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Homeschooling for the First Time

Homeschooling for the First Time

A month ago my husband and I withdrew our children from school for the 2020-2021 school year. In the midst of this pandemic we’ve decided to start homeschooling. My youngest will be a kindergartener this year. My oldest will be a third grader.

Why did we choose to homeschool? In-person school wasn’t an option for us and virtual school for a kindergartener seemed quite dreadful. Once we decided to withdraw the youngest it made sense to pull the oldest out too.

The minute after we made the decision I began researching homeschool curriculums. I printed out the final lesson plans today and we are all set to homeschool. Here is what I did to prepare:

Homeschool Notification Form

First I logged on to my state’s website, provided a few details about my children, and printed out a homeschool notification form.

Then I signed the form and emailed it to my county’s homeschooling office. I received the countersigned form back a few days later. If your kids are currently enrolled in school you’ll need to forward the countersigned form to withdraw them.

Each state has different rules about this, so make sure to perform a Google search for your local area. Friends of mine didn’t realize you have to formally declare your decision to homeschool.

In Maryland you have to let your local county know. If you don’t your kids will be truant!

Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Our state has a pretty relaxed approach to homeschooling, but there are still rules that we need to abide by.

For example, I must teach the following eight subjects:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social studies
  • Art
  • Music
  • Health
  • Physical education

While teaching I also need to create a portfolio of each student’s work. This will include the material I taught and proof that my kids tried to learn it. Twice a year I will meet with a county representative to review the portfolio.

Homeschooling Curriculums

As soon as we decided to homeschool I began scouring the Internet for curriculums for language Arts, math and science.

I will teach my kids art, music, health and P.E., but I’m not as worried about what we will teach or how we will teach it.

I plan to focus the majority of my energy on reading, writing and arithmetic. I want to make certain we create a solid foundation in the fundamental subjects.

We will choose fun ways to explore the other subjects, but I’m not worried about the kids falling behind in any of them.

Math Curriculum Review: The Good and the Beautiful

My boys both love math, so I wanted to find a math curriculum that would be both interesting and challenging. I also wanted to make certain I’m teaching math the ‘new way’ that schools teach it.

I’m using The Good and the Beautiful math for my kindergartner. Luckily I ordered way back in June, because the printed versions of their materials are currently unavailable.

If you think you might be interested check out their website. You can still buy most items in PDF format. Right now you can also download four weeks of lessons for free. You could try it out and then buy another program if this one doesn’t work out.

I spent thirty minutes reviewing the various samples and assessing my youngest. I decided to use the first grade book, because he stepped through the kindergarten examples without any hesitation.

The first grade math set includes an activity kit that my son enjoys. He just played a fun dice game where he rolled the dice and colored fish corresponding to the number he rolled.

He sat at the kitchen table, rolling, and coloring while my husband and I ate dinner. When he finished he asked, “Can I do more math tomorrow?”

Math Curriculum Review: Beast Academy

I purchased Beast Academy math books for my rising third grader. Beast Academy was hands down the most interesting math curriculum I found. Rather than using a boring old course book, the Beast Academy curriculum uses a comic book format that both of my kids love.

But beware this is really challenging math and it’s only available for 8 to 13 year olds.

A complete set of books is roughly $100.

You can also sign up for a monthly Beast Academy membership. Memberships provide access to a digital version of the comic book and video lessons. It also includes five to ten problems associated with each lesson. The price is $15 per month.

If you sign up for the online version you don’t need to buy the guide books, but the practice books are still super helpful. The books include a lot more practice questions so your kids can master their math facts.

I cannot speak highly enough about this math curriculum. It provides all sorts of out-of-the-box solutions to math problems that go above and beyond what kids typically learn in school.

The questions are interesting and challenging. Best of all I know that my kids are learning the ‘new math’ techniques. This is math like I’ve never seen it before!

Language Arts Curriculum Review: The Good and the Beautiful

Believe it or not you can download The Good and the Beautiful language arts curriculums, (grades 1 – 5), free of charge. I downloaded the first and third grade curriculums for my boys.

Please note, The Good and the Beautiful is a Christian based company, so this may not be the curriculum for everyone. There are quite a few references to God in their course books and associated readers.

Because this curriculum is free I would encourage you to check it out. If you are on a strict budget you can’t beat $0. You can cross out or skip the lessons that reference God if that bothers you.

I haven’t moved far enough along in this curriculum to provide a solid review yet. I’ll come back after I do. My youngest does enjoy the stories and is very proud of the books he’s read so far.

All About Spelling Review

Before I found out about the free language arts curriculums mentioned above I bought All About Spelling for my kindergartener. All About Spelling uses a series of phonics cards and spelling words to teach kids the common rules for sounding out words and spelling them.

Both of my kids read well above grade level, but I’ve noticed they need a lot of work with spelling. The English language is tricky. When does a ‘c’ sound like an ‘s’? And why do so many vowels make similar sounds when combined together?

I have no idea, but I want to start my youngest off with a solid understanding of all of those spelling rules so I bought All About Spelling for him.

This company also makes a reading program called All About Reading if you’re interested in that. Both of my children learned to read quite organically so we skipped that program, but I’ve heard good things about it as well.

Growing With Grammar Review

A bunch of homeschooling parents suggested Growing With Grammar so I bought that as well. These concepts are covered in other Language Arts curriculums, so I might not have needed this one, but I do like it’s simple worksheet based approach to learning grammar rules.

The set came with a course book, student practice book, and answer key. The entry level sets were incredibly inexpensive. The first two cost $18.99 for the entire set.

Education.com Review

Lastly, I purchased a year long subscription to Education.com. I paid $59.94 with a half price coupon. I also disabled auto-renew as soon as I set up my account.

Education.com contains printable worksheets, online games, guided lessons, lesson plans, hands-on-activities, science projects, and more. I created logins for each of my children and I can assign them game based lessons to work on each day.

Best of all I can search by subject, grade, topic, and even by common core. I printed out a bunch of workbooks we plan to use for writing, reading and science.

I’m very impressed by the quality of content particularly in their printable workbooks. These will supplement our other math and language arts curriculums.

Honestly, I probably could have used Education.com this year and skipped some of the other curriculums I bought. If your funds are tight I suggest checking out their materials to see if they have enough content for you.

Spanish Curriculum: Rosetta Stone

Long before we had children my husband and I purchased a Rosetta Stone membership in the hopes of learning Spanish. A few weeks ago we received an email letting us know that the membership could be converted into a lifetime membership for free!

I rushed to the internet and immediately typed in our information. It seemed too good to be true, but sure enough we were upgraded at no extra charge.

I studied Spanish for four years in middle school and high school, but I barely remember any of it. My kids and I will step through these lessons together.

If you have a Rosetta Stone membership see if you can get it upgraded. If you don’t, Duolingo is another free language website that can help you.

The Library

To focus on reading comprehension I plan to check out age appropriate books from the library and read with both of my children each day. This isn’t a new habit for us, but this time I will add reading comprehension questions and discuss the details of the books with them.

Reading is not a struggle in our house. Both kids love to read, but my oldest does struggle with comprehension at times.

He can read the words on the page, but can’t always retell the details of stories or ask himself, “What might happen next?” I hope that snuggling together we make these lessons fun and engaging.

To do that we need to find quality children’s literature available for free at our local library.

The School Journey

Six years ago I was hesitant to send my first born to preschool. I was so worried about the decision that I pulled out a spreadsheet and added up the number of hours that he would be apart from me.

In theory he would attend school twice a week for four hours, but holidays and school closures cut into that time. In total I think he attended less than 200 hours that first year.

I was torn between giving my son a space of his own and making a little space for his baby brother. My oldest had three and a half years of my undivided attention. I convinced myself that my new little bundle deserved at least a few hours of dedicated time too.

Preschool turned out to be a magical place for my oldest. Incredible teachers guided him and delightful peers played beside him. He blossomed as his world grew larger. His elementary school was also a warm and welcoming space where he continued to grow.

In one way it feels strange that his world is shrinking for the very first time. In other ways it feels perfectly okay.

It may not be what we planned, but I’m excited to embark on this new adventure with both of my children.

Financial Pilgrimage

Tuesday 25th of August 2020

Sounds like you have a very thoughtful approach. I’m bookmarking this post in case we need to call an audible and go the home school route!

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 25th of August 2020

My kids are in kindergarten and third grade so there isn't much risk in pulling them out. If they were older it would be different. I want them to love to learn and I think all day virtual school will give them a bad taste for school! If you decided to homeschool and have any questions reach out. I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm looking forward to it!

Just a little (link) love: one patient pup edition « A Gai Shan Life

Thursday 20th of August 2020

[…] Frugal Girl is homeschooling this year and researched a lot of interesting resources. We are definitely not homeschooling but we have been managing JB’s remote education through […]

James

Monday 17th of August 2020

This is some very good information. I have been kicking around the idea of homeschooling lately. My kids are home with "online education" and quite frankly are not learning anything. I feel that I could do better on my own as long as I have the right curriculum.

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 18th of August 2020

If you use Facebook look for a local homeschool group in your state or county. I found a great resource, after writing this post, with all sorts of details that are specific to my area. It might help you make the decision.

Lois

Monday 17th of August 2020

I'm 77 years old and have no little grandchildren or great-grandchildren in my life; nonetheless I enjoyed reading your blog from beginning to end. I only wish all parents were able to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to bond even further with their children and have more control over what they're taught. You're an inspiration.

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 18th of August 2020

Thank you Lois. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach my children during this crazy year. I think my kids will really enjoy it, but only time will tell.

She's FIRE'd

Sunday 16th of August 2020

I am interested to hear how this goes. I couldn't have homeschooled my kids because of my job, so I've never thought about what it would be like to try it.

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease has an outstanding list of fun, age appropriate books in the back. I found all of my kids favorite books in that list!

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 18th of August 2020

Thanks for the book list suggestion. I'll check it out. In January I was searching for jobs and looking for ways to return to the working world. Now I'm looking into homeschooling. It's definitely been a strange year!