There are many reasons I love homeschooling. I love the fact that the kids and I can complete morning chores in a calm manner before starting the school day. I love that I we can have healthy lunches and have meaningful conversations. I love hearing my son pick out tunes on his Grateful Dead Guitar. Mostly I love that I can teach in my pajamas or, if I’m feeling fancy, my yoga pants!
It’s not all a bed of roses, though. Well maybe it is. Roses have thorns, after all, and thorns hurt!
One thing about homeschooling that hurts, is that my older daughter doesn’t love to read. I’m not sure how it’s possible she is my child. I devour books nightly. I would get seriously bent out of shape if someone took away my Nook. My sister doesn’t like to read. Maybe my daughter is lacking the book-loving gene or maybe it mutated into the shopping gene. Genetics are funny.
Even though she doesn’t enjoy reading, I still make her read great literature. I’m mean that way.
Around this time every year, when our motivation for homeschooling begins to fizzle, I look back over the year to evaluate our success in our current homeschooling plan. I look at the year, without any biases, to see what worked, what needs tweaking and what needs to be scrapped altogether.
Since this year was the first official year of homeschooling for Baby Honeybee, we had a little more structure than the previous years when her learning was led by her interests. For Kindergarten, I had a plan that was inspired by Charlotte Mason. It was a good framework, but has evolved through the months to look slightly different from what I had envisioned.
In many families in which parents educate their children at home, cooking is interwoven seamlessly into the school day. Math, reading, science and critical thinking skills are cultivated and honed through measuring, reading recipes, baking and substituting ingredients. Children becomes great home cooks at an early age and learn to clean up after themselves and appreciate their parents who loving provide them with food on the table and a roof over their heads.
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I’ve been working on next year’s homeschool plan for Baby Honeybee and have been searching through mountains of curriculum to find the perfect resources to develop a love a learning.
I’ve been looking at all subjects, and for Social Studies, I am falling hard for Little Passports. I have been on the fence for a little while, unsure of committing to a monthly subscription, but I have decided to take a chance. After reading all about what is included in the service and each month’s adventure kit, I know Baby Honeybee will fall head over heels in love with it, too. At least in deep like. She’s too old to fall in love. She’s five.
If you think it’s strange that a grown woman is gaga over curriculum, let me explain myself.
Not unlike many homeschooling families, we are on a strict budget. If you homeschool, you know that buying curricula can be a major annual expense. Multiply that by several children all on different levels and it can quickly become a budget buster!
I’m sharing a few ways that I cope with the expense of buying curriculum. These are by no means revolutionary or ground-breaking, but they might be of some use.
Buy and Swap Online
One of my favorite websites is PaperBackSwap.com. After becoming a new member, you list 10 books you would be willing to mail if someone requested it from you. After your 10 books are posted, you will receive 2 credits that allow you to request 2 free books from other members. When a member requests a book from you and they receive it, you gain another credit for another free book.
With this site, we have been able to pass along the books we no longer need and receive new books that tie in with our school lessons. If you use a literature-based curriculum like Sonlight, this can be a huge money saver.
Another way we save on curriculum is to buy it used on eBay. In March and April I sit down to fine tune next year’s school plan for each of my kids. After I have a good idea of which curriculum I need, I begin stalking. At first, I watch a few auctions to get an idea of the going price. Then I become a full-on, lurk-in-the-shrubbery (figuratively speaking) stalker. I have purchased the more expensive curriculum this way.
Half.com is another great resource when buying readers not available at the local libraries. Many times, sellers using a literature-based curriculum will list all their readers for a particular year at the same time. By searching for a title and then looking at the other books available by that seller, you can quickly scan to see what they have available. When buying multiple books from the same seller you save on shipping charges.
Buy Used from Local Sources
Once a year, our local libraries host a huge book sale. On the last day of the sale, they hand you a large reusable tote bag at the door and it’s $10 for all the books you can fit in the bag. We have purchased much curriculum and many readers this way.
Used bookstores are another great way to find classic literature and, if you’re lucky, some popular curriculum. The books are used, not the stores. Just so we’re clear.
Goodwill, Salvation Army and other thrift stores often have a large book selection. Their prices for books tend to be very inexpensive. Many times, I’ve found a Teacher’s Guide for a subject that I can use as a road map to construct lessons. This works better for lower grades.
A quick search on Craigslist will sometimes result in a good buy. We began homeschooling with the bulk of our curriculum purchased this way.
Another great source in our community has been local yard sales. We live in rural area with many Christian homeschooling families. A quick detour on our way home has given us the opportunity to buy books and curriculum at very low prices. It has also led us to know our neighbors better. Win-win.
Buy New from Local Sources
If you didn’t know already (I didn’t until a couple of months ago) Barnes and Noble offers an Educator’s Discount to homeschoolers! I was over the moon on this one. Then, a little baffled that I never knew this before, as we spend so much time there. A short application will get you a card you can use that day.
Half Price Books is another book retailer that offers a Teacher’s Discount card (homeschool teachers included).
Don’t be afraid to ask any chain retailer if they have a program that would be of benefit to you.
More Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Better
After struggling with Tween Bee over math, I was desperately seeking out a curriculum that would fit her learning style. After trying Abeka, Horizons and various workbook supplements, we made the switch to Life of Fred math. We had to back up several books to help fill in some learning gaps. Even when purchased brand new, these books are affordable. The great news is they are hardcover and non-consumable so they can be used again for the younger ones.
Because Life of Fred has worked so well with Tween Bee, I ordered Life of Fred Trigonometry for Teen Bee for next year. After looking through the book, he decided to begin ahead of schedule and has remarked several times how much he loves Fred.
Fred has become a family friend. The kids fill me in on what is happening in Fred’s life and talk about him as if they know him personally. Fred has saved us from tantrums and tears, and that’s just me. Tween Bee actually enjoys her math now and has bumped it to the first subject of the day.
Ordering online is easy. Visit stanleyschmidt.com for ordering info and to view sample lessons.
Free is best
Library cards are free to obtain and to use. So get one already! Even if weekly trips to the library aren’t your thing, many libraries offer a free download service with an impressive selection of titles. Whether you use an e-reader or read on your computer, several formats are available. No car? No problem.
Libraries are not only good source for free books. We supplement our history lessons with DVDs from the library. Popcorn and history go well together!
Check your local library schedule and let the kids participate in the scheduled activities. Our library offers weekly story time for younger kids. Knitting and crochet classes are often taught, as well as drawing classes for teens. Take advantage of this valuable, free resource.
Useful education-based websites are popping up like dandelions in my yard. Many offer free printables, lap books, tutorials, science experiments and other freebies. Consult the Google.
My last tip:
Find and follow homeschool bloggers. They are a treasure trove of useful information. Heather Sanders if a favorite of mine. I’m not sure if it’s her writing style or the fact that her kids are roughly the same ages as mine that attract me. Many of her posts have an immediate practical application for our family. Whatever the reason, I find her posts informative and refreshing. Hop over and check her out.
Note: I am not affiliated with any company for which I have provided links. I only offer them to you as a tool to further your research. They have no idea who I am.
This summer Baby Honeybee turns five. I’m not sure how she can be almost five years old, seeing how she was just a tiny baby yesterday. She’s magical. Like unicorns! That must be it.
Magical or not, she still demands an education. She pretends to not know how to spell or read, but I’m on to her.
Because this is the time of year I typically evaluate our curriculum to see what is working and what needs to be tossed to save our sanity, I’ve put together Baby Honeybee’s Kindergarten plan inspired by the Charlotte Mason method of teaching.
I love the way Charlotte Mason treated children as little people and didn’t squash their love of learning with textbooks and math drills. I also agree with her philosophy of a child’s need for outdoor exploring and activities that nurture a their natural curiosity.
Keeping that in mind, I have put together a plan for Baby Honeybee that will fit her personality and fit in also with our teaching Tween Bee and Teen Bee, who will be a senior next year.
Thunk. I just fell out of my chair.
College Bee graduates this August.
Thunk. I just died.
Ok, I’m not dead yet. I think I’ll go for a walk. I feel happy. I feel happy!! (Can anyone name that movie? If you can, we should be friends.)
We read to Baby Honeybee daily. To say she loves books doesn’t even come close to describe how she feels. She will chase down and harass us until we cave. It’s cute.
If you’re not familiar with the Charlotte Mason style of learning, living books are read aloud to younger children then they are asked to retell the story in their own words. This allows the child to organize the story in their heads and is the first step to learning reading comprehension skills
Some of the Read Alouds will include:
Leaves from a Child’s garden of Verses – Robert Louis Stevenson
Mother Goose’s Little Treasures – Iona Opie/Rosemary Wells
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present – Charlotte Zolotow
Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
The Princess and the Pea – adapted by Janet Stevens
The Tale of Benjamin Bunny – Beatrix Potter
The World of Christopher Robin – A.A. Milne
The World of Pooh – A.A. Milne
The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
Little House Series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Boxcar Children – Gertrude Chandler Warher
The Story of Dr. Doolittle – Hugh Lofting
The Story About Ping – Marjorie Flack
Beezus and Ramona – Beverly Cleary (along with other books by this author)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Judi Barrett
Least of All – Carol Purdy
Johnny Appleseed: Story of a Legend – Will Moses
This list is based on books we have or can check out from our local library. This is not a complete list by any means. It seems all my kids were born with the ability to persuade me into buying them books just about anywhere books are sold.
I’m a sucker for kids and animals and they all know it.
I made this binder for her this year to begin practicing her letters and numbers. I found some free printables online and slipped the pages into sheet protectors. With a dry-erase marker, she is able to reuse the worksheets. It stores easily and it was very inexpensive to make. As she masters writing her letters and numbers, the pages can be swapped out for copywork, drawing or math sheets.
History & Geography
Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia
We will use The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder to begin our journey of American history. We will sew (with lacing cards, plastic canvas and yarn), grow our own food, bake bread, make butter, raise livestock and live like pioneers. We attempt to do much of this anyway, but we are spoiled with the luxuries of indoor plumbing and electricity. I’m OK with that.
Practice writing numbers with dry-erase binder pages.
Learn Shapes – Attribute Blocks by Learning Horizons.
This is a set of shapes of varying size, color and thickness. With the shapes, children can sort and classify and learn how they are alike or different.
Counting games with marbles, cards and dominoes and dice games. Yahtzee anyone?
Sorting items (like buttons and coins).
We also have a set of Cuisenaire Rods that have been and will continue to be useful with counting, sorting and pattern sequences.
Science & Nature
Berenstain Bear’s Big Book of Science and Nature
Nature Journal – Observe and draw plants, birds, insects, clouds, weather. Basically we will spend time marveling at God’s creation.
Wonders of Science & Creatures of the Air and Sea – Reader’s Digest Pathfinders books
Magic School Bus books
My First Book About Space – Dinah L. Moche
Calendar & Clock
Learn days of the week and months. I plan on letting her pick out her own calendar at the dollar store so it will be special for her. I have no doubt it will have puppies and kitties on it.
For the clock, well, we will use a clock.
Building Healthy Habits
This seems like a natural time to implement a Chore Chart for structure so she knows what is expected of her daily. This will include tasks like: make bed, put away toys, feed Sam (her guinea pig), brush teeth, etc. This sounds great in theory. We shall see how it works.
Please and Thank You Book – Richard Scary. This is so people won’t think she’s being raised by wolves.
Learn about healthy eating habits.
Physical Fitness – Outdoor play
One of my goals for the year was to implement Spanish Immersion techniques to teach Baby Honeybee and Tween Bee and to reinforce what Teen Bee has been studying for the last two years. For me, I would like to be able to say more than “I have a dog”. It’s a bit awkward for others when that is my answer for every question asked. I’m a natural conversationalist. On opposite day.
This year, we implemented a study of three composers each year. So far, we have only studied Beethoven. As we wrap up our math and science curriculum in the spring, we will have more time for music history studies.
Not only will she be allowed to create her own masterpieces, but we will study three artists each year. Tween Bee and Teen Bee will study the artists in depth.
Last, but certainly not least:
Baby Honeybee and Tween Bee have the best Sunday School teacher we could have ever wanted. Not only is she kind and generous, but she has picked up on their learning styles and has been able to teach them while having fun. They love their Sunday School teacher and she loves them. When I have to fill in on the occasional Sunday, the girls grumble and groan. I feel the love.
We have numerous children’s bible story books from which to learn, but this year we will be putting more effort into scripture memorization. I have some ideas to incorporate this with art. Stay tuned.
So that’s our Kindergarten curriculum in a nutshell. The cost of this curriculum for us is zero dollars since we have all the resources available to us from the older kids.
Leave a comment and let me know if you have any thoughts or know of any resources that we shouldn’t be without in our homeschool. I’m all ears!