Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Any and All Things Home School~Part 2~The First Year

My mind jumping from one thing to the other lately, had me arguing with myself what to post next. It went something like this.

"You need to share about that first year, it's where it all starts."
"But I think some might like to see how it benefits and adoptive family."
"Well, your right, but they still start with the first year, right?"
"Pfft, you just want your way."

Yes, life is interesting in my mind.

Everything in our life is obviously not home school. I honestly don't write about home school much, but as it is a part of us, I really want to share what wisdom has been SHARED with me. You didn't think the wisdom came from me, did you?! Smile

So, I got my way again. I'm going to talk about the first year.

Again, there is no guaranteeing that it will make sense. Check out my last post to see where this all started.

If you are NOT wondering, thinking about starting, or home schooling...this may not be the series for you. Just a warning (smile)....


Looking back on the first year, it was hard...seriously hard. It was the boot camp of home school.

Thankfully, I was warned, but that didn't do it justice.

I'm a big investigator and preparer too, so you would think it wouldn't have come as quite a shock.

It did...

Mainly it was difficult because we are programed to think school is supposed to be a certain way. If it is not, you fail.

The first year is the deprogramming year. This is the year where you get comfortable in your home school skin. This is the year you shed what the world says school should look like.

How long should an average home school day be?
How do we figure out field trips?
If a child gets sick, how do we manage make up days?
How many days of school should there be in each year?
How often should I test?
Should I order all the extras recommended in the curriculum?
Should I schedule my day or let it flow checking off what has been done until it's complete?
What if I miss something they need?

To start I would like to recommend some avenues and explanations to get you started in your first year.

Some things I wish I'd known.

Some things I learned the hard way. Truthfully, a lot of things I learned the hard way.

**I want to encourage my home school friends who read this blog to comment with more advice. I'm sure to have missed things and many of you have been MY teachers.**


You know, starting felt like a really obscure maze for me. I wasn't even sure what questions to ask or what crazy situation would pop up around the corner. Every question led to twenty more.

These are the top ideas/avenues that I valued most when starting our home school adventure.

1. Talk to friends (and friends of friends) who home school. Have a prepared list of what you want to ask. Ask what they wish they had known. Talk about curriculum. Expect to think of twenty more things that you MUST know before starting and pray your friends have patience (wink). My friends are still talking to me. I'm taking that as a good sign.

2. Join online Yahoo Groups. Yahoo makes joining pretty easy. There is one big one called, "A Home School Review" that is a great place to ask anything and everything home school. There are also smaller and more specific ones that are WONDERFUL as well. I started with "A Home School Review" and branched out from there. Seriously good people took their time to answer my questions and NOT tell me I was stupid (Yes, any of my children reading this will now say, "MOM! We don't say STUPID!")

3. Google online what your state laws are in regards to home schooling. Ours are fairly lenient, but each state is different. Pretty important to cover your bases there.

4. Join HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association). It is about $10 a month and if any one should challenge your home schooling, they legally represent their members at no cost. Parental rights also can change and you are kept on top of it, as well as keeping you abreast of the newest home school laws and some great opportunities.

5. Google your area for a local Home School Association, Teaching Co-op, or Local Home School Groups. Often they will offer field trips, student government, year book, prom, and many many other opportunities for your kids to connect with others. A local teaching co-op offers classes that are fun, educational, and for me (which is important) beyond my teaching abilities. Some classes are taught by certified teachers and some are just taught by the gifted of the community. We take advantage, especially in high school, of this opportunity. Truthfully, it's a great way to get out and avoid some cabin fever as adults as well. Other home school moms and I joke that co-op is our therapy session.

6. I've had several give me the next bit of advice and, yes, it did help. For the first year consider doing a box set curriculum. This means that all (or almost all) of your curriculum is the same. Example: We used ABeka the first year, while creating our own Bible curriculum. The teaching books for different curriculum vary. Figuring out one curriculum's teaching book can leave your brain spinning, add many...it can be a little much until you find your comfort zone. Once you find your comfort zone, the fun really begins.

7. You don't need to buy EVERYTHING when it comes to extras the curriculum recommends. Ask those that have used it what they REALLY needed. My bet is that it's only about half of what was actually recommended. I bought EVERYTHING the first year and maybe used half. Often those that make home school curriculum only modify the curriculum used in Christian Schools or Private Schools. When you are teaching one on one, you know when your child gets it and when the light bulb goes on. Those that make the curriculum don't always take that into account.

8. I have a ton of friends who are teachers at a traditional school. When I asked them about home school and advice, they were very positive (which INITIALLY surprised me a little). Many of these teachers had experience with those coming from a home school. They said that the main issue they saw was many parents had stopped using flash cards and such when home schooling. They didn't emphasize the memorization.

9. Think about what you've seen in five day a week schools. Often the kids only do every other problem. Sometimes you see the teachers skip a lesson that is just review and give it as extra credit. Again, you see when your child "gets it". I believe in practice and reiteration, but you don't have to use EVERYTHING provided (including all the lessons if they are not necessary).

10. If you want your children to be tested at the end of the year to insure they are on target, there are often local places to do that. Remember though, some don't test well. I know adults that struggle with that. It may not be a accurate reflection of what a child knows.

11. This was a big one for us. Often you will have a schedule that tells you what lesson your child should be on for that particular day (example: Lesson 4 on September 3rd). I like that, but I have realized that sometimes my kids WANT to work ahead. They are ready for it. I now have a schedule that shows me (about every four weeks) what lesson they should have accomplished by that date. Often they will be ahead. There is nothing wrong with the fact that you may be only doing one subject by the last day of school (because they finished early). There is also nothing wrong with going past that day if more time is needed. Flexibility is an awesome thing about home school.

12. Many (if not most) home school mom's do a four day home school week. They teach five days worth of school in four. Since this is a HOME school, home still needs some attention too (errands, cleaning, etc.).

13. It usually takes us about six weeks to get in the groove each home school year. Though each year it seems to be smoother, we still end up doing some tweaking.

14. Many use the same History, Science, and Bible for elementary school ages. We buy the curriculum for the oldest and it's AMAZING what the younger children understand. We do tweak things for some younger activities, but it simplifies so much.

Now, here are a couple of questions that I threw at people and some answers that work in my quirky mind.

How long should an average home school day be?
I know parents that home school anywhere from three to eight hours a day. Usually it averages around 3-5 depending on the day.

The reason being is not the lack of things to teach, but the ability to go on to the next subject without having to wait for everyone else to finish.

Our day, or I should say MY day, tends to be longer (smile). In teaching multiple children, one child may have some play time while I finish teaching another child. I average 5-6 hours a day. In a later post I will share more about how we do things with multiple children, curriculum, etc.

How do we figure out field trips?
Often the local home school association will offer quite a few. If not, just get creative. The local fire station, police station, library, sports arena, ice cream shop, petting zoo, and pumpkin patches are great places to start. The more it ties into the curriculum, often the more your children will remember it.

If a child gets sick, how do we manage make up days?
If you let your child work ahead (as stated above), often you will not have do juggle a whole bunch. Every once in awhile we do double days where we will double up on a certain subject. Also, there is nothing wrong with finishing the year a little later than you planned or tweaking the days you planned off. A couple five day weeks will catch you up in no time.

BELIEVE me when I say that I have experience in this...lol...after coming home from Ethiopia with what we believed was malaria (four months of cycling fevers), we only ended one week later than I intended.

How many days of school should there be in each year?
We usually do between 165 lessons to 175 lessons. You will notice that in your curriculum, if your children have gone to traditional school in the past, there is often "left over" lessons in any book that is returned.

With sick days, weather days, special days and field trips, often they will not finish every lesson.

The next elementary school year in language and math often starts with what was learned the year before.

How often should I test?
This totally depends on the parent. Though I see the value in teaching our children how to test, testing in every subject every week may not be necessary. That is a parental judgement call.

Should I order all the extras recommended in the curriculum?
I think I answered that one above (smile)...not necessary.

Should I schedule my day or let it flow checking off what has been done until it's complete?
We let it flow, switching things around, until all the items on the assignment sheet are checked off for the day. Sometimes we change the order. We just find that works best for us and our full quiver, BUT I know many that are very scheduled and VERY successful. You need to find out what works best for you.

What if I miss something they need?
Having a box set helped me not worry quite so much the first year. I knew the necessities were covered and I could just add what I wanted them to learn on top of that.

The first year is so much about finding what works that I didn't want to worry about missing something. As time progressed, I learned what I did and didn't like and found the creative juices flowing.


My brain is now on meltdown (today was our first day of school) and I'm sure I will publish this and decide to come back and add things later. A few more posts are coming. Though I don't want this to be the focus of our family blog, lately I've received quite a few home schooling questions and don't want to totally diss something that we LOVE.

Here are some of the subjects I'm thinking about touching on in the next few home schooling posts...
*Home Schooling High School
*Reactions to Home Schooling
*Home Schooling and Adoption
*Our Home School
*Home Schooling a Large Family/Multiple Ages

Any more ideas or questions? Shoot them my way and I'll be glad to touch on them!

Now off to bed before my brain leaks out my ear...

Tim Hawkins is a nut and this made me totally laugh. Enjoy!


  1. Sounds great!:) And I love Tim Hawkins!;)

  2. LOL--I've obviously been homeschooling too long b/c I'm trying to understand why we would need to ask many of those questions! :) It truly is a paradigm shift, isn't it?! I think the best advice of all is to ENJOY your children--get right in the middle of it and learn along with them and enjoy every minute of it because it goes by way too fast.

  3. And your "discussion" with yourself at the beginning cracked me up--LOL. Too fun!


In the joy of following our Heavenly Father, we sometimes choose to proceed with a whisper, a verse, or a downright shove...no matter how we follow Him, the momentum that follows is like nothing we've ever experienced before.

Join the momentum...it is a beautiful place to be. It's not always easy, but then the best things never are.

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