A sweet friend of mine, whom I've known since forever (Hi Emily!) asked me on Facebook yesterday what books I'd recommend for homeschooling, as she's going to be homeschooling her daughters next year. I started a reply on Facebook, then (when it started getting ridiculously long) thought to myself, "I should just do a blog post about it, as I'm sure she's not the only one wondering."
So here I am, gathering all my homeschool arsenal, finding Amazon links to my favorite books, and feeling reenergized myself about this crazy adventure I'm on in home educating.
When anyone asks about homeschooling, the first book that comes to mind, without fail, is Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I used that book when I did kindergarten with the boys last year, and true to its title, by the end, they knew how to read.
We used BOB books, too. (Starting with the pre-reader set and going all the way up to Set 4)
When I first decided I would be homeschooling, I went online and ordered three books, all from vastly different schools of thought on homeschooling. I needed to figure out what would work for us.
1) I read John Holt's book How Children Learn. He is the father of unschooling, and while I found some things in the book to be true, I generally disagree with the notion that there's no place for structured learning in the classical sense. Also, unschooling was just too unstructured for me.
2) I read The Well Trained Mind, a Guide to Classical Education at Home. The Well Trained Mind was the complete opposite of How Children Learn, and made me feel that I was entirely unequipped and underqualified to teach our two five year olds. If you want a really structured homeschool, this book is a fantastic guide. It even has all sources of workbooks & textbooks you could order, which is great if you're just starting out.
From the book:
"In the classical curriculum, reading, writing, grammar and math are the center of the curriculum. History and science become more and more important as the child matures. Foreign languages are immensely valuable, but shouldn't crowd out these basic skill areas. And music and art are wonderful when you can manage them."
As much as it originally overwhelmed me, I find myself sticking to its general practice, focusing most of our days on reading & writing, as well as math.
3) I still have the Charlotte Mason Companion on my shelf. I really need to crack it open!
For preschool I literally got my curriculum from Dollar Tree. I got a handwriting book, an alphabet workbook, and a number workbook for each twin. I also got two colored (kind of expensive) books for cutting from The Learning Palace. (Similar to this.) I knew it would be worth it if the twins were excited to use their scissors. For Logan especially (my lefty) cutting has been a challenge.
I gathered ideas from Family Circle for arts & crafts, and taught shapes, colors, letters & numbers with flashcards. Flashcards were a super simple and really effective way to work on all the curriculum daily.
For kindergarten, we got a large wall calendar for daily calendar time. After doing calendar, we read three books each day. We also learned months of the year and days of the week.
In addition to 100 Lessons (see above) I used a Scholastic Kindergarten book I got at Costco. It was great cause each section reinforced different aspects of school: handwriting, colors, shapes, letters and numbers. We also used this notebook for the boys to draw a picture and write a sentence about it each day.
For first grade we learned to count to 100, (also by 2's, 5's, 10's); started keeping daily journals (by far my favorite part of homeschooling); used Saxon Phonics & Spelling gifted to me by the school when they switched curriculum year before last; and bought Singapore math curriculum. (Plus the Instructor's Guide.) I adore the Saxon phonics and will be sad when I have to switch next year. The Singapore math has been a little more challenging for me, but it's working. It requires a lot of manipulatives, that luckily I have since I'm married to a teacher. :)
This year we also started chapter books (Junie B., Flat Stanley & The Magic Tree House) which we all love, and they do independent reading for 20 minutes a day. That is what makes me miss the Fort Vancouver Regional Library. Again, thankfully I'm married to a teacher so we can get our fair share of awesome priced Scholastic books.
In addition to calendar, math & reading, we have sight word flash cards that we do daily. There are three sets total, and we're on the second set now. I find that knowing the sight words has helped Jack with his reading fluency and he's much less frustrated while reading aloud to me.
For the last half of this year, I am wanting to bring in more science and history. I ordered a history book based on my blog friend Ashley's recommendation. I am anxiously awaiting the delivery from Amazon. The boys constantly want more science experiments (Pinterest is invaluable when it comes to these!) and I am making an effort to make sure we do at least one each week.
I want to add sign language to our curriculum when we do second grade and Wyatt (with preschool curriculum) joins the mix.
We love the Reading Rainbow app. They can "check out" books and the app reads them to the boys. We also use ABC Mouse. Wyatt's favorite is having it read stories aloud to him. But it is so much more than that. Plus they can earn "tickets" and "shop" with them in a virtual store. The twins love that part.
Also, we love Planet Earth and The Magic School Bus DVD's for those days when school at the table isn't feasible (ie kids or mommies get sick).
I recommend taking inventory of what your kids know at the start of each year so on your bad days you can remind yourself how far they've come. When we got here the fall after the boys turned four (their birthday is in June) they knew literally nothing. No numbers, no letters. By the start of kindergarten the next year they knew their shapes, colors, numbers and letters. Looking at that scrap of paper (it's literally 3x4 inches and bright orange) and seeing that giant 0 next to ABC and 123 makes me feel competent and capable. We went from zero to sixty, smiling all the while.
To display the boys' work I got two display rails at Target. The boys love hanging their work everyday to show to Josh when he gets home. Anything you can do to motivate them to work harder is worth it! Those silly display rails symbolize the finish line for us. "We did it! We got through today's work. Now go hang up your work!!!"
What do you want to accomplish each year? Each month? Each week? Setting goals helps you keep track of progress, and helps you eliminate things that aren't pushing you toward accomplishing that goal. My goal for kindergarten was: teach them to read. Most days, that's all I managed to work on. And that was okay. For first grade, the goal expanded to include math. These simple goals make the mountain I'm climbing seem surmountable.
Finding inspiration from other moms via blogs & pinterest also helps me stay motivated. And on the really hard days? There's Ryan Gosling and his collection of homeschool quotes.