Please Note: I may receive a commission from links within this post or website. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and not influenced by any company or its affiliates in any way.
My daughter loves learning. In fact, that was one of the multitude of reasons why we decided to homeschool in the first place. Toward the end of the year in 1st grade public school she was beginning to make commentary about how she didn’t like going to school anymore. YIKES!
So as we’ve been spending our summer getting together materials and researching what we need for the homeschool year to come she’s been very excited to get started with her first day of homeschool and my husband and I figured, why not start earlier than public school if that’s what she wants? All of our paperwork is in place, we’re legal to start at anytime we wish in accordance with our state homeschooling laws, I had everything ready to go that I could think of, and starting early would afford us more leeway if we feel the need for “mental health days” here and there. So we sailed off for our first day of homeschool!
Our First Day of Homeschool – What We Started With
I decided on a pre-made curriculum. I’ll be honest – part of the reason for this was because of the insane amount of options out there. It just seemed having things cut and dry to start out was the best idea. Over-thinking things would just cause complete and utter brain freeze for me. Having seen some downright scary examples of some of the Common Core Standard changes in how textbooks are written (see my video example below), I opted for “old” secular textbooks likely from public schools that had to be tossed out when the standards were put into place. Besides being tried and true, this fit our budget as well. Everything was purchased used but in good shape. I say “old” but they’re not that old in my view, Common Core hasn’t been around that long. I chose Harcourt for most subjects (Science, Social Studies, and Health & Fitness) and McGraw-Hill for Language Arts and Reading. Her reading books come with a wonderful Spelling Practice Book that discusses spelling rules from vocabulary used within the short stories in her Reading books. Math was a hard one that I did have to research extensively. We finally decided on Singapore Math U.S. Edition.
Example of Common Core Changes That I Find Concerning:
First Day of Homeschool In Action
So we started the morning off in our PJ’s. I allowed her to pick which subject to start with and which to do next, etc. But there was a reoccurring theme throughout most of the day, “Mommy, this is boring.” And this bothered me. Part of the reason we decided to homeschool was to put the fun back into learning. Granted there were a couple subjects in which she didn’t complain and she commented several times about how awesome it was that she was actually given the time she needed to complete her workbooks (apparently in her 1st grade classroom she was rushed through everything, particularly Math) – nevertheless I set out to fix this “boring” problem.
Homeschooling – Day 2
It was Friday. Friday meant we had a library event to go to. I also had noticed that we had breezed through days worth of work in our textbooks on our first day of homeschool. Perhaps this is a great example of working one-on-one verses with an entire classroom of children. So I decided we’d spend the day still learning, but not from our textbooks while I sorted out this “boring” issue. The last thing I wanted to do was shove more “boring” down her throat, that’s what public school was doing to her – sucking the life and fun out of her childhood.
Off to the library!… and my daughter came in 2nd place for the library event! She had a blast! I then had her pick out some library books that interested her and I picked up some more homeschooling books for myself, one of which was on the method of Unschooling. This method hadn’t appealed to me before, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to look into it further.
When we returned home I discussed with her how she’s been talking about cutting her hair. At 7 years old, I had never cut her hair before. This was of her choosing. She wanted Rapunzel hair in her younger days but has been talking about cutting it recently. I’ve been making her wait to be sure that this is something she really wants. It’s been about a month now. She still wanted to cut it. So we talked about other kids who get sick and sometimes their sickness makes them loss all their hair. I explained to her that Mommy had cut her hair several weeks ago to donate to kids who lost their hair but hadn’t sent it in the mail yet – and we could donate our hair together as a team. She thought this was the best idea ever. Besides giving her an understanding of the needs of other people and how she can do something simple to help, it was also a great exercise in other areas. We filled out the paperwork for the donation, put together our mailing package as per the instructions, and took it to the Post Office together. We learned a lot from this small exercise. Our donations were sent to Locks of Love.
Okay, the Unschooling thing. I eagerly dug into the book that was available at my library titled The Unschooling Handbook. I was starting to stress out about how to address this “boring problem” and was seeking some way to minimize this at the very least. I started thumbing through this book and watching YouTube videos of other families using this method. And I’ll note that I briefly looked into Montessori but was almost immediately turned off by the large amount of “stuff” people following this method had. Thanks, but no thanks. Been there done that, I do not need more stuff!
After a lot of thought and consideration I decided that Unschooling alone was not an option for us. I simply cannot agree that allowing a child to not know how to read or even know their ABC’s at 7 and 8 years old is okay. This is a vital life skill. After discussing this with my husband we agreed: some things are essential to learn. As parents it’s our responsibility to make sure she’s equipped with these basic things she’ll need for everyday life not just as an adult… but NOW!
However, some things did appealed to me about this method. Combine this with much of the advice I’ve read throughout the many homeschool books I’ve read over the summer that emphasize the importance of letting your children pursue things that interest them (in particular a book titled Homeschooling in Wisconsin: At Home With Learning) I decided we’d go for more of a “two-part” approach.
Remember I said that we had breezed through days worth of work in our textbooks on our first day of homeschool? Why not continue in our “traditional” textbooks but since we’re able to move through them so fast we can spend the other part of our day on other things: books that spark her interest, unit studies on subjects she finds fascinating, nature walks, science experiments of her choosing, crafts, documentaries, and in particular she’s been highly interested in starting a YouTube channel.
At first I felt as though this YouTube thing should be made a low priority. But as I learn about kids who are allowed to pursue passions as part of their studies I’m realizing more that those kids tend to absolutely excel and even become highly successful. An entrepreneurship class based around her YouTube interest could indeed bring great things for her future – without sacrificing learning other things she needs to know. And not just that, but this could be the key to keeping that fun spark going throughout all her studies knowing that she has this to look forward to, having free choice in half (and likely over half) of what we do as part of homeschool.
And then I also realized that what she learns in her textbooks can be applied to her YouTube videos. On Monday we watched a documentary about the Sphinx (Ancient Egypt has been a fascinating subject to her for a few weeks now) and that evening she built the Sphinx in Minecraft. I didn’t ask her to, she just did it on her own. What a great subject matter this would make for one of her YouTube videos! It was a great illustration to me that this “two-part” method may just be the perfect fit for her right now.
Homeschool Setup – Day 3 & 4
With these changes in place here’s our new homeschool setup. I have three book shelves dedicated to our homeschool (with a fourth shelf that holds all of our family books, but mostly kids books, we’re trying to move more toward ebooks to cut the clutter and save on resources). One area is for her traditional textbooks, a second area right next to it is filled with books she has picked out from the library. About 2 or 3 of them were ones I picked hoping I could spark interest, but I will not require that we read them and the vast majority of the books she picked are hiding inside the bins so you can’t see them in this picture, but there’s tons of them there, trust me! And finally a third area with more hands on items she can pick from such as crafts, science experiments, educational games, a notebook for her to take notes for her entrepreneurship class, etc. I plan on keeping this space full with several things to choose from and change it frequently to keep things fresh, but something tells me that entrepreneurship notebook isn’t going anywhere!
It’s only been one day since I’ve implemented this “two-part” method. It’s Tuesday morning as I write this. I’ll give an update on how we’re doing with these changes at the end of the week, perhaps during the weekend with a nice, cool, well-earned glass of wine. 😉