Homeschooling parents, do you wonder if you are covering everything that your child needs to learn? Do you worry about not doing enough? I know I do! This is something that I think all of us think about!
I have been thinking about this post for awhile, but I was putting off writing it until we got our standardized test scores back. We got them back, and Aidan and Gresham both scored at or above grade level in each of their subject areas – *whew!* So now that I feel like I have at least some measure of credibility, here are a few thoughts on this topic. For reference, my kids are entering 8th grade, 5th grade, 2nd grade, and preschool (2 kids) in the fall.
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Ask yourself – Am I being consistent and diligent with our homeschooling?
There are always going to be interruptions, and you’ll make yourself miserable if you beat yourself up over every hour missed because of a repair person in the home or a sick child. However, interruptions can cause you to accomplish less than you think you are if you’re not careful.
What has helped me? Planning our homeschool assignments a week at a time for better consistency.
For several years, we used a daily checklist system. This worked well until I took on the LEGO book project this past fall. I quickly decided that I needed to become VERY organized, and I started planning Gresham’s school (4th grade) a week at a time. We will never go back to the old way!
This year I will probably make a template on the computer, but last year I just drew the charts on paper each week. I planned a four day school week, with Sunday afternoon being my scheduled planning time. We have found it to be unrealistic to plan five full days and actually stay on track. You have to run errands sometime! We made Fridays our catch up days, and Gresham used Friday mornings to finish up anything that wasn’t complete for the week or correct things that needed fixing.
Aidan is taking three classes at our church’s homeschool co-op this coming school year (writing, algebra, and general science), but I will be creating a weekly assignment sheet for him (and Owen) this year as well. We’ll just fill in his assignments from those three classes along with vocabulary, history, and literature assignments from me.
Why did the weekly assignment sheets make such a difference? The weekly plan made it much easier to keep going even if something happened like the toddler getting sick or having to run an extra errand. Gresham could keep working with or without me. Plus, we had a plan for when we would catch up if we got behind. The end result was that Gresham covered much more ground this year than he would have if I had not been organized. And all it took was about an hour of time on Sunday afternoons.
Here are the subjects we cover.
We live in Texas, a state with very few requirements for homeschoolers. If you’re in a state with strict regulations, you might need to cover more than this. But here is what we do…
K – letter recognition, phonics, counting, simple addition, lots of reading out loud, handwriting, science read alouds
1st grade – phonics, handwriting, vocabulary, reading, math, science, history (optional)
2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – handwriting, grammar (we use Rod & Staff, but it’s not for everyone – kind of dry), vocabulary (Wordly Wise), reading, writing, math, history, science
In 5th grade I like to add in geography.
I could write a separate post on junior high – if I get time I will!
Extras to cover: art, music, typing, world cultures, foreign language
If you are in survival mode (new baby, illness, etc.) focus on language arts and math! Science and history are easy to catch up on later. Do you really remember what you did in history/social studies in 2nd grade? I don’t! During rough times, focus on language and math skills, and facts can be learned at any time later.
Standardized Testing – Don’t make it a bigger deal than it needs to be, but the experience can be helpful.
Aidan and Gresham both took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in May with our homeschooling group at church. If you are not part of a co-op, you can give the test at home and then mail it in to be scored. You do have to go through a process to be approved as a tester (we went through Bob Jones University) and I believe you have to have a four year college degree to give the test.
I feel like the two main benefits to testing are giving your child the experience of taking a test (which includes the benefit of realizing they need to take school seriously) and using the results to pinpoint areas of weakness. One of the boys was relatively weak in basic math computation (50th percentile, so not dreadful, but we’re not shooting for just average when we know he can do well). My husband suggested adapting our ticket system for math assignments so that any of the boys can earn two tickets for an A, one for a B, and none for a C. They also do corrections if they make either a B or a C. I have already seen an improvement in accuracy and eliminating careless mistakes!
I administered the first grade test when we did the testing at our church, which involved reading most of the test out loud. There were definitely some goofy questions and some hard-to-understand questions, so take the results with a grain of salt. But I still think there is a benefit to the accountability that testing provides.
Bottom Line: There will ALWAYS be more that you could cover! No one does it all, not even public schools. Teachers have to juggle disruptions, kids with special needs, record keeping, assemblies, etc. so no one does a perfect job. If my kids entered public school right now, there would be some “holes” in their learning (things to catch up on). But guess what – if a public schooled child entered our homeschool, he would have some holes in his learning also! Each school or homeschool covers different things at different times and that’s okay.
Ask yourself, “Are my kids doing a good job at the things we ARE covering?” Are they learning to push through something hard and get it done? Are they learning diligence and responsibility? Are they mastering the art of learning? Character is more important than the amount of facts learned.
Also, don’t forget the benefits of homeschooling! There is time to learn at the child’s pace, go on field trips, volunteer, and learn for fun. Learning how to learn is so much more valuable than filling in a certain number of workbooks anyway!
More Homeschooling Resources:
Should I Homeschool My Kids? Thinking through the decision.
Planning a Homeschool Routine When You Have Multiple Children – Do I teach them all together? Separately? What does a day look like? This post answers those questions.