What I’ve learned about homeschooling so far…

Now that I can really see the light at the end of our first year homeschooling, I can step back and start looking back at how things are going.

There is no perfect box curriculum

First thing I’ve learned is that there is no perfect box curriculum. Furthermore, you aren’t going to be 100% satisfied with anything unless you piece it together yourself and even then there will be something you’re not happy with. You need to find something that is close enough to what you want so that you don’t hate it.

Stop looking for perfection

Point 2: you can’t study any of them enough to find all their faults and omissions before you invest your time, energy or money. So you need to be prepared to supplement where necessary and accept the curriculum warts and all.  If it really stinks, stop using it and find something else.  Part B of this is that you shouldn’t assume that one grade is representative of all the grades. Anyone who tells you different is selling you something. I saw the 3rd grade level of my curriculum and was told that the preschool level was similar. It is NOTHING like the third grade level. The only similarity is the teaching guide.

Say NO to over-scheduling

Thirdly, don’t over schedule yourself. I’ve been guilty of this so many times this year. Between all of the things that I want to work on for my own improvement, housekeeping, volunteering for church and community, and homeschooling, there just hasn’t been a whole lot of downtime.  This summer, I want to put P into swimming lessons and into Girl Scouts in the fall so I’m starting to think ahead now about what our commitments are and what they will be once school starts.  I’ve had to say “no” to quite a few things – including things I really wanted to say “yes” to – because I know that I just won’t have the time I need to do them well come August.

Planning will save your Sanity

Fourth, plan.  I mean it.  Really plan.  Sit down right now and start planning next year.  I know it’s April and there’s still another 8 weeks or so before most folks consider their school year done but I am serious.  If I could do this year over again, I would have started 2 years in advance and planned, planned, planned.  I have a written lesson plan provided with my curriculum and IT IS NOT ENOUGH.  I have to read ahead, make notes, acquire materials, fill in gaps, etc.  I feel like I am always flying by the seat of my pants trying to keep up.  We’re switching curriculum companies next year (more about that in another post) and I can’t get the materials until July.  I AM FREAKING OUT.  Fortunately, they have an excellent syllabus online so I can start thinking ahead.

Plan for your younger children too

On level with the 4th lesson is number FIVE: PLAN FOR THE LITTLE GUY TOO.  My son is two years old and he wants to color and draw and listen to stories and work on the computer with sister.  I’ve had to make copies, print multiples, make sure I’ve had enough material all year long.  This year, I’m going to put together a little curriculum that he can work on while sister does stuff like math and worksheets.  He can listen to stories and color and draw and work on the computer too (but with a different computer and program) but then I’ll make some easier version of stuff for him.

Get yourself organized NOW

SIX: ORGANIZE.  EVERYTHING.  Your time, your resources, your home.  I’ve had to dig all year.  I’m finally starting to workout exactly where stuff needs to live and how best to access it.  At the beginning of the year, I put all of the pre-K stuff in one file cabinet drawer.  Now I’ve purchased another file cabinet, cleared off a bookshelf, and decluttered even more.  I’ll have to write a post on this too.

If you’re homeschooling, could you share your most important lessons with me?  I’m more than glad to hear them.

7 thoughts on “What I’ve learned about homeschooling so far…

  1. We had to change our schedule quite a few times to figure out what works. I discovered that Elizabeth is more willing to do schoolwork in the mornings. If we do a morning playdate and then try to do school afterward, she is a sobbing mess. So eventually we figured out that if we start school at 8am, she finishes around lunchtime and has the afternoon free to pursue her own interests, and the whole family is happier. If she sleeps in later than 8am, she doesn't go to bed at her bedtime. If she wakes up earlier than 8, she has time to play quietly before school starts, therefore rewarding her for going to sleep at an appropriate time.
    We also had to figure what kind of breaks between subjects work best for us. At the beginning of the year, we had lots of 15-30 min breaks between subjects, but then school dragged on all day and interfered with making dinner. Right now, Elizabeth does 3 subjects, then has a 10 minute break, then 2 more subjects, 10 min break, 2 more subjects, break, etc. It's just enough time for her brain to relax without getting so involved in her play that she is unwilling to return to schoolwork. With the short breaks, she knows she'll be done with all her schoolwork in a reasonable timeframe.
    As I'm waiting for the third grade materials to arrive for Elizabeth, I'm focusing on planning Victoria's curriculum for pre-k. The only supplementation I know I'll definitely be doing for Elizabeth is keyboarding.
    If you have time, I highly recommend watching some of the videos on http://www.k12start.com/for-parents/ Scroll to the bottom of the page and they have a ton of recordings you can access. That recording system is the same one they use for the "class connects". It's like a virtual chalkboard/Powerpoint. Anyway, on that page both my girls like watching their preschool storytime. I found it helpful to watch the videos of veteran moms talking about how they made GCA work for their family. Toddler in Tow was a good one. They had a whole series on Schooling Effectively at Home, but I can't find the link for that now…they'll probably run it again next year.
    Also, this site will give you an idea of the kind of supplies GCA expects you to have on hand. Sorry I couldn't find one specific to kindergarten. http://gca.kidsaroundcobb.com/
    Since P has been accepted, you should also be able to join the Region 3 and kindergarten Facebook pages for GCA. Region 3 will have info for outings in the Atlanta metro area. The kindergarten page is a great resource for asking curriculum questions. On the second grade page, a bunch of us have been posting how we supplement the curriculum as well (i.e. specific library books, youtube videos, art projects, etc.). Check out the file sections on both group pages for lots of great info.

  2. All great information.
    I've found that, like Elizabeth, we have to jump on school first thing in the morning too. Phoebe is very physical so I set-up races for her or just let her run around outside or she starts whining.
    I know you borrowed my book about workboxes and I think that they would help you with the breaks. One blogger I read (if I find it again I'll post) said she'd make the first two boxes subjects and then the next one would be something fun WITH a timer so that the child would know when it was time to move on to the next box. IKEA has these little 3 dollar timers that would be perfect for that purpose.
    I will start looking for the other groups. I had no idea there WERE other groups!! Thanks!

  3. In the main Facebook group, there is a file named GCA Master.pdf that tells you how to join the other groups. It took me awhile to figure out the whole GCA Facebook thing. They also have groups for recipe swaps, gardening, couponing, Christians, military, etc. I'm also in the GCA ALP (i.e. gifted) Facebook group, but it's not very active.
    We've been using the timer on my kitchen stove for break purposes. It drives my husband crazy on the days he works from home. What section of Ikea are the timers in? Lower level kitchen? I've got to make a trip there soon to pick up the Trofast anyway.

  4. All sound advice. I've been homeschooling for *gasp* 20 years now. Wow, that sounds like a long time when I write it down. Organize, organize, organize. And never underestimate the ability of the younger kids to pick up a lot of the olders lessons. Good post.

  5. The only thing I wonder about with the younger kid picking up the older kid's lesson is: will they be bored with it when we cover it with them or will we just wiz through it? (i.e. will my two year old be bored with kindergarten because he heard/participated with it when he was 2-1/2?)

  6. A very important lesson I have learned is with all the planning and organizing it is also nice to balance with spontaneity and forgiveness. If it is a gorgeous day outside it's OK to go outside and read and play or catch bugs to study even if your science curriculum has you studying whales. My kids get so much out of those kind of days. These are days you can't plan for only take advantage of. Happy homeschooling. We have been doing it for 5 years now and while we have had a lot of challenges, greater is the reward!

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