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Homeschooling 101, Part 3: Making It Simple, Making It Low-Stress

simplehomeschoolIn my last post in this series that introduces homeschooling, I discussed the most popular approaches that parents take to home education. Today, I want to explain what education looks like in our home, and why.

I use an eclectic method that is a loose combination of Charlotte Mason, the Moore Formula. and the Core Knowledge series.

Hold on. What is the Core Knowledge series, you ask? You have probably seen or heard of the books: What Your Kindergartener Needs To Know, What Your First-Grader Needs To Know, etc. That’s the Core Knowledge series.

Ah, yes, Now the light bulb goes on. I’ll get back to Core Knowledge in a moment.

How we structure our day

The more intense academic activities take place before lunch, and consist of reading, writing/spelling, and math. We spend between two and three hours on those subjects, typically fifteen to thirty minute stretches with fifteen-minute breaks in between.

Sometime after lunch, we read science or social studies related material. As a family, we do art together twice a week around one in the afternoon while classical music plays in the background. Otherwise Benjamin draws, colors, paints, or does crafts as he is so inspired.

A couple of times a week, I have Benjamin listen to popular folk and children’s songs via YouTube (like his daddy, he’s not much for singing, so I don’t force it), and once in a while watch a video about the orchestra with him so that he will eventually learn the names and sounds of the various instruments.

For about forty-five minutes every afternoon, as a treat for behaving earlier in the day, my son will watch an educational DVD, such as a couple of episodes of “Popular Mechanics for Kids”, a National Geographic nature DVD, or one of the Rock ‘N Learn science DVD’s.

The materials I use

For reading: Poetry, ability-appropriate books from the library, lists of rhyming words that we create.

For science and social studies: Library books, The Story Of The World series by Susan Bauer, the Rock ‘N Learn DVD’s mentioned above, and the Core Knowledge series (which I also get from the library). As a homeschooler, you might consider The Core Knowledge series which you borrow from the library a free curriculum. It contains all the basic information in all of the subject areas, including fine arts, for all the elementary grade levels. At the end of each section, it also has a list of other recommended instructional materials.

In fact, I began using it because of its information on art and music. Even though I enjoy singing and can play the keyboard and guitar at beginner levels, I haven’t figured out how to teach my son about the different kinds of music and the great composers, as well as the various elements of music. I did not want to shell out money for a boxed curriculum, especially for a child for whom music is not an innate talent.

And I wanted to introduce my son to the great artists without having to find a place for a huge (not to mention expensive) art coffee table book in my home. The Core Knowledge books provides that information, as well as information about how art is created.

A word about math

If there is one subject worth buying a pre-fab curriculum for, it is math. Although the Core Knowledge books contain the math concepts for each grade level, as well as solid explanations and examples, they are provided in isolated contexts and do not provide nearly enough practice for a student to become proficient in them (the editor of the books admits as much).

However, most of the math curriculums available are based on paper-and-pencil, drill-and-kill worksheets. Even Math-U-See, which I originally started with because I’d heard it was manipulative-based, quickly moves children into the abstract and becomes boring and tedious.

Of course, none of these curriculums come cheap.

Enter Story Math™. I am writing Story Math™ for two reasons: #1) I don’t like any of the other choices out there that I’ve seen. They are all lacking one thing or another that I consider important to help a children understand and keep an ongoing interest in the things of math; and #2) I wanted to provide other homeschooling parents an affordable, fun alternative to teaching their children math.

To stay updated on my homeschooling publications, please click the envelope icon in the above right sidebar. You will not get on a mailing list, but you will receive all my blog posts in your inbox as they are published. And via this blog, I will be announcing my publications for each Story Math™ level as they become available at Amazon.com.

The four basic elements of a low-stress homeschool

First, keep the formal academics to no more than three hours per day. Your child may need more if they are in high school and prepping to enter medical school or something like that, but most children will learn everything they need in under four hours per day. This allows plenty of time for children to pursue their own interests and develop their talents.

Second, use the library as well as freebies on Kindle (many works of classic literature are available there for free) for the bulk of your reading, science, social studies, and fine arts curriculum. Even if you live in a state that requires you to meet certain objectives every year, you can do that for most subjects by visiting the library on a regular basis.

Third, have a set, yet flexible, schedule. Children need to know when they will be doing what – and really, so do you! At the same time, allow for the inevitable days when either you or your children feel like doing nothing, or for incorporating weekly or monthly playdates with fellow homeschoolers.

Finally, have fun! Play math games to learn the facts. Buy board games and puzzles to teach geography. Teach your child to read using Dr. Seuss books and Jack Prelutsky’s silly poetry. Dance to music. And so on.

In my next post on this topic, I will be diving more into the subject that is more intimidating than any other: teaching reading. Stay tuned (remember to click the envelope icon above to subscribe to this blog).

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  • Rosanna October 23, 2016, 10:49 pm

    Those are all great ideas! For me, less stress has actually been embracing a little more curriculum and less hunting for resources on the internet this year. I have three children all that very different levels, so I was finding it particularly stressful last year. I really like the point about keeping the formal academics under 3 hours a day. This is what we do and it works really well for us. This gives them tons of time to learn by doing and to be creative on their own time.

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