DIY Curriculum

10 Easy Steps to a DIY Curriculum

I talk to many homeschool parents, and the common concern I get is that they don’t have the money to buy a curriculum. This was me two years ago. I was in a place where I wanted to homeschool my kids, but couldn’t rub two dimes together. It was a year of serious transition for our family. In a nutshell, I had to make the decision whether I would spend our disposable income on curricula or experiences.

If you’ve ever visited my Instagram page, then you know I chose to invest in experiences. As the mother of two small boys, I wanted them to have fun learning and experiencing new things. Not having the money to fund those experiences was NOT an option, so I forwent curriculum purchases. Instead, I invested my time in developing a customized curriculum that suited their interests and learning needs.

Of course, I must mention that I studied curriculum development in my Master’s program, but that did not mean I knew what I was doing. However, my background did give me the confidence to try developing a curriculum on my own. You do not need any degrees, but I do suggest reading up on curriculum development to gain some insight—and confidence!

There are a variety of ways to create a curriculum, but I chose what I like to call the Break-Down Method. That is, taking something overwhelming and breaking it down into sizable chunks. This method made curriculum planning less intimidating. If you’re looking to create your own curriculum and don’t know where to start, perhaps this method can help you, too. Here are ten easy steps to a do-it-yourself curriculum, using the core subject, science, as an example.


10 Easy Steps to a DIY Curriculum

1. Be responsible.

Read the legal requirements for your stateEvery state has their own requirements for homeschool families. Please take the time to read these requirements to ensure you are operating within the law for your state of residence. These guidelines can also be very helpful, as they usually entail what subjects you are required to teach your children.

EXAMPLE: By law, I was required to teach my kindergartner language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science in the state of Georgia.

 

2. Borrow a skeleton.

For your curriculum, that is. During my first year of homeschool, I used the Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) for my skeleton. This allowed me to kill two birds with one stone because I knew using this framework for my curriculum also meant I’d be honoring state requirements. The following year, I used books from the “What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know” series. I borrowed this series from the library. The series covers all elementary grade levels.

How did I use these resources, exactly? For each core subject, I wrote down everything my child should know for their grade-level, and then I found the resources to execute those goals. For example, if in kindergarten my child should learn about animals and habitats for science, I would borrow books from the library, look for free courses and activity ideas, and download free practice worksheets for those particular topics.

EXAMPLE: Take a look at the list I generated for kindergarten science topics from GSE

Earth and Space Science

  • Time Patterns (day to night and night to day) and objects (sun, moon, stars) in the day and night sky
  • Earth Materials (soil, rocks, water, and air)

Physical Science

  • Physical Attributes of Objects
  • Types of Motion

Life Science

  • Living & Nonliving Things
  • Classification of Organisms
  • Five Senses

3. Add some bones of your own.

You may have borrowed the skeleton, but it’s important to make it yours! You know how much I preach here about developing a vision and mission statement for your homeschool that outlines your educational philosophy and goals. Keep your goals in mind while adding some bones to the skeleton of your curriculum.

How can you make it yours? By knowing how your children learn best, what they enjoy learning, and a method of education that works best for your family.  If you have a techy child, try free virtual classes, educational computer games, and video lessons to fulfill your curriculum goals.

EXAMPLE: Our vision for homeschool includes making room for academic freedom by incorporating some form of self-directed learning. That means I give my boys a say in what they’d like to learn. When I developed their science curriculum, we incorporated geography into our life-science lessons. We also learned about the solar system because that was what they were into.

As a note, I only incorporated these topics into our formal lessons because my boys were too young to research them on their own. As my oldest became more fluent in reading, he could then read up on any topic of interest, which is self-directed learning in its truest form.

 

4. Finalize your topics for each subject. 

What topics will you cover for Language Arts? Math? Science? Other subjects you’ll be covering? List all your topics for each subject on a spreadsheet, table, or journal to refer to later on.

EXAMPLE: From the science list of topics I generated from GSE, I decided to teach the five senses, animal classification, parents and offspring, habitats, weather, and planets. Other topics, such as those in physical science, were taught the following year with The Magic School Bus curriculum.

 

5. Breakdown your topics by term. 

How will you breakdown your topics? By quarter? Semester? Whatever you choose, assign your topics to a given term for each subject. This makes it easier to administer evaluations, tests, and other assessments.

EXAMPLE: We assigned our topics by semester. For science, we studied the five senses and life science topics during our first semester. During the second semester, we took on weather and astronomy, as well as got more hands on with science related fieldtrips and experiments.

Science

6. Breakdown topics into months. 

Assign topics for each month in all your subjects. This should be relatively easy if you’ve already written down all the topics you’ll cover for the year. You’ll have to adjust this throughout the school year depending on how long it takes your child to master the information. No worries, do this step anyway.

EXAMPLE: During the first month of school, we studied phonics and word families for language arts, simple addition for math, the seven continents for social studies, and the five senses and physical attributes for science. Here’s an example of our science breakdown for kindergarten.

Science Curriculum

7.  Breakdown topics into weeks. 

Breaking down topics ensures you cover good ground, and makes it easier to control the pace. If I try to cram too much information in each week, and my child isn’t retaining it, slowing down throws off my entire curriculum. However, if I allow for some wiggle room by spacing out my topics, we can jump ahead if we need to. I’d rather jump ahead than have to slow down. Both are inevitable, though.

EXAMPLE: When we learned the five senses for kindergarten science, assigning one sense per week was ideal because it gave the information enough time to sink in. This wasn’t the original plan, but I later found it to be the better plan.

Kindergarten Science

8. Breakdown topics into days.

If it’s possible to break your topics down even further, do so. I found that breaking my topics down into days by charting them made me feel better prepared. This meant having an objective for that day, jotting down relevant questions to ask your student, and anything else that’ll keep you from asking ‘what next?’ during your school day.

EXAMPLE: Keeping with our science theme, this would be the following breakdown for Week One of studying the five senses, concentrating on the sense of hearing. This breakdown is based on thirty-minute lessons.

Kindergarten Science

9. Gather your resources.

Once you’ve decided on a schedule that works, now it’s time to gather your resources for the topics you’ll be teaching. I’ve got a great list of FREE homeschool resources, here! You can also visit my shop, Nike Anderson’s Classroom, for free and low-cost educational resources.

Remember to think beyond the internet. In addition to free books, your local library may offer free classes, workshops, and STEM kits that may tie into your curriculum. You can also check out your local zoo or museum. Many of these places offer classes to homeschool families. Ask them for a schedule of these classes and see if any of the topics fit in with your curriculum.

Lastly, don’t forget to snatch up any free informational brochures, pamphlets, or flyers located at your local dentist or doctor’s office, museum, zoo, library, grocery store, computer store, etc. Some of these informational texts can tie in nicely with your curriculum. For example, if you’re studying the human body, the doctor’s office is a great place to get free information. Just make sure it’s okay to take the pamphlets home.

EXAMPLE: For Week One of studying the five senses, I may need the following resources:

Science

10. Decide how you’ll test knowledge.

With any curriculum, it’s a great idea to implement some form of assessment. Assessments are a fantastic way of knowing when to move on or slow down. Decide how and when you will test your child. Will it be weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Annually? Remember that the more frequently you assess your child, the quicker you’ll catch on to any problems they might be having.

A test doesn’t necessarily have to be taken in a quiet room with a fill-in-the-blank worksheet. You don’t even have to subject your child to a grading system. There are so many ways to find out whether your child is mastering the material being taught. We do oral quizzes all the time in our homeschool, and my boys don’t even realize they’re taking a “quiz.” You can also have them do a project, an oral presentation, or write a report on what they’ve learned. In fact, you can let them decide how they’d like to demonstrate their knowledge.

EXAMPLE: I already mentioned that we like oral quizzes, but we’ve also had our fair share of fill-in-the-blank quizzes. Another fun way we assessed mastery of the material was through making books. During our kindergarten year, my son would draw pictures in his “book” about what he learned, and then he “read” his book to me. By the end of his kindergarten year, he could start incorporating simple words in his books. I scheduled some sort of assessment every week.



Other things to consider.

  •  Plan your curriculum around events if possible. For instance, in spring our local museum hosts STEM classes. The week that these classes take place are a great time to cover stem related topics
  •  You don’t have to plan all at once. Once you have an overview for the school year, you can breakdown your topics into detail on the monthly or even weekly basis. I personally planned the details every week. But I also tried monthly planning as well. If you want to get the planning over with, plan the year out in detail before the start of the school year.
  •  Will you need help? For subjects you don’t feel well versed in, will you sign your child up for outside classes? Hire a tutor? Have a friend or relative teach the subject? Make sure you factor all this in.
  •  Will you supplement? I purchased workbooks and other materials to supplement curricula for certain subject areas. Think about what you may need to supplement your curriculum.
  •  Fieldtrips. It’s helpful to have a good idea of the fieldtrips you’d like to take during the school year. Decide the best time of year to take these fieldtrips and plan your curriculum accordingly. For instance, you probably don’t want to go to the zoo during the cold winter season, so planning life science curricula and subsequent activities during warmer months is ideal.
  •  Give yourself some wiggle room. Things are probably not going to go as planned. That’s okay. Even families using a boxed curriculum fall behind or get bumped ahead of the curriculum. Give yourself some grace.

 

Lastly, I want to mention there’s no such thing as a perfect curriculum. Every curriculum has gaps—even the most elite curriculum. Therefore, I can’t say this is an all comprehensive planning guide. I can attest, however, that this method helped me tremendously during my first homeschool year. I hope it helps you, too.

YOUR TURN! Anything you want to add? Help other parents and let them know your tips down below!
 

 

 

Preparing for your first day of homeschool

How to Prepare for Your First Day of Homeschool

If you’re new to my blog, welcome! My name is Nike (nee-kay) and I’m a third-year homeschool mom to two awesome boys. This year, I’ll be teaching kindergarten and second-grade, and I’m super excited! I created this August series, titled “Ready, Set, Homeschool!” to offer encouragement and tips to homeschool newbies. The tips I’m sharing this month are things I’ve learned from homeschool veterans and through personal experience. Be sure to stick around for the next few weeks as I uncover some homeschool basics and more!

This week? How to Prepare for Your First Day of Homeschool. Keep reading if you want to know the foundation for my homeschool preparation and how it helped our homeschool thrive.


 How to Prepare for Your First Day of Homeschool


1. Don’t forget internal preparation.

Sometimes we get so caught up in buying school supplies, curricula, and setting up for our classroom that we completely forget what’s most important. That’s right! You can’t run a successful homeschool without taking care of your mind, body, and spirit first. What does that mean? Take care of ALL of you! For me, that means getting adequate rest, making healthy food choices, exercising regularly, and spending time with God.

I know, I know; this sounds so cliché, right? But friends, I wouldn’t feel right NOT to mention this significant detail of my life. Why? Because omitting internal preparation has NEVER amounted to a good day. Like EVER! I don’t mean perfect days, I mean good productive days where I’m full of energy, grace, love, and patience. Trust me, I’ve seen a difference in my demeanor. Perhaps you will, too! My current devotional? Be Still and Know!

Be Still and Know

2. Read books.

I like to read up on parenting, homeschool, education or whatever I feel will help me become a better homeschool mom—or person in general. I find when I read books on these topics, I gain a sense of confidence in my ability to homeschool and manage my home. And let me tell you, mindset is EVERYTHING! If you believe you can do it, you WILL. If you don’t believe you can do it, you WON’T. Come on, you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve read The Little Engine That Could!

So, what am I reading now? Rich Kid, Smart Kid | Giving Your Child a Financial Head Start. This book has really been helping me decide how I want to teach finances in my homeschool. Other books I recommend are the series What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know. This series includes all early elementary grades. I love these books because they help me make better curriculum selections. You can even build your own curriculum around them. And of course, what’s a homeschool without reading The Well-Trained Mind? A book that makes a brilliant case for classical education.

3. Review all your curricula.

You will thank yourself for reviewing all your children’s curricula and becoming familiar with what they’ll be learning. Reviewing the curricula will also help you prepare for additional resources and supplies that may be needed. For instance, looking at my second-graders curriculum ahead of time allowed me to make a list of all the things he’ll need to complete his science experiments, geography projects, and more. Reviewing curricula also offers an opportunity to peruse Pinterest for fun hands-on activities to accompany formal lessons.

4. Make a tentative schedule…or several schedules.

I don’t know where I’d be without my home management binder. I have a homeschool schedule, a daily schedule, a cleaning schedule, an exercise schedule, a meal planning schedule, a work schedule, a calendar of events, and more! Why do I have so many schedules? Because they make homeschool manageable! Which makes me feel like I’ve got this!

You don’t need all of these schedules. I’m just a bit of a scheduleaholic. I simply listed the types of schedules I keep as a reference for you to decide what types schedules will make your homeschool days run smoother. In the past, when I didn’t keep as many schedules, I found myself using homeschool time to get things done—especially cleaning and meal prep. Having a system for all things “life” ensures our formal homeschool hours are solely spent on lessons.

Home Management Binder

AirBrush_20170821222002 (1)

5. Create a learning space.

You don’t need a classroom, just a functional learning space. If you have a classroom, great! If you don’t, you can homeschool just about anywhere. Many of my friends like the living-room sofa just fine. Other friends prefer to sit around their dining room table. At our home, we like to homeschool outside on the back porch when we can. Other days, we homeschool in the boys’ room, which I turned into a classroom this year due to some changes happening around our home.

Personally, we did not have a decked-out classroom right away. During our first and second year of homeschool, we used what is now our office. The décor was VERY minimal and only included what I felt was totally necessary; a dry-erase board, a political map of the world, an alphabet border, and some reference charts for math and science, among just a few other things. This year, I approached homeschool with a similar attitude that “less is more.” So, everything you see in our classroom is something we’ll actually use on the regular basis—even down to the school supplies.

Homeschool Classroom Decor

AirBrush_20170821221639

6. Create a homeschool budget.

Not just for curricula and school supplies, but also for fun stuff like field-trips and extra-curricular activities. Personally, I like to create a homeschool budget month-by-month because, as business owners, our earnings look different each month. I also like to set aside money each month to save for curriculum purchases for the next school year. I know setting money aside makes me sound super responsible, but, trust me, I only implemented this system due to the mass amount of money I ended up spending in one lump sum on homeschool purchases. Don’t be like the old me, be like the new me. Plan ahead!

7. Join a co-op.

If you’re new to homeschool, I highly suggest joining a homeschool co-op. Why? Because it makes “back-to-homeschool” season that much more fun when your kids have friends who are sharing the experience. This year, my boys are looking forward to seeing all their pals again. They’re super excited to take on new classes with friends and go on field-trip adventures with their homeschool group. We did not have this experience during our first homeschool year and we did okay—but having a community makes things so much better!

Homeschool Co-op
First Homeschool Field-trip at the Museum Viewing the Solar Eclipse 2017

8. Organize your home.

It’s a great idea to get the entire house in order. After all, it’s your “school building.” Before we homeschool, I like to do a bit of spring cleaning in the summer. You’d be surprised at how many school supplies are buried in your catch-all drawers, closets, garage, etc. I barely had to purchase any new supplies this year. I found a bunch of Expos, craft supplies, markers, crayons, sticky notes, and so much more. And they were all in perfect condition.

Additionally, when your refrigerator and pantry are neat and organized, it makes meal time a breeze. The kids won’t have any trouble finding mom-approved items for snacks and lunch. And if you still prepare all the meals, you’ll feel so much better preparing them in an organized kitchen. I like the notion that a decluttered home helps declutter your mind, shifting the environment and making you feel more at ease.

9. Make the first day special.

Roll out the red carpet! Hey, why not? It’s your homeschool and you can be “extra” if you want to (you totally read that to the “It’s My Party” melody). At our home, we play music, take pictures, talk about what we’re most excited about for the upcoming year, and I even give my boys a special goodie basket filled with fun stuff I know they’ll love. I don’t spend much on the goodie basket items, as most were from Dollar Tree or Target. I probably spent $20 bucks at the absolute most. They’ve got stickers, markers, ninja turtle pens, color pencils, mechanical pencils, fun pencil sharpeners, paint sets, art kits, sketch pads, fruit snacks, and other little odds and ends.

Back-to-Homeschool Ideas

10. Read my previous posts on “Ready, Set, Homeschool!”

In my previous posts, I go over homeschool laws, free curricula and homeschool deals, homeschool must-haves, and more. I don’t want to sound redundant, so click the links below to read them!

7 Homeschool Must-Haves That Didn’t Make Your List

30 FREE Homeschool Deals That’ll Help You Save Some Coins

10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool

 


 

And there you have it! This is not an all-inclusive list, but it’s definitely something we do in our home that makes a huge difference in starting our homeschool year off right. Congratulations on your first year of homeschool!  If this is not your first year, welcome to a brand new year! I pray for much success for all of you reading this post. Let me know in the comments: How do you prepare for your homeschool year?

 

 

 

 

 

How to Homeschool

10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool

Thinking about homeschooling your children, or know someone who is? As a newbie homeschooler, I would have been lost if it weren’t for the homeschool veterans that helped me put everything into perspective. So, here I am paying it forward. Not that I consider myself a veteran, but I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are my top ten things every prospective homeschooler should know and/or consider before their first year of homeschool. And if you’re already in the homeschooling game, perhaps you may still find some of these tips useful.   


10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool


1. The Law

In the United States, you have the right to provide your child with a home-based education. Homeschool is a legal practice in all fifty U.S. states and has been since 1993. However, there are legal requirements you should know regarding homeschool. Requirements differ depending on where you live, so it’s best to research the requirements for your state. I can offer you a summary here, but be sure to do the research for yourself for up-to-date legal requirements.

Homeschool Law Breakdown

There are four types of states regarding homeschool laws: The first type is a No Regulation State. A no regulation state has no requirements for homeschool parents. The second type is a Low Regulation State. A low regulation state only requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool. The third type is a Moderate Regulation State. A moderate regulation state requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool, as well as test scores and/ or professional evaluation of student progress. Finally, the fourth type is a High Regulation State. A high regulation state may require notification, test scores, curriculum approval by the state, teacher qualification of parents, or home visits by state officials, among other things. Click here to get a snapshot of the category your residing state falls into.

I can’t stress enough to do your own research. Laws change all the time and there are always details to consider. To help structure your research, seek to answer the following questions:

  • Is there a compulsory attendance?
  • Are there required subjects?
  • Is there a deadline?
  • Do you have to keep records?
  • Can you teach other kids?
  • Can you hire a tutor?
  • Do you need a college degree?
  • Are there required standardized tests?
  • What are your other rights?
  • Did any laws change?

I know. It all seems so scary. If you need any legal help, the Homeschool Defense Legal Association will point you in the right direction.

2. Your Vision

So, what’s a vision, anyway?

I like the way leadership expert, Jessie Lyn Stoner, defines vision: “Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey.” It is made up of your purpose, picture of the future, and your values. Now let’s apply that to your homeschool. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your purpose for homeschooling and what value will it provide to your family?
  • What will your picture look like at the end of your homeschool journey when your purpose of fulfilled?
  • What are your core values and how will they support your purpose?

Make sure you write your vision down! Here’s an example from my vision and mission statement for the upcoming school year.

Nike Anderson's Homeschool Vision Statement

3. The Benefits

Understanding the benefits of your decision to homeschool will keep you going when things get tough. Be sure to do thorough research on all of the benefits you’ll be providing for your children (and yourself!) during your homeschool experience. Write them down or print them out. Here are a few statistics from the National Home Education Research Institute:

  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
  • The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.
  • Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges
  • The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.

It’s important to understand that some statistics in favor of homeschool, and those against homeschool, can be biased. Instead, make it a habit to write down your personal list of benefits that you’ve experienced as a result of homeschool. Here’s mine. Perhaps I’ll explain these in depth in another blog post.

  • Improved Focus. We’re able to modify our learning environment to ensure the best possible focus.
  • Close-knit Family. We have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with one another.
  • Tailored Education. We can choose a curriculum that best suits our family and make necessary modifications if needed.
  • Tailored Pace. We can speed up or slow down our lessons depending on the level of mastery. 
  • Lifestyle Learning. There’s very little separation between real-life and “school.” Everything’s a lesson!
  • Lifestyle Freedom. Our schedule is super flexible. We can vacation off-season and visit attractions during low-traffic hours.

4. Discounts & Free Resources

Homeschool has the potential to get costly, especially for beginners who are tempted to purchase everything that veterans recommend. Research free resources in your area. You might be amazed by all your community has to offer for little to no cost. The local library is a great place to start, as they are typically connected to many resources that offer free admission to the museum, zoo, aquarium, and much more. You can even find free or low-cost classes at your local museum, zoo, aquarium, capital building, and education center.

Of course, there are many free resources on the Web. Youtube has great educational channels for all ages, and there are websites galore that are full of access to free educational resources. Websites I’ve used frequently for free printables and curricula are:

  • Education.comFree printables for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school. Also provides games, activities, lesson plans, and more.
  • KidzoneFree worksheets for pre-k thru grade 5.
  • Teachers pay TeachersFree lesson plans, worksheets, games, and resources from experienced educators around the world.
  • AllinOneHomeschoolA free online curriculum for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school.
  • Khan AcademyFree online courses, classes, and practice.
  • ScholasticFree resources and tools, printables, and more.
  • Hoffman AcademyFree music lessons.
  • Nike Anderson’s Classroom(Shameless plug, hehe!) Free printable worksheets for pre-k thru grade 2 designed for kinesthetic learners.

This list doesn’t even make a dent so please do your own research. New resources I haven’t tried but am just learning about are:

  • CrayolaFree lesson plans and resources for language arts, math, STEM, social studies, art, and more.
  • Homeschool Buyers CoopFree virtual field trip lesson plans, resources, tips, and more.

Read FREE Homeschool DEALS Your Wallet Will LOVE for more resources.

*******You May Also Qualify for Teacher Discounts******

Don’t forget you are a teacher, too! I mean, I know this should be a given, but it took me a while to accept that title. So make sure you attend teacher drives in your area and take advantage of the free school supplies they give out at the start of the school year.

Even more? You can receive a teacher’s discount at participating supercenters, bookstores, and office supply stores. I’ve personally received discounts at my local bookstore, but am now learning there are so many stores that may offer homeschoolers a teacher’s discount. Keep in mind that you may have to show your declaration of intent, homeschool membership card, or HSLDA membership card. Here are some stores you might want to try according to the HSLDA.

·         Adobe.com

·         A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts

·         Ann Taylor Loft

·         Apple Store

·         Barnes & Noble

·         Big Lots

·         The Book Barn

·         Books-a-Million

·         Colonial Williamsburg

·         The Container Store

·         Creation Museum

·         Dell

·         Generation Joshua

·         Goodwill

·         Half Price Books

·         HSLDA Online Academy

·         J. Crew

·         Joann Fabrics

·         Legoland

·         Michaels

·         Mount Vernon

·         New York and Co.

·         Office Depot

·         Office Max

·         Patrick Henry College

·         Ripley’s Attractions, Gatlinburg, TN

5. The Types of Homeschool Groups

Basically, there are different types of homeschool groups that cater to the needs of different families. The best way I found out about the homeschool groups in my area was through a Facebook search. I simply searched “homeschool groups near me” and requested to join the groups I was interested in. Please note that there is an additional process to be an official member of the homeschool group of your choice. Joining a Facebook group may give you access to information about that group, but many groups require an application, a membership fee, references, a background check, mandatory volunteering, and more. Be sure to seek out the group administrator for additional requirements. Here are some examples of homeschool groups to consider:

  • Christian Homeschool Groups—A group that provides homeschool families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities centered around Christian beliefs.
  • Secular Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that provides non-religious families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities.
  • African American/ Ethnic Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that connects African Americans and/or various ethnic groups with one another.
  • STEAM Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that helps families provide their children with an education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.
  • Homeschool Playgroups—A laid back homeschool group focused on providing children with fellowship opportunities in the form of open-ended play.
  • Classical Education Homeschool Groups—Connects homeschool families who follow the classical education method. This group usually offers classes by parents who specialize in teaching classical education.
  • Tutorial Co-op—A co-op for children of any age in need of specialized tutoring in a particular subject. Usually, taught by qualified parents and/or teachers.
  • Parent-support Co-op—A co-op for homeschool parents to gather, fellowship, and minister to one another.
  • Traditional Homeschool Co-op—A co-op that’s usually parent-led designed to provide homeschool children with elective classes, field-trips, socialization, and more.

6. How Your Children Learn.

If you plan to use a curriculum, make sure it suits the way your child learns best. There are different types of learning styles. Here’s a list of six different ways your child may prefer to learn.

  • Visual, or learning using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural, or learning using sound and music.
  • Verbal, or learning using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical, or learning using your body, hands, and sense of touch.
  • Logical, or learning using logic, reasoning, and systems.
  • Social, or learning in groups.
  • Solitary, or preferring to work alone and use self-study.

Scholastic offers a simple “Learning Style Quiz” you can do with your child to point you in the right direction. When I sought out a curriculum for my children, who are visual and physical learners, I made sure to implement a curriculum that involves games, physical movement, and stimulating visual prompts and videos. But even in doing so, we’re not limited to the curriculum. I’ve created many resources, learning games, and projects along the way to enhance classroom learning. You can, too! Pinterest is your best friend. So is your imagination!

7.  You Don’t Need an Extensive Curriculum

Well, maybe you do if you live in a high regulation state that must approve your curriculum choice. However, for the rest of us, an extensive curriculum with all the bells and whistles isn’t necessary. Trust me when I say, “What will always matter most is how much you put into a curriculum. Not what you get out of it.” When a parent places a great deal of effort into their child’s education they will never come up short—regardless of the curriculum choice. I am living proof. Due to financial hardship in the past, I’ve had to get super creative. I relied heavily on free curricula, library resources, and my creative juices. If you’ve been following me since Day One, you know this. These days, I am blessed to purchase curricula that suit my family, but I still take advantage of free resources.

Please know there are parents who’ve spent a fortune, yet get frustrated by a curriculum because the child is disinterested and/or not thriving. Usually, this is because the curriculum doesn’t fit the child’s preferred learning style. Read the forums! You’ll read all sorts of horror stories regarding the most recommended of curricula. And while these particular materials may work for some children, they do not work for all.

I don’t care who wrote the curriculum, what the author’s credentials are, and how many awards they’ve earned, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all curriculum. And just because it costs a fortune doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your family. I personally know parents who are using free online homeschool curricula and their children are thriving because the parents are involved, innovative, and dedicated. I say this not to steer you away from a boxed curriculum, but to inspire those who cannot afford it. You can do it!

8. Different Types of Homeschoolers

There are all kinds of homeschool families. Some of which are underrepresented on the Web. You don’t have to homeschool the way you see other families on social media do it. Take a look at these alternative methods to homeschool.

  • Eclectic homeschool, or homeschooling that mixes several different learning styles.
  • Classical education, or teaching according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development.
  • Charlotte Mason, or a method that uses real-life experiences to teach a child.
  • Unit studies, or a specific interest that is studied from different angles.
  • Unschooled, or child-led learning that is void of curricula and lesson plans.

I know there’s a stigma against implementing traditional schooling into your homeschool classroom, but hear me out: If this method works for your family, use it! You don’t have to forgo the traditional method just because you’re a homeschool family. In fact, if you have children who are being pulled out of public or private school, they may be most receptive to traditional learning because it’s what they know. That’s okay.

9. You Have Support

Say farewell to the stigma that was once associated with homeschool. Welcome, the days where homeschool has increasingly gained both popularity and respect. The U.S. homeschool population continues to grow each year at a rate anywhere between 2-8 percent. As the population grows, so do social support groups, legal support groups, and resources. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is probably amongst the most popular support groups. They provide homeschool families with pertinent information regarding homeschool laws, legal services, and may offer peace of mind.

Many public libraries also support homeschoolers. Check out your local library to see what they have to offer. Our local library offers STEM classes, STEM kits, free admissions passes to parks and museums, and much more. Local businesses may also offer “homeschool days” where admission is free or discounted. Our local Skyzone, skating, and bowling center offer homeschool days for a discounted admission. Our state capital building also offers a homeschool day where they give a free tour and low-cost legal classes. Taking advantage of these opportunities is a great way to meet and connect with other homeschool families in your area. So get plugged in!

10. Inevitable Bad Days

If you have a Mary Poppins expectation of what your homeschool days will look like, allow me to bring in a bit of reality—some days will not go so well.  Just as with traditional school, where you’d expect days when your child hates it, expect the same for homeschool. Prepare in advance for how you’d like to handle your uncooperative child (or your uncooperative self!). Here’s what worked for us:

  • Everyone take ten deep breaths—Deep breathing reduces muscle tension, improves mental concentration, and increases the sense of well-being.
  • Let the child talk about it—Sometimes they need to let it all out. Give them a window of opportunity to let their voice be heard.
  • Take a break—Whether it’s just for ten minutes or for the rest of the day. Sometimes we forget that our children need breaks from the monotony of homeschool.
  • Push through—Helping your child to push through something challenging, even when they want to give up, will teach them the value of perseverance.

So, there you have it! Keep in mind that there’s so much pertinent information out there. These are just some of the tips that I’ve found quite useful as a newbie homeschooler, along with other tips I’ve learned along the way. It goes without saying that every homeschool journey is different. So when seeking advice, always consider that you know what works best for your family better than anyone else.

Your Turn!

Let us know in the comments where you are in your homeschool journey and what you’ve learned so far. 

I Don't Fit In

10 Reasons I Don’t Fit In With Homeschool Moms

Everyone has their own idea of what a homeschool mom is supposed to look like—even homeschool moms themselves! I’ve come across many stereotypes of homeschool moms; some good, some bad. But all are generalizations nonetheless—an attempt to create a mold that makes others feel comfortable.

Oh if I could’ve just recorded the look on some of my peers’ faces when I introduced myself as the newest member of the homeschool community. I could only imagine what they were thinking. I look nothing like them and my story is nothing like theirs. Needless to say, it was difficult getting people to see past my differences.

Even more difficult? Learning to challenge “outsiders” who not only assumed they knew my reason for choosing to homeschool, but also assumed what kind of person I was based on past experiences they’ve had with homeschool moms.

This post isn’t an attempt to criticize homeschool moms who may fall under some of the following categories, but rather a way to illustrate not all homeschool moms are cut from the same cloth—an important thing to note for prospects and newbies who may feel like they don’t fit the “mold.” 

I remember feeling so out of place (still do sometimes) in my homeschool community. During that time, reading posts like these reminded me that there are no rules! So, without further ado…


10 Reasons I Don’t Fit In With Homeschool Moms

1.    I’m not wealthy.  Not yet, anyway. I may be rich in some areas of my life, but when it comes to finances…let’s just say it’s a work in progress. In fact, only about 16 percent of the homeschool population makes six-figures. The rest of us make a pretty modest income. So all that talk about rich people opting for homeschool only references a small demographic in the homeschool community.

I know that homeschool curricula, coop fees, and the cost of extracurricular activities can seem daunting for those of us with tight budgets. But I’m here to tell you that homeschool doesn’t have to cost you thousands of dollars. There are plenty of free/low-cost curricula available online, at your local library, and even your local secondhand bookstore. All of my children’s curricula are FREE, but I do pay for any additional supplements I may need.

For instance, my local secondhand bookstore offers materials like A-beka, Saxon, MUS, and more, for just a fraction of the cost—I’m talking under five bucks! I also have a homeschool membership card that offers awesome discounts on school materials.

Furthermore, you’d be amazed at how many free/low-cost opportunities there are to involve your child in extracurricular activities. If you are new to homeschool, please plug into your local homeschool group—they’re a wealth of information (notice my pun here).

2.    I’m not white. As if that’s not obvious. I can probably count the number of people of color in our local co-op on two fingers. However, contrary to my personal experience, homeschool amongst the African-American community is on the rise. In fact, reports from 2015 show that Black students made up 10 percent of the homeschool population in the United States. That’s compared to the 16 percent they made up in public school that same year. And while that percentage may not seem that big of a deal, consider that African Americans are the fastest rising demographic in the homeschool community. That means homeschool communities are growing in diversity every year!  (Source: The Atlantic)

3.    I’m not drowning in curricula and school supplies. As a budding minimalist, I’m always amazed at how much unused stuff is accumulated in homeschool classrooms. It’s understandable, shopping for your classroom can be fun—and addicting! However, I love how minimalistic and clutter-free our classroom is.

Listen, you don’t have to buy every on-trend curriculum, gadget, or office supply. Keep in mind that most popular bloggers and/or YouTube personalities showcasing this stuff are sent these materials for FREE in exchange for a favorable review.

If you’re new to homeschool, I suggest sticking to the basic needs of your classroom—age-appropriate school supplies, a curriculum that works, and a work desk. I found that resisting the urge to fill up my classroom during our first homeschool year really gave me the opportunity to see what our personalized needs actually were—and what we could live without!

4.    I’m not afraid to send my kids to public school. Rumor has it that homeschool parents want to keep their kids away from the big bad wolves that may negatively influence their children. I won’t negate that these so-called wolves exist, but I will venture to say that negative influencers are everywhere—including homeschool groups.

Kids will make poor choices regardless of their schooling. It’s all a part of the maturity process. Just as all homeschoolers aren’t unsocialized weirdos, all public schools are not bad news. While my experience wasn’t perfect, I’m a product of the good that public school can do. I was an honor student and a good (but not perfect) kid. I know many successful people who are also outstanding products of the public school system.

If you missed the memo in my earlier posts, I homeschool to give my boys a personalized education that comes with the flexibility and freedom to learn at their own pace and in a manner that best suits their learning style. I also homeschool to encourage a positive relationship with learning that isn’t solely based on memorizing facts and getting high test scores.

(Please also note I live in a district with good public schools, I may not feel the same way if I lived in a low-performing school district.)

5.    I hate sweats. I know this is random, but it must be said. One thing that hasn’t changed about me since I was a little girl is my love for dressing up. However, I’ve noticed in the world of motherhood that dressing nicely has a negative stigma attached to it. You’re often judged harsher by other moms, viewed as being selfish or a bad mom just because you don’t look like what you’re going through (pee on the walls because your boys wanted to see how far they can “shoot,” the hidden poopy diaper because pooping in the potty is “scary,” the bruise on your big toe after stepping on a LEGO piece…).

I digress.

Putting some effort into myself has always been a great practice for my emotional wellbeing. I like to listen to positive affirmations as I’m getting dressed and ready for the day—It’s my time to meditate and reflect while my husband minds the children. In short—it’s a part of my “me-time.”

6.    I wasn’t homeschooled. I’ve met quite a few moms (and dads) who were homeschooled growing up. Until then, it never occurred to me that homeschool was a family practice passed down from generation to generation—simply a no-brainer for some parents to carry on the legacy.

I’ve already discussed that I attended public school my entire academic career, but I didn’t mention that I never even knew that homeschool existed until adulthood. In fact, I was introduced to homeschool when I studied alternative modes of education during my master’s program. I was so intrigued with the idea that I just kept studying it—even long after I earned my degree.

Yet, even with all the studying, my knowledge doesn’t compare to that of former homeschoolers I’ve met. This can be intimidating if you let it be. I simply remind myself that, while I’m no homeschool expert, I am most certainly an expert in my own homeschool.

7.    I don’t believe homeschool is the only way. This is one of the common misconceptions—In fact, some friends and family members started avoiding me once they found out I’d be homeschooling my kids. I even discovered some of these beloved people unfriended me on social media (ouch!). I guess I was oversharing our wonderful experience!

I’ve found that some parents who don’t homeschool their children are automatically in defense mode once the subject of schooling comes up—as if they expect me to criticize their decision to send their children to public school. This inspired me to write this post on my Instagram…

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“Please don’t mistake my being a homeschool mom as a judgement against moms who work outside the home or send their children to public school. We all have different callings in life–unique, yet beautiful, journeys to experience. I respect moms, period, and I respect the decision you make for your family. Don’t get tripped up on my life. Homeschool may sound romantic, but it is hard work and will definitely test and strengthen your faith, character, and patience. But nothing of true value ever comes easy. 

Therefore, the challenge is what makes it beautiful. I share snippets of our life with you not to boast (or make you feel guilty), but to inspire you to walk your own path, no matter how outside of the norm that path may be. Believe me, people have their opinions, but in the end I always have the peace of mind that I’m doing what God called me to do at such a time as this.” (Words in parentheses added later.)

8.    I’m not that patient…really, I’m not. Probably one of the biggest deterrents for parents that are considering homeschool is whether or not they have enough patience to provide their children with a home-based education. My belief? Patience is not something you just have naturally; it is a muscle that needs to be worked continually.

Yes, I’ve gotten angry, raised my voice, sent my kids to their room, and had to do some serious “woosahs.” I can for sure tell you that I’m not the most patient mom, but the good news is that my patience grows every single day. Most seemingly “patient” people you know have probably had a series of unfavorable experiences to help them grow in that area. You do not have to be patient to be a homeschool mom, but you do have to be committed to grow in patience.

9.    I’m not a helicopter mom. I won’t pretend I wasn’t when my children were much younger. However, the older my boys get, the more I back off and give them opportunities to make their own decisions, and/or experience some of life’s “hurts.” I don’t homeschool them to be a helicopter mom. That wouldn’t be fun for any of us. There’s no way I can police their behavior for every little thing they’ve got going on. Soon, I’ll be dropping them off to sports practice, extra-curricular classes, a friend’s house, and much more!

Knowing this, I’ve committed myself to helping my boys develop good character that’ll enable them to make good decisions for themselves. I don’t believe in shielding my kids, but I do believe in providing them with a safe and nurturing environment to learn about—and interact with—the world around them. Unfortunately, though, some things about the world kids (as they mature) have to learn for themselves. I accept that.

10.    I’m not the poster child for motherhood. Some homeschool moms are like saints. They’re great at everything from planning, decorating, cooking, keeping a tidy home, running a successful business, and raising geniuses—all with a Colgate smile. And while I admit to being good at some of these things, I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that I am not a perfect mom and I do not run the perfect homeschool.

I remember seeing a quote on Instagram that read something like this: “Some days I amaze myself…other days, I look for my phone while I’m talking on it.”

Yep, that’s definitely me! Some days are perfect, some days are in between, and some days I just want to lay in bed and wallow in self-pity. There are so many wonderful things being said about homeschool, but not enough testimony about the challenges that homeschool parents (and students!) sometimes face. If you’re new to homeschool, just know that you don’t have to have it all together all of the time!