(or: First There Was a Volcano)
Recently a friend and I gave the 'Getting Started' talk at the state Catholic homeschooling conference. My part was to discuss the practical side, the nuts and bolts of homeschooling. I prepared way more than I had time to present. Since I have a blog, at least I get to post it! :)
Eleven years ago on the night of labor day, my oldest son and I were so excited that we could hardly sleep because we were starting 'official' kindergarten the next day. We got going in the morning, we did a craft, practiced letter sounds, read books and built a very cool volcano in our sandbox. It was truly one of the best days of our lives because we began homeschooling.
I just finished up 10th grade, 8th grade, 7th grade, 4th grade, 2nd grade and my sixth kindergartner and I can honestly say I am more committed and enthusiastic than ever about homeschooling. It is such a blessing. It provides an excellent education, solid formation in the faith and love in your family... for the price of hard work. It is hard work...but joyful work. And what else do you have to do with your time that is more important than raising and educating your precious children? Those two things, raising and educating, become very intertwined. It’s a beautiful way of life. It’s a beautiful way to help our children get to heaven and before that, to become hardworking, intelligent, devout Catholics.
Figuring out the nuts and bolts of how your going to teach math, read the wonderful childhood classics to your kids, get them reading and not sink under mount washmore in your laundry room is the practical question.
It makes sense to address curriculum first. Your budget probably dictates what some of your choices might be. You also want to choose curriculum that YOU are excited about. When you're starting out, you may not know what would suit your child best yet. But pretty much any curriculum is going to do the job if YOU are enthusiastic about it. I would strongly encourage Catholic curriculum. You do not have to comb through it for errors regarding the faith or tweak it so much to teach Catholic children that it’s hardly worth buying.
If you are pulling your children out of school and you have several ages you probably need a curriculum, at least to start out with. I’ve known some families whose kids were in school, that had a de-schooling time period, during which they built up their family relationships and tried to restore the children’s love for learning with good books and only fun learning experiences. That may be a good approach if there are repairs to be made in the parent child relationship or if school was a traumatic time for the child.
But generally, I think the structure of a curriculum, whether it’s a packaged one or your own, and the daily routine of school work, might get the family in the homeschooling groove more efficiently. It may be wise to build up slowly, adding in one or two subjects each day for the first week. You know your child’s needs.
A little aside story. Friends of ours took their (then) seven children out of school a few years ago. I remember, I thought they were so smart. In the summer they prepared their kids for the coming school year. They attended park days with the Catholic homeschooling group so their kids could get to know some of the homeschooled kids. They laid out the curriculum for their kids to get an idea of what they would be doing. They put together a binder with field trip plans and brochures, for outings that correlated with things they would be learning. They made concrete plans for when their kids would be able to get together with their old friends from school. They also got a cool new computer for school work. All of this generated enthusiasm in the kids and helped make them comfortable with what homeschooling was going to entail.
I would say it went well for them. Their oldest son is now a seminarian for the diocese of Lansing.
If you are starting out with a kindergartner or first grader, and you want to put your own curriculum together, you really can’t mess up. Go for it, you may LOVE planning your own curriculum. I do.
I’ve used Seton, Mother of Divine Grace, Catholic Heritage Curricula, and they’re all excellent. Now I piece mine together because I love to do that. The important thing is to school in a consistent way. There is no perfect curriculum, even your own. Don’t spend so much time planning or second guessing yourself, so that your not actually schooling. Just do it. There is so much out there on websites and blogs. You can get overwhelmed and feel very intimidated by the fabulous, creative things other moms are doing in their homeschools.
Go for covering the basics every day and be fabulously creative maybe once a week. You’ll be providing a wonderful education for your children.
If you like planning but still use a curriculum, remember all the providers are flexible. If your child is stuck on a concept, you can find another way to approach it. Most of the curriculum providers can help or you will come up with about 100 ideas for how to teach whatever it is by doing a google search on it. You don’t have to move forward till your child has mastered that concept.
If your child is very interested in a particular area, like medieval history, you don’t have to move on quickly. You can slow down and stay with that time period longer. Find some extra projects or reading to do, have fun with it. The providers all encourage that.