Monday, February 10, 2014

Our homeschool day

Psalm 90:12  Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Years ago when I began to homeschool my children, I got a lot of flack from different people who were sure I was ruining my children, that they would never be socialized, that they would never be able to enter college, that basically, they would never be fit for anything, and I was crazy and didn't know what I was doing.

Well, to say I wasn't sure of myself, as far as knowing what I was doing, had some truth to it.  I had a lot to learn.  But 23 years has proven that I did not ruin my children.  My first completely home schooled child is now an attorney practicing international law in Viet Nam, and has just opened a restaurant there.  I have another son who will soon graduate from the University of Texas in Austin.  Another son works in a grassfed, organic butcher shop, and yet another did a couple of years in college, decided it wasn't for him even though his grades were very good, and now lives and works in Colorado.  He has just finished two stints in Bible school and is about to do some disaster relief work before heading back to Colorado, where, it seems, the barn builders mostly shut down during the winter months.  My totally home schooled daughter, who is 17, works as a nanny.
Two other older daughters, who I only homeschooled for a short while, have grown to be college educated, productive adults, too.

In other words, there's not a slacker in the bunch.  They are all productive adults.  I expect no less from my youngest five!

I am a very laid back homeschooling mommy, and because of that, I look for ways to homeschool that require the least amount of work on my part (in other words, grading).  Over the years, I have developed homeschooling habits that work very well for my personality, and the kids have thrived in it.    I decided long ago that homeschooling was not going to take up my whole day, so I opted for no more than two hours a day of intense schooling, although I have made sure the kids have educational toys and very good quality books to read that will teach them good character and a good work ethic.  We got rid of the TV so they would turn to these things instead. 

When I tell people we only school two hours a day, and that we don't use a lot of textbooks, they are surprised and want to know how I teach.  So I thought I would give a glimpse of what our homeschooling day looks like.

I knew I did not want the kids to spend a lot of time slaving over boring textbooks.  I did not want them to sit, head in hand, tediously writing out answers and reports.  So over the years, I have bought, and still buy, a lot of biographies, history novels, science magazines and books and anything else I can find that I think will spark their interest.  Then, rather than have the kids answer questions on paper, I read the books to them and we discuss what we read.

I buy Bible storybooks, not silly ones where Moses is a cucumber - I have too much respect for our holy God to go there.  I buy books with realistic pictures that stick with the truth of the Bible.  We also buy books like "Wisdom and the Millers" which show a family living out Bible truths and I read those each day.  I like the Wee Lambs and other story papers we get from church, also showing families living Godly lives and overcoming problems.

So our homeschooling day begins with a prayer, then we read a Bible story.  We read a church paper story if we have one, and a story from another book like "The Millers".  Then I read a history story.  We always have a chapter book going.  Right now, we are reading a series of books called "The American Adventure."  They love it, and always beg me to keep on reading when I finish the daily two chapters.  I have just added another book called "First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind."  I will tell you how I came to find that one later on in this blog.  We go over addition and subtraction flash cards before we leave the couch.
Once reading time is over, the kids do math and writing.  Some of them do Saxon Math, and some do ACE.  Then they copy a few sentences from the Bible, and I look those over and correct them.  We also do a spelling lesson.
Once all the other subjects are done, I listen to the youngest three read.  Then, we are done for the day. 

A while back, someone told me that my method of teaching was the "Charlotte Mason" method.  I had not heard of that before, so I looked it up, and sure enough, it sounded exactly like what I was doing by instinct.  I also kept reading about the Robinson curriculum, and soon spent around $250 to buy the CD's, which cover grades 1-12.  You can read about that curriculum here.

Sometimes as the years go by, though, I will sense a need for a change of pace, or some new curriculum.  Kids learn differently, and what works for a few might not work for others.  I felt like we needed more grammer in our homeschooling, and I didn't like what was included in the Robinson curriculum.  As I went through homeschool curriculum websites, I came across a book called "The Well Trained Mind."  I bought it and have been reading it.  That's where I found "First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind."  I bought level 1, and it's just my kind of book.  Like the book "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons,"  this book is very concise, telling the homeschooling mommy just what to say and how the children should respond.  No one word answers.  You guide the children to say complete sentences.  For the first 40 lessons, it's mostly oral - the children listen as I read, answer questions, and begin to recite.  We haven't gotten very far yet, but I love it!

You can look at most of these books I have mentioned in the bookstore on this blog.

I have listened to other homeschooling mothers tell me how they struggle to teach their children. That their children don't like to do school, and it will sometimes take them all day to get their lessons done.  One mother especially seemed to have children who could spend all day sitting over a math book.  Daddy would get home in the evening, and the child still hadn't finished his lessons.  I thought this was so odd, until I learned that after they did school, the children were required to work in the garden or do other chores that were less pleasant than sitting at the kitchen table.
Another mother also confided in her struggles to get school done, but after questioning her a bit, I learned that she didn't have a set time to school.  They just did it 'when they got around to it', which meant a lot of times, it just didn't get done.

I try to get up early in the morning because I am a morning person and that's when I get things done.  I like to be awake by 6:30.  I read my Bible for a bit while laying in my warm bed, and I am up and going by 7.  I get dressed, put a load of clothes in the wash and clean the bathrooms, and usually by the time I finish that, the four younger children are up.  I feed them and get them dressed and combed (although I admit hair combing sometimes doesn't happen until I realize how messy they look).  We get the dishes picked up, and almost always, the kids will get out their school boxes and start school.  I will not help them until 10 because I want to get my own work done.
Yes, you have that right...I have to TELL my children, no, I'm not going to grade your math/read that section/tell you how to spell those words until 10.  It's not school time yet.  This is MY time to get MY work done.  Usually, they will ask an older sibling to help them.  In fact, once in a while, by the time 10 rolls around, they have not only done all their math and writing, but an older sibling has listened to them read, so I don't always even have to do that!

I don't teach according to a public school time line.  So if you were to try and test my child, you might find them excelling in some areas, while being way behind in others.  I school according to the child.  I have some that speed along in math, but lag in spelling.  Others may be the other way around.  I have children who love to write stories.  We will get to it all eventually.

So there is my homeschooling method.  It works for us - it might not work for your personality and your family.  That's the joy of homeschooling, you can match your teaching methods to your own personality, and learning becomes fun for your child, and for YOU!

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to teach my own children at home.  I am grateful to live in Texas, which is one of the easiest states to home school in.  I can't imagine going through my day without Luke's squinty eyed smile, or Tommy's cuddly body curling up against mine when he wakes up in the morning.  It's the only time he will let me hold him.  I'm so glad I don't have to hurry him up to leave the house.  Having to send Selah to public school before we got her adopted reminded me what it was like to have to drag a sleepy child out of bed and send her off in the mornings, not to see her again for most of the day.
I have about 10 more years of homeschooling ahead of me before they are all grown.  I can't think of a better way to spend them!!

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.  Proverbs 1:8-9


  1. I enjoyed reading that. I think of you often, and tell the homeschooling mommies here about you. You are amazing! Each year I teach I become more like what you described. And like you said, I can't imagine doing anything else with my precious children and time!

  2. Hello Beth!! I sure miss seeing you and your beautiful kids!!

  3. It gave me some food for thought and added some books to my wish list. You've done a great job, I've only one left homeschooling, 3 have graduated. I'm so glad you are back to writing you really encourage, thank you

    shelley p
    from over the pond

  4. Karen Andreola has been a proponent of Charlotte Mason's methods. Her blog can be found at and her latest post sounds quite a bit like yours.


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