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
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:
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
Spanish: Bob Jones University Press (only Ezra currently)
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.
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.
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!