Homeschool Basics – Making it Fun and Free

In a previous post, I went over different curriculums and homeschool basics that you will need to get started.  With this post I would like to share a few resources that have helped make our experience doing school at home fun and (mostly) free.

A few weeks ago I decided to take my first grader out of his charter school mid-year to do home school.  It was an agonizing decision, one met with lots of prayer and pondering.  His classroom environment at school was hostile and strict and he was feeling like he was a “bad boy” because his teacher was always telling him what he was doing wrong.  He was starting to have anxiety every day before school and feeling sick to his stomach just thinking about going.  Finally, I couldn’t watch the problem escalate and do nothing.  I talked to the principal, but nothing really improved.  A home school friend of mine encouraged me to take him out immediately.  I just needed a little push to get over the fear of starting.  Once I did, a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders and it was actually a very easy transition.

The staff at the school was sad to see our son leave.  I donated some supplies to them on his last day at school and I was talking to them about curriculums and they graciously offered to print up the rest of the year of Saxon math worksheets for our son for free!

Here’s what a typical day looks like at our house for our first grader (who is on a second grade level).  This is the order we do school in.  My son works independently on his workbooks and asks me if he has questions.  I encourage him to find out answers on his own and give him the resources to find the answers.

Homeschool Basics: All of these items can be purchased on Amazon and be at your door quickly.  You can have your kids starting home school this week!

        • Saxon Math (free for us – provided by the school).  FYI – your local school is REQUIRED to provide you with materials they have and you need for free because they get money for your child from the government even though he is not attending school.  Our son spends about 45 minutes on Math and does 4-8 worksheets every day.  If you can’t get your Saxon Math worksheets or books for free, consider buying them used on ebay or see if you can check them out from your local library.  Our library has a PERC where you can check out 6 educational games and materials for children (free).  They have a lot of math games and workbooks.  We could use those resources exclusively for math if we wanted to make it free.  Do a google search for printable math worksheets for second grade and you can find a lot of practice sheets that you can print for free.
        • Language Arts – I have tried a few different workbook series but I think the DK workbooks are the best in my opinion (Costco has some decent ones, and I did not like the Sylvan books).  The DK Workbooks are high quality and well thought out (and most importantly aren’t ridiculous like some of the workbooks for his age group).  As a way to enforce the parts of speech, we use Mad Libs and he can make up his own funny stories.
        • Reading – We read a lot.  We have family scripture study every morning and we encourage our son to read the hard words.  He has magazine subscriptions that he got for Christmas (Zoobooks and the Friend.  I would also recommend Highlights).  These can be checked out from the library if the cost is a deterrent. Our library is a great resource and it’s free!  They have a free professional children’s story time every day (however our son is 7 and all of the other kids are pre-K).  We go to the library faithfully once a week and get lots of books.  We love fairy tales.  Sometimes we read them together and sometimes my son reads them on his own.  Our library has an entire children’s wing with only fairy tale picture books.  It’s amazing!  When I first started homeschooling, I went to my librarian and asked her if she has any suggestions.  She said she also homeschooled her children and gave me a list of resources.  I have learned it doesn’t hurt to ask!
        • Spelling & Handwriting – My son writes 2 sentences about the books he reads every day.  We encourage him to write complete sentences and form correct letters.  We use this paper and then he draws a picture about the sentences he wrote.  There are entire curriculums based on reading books, so we feel like reading and writing helps him a lot with spelling.  We also do a “word of the day” which is well above his level.  We tell him the definition and how it’s spelled and then have him write it and we use the word throughout the day to reinforce the usage.
        • Specialties (each one is one day per week and these could be optional) – Science, Art, Health/PE, Geography, Music, Fieldtrips.  I let my son work independently on most of these.  We check out Bill Nye from the library for Science on Monday.  Art is on Tuesday and we use pinterest to find something great.  See our Kids Crafts board here.  For PE, he does a gymnastics and tumbling class.  And, for Geography he loves the $1 app called Stack the States. We printed him up a US Map and a list of US capitals and he LOVES to play the Stack the States games and has learn quite a bit about US History and Geography from it.  My older daughter teaches my son piano and he practices on his own for 20 minutes per day.  We also attend (LDS) Church and he spends time there learning music. We take a simple fieldtrip once a week.  It’s a great way to get out of the house and do something hands on.  Everywhere we go, we tell them our situation and ask if there’s anything ‘behind the scenes’ we can see.  There always is!  For example, last week we had a free coupon for a local ceramics shop (paint your own).  We told her we were doing home school and asked if we could see the kiln.  She said sure and continued to tell us step by step how ceramics are made and fired and how everything works.  It was so great!  Because we went to her shop during school hours, we were the ONLY ones there so she could take time to explain how things work.  Sometimes we just ask facebook friends if they can do a lesson for our son on something they excel at.  They are usually happy to oblige.

I know this sounds like a lot of time and work, but it’s really not that much as long as you are organized.  My son gets his work done by lunch time (even with two 30 minute recesses included).  He can then prepare his own lunch, do his chores, and play for a while before his other siblings get home from school.  We are pretty easy-going with him and don’t have to spend time nagging him about doing his work.  He is motivated to get done so he can have the rest of the day free to play whatever he wants.

People ask me all the time, “How much time does it take to do homeschool?”  It takes about an hour a day of my time to homeschool my son.  We read for 30 minutes together,  it takes 20 minutes to get his worksheets organized and help with any questions he has, and then 10 minutes to correct his worksheets.  When we go to the library once a week it takes about an hour and fieldtrips are about 2 hours per week.  Specialties are probably about 2 hours per week (because some of them he does independently). So, on an average week, I spend about 10 hours with homeschool.  Just as a comparison, if you count the time I spent driving to/from his charter school and volunteering in the class it was about 7 hours per week.  Many Moms read 30 minutes with their children after school already (we did, but not consistently) so if you take that into account, it’s about the same amount of time spent.  Win-Win!

The cost of homeschool for us for this year was about $50 for workbooks and school supply-type materials!!!  I expect to spend about $100-$200 on field trips and other miscellaneous things (but those can be optional).  I consider this negligible since we donate school supplies to the school each year and they cost around $50 (plus we don’t have to buy backpacks or uniforms with homeschool).  We also don’t have to pay for gas driving to/from school anymore.

Are you doing homeschool?  Post a comment and let us know free resources you love!

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