Homeschooling: Questions and Answers

Photo courtesy Melanie Guest Photography
It's the time of the year when, as a homeschooling Mom, I start getting excited about next school year!  I think it helps me to not get too overwhelmed trying to finish off this year.  Just this week I've had 3 people ask me about what curriculum I use; when that starts to happen on a regular basis I know it is time to write a post.  I know this post won't relate to all of my readers but at least finish this paragraph before you hit delete.  I've split the post up into parts so that you can read the parts that might relate to you.  The first part is "Common questions and answers about homeschooling."  Whether you home school or not, I would recommend reading this part because homeschooling seems to be on a growing trend and there still are some misunderstandings concerning homeschooling.  Chances are you will meet someone who home schools and it might give you a better understanding as to why and how they do it.  So here we go!

Common questions and answers about homeschooling
Several years ago I wrote a post, Why I home school and it provides a more in-depth post than I will write here.  Feel free to read it too if you want more information.

Do you believe homeschooling is for everyone?
I don't believe homeschooling is for every family.  I believe it is a personal decision that people should take seriously and only proceed in doing it if they feel that it is what they are supposed to do.  If you do decide to home school it is helpful to have a list of reasons why you are doing because there will be difficult times and if you don't know why you are homeschooling you will quit.

What about socialization?
This question is one of the most common questions I have been asked.  People believe that home schooled child(ren) have very little opportunities for socialization.  Our problem is quite the opposite.  We are blessed to be in a community that is very supportive of homeschooling and we have a plethora of options for socialization.  In fact, we have so many opportunities to socialize it is hard to balance and make sure we are actually doing school work.

What has been the biggest plus of your homeschooling experience?
One of the biggest blessings of our homeschooling experience has been watching the personalities of our kids grow and develop.  They are as unique as can be (as you will see when I start talking about curriculum) but have become each other's best friends.  It is a beautiful blessing to see your children be each other's best friends.

How long do you plan on homeschooling?
We take it one year at a time.  We love homeschooling and at this stage in our lives it is beneficial to our kids.  We never know where life is going to take us, or what will be our children's interests.  One of the primary reasons we home school is because we want our children to excel in who they are as children of God.  Right now I am able to provide the best environment for that to take place, but that may not always be the case. While I can "see" the reality of doing it all the way through, I don't feel the need to make a decision that is the way it has to be.

Is homeschooling hard?
There definitely are challenges to homeschooling but it does get easier as each year goes by.  I would say the first year or two of homeschooling is the hardest.  You often are second guessing yourself as you are learning about your kids' learning styles and your ability to teach them.  You are also learning how to balance doing grocery shopping, laundry and cleaning the house all while teaching children at different learning levels.  As time goes by, however, you and your kids will figure out a rhythm that works for your family life.  I think the most important key is to have a support system of other families to talk to and get advice from.

Our Core

Sonlight is our core curriculum.  We love it more and more each year.  It is a literature-based curriculum, which simply means there are a lot of books.  This year we studied the beginning of American History.  It was a very interesting study and we (and that includes me) learned a lot this year!  I thought Sonlight did a good job balancing the reality of the hard and sad things that have happened in American history while still capturing the excitement and the uniqueness of the development of America.  While we absolutely love the books Sonlight provides and the flexibilty of the 4-day schedule there are some aspects of their program we don't use. 

We don't use their English program.  It is too in-depth for me and there doesn't seem to be a flow that I am able to follow.  I also don't care for their organization of their curriculum guides.  While I've learned how to use it for us and our needs, it still remains a pain to do.  You get a humongous binder, and you have to sort and organize things each week.  Supposedly, they changed it up a bit this upcoming year - but we usually buy used so those changes won't trickle down to us for a few more years.  However, it is quite tempting to bite the bullet and buy it new if they truly have organized the curriculum guide better.  We are finishing part 1 of a 2 year unit on American History and we truly did love all the books we read this year, so for another year we will continue to use Sonlight as our core curriculum. 
Sonlight does not include a math program.  A couple of years ago, I ran across Christian Light Publications and decided to try out their math program.  I ABSOLUTELY love it.  It is very cheap and it is very well-written.  They only introduce one new concept a day, and the concepts are reinforced over and over and over and over again until the students have it down.  It also builds on top of previous concepts so once the students have a firm foundation then they can easily add the next step.  Every day since first grade they have had a story problem, which I think is a great way for kid's to think about math in a real day to day understanding.  They also have speed drills everyday which helps the math facts become rote.  They deal with both the U.S. and the metric system of mathematics which I think helps the kids to be well-rounded. 

James did the 3rd grade math program this year.  It said in the beginning of the year, he should primarily be able to do it on his own and may need help from time to time.  This has truly been the case.  Every lesson starts out with a brief description he reads it, does a few sample problems and then moves on to the review of previously learned ideas.  I literally have only had to help him 3-5 times this entire year.  I think there is a lot to be said about a curriculum where a third grader can teach himself math.  I did buy the teacher's guide (because everything is so inexpensive) and I'm glad I did.  There have been a few times I've need to pull it out and check the answers because he is getting into stuff I'm not so clear on anymore.  Mercea is using the 1st grade program and enjoys it.  You definitely need the teacher's guide for first grade because there are a lot of teacher dictation moments and you won't know what to say without the book.

Each grade comes with 10 booklets.  Each booklet contains lessons, 2 quizzes and one tests.  The kids get so excited when they finish a booklet and get a new one.  It is a great way to keep them excited about their math program.

We are using two different English curriculum with the kids.

James is doing the 3rd grade Rod and Staff English program Beginning Wisely .  It started out with a unit on nouns, then there was a unit on verbs.  I think it does a thorough job explaining everything and then building upon concepts step by step.  It does have him diagramming sentences, which I don't remember how to do, so I've been learning right along with him.  It is just about the right amount of work for him, not too much not too little.  The one thing it is missing thus far is opportunities for creative writing.  I don't know if it is coming down the line, but if not, I will need to find a way to supplement it next year.

Mercea is using First Language Lessons for the Well-trained mind.  This is an easy oral, teacher-directed way of teaching language.  We used it with James and really enjoyed it.  It is going well, but we are taking it a little bit slower than we did with James because we are needing to reinforce concepts visually since she isn't primarily an oral learner.

James uses the advanced readers for the Sonlight core we use.  Sonlight usually provides two different reading levels.  He loves to read and is a fast reader so I was glad that they had an advanced reading list.  It challenges him enough that it takes him time to read, but it is not too overwhelming for him.

Mercea has been an interesting person to teach reading too.  We've actually been working on learning how to read for almost 2 years now.  We finally have down 3, 4 and 5 letter short-vowel sound words.  As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, my children are two completely different learning styles.  I've had to realize this and adjust, adjust and adjust again!  I no longer assume that what worked for James will work for Mercea, which is why you will probably always see different types of materials for a lot of our subjects. 

Our first year we tried Abeka phonics.  She was having heavy dyslexia issues last year so I took the time to read The Gift of Dyslexia.  I learned that dyslexia isn't diagnosed until third grade so it wasn't time to say she had dyslexia but I did learn some tips on how to teach her and maybe understand a little better on how she was viewing things.  He discouraged phonics for individuals with dyslexia which is why we dropped Abeka.  In the beginning of this year, we tried to use Sonlight's early reading program.  It started off fairly well but again began moving way too quickly for her.  So in December, when I was about to give up, All About Reading released their level 1 reading program.  I decided to buy it because it had a money back guarantee.  I knew that we would be starting from scratch again but that ended up being okay.  Mercea and I both enjoy the hands-on worksheets and games that accompany this reading program.  It also takes everything 1 step at a time, allows for reinforcement and then builds on previous concepts without skipping any steps.  For the most part it has been a smooth transition for us.  We've hit a few rough patches but All about Spelling allows you to e-mail them to ask questions and they get back to you right away!!!  This was very helpful for me and it helped keep me from losing my sanity.  So yes, homeschooling has its challenges and as a teacher I am in no way perfect but I am so thankful for the many different resources out there to help you through the bumps.


We are using Spelling Power with James.  This is a spelling system which is supposed to last through 12th grade.  You don't have a spelling list each week.  The "simple explanation" of what you do instead is that you spend 5 minutes a day reading spelling words to your kids.  After they write each word, you spell it aloud for them.  If they get it wrong they immediately rewrite the word correctly.  You do that for a total of 5 minutes.  When the time is up they indepedently work through a ten-step method of reviewing and learning how to spell the incorrect words correctly.  The next day you start the 5 minute spelling time with the words they got wrong the day before and then add the new words.  Each list has a rule that goes with it, that the kids write down.  At the end of each section there is a list of review words from the whole past unit and a list with the most misspelled words in the English language.  This system works well with James' personality.  He as a natural spelling ability so we've moved through the book fairly quickly.

Mercea is using All About Spelling Level 1.  We started it at the beginning of the school year and we were around lesson 20 when we switched to their reading program.  We then put spelling on hold since it correlates with their reading program.  It has been easy to do spelling after reading and Mercea appears to be a good speller.  Again instead of having a weekly spelling list, they teach concepts and then you work on words that fall into those concepts.  I've incorporated the Spelling Power method with the words that we use for Mercea, but for now we will continue to use All About Spelling because the hands on aspect goes well with Mercea's learning style.

Science has been my weak point thus far.  We try to tackle it once a week.  My daughter would love to do it everyday all day long, so I need to be more serious about finding something for next year.  In the meantime, we purchased Magic Tree House Chemistry Lab.  It had lots of hands on science projects and it came with many of the needed items and it uses common household items.  It has been fun.  We built a volcano, made slime, a bouncy ball and a milk rainbow so far.

As you can see, there is a lot to choose from when it comes to homeschooling.  I hope this gave you a little taste of why I home school and perhaps some new resources for you to look into.  It is a challenging but rewarding experience.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.  Feel free to pass this post on to others you know who are looking into homeschooling.

If you made it this far, thank you!  Here is a funny video about the myths of homeschooling.  Enjoy:

In Christ,

1 comment:

  1. nataliec32March 19, 2012

    I'm popping over from the homeschool showcase.  This is a wonderful post, Jamie, thank you!  I enjoyed reading what you are using and why.

    This is our first year homeschooling and while the actual schooling has been going very smoothly- the housework/paperwork has been a challenge for sure!  


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