Laura Wilson is a HomeLife Academy parent from Jackson, Tennessee. She shares how she and her children homeschool.
We started homeschooling in kindergarten not knowing exactly what to expect, but feeling it was right for our family. I had no experience with homeschooling, so I did not know what I was doing. Now that we are a few years in (third and first grades), I feel more confident and absolutely grateful for this choice. Let me tell you a bit about what we do; the challenges we face and what we love about homeschooling.Our Schedule
After choosing the material for the year, I divide the number of chapters/lessons in each subject by 36 to determine approximately how much we need to cover each week (i.e: five math lessons; two chapters of history; four pages of handwriting, etc. per week). Then I plan each week as it comes. This is a really simple way to keep on track with plenty of flexibility.
We start the morning with a “High 5!” The kids have a list of five things they need to do before breakfast (including hygiene, morning prayers and chores). Then, we all sit down to breakfast with some read-alouds. We keep spiral notebook checklists, so the kids and I can see how much we need to accomplish each day. This helps them know what to expect, and lets them participate in the responsibility of completing the work. Plus, it is motivating to see they get a snack after finishing math or that reading time is coming up next. Everyone loves reading time!
We put the harder subjects first, alternating listening and writing subjects and end with a fun art or handcraft like painting (although we do not do these every day). We finish up around lunch time, so the rest of the day is for constructive play or outings. This is a big motivator as well! Fridays are for outings to club meetings, library trips or our co-op at our church in Jackson.
Choosing curriculum is the biggest challenge for me. We have changed materials and styles many times! I appreciate trying out Waldorf and classical methods and have been able to draw from each, but we are now settling comfortably into a Charlotte Mason (CM) education. We draw heavily from Ambleside Online with some Memoria Press materials. For me, I have learned it is best to buy just a little bit of a curriculum (rather than a whole box) until I feel confident about it.
We have two young school age children and also a newborn. So another frequent challenge is everyone needs my attention at once! In recent years, I have tried really hard to find curriculum the children can do independently. This can be hard with little ones, but when we keep our lessons short, we are often able to do a little instruction, and then work independently. I also try to schedule our day, so if one child is doing something that requires my attention, the other has something she can do independently. And we keep lots of fun learning activities nearby (like pattern blocks, modeling clay, extra reading, etc.) for those unexpected times I need to keep someone occupied.
What We Love
We are Orthodox Christians, so a big part of our faith education is participating in the feasts throughout the year. When a great feast falls on a week day, we are able to go to church and plan some fun activities for each feast. This month, we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration. Because we homeschool, we were able to spend time discussing the meaning of the feast; decorating a basket of fruit to be blessed at church, and then attending the Liturgy, and eating a meal with friends afterward. (Hooray for homeschooling friends!) We celebrate something special almost every month, and I am grateful we can take time to really enjoy these days.
We also really love the gentle, but rigorous education style from CM. We absolutely revel in all the great literature we are reading. We have at least five different books going at a time; some we read aloud together and others the kids can get cozy and read on their own. They record something they loved from their reading in their journals each Friday, as a fun way to sneak in some dictation/copywork and build a habit of gratitude.
The other CM idea we love is spending plenty of time outdoors and keeping a field journal. We try to make one entry per week in a nice blank book with beeswax crayons, so our journals are really beautiful. This fosters a love for the world and a habit of observation.
So, even among the challenges of learning how to homeschool, we enjoy having a faith centered, literature heavy, nature-loving school program, where education is just naturally part of our home life.
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