Saturday, February 22, 2014

My top homeschooling tips

*DISCLAIMER* I do NOT claim to be an expert in this area! I am only a few weeks into the process of homeschooling our girls and still learning on a daily basis right along with my girls. I did however want to share what I have learned with you all.

I have been very blessed that I have a massive community of homeschooling families, both in real life and online, that I can tap into for ideas and tips. When I announced that we were going to homeschool our girls I got a ton of great advice and I thought I would share it with you all as well.

Picking a curriculum

Tip: Don't rush out and buy a curriculum right off the bat. You need time to figure out your teaching style and your children's learning style.

This one was HARD for me. I am a "it needs to be done do it" person. I didn't see the point in waiting and just doing workbooks and library books for the first two weeks. I mean I was already a veteran mother and *knew* what my teaching style was and how my kids learned already!

Yeah. No. I didn't.

The first week of workbooks went well enough but the second was another matter. We were bored to tears. I quickly realized we are not a "sit down and do workbooks for 3 hours a day" type of family. Not even the computer games and programs were working. Part of it was that the work was dull and part of it was just that we wanted something different from this experience. We didn't want "school at home" we wanted to homeschool which is a total different animal.

We decided to do a more hands on experience. With that in mind I chose a curriculum that had lots of experiments, projects, games, and activities.  We still use our books and workbooks as the "spine" of our program but it just for support not the entire "body". More about our curriculum choices in an upcoming post!

Add in one new thing at a time

Tip: Instead of jumping into the whole curriculum all at once add one thing at a time each week and build up to it.

I think this is the essential to keeping yourself and your kids from getting overwhelmed! We started week 1 with just math, reading, and writing. Just those three things had me totally overwhelmed. We were  learning so much all at one time; scheduling, what to expect from school lessons, what to expect from each other, how  to balance our normal lives (we all still needed to eat and have clean clothes!)  etc. It was overwhelming. So we stuck with just the 3 essentials for the first week.

 Then the second week we added in a language arts program. My kids HATE language arts. They could care less about diagramming a sentence or grammar. By having this be our only new thing that week I was able to really think about the program and how to tailor it for my girls. The solution was to add in games. We would sit down and learn the new material through our workbooks then I would create a game for the kids to do using the new material. The biggest hit was designing our own board game to use with flash cards. My 7yr old actually begs to play "common and proper nouns" now! Towards the end of our second week we added in our zoology program. I purposely chose a science program they would be excited about and it has been such a blessing! When I say it is time for zoology my girls actually CHEER! It helps that it is something they are interested in and that there are several experiments per chapter.  This weekend I need to stock up on bird seed because we have several bird feeding experiments coming up!

Our third week we added our history curriculum. Again we chose a program that has tons of projects and experiments included. Nice short readings and lots of hands on work is a perfect fit for our family. The levels of the readings are perfect for the ages of our children and my 7yr old actually answers 99% of the review questions the second I ask them leaving her 9yr old sister scowling because she knew the answer and didn't get a chance to respond.

I just finished our lesson plan for next week (our 4th week) and we are adding in our last element....biblical copywork. Manuscript work for our 7yr old and cursive for our 9yr old. We shall see how it goes. They both need some serious help with their handwriting and hey they get an extra dose of religion......can't beat that!

Lesson planning

Tip: Use a lesson planner designed for homeschooling families.

Seriously. I tried to be cheap and just write it on a notebook page. When that didn't work I tried printing out a free online lesson plan but that wasn't the right fit either. I did a lot of searching and decided to just spend the extra $13 and buy a lesson planner for homeschooling. I was able to get it at a discounted price since this year is almost over. I however have fallen in love with this planner and plan to buy the new one for 2014-2015 for sure!

I love that it can be used for up to 4 children at once! Right now I am just using it for my oldest 2 children but come fall I will be adding the twins pre-k/k work to it as well. I have gone from spending 2 hours a week working on my lesson plan to just 30min! I would say that is a HUGE improvement!

I work up my lesson plan on Friday and then do one massive print job over the weekend where I print out their history activities,  maps, and copywork. I have a binder set aside to hold these pages during the week so they don't get lost. I also go through and figure out what experiments we will be doing and add those to my shopping list for the week so that we are all set when we get to them during the week.

What tips do you have to share? I can always use some more ideas!

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