Homeschooling Q&A (Part 2)

Aaaaaaand we’re (finally) back with Round 2 of our Q + A with some follow-up questions that I get asked often here and on social media.
Q: So, what’s happening with your little kids while you homeschool?
A: I get asked this A LOT because (I assume) I have a lot of kids, and many of them are fairly small, and I keep replacing the littlest ones, soooo…it stands to reason that there’s always an ankle-biter or two around to gum up the school-works.

Surely, I have some sort of ingenious entertainment system going for the littles by now, right?

Eh, sort of.

Truth is, in my almost 9 years of homeschooling, I’ve never worried too much about doing something particularly special with the little ones…because I haven’t had to.

Either they’re playing or eating or sleeping.

honor

Behold “the cup drawer”–AKA: entertainer of all the babies. 

Can they be disruptive? Yes. Do I often teach with a baby on my hip? Yep. Have there been times that I have turned on a show for an hour just to get some peace and quiet with the older ones? Definitely. But that’s not the norm. We don’t do any tablet time, so for the most part, my littles have to learn from an early age that they need to play relatively quiet near us, or they will need to go in their rooms and sleep/”read”/play alone. Obviously, this could backfire very quickly with a 18-month-old alone in his room, so the solo play option typically starts around age 3. Up to that age, there’s a lot of napping, coloring, snacking, and “reading” going on.

At this exact moment in our homeschooling journey, Honor goes down for a nap around the same time that the older ones start their independent work (10ish). And Theo is fairly content to play with a toy or two or “read” or jump on the trampoline or eat a snack or play with play-doh or color or have me read to him in between helping with math or sit on the floor and half-listen when I read aloud to the others, etc. Usually, it’s a steady succession of all of the above because, let’s face it: he’s little, and nothing holds his attention for very long.

I’m not the mom who scours Pinterest for toddler activities. As in pretty much every other aspect of my life, I do better with the basics. But if you are, you’re amazing! Seriously.

Also, remember that we hire my mom to help with the kids (especially the older ones) two days a week, which is super rad. I don’t feel particularly crazy with the smaller two around most days she’s not there, but I’m certainly not complaining about the help. Sometimes, she’s home with all the kids by herself if I have an appointment (I hurt my back a couple of months ago and have had regular chiropractic appointments on one of the days she comes), and it’s amazing to have someone who can hold down the fort while I’m gone.

Again, I don’t feel like we would die without her help, but I sure wouldn’t want to find out for sure! ;)

Moving on…

Q: What kind of teacher training–if any–do you have? How do you teach subjects that are not your strengths?

A: I have a Double BA in English and Spanish with a secondary teaching certification (which never expires in Texas). I ran across a thread about my blog one time while I was trying to search for a specific blog post on Google, and the participants were–how shall we say–skeptical about my ability to school my children well, given my qualifications (or lack thereof, in their opinions). The one thing they did approve of was my hiring my mom to help (although they were further skeptical about whether I ACTUALLY pay her–I do), since I had mentioned that she has a teaching degree.

Well, let the record show that so do I.

But let the record also show that I do NOT think that matters or is necessary in any fashion to teach your own children. Is it helpful? Probably. Certainly can’t hurt.

But I can honestly say that some of the most creative, innovative, and effective homeschool moms I know have zero experience in the teaching world. Some have no formal degrees whatsoever. And yet. They are teaching their kids excellently.

Of course, neither am I saying that a lack of teaching experience or degree is some kind of badge of honor or learning authenticity. I’m just saying that I haven’t found it necessary for success in homeschooling in my experience (both as a homeschooled student, friend/observer of fellow homeschoolers, and homeschool teacher).

As far as subjects that I struggle with, I haven’t found anything (YET) that I can’t conceptually teach. But! My oldest is only in 6th grade. And there are definitely areas where I am weaker in terms of interest/ability (advanced math and sciences come to mind…I’m a word girl).

Thankfully, as my kids get older and continue on to more advanced subject matter, I have massive resources at my fingertips to help me–homeschool co-op teachers, my husband (who is an advanced math guy), my mom, THE INTERNET (seriously, YouTube has some pretty awesome videos on just about every topic under the sun), video courses, dual-credit college courses. The list goes on.

I skipped my last two years of high school and started community college when I was 15 because my mom didn’t see much point in my repeating Biology, A&P, Chemistry, Algebra, etc. It worked for me, and I excelled in that environment (I’m a nerd who is the daughter of a nerd, and school has always come easily to me). It wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone. It doesn’t have to. Flexibility and customization are two of the beauties of homeschooling!

Basically, I’m happy not to have to be the sole source of information for my children’s education.

Q: What do you do when your children fight–either with each other or you?

A: The shortest answer is: they don’t really. Oh, sure. They occasionally pick at each other or drag their feet. But they do not fight with or talk back to me. It’s not an option. The closest they come is whining. But even that is rare at this point. I would attribute this primarily to how intentional we are about child-training. Well, that and we TRY (don’t always succeed for sure) to make the focus on rejoicing always and having a thankful heart in whatever we’re doing. We also start 90% of our days with Bible reading, which helps set a great tone for everything else we do. Whatever all of the contributing factors, my kids don’t do too much belly-aching about school.

Neither to do they bicker very much. In fact, if I am occupied changing a diaper or giving Theo a snack, I often have the boys help Della with a math question or Della help the twins with a reading snag. They kind of love the responsibility and are generally happy to help.
The (general) lack of bad attitudes definitely makes our school days both more productive and more enjoyable, and I am grateful for that. Also, my kids are a product of a straight-A geek (Shaun) and a straight-A nerd (me). I think academics is in their blood. I wouldn’t say that they love “doing school” (the math problems, the vocab drills), but they do love to learn, so they tend to hustle through the necessary parts without too much complaining to get to the parts they like (science and reading, for example).

At this point, our biggest teeth-pulling is writing. At least with the boys. Della loves to write (as long as she can write whatever she wants).

swing

When you find three of the littles swinging in the “girl cave.” And you just want to ditch math and crawl right in with them.

Please hear me on this: I am NOT saying that my children never do anything wrong or that either they or I am perfect. We’re not. Not even close. I am simply trying to answer the question as it has been posed to me. Our biggest homeschooling woe is not fighting. I would say it’s laziness or sloppiness. (Which, if you think about it, is another form of a bad attitude so…).

Well, that wraps that up for now, but I’ll be back again soon. As before, feel free to ask any questions you still have or ones that were raised by this post. I’ll get to them all eventually. ;)

Home School Q & A (Part 1)

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written about our home school routine, and I’ve had multiple questions about it on social media over the last, oh, year or so, so I thought it was high time to address some of those here.

Please keep in mind, though, that I am, indeed, simply answering questions–not trying to prescribe anything we do as some sort of “thou shalt.” If you don’t home school the same way as we do, great! You’re still awesome. If you don’t home school at all and are just here because there’s nothing good on cable right now, great! Welcome to the light. #kidding #promise

An-y-way.

I think the simplest method is a straightfoward Q+A, so that’s how we gunna roll. ‘Ight? (I’m completely out of culturally relevant hipness, so if that last “sentence” set your teeth on edge or just confused you, be assured I’m done).

Without further ado…

Q: What curriculum do you use?

A: The NUMBER ONE question I get asked is curriculum…and for obvious reasons. It’s important! And there are SO many options out there. Which! Is a very good thing. Good, but overwhelming.

So, here’s what we do currently:

Math: Horizons (Ezra will transition to Saxon Pre-Algebra when he finishes his current book)

Reading/Literature: Bob Jones University Press+ whatever read-aloud books we’re currently engaged in. Right now: A Wrinkle in Time (Shaun’s reading it to the kids at night), The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Me), and Unbroken (we listen on Audible at lunchtime).

Science: Apologia + miscellaneous supplementary experiments/materials.

History: Story of the World (we listen in the car, and we’re currently on The Modern Age, but we own them all), supplemented with period specific studies (currently studying about and listening to/reading aloud books about WWII).

Handwriting: Miscellaneous. Sometimes, I have the younger ones do workbooks (haven’t found one I love more than others, but any basic will do). Sometimes, it’s copy work for everyone.

Early Reading: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (so basic, but it works! The twins are doing great with it).

Spelling/Vocab: Wordly Wise

Grammar: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind

Spanish: Bob Jones University Press (only Ezra currently)

Keyboarding: typing.com

Apologetics: Apologia

Writing: I’ve yet to land on a program that I’m in love with. (My mom does most of our writing instruction). I have my kids do free writes that incorporate specific grammar topics we’ve covered occasionally.

In addition to all of the above, my mom comes to help home school on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and she often has her own supplementary materials. She’s currently reading Til We Have Faces to the older boys and teaching them Hebrew. She also periodically incorporates her own science, history, and, as mentioned above, writing.

I feel like I may be omitting something, so if you see a glaring hole, let me know, but everything above is our bread and butter (and does not really include any classes from our co-op, except Spanish).

 

Q: How did you choose your curriculum?

A: Trial and error more than anything. Very early on, I ordered at least one comprehensive curriculum (Hearts of Dakota), thinking it would simplify things for me (at that point, I was a harried mama of 5, ages 6 and under). It didn’t really. I ended up not liking various aspects of the curriculum, not using them, then feeling guilty for wasting money.

As I’ve continued to home school, I’ve done more research, read lots of reviews, and gotten a feel for my preferences as far as a book’s instructional style. I pay attention to recommendations on social media and such. You can’t really go wrong with Bob Jones and A Beka. They’ve been writing home school curriculum for ages (a sentence that makes me feel old, since I learned from both as a home school student myself). But I don’t happen to have just tons of their stuff. Horizons is a very good math program if your students are good with conceptual knowledge and then applying it through lots of repetition (SO FAR, all of mine have been…I teach very little math. Mostly, I quickly explain a concept, then they go at it, and I check for accuracy). Apologia is pretty universally loved as a creation-based science program. Bob Jones has solid Christian reading selections as well as good accompanying application workbooks.

Q: How would you describe your home school methodology?

A: At this point, I’m pretty much a home school traditionalist. We cover all of the subjects, and we approach them from a didactic perspective. And then we read a lot. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done, and all of my children learn very well (so far) in a traditional manner (both Shaun and I do as well, so this is not surprising).

I am more and more intrigued by the Charlotte Mason/Unschooling approach, but since the methodology seems to be that we learn best from nature, is very student-interest-led (at least in the case of Unschooling), and makes the focus on learning from everything we do throughout our day, it’s a little bit overwhelming for my more give-me-a-box-to-check-please brain.

bread

Sometimes, instead of science, we make bread. It’s the tastiest experiment we do every single time. 

However, my kids LOVE nature, so I’m looking into incorporating more art and nature journaling (connected because the journaling often involves drawing what you have encountered in nature, and my kids are all pretty much the kings/queens of the stick figure at this point). I guess just art in general. At this point, we don’t study music (although the oldest five are enrolled in piano) or poetry much. I would love to get my kids learning more hymns at the very least.

(If you want to learn more about any of this, be sure to google Wild and Free home schooling).

I’ve always viewed activities like making bread together (a process which requires knowledge of math and science) and other cooking/projects a form of education, but I’ve never dared to imagine that they could replace a subject for the day.

This semester, I’ve tried to go with the flow a little more, allow them more time outside to plant things with my mom or gather things from nature–while still maintaining a steady pace with our workbooks and textbooks–and it’s going well. All of my kids are on or ahead of their age-grade levels. Something I absolutely love about home schooling is the flexibility to challenge and modify as necessary. For example, Della would only be in 1st grade this year because of her November birthday, but she is currently doing (and doing well) 3rd grade math. Her spelling skills are closer to her age level, though, so that’s where we stay on that subject. The ability to customize is my favorite.

reading

Della doesn’t love math, but she adores reading. And I adore catching her snuggled on the couch with a book. 

Q: What does a typical home schooling day look like for you?

A: We are usually done with family Bible reading + our morning chores by 9:30, at which point the kids all dive into their “independent work” (math, reading/reading workbook, vocab/spelling, typing, etc.). I typically work with the twins on reading, handwriting (copy work), and math while the older kids get their page-work done. We all hang out in the same space–at this point, the living room and kitchen area–so I’m able to answer questions from the older ones as they arise.

Around 11:30, we break for lunch (the twins are done for the day…they would only be pre-school bc of their age but are plenty ready for kindergarten work), and then we resume with read-alouds, history, science, and apologetics–all of which I teach/read/discuss with the kids (the twins are not required to participate in these, but they are usually close by). By 1:30 to 2, Della is done (if she hasn’t dragged her work out forever, which…she often does), and Ezra and Simon are ready to work on their homework from our home school co-op, practice piano, or spend time outside.

Our school day is generally done by 3 PM at the latest.

Shoooweee! That was a whole lot of words to only answer 4 questions, and there were way more than 4, let me assure you! Still, I’m going to stop here, so I don’t overwhelm anybody and pick back up with the next set of questions soon.

Feel free to weigh in on anything I wrote above or ask any questions you have that I haven’t touched on yet!