When Amy approached me about working on home / school / life, we both agreed that we wanted a magazine and website that would welcome all homeschoolers no matter what their style or reasons for homeschooling. We continue to strive to bring you a variety of resources that will inspire you as you consider what is best for your family. Because we know most homeschoolers enjoy sharing the resources and insights they have learned through homeschooling, we thought we would start a series on our blog about our own homeschools. If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!
This year, I’m homeschooling my eight- and five-year-old sons….or, 2nd grader and pre-kindergartner. But those grade levels are mainly for the sake of family members and my planning purposes. I don’t worry too much about grade level because I want my boys to learn at their own pace. So, while they may be at grade level in most subjects, they may be above or lower in other subjects. None of it matters to me as long as I see that they are progressing, and more importantly, becoming life-long learners, which I know they are!
When I started homeschooling, I felt strongly about a few things. First, I wanted my boys to be able to move around, play, and use their imaginations frequently. I felt young children learned through play more than through sit-down lessons, but there were things I thought they should be exposed to, and I still feel that way. Back then (which wasn’t very long ago), my focus was to immerse them in literature and storytelling and explore the world together, especially the natural world. We still do that, but as my boys get older, we are adding more to their curriculum, and we are also following their interests.
I let my children’s interests, abilities, and learning styles guide me when I’m picking out resources to teach them with or finding extracurricular activities. When it comes to my own teaching goals, I let my sons’ abilities lead me on what to stick with and what to wait on. But I especially want my children to have significant input in their education. I explain to them why we have to learn some things, and then we discuss what they want to learn, and we put a lot of time into their ideas and projects. I use project-based learning techniques to help myself in this area, and I’ll write about that in another post.
Having said all that, what do I use for their formal lessons? Here’s a list of what I’m using for my eight-year-old right now and also a few resources we have used in the past and that I plan to try again with my five-year-old when he’s ready.
Reading & Language Arts
The closest thing to a curriculum I have used for my eldest son was Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but we’ve used various resources over the past few years. One of his favorites was Starfall.com, and my five-year-old has enjoyed that too.
I can’t begin to list the books we’ve read together, or write about all the storytelling, or the puppet shows we did when he was little. Let’s just say our homeschool is rich in language arts. (But you can read my article, What’s in a Story?, in the Spring 2014 issue of home / school / life to learn how to start a storytelling ritual in your homeschool.)
In order to teach writing, I’m using some methods that I learned about on Patricia Zaballos’s blog, and I’m happy that my son has recently started dictating a book to me.
My son loves the Life of Fred series. We are currently at Dogs, but we’re taking a break from it. I love Life of Fred too, but I find it lacking in teaching a strategy for adding and subtracting easily and helping him memorize the facts. Because of that, I have recently started both my boys on the Singapore Math curriculum, and I like it. Though it’s still too early to say if we’ll stick with Singapore, I think with both Singapore and Life of Fred, they’ll have a strong math foundation. I am taking my time with teaching math to both of them because I want to make sure they are solid on every concept before we move forward.
There has been no need to do any formal science lessons yet. Our daily lives are rich with science because it has been my son’s biggest interest. We have learned a tremendous amount together through various resources. Together as a family, we watch nature and science documentaries everyday – yes, everyday! We also attend the monthly homeschool science classes at our local nature center. My son has also attended programs and camps at the local botanical garden. (You can read my Hands On Science column in the magazine for more details about our science activities.)
I have not felt the need to do anything formal here either. Through the documentaries, conversations with his parents, visiting places of interest, and celebrating the major holidays, we’ve got this covered. It also doesn’t hurt that daddy is a history professor. I am planning, however, to use the Story of the World books at some point. My husband skimmed the first volume and gave it a thumbs up!
When do I teach?
I do formal lessons with my boys Monday thru Thursdays for no more than 1 to 2 hours each morning after breakfast. Fridays are art days. (I get most of my art lesson ideas from home / school / life’s art columnist, Amy Hood.) I spend the rest of the mornings, and sometimes the afternoons, helping my son on his own projects, or we might go visit our friends, go on a hike, or do any other number of things that although my boys don’t consider “school,” I do. Most of all, they have plenty of time to move, play, and use their imaginations, which is what I always wanted for them.
Questions? Ask away! And please feel free to share what has worked for your family too.
SHELLI BOND PABIS is home | school | life magazine’s senior editor. She writes about her family’s homeschooling journey at www.mamaofletters.com.