Homeschooling for Dummies

Catchy title, huh?  Seriously, though, I just don’t think homeschooling is as hard as many people seem to think it is.  Or at least it doesn’t have to be.
Let me tell you how I approached it.  When I decided to keep Jake home for fourth grade, I registered him with an umbrella school for $100. ( I’ve since learned that you can register homeschooled kids through the Knox County school system for only $20 free.) There are co-ops available for homeschoolers, and there are remote schools you can register with and entire curriculums you can buy, but I didn’t do any of that.
For me, the fun of homeschooling was not having to deal with anyone else telling me what to do with my child, and making all the educational decisions myself.   For over twenty years I had been saving some of my own grade school text books, and finally they came in handy!  I used my own third grade English workbook, which was only about half full.  I also used my fourth grade religion book (and discovered that the content, if not the presentation, was almost identical to what Jake’s parochial school classmates were learning that year!).   I was especially excited about the fourth grade speller I found at my friend’s junk/antique shop.  It was used in the 1940s in the Knox County Schools, and I am of the firm opinion that the old fashioned way of teaching spelling is best.  Our reading books were discards from old St. Mary’s School–1950s Catholic texts that I sometimes read in grade school  when we finished the regular reader.
I did buy a new handwriting book or two–one for printing and one for cursive (it doubled for art, too, since after you copied the Bible verse there was also a picture to color!). (Yes, I am old-fashioned enough to teach handwriting!)  And I borrowed a “modern” math book from the school–I had read about the Saxon series on various homeschooling sites and after using it for several years I am a big fan.  Finally, for social studies we improvised.  We memorized all the states, their postal abbreviations, and their capitals, and when we were finished with that we learned all the Presidents in order, their dates, and a little about each one.
I bought a school desk from my friend’s shop in South Knoxville (I would love to link to Myrtle’s Mess, but she doesn’t have a web site!) and set it up in our living room.  We had school each morning starting at 8 a.m.  By 11 or 11:30 we were usually finished and ready for “gym/recess”–going on a walk around our neighborhood.  We got a little science then as well, identifying flowers and trees.  That was pretty much all the science we did, although I signed him up for some workshops at The East Tennessee Discovery Center and Ijam’s Nature Center.
My first year of homeschooling was harder than my second, because my son had undiagnosed ADHD and it took awhile to get that sorted out.  Also, he needed me to read with him, and because he has handwriting difficulties I had to write his math problems down for him.  My second son was more independent; I could assign work to him and then go about my business, ready to help when he asked.
Both boys thrived.  Jake, who had been behind in both reading and math, returned to school above grade level in both and never had another problem.  Teddy returned to school two years ahead in math.  Both profited from the time off from the stress of all-day school and homework.

Jake as a Sophomore in high school dressed up for his first Prom.


[update:  Since this was written I’ve had William at home for four years before enrolling him in public school, and Lorelei is currently in her fourth year of homeschooling.  This post still accurately reflects my approach.]

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