Category Archives: Motherhood

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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Home School Co-Op…What’s that?

Most long-time readers here know that, not only do I home school my own 7 children, I, myself, was home schooled many moons ago. At 35, I am a bit of first-generation mainstream home schooler (as opposed to, say, a home-schooler-by-necessity-because-of-the-pioneer-days). And let me just say: it certainly wasn’t as popular as it is now “in my day.”

I get lots of questions about home schooling–most friendly–from fellow home school moms, skeptics, and the idly curious, so I thought I’d dedicate a few posts to answering as many of them as I can from our family’s perspective and experience.

I’ll talk about curriculum and schedules and such more later, but, first, I’m tackling one I get asked all the time, and that is: “What in the world is a home school co-op?” (I have a feeling that, at least for some, the follow up question is: “Is that, like, a cult, or something?”).

Oddly enough, even though I grew up attending a home school co-op, I couldn’t really have defined “home school co-op” accurately in its modern incarnation 5 years ago. We didn’t participate in one until two years ago, and I didn’t know much about how they worked until fairly recently.

The co-op my brother and I attended as kids certainly didn’t look anything like what we do now, but the basic tenets and benefits were still present: socialization, fellowship, instruction, and an outlet for the mamas.

Way back when, our co-op consisted of a gathering of 4-10 families who would meet up once a month or so at the local public park under the guise of picking up their health food orders. Most of them were crunchy granola mama types, and I can still remember the delight of watching the big freight truck full of spritzers and sprouted grain rumble up to our picnic table. Looking back, the concept seems quirky in the extreme. How had they convinced the driver to meet them at the park of all places? I assume that their orders were substantial enough to warrant his making a special stop. All I knew is that I loved the naturally sweetened orange gumballs and yummy fizzy drinks we got as a super-special treat once a month. We kids would snag a fruit leather or two and scatter pell-mell through the park–little kids to the swings and slides, middle ones to play tag, and older ones down to the lake to fish or skip rocks.

Of course, I thought that co-op day was all about the kids. We were there to play! It wasn’t until I was a home school parent myself that I realized that the mamas were at least as jazzed as we were to get a chance to “play.”

Somewhat regularly, we would have an organized lesson or field trip instead of just free play, but mostly, those days were a chance to fellowship and socialize (and buy giant bags of unmilled whole grain wheat).

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that, these days, a home school co-op is a highly scheduled, curriculum-heavy, organized *thing.*

home school co op

This picture is from last year, and I kind of can’t believe how witsy bitsy everybody looks, but it exemplifies another fun thing we do at co-op: THEME DAYS! (This one was Nerds vs. Rock Stars). 

Of course, it depends on your co-op because each is run by individuals with specific tastes, but I can tell you how ours works.

We meet once a week (the norm for every co-op that I’m familiar with), and, in our case, each mother (or father) is required to be on site for the entirety of her children’s instruction (which varies, depending on age and circumstance). Not only that, but we are required to participate in some meaningful way. Some parents are floaters and do everything from P.E. to cleaning to nursery. Others–like I-are lead teachers. Last year, I was a grader for English and grammar, and I spent the day grading papers and worksheets for lead teachers. This year, I am the high school Spanish teacher, and I teach 3 periods of Spanish 1 and 2, then spend the rest of my day feverishly grading papers so that I can send the kids home with their graded work at the end of the day. I try to do as much work as possible there, but I pretty much always have some grades to record and vocab sheets and quizzes to make up at home.

I know that, just like my mama and her friends when we were kids, many mamas attend our co-op–at least partly–for the fellowship. We even have “women’s groups,” staggered throughout the day, which often consist of a Bible study or a craft or even just a meaningful discussion. But I rarely make it to mine because I’m usually still grading.

At this point, we are mostly enrolled in a co-op so that my children get a chance to play with friends and learn from other teachers (besides me and my mom), but I do love the days when I get to go to women’s group or just have a quick chat with a fellow mama. I don’t know everyone in the co-op (it’s fairly large), but I have met several kindred spirits I love to catch up with, at least briefly, each week.

The flip-side of the requirement to participate and remain on site is that we pay very nominal fees for our co-op. I know it’s different for others where mamas can drop their kids off and teachers are paid, but at ours, each teacher names a small fee per student per semester for her class (to cover supplies), and then the only additional costs are a minimal general purpose fee per family and then, of course, the cost of books and other supplies.

There is a set schedule for each grade, and we choose our offerings and time slots in the spring for the following school year.

Right now, Ezra and Simon (11 and 10) are enrolled in Spanish, Anatomy and Astronomy, World Geography, English, and Basic Computing. They also have P.E. classes. The younger ones have less strenuous subjects, but they are all learning and playing throughout the day as well.

My kids LOVE it.

I…dread it at least a little bit every week.

Even with the kids participating heavily (as in, they make most of the lunches and prep backpacks ), it still takes us several hours each weekend to prepare all of the lunches and clothes and backpacks and homework folders. Sometimes, it just feels like one more thing in our busy schedules. But it is definitely worth it because of how much my kids enjoy it. Also, once I’m there, I always enjoy teaching my students. I even enjoy grading for the “alone time” (ha!).

It’s a pretty classic example of something that’s at least a little hard for me but still good.

Because, as we all know by now, hard is not the same thing as bad.

And…there you have it! An explanation of (at least, our) home school co-op.

I have several more home schooling posts in the hopper, but feel free to drop a comment here if you have a question you want me to address!

P.S. I think Olympics Hangover is a legit thing. I can’t help myself. They only come around every couple of years, and I always stay up way too late for two weeks straight taking in all of the excitement. Any fellow Olympics lovers out there? Is it starting to take its toll on you too?

 

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