Homeschooling can benefit the whole family and enrich every area of your life.
Perhaps the best way to explain this further is to describe some of the things we are doing now in our homeschool.
Just so you know - we have used different schedules, methods, and curricula over the years, adjusting for things like Ken’s work schedule, the kid’s need for more sleep, and sometimes just experimenting with a different method or trying a new program to see if it is a better fit. And I’ve watched us come back again and again to the same basic format.
This is called A Clue. If we listen to the clues life gives us, it makes things a lot easier.
We used to start our day with a big breakfast, but changing bodies have changing appetites. Kenny still likes his bacon and eggs or pancakes and sausage, but when Noah and Emma became teens, they also became nibblers in the morning, preferring a light snack or protein shake, and working their way up to a three course lunch.
There are always a few chores to do before school, and this changed as we moved from apartments and townhouses to a home with a large yard. The ways in which the kids are able to help changes as they mature and take on more responsibility. Every morning Kenny lets his bunny run around the house while he cleans her hutch. Emma takes care of the dishes. Noah works a part-time job, but still makes sure that the couch is in working order. Everyone does their own laundry.
After breakfast and morning chores, we usually have coffee or hot chocolate together and just chat for a little while, then I read aloud from a book we've chosen together. It's a very relaxing way to start a school day. By 9am though, we are ready to get to work.
We focus on core subjects first. Even though we are delight-directed, we use a more structured approach for core subjects of math, reading, and writing. They ain’t called “core subjects” for nothin’.
The kids currently use ALEKS for their math courses. I love math, but with ALEKS they can progress at their own pace, moving from course to course and level to level. It keeps track of everything for me, and the only fingers I have to lift are those needed to operate my keyboard so I can check their progress reports.
For grammar and composition, I currently use Easy Grammar in elementary, and prefer Jensen’s for high school. Partly because it’s what I know, and also because it is systematic and comprehensive. I feel that my kids are prepared for college and career with a solid foundation of language and writing skills. However, I add many, MANY supplements from the library, and we integrate creative writing and research papers into nearly every area of study.
Reading good books is a given, but audiobooks are a big favorite around here. It’s great to pop in a CD and listen while we clean the house or work in the garden.
We use the project or research method for just about everything in our homeschool, especially since we can blend subject areas together in a more natural way.
For example, we put together a unit study about how literary tropes shape our culture and our stories. We began with political novels like 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World, and Atlas Shrugged. From there we moved to the Mystery genre with the Detective novel and its familiar archetypes, like the Genius Detective (Sherlock Holmes), the Little Old Lady (Miss Marple), the Hard Boiled Detective (Sam Spade), and Amateur Sleuths from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Scooby Doo.
Up next are police procedurals, and then on to suspense and thrillers. We will also cover horror, fantasy, science fiction and other subgenres of speculative fiction, adventure, historical and regency, classic and literary fiction.
We research the authors, the time period and countries they lived in, and what inspired them to write these stories. We read an overview of the plot, and investigate the themes and symbols in the story, making note of famous quotes. Then we talk about how we see and hear those ideas reflected in modern culture, whether it is in the news, or in books, movies, or television shows. I used my own reading experience, as well as websites like tvtropes and SparkNotes to make the outline for the unit. Studies like this are one of the reasons I homeschool - I love to study literature and pop culture.
We are studying American History by researching US Presidents, Vice Presidents, and First Ladies. The kids write a report about each (that’s Composition, by the way) and present each paper when it’s finished (that’s Speech, by the way). There are many biographies and other history books on our shelves, and the internet provides great sources of historical material.
We used the same method for biology for awhile, researching and writing about each body system, how it interacts with the rest of the body, how to maintain a healthy digestive system or nervous system or respiratory system . . . and what illnesses are caused by a dysfunction of that system. We are wrapping up with a final that entails labeling several charts of body systems with their proper names, and describing in a few sentences the major functions of each.
In the afternoons, Noah and Emma do independent work in spelling, math, foreign language, music, voice, etc. . . They often have ‘homework’ if they are researching or revising a paper, or just want to get ahead. There are times when Noah will do 4 or 5 math lessons in a day, and then the next day focus on composition or music. Since it is his education, his time, and his goals, he is allowed to accomplish them in whatever way suits him. I find that this gives him the chance to figure out how he learns best since he isn’t trying to work around me and my expectations.
Emma is my Girly Girl, and started her own beauty channel on YouTube. She is learning how to use a DSLR camera, as well as Adobe Photoshop and Premiere to edit her photos and videos. She is active on social media, and we have many discussions about marketing, communication, and money management. For her this is a fun hobby, but she is learning valuable communication skills, as well as credits in Photography and Video Production.
Kenny and I work together in the afternoons on language arts and whatever else he is interested in learning. It’s so nice to still have a kid who wants to cuddle on the couch and read.
The Homeschool Reality is that sometimes we get derailed. When we are interrupted, it can be difficult to get back on track, whether it was someone at the door, or my mom forgot how to use the TV or microwave, or an emergency happened that has me coming and going for days. We’ve been homeschooling long enough to just get through it and then regroup when things calm down. It is during these times when the kids can exercise responsibility and empathy, when we can work as a team to keep the household running as smoothly as possible, and they get to flex their independence a bit more each time.
I know my homeschool day doesn’t sound like a traditional school day - or your homeschool day - and it isn’t supposed to. It is what works for us at the moment, and it may change again as time goes on. At this point all three of my children are focused on what they need to do to graduate and begin their careers, so in the very near future are apprenticeships, jobs, and college.
But that’s pretty much the whole point of this series. Homeschooling make our lives richer, but easier, because we can freely respond to real life as it happens.