Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Homeschooling: HOW We Do It, part 1 of 3

How do we homeschool with 9 children?  *smile*  We currently have a plan for our family that is working beautifully for us, and the curriculum is a new type as of 2011.  We spent our first 6 years homeschooling using Sonlight, but as our family continued growing and our oldest children were needing the freedom to become more independent we developed our current plan with Alpha Omega Press's LifePacs and Switched On Schoolhouse.  We've grown with the process over time and have enjoyed homeschooling more and more.  Not that homeschooling is always easy-breezy. But with all of the hard work and our leaning on the Lord for strength, perseverance, faithfulness, creativity, there is abundant blessing, well-being, success, vision and encouragement for the future, and peace in knowing that we're within the Lord's will discipling our children's hearts.  Continuing my homeschooling series I'll share with you how we homeschool currently with 9 children.  In this part 1 we'll look at:
  • The blessings in using Christian textbooks
  • What about learning styles? 
  • What our school day looks like 
  • Making time for school
In part 2 I will cover:  managing our school days, Daddy - how he is involved, Mommy - how I manage myself, and our annual first day of school. And in part 3 I will cover what we do for kindergarten through 3rd grade.

    For the first 6 years of our homeschooling only our oldest 2 daughters needed my full attention for school (younger kiddos were productively occupied, and loved on, some doing preschool activities, but not needing curriculum).  But not so far behind them I had more children ready for curriculum and entering into the official homeschool realm.  I needed a totally new plan.  The curriculum we had been using simply would not work for the four oldest children schooling simultaneously.  I had no alternative plan at that time, though, to the curriculum we started with and loved, and thought we'd always use.

    I began reflecting on how other large families we knew homeschooled and realized that most of those moms were using Christian textbooks.  Now this was not an option I thought I would ever consider because my only experience with textbooks was my own public school experience growing up.  Those books taught me next-to-nothing (even though I was a 3.9 GPA student), they were dry, dry, dry, and booor...ing.  But I also thought about the fact that these moms I was looking to were very good moms, were established and successful at homeschooling and discipling their children.  So I decided to do my homework and find out why they chose the Christian textbook method.  I went to a very trusted resource and author, Teri Maxwell (mother of 8), and read her book Managers of Their Schools.  Having read nine of her other books I knew this would be very informative, encouraging, full of real-life practical application, and would give me vision for our family's future.  Having loved the book, as always, I ended up very much patterning our homeschooling after Teri's methods.

    The blessings in using Christian textbooks

    The main curriculum we chose to use is called Alpha Omega Press Lifepacs.  A set of 10 work books per subject to be completed over the course of a school year.  Right now I'd like to share with you what we learned about Christian textbook curriculum in general, and later in the section of this post, "What our school day looks like", I'll share with you which subjects specifically we do each day with textbooks..

    Alpha Omega Press sells both textbooks and computer based learning called Switched On School House for school-aged children 3rd grade and up.  I purchased the 3rd grade science curriculum for our 7-year-old son (at the time) who was very computer proficient and he just had help from an older sister to do some of the written/typed answers and the experiments. The program can also be told to read-aloud the teaching text parts, so he didn't have to work hard at his age with both science and reading proficiency.  The program is really impressive, and students can choose to highlight parts of the text and have it read to them by the computer; this was good for Brandon when he first started so that he could focus on the learning and not yet have to work on his reading skills simultaneously. 

    I was completely unaware of how many blessings there are by using Christian textbooks!  Here are some of the ones we experience:
    • they have the materials presented clearly and in an efficient way for learning, broken in to reasonable 'chunks' (assuming you choose good texts)
    • they save me a lot of preparation time, making it possible for me to teach children at different levels easily
    • they provide an orderly, logical sequence to move through materials year-to-year
    • they provide the tools of learning and a core of knowledge my children use to build onto with their own interests and strengths
    • they help my children learn that learning requires discipline and is not always entertaining
    • they make it possible for me to teach things in which I have little or no background
    • they offer structure
    • transcripts and records are easier to keep
    • they enable me to teach a large number of children more easily
    • they enable earlier student independence
    • In most cases teacher's manuals, answer keys, and other teaching aids are available
    Many moms have idealistic mental images of what school will be like, but in reality those are probably unattainable and exhausting, especially with a larger family. With textbooks there is no making trips to lots of extra stores for the materials needed to do school.  There is no dependence upon the library to have what we need.  It is paralyzing to the flow of school when the library doesn't have what we need when we need it, and it is a common problem because many moms in the area are following a similar purchased curriculum or are focusing on a similar season of the year or holiday and everyone needs the same books.  With textbooks there is also only one financial investment, rather than having an ongoing expense.  And textbooks and workbooks do not have to be consumed; they can be re-used for other kids as they grow in to those grades - again, a financial blessing. I have younger children consume their workbooks, but I have older ones write the workbook answers into a spiral notetook so that the curriculum can be reused later. 

    Textbook learning is easily measurable.  I know exactly what the children have accomplished, it can be easily checked and evaluated, and I can measure their comprehension; it is objective.  The material is presented in an orderly fashion, and chronologically, which makes sense to children and they can easily build upon their learning as they go.  Through textbooks children develop good life skills of taking written material and pulling out the key information, then impressing it in to their mind through study, discussion, and projects.  Children can become independent learners, which was something I needed our oldest girls to do (and it was time anyway as they were ages 9 and 10-years-old) so that I could devote my attention more to the younger children, their schooling, and to the toddlers and babies.  The girls were thrilled to become self-paced, not having to rely upon my time or availability.  They were then free to complete their work at their own pace and get it done earlier in the day.  We've found that textbooks are not too difficult for slower learners, or too easy for faster ones.  A slower learner can take the time he or she needs to master the concepts while still keeping up with the year's curriculum, and it's easy to go back and re-do work they didn't quite grasp as measured by quizzes and tests. 

    Textbooks have also become associated with classroom problems that parents desire to avoid.  But the problems are not necessarily stemming from the textbooks themselves, but rather from the classroom.  When the schools take out morals, ethics, character, and prayer - surprise - they fall...apart.  We can take the textbooks out of the classroom environment, however, and use them as a tool to provide a beautiful, effective, thorough education at home.  This is one mom who, with text books, has become so much happier and accomplished, and so have the kids!

    What about learning styles?

    There has been a great deal of focus given to learning styles in the academic community:  auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.  Focusing on teaching to and purchasing material for such individuality, however, is not emotionally, practically, or financially conducive to homeschooling 9 children.  However, parents we've known (and from our own short experience) have been able to teach all of their children from textbooks, not just the visual learners.  Auditory learners can read their material aloud or have it read to them; kinesthetic learners always have writing to be done in their assignments and can always do more writing if they need to.  Learning styles have actually begun being questioned as to their validity.  

    What do learning styles do for a child who then comes to believe that he has to be taught in a certain way or he cannot learn?  Sometimes learning is difficult in life, but people need to learn to persevere, and learn strategies to help themselves learn however material is presented.  These skills are learned, habits are formed, and expectations of them selves and others are set during this time.  Textbooks have been used in schools for many years and children have been able to learn.  

    In fact, the Bible has been used as a textbook for thousands of years prior to formalized schools.  Apparently God intended us all to learn from that and He was not negligent in His understanding of people.  When moms feel they have to discover their children's learning style and then have no choice but to acquire materials and time to each each student a specific way this can become an overwhelming burden, and it keeps the students dependent upon her now, and upon others in the future. Learning styles teaching may also lead to parents enrolling their children in public or private schools because they falsely believe that they can't teach their children well enough.

    What our school day looks like

    Below is a sample of our weekly schedule from fall a few years ago (how and why we do scheduling) if you would like to see it.  For some of you visual learners like myself it might be useful.  *smile*  (Double click on the photo to enlarge it one or two times if you'd like to actually read it - ha ha.)  

    Here is a sample schedule below. The dark shaded areas in the schedule below were meal times so that I could easily see at a glance what things happen in which blocks of time during the day. Mostly made up of 30-60 minute blocks of time. Some blocks of time are shared with two or more siblings, so their boxes are joined (boarders erased). I put each child's age by their name initial so I can remember for later reference who was doing what at certain ages or how I had things arranged that really worked for our family. (click image to enlarge)

    Our days of homeschooling the children include studying:
    • Math is currently done through a great curriculum called Math-U-See, which we have used since the beginning of our homeschooling career in 2003.
    • The 3 middle-aged children currently in grades 2nd, 3rd, and 5th do history & geography, language arts, and science via Alpha Omega's Lifepacs.
    • The two oldest children in 10th and 11th are doing language arts, history/geography, and science via Alpha Omega's computer-based learning, Switched On School House (or SOS).  
    • Bible is studied by the 4 oldest children with their NKJ study Bibles
    • And they play violin taking private lessons twice a month.  
    • Spanish is optional and available on the computer through both AOP, and Jumpstart for younger students.
    • Then they also have multiple electives going such as: gardening, chess, dog training, art - drawing and painting, piano, crocheting, cooking, Ham radio, and exercise. 
    • Kindergarten is currently done with our 4 youngest children at the kitchen table for about 45 minutes. 
    The textbook and work book learning happens primarily at the kitchen table for the sake of having nice handwriting, space to open books, for accountability on quizzes and tests, and because the kids always like to "be with everyone" - love that!  The older girls also work in the master bedroom at a desk, or at the computer room desk, sometimes on the back deck when it's warm and dry outside, and sometimes, in December, by the Christmas tree.  *smile* 

    We have a homeschool shelf beside the kitchen table where we keep all of the curriculum currently being used (additional curriculum, like the rest of the workbooks for the year are kept in the playroom on shelves).

    We use a 3-foot by 2-foot size magnetic white board to do some teaching, to keep track of what everyone has accomplished in their day with check boxes and to be able to see at a glance what is still to be done without my having to interview people.  

    We also use it to display some of the children's work, and in the past to keep our sticker charts handy for rewards (see photo below).  The children earned rewards for different things: drinking their whole 24 oz. water bottle in a day, sitting on bottoms an entire meal (for those who struggle with this), completing work in a timely way, and anything else I desire to reward them for.  *smile*  In our home, they can earn .50 cents for completing one row of five stickers (equaling $2.50 for the whole chart) or one Jelly Belly (for those who don't realize the value of money yet).  Sticker charts can be purchased online for $3.99 for a package of 24 from Shapes, Etc., and stickers for these charts also from the same company.

    I also give the children scratch-n-sniff stickers as rewards when they're younger (or if they still want them when they're older) and they complete their workbook page for the day; they used to stick them on the actual workbook page they just completed, but eventually they started sticking them on the front of their workbook so that they could enjoy seeing them accumulate, and enjoy smelling them all each day.  These stickers can be purchased online at Stickers Galore, in small quantities($2.29 for 60 stickers), or in a large variety pack (of both pictures and scents, $11 for 435 stickers) which is a couple years worth supply, and very cost-efficient.  I wish I still had one of their completed school workbooks to show you that is covered edge to edge with stickers - it's so cute!  But here's the beginning of the next workbook's sticker collection.  *smile* If you would like more information on how we use incentives and rewards you may read my post linked here.
    You can see on our weekly schedule (above) that our highschoolers girls school independently.  I just check that their work is completed each day, and I correct their quizzes & tests, then I rotate my time through all of the seven younger children, doing school curriculum with some, preschool activities with another, holding time when we had toddlers, and feedings and snuggles when we had babies. 

    I have created some grade sheets to help me keep track of progress each year; each of the oldest children has her own page.  I do not start giving letter grades for the children's work until about 4th or 6th grade, depending upon the child.  There's no need, and it can put undo pressure on them.  I do always correct all of the children's work and have them redo problems they got wrong, but I don't assign a letter grade to the assignment until they're older.  So each of the 10 workbooks for one year has 3-5 quizzes before that book's final test.  Here is one of my grade sheets (the math section at the bottom is a completely different curriculum and type of grading).

    I hand wrote into the left column which Lifepac book they were working in (i.e. for 7th grade there is book #701, 702, 703, etc.), and then I record their grades for each quiz #1, #2, etc. (example: 93 pts. - A) as they take them.  I then average those point scores and multiply the total times 30% for their final overall quiz grade.  When they take the final test for that book I multiply that score of points (total of 100 possible) by 70%.  Then I add their final quiz points to their final test points to determine their final points/grade for that book.  At the end of the year I'll average their book grades down that vertical column on the end to find their final grade in that subject for that year.  The SOS computer-based curriculum keeps track of all of the students grades within the curriculum for me.

    I also pull out the final test from the center of each workbook before the student begins that book and I keep it in a clear plastic sleeve in a three-ring binder with my grade sheet, totaling 10 final tests in sleeves for that one subject.  When the student is ready to take a final test she just gets the test from my binder and does the test at the kitchen table on notebook paper and then turns it in to me for grading; I then record her grade on my record sheet.

    Making time for school

    We have found that it is crucial for us to be home during the week in order to complete our school.  So much gets accomplished this way!  We do school 4 days per week, Thursdays some of the children spend the day with Nana & Papa and the rest of us get errands done, have any appointments we need to have done, and get extra things done at home.  We love to take field trips as a family periodically, but our week is not full of outside commitments.  Even our wonderful music teacher comes to our home to give music lessons.  Because we try to be home during the week without filling that time with lots of outside commitments we have time for some activities with family and friends as occasions arise, including hospitality having friends over for a meal, events at church, fun field trips or adventures, and Bob is even planning on beginning some outside science experiments with the 5 oldest children.

    So here's a look at the beginning of how we do homeschooling.  *smile*  I hope you'll also check out part 2 when we will look at:  managing our school days, Daddy - how he is involved, Mommy - how I manage myself, and our annual first day of school. And part 3 when we look at K-3. 

    If you would like to see our homeschooling posts all together with a nutshell description about each one so that you can easily select which one is applicable to where you are today, you may read my post, My Homeschooling Series - Preparing to Dive In!

    Blessings on your efforts!

    My other posts on homeschooling:

    Recommended Resources:


    1. Wow! Wonderful to see how you manage your school. Did you do school 4-5 days a week when you started with your girls?

    2. Erika,

      I really love you posts, but they have so much information and are SO overwhelming. Would you ever consider writing them as you do, but simply breaking it down into five days and posting a different portion each day. That would keep people coming back daily which would help your blog grow. For people like me who are easily overwhelmed by such a quantity of quality information, it would help us see each piece of the puzzle instead of having to look at the forest instead of seeing the trees.

      I do appreciate what you write, but I don't think I get quite as much as I could if it were slightly otherwise presented.

      Thanks for your sharing your heart with us in your posts.


      1. I actually just kept the page in my tab and read the material over the course of a week. I'm a blogger and with six 8 and under I could never write such a lengthy post, but I'm thrilled that it is here in one spot rather in multiple links for me to keep tracking down. I can certainly understand your perspective so I definitely recommend just taking your time reading through it. Hope that helps!

    3. Karen,

      Thank you so much for taking time to comment and to give input not only on what Eika posts but also on how the information is presented and transmitted.

      We have struggled with this issue since starting this blog and will likely continue to struggle with it for some time to come.

      On the one hand, we dont really like the idea of hitting peoples email inboxes with something everyday. That is too much like spamming and we think it would dull peoples senses to the emails they do get from us if they were coming everyday.

      But, we also feel your pain where the length and depth of the posts. We work on them for some time prior to posting, working through drafts, edits and re-writes to get it as close to how we like it as we can. Then, on larger posts like this one we labor over if, and where to break it into componant parts not just for you but for us as well.

      We will definately give your suggestion some thought and try to work out how we could make the posts smaller and perhaps a little more frequent. And, dont forget that our posting is about our daily/weekly/monthly life and not just reflections on a long ago past from our rocking chairs. Erika spends much of her spare time (and sometimes all of it and then some) writing these posts and we struggle with keeping ballance in our own lives as well.

      Thanks again for your input, we sincerely appreciate it!


    4. ERINCOSTA - Thank you! =) No, I schooled 6+ days a week! Yikes! When we started schooling our oldest in kindergarten, I thought I really had to accomplish our entire year's curriculum within that year, so I was trying to get way too much done with her (at age 5!). And when real life got in the way then I was trying to make up time in the evenings and on weekends. Mistake. ;) Totally burned me out, naturally. As I got to know more homeschooling families I calmed down, let go of 2/3 of what I was trying to do, made sure we only schooled until lunch at the latest and then stopped for the day, and never did weekends and holidays. LOL Seems pretty basic, but I just couldn't relax and just do as much as was practical at first. =)

    5. KAREN - Thank you so much for writing your thoughts! =) My husband, Bob, spoke so well for us as always. It's tough to write in depth, thoroughly, detailed, and of rich value we always hope - and yet in small, manageable chunks. So far we've been hoping that by posting the way we do and then giving people time to digest it (or revisit the post a little at a time), then they'll have time to process on their own time. Like Bob mentioned, I'm spending all of my free time working on the blog - which I love! - but we're still trying to get a feel for what will work best for us and for our readers. *hugs* Thanks for your patience and again for your input.

    6. Hello again, Erika! I can't tell you enough how much I love reading your posts! It is amazing how God works; I have recently been praying about changing some things up in our homeschool, I just re-read Managers of Their School, and I have made the decision to switch to textbooks for most of our school subjects. I had already slowwwly been switching them out but now I am making the jump!
      I had to finally come to terms with the fact the I do not like teaching science, and, because of that, science was not being completed in a way that satisfied me! God showed me that it is OKAY to use a textbook for this! I have to ask you, how do you handle the projects/science experiments for this subject? That is what seems to throw me off track the most. Making the time and gathering all of the materials really seems to hold us up from moving ahead since I have to find extra planning/shopping time. How do you handle this?

    7. JESSICA - Oh, I'm so excited for you! =D Yes, I'm the same way...never did get to doing science, and I always felt guilty about it! Until a couple of experienced large families told me that kids really don't need formal experiments until about 6th grade - oh good! - *whew*. So then in 6th grade we purchased the SOS curriculum, and *ta-da!* it has videos for the kids to watch for the experiments! *cheer!* You can do the experiments if you want to, they give all the supplies listed, but I really, really don't want to. And they're learning beautifully.

    8. I have really enjoyed finding your blog and getting so much info. I also have those books that you mentioned. One of my all time favorites was reading Keeping your Children's Hearts several years ago and then my husband and I have read it together many times since then. I believe that was a start to many changes we made in our family. Looking forward to more good advice in part 2.

    9. MISSY - Thank you! I'm so pleased you've been encouraged and/or affirmed. =) Yes, isn't that book life-changing?? We made several big changes in our family, too, such as how we spend our time and what our future plans would be for our family. Good, good stuff! It's probably time for a re-read for us, too; just a refresher. =)

    10. Yay! Thanks again for sharing with others what you guys do! We switched to mostly worktexts this year, and the kids have loved them! I also just read Managers of their School; what great help! And I totally cheat and let my father (who has 2 PhDs) do week-long science lessons with the kids when he visits. They all enjoy it!

    11. JENNIFER - You're welcome! =) It feels like there's soooooo much to say, so I've written down about 6 more posts I could do eventually on our homeschooling practices. And I wouldn't say that utilizing your father's knowledge is cheating! Wow - what an awesome resource to have! =D

    12. Hi Erika & family , I'm new to your blog but just want to say it is good to meet another homeschooling mom. I have 6 children although mine seem to be older than yours, my youngest is now 11. We do ACE mostly, & 3 of my children are on Math U SEE. I struggled the same way whether to go with a more/less structured school program, but I have settled with ACE for basically the same reasons you list. God bless you and be sure I will continue to read your blog..

    13. Erika,

      Thank you so much for this post. You are such an inspiration :) We were also blessed by Managers of Their Schools. We decided to make the switch to textbooks this past year and it was a wonderful year full of so many blessings for us and our children (and a rich opportunity to work on character development!)

      I wanted to thank you specifically for sharing about your reward stickers - I would love to see an in-depth post on that. I feel I've gotten "consequences" down fairly well with the children, but I think that rewards for some things would be good for them. I know the stickers would delight them :) I think I will order some and work on thinking up some things they could earn them for in our home.

      Do any of your children struggle with a poor attitude when they *don't* earn the sticker? My children enjoy little rewards but I have one who really struggles with sulking and poor attitude when he doesn't earn a reward I set out (or when he's not "first" in a clean-up game or anything similar). I am hoping that perhaps a regular, predictible reward system could help this child with overcoming this particular attitude struggle (he is really a "glass half empty" kind of person and I would greatly like to help him overcome that!)

      Thank you again for the thoughtful post, it is always wonderful to see what is working well for large families and schooling!

    14. Bob and Erika,

      Thank you so much for taking time to respond to me. I really do appreciate all you do. Being the mother of a "large family" (though not quite as large as yours) I know you all can appreciate the little chunks of time that we, as Moms of those families, get.

      Thank you for taking us, as your readers, into consideration as it works out for everyone!


    15. KRISTEN - Hmm, yes I've made a note to myself to do a post on incentives, thank you for the suggestion. =) Right now I'll try to answer your questions. Yes, stickers do delight them. =) I try to bring as much delight as I can with all of the training. I really look for the little things to praise for and jump on those. Someone sitting at the table when they usually struggle with that; completing assignments on task or more quickly than usual; perseverance when something feels hard; volunteering to aid someone else. And I do offer one Jelly Belly (they delight in trying to figure out what flavor theirs is) once in a while, but that's not so much as to spoil their appetite. I also always try to have them compete against their own selves instead of against each other. For example, trying to do 2 lessons quickly today compared to the 1 they did quickly yesterday, or sitting for a longer portion of the meal, or picking up a whole room instead of just part of one. Whenever I set out a reward before the whole group then the ones who don't get it are defeated and sad instead of motivated, so I don't do that. When I offer one sticker there are lots of other people who didn't receive one either so it's not just one person who's "out". And when/if they say, "Hey, can I have a sticker??" I always tell yes, when they have their own successful achievement, too. I'll explain that Brandon has been sitting on his bottom all of lunch time, and if they choose to do that tomorrow then they can earn one, too. Incentives are earned. If I hand them out to everyone when only one person actually earned it, then the person's effort who earned it was just nullified. I also try to shoot for non-candy item incentives, but rather stickers, maybe a cracker, a "smackeroo kiss" as we call them, a squeeze hug, etc. Is that a good start for an answer? =)

    16. Hi Erika
      Thanks for another fantastic post - I look forward to part 2. I really needed to read this as I love our current curriculum (we used a Christian computer based one only available here in Australia), but I have been wondering about changing. With our hopes of adding to our family in the near future (if it's God's Will) I think it would be best if I stayed with what is working for us. I guess just reading your post just made me feel happy in this decision we'd already made.
      I hope you have a wonderful weekend & I thank you for the time & effort you put into your blog!

    17. Erika, I am interested in what made you choose Lifepac/SOS for the majority of your homeschooling subjects. Could you share what led you to deciding on Lifepac versus other Christian textbook companies? Thanks so much! Beth

    18. BETH - Oh sure. =) I read reviews on all of them in the "100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum" (linked above in recommended resources) and liked what I read about them for us. I also asked moms of large families in the HS co-op we were attending what they use and why, and they use AOP (Alpha Omega Press, who produce the Lifepacs and SOS). I read the "Managers of their Homeschools" book by the Maxwells (also linked above), whom we greatly admire and respect, and they use some AOP, too. I looked at each curriculum choice online of the 4 or so main choices and like the visual appearance and teacher provisions and Christian emphasis of AOP. Then I borrowed some of the curriculum from a friend (mother of 11) and we loved using that at home and loved it's appearance and ease of use and quality of education it seemed to produce. And I liked how AOP gives free online placement testing for their curriculum so I could determine which books to start them in, etc. It seemed the best curriculum for us all around.

    19. Thanks, Erika! That is helpful. We are moving toward textbooks for history and science this year (in addition to our core subjects that we are already using textbooks for). I am taking a good look at AOP. What did you think of the 7th grade Lifepac History this year? (My oldest will be in 7th this year.). Thanks for sharing what is working for your family. I just ordered Managers of Their Schools a few days ago and can't wait to read it! -Beth

    20. BETH - You're so welcome! I'm so pleased you'll read the Mgrs. of HS's - I think you'll find a wealth of information there. I borrowed it from a friend initially, but when she offered to sell it to me I was glad to buy it and own it as a resource, and to have to loan out.

      We liked the 7th grade Lifepac History. They learned a lot, shared exciting and interesting things with me along the way, and tested very well. They have had to study harder for hist./geo. tests to do well compared to LA, butI think that's just because LA is easy for them.

    21. Erika, thanks so much for your thorough overview of what your homeschool looks like. We're very glad to be a big part of what you're doing!

      - Ryan from AOP (Alpha Omega Publications)

    22. You might be pleased to know that "learning styles" don't exist. This video has a pretty good explanation of why that's the case:


      That said, I do think that textbooks alone make for poor learning, not because they cater to "visual learners" only- but because they lack saliency and can make retention and application of the material more difficult.

    23. RYAN - You're welcome! Thank YOU! =)

    24. Thank you for this post!
      We are currently using k12.com for a curriculum. I am not a fan of using a public school for our homeschool curriculum. My husband and I would both prefer to use a Bible bases curriculum with our children. k12 was our only current option when we started last year due to financial reasons. I would like to eventually switch to lifepacs. I used them when I was younger. I liked them.
      I enjoyed seeing how you set it up. It is very organized. I may be copying your methods in the coming years.
      k12 is ok but it is so involved. I am not sure I am able to, or even want to try to teach 3 or more children using their program. lol It takes our kindergarten student 4-6 hours to complete his work everyday. IT is very overwhelming.
      Thank you again for sharing your methods! You give this unorganized homeschool mom hope! :o)

    25. HOMESTEAD MOMMY - Praise the Lord! And blessings on your efforts in using that which the Lord has provided for you THIS year, and not letting that situation deter you from homeschooling! God will honor your faithfulness I have no doubt; and He cares when you ask Him for different teaching tools.

    26. Hi Erika,

      I've been following your blog for a few months now and after much anxiety about sending my 4 year old to Kindergarten i feel like we've been called to homeschool him. Since then the anxiety i have felt over the last 6 months has lifted! i'm sleeping better, eating better (and less!) and actually enjoying time with my children again.
      I read that you use lifepacs with your children. Do you use them right from kindergarten up to grade 6 or do you use something different for younger children?


    27. HI Erika,
      Did you answer this post privately? I am curious also.



    28. Sorry, I'm referring to Cole's post.


      1. Cyndi - I'm sorry, I don't see a comment by some one named Cole. Could you please "reply" to the specific comment you're asking about? =) I'm happy to try to answer your question.

    29. I am also wondering what exactly you do for your younger children. Especially learning to read age. I am using Rod and Staff for my 1st grader and it takes 4+ hrs to complete what she needs to every day and I need to sit with her for most of that.

      1. Here are posts on occupying 3yo boys:


        And here is one on occupying young children in general:


        Boy...that sounds like way too much time for a 1st grader it seems to me. =) I would encourage you to focus on learning to read and doing some math and a little handwriting. But keep it very simple. If she spent about 60-90 min. a day that would be plenty, with educational play sprinkled through out her day.

    30. Hello Erika. We currently use Abeka for language, history, geography, science and health. I feel the work load is sometimes more than we would like to allocate to those subjects. We want to focus more time on the Bible, character study, building sibling relationships, and domestic arts. We were thinking of switching to the Alpha Omega Lifepacs for these subjects. Do you have a comparison of work load between Abeka and these? How much time would a 6th grader spend a day on language arts, history, science? Do you get health too? Does the language arts have them read literature? Separate books or incorporated in books? We want to avoid curriculum that has children read some of the common literature schools have children read (Greek mythology, Shakespeare, fairy tales, etc.). Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks you.

      1. Alicia,
        Well I can't give you a comparison for time as we've never used Abeka, however I can tell you more about AOP Lifepacs. =) Also, I don't have a 6th grader currently and haven't had a 6th grader in the Lifepacs; we started out with 7th grade and Switched On Schoolhouse on the computer. Our children who are using the Lifepacs are currently in 5th and 3rd grades, and they are very different from each other on how long it takes them (boy and girl, and differing temperaments). We do not get health as a curriculum. They get plenty of that just through everyday day discussions at home. The LA curriculum does not have 1st-5th grades at least assign additional literature, however the SOS program through AOP for our highschoolers does that. So I don't know at what age students begin reading additional literature. But we do personally assign our younger students read assigned non-fiction books, or historical fiction, or award-winning books or audio books. And for future reference for older grades that do assign some additional reading, you can always have them skip that section of the curriculum. Sometimes I've not been able to easily find the book they're supposed to read from the library, so we just skipped it and moved on, and skipped all the question assigned regarding that reading. No big deal. We have loved the Lifepacs more and more, just FYI, and also SOS and we're actually having 3 more of our students next year doing their curriculum on (very inexpensive, refurbished) laptops because I'm having a lot of difficulty keeping up with the amount of corrections for school work that is required of me, and which will only grow next year by 4 more students. =)

      2. Thank you for your valuable time. May the Lord bless and multiply your time. Hugs!

    31. Hi Erika, Do you still only use MUS? Can you tell me why you love it so much? We have been using it since January (Primer, Alpha and Gamma). Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice. Some homeschool moms are very critical of the program.

      1. I did like it, and thought the kids got a good foundational understanding.
        - Their test scores would look lower because Mr. Demmy (MUS) sometimes introduced concepts in a different order than the standardized tests offered, so our students would have some concepts in advance and some not yet. But I knew they had a good understanding, so we stayed with it.
        - And it does a good job of visually teaching, implemented great story problems.
        - Did not present PC story problems (i.e. not, "How many trees did the loggers take, which then ruined the home for the owl?")
        - Had a good amount of practice problems (not too much, yet enough).
        - Did not require the purchase and storage of *tons* of manipulatives; but the ones they use are very effective.
        - However when our oldest daughters got to pre-alg, for some reason they hated doing it and quit. I don't know if that was due to the curriculum or due to just disliking the difficulty of algebra. But after 2 years of trying to get them to do it, I finally switched to Teaching Textbooks (highly, highly recommended, but more expensive). Our teens loved it so much and were having so much success that they were doing 4-6 lessons a day in the *summer time* (not required by me); so I ended purchasing it for our 6th grader and our 4th grader as well and everyone is *loving* TT and learning really well. So that's where we are at this point. However I am beginning MUS with our four 1st graders this fall and I think that will be great for them through at least grade 4 or 5.

      2. Thank you for your reply! Would you say that the textbooks for TT are used enough to be a necessary purchase, or do you just use the cd-roms? I looked into switching my child from MUS Gamma to TT4, but he would need to begin at lesson 64 in order to learn something new. I thought about TT5, but he has no knowledge of adding and subtracting fractions, decimals and division. Any suggestions? Do you buy new or used.

      3. I read a lot of reviews on TT before purchasing and talked to a lot of friends who use it and 99% of people said they never used the text book. So I did not buy it, just the DVD, and our children have been *soaring* with success and enjoying math for the first time in forever. =) Where to begin... If his personality is to be a quick learner then I'd go with TT5. He'll catch up quickly, and from what I've seen from TT and from what our children testify to, TT is a great teacher. He'll get it I bet. You could coach him a bit, but I bet he'll get it easily with how they describe it. However if he's insecure with math then I'd begin him in TT4 to build his confidence. The beginning of the year will be review, but he'd have a great foundation and learn to enjoy math again. =) It's just your call. He'll be successful either way. Our children usually do multiple lessons at a time it's so great. He'll catch right up I bet.

    32. Hi,

      We started our first year with me starting my kids on MUS and I loved it. They really didn't enjoy it much, but again, both of my children prefer science, reading and history. I could really see good progress though with MUS. Then I learned about Teaching Textbooks. I did their free placement tests (just print out pages for child to do)it'll explain how to calculate if the child should be on tested level or one above.
      This year I started out school year with MUS (Beta and Delta for my 2nd and 4th grader), but now, I might have them do 1-2 pages from MUS, and I purchased the TT3 and TT5 for them, and they LOVE that better. It grades them right away, allows them to get hints from special characters on the screen, and keeps scores in the gradebook that can't be changed by the student. It also allows them for a redo of practice problems.
      I hope that helps. I still incorporate MUS, because I want them to know to work with pencil and paper, and MUS uses a good way to explain how to work some problems and for those who need to see/use visuals, the manipulatives from MUS have been great for my now 2nd grader. If I ask them what math they prefer, both would definitely go with TT.

      Oh, for science, I waited until there was a 50% sale on group buy for some homeschool website and purchased the magic school bus. The kits are small, and come once a month for 12 months, and since we don't do science every day, we will finish one packet about once per month. There are simple hands on activities for children to do and they LOVE it. I just copy the sheets that come for each experiment for each child to write in their own "results" and "conclusion". I don't know how it will work for bigger families, as I only have only 3 children to work with. They're all excited to see the package arrive at the front door.

    33. Do you own a set of encyclopedias? I'd love to have one for my kids... Although they are crazy expensive. :( I'm wondering if you have a publisher you recommend for being less "evolutionary", and any ideas on how to find a good deal on such a major purchase.

    34. We have a World Book set from 1982 that the children use occasionally. Its not perfect but old enough to at least not be overrun with political correctness and such.



    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...