Thursday, February 27, 2014

How to Homeschool, using the Awesome's Method

Angela (at WV Treasures) replied on my post, pics of us homeschooling, and I wanted to reply back to her, but my response just couldn't be short.
(Imagine that, me not being able to keep something short & sweet)
So, I decided to do a post just to answer her, but it might be helpful in some small way for others to read this, also.

Angela had mentioned a few extremely common concerns about the logistics of homeschooling.  These are some of the very SAME issues that I needed addressed when I first started thinking about homeschooling the Awesome kids.  And SO many other people bring these same things up to me when they mention their thoughts on homeschooling their own kids. While I had to start homeschooling out of necessity (public school options were not in the best interest of the kids in Memphis, safety-wise, and we travel too much, so homeschooling, to me, started as a 'necessary evil'), now we could never, ever go back.

I was/am so very fortunate to have my friends to help me... they gave me a much-needed & huge confidence boost to get me mentally started, helped me with the daily run-downs, talked me off the ledge when I thought I'd go crazy, and remind me to breathe & let life just happen.

Now, here is my disclaimer: I'm not an expert (well, just on all matters for the Awesome's-- even though Captain might not see it that way, heehee).  
Every family's situation & issues are different.
But, I'm going to attempt to give a quick (yeah, right) run-down of homeschooling and how/why it works for us.

A. Each state is different in their homeschooling requirements.
In WV, you do have a couple of options (if you elect to homeschool in WV, memorize that page!). There isn't a 'test' that homeschooled children have to 'pass' at the end of the year in order to go to the next grade.

One of the state's options, is having your children take standardized tests as a measure to what the government thinks they should be able to answer. You can find those tests online at varying costs at different locations & sites, or you can opt in at your local schools where they can sit in when other kids are tested.

Another option is a portfolio review done by any state certified teacher.  The teacher looks over the portfolio that you make of different samples of their schoolwork, pictures, field trip logs, etc, and then they submit a 1 page narrative of how they think the child is doing.

You also should keep an attendance record.
(ETA:  this is for your own records & not required in WV)

We do additional online grade reporting through HomeLife Academy's AppleCore system.  This was something that was needed based on the state regulations when we were in TN, and I love that I can just continue it, regardless of where we live. This is where I input their educational plans & grades (2x/year), and it keeps it all very handy so I could print it out at a moment's notice.
(I'm not 'plugging' this company over any other, just throwing the link out to what I actually use)

Here is a super fun part, for instance in our county in WV, you just need to provide instructional learning opportunities for 5 hours a day (more for high school grades). The state has decided that in government-run schools, the children are only being 'taught' for 5 hours a day. So that's all that is required at home.

 Think about that for a second..... think about all of the time it takes to do the morning attendance; getting kids settled down & ready to learn for the day; changing subjects & getting new books out; getting them lined up, through the lunch period, then settled down again to learn; all of the regular interruptions that happen during the day; then the wind-down at the end so they can have them ready for the bus by 3pm.
All in all, they are actually only doing 'instructional schoolwork' for an average of 5 hours a day.
My kids probably wish that they were only 'educated' for 5 hours a day!

2. You already are their teacher.  You've taught your children to dress themselves, their numbers, letters, and colors, to feed themselves, to not touch a hot stove, and thousands of other important lessons

Nobody can love your child & want him/her to succeed more than you.  That means that you put your heart & soul into their education.... whether they go to a government-run school, a co-op, or staying in your home for their lessons., you are still legally & morally responsible for their education.

Your hands are not tied by idiotic bureaucratic crap when it comes to your children.  If they misbehave, you stop and redirect/discipline/whatever is needed.  Then, you can pick back up when the time is right, and not have to worry about 25 other students waiting on you.

(In college, I very briefly lost my mind had secondary education as my major.  After only a few weeks of my initial observation, I was homicidal.  Seeing the complete lack of respect that 70%+ of the students had for the teachers & administrators almost made me lose it on more than one occasion.  And the teachers can't do a thing about it because they might accidentally hurt their poor, whittle feewings & they'll cry to their parents who will then have the teacher's rump on a platter--- so NOT the way it was just 15'ish years ago when I was in school!!  On a related note, I changed and ended up with 2 Bachelor of Science degrees in Sociology/Psychology and Criminal Justice.)

d. There isn't a single perfect 'curriculum' that will tell you what your child needs to learn to be a functioning member of society.  You have to decide this.  Sure, there are probably thousands of free online sites to help you with different ways to educate your kids, but none of them are right for all.  Children's education can not be crammed into a 'one size fits all' box.  Not even from the books that the state decides, based on what the particular salesman offers to get them to have a contract with their publishing company.

Homeschooling means that you get to find the right method of learning, according to each individual child.

 As far as our 'curriculum', I can't even think of where I'd put my checkmark!

We do online work from different free sites (Khan Academy is my absolute fave for Jr's 6th grade math, that I just can't teach him).
We do outdoor/nature lessons.
We play 'tourist' wherever we're living, and go to as many places of interests that we can.
We do museums, and tons of historical sites.
We do BrainQuest workbooks, and the like, so I'll have some worksheets to 'prove' that they're learning.
(my Pinterest site has some pics from our travels)

The Girl is so artistically gifted, that it amazes me that she came out of me.  Art, music, and the beauty of nature are the things that she lives for.  If her pictures on this blog could have sound, you would hear her constantly humming while doing her schoolwork, and brushing her teeth, and playing in the creek.

On the other hand, my boys are all about sequences, finding out how/why things work, putting things in order, etc.  JrJr is in 1st grade, yet already doing division because he is so advanced in math.  He also has to have everything on schedule & it bugs him to death to not see a clock at any given point in the day.  Jr is fascinated with science, biology, and has had the Periodic Table memorized by heart since he was in the 2nd grade.

Each kid learns differently, so I have to teach them differently.  This is where the awesomeness of homeschooling comes in to play.  I can adjust our lessons to them individually. 

Perfect example: The Girl can.not.stand to sit and work on math worksheets.  So, I've had to find ways to make math 'fun' for her, and not let her think that she is being 'forced' to learn that subject.  I totally didn't do yesterday's money lesson for JrJr, he knows all about it... but I had to make it look super fun for him, so that she'd want to come and play.
She also doesn't want to sit and write out things in her notebooks, just to be practicing her penmanship.  Alrighty, let's introduce penpals.... she gets to write, learn sentence structure, draw, use her imagination, learn about the postal system (and disappointment when letters take forever to reach the other person through the mail), work on her spelling, etc.

 It's all about knowing how to teach your children. #winkwink

We don't even attempt to replicate what they would be doing in a public school.  They don't have to sit in their chairs for hours, only getting up to break for lunch.  We make our own schedules based on what we have going on in our lives that day.  If we have appointments, we adjust to do school before/after.  If we have multiple, multiple days of freezing temps & then a sunny day comes along, we skip school until later (or if they see a squirrel during season & just absolutely have to grab their gun).  If Captain has a trip out of town, we can seize the opportunity to do some #Roadtripping and learning about a new area of the country.

We started out only doing 'school' on the 180 day schedule.  I learned very quickly, they NEED to be learning every day.  This is our 2nd year of year-round homeschooling, and we love it!  We go from July 1-June 30.  This gives us plenty of time to work around life, too.

When we went #Roadtripping to NC, we treated it like a mini-vacay, and they didn't have to do actual schoolwork... but, they did have to pick educational movies, books, and games on their Kindles while in the vehicle.

We don't have ADHD or other issues to work around, but I do go by their behaviors.  If they start getting squirmy from reading too long, they'll get to play educational games online.  If they are 'over' working in their workbooks, they'll grab their Kindle Fires and read a book. They eat snacks/lunch when they are hungry.  If I start to 'lose' them because they're staring outside, I send them to run-out their energy before sitting down again.

While I do 'listen' to them, they also know that, ultimately, I am in charge.  

Another amazing thing to remember is that this isn't rocket science.  Nobody's going to blow up if you get something wrong.

You go with the flow, until the tide changes, then figure out what will be your new 'normal', just like real life.

Take today, they came down from the camper, cleaned up their messes from last night (I stopped them in the middle of playing because I needed to go to the camper to get some stuff done and they didn't have a chance to clean-up), they ate breakfast, and we are zooming through their reviews that they started Monday.  As soon as they're done, we'll grab lunch and then head back to the camper. to do a group lesson on the solar system that I found in one of their books.  The Girl will draw it all out, the boys will label it, and together they'll work on the facts.  Then while JrJr is napping (yes, he NEEDS a nap, and we NEED him to take one), Jr & The Girl will continue working on the solar system, but more in-depth & they'll read the more advanced books on their Kindles, read more in their newest National Geographic that talks about the Big Bang theory, then watch a movie on Netflix about the same,

**Snap, it took longer than I expected for them to do their work this morning, so we'll just do our group solar system lesson tomorrow.  JrJr is napping now, so the big kids are getting a jump-start & doing the other stuff this afternoon.

Thanks to pictures that The Girl saw this morning when I was reading, she wants to learn more about sheep & how yarn is produced. So, I'll try to find a free lapbook and hopefully some online games or other resources for us all to work on tomorrow Monday afternoon, after their workbook lessons are finished in the morning.  And we'll just have to line up a sheep farm to visit once the weather stops being psychotic.

And these 'lessons' can be adjusted to anything that life throws us along the way.  (Like a longer than expected review session)

That's how the Awesome's roll. :-D

So, there it is, Homeschooling FAQ's using the Common Sense/Duh Method in a semi-short post.
(Admit it, I could have gone on for MUCH longer!)


  1. I've come a long way from freaking out over every.little.decision, huh?! :-)

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog!

    Your family looks absolutely charming - including Hampton. I admire what you are doing. I've met a couple of homeschooling families on the road and the kids always look so .... robust.

    Look forward to following your family on their journey.