My first experience with homeschooling came through my sister who began homeschooling her kids because her oldest had ADHD with food allergy. When she sent him to Kindergarten at the local public school they repeatedly fed him snacks and drinks that my sister had requested not be given. The artificial flavors and colors, among other things, triggered his hyperactivity. The teachers would then complain about his out of control behavior. Ya think? As long as he stuck to his diet he was a normal energetic kid that also, oddly enough, really did have an attention span. I began my hands on homeschooling journey teaching both my nephew and my niece from about sixth grade through high school. It was fun and challenging, I learned a lot as the weeks passed, and not just about world history but about how each child learns differently. My nephew was very hands on, fractions made no sense to him until I cut up paper plates and let him play with them. Once he could physically move the pieces around then it all made sense, it was definitely one of those lightbulb moments. It was great for him, and for me, because of what it taught me about teaching.
I’ve been homeschooling our daughter, ‘Boo’ since the beginning. Homeschooling is great, it’s a lot of work and definitely challenging, but the rewards are great. Each lesson or concept that I teach is gone over until Boo gets it before we move on. If there is a sick day or vacation day, then we postpone the lessons and pick up where we left off. No missing material because of absences, planned or unplanned. The other advantages include not having to worry about bullying or teachers saying or doing something inappropriate, not to mention the violence in schools that seems to be so prevalent lately.
School year vs. Summer
When I first started Boo in Kindergarten her books had 160 lessons, five lessons a week for 32 weeks. It worked well that first year so I have been sticking with that plan. That means our school year has 32 weeks of lessons, split into two 16 week blocks, one before Christmas and one after. I’ve divided the blocks into two, 8-week sessions. There is a week-long break built into the calendar that falls between the two sessions, a Fall and Spring Break. I also take into account holiday weeks, Thanksgiving and Easter weeks are also scheduled for no school. Although I can use the first three days for catch up if we had sick days to make up, more often we use those days for some extra holiday crafts. We usually start the Fall block the third week of August, break for the holidays the Friday before Christmas. The Spring block starts the third week of January and we usually wrap the school year up the second week of May. Give or take a week depending on the calendar and how the holidays fall within a week or month.
Our Summer Session is six weeks long, after a three-week break following the regular school year. There is another three-week break between Summer and when we start the new school year in the Fall. During Fall and Spring our school day lasts about five hours, maybe six hours if we have a science or art project. During the Summer Session our school time is usually about an hour, sometimes longer because Boo loves to draw so the art projects might be more involved. My aim for the summer is to keep up comprehension so it doesn’t need to be complicated. I try to make it fun and interesting and fairly quick.
Since retention is my main goal we work on math, handwriting, spelling, grammar and reading. I usually pick a theme for the summer and we do some fun projects and activities that stay within the theme that can also tie in some of our other subjects like science, history, geography, and art. We’ve done Egyptian Pyramids, Middle Age Castles, Zoo Life and Ocean Life. Last summer was Ocean Life, I found and made some fun things to work with. For spelling and handwriting, I had an ocean themed word-find book (found on Amazon). I pulled spelling lists from the word finds and she practiced her handwriting while copying the spelling words We researched ocean explorers for history and geography, each week we picked animals for reading, science and art. In that light, Math wasn’t all that exciting. I made activity sheets with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems, I added cute clip art of shells and starfish to make it more fun visually. Boo didn’t really like the Math but she liked coloring in the artwork.
I am still working everything out for this summer, our theme is Time Travelers. Boo loves Dr. Who, so do I, so it should be fun. We can study the solar system for science, pick various historical events for history, geography and reading. I can build spelling lists from Dr. Who, the solar system and the historical events. Math will be the same as last summer with the addition of fractions and maybe some clip art of the T.A.R.D.I.S. and some planets.
I have done and continue to do a lot of research online. Before I pick a curriculum I read as many reviews from as many different sources as possible. The reviews are important to read not just look at the stars or rating because sometimes the reason for a low rating had to do with the style of teaching or the amount of prep work and not the content. Some of the curriculum available includes multiple subjects, you can buy one kit for the year and be set. When I was teaching my niece and nephew we had a program like this. The problem I found with this is that one section like Language Arts would be strong but the Science would be somewhat weak. I use different curriculum programs for every subject using the one that fulfills our content requirements and works the best for us. * I am not an expert on homeschooling by any means, I am only doing what is working for us and ensures that my daughter is getting the best well-rounded education that she can get.
*Each state has their own requirements for homeschooling, researching your state’s requirements and regulations is an important step.
— Originally published at the What Every Betty Said website June 12, 2013.