Getting Started, Planning/Scheduling

The Very Best Curriculum Ever- Part 1

If you have ever been to a homeschool curriculum fair or browsed through a homeschool supply catalog you know how confusing it can be to make a decision on what curriculum you are going to buy. There are so many choices available. They all look so good, yet they are all so different. You may have asked homeschooling friends for their recommendations, only to discover what worked for them doesn’t appeal to you at all. You wonder how in the world you’re going to make the best choices for your family.

First you need to take a few things into consideration:

Your own personality and teaching style – Are you organized and creative? Are your children
disciplined and motivated? If so, unit studies may be a perfect fit. If not, you may need the extra help of a more structured program at the beginning.

Your home situation – Are you a single parent? Is Dad going to stay home and teach while Mom
becomes the breadwinner? Are you on a tight budget? Maybe your family is sailing around the world
this year and you’re homeschooling on the go. Homeschooling families are a very diverse bunch.
Whatever curriculum you choose needs to fit your lifestyle. Don’t settle for the most popular or cleverly packaged materials that you see. Ask yourself, “Will this realistically work in our situation?”

Your children’s learning styles – Hands-on, or kinesthetic learners need to experience learning by
touching, feeling and doing. They need to manipulate objects with their hands. Unit studies can be ideal for these children. Auditory learners need to hear information. Reading and explaining things to them is helpful. Audio CD’s of math facts, history, states and capitals, the Bible and more can all be
implemented. Visual learners need to see in order to grasp a concept. They love illustrations, charts,
books, and flash cards. They can be easily distracted by the things they see around them. They love to read, write and draw pictures.

Your goals and philosophy of education – Where is God leading you? What is your reason for
homeschooling? How long do you plan to homeschool? Are you just planning to homeschool for a year
or two, or is homeschooling a lifestyle and long-term commitment for your family? The answers to these questions will help you decide which resources are right for you.

I know this is not what most new homeschoolers want to hear, but no one can tell you to go out and buy XYZ curriculum and use it. Each family is different and unique in their own ways. The resources that work for one family may not work at all for another. The books you used with one child may not be what’s best for the next. What you start out using in the beginning will more than likely not be what you’re using a few years down the line. As you gain experience and confidence you will settle in with the materials that work, throw out the ones that don’t, and replace them with ones that are a good fit for your family.

Don’t worry. Your children won’t suffer because you didn’t follow the same structured curriculum program, purchased from the same publisher for their entire homeschooling experience. They will learn much more over the years if you use resources that were hand-picked to meet the unique needs of you and your family. Prov. 3:5-6 tell us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Remember, the Holy Spirit will guide you in choosing the right homeschooling resources for your family. All you need to do is ask.

Getting Started

Asking the Right Curriculum Questions

One of the most common questions asked by new homeschooling families is “What’s the best curriculum? The short answer is, the ‘best’ curriculum does not exist. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum because homeschooling just can’t be categorized that way. An infinite number of factors make each household’s homeschooling experience unique. Homeschooling parents who work outside the home will have different curriculum needs compared to a parent who is able to stay at home. A mother caring for a new baby may not be able to give the detailed  question markattention some curriculums require until the baby is much older. A child with strong independent study skills may find success in a program that might cause another child to struggle. A single program cannot meet the needs of a infinite range of situations. So now what? How do you choose?

Instead of the one question, ask a series of questions. Not to others, but to yourself. The answers to these questions will help you to wade through the myriad of choices available to you and begin eliminating options that don’t meet your needs.

A crucial question to ask yourself is, What your homeschooling philosophy? Are you looking to replicate a traditional classroom in a ‘school-at-home’ approach, desiring a very relaxed learning environment or a variation along that continuum? Also think about your personal family standards. These considerations will immediately put quite a few programs in the ‘not for our family’ pile.

Take some time to study your child and evaluate how he or she learns. A highly visual child might struggle with listening as the sole method of instruction. Your child with the wiggly fingers will likely learn more from a hands-on activity as opposed to just watching someone else do something. A musical child will enjoy learning the months of the year via song while another child may find the activity quite silly and annoying. Understanding the learning style of your child will help you to narrow your options to choices that complement your child strengths.

How much structure or flexibility does your child need? Do you want your child to stick to the subject at hand or are you willing to go down rabbit trails as teachable moments arise? Does a computer-based program sound appealing to you or do you prefer to avoid large amounts of screen time? What are your needs as a parent-teacher? Can you handle a program that requires extensive preparation before a lesson can be taught? Do you have access to good library or the budget for a literature-based curriculum? Thoughtful questions like these will help you make thoughtful decisions concerning your child’s education.Stack of Library Books

If you are not sure what thoughtful questions to ask yourself, it helps to seek the advice and recommendations of others. Listen carefully to the reasons that parents give for liking or loathing a particular curriculum. How do those reasons fit with your philosophy, standards and child’s learning style? What another family finds a poor fit may be a perfect fit for yours.

Sometimes it boils down to trial and error. You may find yourself switching materials mid-year. That’s okay. Don’t torture yourself or your child with a curriculum that doesn’t work for you. Also, as your children mature and your family needs change, be ready to revisit your questions and curriculum choices. Sometimes what worked well when your child was 9 years old turns into an exercise in futility at age 14.

A time of parental reflection before evaluating curriculum will help you to wade through the overwhelming amount of homeschooling materials available. Considering your philosophy and family standards, in addition to looking to complement your child’s learning style, will set you on a path for an enjoyable homeschool journey.



Getting Started

Why Do You Homeschool?

At this time of year the back-to-school bug is in the air and has bitten many of us. Whether or not we’re sending our kids away to school or homeschooling, there’s just something about this time of year that makes us excited about school. That makes this an excellent time to stop and jot down why we homeschool. If we take the time to do this, when the going gets tough—and I guarantee it will, it always does—we can look at our notes and remind ourselves that we actually had a reason to homeschool.

So why did you choose homeschool? There are scores of reasons and combinations of reasons why people homeschool. Here are a few:

  • You’ve just always wanted to homeschool.
  • Your children have disabilities or they are very advanced, either one.
  • You just like being with your children all day long.
  • The peer pressure of the school environment would hurt your children.
  • The graded system concerns you.
  • Socialization! You want your kids to socialize with more than kids their own age. (I just had to throw that one in there, since I think homeschool kids are very well socialized!)
  • The teacher that your child would be assigned to is less than desirable to you.
  • The nearest church school is not within a reasonable commute.
  • You don’t have the finances to pay tuition at the church school.
  • The church school is a disappointment in some way, whether academically, spiritually or another way.
  • You believe in child directed learning.
  • You know somebody else who homeschools and you’d like to emulate them or their family.
  • You think homeschooling is academically superior to any other choice.
  • Your family travels a lot or are missionaries and homeschooling just fits your lifestyle.
  • You believe that homeschooling will give you a better chance at preparing your children for heaven.
  • You believe in delayed learning so your homeschooling for the first few years until you think your child is ready for school.
  • Maybe you just got bit by the homeschooling bug, and thought you’d give it a try.

Of course, there are dozens of more reasons why people homeschool. What are your reasons for homeschooling? It’s good to think through. If circumstances changed would you choose another form of education for your children? Are you going to homeschool through second grade, eighth grade, twelfth grade, college or are you just going to take it year by year? These are all things to consider when thinking through your reasons to homeschool. That way when you have challenging days, and you’re wondering if you should keep on going, you can fairly evaluate why it was that you started down this path; and if you choose a different path, you will know why your changing course too.

Ultimately it comes back down to, what is your philosophy of education? Is homeschooling part of your philosophy? So review the recent posts about philosophy of education and think through why you homeschool and what your philosophy of education is and then save all of this information either on your computer or in a diary or somewhere where you can find it later, because there will come a day or maybe several days, when reviewing it might be what you need to make it through the day.

Getting Started

Don’t Start Out Overloaded!

It can be overwhelming when you first decide to homeschool your children. Questions abound – what curriculum should you choose, which one is the best? Should I use textbooks or go with computer-based learning? Do I need lots of supplemental materials? What if I forget to include something important? It is easy to become discouraged before you even begin.

So where do we start? Every Adventist family should first prayerfully study the idea of Christian education and develop a personal homeschool philosophy. What are your family’s spiritual and academic goals? How do your spiritual goals affect the academic ones? Next, parents should observe their children and examine how they learn. Are your children hands-on learners or do they learn best by hearing information? Does your child memorize things set to music? Why start with these two ideas? When you have personal homeschool standards in mind and an understanding of how your children learn, then you can more easily evaluate curriculum and materials. For instance, if you have studied and decided not to use fiction as part of your family’s learning and you also know that your child is an auditory learner – now you can narrow down your curriculum choices based on those personal guidelines. You now know specifically what you are looking for in a math program or history curriculum. Don’t choose curriculum based solely on others recommendations- develop your own personal homeschool convictions first and couple it with an understanding of how your child learns. Only then should you begin to use the recommendations of others.

Don't burn out before you begin!
Don’t burn out before you begin!

One of the blessings of reading the books Education, Child Guidance and other Spirit of Prophecy books on education is that we learn that education for young children does not start out at full-tilt, with a full day packed with a complicated curriculum with six or seven subjects. When you consider most families are starting homeschooling with one or more “littles” under the oldest, that is a wonderful burden lifted off of a mother’s back! Bible and nature study are a child’s first subjects. Those are subjects that don’t leave out the younger children, all can join in. Formal subjects are added later, a little at a time with short, interesting lessons. Easing into homeschooling gives a family time to enjoy the transition towards a lifestyle of learning.

What if you are pulling an older child out of school to begin homeschooling? The advice is still the same. If a child is leaving a traumatic classroom situation or is discouraged about his/her learning abilities and education, a time of ‘deschooling’ may be of great help. Deschooling is a time to forgo formal studies and regroup. How much time? Depends on your family. Spend time on topics of interest to the student. Get outdoors for some extended nature study. Create a new learning routine and develop new learning habits. In the meantime, develop a homeschool philosophy for your older student, find his/her learning style and use that information to create a set of educational goals.

Starting the homeschool journey does not have to be a stressful experience. Ask God to guide you as you first study and then create or choose a program that fits your needs. The vast amount of homeschooling materials available can seem overwhelming, but take a deep breath; a slow and steady start to homeschooling can and will win the race.

Getting Started, Planning/Scheduling

An Overview of Homeschooling Methods and Styles

You will hear the term “True Education” quite frequently at The Adventist Home Educator. What is True Education?   In a nutshell “True Education is the preparation of the physical, mental and moral powers for the performance of every duty; it is the training of body, mind and soul for divine service. This will be the education that will endure unto eternal life.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 330

Is True Education different from homeschooling? Homeschooling is defined as educating children at home, rather than in the formal setting of a public or private school. True Education includes academics, but covers a much broader spectrum than the simple definition of homeschooling. We are talking about more than just learning to read, write and do math. True education is about  training our children to be spiritual,  knowledgeable, physically fit people, with characters developed to meet the challenges of adulthood and prepared to follow God’s will for their lives. We want them to be true thinkers, not just reflectors of another person’s thoughts.

Below are a few brief descriptions of some of the most popular methods of homeschooling. The method you choose should not only be one that fits well with your family, but one that also facilitates and enhances the goal of True Education.

  • Traditional textbook/workbook programs are what most of  us use when we begin homeschooling. It’s familiar to us because it’s the way we were educated in the public or church school systems. Depending on the program you choose, much of the planning may already be done for you. However, following a technique designed to keep a large classroom full of students busy for up to an hour per subject isn’t necessarily the ideal for teaching and training our children at home. There are many of these programs available by various publishers.
  • Classical Education is a method based on what is called the Trivium. This theory is based on the belief that as a child learns, he or she goes through three phases. Grades K-6 are called the Grammar stage. The focus is on teaching the child to read, write and listen. The child is given only facts to memorize, and not presented with theoretical concepts, since it is thought the child is still unable to reason. Grades 7-8 are the Logic or Dialect stage. Students are taught logic and critical thinking. The child learns to be analytical and to comprehend abstract concepts. Grades 9-12 are the Rhetoric stage. At this stage classical education focuses on rhetoric, the art of speaking, communicating, and writing.
  • Unit Studies often combine several academic subjects into the study of a single book or topic. Unit studies can also include the study of character traits, music, art, and more. They are a great way to combine multiple age groups into a single program.  This homeschooling method can require more planning and preparation by the parent to purchase and prepare materials. However, there are unit studies available for free online or that can be purchased from various homeschool suppliers. Even though unit studies can incorporate all subjects, some parents feel they need to supplement with a math or language arts curriculum.
  • Eclectic homeschoolers use different approaches and methods of homeschooling and form a unique homeschooling style. It’s not unusual for an eclectic homeschooler to use a combination of methods and curriculum sources to teach each different subject based on the needs and learning styles of their children.
  • Unschooling is one of the most misunderstood methods of homeschooling. It is sometimes described as interest driven or delight driven learning. Unschooling is trusting in a child’s natural curiosity to lead them to learn what they need to know. Unschooling doesn’t mean there is a lack of parenting or training, and it is not an excuse to do whatever you want. Families implement the unschooling method in a variety of different ways, so no one particular style defines unschooling.

There are many other homeschooling methods and styles such as Charlotte Mason, The Moore Formula, lapbooking, umbrella schools, and distance, online or computer based learning, just to name a few. We encourage you to keep the goal of True Education in mind as you prayerfully research and decide which homeschooling method will be the best fit for you and your family.

Early Learning, Getting Started, Principles of True Education

Your Child’s First Textbook

Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Ps. 34:11

The very first textbook to be used for the education of our children is the Bible. Day by day, we are to use the Bible to lead our children to Christ. We are to begin with short lessons, simplified so as to be easily understood. “In these simple stories may be made plain the great principles of the law of God.” Education, 185. Our goal is to direct to our children the commandments of God as standard for living, to teach them to use the Bible as a guide for life. As we use the Bible to introduce our children to God, they will be introduced to His character and their characters will be influenced as a result.

How should we teach our children? The pen of inspiration gives us guidance in creative ways to teach Bible lessons to our children. “ The use of object lessons, blackboards, maps, and pictures, will be an aid in explaining these lessons, and fixing them in the memory. Parents and teachers should constantly seek for improved methods. The teaching of the Bible should have our freshest thought, our best methods, and our most earnest effort.” Education, 186.

Let us renew our energies to consistently present to our children the most important lessons they will ever learn.

Getting Started

Beginning Your Homeschool Journey

There are a variety of reasons that parents choose to home educate their children.  Perhaps you have family or friends who homeschool and you’ve decided to give it a try.  Some families are dissatisfied with the quality of education or the moral influences in the school their children are currently attending.  Maybe you just can’t squeeze enough money from your already tight budget to afford church school, and you don’t consider public school an option. The list could go on and on.  As Seventh-day Adventist Christians I believe that homeschooling gives us, as parents, the best opportunity to raise our children for the glory of God and lead them to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior and friend.

  • Before you get bogged down with the mechanics of homeschooling – methods, books, plans and schedules – take the time to earnestly seek the Lord in prayer and the study of his Word. Take all of your hopes, expectations, doubts, and misgivings about home education to Him. Seek His direction and wisdom.
  • Research and study homeschooling. *Here are a few essential reads recommended by AHE-List members: Education by Ellen G. White.   Anything by Dr. Raymond Moore, but especially Home Grown Kids, Home-Spun Schools, Home Style Teaching and The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook. The Adventist Home Educator Handbook and Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit by Teri Maxwell.
  • Get connected with your state’s homeschooling organization and become familiar with your local homeschooling laws so you will know what is required.
  • Talk to other homeschoolers, but try to remember that each family is different and will homeschool in a way that works for their own family’s situation. Don’t try to imitate, but instead be prepared to see a variety of homeschooling styles.
  • Establish your own Philosophy of Education. Write down the reasons you want to home school and save this document for future reference.  It will be a tremendous benefit later when you get discouraged and need to re-focus on why you are teaching your children at home. You will probably add to this list as as times goes on and become an experienced home educator. Also write down the Bible verses and Spirit of Prophecy quotes that helped you make your decision.
  • Be prepared to answer questions and concerns from family members, friends and even church family. If your church has a school, your reasons for making this decision may be misunderstood. You’ll want to be able to talk about your decision with others in a way that doesn’t condemn their choices or preferences and put them on the defensive, though you may not always be successful. Don’t worry. As time goes on the results of your decision will shine through your children and skeptics will become believers.
  • Make sure your spouse is in agreement. You may be the one responsible for planning and teaching, but you will need your spouse’s support both financially and emotionally. Your children need to know Mom and Dad are united in this decision.

Now you can move on to choosing methods and books, laying out plans and making schedules. You’ve begun the journey of a lifetime!

Copyright 2010 – The Adventist Home Educator