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There is No One Right Way to Homeschool

Relax, mamas, there is no right way to homeschool.
There is no right way to homeschool. Relax, mama, you've got this.

Are You Struggling to Homeschool?

This time of year it is nearly impossible to scroll through a homeschool Facebook group without reading about mamas struggling to homeschool. Most have multiple children which means multiple grades. Many have large families and/or babies and toddlers in the mix. The biggest thing I notice about the struggling moms is they are trying to do everything.

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 Remember, friends, there is no one right way to homeschool. Another PNW homeschooling adventure with friends.

Homeschooling Can Be Hard

Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling can be hard. Really hard. It takes commitment. It takes passion and patience. But the one message I wish I could send to my new homeschool mamas is to relax. There really is no one right way to homeschool. And whatever you are doing it is very likely enough.

I have been homeschooling for almost twenty years. We have gone through many stages of family life, medical emergencies, upheavals, moves, and even putting kids in school for different seasons. I have learned so much over the years about what is really important and what isn’t.

Homeschooling with anxiety is a daily challenge and keeps me busy finding activities for Apollo. Let your kids be involved with daily activities.

Earlier Doesn’t Mean Better

In the early years, I was always concerned about whether or not I was doing enough. It felt to me that my children’s entire future hung on the balance of math facts and sight words. As far as learning went, the sooner, the better. The more, the better. This lead to many discouraging days where I felt like I was failing and left me wondering if the kids would be better off in school.

Don’t Try to Do Everything

The most important thing I have learned from years of homeschooling is you don’t need to do everything. Every subject, every day, every activity, every co-op, every sport. I have had some of my kids in public school on and off since 2012 and let me tell you a secret. Schools don’t do every subject every day and they often don’t complete the textbooks by the end of the year.

I can’t tell you what a relief this was to me when I realized that even in school they weren’t completing everything.

How to survive a first grade field trip. There is no one right way to homeschool so make sure you find your own groove.

If Your Child is Struggling, Try Taking a Pause

Over time I learned that when a child is struggling, often dropping the topic for a couple of weeks or even months, gives the brain time to process and catch up. Nine times out of ten when we “dropped” a subject a child was struggling with (reading, times tables, long division, etc.) and picked it up a few months later with literally zero practice in between, the child suddenly caught on. And usually quickly and easily.

It’s okay to take a break, for you and your child.

This DIY Candy Sushi project is perfect for a homeschool study of Japan.

You Probably Don’t Need to Homeschool Six Hours a Day

I have seen so many homeschool schedules posted recently (and if they make you and your kids happy and your life easier, go for it) that are chock full. These schedules include Bible, math, reading, grammar, history, science, writing, music, and more. Moms are filling homeschool schedules that have the kids doing school for six hours a day. Our school days rarely lasted more than three or so hours. My younger kids were done in an hour or less. My homeschooled kids, even at the junior high and high school level, had plenty of time to pursue their own passions.

Watching to 2017 total eclipse was a fun experience i hop my children always remember.

Does This Type of Homeschooling Actually Work?

I am here to tell you it does. I have graduated five children so far. All graduated from high school at age 17 or 18 with a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree from our local community college. Two of those children went on to four year universities. All are sucessful adults.

How to Know You Are Doing Enough in Your Homeschool

Provide a Learning-Rich Environment

Have you set up an environment that promotes learning, curiosity, independence, and life skills? Do you let them in the kitchen with you to cook? Do they help with yard work? Do you read them books and supply them with art materials? This doesn’t have to be complicated. Some paper and colored pencils are enough.

JIMU robot kids is the perfect holiday gift to bring families together.

Do You Read to your kids frequently?

You don’t need to own hundreds of books, that’s what libaries are for. Just make sure your children have a large variety of books available and ample time to read. For pre-readers, read to them every day. Kids benefit from being read the same books over and over, so don’t be afraid of repetition.

Percy beating the egg.

Do you let Your Kids Help With Daily Activities?

Let them in the kitchen. Have them by your side while you are preparing meals. A three-year-old can peel carrots, wash potatoes, tear lettuce for a salad, and slice olives. Move them on to more challenging skills as they grow.

Wonder Crew Superhero Doll is great for encouraging imagination.

Do You Choose Your Toys Carefully?

Keep toys to a minimum and carefully choose the ones you do keep. Open-ended toys such as blocks, plastic animals, a few dolls and a few cars/trucks are perfect.

But What About Actual Schoolwork?

I don’t start my kids with formal learning before age eight. Despite this, all but one of my children could read well before this because they asked for “reading lessons”. I have successfully used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with all of my children.

We are big believers in Montessori-style education and the independent skills it teaches. You can check out my Montessori At Home board on Pinterest for more ideas. Free Montessori Materials Online also has great ideas.

I am a huge fan of Life of Fred for starting young kids on math. Obviously, at some point, math facts need to be memorized, but this doesn’t need to be started in first or second grade. I have set up some book-based activities teaching the Pythagorean Theorem, how to make a working compass, place value and more.

Dissecting a lamb heart for our Halloween Science party.

I don’t really do Language Arts when my kids are young. Being well-read and encouraging them to “write” down their stories and ideas was always enough in the younger years.

I often created unit studies based on whatever the kids were interested in. The led to me being able to (easily) integrate math, history, science, reading and writing into the kids’ passions and interests.

PNW Homeschool Adventures. Filling kids' days with the wonder of nature.

We have used Story of the World as the backbone to our homeschool for years. We read the chapter, do the map work, read at least a few of the suggested books for each chapter and do a project. Anytime a particular chapter really captured their interest, we stopped and studied that for as long they were interested; whether it is for weeks or months. Homeschooling meant there was no set timeframe for us to have to finish the book. We actually usually took two years to get through one volume.

What About Junior High and High School?

Apollo in his Primary capsule wardrobe.

For 7-12th grades, we obviously required more formal schoolwork, but it still never took a full (six hour) school day. Homeschooling the way we do means that by the time our children are this age they know how to seek their passions and educate themselves. They have read hundreds if not thousands of books by the time they graduate.

For math, we used a combination of Teaching Textbooks and have had the kids take Algebra and Geometry though a former teacher who taught homeschool classes.

By this age teaching writing, simply meant teaching the basics. When you start formal grammar at age 12 or 13, they catch on quickly, within a matter of months. I used The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier and The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need. With just this preparation every one of my children has been able to test into college-level English at age sixteen.

Technology enables me to homeschool my daughter with hearing loss.

For science, I had Adalia, Judah, and Tilly work through a Biology text designed for homeschoolers. 11th and 12th grade they were enrolled at our community college and took their classes there.

boy playing guitar

We used Rosetta Stone for foreign language, though now my kids use Duolingo (you can read my review of both here).

So, really, mamas, what you are doing is okay. It doesn’t have to be all books and co-ops, and memorization, and enrichment classes. Provide the books, the inspiration, the freedom to learn and explore. Don’t worry about sticking rigidly to the public school schedule. Provide the right environment, and your children will learn.

And there you have it. My kids who had never been in a classroom before were able to enroll in community college at age 16 and not just survive, but thrive.

You’ve got this, mama!

12 Comments

  1. Kayla Hunt

    I homeschooled my 3 kids until they were grade 11,9, and 7. I never felt like I was doing enough, and we definitely never finished a textbook 🙂 What we did was read read read good books. I usually read to them, or we listed to an audiobook. While they all learned to read between 5 and 7 years of age, they didn’t spend a lot of time reading on their own until they were 10+ years old. We tried to keep up to grade level with math, read through the Story of the World series, watched science videos, did experiments – and just had a lot of spare time to do chores, be bored, hangout, learn to be good to each other, fold laundry, take care of pets and chickens, and talk about the important stuff. It was so hard at times, but now, after two years of public school and our oldest graduated with a full high school diploma (and a mid 90’s average) we can all say we have no regrets.

    • Renee

      Yes. On the daily, it can seem like we just aren’t doing enough. But those minutes turn to hours, to days, then weeks of cumulative reading, exploring, and experimenting. In our case (and I suspect yours) the kids retain so much because they are engaged and interested. And “life skills” are a part of school every day. No need for Home Ec or other such classes.

  2. Melpub

    Fabulous post. I agree, no formal schooling before age 8. Earlier only if the child demands it. Kindergarten should be about play, not drilling. I did enjoy some of the Calvert Home School exercises–for example, the child was asked to connect dots of items beginning with the same sound or letter, and a correct series of lines revealed the letter with which the items began. I liked their phonic readers, too, though we mostly relied on Dr. Seuss, especially Hop on Pop, in the very beginning. I know the NY Times did a piece on universities looking for homeschooled children–who tended to be better prepared. Homeschooled children tend to get through the same material much more quickly than a class.

    • Renee

      Most of my kids “demanded” formal learning before 8. Most were reading independently long before then. I agree, that kind of preschool/kindergarten workbook was loved by most of my kids. I just never “required” school work before 8.

  3. Rivera

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. This being our second year homeschooling, it is always in the back of my mind whether I’m doing enough or not, and whether I will fail my child, something I won’t be able to handle. Don’t get me wrong, I have full support on all ends, but as parents, we always want the best for our children and that fear of failure, for some odd reason, is always there, but reading articles like yours and others alike, always put me at ease. They assure me that I have made the right decision for my child, especially in the days we are living. Again, thank you and God continue to bless you.

    • Renee

      You are welcome. On my bad days, I spent way too much time worrying about these and fearing I might be failing my children. All of them are thriving academically, including two sons in university who are also in the Honors College.

  4. Melpub

    Rivera–there are sites that guide and help parents. There are services, which can be expensive, but, for instance, Calvert offers real support and I think they have a sliding scale. Check them out–it’s been years since we used them (my kids are teenagers and older) but they were sooo professional and nice.

  5. Lori

    This is my first year homeschooling my first grader but reading stories like this is really supportive. I was very nervous at first, but after seeing how happy my son was, and eager for his mother to be his teacher, put me at ease. My son is able to focus alot more on his work without any distractions like of those he would have at a public school.

    • Renee

      My biggest piece of advice for you is to read a lot, let your son explore (outdoors and in the kitchen) and follow his interests! Even math can be put off for another year or two.

  6. Shannon

    I am glad to know im not the only one, every day i teach them something and every night im up way too late trying to make sure i actually am teaching them something. I know i teach them real life things , read a lot of books , play outside , pray …they are all so bright. Im sure there will be “proof” someday that we are actually doing this homeschool thing. We do have some worksheets and workbooks. My five year old enjoys them. The two year old even more. When something is stressful we take a break from it. That is the whole point , i dont want to stress them while teaching them , i want them to learn well , to love learning. Always praying and trusting God that this is right the right thing for us , your article helps confirm that. Thank you.

    • Renee

      You are on the right track! Installing a love of books, love of learning, and teaching them how to learn will serve them so much better over time than drilling them with memorization and facts!

  7. Melpub

    I often thought that if we’d been living in a large American city (we aren’t–we’re in Germany, where unfortunately homeschooling is against the law) that I’d prefer to teach my kids at home. In New York, many public schools are overcrowded, substandard, and dangerous–and the private schools are way too pricey. Fifteen years ago my husband had a sabbatical and we thought we’d do a year in an American kindergarten. The local public school immediately asked if we wanted the “gifted and talented ” program–while I was registering my kid! Turned out he was the only “middle-class” looking child. Also the only white child there. I was afraid for him to be the only one of anything. The local private school, a paradise of integration (one fifth white, one fifth black, one fifth hispanic . . . etc) cost nearly $20,000. Right now, first grade tuition at NYC private schools is close to $40,000. Not for the likes of us!
    I’m happy teaching anything related to literature and history but would despair with math. I figured in New York I could always get together with other moms who were math-and-science minded. We could take the kids to museums and landmarks. But the way things worked out, my children went to German schools, but I still did much reading in English at home, and have instilled my own (mostly American) ideas about essay-writing and literary interpretation. They all turned out well, but I do remember my early despairing moments, during which I foolishly imagined that they would “never” learn to speak or form letters. Those were the laughable errors of my inexperienced young motherhood.

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