At Home with the Editors

Amy’s Homeschool Budget: August and September

Really useful actual dollars and cents breakdown of one homeschooler's budget for classes, curriculum, supplies, etc. #homeschool

My ankle tragedy may have made me slack about posting my August budget, but it certainly didn’t make me slack about stocking up on school stuff. I’m lumping my August and September purchases together in this post so that I can catch up. You'll notice that paper is something I splurge a bit on—it's one of my little homeschool luxuries, and I like having the good stuff to work with. Usually I would have spent a much bigger chunk of my budget at this point, but we decided to forego official classes this fall (see below).  

  • 12 Miller’s Notesketch books, which we go through like candy. I love that half the page is lined and the other page is blank—perfect doodling while writing or taking notes.
    12 @ $3.99 each = $47.88
  • 2 Bare Book bundles, which are beloved by my children. (Two of them are already in progress—a book containing the perfect Pokemon team and a story about a bird who is afraid of heights.) The packs come with three big and three small blank books, which seems to be a good variety for us.
    2 @ $19.99 each = $39.98
  • 5 Create-a-Cover Sketchbooks—I really love the paper quality of these and have been known to steal one from the shelf for my own personal use. We use them for art—the pages are sturdy enough for light watercolors and acrylic painting or for collage or just for drawing.
    5 @ $3.99 each = $19.95
  • 12 Palomino Blackwing Pencils, as part of our continuing quest to find the perfect pencils. (These were pricey, but so far, they are definitely the best in terms of holding their points, especially for writers who tend to break into artwork mid-paragraph.)
    $23 for 12 = $23
  • 3 packs of Oxford multi-color index cards for Latin vocabulary cards. We use different colors for the different parts of speech, which is handy when we want to do a quick declension drill.
    3 100-card packs @ $5.49 each = $16.47
  • Annual membership to our homeschool group. (The price increase for classes this year meant that we couldn’t afford to sign up for classes, so my daughter opted to sit in on my publishing class and my son is “auditing” Philosophy for Kids, which is conveniently taught by my best friend. It’s possible that we could have figured something out cash-wise, but with my unexpected broken ankles, we decided to just sit this term out. We’ll sign up for “real” classes during the January term.)
    $35
  • Independent reading books from our library’s book sale—I picked up 30 new-to-us books (including three Edward Eagers, David Macaulay's Castle, and Five Little Peppers and How They Grew) for super-cheap.
    $50

Total spent inAugust/September: $232.28
Total spent this year to date: $391.28
Total budget for the 15-16 school year remaining: $3,409

Total budget for the 15-16 school year: $3,800
(You can read more about our budget breakdown here.)


At Home With the Editors: Amy’s Homeschool Budget

A dollars-and-cents breakdown of one family's homeschool budget. #homeschool

When we started homeschooling, I had no idea how much money it would cost and the uncertainty was kind of terrifying. Jason and I both operate our own businesses, which is awesome when it comes to structuring our days but less awesome when it comes to knowing exactly how much money we will have coming in every month. And, of course, you can spend an infinite amount of money on homeschool materials if you don’t check yourself — there is so much fun stuff out there! I think I’ve landed on a budget that works for our family, and I thought I’d share our homeschool spending here over the next year, both as a concrete example of the kind of expenses you may run into as a new homeschooler and as an accountability tool for myself. Plus, I’m nosy about what other people buy for their homeschool, and you may be, too! My homeschool budget runs from June to June. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • $500 for curriculum per kid = $1,000 per year (This includes class materials, like lab kits or workbooks. I say $500 per kid, but this year it’s probably going to be more of a $350/$650 split since I already have some of the materials for my 2nd grader and 8th grade stuff can be more expensive.)
  • $500 per semester for outside classes = $1,000 per year (This works out to about one class per kid at our homeschool group.)
  • $500 per year for museum memberships and activities = $500/year
  • $100 per month for books, school/art supplies, etc. = $1,200 per year
  • $100 per year for starter school supplies (new notebooks, pencils, art supplies, etc.) = $100/year

Total Homeschool Budget for the 15-16 year= $3,800

I spend the bulk of our budget in the summer, as I’m gearing up for the year ahead and signing up for fall classes. Then there’s another expensive little burst in January, when our homeschool group’s spring semester starts. I roll over any unspent money into the following month’s budget, so if I have an itch for something pricier I can “save up” budget dollars for it.

Some people spend more than this and buy all the nifty things that make me jealous. Some people spend less and still seem to have plenty of good resources. This is just how much our family has budgeted for homeschool expenses. As I like to remind my husband, it’s WAY less than a good private school.


At Home with the Editors: Amy’s Homeschool (7th grade)

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 7th Grade Homeschool

Shelli and I both passionately believe that our magazine should be inclusive of lots of different homeschool motivations and methods. 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!

Because there’s a pretty significant age gap between my kids (six years), I decided to do two separate posts to make things easy for myself. Today, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my 7th grader. (You can see what 1st grade looked like for us here.)

Seventh grade is very different from 1st grade. In some ways, it’s easier — after years of learning together, I know my daughter’s strengths well. I know how she learns best. I know what’s likely to frustrate her. In some ways, though, it’s harder. This is new territory for us. I’ve never homeschooled a college-bound (at least that’s her plan right now) teenager, and I spent a lot of last summer worried that I was going to mess up something important. Honestly, I still worry about that. But ultimately, this is my daughter’s education, not mine, and letting my worries get in the way of her learning — well, that’s pretty silly. So we’re sticking with what works.

And what works for us is a pretty collaborative process. Every summer, my daughter and I have a little “planning retreat.” (Ice cream and My Little Pony movies are usually involved.) We talk about what she’d like to focus on in the coming year — usually her list is way too long, and we have to pare it down. I also bring a couple of lists — usually one of books I’d like her to take a look at and one of those “What your X-grader should know” lists so that she can see what other kids at her grade level are working on. (Next year, I’ll add a list of college entrance requirements because we’ll be doing short- and long-term planning for high school.) Together, we come up with a plan for the coming year. Here’s what we ended up doing for 7th grade:

Latin

My daughter started Latin in 3rd grade, and at this point, we have a good rhythm down. We use Ecce Romani as our Latin textbook. It’s unorthodox, but we’ve been using the first two books since 3rd grade — every year, we just start over at the beginning and work our way through again, getting a little further each time. We’ve gotten to the point where we just breeze through the first book, but I feel like it ends up being a good review and a confidence-booster. Ecce Romani has you working on translations from the very first chapter, which I know goes against the methodology of some Latin purists. For us, it works. We start each chapter by making cards for all the new vocabulary words and doing an oral translation of the new passage. The next day, we do a review of all the vocabulary cards in our stack, and my daughter copies out the Latin passage in her notebook, leaving space under each line for the translation, which she does the following day. We spend the rest of the week (and the following week, if we need it) doing the exercises in the book for that particular passage, and finish up with another oral reading and translation of the passage.

 

Literature/Grammar

We don’t do grammar as a separate subject anymore because, honestly, I think studying Latin is one of the best ways to learn English grammar.

This year, my daughter wanted to focus on poetry for literature. She’s been writing a lot of poetry and was curious about what made something a great poem rather than just a good poem. I rooted out my old high school copy of Perrine’s Sound and Sense, which I remembered helping make that difference click for me, and we’ve been working through it together. I think the book might be just a little advanced for her, so we’re just taking our time with it, and if something feels frustrating or too difficult, we’re comfortable just moving on to the next topic. She keeps a notebook where she copies down poetry she particularly likes and occasionally answers some of the questions in Perrine. (I don’t assign her questions to answer or anything — she just sometimes likes to answer them in writing.)

She’s an avid reader, and at this point, I let her read what she likes and don’t worry about it. (If we were doing more traditional literature this year, I’d probably assign her a few specific books to read. I let her assign me books, too.) In the past I’ve done things like reading bingo cards or scavenger hunts with book recommendations, but she doesn’t really need me pushing reading these days. I do still keep a notebook for her with a running reading list, and she’ll jot down titles and authors in it as she finishes them.

I also cruelly force my children to memorize and recite poetry every week or so, so my daughter has been choosing a lot of pieces from Perrine and from The Rattle Bag (edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes and probably my all-time favorite poetry anthology) for her recitations this year.

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 1st grade

History

My daughter’s want-to-study list started with the history of fashion this year, so we kind of cobbled together some resources for that, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 100 Dresses (a gorgeous compilation), What People Wore When (a bit dry but informative), lots of Dover fashion coloring books, and some intrepid Google-fu. We’ve had some great conversations about how fashion may have shaped women’s roles at different points in time. She keeps a notebook, where she sketches dresses and makes notes about the time period or construction details. If she’s inspired, my daughter sometimes tries to make a historically accurate-ish dress for her American Girl doll. She’s a decent sewist, but we often work off an existing pattern. Probably our most fun project this year thus far was making gigantic hoop skirts.

This is the last year my kids will be doing the four-year history cycle together. (Next year, my daughter and I will do state history, then start back over with the ancient world for 9th grade.) So we’re all studying medieval/Renaissance history this year. My daughter still likes to sit in on Story of the World readalouds with her little brother. I’m always impressed by how much she remembers! We use Medieval Europe: A Short Sourcebook by C. Warren Hollister as a spine of sorts. I like this book because it includes primary sources but makes them easier to swallow with detailed introductions that give lots of context. (We’ll do medieval history again in high school, and we may well use this book for that, too.) We’ve done history different ways — this year, we take turns “leading the discussion.” One week, I’ll read ahead and do a mini-lecture before we dive into conversation; the next week, she’ll do the reading and the mini-lecture. She keeps a notebook where she takes notes, jots down questions and rabbit trails she wants to come back to, and copies maps. (She loves drawing maps. This is not something she inherited from me.)

 

Math

I did something a little controversial with math and let my daughter take two years off from studying it. I know! But she just hated it so much — it stressed her out way more than any kid should have to be stressed out. So I told her we didn’t have to do any more math until she wanted to. She didn’t live in a math vacuum — she still halved recipes and figured out if she had enough money for new headphones and a Totoro plushie — but we didn’t do any structured math. This year, she said she wanted to try math again, so we eased in with Life of Fred Fractions, and it’s going great. She’s had no problem working on the assignments, and when she has run into problems she couldn’t easily solve, she’s been relaxed enough to try different approaches to solving them. I don’t know that I would say everyone should skip two years of math, but for us, it worked out better than I might have hoped. (I wondered, and you might, too, how skipping math would affect her test scores: It didn't. She scored well in math both of our math-free years. I'm not sure what that says about learning math, math standardized testing, or anything else, but I thought it was worth sharing!)

 

Science

We had a pretty intense chemistry class last year, so this year, we opted for fun science, and we’ve been making our way through Janice VanCleave’s Science Around the Year. My daughter is probably at the tippy-top of the age range I’d recommend this book for, but she’s really enjoyed it. It’s not the most challenging of our classes, but she’s getting good practice writing lab reports, and it’s a lot of fun. She also keeps a daily nature journal (she is our resident cloud-noticer!) and usually participates when we do activities from The Nature Connection workbook.

 

Etc.

My daughter does handwork pretty much every day — she’s a good knitter and enjoys sewing. She’s pretty self-directed with these things now, so I just let her take the reins. (She likes to watch Mythbusters while she’s working.) She likes to cook, and she’s trying to make all the recipes in Nigella’s How to Eat. She enjoys drawing — I’ve mentioned it before, but she has loved the Manga for Beginners series this year.

She also is part of a Destination Imagination team that meets every week (and which I love because all the other parents involved with the team are so fun to hang out with), and she takes a creative writing class at our homeschool group.

One thing that’s important to me is that my daughter not feel like learning happens in some kind of discrete compartment — I want her to feel like it’s just part of life, like making dinner or watching anime. I try to model this by making learning part of my own everyday life (maybe that’s easier when you edit a magazine that forces you to brush up on Napoleon or learn about the history of NASA), but I also try not to get too attached to getting things done at a certain pace (or even at all). I want my daughter to feel like her education is hers to direct, and I’m there to offer support, input, and direction when she needs it. We have monthly check-ins, where we sit down over tea to make sure things are going the way she wants them to and make any changes she thinks we need to make. (This year has gone pretty smoothly, which may be because we’ve started to figure out generally what works or which may just be because of luck.) One thing that’s been a big change this year is her schedule — my daughter has turned into a night owl, so she often doesn’t emerge from her bedroom until almost lunchtime. That’s fine with me, so we adjust accordingly. Like everyone, I worry “Am I doing too much? Am I doing enough?,” but my daughter genuinely likes learning, so I figure I’m at least doing something right.


At Home with the Editors: Shelli’s Project-based Homeschool

At Home with the Editors: How Project-Based Homeschooling Works for Shelli's Family

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 is my second post about our homeschool. In my first one, I listed all the curriculum and resources I use for the more formal part of my sons’ homeschool. Monday-Thursday we spend about two hours on our “lessons,” and on Fridays, we do an art lesson. But after our formal lessons, or on a day that I dedicate to it, I make myself available for what to me is the most important part of my son’s education – his own projects. These are projects that are completely initiated and controlled by him. I consider them important because it’s through these projects (or interests) that he is learning how to learn, how to do research, how to make decisions, what to spend his time on, learning what he’s really passionate about, and he is developing his imagination and problem-solving skills.

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So what is project-based homeschooling, and how do I do it? I wrote the definition that you will find in home/school/life magazine’s Toolkit, the magazine’s guide for beginning homeschoolers (we define eleven of the most popular methods of homeschooling), so I will include that here:

Project-Based homeschooling (PBH) is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, and the term was coined by Lori Pickert. It is a method in which parents become mentors to their children in order to help the child direct and manage his/her own learning. Children may undertake long-term projects and will be given the time and tools that allow them to dig deep into their interests. PBH can be used in conjunction with any curriculum or style of homeschooling, from classical to unschooling.

But it’s much more than that too, and it’s not easy to explain how I do PBH in a blog post, so instead I’ll give you a few snapshots of what my son has accomplished while I have used these techniques. Though, in many ways, I was already following his interests and creating an environment where questions, creating, and discovering were encouraged, I am thankful for the tips I’ve received by following PBH. I’m not sure I would have mentored him as well without them. So I’ll try to explain some of what I’ve learned during this process as well.

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When my eight-year-old was five, I learned to take one of his crazy ideas seriously. That is, an idea that didn’t seem educational at first and an idea that was going to be time-consuming, messy, and wasteful too. Instead of giving a quick, “that won’t work,” or “but you’ll need to do this to get to that work,” or “we don’t have time,” or “that would make too much of a mess,” I just let him do what he wanted and see for himself how it would turn out. This was his attempt to a make a Celery Lettuce Cake. (He learned for himself that it didn’t make a very palatable dish, but oh the fun he had! He took it so seriously, and I was happy with his effort.)

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When my son was interested in the Titanic, I began to understand how to let him lead a project and how letting him make mistakes was important to this process. It also taught me how a well-placed suggestion can be golden. This project even proved to me that enduring temper tantrums was worth it because in the end he had a product that was completely his own, and he was so proud of it! (Yes, I helped him make it, but he was the designer and director, telling me what to do. I only made suggestions when he was completely stumped and looked at me for help.)

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When my son wanted to make a model of the Apollo Saturn V, I learned more how to balance that “let him lead” with “help him when absolutely necessary.” But more importantly, I was able to see how important it is to show my son examples of other people working on projects, failing, and trying again. (This has helped those temper tantrums!) Watching the documentary When We Left Earth, which is about the NASA missions, was perfect for this.

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When my son was very interested in carnivorous plants, I had the opportunity to model to my son how we could seek out other experts to learn from. I also learned how some projects will peak but then stay in the background over years because my son is still interested in the plants, and he still grows them, although he doesn’t actively seek to learn more about them right now. But whenever we see them in a documentary or find a live one, we get very excited!

Some projects are short, others are long, and others meander like winding rivers, popping up here and there. I have learned to connect the dots in my son’s projects (journaling helps with this), and I’ve learned that his deep interests include nature, science, and building things….

Looking back, I also see how important it has been to create an environment where materials for creating and building were readily available to my son. It’s also been important for me to show him how to use these materials, say “yes” a lot, and not worry about the messes. We began making paper animals together when he was four, and slowly, I have seen that my son is a true builder and maker – someone who likes working with his hands.

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Because I’ve let him use a variety of mediums, I have been able to see what he has a true interest in because these are things he continues to go back to and ask for more. One of these has been working with clay—to the point where he has taken pottery classes at a nearby studio. And also building lots of structures with cardboard, including a model of the Mayflower, a big robot, and two Star Wars ships.

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Each of these building projects, such as that awesome Mayflower ship, could have been a different kind of project. We did learn about the Mayflower, read a book about it, but it wasn’t the history my son had a deep interest in. As he continued on to make airplanes, boats and other things, I see he’s a builder and a designer. Even his special interest in Star Wars, I think, is largely due to his deeper interest in the models created in making the special effects and the robots used in those movies.

So it was not surprising that as soon as he learned what robots are, he became interested in that, and now he has a robotics kit. He’s teaching himself computer programming too. (I haven’t written about that yet, but you can see the photo at the top.) I have also noticed how he has watched NOVA’s Making Things Wilder at least four times so far. It, coincidentally, combines all his deep interests. (It’s about bioengineering.) The first time he watched it, he leaned forward in his chair, and said loudly, “I want to do that!”

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My five-year-old also has interests, and I’ve been seeing him work through a few projects of his own, though they meander and they aren’t as likely to produce something solid I can show the world like his older brother’s creations. He has been interested in dinosaurs for a very long time, and we have read countless books, watched many documentaries, visited museums, and he plays with his toy dinosaurs frequently, making a sort of “dinosaur land.” (So don't worry if your child isn't into building, art, or tinkering. Projects are simply a long-term investigation into an interest, and what your child produces could take on many forms.)

I also do a lot of modeling for my younger son because it seems to be the best way to encourage him in his interests right now. For example, he loves to draw, so I started my own sketchbook habit, and whenever I pull out my sketchbook, I usually inspire him to do the same.

I have learned with both my boys that the best way to get them to do something is to just start doing it myself! Having my own interests, learning about things that I’ve always wanted to learn about, and casually sharing my own process of exploration with them, is one of the best ways to mentor without pushing an agenda on them. Even if they don't have the same interests, they are learning my behavior and investigation techniques.

I have also learned that it is okay to require certain work from them that I dictate (whether cleaning the house or doing a math lesson), but when it comes to their own projects, I should let them be in charge, and sometimes that means letting them quit before something is completed. I remind them of their work, encourage them, but if I ultimately want them to be in charge of their education, they have to take ownership. So I have learned to take away my own expectations of my children and let them blossom in their own time and through their own discoveries.

Are you interested in learning more about project-based homeschooling? I am always accessible to anyone who would like to discuss homeschooling or who has any questions. Just email me. If you want to talk on the phone, we can set up an appointment. (FYI: My advice is free! I love chatting!) Also, here are a few links for you:

  • You will want to read the book What Is Project-Based Homeschooling? by Lori Pickert, see her fabulous website, and join one of her forums. She is also very accessible through her social media, forums and even email, and she offers classes too.
  • I have written extensively about this journey with PBH on my blog, and I will continue to do so. See my page Project-based Homeschooling. There is also a very good interview with Lori on my site about beginning PBH with younger children. Click here for part 1 of that.

At Home with the Editors: Amy’s Homeschool (1st Grade)

At Home with the Editors: Amy's 1st Grade Homeschool

Shelli and I both passionately believe that our magazine should be inclusive of lots of different homeschool motivations and methods. 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!

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Because there’s a pretty significant age gap between my kids (six years), I decided to do two separate posts to make things easy for myself. Today, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my 1st grader.

The spine of our curriculum is Oak Meadow’s first grade program, which we use for language arts, social studies, art, and science. For these early grades, I really wanted something that would encourage him to try different things without worrying about whether there was a right answer. I like the way Oak Meadow emphasizes observation and imagination, and I love flipping back through his main lesson books (we have one for science and one for everything else) as the year progresses.

For history, we use Story of the World, which we do as a readaloud. While I read, he’ll draw a picture in his main lesson book related to the topic at hand — the Vikings and samurai were his favorites this year. We spend a little time discussing previous chapters at the beginning of every lesson, but I don’t expect him to remember everything. At this age, for me, it’s really about introducing him to important names and events. (My daughter often joins us for the readaloud — she still loves Story of the World.)

We use Miquon Math, which my son adores, for his math. We usually do a few pages in his book every day together, and he may keep going and do several more pages on his own. I let him set his own pace, though every once in a while, if I notice that he’s making a lot of simple mistakes, I encourage him to slow down. It took me a little while to get the hang of Miquon’s method — this is definitely a program where you will want to read the teacher’s manual in advance — but it’s proven to be a great fit for us. I wish the program continued through high school!

Oak Meadow’s science emphasizes nature study, but we also use The Nature Connection workbook and keep a daily nature journal. Usually, we stick to our backyard for journaling, but every once in a while, we’ll hike along the river or hit a nature center for a change of pace.

We started the year with BOB books, and now we’re powering through the Magic Treehouse series. My son was a pretty reluctant reader — maybe partly because he has a big sister who will pretty much always read him anything he wants — and it was really hard for me not to push him to read because books have always been such a big part of my own life. But I learned with his sister that pushing anything is the fastest way to make a kid avoid it, so I bit my tongue, and this year, he did start reading on his own. (I think it was mainly because he wanted to be able to play Pokemon without assistance, but I’ll take it!)

A lot of our literature comes from readalouds still, which we do a chapter or two at a time each day. We usually start the day cuddled up with a book. I keep a little notebook for each kid with a running list of what we read each year. This year, we’ve averaged about two and a half books a month, including Detectives in Togas, Henry Reed, Inc., The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Fablehaven, and The Island of the Aunts.

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 1st grade

We use Oak Meadow’s crafts book and art lessons. I am not a naturally artsy person, so having the projects be both open-ended and spelled-out for me is great. (I highly recommend Oak Meadow's art and craft materials for non-crafty parents.) My son has really enjoyed finger-knitting, sewing, soap-carving, and making pinch pots. We are always done with lessons by lunch, so we take a few hours in the early afternoon for project-making.

On Thursdays, he takes a Philosophy for Kids class at our homeschool group, where he works on logic puzzles and discusses things like “Should you get everything you want?” and “What assumptions do you have about candy?” He really enjoys the class — this is the second year he’s taken it.

We also memorize a poem every week (or two, if it’s a tricky or longish poem) for Friday recitations. My son has been using the 20th Century Children’s Poetry Anthology (edited by Jack Prelutsky) for most of his poems this year. I think memorizing and reciting poetry is a highly underrated activity, and I frequently annoy my children by loudly and dramatically reciting poems when we are stuck in traffic.

We’ve also been cooking and reading our way through Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts by Jane Yolen. Every chapter has a Jewish folktale and traditional recipe, so we get in a little culture and cooking practice.

Writing it all down, this seems like a lot, but we’re pretty relaxed about all of it. If my son complains that he doesn’t want to do anything school-y one day, I don’t push. He’s always free to take the day off to do something else, but he usually opts to do a little work every day. (In fact, on days when I am running late, he’ll often come into my office with a stack of books, asking me when I will be ready for school.) I don’t want him to feel like learning is something you only do when you’re “doing school.”


At Home with the Editors: Shelli's Homeschool

Inside Shelli's Homeschool: At Home with the Editors

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.

Now we use Brainquest’s Star Wars Workbooks because both my boys love Star Wars. He is currently using 2nd Grade Reading.

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.

Photo by Shelli Bond Pabis

Photo by Shelli Bond Pabis

Math

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.

 

Science

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.)

 

Social Studies

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.


We Meet At Last

The home | school | life team at the first National Alliance for Secular Homeschoolers conference

Believe it or not, Amy and I (Shelli) have been working together for over six months, corresponding on an almost-daily basis, but we had never met face-to-face! (We have talked on the phone a couple of times though!)

Well, that has changed. This past weekend I was able to meet Amy and her husband, Jason, at the National Alliance for Secular Homeschooler’s conference in Atlanta, Georgia. We were there to promote home / school / life magazine, and it was fun to watch people flip through the print copies of home / school / life and tell us what a beautiful resource it is – chock full of information for homeschoolers and other conscientious parents!

We were asked what set home / school / life apart from other homeschooling magazines, and Amy said something that I think is important to impart. Not only do we offer lots of useful lesson ideas, how-tos, encouragement, first person narratives and interviews with other homeschoolers, we offer real reporting on subjects that are important to homeschoolers, such as how to cope with loneliness, financial stress, or what steps one needs to take for a certain career path. We do a lot of research and interviews to write our features. In short, we offer real journalism. And it’s in a beautiful format to boot!

I love meeting new homeschoolers, but yesterday, I had even more fun meeting and chatting with Amy and Jason. They are incredibly sweet people, and it was a pleasure getting to know them a little better. I already know they are hard-working people, and it’s great to be part of this team.

We enjoyed talking about home / school / life and its future, and I thought I would share some of that with you.

  • First, we congratulated ourselves for putting together such a beautiful magazine with such a small staff! Amy does most of the writing and all the layout and other nitty-gritty details, and I do a lot of writing, proofreading and the social web stuff. We also have a few columnists whom we rely on, and their work makes the magazine sparkle. If you look at any other masthead on another magazine, you’ll see they have much bigger staffs! (So now you know why our Facebook and Twitter page is very quiet, especially while we’re in production. It’s hard to do it all!)
  • Jason is our advertising and promotion man, and he’s been working hard recently to get the word out about the magazine. For example, members of N.A.S.H. will be able to subscribe to home / school / life for a discounted price -- that should be available soon. We are reaching out to other associations and conferences as well. If you want to partner with home / school / life, Jason is your man.
  • Our fall issue is turning out to be another great issue. We’re going to tell you what the best cities are to homeschool in in the United States, how you can become a better photographer, and give you some important questions to ask yourself about your homeschool journey as well as lots of unit studies and inspiration to get you through your day.
  • We had a few print copies of the magazine, and oh my – they are beautiful! But we need a lot more subscribers before we can make them available to you. If it’s something you would like, please tell us. Of course, we don’t have to have a print magazine – being able to click on all those links in the digital issue is pretty cool too – but if the demand is there, we will make it an option!
  • Pretty soon we’ll be introducing you to some new staff writers! It’s very exciting to bring new people on board with their fresh ideas, but I’m going to save those details for the newsletter and future blog posts.
  • After the fall issue comes out, there are a lot of things Amy and I want to turn our attention to. One of those is revamping our website. Though we plan to keep it as simple and beautiful as possible, we want to be able to do more with it. For example:
  • We’re going to have a store! We will be selling home / school / life magazine issues and more….
  • And that’s the other exciting news: we’ll be working on some extra resources that we think you will find useful on your homeschool journey.

With such a small staff and budget, we can’t do everything as fast as we would like, but I am like that turtle in the story – going slow but sure can yield the best results! This is only the beginning of home / school / life. I know it will take time for us to make the website, store, hire more staff, and get more resources out to you, but it will happen. I hope you will join us for the journey.

We always welcome your ideas and comments. E-mail us.

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