I was voted “biggest flirt” in high school and I had my first tattoo promptly at 18 years old (a small glimpse into my previous life). No one ever considered me to be the “most likely to succeed” or “most likely to have a big family” and certainly not “most likely to homeschool.” Yet, here we are. We made the decision when Brice was starting Kindergarten… and he’s a Senior this year (which, fyi, is SO super crazy!) It’s been over a decade of triumph, and failure. It’s been an adventure full of fun, and tears, outings, travel, and pajama days that stretch into a week of not really remembering when everyone last showered. 😳 We’ve done some on-line, some part time enrollment, co-ops, and a few of them even tried out public school. In the beginning, we changed curriculum tirelessly, and quite literally threw several out. We took all the advice from everyone and I tried really hard to be what I thought “a good homeschooler” should….. until, I finally understood that we are the only ones who God equipped to be their parents; and we, and they, are unique; and this homeschooling thing isn’t a one size fits all.
Friends, as the school year kicks off, I’m reminding myself that I don’t need to keep up with all the shiny new material at every conference, or on every blog, or in every school shop. Not everything that works for one family is good for another. Co-ops are nice and outings are fun, but it’s ok, and good, and right, to say no and to prioritize our own families, our own interests, and the curriculum that works best for us. Also… Instagram homeschoolers totally have bad days too! I walk in a lot more freedom in this journey than I once did. I don’t get bogged down by the things others are doing that we aren’t, or by my peers ragging on curriculum that I might love. I’ll admit that when I see gaps in my kids education and abilities, I can get a little bent out of shape… however, I no longer struggle with comparing my kids to everyone else, because you know what; no matter how smart they seem, or how many books they read, every kid has some gaps and some weaknesses. And every kiddo, created wonderfully and fearfully, has strengths and gifts too. Our oldest for instance; not strong in math. However, you’d never guess it, but he’s a fantastic writer. I thought he was good, but since starting TPS this year, I’ve had two of his teachers comment quite positively about his writing abilities, and he just received a perfect score on a practice essay in his SAT prep course. (Seriously, the kid who took almost two years to finish his Freshmen year… who would have thought!)
We’ve done a lot of research, some trial and error, and we eventually found our groove, defined our purpose, and even found curriculum that we love and have stuck with. When friends ask for advice, I do enjoy sharing what has worked for us, however, I’ll typically point you to Kathy Duffy’s book. It was instrumental in figuring out my teaching style, thinking through how each of my kiddos best learn, and then figuring out which curriculums best fit our family. Knowing these things, coupled with your purpose for and philosophy of homeschooling, you can filter all the activities, curriculum, systems, comparisons, co-ops, etc.
There is definitely an endless plethora of homeschooling resources and supplements available. We love a variety of apps (like Homer, Grades, Tynker Jr., Khan Academy, and Khan Kids), ebooks, unit studies, and lots of supplements;
- Total Language Plus
- Stick Figure Through the Bible (available as PDF’s)
- Story of the World (including the maps and tests, all are available as PDF’s)
- Exploring Dinosaurs and Exploring Geology with Mr. Hibb (available on Kindle)
- The Young Peacemakers
- Seeds Family Worship (available on iTunes)
- The Bible Project (available on Amazon Prime)
- World Book Online
- Exploring Planet Earth and Exploring the History of Medicine (available as ebook, also on Amazon)
- Kathy Troxel songs (available on iTunes)
- School House Rock (available on Amazon Prime)
- The Magic School Bus Science kits and Videos (available on Amazon Prime)
- Liberty Kids (available on Amazon Prime)
- Khan Academy
… To name a few of my favorites. 😉
Despite all the great resources out there, when it comes to organization, most tools are not designed for large families, and many are not customizable. Over the years, Dropbox and Excel have become indispensable as I’ve developed and revised my own methods and rhythms of planning and organization. (I recently made a customizable homeschool planning bundle available in my Etsy shop.)
One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the flexibility. Flexibility to start late, to take a fun day, to travel, and to live this expat life, but also, flexibility to make a different decision anytime. This year, we’ve decided to try something new.
This year, most of the kids are enrolled in The Potters School. (This isn’t a plug for TPS, but we are LOVING them, so definitely check them out if you think that an online model might work for your family. And fyi, you can enroll full-time, or simply supplement with a class here or there. And… our kiddos could take classes together! 😉)
We thought we’d put just the two high-schoolers into the International school and plug some of the younger ones into a local homeschooling co-op of sorts, but, God had other plans. For about the same price as putting two in the International school, we are able to have five of them in fully accredited, real-time, on-line classes where they are receiving quality instruction (with many of the same curriculum we already have and use; Apologia Science books, Math Mammoth (full curriculum available as PDF’s), and Usborne), more accountability, and peers with whom they are building friendships with and who live all over the world. Best of all… we are still free to travel, our days are still spent together, we are still their primary influencers. And… I have a ton more free time 🙌🏽 (just the time gained from not having to grade all the papers alone is worth dancing over!).
I don’t know why this model never appealed to us before, but in God’s perfect timing we heard a College Freshmen’s testimony about TPS and his homeschooling experience and we were sold. And now, I have more time… to teach the little ones (who admittedly have been in the past put off for more serious conversations about Algebra or Biology). I have more time to learn Nepali and practice and study outside of class. I have more time to build relationships. More time to explore and work toward the business ventures we envision here. More time to write. And more time to invest in creative ways to disciple my kiddos.
So, I wrote out this blog last week, but hadn’t posted it yet… and yesterday I joined a few homeschooling expat mommas here in Nepal and we watched a Sarah Mackenzie video together (it’s the first one I’ve seen, so I’m not advocating her stuff, but the content was good). It was encouraging to be affirmed in several of these thoughts I’ve been mulling over regarding homeschool this year. And, it inspired me to take a look at and reevaluate our homeschool vision statement. As we’ve made changes this year, I’m also encouraged to not just be focused on what we want to do, but to take time to inventory and celebrate more the things that we accomplish and achieve.
I hope this post encourages you in some way as you tackle the start of your homeschool year.
Not that my Customizable Homeschool Organization Records and Planning Pack is super awesome, but, if you’ve read this post, I’d like to offer it to you at 50% off. Use the code Back2School2019.