preschool

Best of HSL: Our Favorite Advice for Homeschooling the Early Grades

Best of HSL: Our Favorite Advice for Homeschooling the Early Grades

From kindergarten through 5th grade, your goal is to instill basic skills and cultivate a love of learning.

A schedule is great, but don’t tie yourself down. Some of the best homeschool adventures happen spontaneously.

Play outside. A lot.

Read books. Kids can learn math, history, science, philosophy, grammar, and everything else from stories — and some of those lessons go down a lot easier than they would with workbooks and bubble tests.

Keep a homeschool joy journal. The time flies by, and your memories of hatching butterflies and visiting Cherokee pow-wows will start to fade.

Let your child take some tests. Don’t make them a big deal. Don’t even grade them if you don’t want to. But give him the experience of sitting down to communicate his knowledge

It’s okay to stop doing it if it’s not fun. You can always come back to it later.

Find a library system that works for you fast, or you’re going to be paying a lot of fines down the road.

Don’t spend a lot of money on curriculum items for the future. You will change your mind at least a dozen times about what you want to do before then.

Take every field trip you can. Making time for field trips gets harder as kids get older.

Forget grade level. It’s okay if your 2nd-grader isn’t ready to read or if your kindergartner is reading 4th-grade books. Don’t pin yourself down with a preconceived list of things your child needs to learn at a certain time.

Make me-time. It’s essential to your wellbeing. 

You will screw up sometimes. It’s okay. Be nice to yourself about it.

Play audiobooks in the car. 

Pay attention to what your child enjoys. There’s a good chance that the activities she engages in with the most enthusiasm are indicators of her natural learning style.

You will sometimes waver between feeling like you are doing way too much and like you are not doing enough. You are probably doing just the right amount.

Buy more pencils than you think you need.

Don’t be afraid of screen time. Documentaries, interactive games, and even Phineas and Ferb can be learning opportunities.

Once in a while, take a day off for no reason.

Buy more bookcases.

Accept that you will sometimes succumb to the midwinter blues, when everything about homeschooling makes you feel tired, depressed, and unsuccessful. Promise yourself to take time off and not make any big decisions till the daffodils bloom.

Incorporate housework into your daily routine. Your kids can help. Your kids should help.

Resist the urge to move on to the next thing if your child is in love with a particular subject or activity. You don’t need to rush.

Some day, you may have to push through difficult subjects until both you and your child are reduced to tears. That day is not today. There is no need to force a piece of learning at this stage.

Write down your child’s stories and poems. You will forget them, even though it seems impossible that you could ever forget a poem about a renegade cat with a band of angry inkblots.

Some days, your children will be annoying. Some days, you might not like them much. That’s okay. Tomorrow will probably be better.

Remind yourself that homeschooling is a lifestyle, not just an educational plan.

Your child will amaze you. Pack tissues. 􏰅    

 

This list is adapted from a feature in the summer 2015 issue of HSL.


Homeschooling in the News: Your Weekly Update

Our weekly roundup of homeschool news you need to know

We thought it be interesting to include a weekly roundup of homeschool-related news stories here on the blog. (If you like this and would like it to be a regular blog feature, let us know! We’ll use your feedback to decide whether this is something we should keep doing. :))

1. Homeschoolers continue to outperform their traditionally schooled peers on the SAT, researchers found after analyzing 2014 test scores. “These are notably large differences,” wrote the researchers. Homeschoolers whose tests were considered in the analysis also had significant demographic differences from schooled participants, notably race (most homeschoolers—more than 70 percent—were white) and parental education level, which tended to be higher in homeschool families.

2. Preschool is the new kindergarten, but do kids really benefit from such early academic readiness? Probably not, discovered a senior fellow in economics studies at the Brookings Institution, who found that preschool attendance had almost no impact on future test scores. (This article also suggests that Sesame Street can work much like a preschool equivalent of Khan Academy.)

3. Though the Department of Defense doesn’t keep track of homeschool statistics, homeschooling seems to be on the rise in military families, where frequent moves and deployments make homeschool’s flexibility a bonus. “We we just kept homeschooling through all of this because it gave us the flexibility we needed,” said Rebecca Owens.

4. It’s too early yet to tell how California’s new, stricter vaccination laws will affect the state’s homeschool numbers, but at least some families are opting to homeschool rather than opt in to the now-required vaccinations for public school.

5. And finally, if you’re planning a trip to Colonial Williamsburg this year, you can enjoy significant savings during the site’s homeschool days from Sept. 10 to Sept. 25. In addition to reduced ticket prices ($8 per student instead of the usual $20), homeschoolers can participate in hands-on activities and interactive experiences.


Curriculum Review: Life of Fred Introduces a Language Arts Curriculum For Your Youngest Learners

Nice, thorough review of the Life of Fred Eden series: Good for early readers who like fun, silly material

Whether or not you are familiar with the wonderful, wacky world of young Fred Gauss, made famous in the unique Life of Fred series, I’m beyond excited to share with you details of Schmidt’s newest work, Life of Fred Eden Series for Beginning Readers. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading other Life of Fred books, please be sure to check out my review of Stanley Schmidt’s curriculum in the summer issue of home/school/life magazine.

The Eden series is an eighteen-book collection of reading primers, which takes you through one continuous story. This review looks at the first six books in the series (with a guarantee I’ll be purchasing the rest of the books this afternoon!).

When your littlest learners get their hands on these primers, you’ll likely be delighted by their enthusiasm as well as their immediate desire to connect with these offbeat stories. At last, just like their older brothers and sisters, beginning readers can finally enjoy Fred’s offbeat world first hand.

The 32-page books do not teach phonics or specific concepts. Instead, this fun-filled romp takes readers on an absurd trip with Fred and his doll Kingie to Fall River Lake, where the two intend to enjoy some R-and-R. If you are familiar with Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie books, you’ll be struck by the similarity of tone and style of the two series. Simple text scattered on uncluttered pages is mixed with illustrations that provide meaningful context clues to help readers puzzle out new words. Both sight and phonemic words are repeated throughout the texts. The stories are engaging and full of quirky fun.

I tested this series out with my 4-year-old. When his 6- and 9-year-old brothers (both die-hard Fred fans) joined us on the couch to read along, my youngest guy beamed with pride to find the “big boys” sitting in on his learning time with Fred. The text is easy enough to keep early readers challenged, but will generally not be frustrating. The stories are colorful and will entertain older children (and their parents) as well. This versatile series is appropriate both for early readers and older struggling readers. Another nice feature of the Eden series is that in between the laughs, Schmidt succeeds in unobtrusively including lessons about time, counting, nature, and basic shapes, among other things. An emerging trend of intelligent, effective readers is a genre I’m eager to see expanded.

These volumes manage the same high quality and affordability as the rest of the Life of Fred series and retail at about $6 per book.


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.