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!

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21 thoughts on “Home School Q & A (Part 1)

  1. You must be quite a competent leader, I always find it so difficult to get my kids to listen to my instructions, do not even talk about home schooling.

  2. What does a (tentative or typical) schedule look like per quarter/semester/year that ensures you cover enough essential curriculum to progress the kiddos through their current level?

    I am planing to start homeschooling my preschooler in the fall and am going to heavily rely on the curriculum and practices that you use! Sooo encouraging and helpful to me!!

  3. How do you pace your homeschool? I’ve been using Heart of Dakota the past two years because our school days were dragging on forever with a lot of tears. Do you do some days of school vs pages to cover kind of math? I find myself swapping things out, but I don’t want to go back to schooling until 4 or 5 pm. (We officially start about 9:30 am, too. )

    1. We do Horizons math, and the boys do 4 pages a day (I think they’re supposed to be doing 2…we always get done early in the year), and Della (who is two grades ahead in math), does 2. The twins generally do 4, but they only do school 3-4 days a week.

      I don’t generally feel like things are dragging toooooo much, and my kids are fairly motivated to GET DONE, so minus Della (who is getting better, but tends to get distracted and work more slowly), the kids are hustling to finish as quickly as possible (while still doing good work). I was the exact same way as a kid. I would get up early and do ALL my school in 3 hours so I could have as much play time as possible. Ha!

  4. A few questions :)
    1. Are you Hebrew? I remember you mentioning that your family lived in Israel for a time and your mom knows Hebrew (impressive).

    2. Where do you find out the appropriate milestones or age level skills?

    3. Any chance your mom would be interested in doing a homeschool Q&A? You’ve mentioned several times how she rocks at homeschool and I’d love to hear some of her insight.

  5. I second a lot of this as great curriculum! My mom used a lot of it with us in school. I plan on ordering the reading book you suggested because that’s been a struggle here. But, I do have questions! This fall, I’ll have 2 children in first grade. What subjects do you do with your first graders and how long do they spend doing school? This year, I used My Father’s World, but I ended up supplementing because it didn’t feel challenging. Not that it isn’t a good curriculum.

    1. I borrowed some of My Father’s World from a friend, and I agree. Not nearly challenging enough. My first graders typically spend about 2 hours on school. Again, Della is technically a 1st grader, but she’s mostly in second grade work (or above), so she’s anywhere from 2-3 hours a day. We do history, math, reading, reading workbook, vocab, spelling, and science.

  6. That’s awesome. I was homeschooled using very similar materials over here in New Zealand, haha!
    We did the 100 Easy Lessons to read, A Beka for the basic maths, Saxon Math for more advanced, Bob Jones this and that, Apologia…. Mum liked to pick her favourites of things and do them – picking and choosing to find out what works best.

    I always enjoy reading your blog posts! :)

    One thing I love about blogs is how it brings people together from all different walks of life – take me, a 19 year old gal from New Zealand, reading and enjoying your blog – for example!

  7. I was looking for online art lessons a while back and came across Artventure, which is for kids. Might be worth checking out — you can register for a free 48hr trial, where you get full access to everything. I don’t have kids and haven’t had the time to check it out, but just thought I’d mention it!
    I really enjoy reading your blog, and am particularly encouraged by your focus on teaching your kids that the really important thing is to love the Lord and live life to His glory.

    Alison

    P.S. You need to update your comments comment ;) you can no longer consider making comments your seventh child now that Honor has taken that place!

  8. An excellent handwriting curriculum (I learned about it from my BFF, who is an occupational therapist) is Handwriting without tears. They have printing and cursive workbooks.
    The website Deep Space Sparkle has lots of excellent art projects. Many are related to children’s literature.
    And I used this book for years with my kindergarteners:
    https://www.amazon.com/Drawing-Children-Creative-Teaching-Learning/dp/0874773962/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1521242658&sr=1-8&keywords=teach+drawing

  9. No questions, but I highly recommend Teaching Textbooks for higher math! You have the student book with the written lesson/explanation, practice problems, work problems, and tests. PLUS, dvds where if you get stuck, they work out every single problem (practice, work, and test) so that you can see and understand how they arrived at their answer. It can be a life saver when one problem takes up an entire notebook page! This is coming from a former homeschool student, who hated math! :)

    1. None of my kids hate math (so far), although, to be fair, none love it either. It’s more like, it comes easily to them, so they don’t mind it either way. But I have heard of Teaching Textbooks and will def keep it in mind.

  10. When you are teaching or leading lessons with your older children, what are the youngest (babies/toddlers) up to?

    1. That’s on my list of questions to answer in the next blog post, but the short answer is either napping or hanging out with us reading books, eating snacks, etc.

  11. I’ve been looking into the story of the world for my first grader for next year, and was wondering if you do the activities suggested in the workbook? Are they doable, or do they need a lot of prep work? Thank you!

    1. they don’t require tons of prep work, no, but I wasn’t in love with them. At this point, we only listen in the car.

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