I have a lot of moms ask me how I homeschool my boys. How I organize my days, what curriculum I chose, etc. I love it. I love sharing my path to homeschooling with other moms and I always INVITE the questions and curiosity. I do this, NOT because I feel homeschooling is the end-all be-all, but rather because I believe that in order to MAKE an educated choice you must first BE educated on the options available to you. In that spirit, I welcome parents questions about when I homeschool or WHY I homeschool and even HOW I homeschool. I am quick to always clarify that there are SO MANY options out there for homeschooling. However, I came INTO the homeschool world for a very unique reason. My oldest son (7 at the time of this post) has Type 1 Diabetes. He also has low iGA (immunoglobulin A) and has a fairly healthy form of Hypoglycemic Unawareness to top it all off. The short version of ALL that is that He is more susceptible to colds and viruses, and he can't always feel his low blood sugars. That made public school a little unpredictable for us. And since I COULD afford to not work and stay home and homeschool -- that fit our families needs. It's not easy, it's not for everyone, but it FITS our family so we do it!
Given the unique drive behind homeschooling (to allow for better family flexibility and balance with all our medical appointments) I also require the type of curriculum for my three sons that is OPEN and GO! Meaning, I don't invest HOURS of my time each week "lesson planning". Lesson planning isn't bad, but it's not for me. I protect my family time on the weekends with a FIERCENESS because - again - balance. So curriculum that progresses forward in a more casual state without too much pre-planning for me is key! It's KEY people! I want my kids to learn - everything they need to and everything they CAN! But I know myself and my strengths and my weaknesses and OPEN and GO curriculum is a win! They learn the stuff they need, we have the flexibility to skip a day here or there due to planned doctor appointments or UNPLANNED diabetic FUBAR DAYS and not mess up careful lesson plans.
It's a WIN-WIN people.
So to address my most asked question I get from homeschool mom's EVER. Here is the curriculum I chose, and WHY!
First, what I call my CORE elements. The stuff we TRY to hit daily and needs to be slighty more structured by nature to build up the core disciplines and learning habits. Reading, Writing, and Math! If we do NOTHING ELSE EVER in a week I make sure we hit these. It builds good core elements and the habit keeps them from losing any momentum even if our life goes a little sideways.
I can't say enough good things about HANDWRITING WITHOUT TEARS! I'm going on my third year now with it and it couldn't be easier to use! The Handwriting Without Tears curriculum draws from tons of research to provide age appropriate multisensory tools. The program is based on the knowledge that children learn more effectively by actively DOING and in more than one STYLE of learning. The workbooks are accessible and
friendly, yet also promote excellence. It's not all sloppy willy-nilly for the ease of Open and Go. It promotes efficient, AND effective practice for each letter or word. The pages are designed for children to experience different types of lined paper AND modify for Left or Right handed writing. They have Pre-K, K-5 Handwriting, and even K-5 KEYBOARDING!
--->>> FOR ME AS A MOM
The workbooks give simple practical tips on HOW to teach the stuff. The teacher guides are easy to understand, not over my head at all, and offer tips on little songs to sing or other activities to try IF I WANT TO. For someone who DOESN'T have a background in Early Education, this is crucial for me to have that knowledge there should I need it. My two 5 yr olds have learned how to hold their pencil appropriate and shape their letters with proportion and good penmanship. My 7 yr old has advanced to cursive, and now KEYBOARDING and is using the basic skills taught to learn better ways to write and communicate. The instructions are consistent and basic too so once they learn to read -- guess what -- THEY CAN OPEN AND GO without mom overseeing their every nuance!
Now as you can tell already from the above, I do NOT have a formal background in early educational training. In fact homeschooling wasn't even on my radar until my kid was diagnosed with a medical condition that REQUIRES 24/7 Maintenance. So one of the things that I need to know is present in my curriculum choices, is that all the fundamentals that SHOULD be there, ARE there. Also - it'd be good to know that whatever I choose allows for different styles of learning since out of my three sons I have, you guessed it, THREE LEARNING STYLES. Thanks karmic universe....that's great. But I digress.
THAT level of foundational learning is crucial and I know myself enough to known that I don't have it well enough formally to provide it.
So what I love about Math U See is just that. The Math-U-See system is structured with step-by-step procedures for introducing, reviewing, practicing, and mastering concepts. Each lesson uses multi-sensory tools to adapt to any type of learner. With these resources, it's a good fit for almost ANY homeschool style. Plus, as a homeschooler, my kids aren't necessarily in "grades". The books are not assigned grade levels but are organized by topic, so it is easy for students to work at their own pace and explore their own interests. Plus, the manipulatives you buy with it GROW with the curriculum year by year so it's an investment that LASTS (perk!). My kids love the blocks and it makes math TANGIBLE - not all theoretical!
--->>> FOR ME AS A MOM
The books are as easy and OPEN AND GO as it gets. I can remove a sheet or two and add to our handy travel boxes anytime I need to have homeschool be ON THE GO! And since the lessons are flexible but consistent in style, my kids not only KNOW what to expect, but are getting the right KIND of repetition they need for maximum retention. There are DVD's for days when mom just needs to have some down time (the flu happen's ya'll!) so i pop that disk in and let the Demme folks teach the lesson that day. NO SWEAT! My kids by age 5 and 7 are able to (a little) OPEN AND GO when I need them too. And if we miss a day or a week due to massive doctor/medical stuff, guess what, we can EASILY pick it back up when we are able. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!
This is a LITTLE more hands on, because it needs to be until they get their
foundation of reading really under them. but it's SUCH a good program and so easy to use. All About Reading consists of Pre-reading and Levels 1-4. It teaches all key components of reading in a fun and engaging way. The pre-reading program builds a solid foundation for reading skills in a way that is fun and engaging. THIS IS A CRUCIAL COMPONENT in creating kids who LIKE learning. So invest the time yall! The set includes potential for manipulatives including magnet letter tiles, and even some Tablet and iPad apps too. It's truly an ALL encompassing program that decodes letter sounds and teaches phonological awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and structural analysis.
Now this is the one area I had to add in a little something extra fun as well. The curriculum is GREAT for AAR, but the reading books were just too short for my crew, who love to read now, so I supplemented with a JEWEL of a Tool via the Usborne site. The Usborne VERY FIRST READING set. This 15 books set is an exciting series for children who are just starting to learn to read. It includes a helpful 1 page parents’ guide of what focus you should take on each book. In the beginning it's PARENT LED reading with the kids sounding out small easy words. By the end of the series your kid is full-on reading the entire book with only parent intervention if they get stuck. The stories are colorful and fun, the plots are engaging, and each book even contains fun "games" to help further bring about comprehension and retention. All three of my boys LOVED THEM and they truly enhanced reading as a whole. We even purchased the Usborne Beginner ANIMALS series as "science" and I've bought a few items to supplement fun writing prompts and more. Usborne has a been a GREAT tool to supplement our homeschool and each item is OPEN AND GO easy which makes it a perfect fit. What's more, I have a dear friend who is absolutely passionate about the books and is unendingly helpful about the continually growing inventory. Her name is Jennifer Bailey. Here is her take on the Usborne books.
"As a former high school English teacher, I cannot speak highly enough of the books and tools Usborne provides. From babies and early readers to more advanced readers and more, Usborne has what you need! If you are looking for something to add to your homeschool curriculum, be it readers like the set mentioned here, or other homework helpers for math, science, or history, there is NO LIMIT to what you can find."
There you have it. A recommendation from a former teacher. If we have a crazy day of doc appointments, I can toss a few of these books in our to-go boxes and BOOM - TEACHER APPROVED READING DONE! (ps - link at the bottom to find Jennifer's Usborn page and contact her directly!)
--->>>FOR ME AS A MOM
Both of these reading curriculum are a goldmine. The one focuses on the grammar and syntax and fundamental items my kid will need as they grow. the other makes for fun stories and silly exercises and games that make reading - thus TEACHING READING - fun and engaging. All of which are crucial if you homeschool more than one kid. It's SO IMPORTANT that they love the PROCESS of learning so that no matter what or where or how you must homeschool, you aren't fighting THEM to do it. These two are a win-win.
So those are my CORE ELEMENTS! the items I try to hit EVERY week, if not EVERY DAY of every week. Math includes some reading, reading includes some grammar, writing includes some coloring, it all overlaps and has left brain, right brain, tactile, verbal, and more. IT's a LEARNING CORNUCOPIA people!
I'll do another article later on the extra FUN elements I use, amongst which will be discussed:
AMAZON'S NEW SUBSCRIPTION STEM service where Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fun get delivered to your door once a month for a price as cheap as 20 bucks!
Also, Little Passports which addresses the, "oh crap I need to teach geography too!" issue.