Another reason, why I decided to homeschool full-time this year, is because we are planning a trip to Europe. I am an adamant believer in trip-prep!! The more we learn about the places we plan on going and the things we plan on seeing, the more the kids will appreciate, enjoy and remember their experiences. So, a big part of my homeschool plan has been to teach the kids about European history, expose them to European art and music, and also to work on their foreign language skills (German and French). On top of that, I knew I had some reluctant readers, and I wanted them to learn to love reading (and math and science and writing and poetry etc.).
All I can say is that I had NO idea how much we would love homeschooling!! We really, really love it! Now that I'm responsible for their entire education, I find that I teach in English the majority of the time. Most of their subjects and most of my material is in English. And let's face it, we live in the U.S. and they need to be literate in English. However, we still use mostly German when we're not homeschooling and we also have German reading time and German class (where we focus on grammar, writing, and spelling).
We're now coming to the end of our first semester of homeschooling. I've been taking little video clips of the kids for the past few months in order to document our maiden voyage on this journey. These clips, of course, don't show the stressful and non-cooperative times, only the good times! I don't want anyone to think that the kids never fight, complain, or whine!! They do!! They can whine and complain with the best of them! However, I must admit that most days are pretty amazing! In fact, I've been enjoying homeschooling so much, that I literally feel a little giddy each night at the thought that I get to wake up the next morning and spend this precious time with my little people.
I think homeschooling can be very mysterious to those who have never tried it. It certainly was to me. I often looked at my homeschooling friends and wondered what their days looked like. Could they really learn as much at home as my kids were learning at school with professional teachers? Well, now that I've tried it, I'm convinced that they can learn just as much (or more) than at school. At home, the teacher/student ratio is just so much better. And, yes, I fully realize that there are many things that my kids can learn at school that they may not learn at home...some really good things and some not-so-good things...and each family has to weigh what is best for their kids in any given year. But, regardless, I think that many people don't consider homeschooling because it just seems so foreign and difficult. Maybe homeschooling is so misunderstood and mysterious because there are usually no outsiders witnessing a family's home school day. In fact, even those who homeschool really have no idea what another family's home school looks like. Each family will have their own style and their own methods. That's one of the reasons I'm posting this video. I thought it might be helpful to those considering homeschooling or to those who are curious what homeschooling can look like. Our style might not be your style or anyone else's, but it is what has worked for us this year.
After watching my video compilation, I've decided that we do "floor and sofa-school". The kids love to work on the floor or on the sofas. They are rarely at a table!! I also found that we very, very rarely used our designated home-school room. The kids preferred the kitchen table and family room. During the cold winter months, everyone in the house prefers the cozy family room with the roaring fire. It's what worked for us. Also, we happen to have a unique situation
If I were to pick 5 things that have been key to making this a great homeschool year, they would be as follows:
1. The Good and the Beautiful Curriculum by Jenny Phillips
I can't say enough about the Good and the Beautiful!This is hands-down the best curriculum ever! I absolutely love it and it's probably one of the main reasons I look forward to each day of home school. It's uplifting, rigorous, well thought out, and so easy to follow. It requires absolutely no prep work. You literally open the book and go. The lessons are absolutely full of good and beautiful material...I guess that's how they came up with the fitting name. :) I love the emphasis on art appreciation and essay writing. I love the grammar lessons. I love the poetry, geography, science, etc. I love how it circles around and reviews concepts, while also constantly introducing new ones. I feel like my children are getting such a well-rounded education, and, as a bonus, I'm learning right along with them!! I LOVE it, and, more importantly, my kids love it, too!!
2. Baker Web Academy
Technically, we are not actually homeschoolers. Instead, we are enrolled in a public charter school for kids who are doing school at home. Baker Web Academy (BWA) provides us with curriculum and learning materials choices at no cost to us! It's fabulous! We have so much educational material at our disposal that there is always something fun to do. It really has put the "fun" into our homeschool days! Some of my BWA favorites are:
- Modos Literature Curriculum--we love this one
- Story of the World Curriculum (books, work books and audio CDs)-love, love, love!
- Test Prep, writing, spelling, geography, and grammar books and work books
- Science books and science kit supplies
- And so many fun art sets, robotics kits, games, building sets, puzzles and so much more
- Zearn (actually free to anyone, but BWA gives us the work books)
- Mystery Science
- Reading Plus
3. Liber Leadership Academy
We joined a wonderful home school group/school which meets every Wednesday morning. The kids have fun classes where they do music, art, science, drama, and all sorts of other activities. The best part, is that they get to socialize with some great kids. They even get to have a real recess with friends. The group follows the Thomas Jefferson Education philosophy. I've been impressed with the emphasis on classics, patriotism, and fostering a life-long love of learning. I've appreciated getting to know many of the moms. They are great ladies who have inspired me to be a better mom and teacher. The kids love their school and their friends.
4. Foreign Language Curricula
We are homeschooling in both German in English. Most of our subjects are in English, but we do spend a considerable amount of time reading German books and going through our German readers and workbooks. We've been using the Piri Curriculum published by Klett. It's a German grade-school curriculum designed for use in German public schools. The book has a digital version which we enjoy. We also have lots of workbooks and sound tracks. We really like Piri and now that the kids are at the 3rd grade level, they're starting to learn more about grammar and writing. It's amazing!
In addition, here are some of my favorite German resources.
On top of German, we're trying to learn some French. My favorite French helps are:
- Bonjour les amis by Learn Alberta (Canadian online interactive French program)
- Super Easy French Youtube Video
- More on my Pinterest page
5. Music Opportunities
We are extremely fortunate to live close to a university that offers a string program for children. It is extremely affordable and high quality. Our three kids have chosen to play violin, viola and cello. Twice a week, they practice with an orchestra group. They have also befriended several of the other orchestra kids. It's always nice to have another social group.
- Pacific University String Project
I said I would only pick 5 things, but I'd like to add two more activities that have blessed the lives of my kids this year:
In order to help the kids keep up their associations and relationships with their friends from our local public school, we are encouraging them to participate in year-round sports. I'm an adamant believer in the value of competitive sports. The lessons learned as we push ourselves to excel in sports are invaluable. Plus, the physical activity is just plain good for us. Also, we don't want to lose touch with their good friends and the amazing families at our local elementary school. In addition, we also try to attend elementary school evening activities. It's important that the kids maintain their friendships. At some point, they may decide to go back to school and we want them to still have social connections.
I have this last...but it should be first!! The kids' participation in Sunday worship and Wednesday night activities, including Cub Scouts and Activity Days, has been a huge positive influence in their lives. They get lots of social interaction, do fun activities, and are taught wonderful life lessons and good morals. It's here that the the lessons we are teaching at home are solidified and supported. The support our family gets from our church family is immeasurable. The kids learn so much from their teachers and leaders and are inspired and taught by so many good role models. Church is awesome!!
So, as we come to the end of our first semester of home schooling, I have to say that it's been an amazing experience. One of the main reasons it's been so great, is because I've had so many helpful resources at my disposal. I didn't have to figure it out or do it alone!! There is SO much help out there. There is also a huge support community. I used to think homeschooling would be hard, but it's been surprisingly easy and so fulfilling. How wonderful that we live in a country where we do have the choice to have a say in our kids' education and that we can do what is best for our children and our families!! What a blessing!