Back To Basics, Homeschooling

1. How we homeschool.

I am not a very big fan of labels. Sure, I have carried a few in my days but just as soon as I am slapped with one it no longer applies to me. In my opinion, labels don’t allow any room for growth. I have however made peace with the word homeschool because that is what we do. :

School at home, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, Unschool, Radical Unschool, yes I know them all. Some have hindered, some have really helped us along our journey. However, none of them have been a waste of time. It was during this time I really, really got to know my children, and myself. Knowing who you are and how you learn is a very important discovery to make on this homeschooling journey.

Sky, 14 is a visual learner. I could label her right brained, on the spectrum, dyslexia but it doesn’t change how she *needs* to learn. This is why we watch lots of movies and documentaries. She can watch a movie once and remember the smallest details many years later including dates. She loves video games and books with pictures like comics, graphic novels, magazines, and manga.

Do I wish I could snap pictures of her reading the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings? Yes, but she loves the movies and watching them with subtitles as to not miss a thing.

“But, at some time she will need to read or do things she doesn’t like.” Yes, which brings me to my other point.

As her parent and partner, even though there are things about the world I disagree with she will still need to know them in order to live in it. The standards were set long before I became an adult. However, being that we homeschool there are *many* ways, especially now, to learn these things. Like the saying goes, “The world is our classroom”. Today our knowledge is not just limited to books. Why I, myself much rather use an outline of what needs to be learned by 12th grade than a curriculum. So yes, little by little I am adding in more and more independent work focusing on those skills.

Little Sis, 9 learns more like me and if she wanted would do well in school. She is a very independent learner and has always wanted to do things herself. She is what I would call an “old soul”, again just like her mama. (Yeah, where some thought me weird reading Stephen King in 7th grade I was really dying for more advanced materials. I was labeled “slow” in school because of being very introverted and didn’t like reading aloud in class, not because I actually was.) You explain something to her and she just gets it like she has always known it. She prefers books, worksheets, board games, puzzles or “hands on” type work. I could label her left brain, gifted, advanced but again it would not change how she *needs* to learn.

Some day there probably will be photos of her reading Lord of the Rings, just like her biggest sister, soon 25, did in 7th grade. Does this make one child better than the other? Unfortunately, one will need to work harder to make it in this life than the other. But no, that does not make one better.

As her parent and partner, I need to make sure I am not holding her back. This child very well may be taking college courses instead of high school. I also need to make sure she is able to do things outside of her head like sew, cook and enjoy her childhood. There is more to homeschooling than academics.

So, this is how we homeschool. Magic Tree House and chess for Little Sis. Movies and video for Sky and together what I think works as a pretty well-rounded education. 🙂 Will there be gaps? Yes, just like I have gaps, and probably you do too, but both children understand how to learn and how *they* learn best.

2. Our Homeschooling Schedule

We homeschool year round, 4 days a week. Friday is my planning, budgeting, blogging day. Plus, it’s nice having an extra day scheduled in case we didn’t get everything done during the week. We don’t use a curriculum, I am more of a do it myself type person. I do like to use guidelines of what might be studied in each grade, but try to follow where the girls are academically. Both girls give me feedback if I am going too fast or too slow, “If I hear Oliver Cromwell’s name one more time, it’s really going to piss me off.” (Sky is not a big fan of him.) Yep, time for this mama to move on.

We don’t really fall into any certain “type” of homeschoolers. We use workbooks, watch television, documentaries, and movies read all kinds of stories (some could be considered “twaddle”), play board and video games, and use note booking pages. You could say I like unit studies but I don’t like to be tied down to just one topic. I like to go with the flow. What started out as a Victorian British literature block has us chasing rabbit trails in Ireland. Everything connects some way, some how. Kind of like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. I prefer the term block study, though I like to cover all “subjects” during one block.

I like taking a week break after each block, this gives me time to regroup and organize. We have a summer school schedule, due to the fact summer is a busy time for us outdoors. Basically, we pick our stories to read aloud, play lots of games, and continue math. Science is more of a hands on outdoor nature study and we always are watching movies. We also have a Christmas school schedule, because that is a pretty busy time too, where topics are geared more towards preparing for Christmas. We never really stop learning, so it just makes more sense for us to school year round. Why homeschooling really is more of a lifestyle than something we just do. The longer you do it, the harder it becomes to separate.

I forgot to mention that our school year starts in January and ends in December. I’m not really sure how or why the school year is set up the way it is, with the children starting a new year in August and it ending in May of the next year. I, myself have just found it a lot easier to view our school year, as a full year. Maybe it makes for an easier visual on my part, being able to see the 365 full calendar days, or it just feels right come January 1, celebrating a new year and all, for us to start a new school year too. Anyway, it works for us.

It worked out perfect for the girls too. Since Sky was first to be “schooled” I just kind of followed her lead. I focused more on setting up a routine than trying to do actual school at home. We read, watched Mr. Rogers, baked, colored, played with play dough, had tea parties, danced to Greg and Steve, sang along with The Letter People songs, and enjoyed our time together. We are surrounded by learning inspiration.

By the time Little Sis came, I had my routine perfected and she just kind of followed along. She loved “playing school” with sissy and painted, and listened to our lessons with us. Of course, there were a few bumps along the way.

The biggest problem in homeschooling I have faced, besides getting my head around this high school thing, and the one piece of advice I will share to anyone just starting the homeschooling journey, is don’t get too hung up on one approach or philosophy.

Even though homeschooling isn’t really anything new as far as history goes, it is fairly new in our current society. Most methods we use for homeschooling, like Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, even unschooling, were never really used to “homeschool” as we do today. This is kind of big. Homeschoolers of this generation really are testing the waters of what will work and what won’t. Yeah, it’s kind of scary too.

Can you learn from those homeschooling methods? Of course. Problems arise when the “rules” of whether you’re “Waldorf” or “unschooling” enough can’t be broken and fingers start getting pointed. No one really can have all the answers. Many have what worked for their families, and we can learn from them, but their family isn’t my family. My family isn’t your family. What works for us might not work for you. You will need to find your own routine, your own method.

This is our method, our families homeschooling journey, and I am still learning right along with you. Only time will tell how it will all play out.

I am not big on planning out our whole school year at once because I am never fully sure where we may journey to next. I am more of a needing to see the whole picture first type of person, then I am able to start filling in the pieces. It reminds me of my grandmother showing me how to put puzzles together. She would tell me, ” first, we find all the straight edge pieces to put the border together, then we can add the middle pieces”. I know what each of the girls needs to know before high school, and what they need to know after, which is my border, or the foundation. Then I start building or filling in our blocks, or pieces. I loosely keep track of what is covered each year in school, if ever the need should arise, but stick more closely to the girls’ abilities (like a one room schoolhouse).

I’ve mentioned before how we school year round, 4 days a week leaving Friday as a catch-up day as well as my planning day. If we attend something over the weekend, like the SCA gathering last week, I count that day as a school day too. We never stop learning, and if we do something “school looking”, I count it. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, not just something we do.

Our schedule leans more towards a seasonal one starting each new year in January, having a lighter schedule during summer, picking back up during the Autumnal Equinox, and gearing our lessons towards preparing for winter solstice and Christmas to close out the year. I do use a monthly planner, a cheap drugstore one, to help keep me on track of how many weeks we have for each seasonal block, and for our attendance.

I am also not a buy everything at once type of gal. At the beginning of each year, I put aside our budget for homeschooling and buy items as we need them. This way, I have the funds ready to take advantage of “back to school sales”, as well as what we need when the times comes. This also helps me to stay focused on only purchasing items we really need instead of ones I might just want. (There are lots of things I would love to have, but we just don’t have room in our small house.) I discovered when first starting out homeschooling, that we wouldn’t use half of what I thought we would, or interests would change and our studies would take a completely different turn, or I would find what we needed for free online or at the library. (If you have internet access and a library card, you can homeschool.)

3. Meal Planning

After several years of buying our meat from farmers, I think I finally have our meal rotation down. This year I managed to use every cut evenly without running out of one. Being I do not use the oven during summer this took a bit of planning.

Using a binder I made an outline of all the cuts of meat we receive from purchasing 1/2 a steer, a hog, and chickens (we also purchase freshly caught salmon from a friend) then came up with about 2 to 4 recipes for each cut (ground beef has 8, 4 for winter like meatloaf, 4 for summer like tacos). I filed each recipe I need behind my outline.

Using my planner I make a menu for the week. It usually works out like this, 1 day meatless, 1-day pork, 1-day fish, 1-day beef, 1-day leftovers or free for all. The weekend is rotated between Coney dogs, hamburgers, pizza, or chicken.

We only get so many chickens a year and during winter use 2 chickens for the dark meat and grill the white meat during summer. So, this averages to about chicken once a month but since I also use the backs to make broth and the meat, we get more than 1 meal. For example this past weekend I made fried chicken Sunday, made broth Monday using some for minestrone soup (meatless meal), and made chicken and dumplings Tuesday with more of the broth and the meat from the backs.

When I go to make out the menu for the next week I use a different recipe from my list. This keeps our meal rotation from getting boring. Then come summer it is time for a new recipe rotation.

It may seem like a lot of trouble, but once I got my routine down it actually saves me tons of time now. I need to know what’s for dinner or what I need to pull out the night before, especially now that homeschooling is getting more challenging. I have SO much going through my mind all the time that not having to worry about meals is a huge relief.

4. Homeschooling basic supplies (post).

5. Putting lessons together (post)


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