I started homeschooling my daughter when she started kindergarten, after homeschooling my oldest son, who has autism, the last semester of his senior year in public high school. Halfway into Laura’s kindergarten year, a tragic event stopped us cold in our tracks – my husband was shot and paralyzed in an attempted armed robbery.
As his caregiver, I felt (at the time) like I couldn’t give him 100% and homeschooling 100%, so Laura was enrolled in the local public school for the remainder of kindergarten, and for the next two years. A double-whammy diagnosis of dyslexia and ADHD, coupled with chronic migraines, re-opened our homeschool almost three years ago.
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Laura has thrived in homeschool for third and fourth grades. Yes, she could have done better on tests, but homeschool is where she thrives (and her migraines went from 15 a month in public school down to about four a year).
When I started homeschooling, I had tons of questions: curriculum? Dedicated homeschool space? Socialization? Do I follow my state’s course of study?
Because of recent events in our nation, there is an unprecedented rise in the number of homeschooling families. This post serves to answer some questions I had as a new homeschooler and provide some resources.
What about socialization?
With public schools’ mandated masks, six-feet-apart, have lunch and PE and specials in classrooms, not to mention library, the socialization question is now moot. If homeschoolers have other homeschooling friends over to play, do seatwork together, or work on joint projects, they will have more socialization than kids in public school. With my daughter, because she is with adults most of the day, she can carry on conversations with adults and kids alike with confidence. Don’t worry about this.
Dedicated homeschool space?
If you are blessed to have a space in your home that can be a dedicated homeschool space, by all means, go for it. I live in a three-bedroom, two-bath house where the “open concept” is alive and well, and the living room/dining area/kitchen are all open to one another. Now, the smallest bedroom doubles as a guest room/office, so I still don’t have a dedicated homeschool space, and continue to use the dining area.
The dining area is right off the kitchen (again, open floor plan) and I really like this. Laura can do seat work while I put something in the slow cooker for dinner, or wash dishes. I’m right there within earshot and sight line if she has a question or wants to talk through the lesson.
We have a small shelf in the dining area that holds this year’s curriculum so we don’t have to dig for it. We have another cabinet that holds resource books and things we don’t use all the time but still need to have handy. A chalkboard and dry erase board on the wall complete the ensemble. When we read books together, whether it’s literature, history, or science, we go to the sofa to read as it’s more comfortable and we can both read along in the same book. When we watch a YouTube video to explain a concept, we watch it from the sofa.
Our entire home is meant for learning – we have science experiments in the kitchen, large craft or art projects strewn on the living room floor, and the dining table is for seat work. This works for our family.
There are many choices for curriculum. You can do an all online curriculum, or buy printed, all-inclusive curriculum. You can do what I do and put together an eclectic curriculum based on your child’s needs and where they’re at academically. Or, you can do all three. The most important thing is to do what is best for your child, even if you have multiple children – each child is an individual with individual needs. Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized educational plan.
The beauty of homeschool is that you as the parent choose the course of study. You don't have to follow a set course of study from any state. With high school, if your child is interested in going to college, have him choose two or three colleges or universities that he's interested in applying to, and work with your teenager to develop a high school course of study based on those college/university requirements.
Budget is also a consideration. You can have a completely wonderful and acceptable homeschooling curriculum without spending a lot. Or anything. Just because someone buys a $500 curriculum doesn’t mean that any better – or worse – than someone who spends $20 on curriculum.
I like old-school textbooks that existed before common core was common. So, for the third year in a row, I have purchased some textbooks for my daughter on EBay. Her math, science, and English textbooks for 5th grade have all been purchased, and I spent less than $20 on the entire lot.
For spelling, I find spelling lists for her grade level on Pinterest, and create activities for them. A good dictionary book (not the Internet) provides definitions which she writes down. For cursive writing and spelling practice, I use this website to create cursive writing worksheets that are her spelling words. I use this website to create word finds and crossword puzzles. Playing board and card games and Hangman using her spelling words helps her learn them, too.
Laura will have some new subjects this coming year, such as Spanish. I utilize Schoolhouse Teachers for her Spanish class, and as supplemental material on other subjects such as history, unit studies, and grammar. Schoolhouse Teachers is wonderful because they mail a quarterly magazine, included with your membership, about homeschooling that is rich with ideas and encouragement.
For set curricula, I like to buy from a website where I can browse and read about each product, such as Christianbook.com. For some subjects or as supplemental material, I use Evan-Moor workbooks which are an incredible resource for all grade levels.
When Laura reaches high school levels, I’ll use 7 Sisters Homeschool, which has no-busy-work curricula and is all PDF based. They host a wide variety of subjects written by veteran homeschooling moms.
As you can gather from my daughter’s diagnoses, special needs is a thing in our house. Actually, all four of my children have special needs, though the three oldest are adults and have moved on to their own houses (and, one got married!). It can be downright exhausting to parent special needs children, let alone homeschool them.
I have found that my daughter thrives at home, where there is less stress and zero bullying. Still, parents who are homeschooling children with special needs require encouragement and inspiration. That is why, with the Lord’s incredible help, I’ve developed the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference, the first of its kind in the nation. Featuring over 20 speakers presenting over 30 sessions on homeschooling special needs, including the incredible Temple Grandin in a keynote. The conference boasts all pre-recorded videos for your convenience, and lifetime access to boot, for just $22. For more information, click here. To register, click here.
In public school, kids have “specials” – library, PE, music, art. Homeschoolers have these things, too. We go to the public library once a week, Laura is constantly making art projects that tie into what she’s learning in history or science, and she goes outside to play, and play hard, for PE. We’ve also been known to incorporate health lessons in “physical education.” She also learns life skills, such as doing her own laundry, cooking (she loves making eggs for her own breakfast in the morning), and baking. Just today she finally (!!!) chose an instrument to learn, as we told her she needed to choose one for the fifth grade. She chose the ukulele!
For attendance, we use the AppleCore online attendance that is a perk of membership with Schoolhouse Teachers. When Laura starts ninth grade, it will be used to house her grades, too. The AppleCore program then takes her grades and generates an official high school transcript. I tell you, the annual membership for Schoolhouse Teachers is one of my most favorite -- and utilized -- resources.
Homeschooling can be a delightful time, if you relax and allow learning to happen, at any time. For us, homeschooling is not between the hours of 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. It is 24 hours a day. We focus less on education and more on learning. Every experience can be a learning experience, and that is the attitude we choose to adopt.
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I wish you all the best!
© 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
My daughter spent two-and-a-half years in public school; she has also spent a total of two years now in homeschool, so I feel like I have a unique perspective on the whole "socialization" debate.
I know that since every child is different, and no two homeschools or public schools are the same, so the experiences that my daughter and I have are unique to Laura and I. So I can only offer what experiences we have had.
I homeschooled Laura the first semester of Kindergarten. Life interrupted, and I had to enroll her in an elementary school near our home due to unforeseen circumstances that were out of our control. She went to public school for the remainder of kindergarten, first grade, and then second grade. We withdrew her from public school and started homeschooling her at the very beginning of third grade. She is now in the fourth grade in homeschool.
During the two-and-a-half years she was in public school, she alternated between being shy during times when it would have been good for her to talk up, and she was talkative when she it was required for her to be quiet. She's imaginative, playful, spirited, and social by nature. She's a born leader, but was shy around adults to the point that she would not ask for help if she needed it. She learned that adults in authority were not to be questioned, which in her mind meant not asking for help. I do not mean to question authority by any means -- I mean, she learned that if a teacher or adult did something, and she didn't understand, she just let it go instead of asking questions. Asking questions, to Laura, meant a child didn't know what was going on so they spent recess inside being tutored instead of out on the playground.
Laura has chronic migraines, ADHD, and dyslexia. She missed about twenty days of school in second grade due to migraines alone, then throw ten days' missed due to back-to-back episodes of Flu Type A and Type B. Her dyslexia required her to go to a special class for reading; during the time she was in the reading class, her teacher would hand out the spelling word lists. Laura never asked for the spelling words and the teacher assumed that she had them. So her spelling tests dove off cliffs into seas of failing grades.
When we learned of the spelling test fiasco, we made it known in a meeting that she is to have her spelling lists. Laura was asked by the teacher, why didn't you get up and get the list out of the cubby? She said, "You said we were to stay seated. I thought I couldn't get up and get them."
This is the socialization that we experienced in public school: sit down, be quiet, no talking, do your work. No wiggling. Walk in straight lines to the cafeteria and library. Stay on the right side of the hallway. Don't question teachers or principals.
Listen: there are things being taught in public schools that should be questioned. History is being re-written and that should be questioned. Biology is being re-written and that should be questioned. When schools do not allow questioning of curriculum or adults who are teaching curriculum that is contrary to nature or historical fact, that is when alarms should go off. When kids are taught from elementary school to not question, they are being set up to blindly accept any and all things being taught by adults in authority--no matter how false they are.
Since Laura has been homeschooled from the beginning of third grade, her self-esteem has increased. Last year, during a children's Christmas program at our church, she read (on grade level!) the Christmas story from Luke 2, in front of the entire congregation. She accidentally bumped the hand-held mic and it fell down; the sound tech was nearby and had to fix it while she stood there, in front of everyone. I thought she was going to cry. But She Who Would Have Cried A Year Before swallowed hard, smiled, and started over at Luke 2:1, with boldness and feeling. I was so proud.
Laura, now, walks up to the librarian at our local library and asks for help to find a book or access to the computer--without me. If she is given information that she doesn't understand, she will ask for clarification. She takes ownership of her homeschool materials and her education.
She walks beside adults, so she can see where she's going and to ask questions, instead of behind them, trusting the route they're going is correct.
This past weekend my husband, Laura, and I were at a wheelchair basketball tournament my husband was playing in. Laura found another child, introduced herself, and created games for the two of them to play while their respective parents were playing or watching basketball. As the other child was younger than her, she led the child and protected him from runaway balls or people in wheelchairs. She shared snacks with him.
This weekend, Laura initiated and talked with people of all ages, skin colors, and abilities. She is not learning that this group of kids can learn this way and that group of kids is learning something else because they are different. Because of homeschooling, she is learning that we all have various abilities, and that kindness goes a long way.
Because of homeschooling, she is learning that if she needs to use the bathroom, she just needs to go. Asking permission to take care of one's bodily functions is the first step toward socialism, and the government is not in charge of my body--or Laura's. She is learning real-world situations and how we deal with them (such as health crises, taking care of elderly loved ones, financial issues, traveling, etc). She is learning that God steers her life's ship.
So what about socialization? Laura interacts with kids of all ages wherever she goes: the park, church, her American Heritage Girls troop, the neighborhood. Life is not divided into age groups; children need to know how to get along with people of all ages, nations, creeds, and colors. She also knows who she is, Whose she is, and what she believes--that is what I want for my daughter.
Last year, she and I were at a grocery store and were wearing our homeschool t-shirts, as we had been on a field trip that day. A stranger in the check-out line noticed the shirts and struck up a conversation with her. Don't you just love it when total strangers feel they have to proctor exams with homeschooled kids in grocery stores?
The stranger asked Laura what grade she was in. She said, "Third." The stranger then asked what she was learning about in homeschool. She said, "The Civil War." The stranger said, "Ohhhh! Can you tell me a reason for the civil war?" I knew what she was fishing for: slavery.
Laura said, "Yes, when the American colonies were first colonized, there were three divisions: northern, middle, and southern. The British discovered more iron and coal in the northern colonies so that made them more industrial, and the middle colonies had little farms, but the southern colonies had huge farms. So right off the bat, that made tensions between the three sections as the southern colonies needed more manpower..."
The stranger's eyes were huge. She then cleared her throat and asked me, "Well, what do you do for socialization?"
Laura didn't hesitate. "Excuse me, ma'am, but...I'm talking with you, aren't I?"
The question of socialization is a moot point. There are plenty of opportunities to get kids together and they will interact. It's important the kids see the parents interact, too--as they learn as much from watching us as they do from curriculum. While we need to protect our kids in this era of "stranger danger," we also need to allow supervised opportunities like the one we had in the grocery store.
(C) 2020 Terrie McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her daughter. In the past, she also briefly homeschooled her son, who has autism.
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