In the dark ages of homeschooling or at least 1989 when we started teaching our older children, there weren't a lot of options. In a way that was easier. Curriculum was expensive so if you bought you needed to use it and I think in a way parents did a better job. Now I see parents hoppping from one thing to another because they want the magic pill where the kids are happy, eager to learn and the parents don't have to work too hard. Am I being too hard on people? Nah, because in many ways I'm describing myself. I want the easy way, it's human nature. Anyway, now that it's 2013 and we are once again teaching our children at home I am finding some things that are making my life a bit easier. I thought I would share them with you.
1. Teaching Textbooks- I found this used but I think it's worth every penny new also. Why do I like it? Because it teaches a lesson on the computer. Then you can either do the lesson on the computer or do it in the textbook. If the child does the lesson the computer they get two chances to get it right. If they get it wrong they can push the solution and the computer gives a short explanation on how to solve the problem. After they finish the lesson, the parent can review the gradebook, leave it as is, edit so that the child has to redo the questions they missed, or even delete the entire lesson and make them try again. I have no illusions that this curriculum works for every child, but for my 4th grader it is perfect. And it gives me time alone to work with his hands-on little brother. I will say that I think the lessons are easier than 4th grade, so I am having him do two lessons a day and then will move him up to level 5. I had thought about just skipping level 4, but I want to make sure that he hasn't missed any essential building block so to speak. I did as a child and math was so hard for me after the 5th grade. Sadly, I doubt this curriculum will work for my youngest, but we have a long way to go before we get there so who knows?
2. YouTube- Now, don't just let your child watch this unattended. I put mine on Safe Mode, but they still aren't allowed to watch it unless I am in the room. Having said that, YouTube is a mine of educational videos. Some are History or Math, some documentaries and even movies that may cover the subject you are studying. We recently studied Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan and found actual footage of Helen Speaking. So, with adult supervision, YouTube can be a valuable tool in your homeschool. I also use it for many other things including how to can beef, or a new scrapbooking method. Got a question about how something works? Look on YouTube, I bet it's there.
3. My library card. Yes, we love and embrace technology in this home but there is one thing that we still make use of every week. We check out tons of books from our local library. It's free, it's easily accessible and it gives the boys a chance to find something new to explore. Best bang for you buck, especially since most local libararies are free. And here in Nebraska we have something called Library Overdrive that my local library participates in. I can download digital books to my tablet or audio books to my mp3 player. I'm trying having my son read a book and then listen to the same book to see if he's missing things when he reads.
4. Organization in the home- This does not mean I'm a super organized homemaking nazi. It means that I do try to keep to a routine, have a checklist for the major stuff, plan simple menus, etc. I made a checklist of the most important things that need done each week, put a day of the week on it and put it into my phone. Each morning it lets me know what I should be doing. Somedays I hit the snooze and put it off, some days I work ahead. Special projects that need done I put on the bottom, some with a date and some without. For instance I'm taking a quilt class the first Thursday of the month so I remind myself a week before to have my blocks done. That keeps it on my mind in case I forget and gives me time to finish if it's harder than I think it might be. I also have a reminder to clean the ceiling fans once a month or make bread once a week. I may not keep to the schedule like clockwork but it keeps these tasks on my mind so I am more likely to get them done.
My daughter made a list of the different meals they eat and then shops for those meals. When they eat a certain meal she crosses if off the list so they don't eat it again for awhile. When she crosses them all off she starts over. I think that's a pretty good idea. At our house Friday night night is pizza night, so I know every Friday I'm making pizza and I don't have to figure out what to make. These are a few ways I stay organized. I'm working on some more. If I come up with any earth shattering I'll be sure to share.
5. Give yourself grace. No one is perfect and striving to be perfect can only cause you stress. Somedays we don't get all of our schoolwork done, but we may have spent the afternoon playing Legos, learning life skills or reading books. Somedays we might not get anything done. But that does not mean learning isn't happening. Your house may not be spotless or ready for a photo shoot, but is it a home where your family feels safe and loved? What is more important a child with high test scores or one who is thoughtful and looks to the needs of others? These are things I remind myself daily.