When my first child was three, God led me into homeschooling. What a surprise! I had never considered homeschooling because I loved my own experiences in public school and college.
And now, I love homeschooling. As in, really love it. As in, can’t imagine doing anything else. It is joyful, wholesome, and good.
Here are my thoughts about the ins and outs of it all.
Why I homeschoolA quick list of pros and cons: PROS
- Time with my children
- Family unity, including my children being best friends with each other (best friends who also fight...)
- Adjustable pace, one that flows with our life stages and needs
- Individualized education
- Healthy socialization (see Socialization, above, for more)
- I am the primary attachment and authority figure in my children's life. I love, care, and know them better than anyone else. Which means I am the best person to help them navigate life lessons and stages, especially the difficult ones! I am also the best person to be in charge of directing their individualized education.
- Time by myself is veeeeery limited. Especially when my oldest child was young. This includes time to think, time to do mom projects (pantry organization, taxes, this website…), time for my own soul-centering.
- Doubt, Despair, Accusation, and Overwhelm attack me regularly. The first year was the hardest, but those bogeys still come around *every* year. Truthfully, they come around every time I do something great with God. So, even though their presence is soul-crushing, they are a witness to the good available in homeschooling. My best response is to recognize and reject them, along with prayer and re-grounding in what I choose and believe. (The “Spiritual Practices” page has some tips about how I do this.)
Back to the top
I think every mom should start homeschooling with some good ol' self reflection to figure out what she believes and what her goals are. You might start with:
- What did you like about your own education? What did you dislike?
- How well did your education prepare you for the life you live now? Which skills helped, which hindered, which were unnecessary?
- What do you wish your education had been like?
- What does a successful life look like? What skills are needed to live that type of "successful" life?
I had to read and ponder quite awhile before I could answer these questions. In the end I concluded that a good education provides the knowledge and skills needed to lead a happy, successful life. And a happy, successful life is thriving balance in mental, social, spiritual, and physical well-being.
For me, a happy, successful life also includes knowing and fulfilling my God-given purposes. Some of those purposes might be universal, such as growing in faith, or creating strong family relationships. But many of them are unique. My children came with innate preferences and yearning in their hearts. I believe those desires were put there by God as a compass to lead them into their life mission and purpose. I want my children's education to support the pull of that God-given compass.
This led me to a homeschooling style that is probably labeled “Child-led.” It means that I:
- teach my children habits for mental, social, spiritual, and physical well-being. This includes skills for enjoying (or surviving!) life in modern society.
- assist them in pursuing the yearning of their hearts.
What it looks like
This section could be a book! Perhaps the shortest explanation is this:
- MODEL HAPPY LIVING. In other words, I change myself into the type of person I want my children to become. Then as they are around me, they naturally learn what I want them to know.
- MAKE MYSELF AVAILABLE. For example, I avoid the pull to work outside the home, limit the things I say "yes" to, set lots of restrictions around my phone (did you know you can turn off all phone notifications? you should try it. it's a game changer), talk with my kids instead of listening to music when we are in the car, and do my best to say "yes" to their bids for my attention.
- LIMIT DISTRACTIONS. Such as no TV, one family movie a month, no video games, no browsing social media, only educational or purposeful activities on screens and use screens only as special rewards (like when Dad and I need a date night). This way everything available supports their education. Which means they learn good things! Without my effort. It turns out they are always learning!
- PROVIDE GOOD RESOURCES. Including child-friendly resources that teach academic skills (reading, writing, math, history, science, arts), opportunities to learn life skills (cleaning the house, cooking, doing taxes), and books, kits, activities and mentors in their areas of interest.
- PROVOKE INTEREST (as needed). Sometimes they need a little help with an educational hurdle. Like when my son resisted the transition from picture books to chapter books. Then I put in extra effort, like blatantly enjoying the activity myself, problem-solving what was hindering him, logical persuasion ("Son, this is worth the effort"), or turning it into a game.
No affiliate links here. Just sharing my favorites.
Chores were my Achilles' heel -- every homeschooling day could be derailed by failed morning chores. This music resource fixed the problem. It turned daily chore nagging and dragging into something automated, and the incentive for participation is earning a date with mom or dad. Everything about this aligns with our values of working together and bonding together.
FOR MOM TO LEARN EDUCATION PHILOSOPHIES:
The most important first step in homeschooling is "un-schooling" mom (and kids if they've been public schooled) and finding the educational philosophy that is right for her and her children. I especially like the following:
- "Catch the Vision" Introductory course by Marlene Peterson, creator of The Well-Educated Heart and Libraries of Hope
- A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille
- Creative Homeschooling by Lisa Rivero
We read to our children daily. That's my baseline, the minimum, the educational foundation I hang my hat on. If I read something valuable to them every day, they will have great breadth and depth of knowledge and language arts skills by the time they are ready to leave my home. So I make sure I request library books regularly (I put them on reserve using the online catalogue), browse the non-fiction section on occasion, and check out as many books as possible.
I like the following booklists:
- The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (most books are fiction)
- www.the-best-childrens-books.org (look for “Books by Subject Area,” especially Math, Language Arts, and Character Education)
- The Good and the Beautiful Booklist by Jennie Philips
- Libraries of Hope by Marlene Peterson
- The Classics listed at Thomas Jefferson Education
- For learning to read (because once they can read, they can teach themselves anything!):
- Meet the Sightwords by Preschool Prep. Also Meet the Phonics and Letter Sounds.
- Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory by Learning Leapfrog
- Primary Phonics readers at Rainbow Resource. These are the only books in our home that I refuse to read to my children. Then the suspense of the story helps them push through the effort of sounding out words. Once my kids read Set 1 (red) and Set 2 (blue) aloud to me they were able to transition to easy readers from the library.
- This is an exception to the no screens rule. I let pre-readers watch these movies anytime.
- Julie Bogart’s The Writers Jungle. This teaches moms how to teach LA, and helped me feel confident and competent teaching LA in everyday-life. For example, I often play her language games when we are waiting in line, I use her copy-work suggestions, and I LOVE her stages for developing writing skills.
- Brian Cleary books
- Home Spelling Words
- As with language arts, I deliberately use math and logic with my kids in our daily life. For example, I cut up apples for lunch and then ask my child to divide them evenly. Once she does so, I might help her solve the problem again, using a different method, and so on. (If you don't know different methods, it means you get to learn for yourself first, just like I did with Julie Bogart's LA program. Consider trying Math Inspirations. I haven't enrolled in their program because I already have the training I need, but what I've seen of their program fits my educational goals.)
- Beast Academy & Life of Fred books
- Musical Multiplication by The Good and the Beautiful
- Khan Academy (online, no frills. We use it to review and catch missed concepts)
- Magformers & KEVA planks, K’nex & Legos
- MindBenders workbooks from Critical Thinking Co.
- Games like Prime Climb, Countdown, Forbidden Island, Go, Chess, or any strategy game — We share strategy out-loud while we play, even if it ruins the competition.
- Puzzles (jigsaw, or pencil-and-paper)
- Get curious about everything! Ask LOTS of questions. Guess about the answers. When they want to know more, look it up on a reputable online science website.
- DK books like this one and Eyewitness Science (usually from the library)
- Mystery Science (better for younger ages, but probably fascinating enough up through junior high age)
- Supercharged Science (better for older ages, perhaps 5th grade and up)
- Resources tailored to specific interests, such as a living pet, The Squishy Human Body, Thames & Kosmos sets, Snap Circuits, Scratch programming, Khan Academy programming (online), Robotics tournaments
- Mark Rober youtube videos (I reserve these for special treats)
- Jim Weiss audios — The Story of the World, and everything else.
- I'm still looking for something amazing for geography... The Well-Educated Heart rotation resources are probably going to be it, I'm still exploring them.
- A globe, as in, a map of the world, in a central location. This way we can pull it out anytime a place comes up in conversation.
- Ticket to Ride (board game)