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Sunday, July 26, 2020

How We Do Homeschooling

Recently I've gotten a lot of questions from friends about homeschooling.  With the announcement of online or online-hybrid schooling in a lot of school districts, many parents have decided that homeschooling is the better option for their children.  I've been very happy to pass along my own advice, as giving advice is one of my favorite things to do.  Having gained my knowledge from countless mistakes, I'm glad to see someone else profiting from my hard-won experience.

I started homeschooling over ten years ago, when I taught Kathleen to read at the age of three.  This fall I'll have a freshman in high school, a seventh grader, a fifth grader, a third grader, and a first grader.  

I've always used The Well-Trained Mind, a book that Brandon brought home from the BYU bookstore when I was pregnant with Kathleen.  We had both wanted to homeschool, but I was very apprehensive about being able to teach everything myself.  For every year in school, the book laid out what I should do, how I should do it, when I should do it, and how long I should do it.  It was a huge relief to me.  We've been using it ever since.  

Choosing homeschool curriculum can be very daunting, as there seem to be endless options, but in the end it's a decision about preferences.  Some curricula are more academically rigorous, some are more exploration-based, others are religious, and others are secular.  It's just a matter of choice.  Most are perfectly reasonable, so it's just what works best for you and your family.  

I like The Well-Trained Mind because we're an academically rigorous type of family, and the curriculum is based on a classical education, with Latin and logic being included in the recommended areas of study.  That said, however, I've found that I've dropped a few things over the years, including Latin.  

I used to be very concerned that my children would be able to learn the most possible things they could physically stuff into a day, but over time I've realized that that wasn't the best method for me or the children.  Now that I have a child in high school, I can see that the subjects are repeated enough time that if Joseph hasn't memorized the definition of a noun in first grade, he will have memorized it by sixth grade.  He's going to read the History of the World series twice by the time he's through with middle school.  And the Saxon math books spend the first third of the book in review, so we'll see long division quite a few times.  

So in elementary school, I make sure that the children are able to: 1. Read fluently and capably.  Reading is the basis for everything, so it needs to be solid or the child won't be able to do anything else very well.  2. Know their math facts, how to count, add, subtract, multiply, divide, and tell time.  3. Write with decent handwriting (I hate messy handwriting, so I get a little fussy about it) and be able to spell correctly and write a summary.  Writing, like reading, is the foundation of almost any other discipline.  It's how we communicate, and if you can't write, nobody takes you seriously.

Science and history are fun subjects and are less important because they can be made up for later if you don't get around to them.  We do science and history because we've got time, but if you don't have time, these are the things you can skip.  Art and music are really extra.  We don't have any formal art curriculum and the kids take piano for music, as long as singing together as a family for church and Family Home Evening.  

In middle school, the children start taking online classes, through the Well-Trained Mind Academy, for history, writing, and math.  It's a good opportunity for them to learn to work for someone other than me, keep track of assignments, and have deadlines.  It's also nice for me to give the more time-intensive things to someone else.  I can teach writing and pre-algebra, but I'm busy teaching small children how to read, write, do math.  It's better to have someone else do those things.  Once the children are in seventh grade, they also teach their buddy science and history.  It helps me out and gives them the opportunity to review the material again.  

Kathleen is taking almost all of her classes online this year, only doing Russian, Logic, piano, and horseback riding not online.  So by high school, I'm not teaching them anything at all.  It is only homeschooling in that she's doing school at home and I'm just there to answer questions, check up, and offer moral support.  

So that's our homeschooling in a nutshell.  I'm happy to answer any questions in another post or answer questions sent along to me.  Homeschooling can seem pretty daunting and can get pretty chaotic depending on the day, but it's worked well enough for us that we have no intention of quitting.  There are many things I enjoy about it, but most of all I like that we get to be together as a family.  Every morning we have a hot breakfast together, and every evening we all eat dinner together.  After dinner, Brandon reads to the children and they all go to bed at eight.  I don't play a taxi driver, we don't high five each other on the way to different activities, and nobody stays up to the middle of the night doing homework.  It's a pretty good setup.  

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