Looking back on 3 years of homeschooling

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We are in the final stretch of our third year of homeschooling. I still have five more years to go with my son and my daughter isn’t even school age yet. So, we are still cruising along, but, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at how our homeschool has evolved so far.

Year 1 – 5th grade

My initial plan was to educate as cheaply as possible while replicating what the school does. However, it was difficult to find out what the schools actually teach. I assumed the school district’s website would tell me at least the topics they cover for each subject every year, but, alas, they don’t. I was able to find that information only for science and some years of social studies. So, I read a bunch of homeschooling books from the library (like The Well-Trained Mind and What My 5th Grader Needs to Know) to get an idea of what to cover. I picked up Story of the World Volume 1 and a science textbook from local used curriculum sales and bought a few workbooks.

I didn’t want to invest in curriculum for several reasons. First, off, I don’t see the point in spending money if I don’t have to. Second, I didn’t want a boxed curriculum. I wanted an outline, but not a script, and I wanted to be able to pick and choose for different subjects. Third, I didn’t really know all my options for curriculum yet. Most of what I had actually layed eyes on at curriculum swaps was religious and we wanted to avoid that at all cost. Essentially, I knew what I did not want but I had not found something that fit our homeschool. So I created my own from various resources.

That year was very labor-intensive for me to piece together everything. I came up with Brain Pop videos and library books to supplement many science and history topics. Math was pretty much homespun from a skeleton of Khan Academy‘s outline interspersed with skills I knew my son had not learned completely in school. English was a mess of terrible websites for grammar and vocabulary, various spelling lists, workbooks borrowed from the library, and some literature that kids around that age seem to be reading.

Initially, I thought we were going to follow a bell schedule, like school. Well, I wasn’t going to ring a bell, but I thought we would have subjects scheduled at specific times of the day. Well, that went out the window the first day we started homeschooling because I had to take my car for service, so we just took some of the portable materials with us and did school while we waited for the car.

During the summer before we started homeschooling, we joined two co-ops to find a social group and for some enrichment classes. With the one co-op, we did a PE class all year. With the other group, we initially only did field trips but then did an art class and a couple of others in the spring semester. We also took advantage of the local community college’s offerings of classes for homeschoolers. My son took a guitar and a piano class there during this year.

Year 2 – 6th grade
By now, I had researched much more curriculum. However, I was also making long-range plans, so I did not want to use certain things yet. We used Art of Problem Solving Prealgebra for math. We went straight through, no additional planning work from me other than working out the problems (man, do I love their problems!) ahead of time. I also bought a physical science textbooks, but we skipped around in that and supplemented with a science kit on light, among other things. I acquired a used set of Story of the World Volume 2 with activity guide. Most of the activity pages were gone, but I used it to help me find library books to supplement in each chapter. My library did not have many of the actual books suggested, but going by the titles, I could find other books that hit the same topics. So, it was a little less prep work for me than the previous year without the guide.

I still had trouble finding an English structure that I liked. On one of those teachers’ websites, I came across an English curriculum for a very cheap price. That gave us some literature suggestions to read, but over all, it was a you-get-what-you-pay-for situation. So, I abandoned that after the 27th typo I discovered. I got the 6th grade Wordly Wise workbook for vocabulary. Later in the year, we started dabbling in some of the Brave Writer activities.

Some subjects, I stopped micromanaging and just let happen. Music is my son’s passion and not something I have any interest in, so he did whatever he wanted to do. He ended up writing lyrics and musics for a new song every week for a 25 weeks in a row. Art is something neither of us care much about, so I just kept track of artsy things he did when the mood struck him. PE was the same. He is plenty active enough riding his bike around the neighborhood, so I just logged whatever he did.

We did several co-op classes this year. There was babysitter training and theater at one and dissection at the other. We did a singing class at the community college and also added private piano lessons after that class ended.

Year 3 – 7th grade
I went nuts on curriculum for this year, but since I planned ahead for what I wanted, I got some good deals when there were sales (Black Friday and March Madness are good times to shop). A couple of the curricula I bought even worked for two subjects, so that made the deal even sweeter. Carefully chosen curriculum allows me to spend less time trying to supplement, but I still have to plan out how everything is going to fit into the school year.

We abandoned Story of the World, and instead, picked up History Odyssey Early Modern 2 from Pandia Press. That curriculum also gave us plenty of literature to read and write about, so English was essentially covered. I added some of the Brave Writer products for some of books for discussion. We also stuck with Wordly Wise for vocabulary. For science, we got Real Science Odyssey Biology 2, also from Pandia Press. That curriculum also included plenty of extra resources to spin off health topics. We continued with Art of Problem Solving series for math and got the Introduction to Algebra book.

We are still involved with our co-ops, though we didn’t do as many classes as the previous year. However, I taught a class for the one group. It want for my son’s age group, but for younger kids, so that my daughter could come with me.

My son still dabbles a lot with music, so we also continued the piano lessons. His new interest was parkour, so he joined the homeschool classes at a local gym for that. He also likes to make videos of his climbing adventures, so he got a GoPro type of camera, which counts as art, right?