Our Homeschool Journey

Fall 2020 should have been Jack and Maddie’s first year at their new school since moving last winter. But instead of kissing them goodbye while they nervously sat in their newly assigned classroom desks, we, like many families, prepared them the best we could for what we called “zoom school.”

The first day of virtual school was, as expected, anticlimactic. Everyone waved to their new teacher and classmates in the little squares on their screens, introduced themselves in a robotic-like manner, and practiced how to use the mute button. Parents around the world stood just out of view of the camera scratching their and pondering how this was ever going to work and giving their kids hand signals to sit up straight, smile, and stop picking your nose. The kids logged off of their “first day” feeling excited and claiming zoom school was awesome. This process continued for the rest of the week. Piece-a-cake!

Enter: week two.

There were four new platforms to learn, four new sign-in processes (none of which could be saved to the rented school laptops), dysfunctional laptops with broken speakers, and don’t even get me started on the internet connection issues. The kids had to be on different floors of the house because all their live chats were held simultaneously, which meant my husband and I spent the day running up and down the stairs 2-4 times for each zoom meeting to help each child login and handle any technical issues they experienced along the way. Sound familiar? The zoom calls went from one a day, to two, to three and kept creeping higher and higher as the weeks went on. By noon each day, mama needed a Moscow mule.

We gave it four weeks. Four LONG weeks. There were tears. LOTS of tears. Mostly by me, to be honest. The kids were bored stiff and constantly frustrated with the nonstop technical issues and expectation that a kindergartener and third grader could keep track of six different virtual meetings daily. Our house was unsettled, and we were all frustrated and miserable. So my husband and I sat down and discussed a plan of action. We were at a crossroads and something had to give. Why were we keeping the kids in the district if they weren’t getting a traditional classroom learning experience and the socialization that comes with it? We scheduled a conference call with the principal of their elementary school to discuss the process for unenrolling the kids from the district temporarily until in-person learning returned to a somewhat normal manner. Within 24 hours, our online curriculum was being overnighted to us, I was busy downloading beautifully composed homeschool supplemental study packs that were catered to my kid’s personal interests, and we began discussing a plan for turning an empty room in the basement into a classroom.

It’s filled with so many rewarding aspects that are equally matched with challenges that sometimes make me feel like a complete failure and ready to throw in the towel. Let me tell you, my masters degree in business did not even begin to prepare me for the business of schooling my own children in a classroom in my home. It is not for the weak of heart, but I’ve truly come to love it.  One of the things I enjoy most is being able to customize both the materials and teaching methodology to my children’s individual needs, ages and personal preferences. This interest-based learning approach keeps the children thriving and curious. It also means we are finished with our subjects earlier than the public schools wrap up each day, giving them more time outside and with our animals. They spend about 5 hours less in front of screens each day now than when we were remote learning and have absorbed more information that I ever dreamed they would be able to. Homeschool has given us the opportunity to learn new crafts, hobbies and activities together, and give us the flexibility to work around house projects, weekends away, and family visiting from out of town. Though it seemed like a leap of faith at the time, our homeschool journey has truly been a blessing in countless ways. 

We have settled into a rhythm and have decided to continue down this current path for the time being. While I look forward to the day all three children are jumping on the bus in the morning to be with their friends and to learn from the incredible teachers in our district, for right now, this is working well for our family. 

I wanted to share some of my favorite homeschool resources with you and a basic rundown of what curriculum program I’ve created for my children:

Math  We chose to continue with Eureka. This is the program that our school district uses and that they started the schoolyear with, and we thought it would help with their transition back to the school district someday. We also found it to be very intuitive for the kids and all the materials are free to download online, including the teacher guides. For Henry, my preschooler, I love using the wooden tracing boards and other wooden learning tools offered by Timber Child. They are truly incredible heirloom quality and can be used so many different ways.

Language Arts – After an extraordinary amount of research and polling my beautiful homeschool Instagram community and several homeschooling friends, we decided to use the workbooks offered by The Good And The Beautiful. The materials have an emphasis on God, good character, nature and family; all things I work to instill in my children each day. I’ve been extremely happy with this decision and the kids enjoy each lesson and have learned a tremendous amount.

Handwriting – I have each child work on handwriting most days of the week. For Jack, it’s just helping to provide muscle memory as to how his writing should look, as it was barely legible prior to the start of this school year. For Maddie, it helps us differentiate the difference between upper and lowercase and when to use each. For Henry, it’s all about letter recognition and the proper way to hold his writing utensils. I mix up their handwriting assignments each day. We always begin with a “sign-in sheet” where they write their first, middle and last name and today’s full date. Then we either do a page in their The Good And The Beautiful handwriting booklet or I print off themed writing sheets from some of my favorite homeschool resources that I’ve listed below when they complement a special unit study we are working on that day.

History – I teach History and Science family-style, which means we all learn together around our classroom table. I started the year teaching about each president and was able to time it to conclude with watching the inauguration live this month. We have since moved on to learning about each state in the United States. I purchased a worksheet pack from My Father’s World and, while the kids are coloring the state’s bird and flower, I read interesting facts aloud about the state and we try to memorize the state’s capital and postal abbreviation.

Science and Special Study Units – I cater these to seasons, holidays and generally subjects that I know would interest the kids and that they should have a foundational knowledge of, and I combine several homeschool resources (listed below) to create each study pack and unity study. This is always the last subject of the day, as it gives the kids something special to look forward to and often involves outdoor activities, scavenger hunts, experiments, games and art projects that coordinate with the unit. After we finish a large unit, my husband and I try to organize a subject-related field trip. For example, a trip to the zoo or wildlife sanctuary after finishing a unit about mammals or a trip to the local waterfall after finishing a unit about water. Perhaps a trip to the ocean or the aquarium after completing a marine biology unit or a trip to a special botanical garden or arboratum after finishing a botany study. It’s truly a celebration of all they’ve learned.

Many of supplies and tools I used during my homeschooling days can be found on my Homeschool and Craft page on Amazon.

Now for a list of all my favorite homeschool resources:

The Brilliant Bungalow

Our Life In The Shire

Fiddlesticks Education

Fox Hollow Studios

Green Urban Creative

Raising Up Wild Things 

The Masterpiece Studio 

Wild + Free

Wild Feather Art

Stephanie Hathaway Designs

My Darling Chickadee

Simply A Love

Rooted Childhood

Twig & Moth

Crafts Fun & Learning

The Everyday Planner

Simple Studies

My Mountain Wild  

Hopefully this article has filled your school bag with some new ideas to incorporate into your homeschool curriculum. As always, thanks for visiting!

Homeschool isn’t for the faint of heart. But it surely does fill it up.-- @simple.and.free_

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