Letter to a New Lifeschooler

If there is one thing I could talk hours about, it’s homeschooling/lifeschooling! It’s a topic that never gets old to me and I absolutely love expounding on all the benefits and helping newbies break out of their preconceived ideas about education. So it was such a blessing to me when the topic of homeschooling came up at our last doctor’s appointment and our doctor said they had been thinking about homeschooling, but were overwhelmed by the requirements. I was able to quickly dispel some misinformation they had been given, and I left his relieved wife (the receptionist) my card.

A week or two later, I received a grateful e-mail from her, asking me some typical newbie questions…

  • What books, sites, resources have you found the most helpful?
  • How did you set up your school room environment?
  • How did you set up state papers with a school name?
  • How do you structure your day?
  • ANY other info you think important!

…so after taking some time for a lengthy response, I figured it was just the kind of information that many other new homeschooling moms could use! Why not share it here? So, here is my response:

First, I would say that every family is going to have unique needs/desires depending on the unique children in it. 🙂 Since your boys are still young, the very best thing you can do rather than a boxed curriculum is spend a lot of time reading, doing arts/crafts or science experiments, talking together, exploring nature, etc. I love the young grades! Such a sweet time of exploration. For this purpose, nature journals are great and they have some that are better for younger kids. Do a search on “Charlotte Mason” and you will find a lot along these lines. We use this one:

We also do something called an “animal notebook.” Do a Google images search and you will find a lot of different ones out there that you can print for free. We have a set of animal cards in a box that we use. Very easy for Korban to pick out the animal he wants to study that day and have the card in front of him rather than using a book. You can find other similar card sets (search “animal cards”) on eBay, as well.

I purchased a math curriculum, but I don’t use it much. We tend to go over math skills using a little book I picked up at the NCHE conference vendor hall where I spoke recently. It’s just a simple book with addition problems and stickers for rewards. For the older kids, I used Math U See, though, and really liked it. It’s taught through DVDs and since I don’t naturally enjoy math, that works well for me! I just am not doing as much with academics with Korban at this age. They catch up SO fast when you wait, so I am not worried.

I hope to also start writing some more practical blog posts that talk more about curriculum and what “lifeschooling” looks like in an every day sense, so you can get on my e-mail list (if you’re not already) and be watching for those. You may also find my podcast encouraging: www.lifeasalifeschooler.libsyn.com (this will soon move to www.LifeAsALifeschooler.com). You can also join the Lifeschooling Conference Facebook page and Lifeschooling group and WINGS Homeschool Group on Facebook and join those for encouragement and to keep up with local homeschool events and activities (WINGS is a Charlotte-area group).

As for learning environment, just make it fun. 🙂 Schools generally kill a child’s natural love of learning and curiosity about the world. Some things will need to be learned eventually, but I try as much as possible to wait for my children to be ready both mentally AND emotionally. I am kind of anti-desk, especially for little boys who need to move. A comfortable chair and table is fine, or even a couch (along with opportunities to get up and run around). Try to make learning as natural and fun as possible, and keep learning materials everywhere. My friend even has a map of the world hanging on the wall in front of the toilet in the kid’s bathroom. Ha! We have lots of placemats with presidents, maps, days of the week, etc. My kids learned a LOT of US geography that way when they were young! They quizzed each other every day at lunch just for fun. I’ve also seen shower curtains with maps, periodic table of the elements, etc. I really need to put some on my wish list!

I am not super scheduled, but we try to do school in the morning when Korban is fresh. The older kids do it throughout the day with little involvement from me. They mostly work on their own projects at this stage of their education. Konur (16) is basically at a professional level with coding and is working on creating an app. He is also ready to start building websites for people and has done a couple for family already. Elleina is currently drawing a lot because of her sleep issues and she plans to create a comic book that we will market to my e-mail list. She doesn’t have brain capacity to do anything academic right now, but flexibility is the beauty of homeschooling!

As for requirements and setting up your home school, it is pretty easy (here in NC). Go to this site for all the info: https://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/home-school-information

 

Another very helpful resource is the HSLDA site: https://hslda.org/content/

We are pretty relaxed in our homeschooling, but people are all over the chart, depending on personality, lifestyle, and their kids’ needs. The interesting thing is that even with a relaxed approach, kids can do quite well because they are always learning, whether we realize it or not. Ours always test high every year on the required testing.

Whew! That should get you started. 🙂 As you can see, I enjoy sharing about this topic! Let me know if you have questions. I also offer a consulting service if you want me to take more time and give individualized advice: https://www.wingsgroup.org/Charlotte_Blog/consult/

Hope you have a wonderful day!

I hope that answers some of your newbie questions, as well! Obviously, many of these ideas are just examples of what works for us. The beauty of homeschooling is that you get to try things and do what works for your own family! For those of you who have been at this a while, what would you add to my list of recommendations? What has worked for you? Do you have any additional tips or resources that helped you a lot in your first few years of homeschooling? Comment below. I’d love to hear them!

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