I am in a number of social media homeschool groups, and one question I see over and over from new homeschoolers is this: what is the best curriculum to use for my child? Here's the quick answer: there isn't any, and they all are. Here's the long answer: The best curriculum is one that you choose for your child, based on your child's developmental needs and abilities. With that being said, let's explore how to choose the best homeschool curriculum.
This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small commission from purchases made using these links. In addition, all curriculum suggestions are personally vetted by me and my daughter.
This may be a "duh" point but you want your curriculum to not be boring. If you get bored reading it (and I encourage you to read a couple pages, and skim through an entire book before purchasing any textbook), then your child will be bored--and you don't want that. You want the curriculum you choose to encourage your child to want to learn about the subject matter, whether that's math or history.
Children have an innate curiosity about them, and the curriculum you choose should present insightful text, questions that make your child think, and the potential for additional projects, papers, or problems to solve. Any curriculum you choose for any subject should spur in your child a love for learning.
The Charlotte Mason homeschool method utilizes the addition of living books, which are engaging books that bring the subject alive. Any time you supplement any curriculum you purchase using living books, you add a deeper level of understanding into the subject matter.
SUGGESTIONS: I really like the history curriculum from Notgrass History, due to the amount of possible projects and other assignments. I also really like Rabbit Trails Homeschool's history curriculum, because it's literature based using living books (take 10% off with our coupon code H1C). Rabbit Trails' science curriculum is top-notch, as well. For Bible studies, I love Not Consumed's studies, which combine biblical truth with practical teachings (I also love their student planner!). Everyday Graces Homeschool has beautiful Charlotte Mason-inspired studies.
Not only should the curriculum encourage a love of learning for your child, but it should also be fun to teach. When you learn as the teacher along with your child, you're more invested into the curriculum and in your homeschool. If the curriculum is too hard to teach, you're not going to enjoy it.
I have used curriculum that had great information, decent workbooks, but were tedious to teach. On the other hand, I've used old-school textbooks that had the text in smaller chunks with questions to reinforce retention. If you use textbooks that have a large amount of text, I suggest you break it up into chunks for your child, and if the workbook doesn't have questions for retention for that section, make up your own questions. I've done this many times.
Realistically, you are the teacher. so you can create questions, you can download worksheets, whatever you want to do. There are many resources that you can use to supplement your curriculum and help in teaching, such as the following:
SUGGESTIONS: Schoolhouse Teachers makes it easy to teach due to the scopes and sequences are laid out for each course. Many courses are taught via video, and others lay out the courses for you. Plus, if you join as a Silver member, you gain many benefits, such as the AppleCore program. This online program gives you the ability to track attendance, grades, report cards, and transcripts. I have also used old school textbooks that I purchased at a significant savings from Ebay..
Before the start of a new school year, before we buy curriculum, my husband and I always ask our daughter what she wants to learn in history and science. This ability to choose provides a sense of ownership and buy-in with your child.
If your child wants to have a say in his or her education, by all means, let your child have that freedom, but within reason. Often, especially for science, all it takes for buy-in is to involve your child in science labs. A good source for labs (and homeschool curriculum) is Home Science Tools. For both science and history, field trips are often incredible ways to make the subjects come alive for your child. Allow your student have some say in field trips, but always follow up with the field trips by asking what your child learned or have them complete this field trip report.
Developmental Needs and Abilities
In choosing your homeschool curriculum, one thing you must do is take into account your child's developmental needs and abilities. You can use the math placement tests from Teaching Textbooks to discover what exact level your child is on, and adjust accordingly. Sonlight also has placement tests, not only for math but for reading and language arts, as well.
If your child has special needs, you will want to teach him or her based on their developmental level -- not based on age or technical grade. You can teach subjects on different levels, for example, if your child is 12 years old and technically in the seventh grade, but because of her ADHD or his autism is developmentally in the fourth grade in language arts and tenth grade in math, teach the child on the developmental level.
If your child is in the ninth grade by his age but developmentally in the third grade, teach him in the third grade. In this case, I would also strongly consider adding life skills to his curriculum and not force the academics too much. Meet his needs where they're at, but don't frustrate him--or yourself.
While you're on Sonlight's website, go ahead and order their catalog. Do an Internet search for "homeschool curriculum provider" and order all the catalogs you can. Using these, you can get an idea of scope and sequence, what they offer, what you can offer in your homeschool, and what electives exist. Apologia has free homeschool resources on their resources page, such as a homeschool curriculum planning guide, podcasts, and videos to help you in the homeschooling journey.
Homeschooling is a very individual thing, and you can't have a one-size fits all approach to it. What works for my homeschool (and therefore is my "best" homeschool curriculum) may not be a good fit for your homeschool, and therefore would not be your "best homeschool curriculum." The best thing to do is to examine first why you're homeschooling, what your goals are as a homeschool and for each individual child, and choose curriculum based on your family's lifestyle and goals.
For my family, we travel a good bit for my husband's wheelchair basketball team (you can see why he's in a wheelchair in this book) so we do a good bit of roadschooling, or homeschool on the road, so an online curriculum wouldn't work for us.. You may have a very strict homeschool budget, and need to find online resources that would be easy to teach, encompass all the subjects, yet be affordable (you can totally do that, too!) and can't buy a total big-box curriculum. There's nothing wrong with buying workbooks that you find at discount stores or at teacher supply shops and using those. Be sure to read my blog post on homeschooling on a budget!
No matter the homeschool curriculum you choose, remember than you are homeschooling-- the emphasis should be on the relationships you have with your children and building them up while learning. Learning doesn't just happen with books; it happens while you're cooking or cleaning the house, while your husband engages with your child and teaches her how to change the oil in the car, or how to make doctor appointments. It's about doing life together.
All my best,
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
There are a myriad of different reasons why people choose to homeschool their children: there is the economic benefit of avoiding high private school fees; there is the convenience of scheduling schooling around other family activities; if a child has special needs that aren't being met in public school; or you don't agree with public schools' curriculum choices.
One of the most important benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility with which you can tailor your child’s education. It is a well known fact that every individual has individual needs, and homeschooling allows you to create a learning environment that suits your child particularly. When you involve your child in that process, you create buy-in and ownership of your homeschool within your child.
When you undergo homeschooling, it is important that you have a clear curriculum, mindset, and a plan to execute it. But within that plan, you should understand that you have a tremendous amount of flexibility: there are many different ways that a child can learn something, and many different things to learn in a given subject.
One of the best ways that you can ensure a high level of learning retention is to encourage your child to take a personal interest in his or her education. Although this may seem obvious, many people growing up who went though a traditional school system will probably agree that their education was received in an authoritative way: schooling and your education was something that was done to you, not with you.
When homeschooling, however, you can take advantage of the almost unlimited flexibility at your disposal and let your child take a more active role. While you can’t, obviously, let your child do whatever he or she wants education-wise, you should always explain to him or her a given education plan, and see what he thinks. Each year in the spring, my husband and I ask our daughter what she would like to learn about in history and science the next school year. While she doesn't have the flexibility to choose what she learns in math or language arts, she enjoys choosing what she learns in history and science, and therefore has more buy-in.
For example, when you start your school day, outline the plan for the day with your child. Depending on his or her age you can also explain the reasoning behind the plan. If there are any things the child seems averse to doing, try and take them seriously. You should not, of course, avoid certain subjects or activities simply because your child doesn’t like them. You should, however, ask your child why he or she doesn’t like something in the day’s plan, and to suggest alternatives. In many cases you will be pleasantly surprised by what your child comes up with, and be able to incorporate it into the day’s work.
As much as possible, you should have a list of alternatives in mind for assigned activities. The idea is to try and think of alternative activities that accomplish the same task. If your child protests against a certain exercise, then, you can offer them an alternative. This can be extremely effective in getting your children to learn material that they dislike.
Oftentimes the child simply has to feel that he or she is more in control of the situation to enjoy it. Even though you are ultimately controlling your child’s education, by granting them small allowances and choices, while still sticking with the larger picture, everybody wins: your child feels he is doing what he wants to do, and you are still teaching your child what you want him to learn.
The moment a child is born, parents start homeschooling. A child learns from the very moment of birth, and what the parents do impact the child on every level. "Formal" homeschooling, in which a parent makes the intentional decision to not send a child off to a public or private institute of learning, can begin at any time, and often parents consider homeschooling during the preschool age, or between two and five years old.
Homeschooling children ages two to five, or even six, can be wonderful in that you as the parent get to instill the love of learning in your child, and you are the one to see the first light-bulb moments of understanding. I know when I first saw my own child understand that C-A-T made the word that represented our kittens Henry and Rosie, that was a glorious moment.
But, homeschool at this stage (between two and five years old) shouldn't be formal, as in, workbooks and tests and heavy curriculum. Here are six tips you can do to homeschool your preschooler and kindergartener:
Read, read, read
The very best thing you can do as a parent is to read to your child. Starting as a baby, building those building-blocks of words, sounds, and language is crucial to a child's development. A preschooler and kindergartener finally begin to understand that the words on the page correlate to the sounds coming out of their parent's mouth. Ask questions about what you're reading; even though your child is not reading, they are listening, and you can work on comprehension through the active reading of passages. Not sure what books to read? For babies and toddlers (especially those who are apt to tear things), board books are just fine. As children age, move on to larger picture books (but skip the chapter books for now -- they need the visual stimulation of pictures). Don't have the money for books? Visit the public library, or ask for books for the child's birthday and Christmas presents. Visit thrift stores, public library book sales, or yard sales to find books. Even when the child ages through elementary and middle school, continue reading--it's a wonderful bond-building activity.
All those toys you have for your child? Get a few out and get on the floor with your child, and play with him. Make race cars zoom around the rug, or make animal sounds from figures, or play with dolls. Interact with your child, saying things like, "What sound does the elephant make?" or "What makes the car go?" Ask your child what dress the doll should wear today. Be imaginative with your child and ask questions--see what answers you'll get. Go outside and blow bubbles and play tag. At this age, children learn by playing. Get age-appropriate board games and play with your child. Children learn turns-taking, sharing, colors, counting, and many more important developmental steps through playing.
Now, one may ask, "How am I to get on the floor and play when I have a baby to take care of, too?" Put the baby on a blanket beside you, on the floor. Put a couple diapers and wipes nearby, for easy changing access, and play. The point is to be intentional about playing: ask questions, ask your child's thoughts on what a toy should do next, and point out things like the color of a truck or what sound a toy makes.
Introducing Letters and Numbers
For children who show an interest in letters and numbers, buy some alphabet and number magnets for the refrigerator. Don't just stick them on and expect your child to learn them by osmosis. Show them the letters, in order, and be intentional with it. Sing the ABC song--in fact, buy a kid's CD and keep it in the car, to put in and sing while you're driving down the road. I used several different types of books to read to my children growing up that were fun ways to introduce letters, including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Chicka Chicka ABC, and Dr. Suess's ABC. These are classic books that are fun to read over and over, and use to interact with your children.
If your child is not interested in learning about letters and numbers, continue reading to him. Eventually, it will come. Children learn at their own rate and level, and a cookie-cutter approach will not work on children. All children learn at their own levels and rates, and forcing it only embitters them and makes them hate learning. Be patient!
Allow your child to explore his or her own world. As much as you play intentionally with your child, allow your child to have the freedom to play on his or her own. Put out paper and crayons on a kid-sized table and see what your child draws. If he draws a sun purple, don't correct him--there will be plenty of time for correction later. Allow your child to explore and learn, and this is often hard. Often, the lessons that stick the most are the ones learned the hard way: if a toy is dropped and broken, or if a finger is pinched in a cabinet door, or if the kitty scratches or hisses because his tail is pulled. Often, a child will learn through natural consequences.
Talk with your child. If you're changing a soiled pair of underwear for a child who is learning to use the potty, take the child by the hand and dump the poop off the underwear and into the toilet, telling her, "that's where the poop goes! Into the potty!"
Talk with your child. Explain that we wear rain jackets when it's raining, or we put up our toys at certain times of the day. Announce that it's snack or meal time. In effect, narrate your child's life for him or her. "It's morning! Sun is shining, time to wake up!" "Time to change our clothes! Your head goes through this hole, your arm in that sleeve," etc. Narrate what you're serving for breakfast.
If a child has a learning disorder, such as autism or sensory development disorder, although the child may have a difficult time responding back, continue to talk/narrate. Continue to read and play. It's important to do so, even -- especially -- if a child has a developmental delay or disorder.
As for writing, you want to wait until the child can feed him- or herself with a spoon or fork and demonstrate decent fine motor skills. Then, introduce a big pencil that is used for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and let the scribbling commence! Pour flour onto a cookie sheet, and show how to write letters in it. Buy a dry erase board, as little or as big as you want, and allow your child to write letters on it. Don't try to force the learning, as it will happen. The older the child becomes, increase the structure and discipline of writing appropriately. Use the alphabet books mentioned above and trace each letter as you read them, and have your child mimic you.
Remember, each child learns differently and on his or her own time schedule. No child exits the womb quoting Shakespeare or knowing her ABCs. Read to your child, allow play (both with you and on his own), and encourage listening skills by explaining everything that's happening. Most of all, pray -- over your child, with your child, and by your child.
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
"Socialization" is one of the most common fears for any family contemplating homeschooling their child. This is the wrong word and concept, though. Dogs and cats are socialized. Humans are taught how to interact with others, ideally, their peers of the same age and socioeconomic background, and others who are not like them. Homeschooling can seem like isolating your child, but it really doesn’t have to end up like that. In fact, because of the nature of homeschool groups and activities, homeschoolers often successfully interact with a wide variety of people.
Children can still develop their "socialization" skills in many other ways if they don’t go to public or private schools. Kids tend to learn their best socialization skills from activities they do with their own families, not from following the in-crowd at school. In fact, when my daughter was in public school for 2-1/2 years, we constantly heard that she spent too much time socializing. When I'd visit her school at lunchtime, kids were often told where to sit, when to talk, and quite often, her class had lost the privilege of socializing.
When homeschooling, don't get caught up in the lie that your homeschooler won't be "socialized." If anything, that's a good thing. For my daughter, I want her to grow up to know how to interact with a wide variety of people. Here are five ways to do just that.
A good place to start is to plan a lot of activities that the whole family can do together. Playing board games as a family teaches teamwork, patience, taking turns, and how to be a sore loser (or a humble winner). Doing outside activities as a family encourages family dynamics and working together toward an end goal. Those are good things to teach; after all, you are rearing a man or woman, not raising a child. Your child won't be little forever and he or she needs to know how to work with people.
Field Trips and Parks
Field trips to sightseeing areas or just spending time at the local parks can allow them to interact with other kids for brief periods of time while you monitor their activities. When my daughter and I go to the park, she often organizes the other kids there in games of tag or hide-and-seek. Field trips are not just educational academically, but they also offer opportunities to interact with adults and children of all ages. Encourage your child to take the lead on talking with the ticket clerk or the gift shop attendant.
They can also develop their peer-to-peer social skills by mingling with other kids that live in your neighborhood. They can develop friendships with other kids even if they’re homeschooled and their peers are not. Don't dismiss making friends in your own neighborhood. If you don't want your child to go to other homes (I know I don't), you can set your yard up as "the" place to be. A trampoline, swingset, yard games, and other activities can be child magnets. Keep a supply of child-friendly snacks and drinks at the ready and you're set. Invite the parents over, too, for a cookout, and build community and friendships across the board.
Socialization doesn’t just occur within the walls of a traditional school. Allow your child to join local groups for kids their age. Trail Life for boys and American Heritage Girls are popular faith-based groups for children to join and develop lifelong friendships.
They learn new things and do activities together as a group. Some churches have youth groups children can join as well. Or, your child could participate in little league baseball, take swimming lessons, or participate in some sort of homeschool sports team. We recently signed our daughter up to take tennis lessons at a local recreational club operated by the city. Although we count this as PE, since she's interacting with other girls a little younger and older than she is, it helps her make friends and interact with people while doing something fun.
Teach your children to happily answer questions about homeschooling to other people they meet. Sometimes other kids can be so inquisitive that they want to ask many questions, and this helps break the ice for both of them - allowing a healthy friendship to develop. Our public library has a homeschool day once a month which is great because it enables other homeschoolers to get to know one another and talk. Encourage your child to ask for help from adults in stores who are wearing nametags.
You need to focus on enhancing your children’s socialization skills, but never force them to find friends. The only way this can successfully happen is if it happens naturally. The more forced it is, the more likely your child won’t be able to make close bonds with his or her peers.
To help develop your child’s socialization skills, just make sure they’re able to interact with peers their age from time to time. Even being around grown-ups can help foster a positive attitude and social skill that far exceeds that of kids their age.
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Homeschooling your kids and taking control of their education is such a wonderful and rewarding feeling. It can also feel very overwhelming! There is a lot that comes with homeschooling from the curriculum, educational resources, and supplies that can make it difficult to keep everything together and organized. Not to worry though, here you will find some homeschool organization tips to help you.
Color coding can be done in a couple of different ways. If you are homeschooling more than one child, assigning each child a color can help you to know whose work you are looking at, and who forgot to put away their supplies. If you are only homeschooling one child you can color code by subject. Having your homeschool supplies color-coded can make finding what you need when you need it easier for you and your student. These color-coded labels can help you do that.
Clipboards are inexpensive, versatile, and they can be invaluable tools when it comes to organizing your homeschool. You can put your daily or weekly schedules on them and they can also be used as portable workstations for when you or your student don’t feel like being stuck at a table or desk.
Chances are that some of your homeschool curriculum and resources are digital so you will need a way to organize all of those resources too. Start by creating a folder for each subject on your computer, those folders can be further subdivided into topic and grade level so that you find exactly what you need when you want it.
You will want to keep a portfolio of each of your homeschool children’s work through the school year, but where are you supposed to keep it all? Grades and unit tests can be stored as computer files if you prefer, or you can print end-of-the-semester grades and put them in a binder for each child. Add this Annual Record Portfolio, and you'll have all your child's grades at your fingertips.
What about all of their completed projects you ask? You probably don’t have room to store them all, particularly if you have more than one student. You can, however, document their completed projects with pictures that you print and add to their portfolio, or simply keep them as a digital archive.
If you are a homeschooling family, and you aren’t using your local library you really should be. There are so many amazing resources that you can check out and use as part of your curriculum, or just for fun, and it’s all for free!
The trick is to make sure that the borrowed library items make it back to the library and don’t get lost in the books and resources that you already have at home. That’s where the library box comes in, all you need is a milk crate or storage box where all of the borrowed materials can stay when they are not in use to make sure they are returned. Hot tip: I use this collapsible trunk organizer for a library box. It keeps the books in one place in the house, and it's easy to transport in my van back to the library. It folds down so we can take it in the library to re-stock. Plus, when it's not holding books, it's great for groceries.
Bookshelves can be used to hold more than just your textbooks and workbooks, and they are relatively inexpensive. Adding a bookshelf to your living room or homeschool room is an easy way to help keep your homeschool organized.
Purchase totes, baskets, or canvas storage bins that will fit comfortably on your bookshelf. Make sure that each tote, basket, or bin is clearly labeled so that you know what belongs inside of it. If you have younger students who are just learning to read pictures on the outside of the boxes can be very helpful.
A Place For Everything
You know the old saying “A place for everything and everything in its place," well, this is true for organizing your homeschool as well. Have a designated spot for your textbooks, workbooks, paper, art supplies, learning manipulatives, and anything else that you might be using as part of your curriculum.
Having a designated spot for each item makes it easier for you and your student to put things back when they are done, and that makes it easier to find them the next time they are needed. If you find that you have more things than you do space it might be time to purge some of your materials or put them in storage until you need them.
Over the door, shoe organizers can be used to store so much more than just your shoes, and it is a convenient way to keep some of your smaller items together. The organizers with clear pockets are great because you can see what’s in them quickly.
These pockets are a great place to store index cards, markers, crayons, glue, painting supplies, pencils, and flashcards. You can also use them to hold your office supplies and any cleaning supplies, like disinfectant wipes, that you may use in your homeschool room.
Having your homeschool materials organized means that you can focus on the important parts like teaching and learning what works best for your learner. Everyone’s homeschool organization will look different based on the number and age of students they have, and the space that they have in their home. Do you have any amazing homeschool organization tips that you would like to share? Comment those ideas below!
If you’re planning on homeschooling your child, you’ll need to learn the many styles of homeschooling that’s available so that you can decide which would work best for your family.
Eclectic Homeschooling - This type of homeschooling works under the philosophy that you should enhance your child’s everyday activities and emotions, using them to insert appropriate lessons to teach them a subject.
Classical Homeschooling - This is a method of learning that goes all the way back to the middle ages. It works on the philosophy that the younger children begin with learning the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Once that’s mastered, they move on to the next stage, which consists of grammar. It involves compositions and collections.
Then they move to the dialect stage, where the serious study of reading and writing and arithmetic comes in. Instead of learning grade-appropriate materials that public schools use, the child learns in stages.
The Charlotte Mason Method - This is one of the most popular methods of homeschooling today. Charlotte Mason developed this style to enrich a child’s education through nature, literature and real life experiences.
Although a child must still be taught with a regular curriculum according to your state’s laws, they can learn to love learning with nature lessons, poetry understanding and much more. When learning is more enlightening for a child, they’re more apt to absorb the information then when they’re given a bunch of facts to memorize.
Montessori-at-Home - This type of homeschooling allows a child to learn their fundamentals through the use of their environment and by using all of their senses - not by memorizing facts from a textbook.
Montessori was a woman who studied children for many years and developed the philosophy that one should control the environment and not the child when teaching them skills.
The Moore Formula - This method is divided into three separate parts. It’s a way of teaching with studying for a determined amount of time each day based on the child’s needs.
It involves manual work and entrepreneurship, which teaches a child to accept responsibility. Lastly, it involves home or community service, which builds character within the child.
The Reggio Emilia Approach - This method teaches preschool-aged children to learn through exploration and not by having the fundamentals forced on them. It teaches that children have a built-in sense that allows them to learn what they need in this world at their own pace.
The Structured Homeschooling Approach - This is a method of homeschooling that is similar to the curriculum seen in public schools. This approach teaches lessons at a grade level depending on the student’s age and where they are at in their academics.
The Unit Study Approach - This approach to homeschooling allows a child to learn a subject as a whole instead of just reading chapters in a textbook. A child learns a subject through use of reading, science, math and other methods to learn that topic. Children can retain almost 50% more than the traditional study techniques applied in public schools.
Unschooling – This is a more laid back form of educating your child. Basically, your son or daughter will lead you in their educational needs. You’ll discover what to teach them based on their own interests and goals, not by abiding by a strict curriculum.
Waldorf Homeschooling - This method works on the philosophy of teaching through use of spirit, soul, and body. The method teaches that the child will best learn by exploring their environment.
By analyzing your child’s learning abilities and your comfort-level with each type of instruction, you’ll be able to find a method of homeschooling that fulfills both you and your child during the educational journey the two of you take together.
A portfolio is an excellent way to keep track of how well your child does throughout their homeschooling years. It shows their progress and alerts you to any issues that you may need to review at a future time.
A homeschool portfolio can also be the key to having your high school student accepted into a college. Most colleges ask for transcripts, but if you homeschool without using a distance education program with a proctor, you won’t have official state documents to share with them.
A portfolio of exam grades, projects (pictures are always a great accompaniment to this), and essays – as well as a record of daily grades taken in ninth through twelfth grades can help the administrator lean toward signing an acceptance letter.
Have a list of all of the training materials you’re using or have used to educate your child. For textbooks, include the publisher along with the title. Include a list of books that were assigned to your child for reports.
Write down some goals you and your child set for each year. This is a great evaluation tool you can use mid-year to see if your teaching skills and their level of absorption are meshing well.
If not, then you can switch gears and help them reach their goal before the semester is up. Your child can gain a tremendous amount of pride and self-confidence by seeing that they were able to reach those goals.
You may want to keep a record of your daily lesson plan. You can jot down page numbers from the book you were studying so that you know where you left off from the last time. It isn’t necessary to add how well your child did on each lesson unless you want to.
Keep samples of some of your child’s schoolwork. It isn’t necessary to put all of their daily papers into the portfolio. You only really need some of their best work to show what progress they’ve made throughout the year. The rest of the papers should be kept elsewhere for awhile - in case they need to be referenced at a later date.
Keep a list of field trips you took your son or daughter on. You can then attach reports they may have done for assignments explaining what they learned on that field trip. You can also include photographs taken while you were on the field trips and show some of the things you saw or did while you were there. This will make for a wonderful keepsake later in life.
Make sure you check with your state to see if they require anything special to be placed in your child’s portfolio. Your child can decorate the cover and get involved in the maintenance of their own school portfolio to showcase all that they’ve achieved.
The Annual Record Portfolio is a printable, downloadable form for purchase in the Homeschooling One Child's store, available here. This Annual Record Portfolio is designed to serve as a homeschool report card, documentation of the year, and to be included in a homeschooler's annual portfolio or saved work from the year. Designed by a homeschooler, it features places to document quarterly, semester, and final grades in a multitude of subjects, as well as standardized or advanced placement testing. This Annual Record Portfolio is appropriate for middle and high school grades.
As I write this, my daughter has just arose from her bed, an hour past the time when I first told her to wake up and a good two hours since her alarm clock went off. She's 11, and the source of great joy and laughter--and the source of great aggravation and tear-filled days. She can make homeschool so fun and exciting--and she can also make it just plain hard. Harder than it needs to be.
Do you feel me?
I want to be able to take her on exciting and educational field trips, full of inspiration and fun, and I'd love to do interesting crafts and projects with her--but with her attitude, just doing textbook work is like pulling teeth without the numb shot. So we don't do many field trips or special days because, when we do them, they feel like I'm rewarding behavior that I'd rather not reward.
I have this vision of our homeschool is supposed to be: one of encouragement and discipleship, where my daughter wants to learn and enjoys learning, and I enjoy being her guide on this journey. But on difficult days in which she cops a pre-teen attitude or is intent on running me over while she drives the struggle bus, it's anything but enjoyable or encouraging.
How to handle a hard day
Honestly, the best way I've found to handle a hard day -- or a hard season -- is to get Laura's dad involved. Often, a call or, like this morning, a text, from him often can persuade her to turn her act around and do her work without sass. Parents must be on the same page with homeschooling (and parenting) or the ship is sunk.
Other ways I handle hard days are to take breaks, have conversations about expectations, and make sure my child understands that I am her mother, and she will treat me with respect. We allow the television shows our kids watch influence them too much, and they mimic what they see on television: kids who know more than their parents; weak and ineffective parents who allow their kids to run roughshod over them; or children who have too much say in the goings-on in a household. You are the parent; be the parent. It's one thing to ask for your child's opinion on things; it's quite another to allow the child, who developmentally is not ready, to make sweeping declarations about how the household will be run.
In the conversations I have with my daughter, I ask her what she wants from homeschool: more arts and crafts, more music, more fun. I explain to her those are all good things and they can be done--but math, spelling, language arts, and history are also important, as is science. Incorporate arts and crafts, music, and fun in homeschool -- there are labs you can do for science, and making dioramas in history is always a good way to learn. I also ask my daughter if there are any particular things she would like to study. Last year, it was astronomy, and this year, human anatomy. That way, if your child chooses the topic, you get at least some buy-in to what you're teaching.
Consider the curriculum
Sometimes, you need to consider the source of the frustration. Often, it's the very curriculum you're using that's at the root of the issues. Don't be afraid to change curriculum, or alter it in some way. I sometimes use a science or history curriculum as the text but find worksheets or projects on such websites as Education.com or Teacherspayteachers. I also use puzzles, games, and arts and crafts to supplement a curriculum.
Make it your own
When you've seen one homeschool, you've seen one homeschool. Stop comparing your homeschool or homeschool space with others, as comparison breeds the lack of contentment. You're not doing public school or school-at-home, you're homeschooling, and you can make it what you wish.
Hard days are bound to happen. We don't live in bubbles, and we're all humans. The beautiful thing is, every day comes with new mercies and graces, so extend new mercy and grace to yourself, and your child, every day. If something isn't working, fix it and don't dwell on it. But, if a pattern emerges, figure out what's behind the pattern and deal with it.
(C) 2021 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Oh the humanity! When you've made all these plans and you're expecting a joyous, Pinterest-perfect homeschool day...then your sour child comes to the table with an attitude and half...then a crayon breaks and it's the Third World War.
We've all had those days. I've been known to threaten to send my daughter to public school on a number of occasions. Over the years, though, I've found a few things that work to either prevent or turn around difficult homeschool days.
Some children thrive on a loose schedule; they enjoy the freedom this allows and the ability to study what they want, when they want. Other children require structure: a set lineup of the same subjects that doesn't change. If you confuse these two, often, a child will protest [loudly] -- a younger child won't know why he is arguing, and an older one will just refuse to work. Figure out what your child needs and do that -- even if it's antithetical to what you'd want.
Last year, my daughter had many, many bad days and honestly, homeschooling was a chore for both of us. She lacked incentive for doing much of anything. This year, though, I started the schoolyear out by telling her she was going to have "participation grades" every day. If she did her work like it was asked of her, without complaining or whining, she would get a 100 for the day. If she whined, complained, argued, or simply refused to work, her daily participation grade would reflect that. Granted, she's in middle school and can handle this, but still, I'm hopeful it will make a difference.
Plowing through subject after subject can hurt retention and cause a kid's eyes to glaze over. Have the child take a good 15-minute break at the end of every three subjects, or a five-minute break after each subject. You'll find that if a child has some down time, retention and attention improve. Today, between spelling and math, my daughter and I went out and shot some hoops at the basketball goal. There's nothing wrong with taking a recess break every now and then.
Sometimes, you have seasons in which everything goes wrong. Last year, my mother was diagnosed with cancer in mid-September and died October 1. After that was the memorial service, emptying her apartment, dealing with legal matters...and I had no energy whatsoever for homeschool, or writing, or anything. So we took an extended break. I told Laura, who was dealing with her own grief, to just read if she felt like it. By the time mid-November came, we hopped back on the homeschool horse and starting riding again. We picked back up where we left off and just dealt with it. And you know what? It was okay. We could not handle another thing, and that's the beauty of homeschool. Laura learned more about dealing with the stages of grief and life than anything...and that will carry her in real life more than diagramming sentences ever could.
Sure, you've invested a lot of money in curriculum. But if the child is struggling with it, or the structure of it, your investment has already tanked. Go ahead, get a different curriculum, or use a variety of curricula for subjects. There's no one saying you have to use the same publisher for all your subjects. I used a grammar curriculum once and my child hated it--and so did I. So we bought a simple workbook from a teacher's supply store and used that, and it was fine. But the attitude she had had while doing the original curriculum was horrible--and a good indicator something was wrong.
Run Around the House
On days in which my daughter is Little Miss Cranky Pants, I tell her to go run around our house five times. Usually, by the third time around, her attitude has changed and she's tired of running around the house.
Now, I realize that not everyone can do this, but certainly you can have a child sit in the corner staring at the wall, or something to clear heads. When in doubt, chores are a perfect way to clear heads. If bad attitudes continue, stop academics for three days and have everyone do chores and projects around the house until attitudes change. Count them as life skills.
Homeschooling is difficult enough without attitudes, but we as parents can do things to minimize difficult homeschool days.
(C) 2021 Terrie McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
A new homeschool year is about to start: new crayons, new markers, new curriculum. It's an exciting time! To make the Back-to-Homeschool transition as smooth as possible, here are my top 10 tips for back-to-homeschool.
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Tip 1: Develop a mission statement
Yes, this one seems like it can be a bit dry. Sure, mission statements are usually associated with corporations or businesses, but they can serve a purpose within your homeschool. A good mission statement can remind you of why you homeschool and center all your homeschool activities and academics on one goal. For our homeschool, we've taken Deuteronomy 6:5 and reworded it to our mission statement:
The mission of Agape Farms Christian School is to teach our child to love the Lord our God, using all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength, for the Glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Our homeschool is therefore focused on increasing our daughter's faith through her heart, mind, and body, all for the glory of Jesus Christ. This is the litmus test for everything we do in our homeschool. Use whatever mission statement you want to, just make sure the activities and academics in your homeschool dovetails what your mission statement declares about your school.
Tip 2: Create ID Badges
Many businesses offer discounts to teachers, even homeschool teachers, with an identification badge that has your photo, the name of your homeschool, and your homeschool ID number (usually you get this when you register as a homeschool with your state). Other times, it's just really nice and official to have a homeschool badge, like on field trips. To obtain a homeschool ID badge, you can order one through Homeschooling One Child's store here.
Tip 3: Make the First Day Special
Whether you homeschool part of the year or all year long, you can start off the year right by making the first day special. Usually, Laura and I go to a local doughnut shop and eat yummy, not-on-the-diet confectionary treats while doing our devotional together, praying over the homeschool year, and doing one subject in the doughnut shop (usually spelling). We then go home and get cracking on all the other subjects.
This year, Laura will be using the Student Record Planner from Not Consumed to keep track of her lessons, her grades, and as an academic journal. We are positive this will help her with some executive functioning issues we've noticed she has, and allow her to track in a grid format her grades. This will be in essence her academic bible, to go everywhere she goes: co-op, the library, everywhere. The first day will be spent going through the Student Record Planner, completing some housekeeping tasks associated with it, and making it her own.
This is also when I will introduce to her a new concept for this year: daily participation grades. With tween hormones comes tween drama, and whining about doing all the subjects starts early. I've decided I'm nipping that in the bud with giving her a daily grade on how she performs, without whining, every day.
Tip 4: Add Subjects in Gradually
This tip comes to us from Julie R., a homeschool mom from Maine, on Homeschooling One Child's Facebook page. She wrote, "...start off slow--gradually adding in school subjects over the course of a few weeks."
For example, our homeschool year starts September 1, which this year falls on a Wednesday. we'll do Bible, spelling, math, and reading September 1-3, then Monday September 6 we'll do all that, plus incorporate history and science. The next week, our co-op starts up, and the week after that, I'll add in grammar (which this year is diagramming sentences). We don't throw every single subject at Laura the first few days, even if the first day of homeschool (usually September 1) falls on a Monday. She needs time to get acclimated to all of it, especially since our expectations just increased.
Tip 5: Think outside of the box for breakfast devotionals
In our homeschool, we'll have breakfast while watching a video that is an online Bible study. I access RightNowMedia.com through my church's membership, which they allowed teachers to use. In addition to teaching with it, I use it for Laura's homeschool Bible study as they have a great deal of studies for children and tweens. Ask your church's leadership to get a subscription to Right Now Media and make it accessible for homeschooling families in your congregation.
Of course, nothing beats studying the Bible itself and by no means should any book or videoed study take the place of reading Scriptures. Make sure you take time before homeschool, during the day, and at night to read to your children the Holy Word of God -- no matter what age they are. And incorporate prayer in your day as well.
Tip 6: Crafts Make Studies Come Alive
For history and science especially, nothing makes lessons stick better than crafts. When Laura was younger and studying about different formations in the earth, she used clay and paint to make a diorama of a mountain, stream, ocean, plains, valleys....and after she painted it, she had to label everything. She worked so hard on that, looking at pictures in books, and replicating what she saw, that she learned it. To this day she can tell you what the different earth formations are.
This year, she will be studying Apologia's Human Anatomy and Physiology, and I cannot wait to work with her on using clay to make a skeleton laying on a board (as opposed to standing up), and have her label all the bones. We're also going to our local butcher shop and buy pig's feet (the animal that most closest approximates human skin and tissue) to dissect then suture closed. These crafts and activities incorporate all the senses and makes the lessons come alive for the child. What crafts or activities can you do to make your child's lessons come alive?
Tip 7: Don't Replicate Public School
In our homeschool, we don't do "school at home," or call it "school." "Homeschool" incorporates so much more than that. Unless your child just does so much better early in the morning, you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to start school. You can ease into your day. Homeschool is so much more than a 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. regimen in which you're making your child miserable, and you too, by copying public schools.
Dr. Mary Hood first coined the phrase "relaxed homeschooling." Author of five books about homeschooling, including The Relaxed Homeschool: A Family Production, The Joyful Homeschooler, and The Enthusiastic Homeschooler, she said this phenomenal quote: "Relaxed homeschooling is a mindset that embraces these four tenets: you are a family, not a school; you are a dad and the head of a household, not a principal; you are a mom, not a teacher; and you have individual relationships with your children, not a classroom. Learning experiences are guided by parental goals and the goals, interests, and personalities of the children.”
You and your children get to decide what your homeschool will be like. No one else. There's a lot of freedom -- and responsibility -- in that. But oh, it's so worth it.
Tip 8: Incorporate Chores
When we homeschool, our houses tend to get messy. You have crafts going on in the living room, books strewn about the dining table, the kitchen is playing host to a chemistry convention, and the cat just chucked up a hairball that will soon be on slide for the microscope. There's no better way to teach Life Skills than to use them in life. If a child can operate a tablet, or a laptop, or a smart phone -- he or she can most definitely operate a washing machine, dryer, vacuum, dishwasher, and hand-wash dishes. Chores should most definitely be a part of any homeschool -- in addition to helping keep the house clean, they're learning for when they move out. When you're doing the bills for the family, show the kids the income and watch it go. Show them what it takes to pay bills.
One game we have is "Act Your Wage!" Boardgame by Dave Ramsey. This game is a fun way for anyone over 10 years old to learn the principles of saving and spending -- and it's a great addition to any homeschool.
Tip 9: Take Breaks
Incorporate breaks into the school day and year. If you want to take a month off in December to celebrate Christmas and travel or spend time with family, you most certainly can do that. There is no one making the academic calendar for you other than yourself.
It's really important, though, during the homeschool day, to take breaks. There's only so much of pouring in of information one can take before it's overwhelming. What we do, for an example, is BIble, spelling, and math -- then a thirty-minute break. Laura comes back, does grammar, then it's time for lunch. History and science are next, then a break. Reading afterwards and she's done. There's no raising of hands in our homeschool as we homeschool one child (that's why the blog is named the way it is), so if at any time she needs a bathroom break or a drink of water, she can get it, no questions asked -- as long as she comes back to the table promptly.
There are times when Little Miss has a bad attitude. At that time, I tell her she needs to take a break and run around the house three times. It's amazing what that does or bad attitudes or getting the Focus Button to engage.
Tip 10: Relax
This is probably the most important tip. Relax. Enjoy the time you have with your child. Teach them but have fun, too. Go on hikes. Talk. Play. If your child asks a question, answer it, but also ask what he or she thinks. Relax and just enjoy this time, because it goes by oh so fast.
Do you have any tips? Leave them down below in a comment! Don't miss anything -- subscribe to our email newsletter today!
(C) Terrie McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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