Friday, 26 September 2008

Streamlining Homeschooling

A few nights ago Jeff expressed concern that I wouln't be able to keep up with the demands of homeschooling as the kids get older and the younger ones join in more. There are just so many jobs to do, even aside from the homeschooling. Being a good wife, mother and homemaker takes time and energy, and I think Jeff is concerned I don't have enough to do everything I plan to do.

So does anyone have practical suggestions for streamlining homeschooling, other than just to buy a complete curriculum? I have some ideas already:

~ Buy some interleaved books from the teacher supply store with appropriate writing lines (I think they use "dotted thirds" in the schools here. I'd rather loose leaf paper than books but I don't think it's available here. The kids can do all their copywork, dictation, narration writing etc in the same book if they need to. Just having this, rather than using printed "notebook" pages which are slightly different for every task will cut down on time heaps.

~ When we want to illustrate our work using pictures from books, the kids can cut out photocopied pictures and glue them into their books rather than me scanning them and printing them together with lined paper as I have been doing this year. This would be good practice for them and help me to keep my obsessive nature under control!

~ History will of course be done with the Joshua and Anna together next year, and Abigail will join them when she drops her afternoon nap around the time she turns 4. I'm planning to use Story of the World and the Activity Guide that goes with it. I don't think we'll be using too much in the way of extra reading materials as recommended in the Activity Guide, unless they get really interested, because I think the main book is sufficient and probably way more than they'd be getting in a school.

~ I need to get a single book program for Science. Jeff's not keen on some of the Christian programs I've checked out, but they seem to be the only ones which provide enough information. The secular ones designed for the schools here are, in my experience, severely lacking in the amount of information they provide. Perhaps I will need to get some books from DK and we can work through them as The Well-Trained Mind suggests. I might have to get it back off the shelf and read through some of it again. But I don't want this to be difficult. Going to the library regularly for non-fiction books has worked this year, but there have been times when I've wished I had all the information together in one place.

~ I need to spend less time on the sticky wwweb. I've just culled my "blogs I read" list (this was really really hard) and also de-subscribed to several homeschooling yahoo groups and gone web-only rather than daily digest with another. I really love that particular group, and have been on it for years, but I do tend to feel obligated to read everything rather than just reading when I have time. I will need to be more disciplined about my blogging as well.

~ I need to stick to reading what I have planned to read and not reading the extra stuff that catches my attention. There are only so many reading hours in the day!

~ I need to go to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier. Days always go smoother when I wake up at 6am and read my Bible before the kids wake up, rather than playing catch-up throughout the day because I got up after them and still haven't spent quality time with my LORD.

~ In order to go to bed earlier I need to watch less TV. Truth to tell, I've been watching a lot of TV lately just to be near Jeff while he watches it (he likes to use the TV to wind down in the evenings). I just need to bite the bullet and realise that my time with him during the rest of the next day will be better quality if I'm in bed early in the evening rather than late at night after sitting next to him on the couch.

~ In all things, I need to be more self-disciplined and just do the next thing.

So, any other ideas? Non-homeschooling ideas that will help free up more time for homeschooling are welcome.

(Image from


argsmommy said...

Love the picture. : ) Is the Christian Kids Explore science series something you have looked at? We are using the Earth Science and Astronomy volume this year and love it. I can't believe how much time it has saved me versus TWTM way of putting together your own program. Another thing to look at would be the First Language Lessons series -- it includes grammar, poetry memorization, narrating, and more. For me, the easiest way to save time is to eliminate some of those planning steps. Another thing that has helped me is to do school 3 weeks and then take a week off. It gives me more time to catch up on everything that doesn't seem to get done during school weeks. I just put our calendar on my blog last night, if you want to see what I'm talking about. I'll keep thinking of other ideas. : )


Mrs. Edwards said...

I'm not much help here. Everything is a trade-off. If I was able to wash my dining room floor every day as I should, I'd not be able to read the Wall Street Journal everyday, something I'm unwilling to drop. I readily admit that I spend too much time reading and reading news web sites. My ability to become absorbed in whatever I'm reading--whether it be the print media, a good book, or blogs--means that I don't notice that my kids have lost focus on their school work.

I am trying to create accountability for myself through our schedule. I create assignment sheets for the kids (1 page per week) 6-8 weeks in advance so that I'm not spending every weekend prepping.

I'm trying to train them to look for themselves what their assignments are and to be accountable to the clock on their own. I realized that I had unknowingly trained them that they had to wait on me to know what was next. I'm trying to shift the expectations so that they are responsible to know what they are to be doing. I think that I failed to make the transition from teaching non-readers to teaching readers in this respect. I was controlling too tightly our school day rather than releasing them to read and accomplish their own schedule as much as possible.

Meanwhile, my fourth kid (two years old) is incredibly ornery and distracting to the whole process, so we are trying to cope with that, knowing and trusting that that will improve with time and maturity.

I'm no fount of wisdom here, but you're wise to think it through. Keep the main thing the main thing (read, write, math) and don't reinvent the wheel.

Speaking of being accountable to the schedule---I've got to teach some grammar! Take care-

Anonymous said...

Hey Sharon

If you've got a spare $30, order "Managers of Their Schools" by Teri Maxwell from . I'd lend it to you but it is too useful to me at the moment!

Passed on the Cheaper By the Dozen DVD to Mrs T at camp on the weekend. Hope you enjoy it.

Will catch up soon.

In Him


Sharon said...

Hi Meredith,

I've already got MOTH. Did you see the comment at the end of my post, "I need to be more delf-disciplined and just do the next thing"?!! MOTH is great and very helpful but it's the self-discipline in applying the method which really matters.

Thanks for the DVD. We'll probably be watching it this weekend. I am looking forward to it! I hope camp was great.

~ Sharon

G3 & Mom said...

Apologia may be an applicable solution for science. That is, if it meets your theological criteria. I've come to that conclusion even though I'm trained as a secondary earth science teacher, the astronomy book is fulfilling my needs for 1st and 2nd graders this year.

Sharon said...

Hi G3&Mom,

Thanks for your suggestion, and your first comment. I have looked into Apologia and quite a few others (incl Noeo and Christian Kids Explore) and Apologia would be top of my own personal list (my friend Meredith leant me the Astronomy book to check out and I agree, it looks wonderful).

The problem is that while both my husband and I are "creationists" in terms of our theological beliefs, he would prefer that I taught Science from a perspective which does not make creation by God the be all and end all in its focus. Many Christian resources (particularly American ones, it seems to me), in an effort to combat secular evolutionist thinking, go overboard in their sometimes obsessive rebuttal of the evolutionist arguments. We'd both just rather a series that gave information about what things were like and how they worked, without any commentary either way on the issue of how things came to be the way they are. Especially at this young and tender age, we'd rather talk with the kids about God's creation of the world ourselves, just as we talk about God's other attributes and actions (His sovereignty, His strength and power, His kindness and mercy...) than have a curriculum that is too "pushy".

~ Sharon

Mrs. Edwards said...

I am not surprised to find more common ground with you. I have cringed for many years at the reactionary stance of Christian science texts.

Because of this, I first was drawn to Sonlight science. Sonlight uses a variety of resource books, many of which are Usborne books (completely secular) and the parent/teacher is called upon to bring the Christian perspective. Sonlight is not insistent upon a new earth point of view, which appealed to me greatly.

Sonlight is a living book curriculum approach. You buy kits with teaching notes, worksheets, weekly assignment plans, and a bundle of resource books.

In the end, however, we are not using Sonlight. I came to the conclusion that grammar-stage science is not meant to be rigorous and for the money I found Apologia's elementary books extremely useful. I read segments aloud to all the kids (they easily cross all levels) and they work on notebook pages.

In some respects, science cannot really be studied until the student reaches post-algebra math levels. So I relaxed and view science in these early years as pure fun.

I don't think the Apologia elementary books are very heavy-handed about creation, but emphasize the wonder of God that is revealed through His creation. (Which theologians understand to be the general revelation of God and therefore true science cannot contradict the truth of God. Theories may not have settled on the Truth.)

I'm not lobbying for you to use Apologia. I just thought you might find my own "journey" on this interesting. Perhaps I'm reading into it, but it seems like we share some instincts in this area.

I'm waiting for your post explaining your big decision. I'll be sad if it turns out to be that you won't be homeschooling...but we must do what God calls us to.


Sharon said...

The post is sitting in my edit box, Amy. I'll get there, I promise!
~ Sharon