For those parents being dragged kicking and screaming into the homeschool life by sudden necessity, I thought it might be helpful to lay out my families plans and curriculum, sprinkled with some advice.
This is not meant to be a prescription. Homeschooling is personal and different for every family and child. That’s part of what makes it great. It’s flexible. But it can also be overwhelming. So take this post as a few signposts on the road that you can choose to follow or not, and even if you don’t arrive at the same destination as me, at least you won’t be completely lost.
We currently use Math-U-See. The gentle approach, with rotating review and heavy use of manipulatives, seems to work well. Video lessons make it easy, even if you don’t understand how best to teach it yourself. A placement test on their website helps determine the best level your child should start at.
Time: 10-20 minutes per day, depending on if they are learning something new.
For younger kids, they work through How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, until they grasp reading. We also read aloud to them from recommendations from Memoria Press, and whatever books are our favorites.
For older kids, we also typically use the reading lists from Memoria Press. They have packages per grade level, with workbooks if you so desire. We used the workbooks at first, but now we just ask questions and talk about what they are reading instead.
Sometimes a chapter a day suffices, other times they read more. Depends on the book.
For copies of classics with great cover art and included worldview guides, check out Canon Press. They also have literature lists broken down for each grade, if you look in their homeschool bundles.
Time: 10 – 30 minutes per day.
I do reading time at the end of the day with all of the kids, where I read the Bible, work on a little memorization, and then read from another book. Some of these books are from Memoria Press’s supplemental read aloud lists, but others are just fun books I want to read to them. A good mix is important. This is usually 45 – 60 minutes per night, right before bed.
If you do nothing else but devote yourself to plenty of reading time, your kids will probably learn more than at their school. If it sounds exhausting, embrace audio books. I’d recommend you add some poetry in the mix, and A Child’s Book of Poems is a good one to have on your shelf.
You can see some of what I’ve read to my kids by looking at the the bottom of my reading list summary of the year.
Our co-op (Classical Conversations) has weekly science experiments, coupled with science facts memorization. We haven’t supplemented much more than this since our kids are younger.
For other options, I’ve heard good things about Noeo Science (all ages) and Beginnings Publishing (junior and senior high school), both of which come with everything you need to do experiments at home.
Part of this is also included in Classical Conversations, where our kids memorize a timeline of the entire world, and then specific history sentences. We supplement this with additional reading. If you plan your read-aloud time out right, you can also overlap with History quite a bit.
Story of the World is a good overview curriculum for elementary and early middle school. You can go as involved as you want with workbooks and tests as well. Though even I find Story of the World riveting and interesting…and most ages will learn something from it.
There are a lot of young reader history books as well that focus on certain individuals, though I would tend to go with older books. The Landmark Books meet this criteria well.
For older kids, give them a good biography of someone they are interested in. Older biographies tend to be better, though that is not a hard and fast rule. They will learn not only about that person, but also a lot about the time period that person lived in.
You can also mix in some reading from Landmark Herodotus and Landmark Thucydides or others in the same series. These are full of maps on almost every page to help orient the reader, and filled with Appendices of historical context.
Time: 10 – 30 minutes.
If you don’t care about Latin, one less thing for you to worry about. But if you want to start introducing another language, they also have a Song School course for Spanish.
Time: 20 – 30 minutes per day.
Once they hit 3rd or 4th grade, we introduce the Writing & Rhetoric series. I really, really liked the first in the series: Fable. These will take you all the way through High School, if you so desire.
Our co-op uses courses from IEW for its writing curriculum, which we will start to integrate as well. It merges a bit with history and helps reinforce other things they are learning. You can mix and match your theme based on what is most important to you.
IEW also has handy “how to teach writing” courses that are popular with parents.
Time: 10 – 30 minutes per day.
We currently use two courses. Our oldest uses an almost 100% self-directed program from IEW called Phonetic Zoo. It seems to work great, and any time you can shift something to be more self-directed, that is a huge plus.
For the younger ones, we are using Spelling-U-See, until we feel they can eventually make the shift to Phonetic Zoo.
Time: 10 minutes per day.
We teach our kids cursive, and have used a few resources in the past, including the Memoria Press track. But really, if they are doing enough writing during the other subjects, and you don’t care about cursive, your might not need any dedicated handwriting curriculum.
We also use The Rhythm of Handwriting.
I have my own handwriting/memorization workbook I put together, because I felt there was a gap.
Time: 10 – 20 minutes per day.
Besides the daily reading I do with them at night, when they hit the 3rd grade, they start on God’s Great Covenant, which I really, really like. A straightforward way for them to start working through the whole Bible.
Time: 10 – 20 minutes per day.
This is one of the beauties of homeschooling: you can do as much or as little as you feel necessary. We do piano/music and work slowly through a poetry course. I do a little kickboxing with the boys. We also do some art, and YouTube is great for tutorials that kids will tear through as if opening birthday presents. Art for Kids hub is regular go-to.
Embrace the flexibility. Go to a park just because you can. Go hiking. Whatever you want to do.
If you want a free, easy guide for music appreciation, sign up for Professor Carol’s Friday Performance Pick. She picks one piece of music per week (usually on youtube for easy viewing) and talks about the composer and history of the piece. The selections are wide and diverse.
The Time it Takes
You’ll notice that all of this stuff together (outside of bedtime reading) takes anywhere from just 1.5 hours to 4 hours per day. This usually falls within the 2 to 3 hour range. Technically, this is per kid, but a lot of this time is work they are doing on their own, and so does not require your constant attention.
That’s really all it takes.
You don’t even have to do five days per week. Maybe you just want to do four days. Or maybe even three. Maybe you want to alternate subjects each day. Experiment. Do whatever you find works best.
As they reach the middle school years, I expect this time to increase a bit as they get more responsibilities and self-directed studies, but by that time, they have been nudged out of the nest, gliding on the strength of the their own wings, and hopefully require less of our direct attention.
You should not stress out over this. At all. Do as much as your child (and you) can take. With little boys especially, that might mean less than 10 minutes.
Do some reading. Do some number and letter recognition. And then print out stuff for them to color or something while you help the older kids. Or make sure they are otherwise occupied close by. Do not force yourself to be elaborate. Now, if that is your personality, and you enjoy your school time with your preschooler if it runs like a well-organized circus, with props and activities galore, more power to you.
The End (and Beginning) of the Matter
You are the parent. You were given the responsibility of raising a child, and part of that is seeing to their education. You can do this. You were equipped for it. It might look different than you expected, but that’s ok.
If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments.