our family, under the teaching of someone else. I believe that in order to "train up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6) that we should be the main influences in their lives. As the parents, we want to be the ones shaping their worldview. (That's not to say that there aren't wonderful teachers out there!)
  3. Curriculum. Not only do I not like some of what is being taught in public schools, but I also love that I can cater to each child's needs at home. Children learn differently and at different paces. I love being able to choose how to teach each child, based on their personalities. For example, my oldest is a grade ahead what he would have been in public school, just because he was eager and ready to start school at 4 years old. On the flip side, my current 4 year old is a wild one (to put it nicely) and I think if he was in public school, he would likely be "labeled" when I know he's just a normal, active kid.
  4. Peers. I know not every child out there is a bad kid. But we've been on playgrounds enough to know that there is plenty of stuff that young children are being exposed to that I don't want my children exposed to. But don't worry, my kids are not suffering from lack of socialization. We are actively a part of a church where the children interact with people of all ages without a problem. And at the playground, they are always eager to make new friends and treat them with respect.
  5. Flexibility. When we want to take a vacation, a sick day, a field trip, or simply just sleep in, we are free to do it whenever we want (and in our pajamas haha.) I love being able to take the kids to the zoo and use it as a learning experience for our Science class. We are able to use much of our days focusing on life skills rather than solely on book work.
  6. Safety. As a mom, I want to do everything I can to protect my children and their hearts, souls, and bodies. And no one with access to the news can deny the amount of stories that are popping up all over the country with heartbreaking, sickening things. I know we cannot and should not live in fear, but just as you would lock your doors to keep out intruders, this is one way we can guard our children from some of what is happening in the world. That may seem overprotective, but my children mean everything to us so we will do what we can to protect them. 
I could go on and on with reasons, but I will spare you since it's already super wordy. While I don't always feel like the most qualified teacher, I do believe God has equipped me with just what I need to teach our children. Certain subjects may not always be taught by us, but we will always be active in deciding the next step. So while I sometimes feel like a failure, I know that this is what we have been called to do for our family. If you want to homeschool but don't feel qualified, just know that you are not alone! And if I can do it, anyone can do it.
And for anyone curious how we do it and what curriculum we use, keep on reading!

Like I said, I am definitely not the most organized person. I feel like I'm constantly in a state of feeling scatterbrained. I also am not big into activity based teaching (hello, more organization and prepping!) But my kids love it so I know I need to get over that. 
We don't have a set time to get up in the morning. Basically, I try (and usually fail) to convince my children to let me sleep until 8am. But they know the rule is that we won't be eating breakfast until 8. 
When we finish eating, we immediately start schoolwork. I currently have 2 who are officially schooling. Because of Missouri's laws, I only have to log for my oldest until the next school year. I usually have Liam (the oldest) working on all that he can do independently while I work with Kai (usually I just have to give him instructions and he is able to do some work independently as well.) On a good day, we can get this all accomplished right away. But with 3 other children (and soon a newborn) we sometimes have to wait until the youngest takes a nap. We also do some subjects together as a group, which I love! We are always done by lunchtime and we're able to enjoy the rest of the day together, doing whatever needs to get done. Except, of course, on those days when things just get crazy and I finally just call it quits for the day. But remember, flexibility! 

As far as curriculum goes, I LOVE Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It is scripted (which is perfect for me) and usually takes 15 minutes or less for each lesson. It is the book that taught Liam to read at 4 years old and the book I continue to go through with Kai.

For math, we have loved using Horizons for grades K-2. This year Liam is ready to start grade 3 math and we're super excited to try Teaching Textbooks (a computer based math program that starts with 3rd grade math.) I have heard many, many good reviews from good friends and after looking at a sample lesson, I know this will be perfect for our children. 

For Science, we use Apologia. It teaches a Biblical perspective (which is very important to us, especially in the world of science!) We just read the textbook together as a group and sometimes do the experiments and activities suggested in the book. We also like to look up extra information online to make it more fun. Last year we learned about Astronomy. It was amazing how much my boys retained and how eager they were to do it every day. By the way, this year we will only be doing it twice a week! Last year we overdid it and were finished with the book within months. 

For handwriting, we used A Reason For Handwriting. Each week they are practicing letters/words and by the end of the week, they will have learned a Bible verse. My oldest was the only one who did it last year (Kai will do it this year and he's really looking forward to it!) and he loved writing out the verse at the end of each week and coloring the page. 

This year for History, we will be using Mystery of History. Again, it's from a Biblical worldview. We haven't used it yet but we plan to also do this as a group.

For Bible, we have been going through Long Story Short. The lessons are short (as the name implies) and easy for my kids to understand.

As far as the rest of the subjects go, we are still undecided. I just haven't loved some of the other stuff we have used in the past. My goal is to do math, reading/language arts, handwriting, and Bible every day. History and Science will be alternating and only done twice a week. We also plan to incorporate art, typing, and coding..along with any developing and skills or interests that they have. And of course, working on life skills (cooking, cleaning, chores, etc.) 
For the younger kids (pre-k) I would say--DON'T STRESS! They have plenty of time in life to learn. Just focus on teaching letters, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. But make it fun! Do art projects, use chalk, play outside, sing, read to them. Don't worry about workbooks or doing something every day. If you incorporate learning into everyday activities (counting as you take steps, pointing out letters as you look at books) they will be ready for kindergarten when the time comes!

I know this post was long, wordy, and not very thrilling. But I hope it helps for anyone who may be interested in homeschooling but doesn't feel qualified or know where to start. If you have any questions (or advice) leave it in the comments! I know everyone homeschools differently (we are the laid back type) so this may not all apply to everyone. But someone may have advice that could be helpful to someone else--so share away!
***I also want to repeat that I am nowhere near qualified to give out advice! Do your research, ask around, shop for the lowest price, and do what suits your family best! Thanks for reading!


  1. Soooo helpful!! Thank you! this has gotten me excited about home schooling, I've been on the fence because I feel so lost and don't know where to start. But I appreciate that you have given exact books/curriculum that you use. Can I ask how you found these curriculum? Just friend recommendations or trial and error? And No this post was not too wordy! ☺️

    1. Thank you so much for commenting! I'm really glad it was helpful :) Getting started and choosing curriculum is the absolute hardest part. I feel overwhelmed at the beginning of each school year! The curriculum we use is based on friends' recommendations that we have used and loved (besides the Mystery of History--we haven't actually started that yet but it was recommended by friends!) But it is a process of trial and error, unfortunately. What works for one mom/child, may not be the best for the next. But it's always good to have some sort of starting point.

  2. I LOVED this post! I have been looking into homeschooling (my son is 16 mos so I have some time!) and it is really refreshing hearing it from your perspective! I love the idea of being able to teach your kids subjects at their own pace and have flexibility to do field trip lessons or more hands on learning depending what each child needs for learning. Plus it is so much fun to watch my son learn things and I would love to harness that and teach him anything and everything! I'm probably rambling but thank you so much for writing about this :) very very helpful!!

    1. Thank you for sharing with me, Brooke! I remember when my oldest was that age and the whole thought of homeschooling seemed so distant. But now he's about to start 3rd grade! It really is great to be able to customize each child's learning experience based on their personalities! It's something that really can't be done in a class setting. And it's fun to be able to get creative with schooling (baking=math, gardening=science, etc) The possibilities are endless! So happy this post was helpful for you :)

  3. Great post! I love how you made the point that its a personal family decision:) We also homeschooling for many of the same reasons! Another one being that I feel like there is so much pressure put on kids especially in our state to do well on testing:( When you just can't judge how a child is learning strictly from testing. I have felt so often that I am not qualified to homeschool and its too hard but everytime I surrender it to the Lord he gives me the grace and strength I need! Thanks for sharing I always love hearing what others homeschool looks like! :)

    1. Yes! I absolutely agree! I seriously could go on and on with so many more reasons but I figured I needing a stopping point at some time ;) I definitely feel underqualified at times but I can't imagine us doing anything different!


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