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Homeschool Curriculum

 
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Good Morning Permies,

My wife and I have been investigating schooling options for our 4 year old daughter.  We move around a lot (pretty much every 2 years) and are hoping to settle down soon onto some sort of homesteading lifestyle.  My wife stays home with her and based on the current options (living in Houston at the moment) it seems like it is either home school or private school.  Since private school is expensive it looks like we are leaning very heavily towards home schooling.  So I had a few questions:
1.  Any home schoolers out there recommend any certain curriculum?  We have looked at Oak Meadows (based out of Vermont) and it appears to be very inline with our natural lifestyle.  https://www.oakmeadow.com/
2.  How do home schooled kids stay plugged into kids activities (especially in small town areas).  Not being attached to a school seems like it would limit a childs exposure to extra curricular activities (sports, clubs etc.)
3.  Is it recommended to start early (our daughter is very bright and could start any time, but I don't want to push her too hard or have her graduate at too young of an age)?
4.  One of the things we have been reading is that home schooling requires much less time commitment than traditional school.  Can anyone confirm this?  We have heard that the total time required of actual learning per day is ~2 hours (especially for younger kids).

Thank you in advance,
Colter
 
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Hello! I am not a homeschooler but I am a teacher and I am also familiar with other homeschoolers, as well as Montessori and Waldorf methods. Here are my thoughts:

How do home schooled kids stay plugged into kids activities (especially in small town areas).  Not being attached to a school seems like it would limit a childs exposure to extra curricular activities (sports, clubs etc.)

1. Recreation programs, clubs and organizations such as Girl Scouts and 4H, summer programming, etc
2. Connecting with other homeschooling families via local Facebook groups or other online forums. Local mom FB groups are very popular and are a great way to connect with other moms/families.
3. Organize field trips, outings, etc (via the FB group or local homeschool community) for social opportunities, and sometimes even sharing teaching days by collaborating on subjects and having one parent teach one subject one day, another take a subject for the next meet up.
4. YMCAs, community centers, community events, church

Is it recommended to start early (our daughter is very bright and could start any time, but I don't want to push her too hard or have her graduate at too young of an age)?
If you are not sure when to start, I would say send her to public school for preschool if your district offers it, and at least kindergarten, maybe even first grade, depending on the district and what and how they teach. For example, where my daughter goes to kindergarten (in a rural area) everything is very age-appropriate as far as amount of time spent outdoors, on play and socializing, movement, music, art, etc. Some districts push academics and literacy way too early. Kids should be learning mostly through play for at least all of kindergarten. In Waldorf education they do not teach children to read until 3rd grade when it is deemed age-appropriate, or when the child shows interest - whichever comes first. In traditional schooling methods, as you're probably well aware, they push literacy in kindergarten now. And have way too much of a focus on academics at way too young of an age. Additionally, most schools do not spend adequate time outdoors, have enough of a focus on movement, or art, music, etc. So, if the district you are contemplating offers any of these options, or better yet - all of them - sending them to school in the younger years can be very beneficial to their social skills and socio-emotional skills. Once they are older and can learn more independently, that seems to be the time to take advantage of homeschooling.

One of the things we have been reading is that home schooling requires much less time commitment than traditional school.  Can anyone confirm this?  We have heard that the total time required of actual learning per day is ~2 hours (especially for younger kids).

All the homeschool moms I know all say the same thing as far as this goes. They say that they grossly underestimated the time commitment. It can be very intense for the parent. Not so much for younger ones, but it can be depending on what materials and supplies you are gathering and preparing, especially if you are planning on integrated subjects/curriculum and/or experiential, hands-on longer term projects - like gardening, raising animals, etc. As they get older, you will be responsible for researching multiple topics, preparing various learning materials likely for several different subjects at once, and planning out the week's/month's/year's curriculum/lessons.

Planning lessons can be very time intensive. Of course this depends on your teaching preferences and your child's learning style, too. But generally for a 60 minute lesson, for example, it will take twice that time to actually plan it. So about a 3 hour time commitment for one lesson to plan, teach, implement. Of course this can all vary, and you will have the benefit of all the flexibility you want as far as your schedule and when and how and what you teach, so there's that. But many moms say homeschooling is exhausting especially when teaching multiple children, which I can attest to, as teaching is very involved. Especially when you are personalizing learning for each individual which often times is the case for homeschooling. But, teaching is also extremely rewarding. As is parenting, as you know. ;)

The time commitment and intensity are why a lot of homeschool moms team up. Lightens the load, makes it more fun and interesting, and provides social opportunities.  

Good luck with your journey. It is definitely a very personal one that depends a lot on the child and family.
 
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I can't speak to homeschooling with a curriculum (I've never homeschooled with one), but as a former preschool & elementary school teacher, I'd say for a child who is four, I wouldn't do a set curriculum unless the curriculum is very play based and informal. I would engage her in her interests and teach her through her play and everyday life. I would not make learning something set like "now we're going to do science," but just sort of slide the science in through what you're doing.

There's been a big push in recent years to get kids learning skills earlier and earlier, and it is NOT a push supported by early childhood development. Preschool age kids, developmentally, learn through play and interaction.

Having said that, I took a look at some of the sample lessons for preschool and kindergarten. It's a very nice curriculum. Personally, I wouldn't worry about doing a set circle time unless your child and wife like that. If it's something your daughter doesn't want to do, I wouldn't worry about it, because it's basically teaching the child to sit down and get used to listening to a teacher, and it's often a whole lot harder to motivate a single child to go through a routine, than a group of 10 who kind of go along with the crowd. Basically, it comes down to your parenting/discipline principles, and your child's personality. It's not essential to education.

You could start her with the pre-k curriculum if you need a structure (because from what I was seeing, the pre-k one gives structure and inspiration to your day--which is perfect, but it's also pretty intuitive for many parents). Or you could do the kindergarten one if she's ready for it and just do what she's ready for (not stress her out about writing the letter A and doing all the activities, but pick some she'd enjoy. Let the subjects and activities guide what you do, without stressing if the day is crazy and you can't do an activity). You could always repeat kindergarten again next year, building on her knowledge from the previous year.

If it were me, I'd buy the kindergarten curriculum and use it as an inspiration this year, doing everything low-key, and then doing it more in-depth next year. Kids often don't mind repetition, and it helps set the knowledge they learned the year before. And, you'll save money. If she masters everything in the kindergarten curriculum this year, you could always buy the first grade. I would move ahead at her own pace--don't push or hold her back.
 
Tamara Koz
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I agree with Nicole on not following a set curriculum for younger ones. They have such a fascination with so many topics at that age, and are so interested in everything, that it is easy to let their curiosity guide the learning. Teaching them what they are interested in at the moment is going to have a much more long-lasting impact on them then telling them, "Okay, Today we are going to learn about: __________."

Young ones make it fun and easy. I don't ever have to ask my 5-year-old to write letters or numbers. She just naturally wants to do when she feels inspired to do so. Sometimes when we make them do certain things or put too much pressure on, it can take the fun out of learning. So I love that she initiates this because I'd much rather have her guiding this process than me saying, okay it is time for you to write now.

Letting them guide their own learning makes it very satisfying for them. When we put them on a schedule or use a set curriculum, sometimes that can suck all the joy out of it.

To me this seems like one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling....letting life and life's natural wonders peak their curiosity and guide their growth. The curriculum IS life.

For instance, rather than reading about plants in a book, growing them from seed to table, teaching them about science by digging in the dirt, harvesting the vegetable, chopping/cutting/cooking and preparing meals, and all of the wonderful joys of sharing food not to mention the rhythm and responsibilities of setting the table, clearing the table, washing the dishes, and the confidence they will build by being empowered to do all these things themselves, rather than having them done for them. And you can integrate reading and writing by brainstorming a menu together, writing a list of ingredients, shopping together, and of course reading books about gardening and nature-related topics.

Speaking of which...did you see the thread about permaculture books for preschoolers? So many great ideas!!
 
Tamara Koz
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This website posts a lot of free homeschool materials. Also teacherspayteachers.com often offers free resources.

Money Saving Mom

Teachers Pay Teachers

 
Nicole Alderman
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Tamara Koz wrote:

One of the things we have been reading is that home schooling requires much less time commitment than traditional school.  Can anyone confirm this?  We have heard that the total time required of actual learning per day is ~2 hours (especially for younger kids).

All the homeschool moms I know all say the same thing as far as this goes. They say that they grossly underestimated the time commitment. It can be a very intense commitment for the parent. You are responsible for researching multiple topics, preparing learning materials, and planning out the week/month/year's curriculum/lessons. Planning lessons is time intensive, depending on your teaching preferences and your child's learning style. But generally for a 60 minute lesson, for example, it will take twice that time to actually plan it. So about a 3 hour time commitment for 1 lesson to plan, teach, implement. Of course this can vary, and you will have all the flexibility you want as far as your schedule and when and what you teach, so there's that. But many moms say it is exhausting, which I can attest to, as teaching is very involved. And extremely rewarding. As is parenting, as you know. ;) This is why a lot of homeschool moms team up. Lightens the load, makes it more fun and interesting, and provides social opportunities.  



I'm thinking that, while homeschooling takes less time for the child to learn, it takes a lot more time from the parent. When I taught preschool, a lot of parents would come to drop their children off so they would learn more than they would at home. Some of these parents were stay-at-home parents, so they didn't need care for their child when they worked. I would tell them, honestly, that their child would learn a whole lot more, and a whole lot faster at home. It's a one-on-one relationship, vs a one-on-ten (or 20 for kindergarten) relationship. School has the benefit of socialization--but socialization can happen in all sorts of ways when homeschooling with a little thought.

I'm thinking it's probably easier to "unschool" or teach to a child's interests when they are younger; but as they age, it'll probably be a lot harder to accidentally forget to teach an important subject--that's where the curriculum comes in.

Part of the reason I chose to go with a homeschool co-op through our public school system (not all states offer these sorts of "Parent Partnership Programs," but they're worth looking for in case they do!), is because I didn't want to write lesson plans! Planning and preparing for lesson (making sure you know the subject, you've got all the materials, knowing how best to teach that subject for you child) is a lot of work! Even with preset curriculum and lesson plans, unless you know the subject really well already, you're probably going to want to refresh your knowledge of it. It's really hard to teach something you don't know/understand well! You want to understand it well enough that you know what to research if they ask questions and how to help explain it in different ways if they don't understand.

Hello! I am not a homeschooler but I am a teacher and I am also familiar with other homeschoolers, as well as Montessori and Waldorf methods. Here are my thoughts:  



Those are my favorite educational philosophies!
 
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It has been a while since I was "fluent" in this system (I used to be a HS teacher and then used homeschool curriculum from the US with my kid when we left the country, to keep her on track with US history, English, etc for the first few years in case we wanted to go back) but I would encourage you to check out the rules for the state in which you live, and any local alternatives your district might offer (like in terms of partnership listed above).
Your kid is little so you still have time, use it for research. Fire up your Google Fu and see what the law requires (if you keep moving you'll need to keep up with each district). For example, https://thsc.org/homeschooling-in-texas/state-requirements/ (might be out of date). Then see if you can find networks of other parents homeschooling, if your family is in Houston you should have access to other people pretty easily. Not only will you be able to find out what other people are successfully using, but a kid homeschooled alone will benefit from playgroups and meetups. When I was teaching I often saw homeschool kid meetups in the libraries, and the homeschool kids were heavy participators in library activities.

I used SAS Curriculum Pathways, but this was entirely online (which would seem to not fit in with the Houston rules) and many years ago, not sure it even exists (and I was following the rules for RI, which is where my kid started school).
 
Colter Schroeder
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Wow.  Thanks for all the responses.  I'm already very big into educating her through play and reading (of course she loves both), we already garden together and grow lots of small potted veggies for dinner, she loves throwing stuff into the compost pile, and we have our caterpillar hotel (although so far all we have in there are moth caterpillars).  Also thank you for the idea of just starting the curriculum and if it is too hard then no worries on repeating...not sure why that never crossed my mind :p.  Anyways i really appreciate all the comments / support, if we do purchase the curriculum and start I'll come back here (new thread) and post an update for anyone else curious.
 
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Hello.

I'm pretty new here, though I've found a lot of great topics and hope to learn more from the community.

Didn't expect any homeschooling topics here, but since I did home school for about 6 years,
I figured I'd weigh in.

I was a home-schooler in the late 90's in NH. It was a fairly unpopular thing back then, and I remember my
mother receiving plenty of scrutiny from people along the way. Usually people who viewed home-school as just a way
for parents to isolate their kids, or at least shield them from whatever evils the world had in store.
The fears were, your kids will be isolated, won't know how to deal with life's problems, won't adapt socially,
won't work hard enough, just to name a few.

This was a long time ago, so I'm sure some things have changed, but as I remember, I'd basically have to
take a standardized test at the end of every year to ensure I was up to speed on the basics: math, english, etc.
To that end, there were a number of "curricula" that could be bought each year to cover any number of subjects.
That said, there wasn't the need to stick to any one too rigidly.
I'd say, it was more of a guidepost that could be tailored to provide more of an emphasis on one or a few subjects,
as needed.

I remember, as most people, I was stronger in some areas than others. This is where a curriculum came into play.
Perhaps a subject that I grasped less might require more rigid study habits or a more structured delivery method. Also, if (my mother) wasn't as
strong in one area, this is where textbook learning became necessary.

There were lots of areas where we would delve way into ideas/learning that may not be as fulfilling in a given curriculum.
This is where home-schooling gets fun.
There is a huge opportunity to explore areas in whatever depth you decide, regardless of the curriculum, and this, in my opinion,
is why home-schooling can be so valuable.

Going off the beaten path...  Learning, after all, should incorporate some sense of curiosity, wonder, excitement along the way.
In the 5th grade, I was studying Latin, French, Euclidian Geometry, taking art classes. All things that wouldn't have been available
so readily in the public school.
To be interested in something and to be able to fuel creativity is something that no textbook could ever provide.
You, as the parent, get to give some direction to what is being studied, what sparks interest.
And this can lead all sorts of places.

So, as for a curriculum, I'm sure there are many out there now.
But as a home-schooler, you have quite a lot of control as to how rigidly you want to follow it.

As for the social elements, I'd say there's a lot of opportunities there too.
Even in the 90's, growing up in a pretty rural area, we had a pretty large circle of families who were all getting into it.
Many of the parents were able to devote some amount of time to either provide classes in an area where they excelled (language, sciences,
survival classes, farming, even some trade-oriented things. Could be anything.
We had a pretty solid circle of families who were more than happy to sort of "co-op" their time to make it all happen.
I have absolutely no regrets.
Never felt isolated. Plus, what does mainstream social culture really offer? That's a big question that you can probably answer in your heart.
In fact, I think it was a better, more natural social life than I would've had in a public school.

And, curriculum or not, we all typically scored pretty far above average on the state standardized tests in the end.
Remember, small class size....can be a huge advantage.

I didn't home-school after 7th grade, so hard to say how that would've played out. Probably, in my case, was good to be in a formal environment for high-school,
but I had lots of friends who went right onto graduation and seemed to do very well.

I'd definitely do it if I had my own kids (I don't.)
If, for no other reason then to stimulate creative thinking and curiosity.
I think most parents, in the end, are probably better in this role than any teacher ever would be.

Well, good luck!
 
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