Why Did We Start Homeschooling?
When our children were born we didn’t immediately think about their schooling. That’s years from now, right? We just read lots of books and played.
Friends of ours had boys a few years older than our children and were homeschooling. When my kids were barely out of diapers I went to one of their meetings. The moms there talked about their successes and struggles. They organized field trips. They prayed for each other. I enjoyed it so kept attending.
When Harrison turned 5, we thought, “How hard can it be to homeschool Kindergarten?” He was already reading and could do some basic math. He and Miranda loved re-enacting what we read about or what we experienced on our field trips. I had the support of the other homeschooling moms to draw on if I felt challenged.
So we kept them home for Kindergarten. At the end of the year we asked ourselves “Should we keep doing this?”
We kept asking that question each year.
The answer each year was yes.
What Curriculum Do You Use?
This question comes up a lot. The answer isn’t a quick one, so we’ll outline it below and then link you off to Resource pages for specifics.
Elementary School Years
During the the elementary school years I had an eclectic approach. I dabbled in several formal programs and we read a lot of library books. My children had different strengths when it came to math and writing so I tailored subjects to suit each kid.
We added “Daddy Time” in the garage, on the snow-hills, or on the bike paths. We also found local programs to tap into like gym class for homeschoolers at the local college or a 4H program where Miranda worked with miniature horses.
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We learned together. And read together. Went on “field trips” together. And played together.
Middle School Years
When the kids entered the middle school years we got more structured in our schooling. In addition to teaching the kids at home, I hired a tutor to encourage our reluctant writer and our prolific writer.
I also enrolled my children in Friday Addition - a one day a week program where the kids attended classes on those “additional” topics I may not cover at home (i.e. art, music, drama, Spanish, gym)
The school year before we began traveling was our most structured year.
I felt like I finally had the hang of this homeschooling thing.
We cooked up this crazy plan to take a year traveling the country.
Our One Year Road Trip
The summer before we left on our one year adventure was crazy-busy with preparations. We had to shop for, buy and prep a new truck and a new (used) RV. We had to find someone to live in our house and get that arranged. We had to change insurance.
The week before we left, I freaked. I didn’t have anything finalized for the upcoming school year. Mike looked me in the eyes and calmly told me to “let it go”.
I don’t want to be sitting outside of Yosemite and having to wait for the kids to finish up their workbook pages.Mike
So we left with multiple stacks of books, paper, and pencils/pens/markers. No textbooks. No schedules.
For the first few weeks we were all getting used to traveling and living in this small space.
About a month into the trip I became unsettled again. Without a schedule or textbooks, I felt my kids were not learning anything. I felt we needed to get more structured.
I put together a plan. It lasted a week. I was frustrated.
At this point, Harrison put things into perspective for me. He reminded me that he and Miranda were learning.
He said history lessons came from:
- Erie, PA (where we learned about the War of 1812)
- Gettysburg (where we learned about the Civil War)
- Philadelphia, PA (where we learned about the founding fathers)
and science lessons came from:
- Richmond, VA (where we learned about sundials)
- Virginia Beach, VA (where we learned about ocean life)
- Upper Black Eddy, PA (where we learned about rocks that ring like bells)
and Geography? They were learning that every time we moved the RV.
He was right.
I “let it go” for the next several months. We visited National Parks where Miranda was still young enough to do the Junior Ranger programs.
We visited State and County Parks where we learned about the desert, the ocean, the forests. We visited large cities and experienced public transporation, unique foods, and homelessness.
The kids participated in NaNoWriMo and journaling to keep their writing skills progressing. Somewhere in Arizona I added formal math.
We learned from our travels.
Pit Stop in Suburbia
After our year of traveling we returned to our house for six months to prep it for sale. Switching gears for homeschooling was difficult.
I ordered some science, history and math curriculums even while we were purging a basement full of old curriculum.
Harrison joined a local homeschoolers Journalism class and started a Sports column for the class newspaper.
We muddled through without enthusiasm or structure.
Return to the Road
The house sold and we went back to the road fulltime.
Our homeschooling morphed again. It became a combination of formal curriculum and experiences as we traveled.
Both kids took on new physical challenges - mountain biking, hiking, surfing, snorkeling, BMX racing. They both took online classes, meeting kids from all over the world (and remaining friends with some of them).
They watched and listened as the House of Representatives discussed and took vote on a bill. Harrison had his first “real job” and Miranda worked with horses and dogs. They hung out with kids and adults of all ages.
They continued to learn.
Where We Are Now?
Another four years have gone by since we sold the house. We are in the final phases of our homeschooling journey.
Last January we graduated Harrison on his 18th birthday. His final year with me was more formal as he wanted to make sure he was prepared to attend college after a gap year if he chose to.
The summer after he graduated he worked part-time at Subway, improving his “life skills” (cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc.) and spending time working on his music. The following fall he moved out on his own.
Miranda originally thought she’d like to graduate on her 18th birthday, like her brother did. She realized a few months ago that she had more she wanted to learn before officially graduating. We’ve pencilled in the end of this year.
Miranda does school work most every day. Over the past few months she’s:
- Finishing up a formal math program
- Completed a human anatomy course
- Learning Dutch
- Teaching herself guitar
- Editing one novel and writing another
- Knitting hats, purses, washcloths, and stuffed animals
She’s found ways to learn more about animals. She did an internship at a humane society. She took care of animals at an animal rescue ranch. She worked her first paid job this summer. Her final “year” of homeschooling looks different than Harrison’s did.
The beauty of homeschooling is that it can be tailored to each child.
If I Could Do It Over?
I didn’t realize (until writing this article) how many different curriculums we tried. Why did I change them up so often? I’m surprised my poor kids could keep up.
I was probably too busy watching what other homeschooling families used. Or searching for the perfect solution. Or just trying to not screw up my kids.
If I could do it all over again?