family, homeschool, My Story

Homeschooling Review

Well, it’s in the books! Week 1 of Year 2 of homeschooling is finished. Last year our family tried out homeschooling. Due to Coronavirus and all the unknowns of the public school system, we realized that it’d just be easier to homeschool and therefore have a consistent schedule that fit well with our (my husband and my) work schedules. When we realized in the Spring that we’d be relocating to a transitional town, we knew it was time to plan for the second year of homeschooling. We’ve had people ask us how we like it and what curriculum we’re using and all that sort of stuff. I got to thinking, why not write about it and have a place that gives a thorough answer! So, this is it!

,I must admit, I wanted to try homeschooling for a while. I always thought that it’d be so fun to learn along with my children, especially those things that I didn’t have much of an interest in as a kid, but do now… history and science. But, there hasn’t been an impetus to really get us to make the choice to try it, until last year. With my homeschooling sisters ‘around the corner,’ I knew I wouldn’t be alone if I needed help. So, we jumped in!

What I’ve learned (so far) is that there really is no ONE WAY to do it and what works for one person or family isn’t necessarily the best for another. BUT, it’s still so helpful to at least hear what other people are doing because it gives a good place to get started from. Also, even after you choose, it’s good to give yourself a break and make changes as needed. Flexibility does seem to be key in this endeavor.

The first question we are often asked is, “What homeschool curriculum are you using?” Well, we’re not using just one curriculum, but a combination of different books. I had my physicist-husband choose the Math and Science because he has the most understanding of what would be good in that area. I had the most input on Language Arts (Grammar, Spelling, Reading, etc) and History. Then we kind of made a hodge-podge Bible curriculum because we didn’t find one that we were really sold on. I also teach the kids piano and we call that ‘music.’ I dabbled in trying to get the kids doing Coding, Foreign Language, Etc, last year and quickly realized that I could only do so much. 🙂 But, this year, we are bringing it into the daily lessons! I’m so excited.

So, here’s a breakdown subject-by-subject of what we’ve found that works for us:

Math: Singapore Math – Dimensions. This math is intense, but apparently this is the the way my husband wished he would’ve learned math, but he had to wait until he was in Physics Class to learn it this way. So, we tried it out, adjusted it to fit our personal school week and we’re using it again this year!

Science: We’re using a group of books from Real Science 4 Kids called ‘Exploring the Building Blocks of Science.’ The textbook is colorful and covers the 5 major areas of science: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Geology, and Astronomy. This is not a faith-based curriculum, but we can always weave that in. AND, since we’re using faith-based stuff for Devotions, Language Arts, and History… they’re getting plenty of Bible/Jesus teaching. We’ve enjoyed doing the experiments together and this year I’m hoping to try and squeeze in two textbooks (one each semester). We’ll see how it goes, but I can dream, can’t I? I also love that we can buy the lab kits online so that I don’t have to come up with ALL the lab equipment on my own. Definitely worth it for our busy family.

Language Arts/Grammar/Reading: We’re using the ‘Language Lessons for a Living Education’ series from MasterBooks. It has a main text book and a book of Bible stories that goes along with it. It’s been pretty good. I think it could use a few more ‘practice’ portions, but it’s really okay for this age level, probably. (I hope!) There is also verse memorization each week and occasionally poetry memorization. It also includes spelling lists for each week. Along with Grammar and Writing, the kids read 20 minuets a day on their own and learn about the various aspects of literature (plot, summary, scene, characters, etc). I’ve also added to our daily schooling this year, Read Alouds by Mom. I chose a handful of books that I’d love the kids to listen to together and I’m reading them out loud. It’s a highlight of our day and a break from seatwork!

History/Geography/Social Studies: I wanted to teach the kids American History last year and so I bought a book from MasterBooks called, ‘America’s Story’. It’s a 3-book series. It covers history, a bit of art appreciation (and that’s in the LA books above too), and cartography/geography. It’s all kind of rolled into one package. It’s been good and I’m glad we’re using it. This year, if my ambition holds, I hope to do both books 2 & 3 (one each semester). As we go through the chapters, I like to add my own flare to help the kids retell and remember the stories… like when I had them recreate the Leif Ericksson story in our backyard and show it to me as a ‘play.’ This year the kids asked if they could do a project of ‘building’ different types of housing from American history (pipe cleaner teepees, Lincoln Log log cabins/timber-framed buildings, and balloon-framed buildings with legos and blocks!)

The two older kids both use their own books for Math and LA. They share set of books for Science and History. Last year, my youngest (PreK at the time) just followed along or went off to play. She did use the ‘Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills’ by Thinking Kids (I got them as Sam’s Club) and finished the Pre-K book. Then we worked through the Kindergarten book which mostly focuses on letters (writing and sounds), math & reading readiness, color/shape/sizes and other concepts, etc. We use the ‘Leveled Readers’ from the Library. I discovered these were the same ones used in the Kindergarten classrooms! It went pretty well and I reminded myself that Pre-K is as much about play as it is about learning. So… she got a lot more break time than the older ones. 

Kindergarten: However, this year my youngest is officially starting Kindergarten. I wasn’t too excited about following along with the same curriculum as the older kids since Kindergarten learning is so different from older grade school learning. I decided to try my hand at the Kindergarten abeka curriculum. I used abeka when I attended private school 1st-4th grade. I remember really loving it, especially the emphasis on phonics. I wanted to give it a go this year and so far, it’s going well… but it’s only been one week. So, we’ll just keep on trying it out and remaining flexible as needed.

There are so many good computer programs to use too (and can be an incentive if the kids need it). We’ve used Khan Academy to supplement math and we are also using it for Coding. There’s a plethora of other subjects on there too. The kids are trying out DuoLingo for foreign language, and I’m learning along with them! It’s been going well so far. We signed up for Typing Club also so that the kids can learn their way around a computer keyboard. It starts off so simply that even my kindergartener can do it. Amazing! For piano, I use the Piano Adventures Series. It’s super simple and there’s even tons of videos on YouTube that can be used to aid in the learning. 

We do ‘PE’ and ‘Field Trips’ and other sorts of things just about any time I can think of calling out the learning. It’s great to see how much of what we already do is actually very educational or active. We use GoNoodle when the kids need some indoor PE time and we go on walks/bike rides when it’s nice outside. We haven’t shied away from being with family and close friends so the kids have often been with other children of varying ages and getting plenty of ‘socialization.’ 🙂 

Bible: Last year, we used the Mr. Phil Show and What’s in the Bible episodes for some Bible teaching and I read to them from the Bible and prayed with them. Sometimes we did worship songs together and other times we just turned on a ‘Books of the Bible’ YouTube song or something like that and all have a lot of fun learning together. This year we are working through two 100-day devotionals about science and God by Louie Giglio. So far so good!

The great thing about homeschooling in Illinois is that it’s one of the most ‘free’ places to do it! There are so few regulations that it really can be up to the parent to choose what works best and assess their kids on their own. So far, I’m loving it. I am excited to homeschool again this year and I hope it’ll be even better than last year! Please feel free to ask me any type of question about my experience with home school and I’ll be sure and get back to you.

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