The top question that new homeschoolers ask is, “What books do I buy?”
And the #1 answer I give is: SLOW DOWN AND DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Homeschooling is a new lifestyle and a different kind of education. There are many right ways to do it, and the options are astounding! We truly live in the golden age of homeschool curriculum, compared to when I was raised in an 80’s Homeschool!
So, when you’re getting started, it’s okay to take the time to DE-SCHOOL. What is that? This post at Living Joyfully has some great explanations (and a bit of info on Unschooling – which is one of the methods we will cover below). Basically, de-schooling is taking time to help you and your student(s) get used to a new way of education, and getting out of the public school mindset.
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What do you do during your “deschooling” period? Basically, find the fun in learning again. Here are some of the things I’ve suggested to new homeschooling families:
- Go the library and let your child check out a big stack of books on any subject.
- Go to the library and ask your child what they would love to learn about. Get all the books you can find on that (gorillas, chocolate, football, dinosaurs, castles, etc.). Explore the topic further with YouTube videos, internet searches, or movies. You’ll find that this is what homeschoolers call a “unit study.”
- Have a movie marathon.
- Get in the kitchen and cook together! Make an entire meal and dessert together.
- Get a book on simple science experiments and have fun with it!
- Go camping, or on a weekend trip.
- Talk to your student about their school experience: what do they love, and not love, about school. What interests them? What is hard for them? What are they interesting in learning?
- Find a community. This is SO important. Having a small group of like-minded friends makes the new homeschooling journey so much easier.
Homeschooling is a whole new world and way of doing things, and it will go much more smoothly if you (and your student) are able to let go of the public school/classroom mindset, talk about what you want, and learn to think differently.
You are free from the classroom method. There’s no need to copy it. It didn’t work for you (for whatever reason) so don’t try to mimic it. Learning is such a natural thing for children, and it’s fun in its natural environment! Deschooling is setting up for a new way to learn.
While You De-School, It’s Time to Research
Despite your first instinct, buying curriculum is not the first thing to do. Get acquainted with the beauty of homeschooling! As I’ve already said, it’s a whole new world. You are free to tailor an education to your students based on age, interest, learning styles, budget, schedules, and more. I always advise parents to avoid buying an expensive boxed curriculum as their security blanket. You don’t have to. Take a little time to be a smart shopper. Think through your goals and buy accordingly.
Set aside an evening to read through this great site: Design Your Homeschool. There is LOTS of great advice to get you thinking.
Once you start reading and talking about homeschooling, you’ll pick up the lingo. Among the many terms you’ll hear and read are the “styles” of homeschooling. Ah, yes! You’ll definitely have a style!
You may not know your style right away, but you just might be interested in a certain one over all the rest. That’s a good place to start. But keep in mind that you may not stay there. Your homeschool will evolve with your circumstances and the ages and needs of the children.
So, let me introduce you to the most popular styles:
Traditional – This is school as most of us know it: textbooks, worksheets, tests, and grades. It’s familiar and comfortable, and is what many first-time homeschoolers do first. There are several well-known publishers in the traditional homeschooling category. You can order a complete grade-level kit (including teacher guides, textbooks, workbooks, answer keys, and usually even additional resources, like science experiment supplies), or you can pick and choose the subjects and resources you’d like to focus on.
Some well-known traditional curriculum companies include:
Classical – “Classical education is the education that all educated people is western civilization once received, and it is an education that is ordered to teaching men how to think well about the highest and noblest objects.” (Berquist, 2011)
Classical breaks learning down into three stages, completed over the 12 years of a child’s education: the Grammar stage, the Logic stage, and the Rhetoric stage. In the Grammar stage, children memorize many things, including math facts, parts of speech, important history dates, etc. Children in the Logic stage are now utilizing the information they have memorized and beginning to think critically (while exploring the grammar stage concepts on a deeper level). The rhetoric stage (typically high school) involves an even deeper exploration of the same concepts with the practice of debate, writing, and persuasive conversation.
The study of Latin (and often Greek) is a mainstay of classical education. Students learn world history and scientific history and discoveries on a 4-year timeline that repeats three times over their schooling.
Of course, in a homeschool setting, there are many variations, and plenty of books and curriculum for parents who would like to give their students a classical education at home. It may sound daunting, but with the enormous help and resources available, it’s not. It’s a beautiful way to learn.
Classical homeschooling books include:
- The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise & Susan Wise Bauer
- Teaching the Trivium by Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn
- The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Educationby Leigh A. Burtins
Classical Homeschooling Curriculum:
- Veritas Press
- Memoria Press
- Tapestry of Grace
- Peace Hill Press
- Trivium Pursuit
- Classical Conversations (local groups)
Charlotte Mason (or CM) – From Ambleside Online: “Charlotte Mason was a British educator who believed that education was about more than training for a job, passing an exam, or getting into the right college. She said education was an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life; it was about finding out who we were and how we fit into the world of human beings and into the universe God created. Charlotte Mason believed that children are able to deal with ideas and knowledge, that they are not blank slates or empty sacks to be filled with information. She thought children should do the work of dealing with ideas and knowledge, rather than the teacher acting as a middle man, dispensing filtered knowledge. A Charlotte Mason education includes first-hand exposure to great and noble ideas through books in each school subject, and through art, music and poetry.” (White)
It’s a beautifully gentle way of learning. I really think it’s perfect for kids who have previously been in a traditional school setting but did not thrive there, for whatever reason. It does not involve rigorous testing or deadlines, but instead gives children access to the wide world and encourages them to learn through every experience.
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling books:
- Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola
- Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison, and More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
- Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss
- Meet Charlotte Mason by Sandi Queen
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Websites (featuring how-to and complete guides):
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Curriculum:
- Queen Homeschool
- Winter Promise
- Trail Guide to Learning
- Ambleside Online
- Living Books
- Simply Charlotte Mason
Unit Study – From Amanda Bennet, a leader in unit studies: “I am often asked to explain what a unit study is, usually by newcomers to homeschooling or frustrated textbook parents. Well, first let me tell you what it is not. A good unit study does not involve dry reading or memorization, busy work, endless worksheet completion, and bored children.
A good unit study involves learning about one topic in an interesting and engaging way that will captivate the student and make them want to learn more and continue to think about the things they are learning. From cell phones to Ethiopia to catapults and elephants, unit studies can open up the world to your child, one topic at a time.”
Unit studies are actually one of my first recommendations for new homeschooling parents. Pick an interest, any interest, and let your child explore it by following every rabbit trail they like. Take horses, for example. A unit study on horses would involve breeds, uses, the history of horses in America, the science of horse movement, the science of speed, race horses, cowboys and ranchers, farm life, and so much more. This is education freedom at its finest!
Unit Study Homeschool Curriculum:
- Amanda Bennett
- Learning Adventures
- Learn and Do
Literature Based Unit Study Curriculum
- Beautiful Feet Books
- Five in a Row
- Sonlight (one of my favorites!)
- My custom literature-based history curriculum
Unschooling- This is a very generic term for allowing education in the home to be student-led. It does not mean “not schooling;” it simply means that the education looks nothing like a traditional school or any of its methods. The parent gives their child the tools to learn and allows them to follow their interests.
Depending on who you talk to, unschooling has many different levels. Some parents allow child-led learning for most subjects, but still have structured math lessons. Other parents allow their child to naturally learn all subjects on their own timeframe.
Books on unschooling:
- Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt
- The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroomby Mary Griffith
- Radical Homeschooling by Dayna Martin
Whole Book Learning (also known as “living books”) – This is pretty much like it sounds: reading books to learn. This is the method our family uses. Instead of a stack of textbooks for each subject, we use great books to really learn about our topics, including history, geography, science, literature, art, and music.
What does that look like? For us, it means following a timeline of events and exploring the people and places involved through historical fiction, non-fiction, maps, art, and original writings. If we’re studying the gold rush of 1849, we will read a good historic fiction about it, pull out maps and see where the first gold discovery in California happened. If we can find books that feature diaries or journals of people involved, we definitely read that. We will read about the different methods of mining gold, like panning in streams or mining underground. For art or music, we might search out some of the songs the miners would sing around a campfire. To explore the culture, we’ll talk about Levi’s jeans, boom towns, and sample recipes that miners ate.
It’s kind of alike a bunch of mini-unit studies all connected together. But the main resource we use is good books. Lots and lots of good books.
There is a bit of crossover with Charlotte Mason style and Classical style homeschooling, because they also tend to use “living books” for learning.
Books about the “living book” method:
- Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson
- The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
- Living Books Curriculum by Sheila Carroll
Living Book Curriculum
- Book Shark
- Veritas Press
- My Father’s World
- Robinson Curriculum
- Five in a Row
Computer/Internet – This is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to educate at home, thanks to modern technology. A few years ago, computer-based curriculum came in the form of CD-ROM, but many of those are transitioning to online learning, and there are even more new companies springing up that offer online options. They range from single-subject classes to complete curricula and serve all ages, budgets, and schedules.
Some online courses involve live or recorded video, while others are more of a guided list of assignments. The flexibility within the computerized curriculum world is endless!
- Switched On Schoolhouse
- Khan Academy
- Easy Peasy
- Connections Academy
- Teaching Textbooks
- Classes by Beth
- Ambelside Online
- Freedom Project Academy
- Great Courses Plus
- Schoolhouse Teachers
Eclectic – This is an easy way to say “we use a mix of several styles and curricula.” After a couple of years, many parents find this is their favorite. Choosing a math curriculum from one company, history from another, and taking English courses online is exactly what “eclectic homeschooling” is.
And this is just where my family is. After 20 years of homeschooling, I’ve found the things we like, but I’m also willing to experiment with something new or different when the need arises. That’s “eclectic.”
Choosing the Curriculum
WHEW! Now that you’ve got all this information at your fingertips, you might have a better idea of what your homeschool will look like. And you’ll know which books you want to order. Prayerfully consider your budget, your children, and your schedule. Check out my post Choosing the Curriculum for some more tips.
Cathy Duffy has a very helpful website with extensive reviews of curriculum.
Also be sure to click on the HOMESCHOOL 101 tab at the top of my page. And she has published about 3 different versions of her 100 Top pIcks for Homeschool Curriculum, which are a great place to start with determining your family’s homeschooling goals and style.
A Few Other Things to Consider
Don’t panic if you choose something that isn’t a good fit. If possible, try to buy used first. If it doesn’t work out, sell it and try something different. I have been through this many times. It’s the beauty of home education! Tailoring an education to your child is incredible, and you can keep working at it until you know it’s right.
You are the Principal and the School Board
Don’t fret over calendars and hours and Scope & Sequence charts. You are now the director of your child’s education. You choose when school happens, for how long, and the order of study. Read my post Think Outside the School Year. Free yourself from the “school” mindset and just focus on learning.
Homeschooling resources cater to a variety of worldviews, religions, and methods. When you choose to homeschool, this is one of the most important parts of the tailoring. Check into the mission statement of the companies you research. I’m a big believer in a Christian education. Since I have the freedom to choose all of my resources, I’m going to be very choosy.
It’s tempting (and easier) to do everything with an online program. However, I’ve seen how total online homeschooling programs can squelch the joy of learning. Imagine yourself sitting at a computer all day, when you’d rather pore over a book, or do a project, or write with a pencil. Online school has a place; it helps many families in times of great need or temporary situations where Mom just can’t get it all done. Single moms homeschool families definitely fall into this category. This is just my personal opinion: be careful not to put all your eggs into the online basket.
Don’t Take the Bait
You may have heard (or eventually will) that some states offer money for curriculum, or that you can get “free” programs. Remember: nothing is really free. There are major strings attached to what the state gives you, and they may be strings you will regret. This falls under the deceptive heading of School Choice, and I’ve got a comprehensive page about that HERE.
Keep up With State Laws
Each state is different, so you’ll want to stay abreast of the current laws where you live. Homeschool Legal Defense Association is a great resource for this. You can join the organization for membership benefits and legal help if needed.
If you’re in Texas, I have an entire page just for you! Check out Homeschooling in Texas HERE.
Choosing home education is an exciting thing, and you are not alone! Check out all of my homeschool posts HERE. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to message me or leave a comment below. And follow my Facebook Page for inspiration and new post alerts.
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