We are a whopping six months into our first year of homeschooling! Overall, I am loving it, even if it looks very different than what I originally imagined. Over the past few months, I’ve received a lot of questions about homeschooling from some of you that are homeschooling yourself, thinking about homeschooling, or just think it’s all kind of crazy but are interested the details of the day to day nonetheless. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions. I’m an open book so if you are curious about anything homeschool related, please ask away in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer!
What curriculum do you use?
I opted to piece our curriculum together. I chose to put MathUSee, Bravewriter, Whistlefritz, and themed units together for us originally, but now that we are five months in, things have switched up a little. We are still using MathUSee, but I’ve slowed down the pace of our Bravewriter lessons to give us more time to soak in the grammar rules. We added in Handwriting without Tears. We’ve focused more on reading (both Hailey reading aloud to me and me reading aloud to her).
I think this will get us through the next couple of months. When we start our next year, I am looking into adding somethings in from The Good and The Beautiful, which I keep hearing people rave about. Going into first grade, I want more guidance in science and history and think TGATB lessons look visually stimulating.
What has been a challenge you didn’t anticipate?
Keeping up with everything I planned out! I thought I had our schedule firmly planned, but life happens: fun homeschool events sometimes take place in the mornings, Kaitlyn has preschool events that we attend, sometimes we are out of food and have to go to the grocery store. The flexibility of homeschool is one of its best attributes, but it’s taken a little while for me to get comfortable with it.
Now that I am seeing how much learning happens at the grocery store (people skills, price comparisons, percentages, etc) and that it’s OK to do math or science experiments in the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning, I feel more at ease. I also understand that some days learning can’t be forced and it’s better to play some board games than to trudge through the math just because it what was on the schedule. Some weeks we knock out everything and more, and other weeks we do a single math lesson because we are busy exploring outside or going to other events.
How old were your kids when you started?
I count our official start to be in September of 2017, just as Hailey turned 6 years old.
What are your favorite non-school ways to get your kids out playing with other kids?
Extra curricular activities certainly help! Right now Hailey is in music, basketball, and Girl Scouts. In March she’ll pick up tennis and soon after that, swim team. Girls Scouts has been especially great for her and she loves it! Other than that, we get together with other friends that homeschool (it’s a goal of mine to do better at this for next year) and see our friends that go to school on the weekends or school holidays. We also go to homeschool specific offerings, like Discovery Place science classes, and we just joined Wild and Free group that I’m really excited about!
Any hard parts that people don’t talk about that’s you’d tell someone about to embark on the journey?
For me, there have been many more pros than cons. However, there are some tough parts. Some days we just don’t click and everything feels forced. Those days are hard, but they are bound to happen. Also, for me, the ever-changing schedule has taken some getting used to. I’m a routine person, so it’s been an adjustment for me to see that each week looks really different. Having friends that also homeschool makes a big difference because as homeschoolers you have more time to do things outside the home and having people to do those things with makes it so much more fun!
How do you make sure you are covering everything they need to learn?
I’ve realized “covering everything” is an illusion. I probably won’t cover it all, and neither will the public school. Also, what a child “should be” learning is completely subjective and if you asked different teachers (Waldorf style, Montessori, unschool, classical approach, etc), you’d get very different answers of what a child should be learning when. Realizing that, I’m slowly embracing the outlook that if we are constantly learning and progressing, then we are doing just fine.
That being said, I have certainly been guilty of googling “what does my child need to know by 1st grade” and have come across multiple lists outlining specifics skill and knowledge they should have. I have found that we check most of those off with ease, which relieves my self doubt, but I’m trying to let go of this method of comparison.
Now that you are a few months in, do you with you would have homeschooled preschool too?
I honestly don’t know. I love our preschool and Hailey enjoyed her experience there, and it gave me time to weigh our options and figure out our path. I don’t think I would have done anything differently in our case, but if I had known for sure that I was going to homeschool, I might have skipped it. I am glad we only did three mornings a week at preschool though because I think it would have been more of an adjustment socially to go from five days a week to zero.
Do the girls ever seem jealous over each others’ different situations?
Sometimes! Hailey isn’t really jealous that Kaitlyn goes to preschool, but she does like to talk about the fun she had while she was there. She realizes her friends don’t go there anymore either, so she doesn’t feel left out. Kaitlyn however, though she loves her preschool class, will often ask to stay home with us. She’s faked a cough before to try and stay with us, so I think sometimes she is jealous, but she always enjoys school once she is there.
Where have you seen Hailey thrive most as a homeschooler this year?
For me the biggest leap has been in her people skills. She’s a naturally shy kid around strangers, but over the past six months she’s gotten more confident in speaking to adults and meeting new kids. Now at the grocery store she will walk right up to an adult and ask “excuse me, where can I find the XYZ.” She’ll order her own meal at restaurants. It may sound like a small thing, but it’s really cool for me to see. Now at at a playground (when she used to just stick with the one person she knew) she will walk up to a new kid, introduce herself, and ask if they want to play. It’s not an academically-focused answer, but it’s really been an amazing transformation to watch and I fully credit the fact that we are always out and about, meeting new people, and putting her in situations where she has to get outside her comfort zone and speak up for herself.
Do you think you’ll homeschool throughout their education?
We are keeping this completely open. As long as it’s working and providing more benefit than cost, we’ll stick with it. If it stops working for us, we’ll look into other options.
How is focusing on literature that is not twaddle going? Have you seen a difference with their book choices?
“Twaddle” is a Charlotte-Mason term without a solid definition, but when referring to books, it roughly refers to books that are of low literature quality, predictable, or insignificant. Basically, dumbed-down literature. An example would be a Disney princess board book about getting ready for a ball. I feel perfectly comfortable with that example because it’s a book we own, despite my best efforts to relocate it to the trash. I really try to focus on non-twaddle books (here is a list of non-twaddle literature by grade level).
I feel like I still control most of the book choices in the house, so most fit under non-twaddle. We are reading The Little House series, Anne of Green Gables, old fashion fairy tales, and I just picked up the Boxcar Children. If we go to Barnes and Noble, they are drawn to twaddle like a moth to flame. I’m fine watching Hailey read Bubble Guppy books to Kaitlyn there, but as far as what we buy and borrow, we stick to the more quality stuff and they both really seem to enjoy those a lot! Even if they initial cover art wouldn’t have attracted them initially (like Stone Soup, which they both loved).
I don’t have it all figured out at six months in and I am realizing I may never feel like I have it all figured out. I am thoroughly enjoying this journey though and every time we spend 30 minutes snuggled up together reading Little House, then researching more about how to tap maple trees and make maple cakes like Laura and Mary ate, it all just feels right.
I have received so much encouragement and support from other homeschool moms. None of them feel like they have it all figured out either, but just talking or emailing with each other has been so helpful, so if you have any questions to ask or advice to share, please do!
So should Nana and Papa John have a few “Twaddle” books around 🙂
It is so fun to watch Hailey grow in her self confidence–and you too! You are doing a great job–perfect for y’all!
John J. says
Sherry said it all. And, you do it with such loving patience. Born teacher/therapist 🙂
We are homeschooling as well. I have a kindergartener, brand new three year old, and a 16 month old. My three year old goes to mother’s day out two mornings a week and it’s worked out well for us. Like you, our days look very different from what I thought they would. We have school in the afternoons MWF when the baby is napping and TTh in the mornings when my son is at MDO. Sometimes we don’t start school until 2 or 3 but that’s ok! I used to teach public school so this took some getting used to for me.
As far as curriculum, we are currently using the Good and the Beautiful kindergarten and we LOVE it!! Would you believe this is our THIRD set of phonics curriculum this year?!
I also chose a “package” curriculum back in September called Little Hands for His Glory by Heart of Dakota publishing. I really do like it but I think next year I’m going to put together my own curriculum because if we get behind in one section I’m flipping back and forth trying to figure out where we left off. This curriculum included Bible, history, read alouds, hand writing and thinking skills and rotates art, dramatic play, and science.
We will be joining a co-op next year and I was also going to put my daughter in American Heritage Girls (Christian girl scouts).
For our curriculum for first grade we are going to stick with the Good and the Beautiful for language arts, Horizons 1st grade math, Behold and See for science and I’m still undecided on the rest.
Good luck! I’ve enjoyed following your journey.
Brittany Dixon says
Hi Sarah! How do you like Horizons math? I like MathUsee, but am open to exploring other options as well. Thanks!
I should have clarified- this year I have been using Singapore math and it’s been ok. I liked the A book but so far I have disliked B. I have read that Horizons does a good job of reviewing previous lessons so that is why we will be using it next year.
Brittany Dixon says
Oh I gotcha! Thanks!
Oh, twaddle books…my sisters and I cringe at them…my 2.5 yr old loves to read and here are some recent favorite non-twaddle that may be good if you’ll discuss women’s history month in March “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark” and “She Persisted.” (Admittedly, they may be geared for more those Hailey’s age, but my little girl loves them and I certainly don’t discourage it!)
Brittany Dixon says
Thank you so much for the book recommendations, Mary!
Hi! Curious your thoughts on Whistlefritz Spanish curriculum…I’m looking into it but hard to find reviews.
Also I’m a new reader and really enjoying the homeschool posts. You’re doing a great job 🙂
Brittany Dixon says
Hi Kristen! Thanks for the feedback and for reading <3
My girls really enjoy watching Whistlefritz, and I think they've picked up a word or to, but it doesn't feel like teaching Spanish to me, more so just serving as exposure. I think exposure is great too, but I'll be keeping my eyes open to other ways to teach them Spanish more purposely. I hope that helps!
Yes to Twaddle. But then there are books like Junie B Jones – not a classic but not junk either. My daughter loves those books and will read them, which is something. But I’m not sure they’re the best influence.
Is there something you disliked about your local public school? My kids go to Montessori and I love it but feel guilty about not supporting my local school. I often feel torn bc there are lots of things about public school that I love
Brittany Dixon says
We actually have a wonderful public school (from what I hear) so our motivation to homeschool was not to avoid it, but rather to pick a route that more closely matched our philosophy and had perks we were after (like flexibility).
Lauren Gonzalez says
I can totally relate with homeschooling increasing people skills as my kindergartener has just blossomed in his ability to talk to people and ask questions, where just a year or so ago he was completely shy and wouldn’t talk to anyone he didn’t know well.
Elisa J says
Good job starting the Handwriting Without Tears program!…(from a school-based occupational therapist!)
Brittany Dixon says
Oh awesome! Thanks for the feedback! 🙂
Love this! Our days now also look very different that what i has planned at the beginning of the year too ( we are doing preschool) and i am mainly focused on lots and lots of read alouds and character development. I’m curious about why you are selecting handwriting without tears. I have looked into that for next year but couldn’t decide if it was necessary. What made you pick it? Do you recommend that and brave writer or just one?
Also have you heard of Beautiful Feet Books? I’m looking into that for next year as well. It is History through Literature and i think they also do geography as well. Looks good!
Thanks for pointing out the good and the beautiful. Adding that to my list to check out.
So great you joined a wild and free group! I joined one as well but haven’t made it to any meet ups as they aren’t super close to me.
Also have you heard of a Thomas Jefferson Education? That book really spoke to me and I love their philosophy! I feel like you would like it too!
Sorry for such a long comment!
-texas bff ☺️
Brittany Dixon says
Hi Lauren!! I’m adding Thomas Jefferson Education and Beautiful Feet to my list if things to check out; thanks!
I chose HWT because while Hailey was writing a lot (we have notebooks full!), her letters were not all written correctly. She would get frustrated or forget when I tried to correct her, and the HWT books, guide them through each letter in a simple way. She actually thinks i is fun and loves that she is learning the “right” way to write.
Now I’m off to research more… 🙂
Do you have any advice on where to start? I feel a little lost, but I’m not ready to get to a homeschool convention just yet. Thanks!
Brittany Dixon says
I think researching homeschool styles and talking to other moms that homeschool is a great place to start. There are so many different homeschool philosophies so taking a quiz like this one: http://homeschoolon.com/the-homeschool-style-quiz/ may give you a great start as to where to begin your research.