Starting With What We Have: A New Homeschool Year

Homeschooler or not, the end of July means one thing. School is just around the corner. For us, it’s next week. More or less. That just means we’re starting some subjects, but not everything. I’ve been a little slow pulling everything together for a couple of reasons.

Exploring a Japanese garden counts as a science credit and a field trip.

Exploring a Japanese garden counts as a science credit and a field trip.

First, we didn’t have the money to get all of our curriculum at once. With a move and major medical bills in our recent past, we are moving a little slow in the financial arena. Thankfully, we have quite a bit of school stuff that is reusable, and Half Price Books rocks. Well, except for the weird store in South Austin that kind of gave me the creeps. So, I’m ordering a little here and a little there, printing stuff off the Internet, and making do for the time being. My girls won’t be heartbroken to start math a month late, trust me.

Second, my oldest daughter is going into ninth grade. How that happened, I don’t know. She was giving us butterfly kisses and crawling in our bed just last week, or so it seems. Now, she straightens her hair, wears my shoes, and paints her nails. I’ve a good mind to lock her in a closet. Just kidding, sort of. So, anyway, I feel kind of like I did when I first started homeschooling. Overwhelmed. Panicked. Nauseous. In that order.

Finally, I just took a couple of deep breaths, flipped through a homeschool catalog with my eyes closed and pointed at something. No, really. I thought about where we want to go and how to get there. I also returned to the basics. No sense in getting too fancy the freshman year. Ironically, I learned my homeschool plan in the corporate world. My boss used to tell us the most important rule when designing a software program is the KISS method…keep it simple, stupid. Scope creep will bite you every time.

I’ve used a few different methods to teach different subjects over the years. Unit studies. Classical. Charlotte Mason. Unschooling. Textbooks. Each of them have some good ideas, but in the end I don’t fall into any of them completely. I’ve always said I was a square peg. So, don’t feel bad if you like the idea of something but just can’t make it work for you or your child(ren).

I liked the idea of unit studies, for instance, but always felt trapped into adding just one more thing and making sure the whole subject was tied together. It really pushed my Type A personality to the limit.

I liked the theory of Charlotte Mason, but did not see my daughter getting the nuts and bolts of grammar which only comes with practice, practice, practice. She’s an avid reader, but was not translating it to the writing by osmosis, like CM likes to advocate. So, we had to backtrack and do some deep grammar study for a few years. I changed that with my younger daughters, and they start grammar practice much earlier, like around third grade. It’s not exciting, but it lays a strong foundation for writing later.

Some homeschoolers think everything should be fun, interest-driven, happy-go-lucky. I like all those things, too, but I didn’t see it happening for us. I encourage them to read and watch extra material related to our subjects, but I lay out the subjects we’re studying. I include things I think they will enjoy, but whether they feel a connection with long division is irrelevant. They have to learn it. That’s life.

People in my generation learned things from textbooks. No Internet. The library was where it was happening. In the beginning, I rebelled against textbooks, but I’ve mellowed somewhat since then. I see the value in using a science textbook, for example, to outline a year of study. Then, I throw a little unit studies and notebooking in to spice it up and dig a little deeper. I mean, it’s cool to watch a real live caterpillar spin a cocoon and then come out as a butterfly. If you draw the whole process as it happens, even a kindergartner will remember it for years.

All that to say, even with the high school curve ball thrown at me, I’m keeping it simple. I’m using some textbooks to get the information out there. Then, I’m planning some fun spin-offs to help nail a few major points. We’re using workbooks to practice all that ugly grammar and math. And we’re reading like crazy about whatever suits our fancy.

We’re starting with what we have, and as we are able, we will add the other stuff. It will all get done, but maybe not all at the same time. No one will be harmed in process. In fact, we may do better without jumping in over our heads all in one week. Yep, I think it will be a good year.

How is your homeschool planning?


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