I am now in my third year, my kids are in second and third grade and I am a lot more confident in what I am doing! Most of what we do now is online, however, we still do writing, some workbooks and reading chapter books, of course. But with the offerings of online content and the kids need to learn and understand computers it is only natural to move in that direction. It can be overwhelming but when you break it down, it’s also very doable and your kids will flourish. I’m sure you have read about and heard about the statistics for homeschooled children. While I am only one voice in the crowd, my hope is that I can help get you moving forward with homeschool and ease your fears a little bit.
Please remember, this is what works for my family, it may not work for yours. The point is to keep trying and you will find your own groove.
Let’s get started…
What I Have Learned From Homeschooling
1) Don’t be so hard on yourself
Never in a million years did I think that I would be homeschooling my kids! In fact, if you had told me 3 years ago that I would be ‘teaching’ my kids, I would have laughed you out of it! My old neighbor homeschools her 3 kids and I had a huge amount of respect for her but NO THANK YOU – not for me!! Just the other day, a fellow camper here at our campground, asked me if I had a degree in teaching??? I laughed out loud, I don’t think she was too impressed lol. No, I don’t have a degree, I never planned this, but when you decide to sell everything and take to the road, someone has to keep up with the education and that is my job!
So first of all, it’s important that you give yourself a break, this is all new for you and just the fact that you are doing it is huge! I was lucky in that my kids were and still are young, so if I have messed anything up, there is time to catch up lol.
The most important thing you need to remember is why you started this life – do lots of field trips, get out in the campground and walk around and see what you find – most of all HAVE FUN!. We’ve taken walks where we counted how many different animals we came across, another day we tried to find as many different colored leaves as we could and then used them for a craft project. We have been lucky enough to visit many national parks such as Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon. I consider all of these field trips, and the kids learn so much about the area, the animals, the history. We visited Jamestown/ Yorktown last year and several days later while on a hike, I listened to my 8 year old tell two couples we were hiking with, all about the battle of Yorktown!!
2) Create a Masterplan Schedule.
I spent many Sundays creating my school schedule for the coming week, of course, this now meant that I was thinking/doing school 6 days a week!!! Nobody wants to do school at the weekend. As the week progresses things change, so your masterplan is now askew.
Fast forward 3 years and this is what I do. Before the school year starts, I go onto whatever program I am using and I choose the subjects the kids will do this year. Then I plug these subjects into a spreadsheet and decide how much time needs to be spent on each daily/weekly. This took me maybe an hour. This, of course, works, unless you find an online program where all this is done for me ( hint, hint, more on that later).
I test this for a few weeks to see if I need to adjust the time spent per subject – for example, if my son needs to spend less time on reading stories but more time on social studies, I change it on my sheet and print it out so the kids know what they have every day. I then go into whatever program I am using and I adjust the assigned time for this subject.
3) How many hours/day/week.
My homeschool friend shared this book with me before we left. I was extremely grateful because it gave me some insight into what they should be doing each and every day. This book also recommends books for your kids. Keep in mind that there is a lot of information in this book and it can be overload. However if you keep it real and use the book as a guide, it works great.
We use an “umbrella school” in Florida (our home state) to meet the requirements and they are also a help here. My umbrella school suggests that we do 4 hours of school per day or 180 hours per year. I did 4 hours, 5 days a week of school last year but this year I am changing it up to 2 days X 5 hours, 2 days X 4 hours and maybe 2 hours at the weekend. I usually keep this for Art Hub and reading books, that way they don’t realize they are doing school and it serves to give us a break from the weekend madness.
I keep things pretty flexible, which is actually quite hard for me lol. However, I need to remember why we changed our lifestyle so dramatically and to not get so focused on silly things like the kids doing 15 hours this week instead of 20 hours! When living this lifestyle you realize pretty quickly that it is more a matter of quality than quantity. We may find ourselves in a very interesting place, so we lean towards activity based school, like Junior Ranger Programs or Geocaching. There are times where we get to an area and find that there isn’t as much to do as we thought, so I use that time to catch up on school!. It all works itself out, we just need to relax about it.
#4. ON-Line Tools
I find as the kids get older, I am using more and more online tools. Researching continues to discover new and more powerful platforms and using them can really enrich the learning experience for the kiddo’s. Here are some of my favorites:
- Moby Max
I used Max Moby last year and loved it. I bought the Pro Version for $99 per year, this breaks down to 8.25/month. I cannot find any other program that provides as many tools as Max Moby for the money you pay! Some of my favorite things about Max Moby:
Placement Tests -I do a placement test for each child the first week of school. This gives me an immediate clue as to how they are doing, how much they have retained from last year, and if they need to put in some additional work on a particular subject.
Teacher Rewards & Messenger –At the beginning of the year you are given a certain number of points (13,000+ I think) for teacher rewards. You can dole these out as you see fit. I love to give them when my son or daughter has a particularly good day at school or if they pass a particularly hard lesson and did their best. The kids love receiving them, it really makes their day. I also love sending them messages from time to time telling them to have a good day. Sometimes it’s hard when you’re the teacher and then the mom, so it’s nice once in a while to be a mom first and then a teacher. 😉 All kids love receiving rewards, they can be rewarded with a new game (their favorite), a badge, an interesting science video, etc. so this works great in my opinion.
Progress Report – Allows me to check their progress anytime I want. The progress shows me what grade they are in, what they got on each test, how focused they were during the lesson, or if they are flying or struggling with a particular lesson. I can increase or decrease their grade level anytime I want to challenge or ease up and I can also adjust the amount of time they have for each subject.
Customer Service -Customer service with Max Moby has been phenomenal! Anytime I need help with ANYTHING, I send a quick email and I usually have my answer within a few minutes or a couple of hours. You can’t ask for better than that!
I use IXL in conjunction with Max Moby, I use it primarily for Language Arts and Math. IXL does not seem to actually teach as much but has a lot of active content for application. So once we finish a subject on Max Moby, I have them do practice applications on IXL. This helps them to really get a handle on parts of speech, multiplication, word problems etc.
Starting this year, my kids were getting a little restless using Max Moby so we felt that it might be best to try something new. With homeschooling, it seems like focus and engagement is about ¾ of the battle, so we cannot be afraid to mix it up if the attention span is getting short. Something that worked great suddenly doesn’t work anymore – time for a change! Hubby actually found Acellus and I absolutely love it. It’s an online course for $9.99/month per child (I know right). It is teacher-led via video snippets, which means I actually have time for a cup of tea in the morning !! As before, I set up their schedule behind the scenes and each morning I write out what they need to complete per lesson, including workbooks. The nice thing about Acellus is that each lesson only takes about 3-5 minutes, so they cover what they need to do in half the time which moves them through the day faster WHILE keeping their attention. This has worked wonders for my son who has a hard time focusing! (YES, an 8-year-old boy who can’t focus – what are the odds?) They still do paper workbooks (Spectrum are my absolute favorite), but now we are finished with core school subjects within a couple of hours leaving more time for experiential learning. The kids love it and are learning so much, and I have time to get stuff done that I need to accomplish. It’s a win-win.!
I love that I know everything they need to accomplish within their grade level. We signed up for “tutor mode.” This allows the kids to skip easy stuff and because we signed up mid-year, my daughter was able to skip lessons by simply taking each unit exam. If she passed, she moved on. It also has a mid-year exam and an end of the year exam which tells me if they are keeping up with any subject!!.
The subject list is quite wide so we are able to take advantage of the extra time to study things like Music and Spanish.
On the downside for Acellus is Customer Service. I have found that the customer service is not as good as others I have dealt with, but they do have a Facebook group and everyone is extremely helpful. Great resource!
Update on Acellus – We are moving to Power Homeschool Acellus because the kids are unable to skip through and I found my kids doing that a little too often last year! The price has gone up, unfortunately, instead of $9.99, it is now $25 per student – still reasonable but that is quite a price hike!. I was grandfathered in because I already had an account.
I hope that these homeschooling tips will make your lives easier. What resources do you use for homeschool?