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How We Homeschool


homeschool lifeThe post you’ve all been waiting for! Despite the fact that I’m not at an expert in the least bit when it comes to homeschooling, I have gotten numerous requests for a homeschool post. A lot of people want to know the curriculum we use and how I homeschool the kids (especially while also having younger children vying for my attention.) And since today is our official first day of homeschool, I thought it would be the perfect time to post! P.S. This picture was supposed to be humorous but the first day has actually started out quite chaotic so the joke’s on me.

Last August I wrote a blog post sharing why and how we homeschool. So if you’re interested in WHY we homeschool, that would be a good place to start. A lot of what I wrote about HOW we homeschool will be repeated in this post, but with a few changes. This year we will have a 4th grader, 2nd grader, and 2 Kindergartners! Evangeline is only 4 but she was begging to start school and I feel like she might be ready. So we’re going to try. If it doesn’t go well, we’ll hold off until after Christmas break and try again. And if she still needs more time, we’ll probably wait until next school year. But it doesn’t hurt to try!

First day of school picture for our oldest 4 kids

I just want to repeat that I am not an expert. I’m laid the laid back homeschool mom. I pick out and order our curriculum in August when I see the school supplies filling up the aisles at Target and think “oh yeah, I guess we should probably start thinking about school.” I choose it based on friend’s recommendations. When I’ve struggled with finding a curriculum that I love for a particular subject, I hop on Facebook and ask for recommendations (the majority of our church homeschools so I have a LOT of people to ask for help!) I don’t attend classes or meetings or co-ops. Basically, I’m the shining example of “if I can do it, anyone can.”

I’ll start by sharing the curriculum we use and then I’ll share a bit about how our school days go. (This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchasing through these links provides me with a small commission at no extra cost to you. But feel free to shop around for the best price!) I do my best to try to find the best options for cheap homeschool curriculum that don’t skimp on quality. And I’m pretty happy with what we are currently using!

–Curriculum–

Math

For Kindergarten through 2nd grade, we have used Horizons Math and have loved it! It’s easy enough for the kids to do with minimal assistance from me. Sometimes I just have to read instructions for them and they are able to do the rest independently. Kai will be in second grade math and Kingston and Evangeline will be in kindergarten math. (PS I don’t think you need the Teacher’s Guides for any of those grades! It’s very self explanatory.)

Liam started using Teaching Textbooks last year. It’s a computer based program that talks him through each lesson. Meaning that he doesn’t need anything from me. The earliest grade for this curriculum is 3rd grade or we would do it for everyone. We LOVE it! Seriously, in my opinion, it’s the best homeschool math program. Liam gets excited to do math every day and he’s learning and retaining everything really well. I definitely recommend Horizons for K-2nd and Teaching Textbooks for 3rd grade and up.

easy homeschool curriculum for our 4th grader

Reading/Language Arts

If you’ve ever had a conversation with me about homeschooling, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard me rave about the best homeschool reading curriculum, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It really is my favorite! When we started our homeschool journey 5 years ago, a friend recommended this book to me. I’ve used it to teach the two older boys to read (Liam learned to read at 4 years old!) And this year I’ll be going through it with the next two kids.

It takes about 15 minutes a day (or less.) The entire book is scripted so you know exactly what to say. I totally, 100%, love this book (even though teaching a child to read sometimes makes me want to rip out my hair. For you moms asking how I have patience…THIS is how I learn patience haha.) But seriously, it’s so rewarding to hear the boys reading and know that I helped get them to that point. It’s encouraging to know that what we’re doing is working.

For years, I’ve searched websites looking for good English homeschool curriculum and haven’t love anything we tried. This year I just picked a random English book and decided to try it with Liam. Honestly, I have no idea if we’ll like it or not. So I’ll have to get back to you. But I needed something and this one looked decent enough, so I decided to go for it. If I think it’s helpful, I’ll probably order a second grade book for Kai.  I LOVE being able to pick curriculum based on my child’s needs but that’s also the tricky part because not every curriculum works for every child. So sometimes it’s just a matter of trying something and either deciding to continue or to try something else next time.

This year I’m also going to add in a reading time every day. The older boys will be required to read on their own (currently working on reading lists. I’m always open to hearing suggestions for 2nd and 4th grade boys!) and the other two will look at books quietly or sometimes read with me. It’s just a way to add some reading and some quiet into our day.

Science

The past three years we’ve used Apologia Science, a Bible based homeschool curriculum. My kids love Science days (we do Science twice a week.) They are always eager to learn and they retain things very well. They still remember and talk about the things we learned 2-3 years ago. We also like to look up and learn more in depth about whatever we’re studying in Science. This year we will be working through Apologia: Swimming Creatures. Each book has an accompanying journal that you can purchase, but we just work through the textbook together as a group , without the journal. I will have my kindergartners listen while we do Science but I don’t expect them to retain very much from it.

2nd grade homeschool curriculum for kai

History

Last year we worked through Mystery of History. I have friends who really love it. But I can say that we did not. I mentioned that the kids loved Science days. Well, they (and I) dreaded History days, that we also did twice a week. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this–but we were just bored. This year we’re going to try The Story of the World. This one is aimed for younger students so I’m hoping it holds our attention much better. Like Science, we will also just go through the textbook in a group setting.

Bible

We never did finish the Bible curriculum that we started last year. So this year we’re continuing with Long Story Short. And as the name implies, the lessons are very short. It usually is done within 10-15 minutes. We all really like this book!

Handwriting

We’ve been using A Reason for Handwriting for the past few years so we will continue on with that. The kids really love it because at the end of each week, they are able to write a Bible verse on one of the back pages and color a picture. I love it because it’s improving their handwriting 😉

Coding

Thanks to his Abuela (Don’s mom) purchasing a subscription box for him, Liam has been using Bitsbox to learn coding. He is very passionate about coding so we definitely encourage him to learn it. I really don’t know much about coding so I personally don’t have much of an opinion. Don knows more about coding and thinks it’s a great program and Liam absolutely loves it. So I’d say it’s definitely recommended from the Roberts’ household.

homeschool kindergarten for kingston

 

A Typical Homeschool Day

I’ve mentioned before that we don’t do breakfast until 8 every morning. Setting the time prevents them from waking us up to ask for food. When the two big boys wake up, they will get out their Math, Handwriting, and English books out to start working. They don’t need any help from me so this is the perfect time for them to get a head start on the day. If they get to work and don’t get distracted, sometimes they are done with all of that before we even eat breakfast. At least that’s usually how it starts out in the beginning of the school year. Then as the year goes on, they get more distracted and become a bit slower.

After breakfast, I will attempt to sit down with my two kindergartners to work through their Math and Reading. Notice I used the word “attempt.” This is where flexibility comes into play. A lot of times, we get distracted by a crying baby/toddler and I have to stop to tend to them. If we get too distracted during this time, we put the books down and wait until the baby and toddler are napping. Nap time is when we are able to be the most productive, with the least distractions. So I will sit with Kingston and Evangeline to finish their work, if they haven’t already finished it. This is usually the time we sit down and do our Bible lesson too.

Like last year, we’ll do our Science on Mondays and Wednesday and do our History on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sometimes the days just get crazy and we don’t get to one of them. So we use Friday to make up what we missed on the other days. We usually just try to fit it in either when the younger kids are content and playing or when they’re napping.

we'll try kindergarten homeschool curriculum for evangeline

So if you haven’t already noticed the key to making it all work, I’ll tell you the big “secret.” Flexibility. So many people have asked me how I homeschool the big kids while taking care of younger kids. And honestly, it’s just like any other part of motherhood, you just adapt to what works best for you. You have a clingy baby who keeps interrupting school? Just take a break and do school when the baby is napping. Your school day doesn’t have to function like a public school. You do what works, when it works. We have good school days and bad school days. Sometimes I just say “we’re done” and have them put their books away for the day. And some days we do extra lessons because we zipped through everything so quickly and we have the time to do a little more work.

Obviously my way is not necessarily the best way. But it is the best for us. I am constantly faced with the fear that I’m not doing enough and that I’m failing my children. But as I’ve seen my children grow and learn, I am encouraged to know that we’re doing something right. Homeschooling for you may look a lot different than what it looks like for me. And that’s okay! The beauty of homeschool is doing things your own way, with whatever suits your family and your children the best.

You may find it easier (especially as you’re starting) to find one company to order all your curriculum from. You don’t have to pick and choose from different companies like we have. Do your research and ask around to other homeschool moms and see what others are using! And if you don’t like something this year, try something else next year. It would be much easier if curriculum was ‘one size fits all,’ but it’s just not. So keep trying new things until you find what works!

how to homeschool with a large family

I feel like I left out so much because there’s honestly so much more I could say! But it’s already a long post so I’ll stop here. But if you have any specific questions that I didn’t talk about (or that something that you’d like me to better explain) please leave a comment! I don’t expect anyone to click out of this post feeling in awe of me. Quite the opposite. I’m hoping that this leaves you realizing that if I can do this, then you can also do this! I have gotten many emails from women who want to homeschool but don’t feel like they can do it. And I really want to encourage you and let you know that you CAN! It can feel so overwhelming at first but once you find your curriculum and your routine, things get so much easier…I promise!

Anyway, I hope this post was helpful in one way or another and I look forward to hearing what you think!

Blog, Family, Homeschool, kai, kids, liam

Homeschool (why and how we do it)


boys doing homeschool
The other day, I texted a friend to ask a question about the math curriculum we’re planning on using. At the end of the text, I added “I feel like I’m the biggest failure when it comes to schooling my children…like everyone else has it figured out (and organized) way better than I do.” When she told me that most of the homeschool moms that she has talked to feel the same way, I realized that it really doesn’t get talked about as much as it could.

 

homeschooling boys

Every year at this time, I notice all the “back to school” items filling the stores. That’s when I realize “Oh, I should probably start thinking about curriculum!” I feel very scatterbrained and lost about where to start. So when a mom on instagram (hi @jordynspeakman!) asked me homeschooling advice, I thought I would share a few thoughts. I know, that whole introduction really makes you want to read what I have to say 😉

older brother helping with school

 

I thought it would be best to start with sharing WHY we chose to homeschool. But before I start, I want to make sure it’s clear that I am not implying anything negative about those who choose to use a public/private school! Not only is homeschooling not an option for every family, but everyone has their reasons for how they school and I think it’s a personal choice that each family needs to make for themselves. We’ve been asked multiple times why we homeschool so I’m simply sharing why we felt it was best for our family. (These are in no specific order and some thoughts kind of overlap each other)

 

  1. Time. Public and private schooling take up many hours in the day. In my opinion, too many hours! When the child comes home, they often have to spend many more hours completing homework. Homeschooling for us right now only takes an hour or two, max, depending on distractions that day. That leaves us more hours to play and encourage them to develop any interests or hobbies.
  2. Family. We feel that (especially in these early years) we want our children to be home with us, learning from us. If we send them to school somewhere, they would be spending a good chunk of the day away from our family, under the teaching of someone else. I believe that in order to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6) that we should be the main influences in their lives. As the parents, we want to be the ones shaping their worldview. (That’s not to say that there aren’t wonderful teachers out there!)
  3. Curriculum. Not only do I not like some of what is being taught in public schools, but I also love that I can cater to each child’s needs at home. Children learn differently and at different paces. I love being able to choose how to teach each child, based on their personalities. For example, my oldest is a grade ahead what he would have been in public school, just because he was eager and ready to start school at 4 years old. On the flip side, my current 4 year old is a wild one (to put it nicely) and I think if he was in public school, he would likely be “labeled” when I know he’s just a normal, active kid.
  4. Peers. I know not every child out there is a bad kid. But we’ve been on playgrounds enough to know that there is plenty of stuff that young children are being exposed to that I don’t want my children exposed to. But don’t worry, my kids are not suffering from lack of socialization. We are actively a part of a church where the children interact with people of all ages without a problem. And at the playground, they are always eager to make new friends and treat them with respect.
  5. Flexibility. When we want to take a vacation, a sick day, a field trip, or simply just sleep in, we are free to do it whenever we want (and in our pajamas haha.) I love being able to take the kids to the zoo and use it as a learning experience for our Science class. We are able to use much of our days focusing on life skills rather than solely on book work.
  6. Safety. As a mom, I want to do everything I can to protect my children and their hearts, souls, and bodies. And no one with access to the news can deny the amount of stories that are popping up all over the country with heartbreaking, sickening things. I know we cannot and should not live in fear, but just as you would lock your doors to keep out intruders, this is one way we can guard our children from some of what is happening in the world. That may seem overprotective, but my children mean everything to us so we will do what we can to protect them.
kitchen counter homeschooling

I could go on and on with reasons, but I will spare you since it’s already super wordy. While I don’t always feel like the most qualified teacher, I do believe God has equipped me with just what I need to teach our children. Certain subjects may not always be taught by us, but we will always be active in deciding the next step. So while I sometimes feel like a failure, I know that this is what we have been called to do for our family. If you want to homeschool but don’t feel qualified, just know that you are not alone! And if I can do it, anyone can do it.

boy watching older brother do school

And for anyone curious how we do it and what curriculum we use, keep on reading!

Like I said, I am definitely not the most organized person. I feel like I’m constantly in a state of feeling scatterbrained. I also am not big into activity based teaching (hello, more organization and prepping!) But my kids love it so I know I need to get over that.
We don’t have a set time to get up in the morning. Basically, I try (and usually fail) to convince my children to let me sleep until 8am. But they know the rule is that we won’t be eating breakfast until 8.
When we finish eating, we immediately start schoolwork. I currently have 2 who are officially schooling. Because of Missouri’s laws, I only have to log for my oldest until the next school year. I usually have Liam (the oldest) working on all that he can do independently while I work with Kai (usually I just have to give him instructions and he is able to do some work independently as well.) On a good day, we can get this all accomplished right away. But with 3 other children (and soon a newborn) we sometimes have to wait until the youngest takes a nap. We also do some subjects together as a group, which I love! We are always done by lunchtime and we’re able to enjoy the rest of the day together, doing whatever needs to get done. Except, of course, on those days when things just get crazy and I finally just call it quits for the day. But remember, flexibility!

As far as curriculum goes, I LOVE Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It is scripted (which is perfect for me) and usually takes 15 minutes or less for each lesson. It is the book that taught Liam to read at 4 years old and the book I continue to go through with Kai.

For math, we have loved using Horizons for grades K-2. This year Liam is ready to start grade 3 math and we’re super excited to try Teaching Textbooks (a computer based math program that starts with 3rd grade math.) I have heard many, many good reviews from good friends and after looking at a sample lesson, I know this will be perfect for our children.

For Science, we use Apologia. It teaches a Biblical perspective (which is very important to us, especially in the world of science!) We just read the textbook together as a group and sometimes do the experiments and activities suggested in the book. We also like to look up extra information online to make it more fun. Last year we learned about Astronomy. It was amazing how much my boys retained and how eager they were to do it every day. By the way, this year we will only be doing it twice a week! Last year we overdid it and were finished with the book within months.

For handwriting, we used A Reason For Handwriting. Each week they are practicing letters/words and by the end of the week, they will have learned a Bible verse. My oldest was the only one who did it last year (Kai will do it this year and he’s really looking forward to it!) and he loved writing out the verse at the end of each week and coloring the page.

This year for History, we will be using Mystery of History. Again, it’s from a Biblical worldview. We haven’t used it yet but we plan to also do this as a group.

For Bible, we have been going through Long Story Short. The lessons are short (as the name implies) and easy for my kids to understand.

As far as the rest of the subjects go, we are still undecided. I just haven’t loved some of the other stuff we have used in the past. My goal is to do math, reading/language arts, handwriting, and Bible every day. History and Science will be alternating and only done twice a week. We also plan to incorporate art, typing, and coding..along with any developing and skills or interests that they have. And of course, working on life skills (cooking, cleaning, chores, etc.)

homeschool workbook

For the younger kids (pre-k) I would say–DON’T STRESS! They have plenty of time in life to learn. Just focus on teaching letters, numbers, colors, shapes, etc. But make it fun! Do art projects, use chalk, play outside, sing, read to them. Don’t worry about workbooks or doing something every day. If you incorporate learning into everyday activities (counting as you take steps, pointing out letters as you look at books) they will be ready for kindergarten when the time comes!

kids doing school at home

I know this post was long, wordy, and not very thrilling. But I hope it helps for anyone who may be interested in homeschooling but doesn’t feel qualified or know where to start. If you have any questions (or advice) leave it in the comments! I know everyone homeschools differently (we are the laid back type) so this may not all apply to everyone. But someone may have advice that could be helpful to someone else–so share away!
***I also want to repeat that I am nowhere near qualified to give out advice! Do your research, ask around, shop for the lowest price, and do what suits your family best! Thanks for reading!