The other day I was thinking “If I could start over again and redo the homeschooling years, would I do anything differently?” Not that I messed it up (although we all have mistakes), it’s just that I hear from all these new homeschool moms how worried they are. They want to get a jump start and give their children the advantage. So what advice would I give them? What specific items or curriculum would I recommend they use?
First off, if you want to give your child an advantage then LET THEM BE CHILDREN! What I mean by that is that they are only young once; they have many years for formal education with textbooks, workbooks, assignments. There is no need to rush your 3 or 4 or 5 year old into seat work. Let them play, experience nature, learn life skills, bake cookies with you, go grocery shopping, run, jump, climb, use their imagination.
Next advice, do not try to force a child to learn to read. Just because Johnny can recite the alphabet does not mean he is ready to read. There needs to be a certain maturity and skills developed before the brain can actually decode the written language. Guess where they get those skills? From exercising, and playing, and developing their imaginations. Some are ready at age 4, some take until age 10. Don’t panic, try a phonics/reading program and if it’s too painful for the child then he/she is not ready. Wait 6 months and try again. Repeat this until the light bulb comes on and he/she can retain the information of the sounds from day to day and week to week.
As for items I would definitely have in my house for homeschooling right from the get-go – a globe (nothing fancy), and a BIG wipe off map of the world and one of the USA; tons of art supplies like cheap watercolors, paintbrushes, pencils, paper of all sorts, Elmer’s glue, glitter; a good kid-friendly dictionary and a thesaurus; and books – loads of books: story books, nature guides, art books, atlases. The bigger the library you have the more your kids will be invited to read.
Curriculum – this one gets sticky because people are offended if you dislike the brand they use, but honestly, please wait on the workbook/textbook style such as Abeka, Bob Jones, Christian Liberty Press, Alpha Omega, Lifepac… for one subject it’s alright, but for the entire package it is boring for the children AND for the parent. Also when you use these package deals you have separate books for each grade level, so if you have multiple children you are going to stretch yourself way too thin. By choosing a non-traditional style you can school several children with the same books!
Curriculum I would do over again because it was just that good???
Five in a Row (also Before Five in a Row, and After Five in a Row) – a fabulous beginning to homeschooling especially for 4 and 5 year olds. It covers familiar children’s books with fun ideas.
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy lessons – when my children were reading-ready they learned quite well from this book. Looking back, I would use a more in depth phonics program after they finish this book just to strengthen their skills.
Miquon Math – this program is great for K-2 and uses Cuisenaire rods as manipulatives. It is workbook form, but it really seems to the kids as if they are playing games all the while teaching them the “why” of math.
Considering God’s Creation by Eagle’s Wing – this was so easy, well arranged and so much fun for little ones grades 1-4. It can be adapted for a co-op very easily also.
American Girl (yes the doll people) History Curriculum – this is a fun way to learn American history for grades 2-4. The library carries all sorts of extra books to go along with it – crafts, cooking, fashion, maps, games. I’m wondering if the boy version, My Name is America, has a history program for their books?
Prairie Primer – based on Little House books, this was great for one year. Again, full of ideas so pick and choose which ones you like – don’t try to do them all!
For math I love two curriculums – Saxon and Teaching Textbooks. Saxon moves a little faster and is more advanced, so if your child struggles with math I would recommend Teaching Textbooks. While it is thorough it does not move as fast and just has a different format.
For writing – anything from Institute for Excellence in Writing. Fabulous program and well worth the money spent. Also if you become familiar with how it works and have the program you can make some extra money teaching classes for other homeschoolers.
My favorite curriculum by far has been Sonlight history and science programs for grades 1-8. It is well layed out without being overwhleming, comes in either 4 or 5 day plans, and is very easy to teach multiple children close in age from one core year. We love literature and it’s a great way to learn. I have not used the highschool levels.
Tapestry of Grace is in a class of it’s own – while it is very thorough especially if your child is college bound, it is time consuming for the parent (or at least for me). I am always revamping because I feel the standards are a bit high if your child is not REALLY advanced. Also I would not use it before middle school level. It’s not really kid friendly for youngsters. Great for a co-op though!!!
My final advice, and this is something everyone hears and never does… Take time for you… regularly! Have a date night with your hubby, go out for coffee with a friend, or just go sit in a park and enjoy the birds singing. As homeschoolers we get so wrapped up in homeschooling that we often forget that we need friends, down-time, quiet time, and bonding time with our husbands. Find someone to trade babysitting with once a month or once a week if possible. Beg grandma to watch the kids for an hour. Barter for babysitting – garden veggies, haircuts, baked goods, housekeeping.