“Homeschool” wasn’t a term used a lot growing up in a small town in the 90’s. Come to think of it “private school” wasn’t talked about that much either. We had one school and EVERYONE went to it.
So for the most part “homeschool” was a foreign concept to me and many of the people I grew up with. Why would you want to stay home all day and not be around your friends? Wouldn’t you miss out on sports, dances, and other important “right of passage” social customs? How could you learn to develop relationships unless you were in school? Isn’t homeschooling just for those geeks that want to win the national spelling bee or go to college by age eight? These were my honest to goodness pre-conceived notions about homeschool.
So how in the world did we end up deciding to homeschool our girls?
It didn’t just happen over night. In fact, I think I would describe it as a desire that evolved over time. Quite simply, it was God working in my heart.
When Noah was born homeschooling wasn’t even on the radar. We were living in Birmingham at the time and were located in a great school district. People moved to Cahaba Heights just to get into the Vestavia school system. Why not take advantage of the excellent schools that our own tax dollars were helping to fund?
By the time Noah was two we started a mini preschool curriculum at home. I did this because she wasn’t enrolled in a daycare or Mother’s Day Out program but I wanted her to be on the same level as the other kids when she got to kindergarten.
We didn’t have a strict schedule or anything but she was learning and I was enjoying watching those “light bulb” moments. I still remember the time she grasped the concept of sorting by getting to sort an entire bowl of Fruit Loops by color. That moment alone may have been the turning point for me.
During this time God was working in my heart. He introduced me to other moms that homeschooled, I found out about support systems for homeschool moms, and most importantly I saw that kids really do turn out “normal” if they are schooled at home!
I began to realize that I wanted more than five years with my girls. Not in a selfish way but I felt that as parents we get around 18 years with our children… which isn’t very long in the grand scheme of their life, but during this time they are shaped, molded, and taught how to live the rest of their life. I want my girls to be prepared for life. Prepared in the sense that their decisions are biblically based. Simply put, Michael Luke and I want to be the main influence in their lives and not some BFF that is being raised by worldly values or some public school agenda that teaches evolution is the only way to explain science.
One of my favorite things about homeschool is how different it can look and be. With homeschool school is not bound to a desk and a certain time schedule. School is not bound to a certain subject or curriculum.
While only eight months separate them, Noah and Esther are supposed to be in different years of school. Technically Noah should still be in 4-k but it’s just easier for me to school them together for now. They each have their own strengths and in time I plan to let them set their own pace. This means one doesn’t have to sit around bored covering and recovering a skill they have already grasped. I can remember feeling this way certain times during my schooling. Of course there were those other areas (match and science) where I needed extra time and review. Homeschool allows for this. Like I said earlier right now I am schooling both girls together for my own sanity. Once we bring Judah home and he gets a little older he will throw his own kink into our school schedule.
So what does school look like for us?
Let me start by saying that what school looks like for us is not what homeschoool has to look like. Homeschooling gives you the freedom to find what works for you and your children. Some days are completely random and school happens in a coffee shop or camping.
But most of the time for us school starts at breakfast. The girls are allowed to sleep as late as they want each morning. For Noah that usually means 6:30 (she’s my early bird and night owl). She comes in the den and plays while I finish up my quiet time with God. Esther (she’s my sleeping beauty) sleeps until somewhere between 7:00 and 8:30 most days. Once she wakes up I start on breakfast. Usually we have homemade biscuits and fried eggs (with coffee for me).
While they are eating, I normally pull out a calendar and we go over what day it is, the days of the week, and the months of the year. The girls love counting down the days until Michael Luke is off work again.
Next, we start our math lesson. Usually they are still eating. Most of our school time happens around, under, and hopefully not on top of the dining room table. Noah is such a mover that there really is no telling what position she will choose to complete her school work in.
After math we move on to reading/phonics. This usually includes a work sheet, singing, and sometimes a game. After, that it’s free time… meaning the girls go play while I shower or do a little housework. Normally, we finish math and reading within one to one and half hours.
i like to save our history and language arts for after lunch and right before quiet time each day. Esther may be five but she still naps around one to two hours each day and I’m not about to mess with that!
Finally, we have our Bible time and any left over history or language arts before bed. This way ML gets to join us.
So for us school time is spread throughout the day but it works for us because it happens in smaller segments.
So what curriculum do we use?
Last year I was just trying to grasp how this whole homeschool thing worked so I chose to use Horizons 4-k curriculum. I liked it because it included match, science, history, art, singing, games, language, and writing. The entire year focused on the seven days of creation and had lots of great memory verses for the girls. One of the pluses for me was that the teacher’s manual included a script for each day so I knew exactly what to say.
One thing I quickly learned from other homeschool moms is not to feel like you have to do everything. This was helpful because the Horizon’s 4-k curriculum was written so that it could be used in a preschool setting. So if you did everything they suggested each day it would take around three hours. The girls nor I was cut out for that. I picked and chose each day what we would do. Normally it ended up taking us around an hour or an hour and a half.
Horizons is a great program and is a little advanced in math. The girls didn’t have trouble with it last year though so we stuck with Horizons for math again this year.
It is a fast paced program but Horizon’s is a spiral based learning program so they have plenty of opportunity to review new concepts.
Noah started reading near the end of 4k. Esther was still having trouble with phonics. Her memory is amazing though so I’ve been told she will pick up sight words easily. I wanted her to build confidence in her ability to read and understand phonics so we chose a slower paced reading program that was recommended to me by a friend, Sing, Spell, Read, and Write.
Much of the learning is done through singing and games… which is right up Esther’s alley. Both the girls are loving it and feel confident in the areas we have already covered this year.
We don’t have a formal science curriculum this year. Children learn so much just by exploring the environment around them that I decided to let them keep exploring and pick science back up next year for first grade.
History, Bible and Literature are my favorites. It saddens me to think that I almost didn’t include this in our kindergarten curriculum. For these subjects we are using Sonlight Core A.
I would recommend this to parents that don’t homeschool. Everything is learned by listening to an adult read to you from various books. Several of them are some of the Usborne books that are all the craze right now. The instructor’s guide includes question to ask as you read. Of everything we do in school this is what my girls beg for more of each day. They (and I) love the exciting stories and interesting facts that we get to read about. At first I was turned off to Sonlight because of the price tag but then I realized this is a one time purchase. There are no workbooks I have to buy for each kid… only books that we can read over and over again no matter how many children we choose to homechool. So in the long run it could really save some money.
There are so many options for homeschool curriculum that at first it can seem over whelming. If you are wanting to get started homeschooling I suggest doing a little research on what’s out there, discover how your child learns best, and talk to other homeschool families.
It really is fun to homeschool my girls. People ask us if we are gong to keep doing it and I reply, “we are taking it one year at a time”. Right now our answer is yes. Once again we find ourselves in the most amazing school district around. A district that people are paying big bucks to move into… and we are homeschooling! Just the other day as I was taking the girls to Mother’s Day Out (that’s a post for another day) Esther was telling me how glad she was that she only had to go to a school building one day a week. I’m not saying its for everyone and I promise I’m not going to judge you if your kids “go to school”. This is just what works for us… right now.
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