Last week (March 12th, 2014), we withdrew one of our 4 children mid-year from his first grade class at a local charter school. There was a discipline difference between us and the teacher and our son was getting “sick” every day before school because when he went, he was made to feel like he was a “bad boy” (his words). I am not saying he is perfect, but he is always conscious of having good behavior at home and when I helped in his school class, he was always very calm, helpful, and followed directions much more than some of the other kids who weren’t getting in trouble. As parents, we tend to lean toward positive reinforcement instead of negative consequences. It has been easy for us to do this because this method seems to “get though” to our kids. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the same style he had at school and it was affecting him very much. After much thought and prayer, we decided to withdraw him from school and do homeschool.
At first, I was terrified and had so many questions: How would I have the time, my life is so overextended as it is? Would I be able to give him a good education at home? What curriculum would I use? How do I start?
But now, I see the wisdom in this decision. My child is able to work at his own pace, on his own level, and we have much more quality time together. It is more work for me (maybe total of 1-2 hours per day), but it’s fun time that we spend together and it has brought us closer.
Here’s a list of helpful things I have found so far. I am just starting and am by no means an expert, but I hope these things are helpful to someone out there! We are LDS (Mormon), so there are some LDS curriculums and resources in this list. Personally, I have shied away from Christian curriculums because I feel it’s a little too one-sided. The nice thing about homeschool is if one thing is not right for you, you have the power to change it or to choose something else!
*UPDATE: Our first week of homeschool went to well and was so easy! I wish I had considered it earlier in the year. Our son is able to do all of his school work by lunchtime and works independently most of the day!
PARENT-MADE CURRICULUM: There are 2 types of curriculum: make your own, or buy one that is already made. The very first step should be to read this foundational book, “The Well Trained Mind”. It is the Bible for homeschool families! If you want to make your own currculum or get great ideas, this book will help you immensely.
Because we took our son out from school mid-year, we couldn’t get into the program we wanted, so I made my own and next year I plan to use a pre-made curriculum. I initially used the Sylvan Workbooks as assignments for my son for school. I did not like them at all. I felt like the math and language arts were confusing and didn’t use examples of things little kids would know about. I then switched to DK Publishing’s books. They are cheaper and I like them MUCH better. They are much higher quality and have better questions and math problems. If you want to make your own curriculum, I would suggest the workbooks from DK. You can also find free printable worksheets online if needed. However, I find worksheets from books generally offer a more consistent approach.
If you are dedicated to making your own curriculum work, this free site will help you immensely. By the way, I am not saying one way or the other is better, there are pros and cons to each (making your own and using a pre-made curriculum)
Children learn so much by watching you. I let my son tag along with all of the things I do and I teach him about everything possible. We have time to do a learning field trip once a week, read together every day, play games, and go to the library once a week. At this point, my other kids are BEGGING me to take them our of school too because they see how much fun he is having while learning.
ALREADY-MADE CURRICULUM: Here are a few already-made curriculums that I felt were fantastic. We seriously considered all of these, but made the decision to go with Harmony Education (only for Utah and Idaho) for the 2015-2016 school year.
- Great Books Academy – Free Guide – Uses great literature as the foundation to your child’s education. They will read a grade-level book, write a paper (or sentences if they are younger) about what they read, learn history and geography from the parent while they are reading the book, etc. They also have suggestions for other subjects here. This should cover all aspects of learning for them and makes learning cohesive, fun, at at their own pace. We very much considered this curriculum, but felt like we needed something where our kids could work a little more independently. It appears there is no cost for Great Books Academy unless you are wanting college credit.
- The Family Schoolhouse – Price $500 – We are Mormon (LDS), and seriously considered this program. The concept is like a one-room-schoolhouse and is designed to teach all of your children the same thing (from the text book provided) and then have the children work independently on their own level. I love the concept of it, but our kids are pretty far apart in age that it didn’t really make perfect sense for us. One in Junior High, 2 in Elementary School 3 grades apart, and then a baby. I felt like the gap was too large for it to work really well. The nice thing is, you can use these curriculum over and over because your kids will grow up and be able to do the harder assignments the next time they get to it. They put out a new set of curriculum about every year as well. As with Great Books, I also felt like I could adapt learning to their different ages on my own if needed.
- Harmony Education – Free – Harmony Ed is only in Utah and Idaho. It offers so many choices and flexibility and can help you work with your child at his/her own pace and let’s you choose which curriculum you would prefer for each child (they provide the curriculum free of charge). This is the program we chose to go with. They also are affiliated with a local charter school and children can go meet up with other kids at their own age for science or other fun classes. This helps a lot with socialization. They also provide each family with $300 to buy educational supplies as well as reimbursement for local music and foreign language lessons.
- K-12 – Free (Funded by the school district) – This program is for you if you want EXACTLY the same work as your child would have in public school, but you want him/her to do it at home under your supervision. This is an online school run by the school district. The more I looked into it, the more I knew I would be frustrated with this program because your child is expected to attend 180 days of the year. If they are on a learning vacation, they still need to make up missed homework. And, it is very rigorous and you will need to be a big part of your child’s day to stay on top of all of the assignments. It takes a lot of flexibility out of home school, but many people need that structure. I have a friend who loves K-12, but I have heard a lot of complaints as well.
I am out of time to work today, but I will continue this post next week here.