Each time I share a peek at our homeschooling days or some thoughts on education for littles I get questions. So many questions. Everything from logistics to legality to socialization and keeping up. I'm going to do my best to answer them all here so everything is in one place. If you have any other questions that I didn't get to here please leave a comment or send me an email and I'll add it to this post! My hope is that this can be a resource for anyone looking to learn more about home education, either as a public school teacher, a curious mama of young littles, or someone contemplating making the switch to homeschooling. Basically anyone.
I am by no means an expert. This is our first year of homeschooling and it looks very different from what we'll be doing in the coming years. I've linked some of my favorite homeschooling mamas, resources, etc at the end of this post and they have far more information to offer than me. Also, this is how we approach home education. Every family is different. The ages of my children mean we're a little more creative with our learning and a little more relaxed. As we grow, that will likely evolve as well. This is what works for us and not what may work for you and that's OK. Luckily, with homeschooling, as with diets, there's no one right way :)
How do you find time to teach your kids?
For us, it takes a lot of balance and patience. We fit things in when we can - William often does workbooks while Theodore and Charlotte nap. We've chosen an approach that focuses heavily on reading great books together and I can read aloud while the kids play quietly in the school room and that 'counts' as school time. The traditional school day doesn't really have 7hours of classroom learning time once you take out transitions, switching classes, recess, lunch, and as my oldest is currently doing kindergarten/1st grade work a solid 2.5-3 hours is enough for us. We break it up throughout the day but do the bulk in the morning after breakfast. HERE is an example of what our homeschooling day looks like.
What curriculum do you use?
The simple answer is we don't. Brad and I read The Well-Trained Mind and fell in love with the Classical approach to homeschooling. The book is a wealth of resources and knowledge and support for anyone starting out and I recommend it to everyone. We spend a lot of time reading, working through a handwriting and math workbook, and doing narration (you can read all about our daily rhythm in this post). The books we're using this year (2017-18) are listed and described in THIS POST *COMING SOON*.
How do you afford to homeschool?
When we first started out, I spent about $300-500 on supplies. Books, paper, notebooks, coloring supplies, puzzles, workbooks, games, etc. It was too much. I truly believe that a library card, a few good guidebooks, paper and writing utensils (crayons, colored pencils, watercolors, pencils) and a willingness to get creative is all it takes. We've been lucky enough to have truly supportive parents who use gift-giving holidays to send books for our homeschooling library, annual passes to the aquarium or museums and pitch in for activities for the kids (William does guitar lessons and Charlotte is in ballet). Other than that, Brad is military so we often get free admission to a lot of museums, Brad and I are both in grad school so we have free or discounted online access to various things. I haven't purchased anything for our homeschool other than crayons, watercolors and paper since the beginning of the school year.
How do you go about homeschooling legally?
Every state has their own laws and guidelines about homeschooling. Some are very strict and others are pretty relaxed. There are a few different avenues you can go down. HSLDA is a fantastic resource for all things homeschool and legality. You can click on your state and learn everything you need about how to go about it. In California, we have the option to establish a private school within our home, work with a private school satellite program, or homeschool via the instruction of a private tutor as well as working within a charter system. We've chosen to establish a private school within our home as it allows for a little more freedom and flexibility in subject matter, etc.
When do you have to start being 'legit' and legal?
Compulsory schooling age varies by state but in California it's 6-18. William is currently 5 so we're not actually 'legal' right now. We will be filing the paperwork to establish our private school later this year.
What is required for a homeschool to be legal?
Again, this varies by state and by the kind of homeschool you're doing. For us, as a private school, there are a handful of things required by the state of California:
1. File an affidavit annually
2. Keep attendance
3. Offer the courses offered in public schools (*offer, not require)
4. Maintain immunization records
5. Keep a list of courses of study
6. Instructors must be capable of teaching (*this is super vague and can mean anything)
7. Keep a list of teachers & qualifications and TB clearance (a criminal background is needed unless it's just parent teaching their own children)
How do you manage kids of different ages?
William is the only one technically in 'school' right now. He is 5 and a half and doing kindergarten/1st grade work (mostly 1st grade because he's just so in to everything!). Charlotte (4) and Theodore (1.5) receive a lot of the same instruction and are involved with most of our homeschool activities. It isn't easy - Theodore climbs up on the table and spills watercolors, I help William with math while holding Teddy and reading him a book, Charlotte begs me to watch her dance or do a puzzle while I'm working on narration with William - there are a lot of interruptions. But I can see the leaps and bounds William and Charlotte are both making in all subjects (Charlotte does reading work and handwriting) so I don't worry about anyone getting 'behind' or falling through the cracks.
How do you keep going when things are hard/impossible?
We take breaks. One of the neat things about homeschooling is we can take Monday off if we're not feeling it. There are 180 days in the California school year. We keep attendance every day, I keep a notebook of everything 'school-related' we do each day and often times we end up with a full day of 'school' on Saturday or holidays so I don't sweat taking breaks now and then. We also school through the summer so we have a lot more flexibility in our daily schedule. While we like to keep things as regular as possible and stick with our routine (for my own sanity and for the sake of the children), it's really nice to be able to take a day off here and there without stressing about fitting it all in.
Do you feel like each child gets enough attention?
The short answer? Yes. The long answer? Not at the same time. I am confident that each of my children gets the love and attention they need overall. Does that mean that they get the same number of minutes with me each day? Not at all. Some days I spend most of my time keeping Theodore off the school table or entertained with books and blocks while William and Charlotte work more independently. Other days, I'm wrapped up with William and Charlotte doing narration and crafts and Theodore is in my bathroom cabinet emptying out tampon boxes. I guess I trust that everything evens out in the end. And when they go to bed every night and we talk about what we did that day (my own daily notebook helps too!), I know they got 'enough' of my attention and love and education.
What's your technology stance?
A couple years ago we got rid of our television. It was lovely. I wrote about it here and I still feel the same way about most of it. When we moved to our new home in Los Angeles and had more space, Brad and I decided to bring the TV back out. The television and any other devices (we have on iPad that we all share), are not involved in our school days. There are times where I need to print out a picture for them to copy for their narration page but anything we need to look up we can usually find in our books or I do a quick search on my iPhone. Every few days the kids will watch an episode or two of a show on PBS on Netflix (we don't have cable). Wild Kratts is a favorite and they learn so much about animals I can't really complain. When William has finished his workbooks during the little kids' naps, he has free reign on the iPad while he waits - usually 30minutes to an hour. He usually plays games or watches a show. We only keep parent-approved things on the iPad so he just has access to PBS Kids and the handful of educational games we've downloaded for him. It's an ever-evolving journey - navigating technology - and some days I wan to unplug the TV and never use it again and throw away the iPads but at the same time, this is the world we live in and not knowing how to work a computer or a tablet can make for some pretty difficult hurdles when they're older.
So what about socialization?
This is honestly the most common question I get (or anything related to social skills) and I will probably write an entire post about socialization and my approach. We are lucky enough to live in an amazing community. We currently live in a satellite base housing neighborhood which means it's all military officers and guarded by the federal police (aka super safe). It's a tiny community and every street has a cul de sac at the end and everyone has kids. OK not everyone but there are over 30 kids on my block alone (13 houses). Which means, all of the kids (they're almost all under 10) spend all their free time outside running free together. William and Charlotte spend anywhere from 2-4hrs outside with their friends every day. On top of that, Charlotte has ballet class twice a week and William guitar lessons (private but learning from a teacher that's not a parent). We attend story time at the library at least once a week, sometimes three and there's always time for playing with friends after. On Mondays, William attends an Explorer Club on the base with a bunch of other kids around his age. I could go on and on about their interactions and social skills with everyone they meet but I'll save that for a longer post. I can imagine once they get a little older the amount of time they spend free playing with friends will diminish but for now, I am not worried one bit about my children being social.
Books on schooling & raising kids:
The Homeschooling Option
How Children Succeed
Have Fun. Learn Stuff. Grow.
Free to Learn
Learning all the Time
The Unschooling Handbook
Parenting the Strong-Willed Child
Real Life Homeschooling
A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children
Weapons of Mass Instruction
The Dumbest Generation
Teaching Montessori in the Home