Well, after having another week of new homeschooling questions, I’ve decided to write another “beginner” post. I know I have mentioned, quite a few times actually, how I don’t use curricula. So, I thought I would finally explain exactly how I do put together our homeschooling lessons, step by step.
I want to first start off by saying, that I learn best by reading instructions. I do not do well as a auditory learner.
It seemed like my childhood best friend never needed to study for tests. She could listen to the teacher’s lecture, and like magic pass the exam. I wasn’t so blessed. I would need to come home from school and try to find where in the bloody textbook our teacher got his information. See, there was no internet for me to look up the information, let alone DVD players to find movies to watch. We had no home library, let alone an encyclopedia set. I had to rely solely on the teacher, my notes, and the textbook. Actually, I wasn’t a bad student, but school was far from easy for me.
I explain all this to make it clear why my instructions may seem a bit anal. I write, how I learn. 🙂
Our homeschool days would never run as smoothly as they do, if not for us setting up a routine. In other words, we are creatures of habit. It took us a while to find our rhythm, to find what worked and what didn’t.
One of my favorite parts in the movie Creation, is when Charles Darwin has his notebook in his hand, writing everything he sees about his child’s development down. That is exactly what I did when first starting out our journey in homeschooling. That is how I began blogging. Now that we’ve got our routine down, I mainly use my blog to keep a record of our lessons.
What I discovered was, mathematics was better, if completed first. Mondays worked best for copywork, and Thursdays worked best for fine arts. We have P.E. on the same days, and so forth. Now, I can have an appointment, and the girls can start school without me. Besides the change in the topic, the routine stays the same.
Our year flowed more smoothly homeschooling all year, taking time off when we needed. Now, we take two weeks off at the beginning of each season, and two weeks off after Christmas (for winter). We switch to a lighter schedule during “summer school” and “Christmas school”, because those are busy times for us.
We homeschool 4 days a week, using Friday as our “free” day. Sometimes, we need to finish a story, or we don’t have time to watch something during the week, Friday is free to play catch up. Sometimes, the girls just get the day off. Today, they made chocolate chip cookies, and practiced yoga.
Which brings me to my next point. We never stop learning. I do count some weekends as schooldays. As you will see in my next post, last Saturday we went to a Civil War reenactment. That counts as “school”. Sunday we watched, and discussed, Downton Abbey and Mercy Street. That counts as school too. Just because we are not sitting around a table, or are in a schoolroom, does not mean we did not learn. Homeschooling is a lifestyle completely different than school.
Some parents find curricula works best for them. If something is working, then don’t fix it. Maybe, one year curricula worked great, the next year not so much. Maybe, you don’t have loads of money to drop on curricula. It is possible to homeschool without it.
When Pinterest was created, I thought I died and was in heaven. I believe in everything having its place. Now, I could keep all my future plans, or ideas in one place.
I have a board for every subject. Biology, art history, world history, British literature, American literature, you can get my point. I also have a board called Post It (Notes). This is where I pin my videos, articles, or ideas for lessons I plan on using during the week. Everyday, after any morning chores, before our school-day “officially” starts, I set a timer for 1 hour. This is my working time. Yes, homeschooling parents do work.
I should mention I found that our days work best with no electronic distractions. This means no television, or screens before school. This is our rule, because there are some of us who are easily distracted, myself included.
I would open the laptop, and before I knew it 2 hours had passed. I needed to train myself that if I was going to work on the computer, I would need to keep track of my time. So, when I say I work for one hour, that means checking Facebook will need to wait until after school. Why, I need to set a timer.
So, I pretended I was getting paid to work for someone else during that hour, anything to break my time wasting habit. Now, working on the computer for an hour, without distractions, is part of my daily routine.
I have tried following a yearly plan. It just doesn’t work well for me. I like to take a broad topic, like fairy-tales, and follow the trails. I never would have thought we would have ended up in Austria a month ago, let alone a year ago, but that is exactly where reading The Magic Tree House, Moonlight on the Magic Flute, lead us.
Sometimes when placing a hold on a book through the library, you never know when you will be reading it. That is a downside to not having a set curricula, or purchasing books ahead of time. However, for me, I learned the hard way that purchasing items ahead of time does not work . I would spend the money, and we would move on to something else, never getting to them. So, I learned to plan for the unexpected. Why, I like to keep my lesson topics broad.
I do have a basic outline of what I want to get accomplished (my Pinterest subject boards), then fill in the blanks as we go. Why, I need to work 1 hour a day, to find resources to fill in those blanks.
I have narrowed down my favorite places to find resources over the years, Wikipedia, our library, YouTube, LibriVox, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Pinterest, and Facebook (in that order). When I find something that I might not use right away, like an article, website, movie, or book, I file it to a board.
When researching a certain subject, like exploring fairy-tales (Language Arts), I always start with Wikipedia. This gives me the basic history and tons of places to begin. They usually list authors, media resources, or sites to help get me started. I have found so many books, poems, and movie titles this way.
Once I narrow down a starting place, like Hans Christian Andersen, I look for stories, videos, or movies I can get from those other places mentioned above. When watching a video, I keep a notebook handy to write down notes that could lead us down other learning trails.
For example, while watching Rick Steves’ Austria video, on YouTube, he mentioned the Habsburgs, which lead to Maria Theresa (mentioned in The Magic Tree House book), and so on. So, I looked up the Habsburgs on Wikipedia, documentaries on YouTube, movies at Netflix or Amazon Prime. I post all my findings on my Post It board on Pinterest, to use later. Lastly, if all else fails, I type Habsburgs, fairy-tales, or whatever topic we are learning about, into Pinterest’s search box.
Which brings me to another point, I rarely ever use Pinterest, or Facebook as a “social” network. It’s too time consuming. I only follow a few Facebook groups, ones that are extremely helpful, or local that post local outings.( I am not a drama seeker, I don’t have time for bullshit. ) I follow local museums, state parks, or business that list when they have certain activities, or special deals. Almost every activity, or museum we attend is for free.
Okay, so how do I put it all together? In the same notebook where I take notes, I make out a weekly schedule. I also have a cheap planner, where I keep upcoming activities.
I use Fridays to plan out our next week. (Scheduling all those ideas on my Post It board, to days of the week.) I also use this list to write my blog posts.
I use the year at a glance calendar, in the beginning of the planner, to keep track of our days of attendance.
That is pretty much it.
So, a set routine, a basic outline of subjects, narrowing your topic down, your favorite resources, then planning out the week.
Homeschooling is going to be different for every family, because every family is different. What works for us, might not work for you. That’s okay. I hope there is something in this post that can be useful.
Peace for the journey.