The Couture Homestead Homeschool Week

Hi, I’m Erika. I’m new to homeschooling and so is everyone else in my village.  There a so many comments and questions from friends and family along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it” or “That must be a lot of work!” or “How do you know what to teach them?” I usually smile and give the standard, “Yes it is a lot, but we’re having fun.” It’s too much to dive into all the research and planning that has gone into homeschooling or go too deep into the curriculum selections I have made. I hope this post will answer questions from my curious village, but also help new homeschoolers like me.

Quick Links:
Resources to Inspire Your Homeschool Identity
Homeschool Daily Planning
Our Homeschool Curriculum
Weekly Organizational Resources

I homeschool 4 kiddos; my two poppies, and my two nephews. I have two 8 year olds, a 6 year old, and a 5 year old. If they were in public school, the 4 would fall into third grade, second grade, first grade, and preschool. I have asynchronous learners so they don’t fall neatly into a set grade levels.

To get started with homeschooling I sought out whatever resources I could get my hands on. Some I liked, but just didn’t work for my kids. I’m only including what works for us here, but please know that there are so many more great resources out there that may work better for you. Use this as a jumping off point, but keep digging!

Resources to Inspire Your Homeschool Identity

Homeschool Blogs and Facebook Groups 
My Little Poppies
Kindred Collective
Raising Life Long Learners
Simple Homeschool
Mary Hanna Wilson
Read Aloud Revival
Brave Writer
Raising Little Shoots Nature Study
Granite State Home Educators

Homeschool Podcasts
Homeschool Sisters
Brave Writer
Read Aloud Revival

Homeschool Books (hopefully many more on the way from my “Want to Read” list)
How Children Learn by John Holt
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart
Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin
The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education by Ainsley Arment
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
Free to Learn by Peter Gray
Enough as She Is by Rachel Simmons
Mitten Strings from God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
How to Raise and Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

I worked in College Admission for about 15 years. Homeschool applications fell in my lap at my first admission job. We were a small office, and besides my Director, we were a staff of newbies. I was assigned Homeschool applicants as one part of my “territory”. {A College Admission territory is an Admission Counselors assigned group of high schools they are responsible for visiting each year, reading applications for students from those high schools, interviewing students from those high schools, answering emails, phone calls, on campus visitors from those high schools, etc., etc. In my office all homeschool students were grouped together. In other Admission Offices homeschool students may be assigned based on where you live.}

I attended public school in a small New England city. At the time, the only homeschool kid I had met was a girl I knew in middle school who was an Alter Server with me at Church. I’ll call her Amy. There was a rotating schedule of Alter Servers, so I can’t say Amy and I talked consistently, maybe just a few times a year. We certainly were not allowed to talk during the Mass, so I can’t say I knew Amy very well or had much time to talk her about what homeschool was like for her. I knew Amy’s Catholic Faith was integrated into her homeschool and she read the bible with her family daily. Since Amy was my only homeschool exposure, my middle school brain concluded that homeschool was for religious families with a stay-at-home mom. My parents both worked, we attended Sunday Mass and weekly CCD classes (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine – or Catholic Religious Education classes), but were not avid bible readers. Homeschool was not for us. Middle school kid conclusion. 

My first job after graduating college was at a small Catholic college. I assumed the homeschool students in my territory would be like Amy. I did meet several students who reminded me of Amy’s Catholic faith based homeschooling, but my eyes were opened to the vastly differentiated approaches to homeschool education. Though I was often impressed by my homeschool students, both on paper and in person, homeschooling my own future children wasn’t on my mind. I had a career I was falling in love with in higher education and my soon to be husband was also following his own career passions. Homeschooling was not for us. Young adult conclusion.

Middle school kids and young adults may find an entirely new person in their thirty-something self. We decided to homeschool in 2020. My College Admission background gave me a head start. I knew the curriculum and organizational options of homeschooling were vast. It felt infinite. When I think back on the days and weeks following the homeschool decision the words heavy, overwhelming, and panic come to mind. If you are in this space right now 1) take a deep breath, put up your feet, have a cup of tea 2) listen to Homeschool Sisters podcast Episode 5 YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL: GETTING STARTED WITH HOMESCHOOLING 3) know whatever you decide to do tomorrow and the next day and the next day will be the right decision for YOUR kids. You’ve got this sister!

My homeschool curriculum choices and organization will not work for everyone, but maybe you will find your own golden nuggets in here to take into your home. It can be so hard to break from the public school mind set. Whether you attended public school yourself or your kids have attended public school, those ideas keep creeping back. I have to remind myself everyday, homeschool IS for us. Homeschool mom conclusion.

Homeschool Daily Planning

My son completed kindergarten at the pubic school which moved to remote learning in March 2020. From his Kindergarten teacher, I picked up the idea of a daily subject focus. I’ve since read and heard different variations of this idea. Some families may have weekly co-op days or online classes that are scheduled on a particular day of the week that dictate the subject for a day. For me, having a subject each day gave me piece of mind that I wouldn’t leave something out.

Math Monday
Around the World Tuesday (History, Geography, Culture)
Word Wednesday (Reading, Writing, Literature, Poetry)
Science Thursday
Creative Friday (Art, Music)

This schedule doesn’t mean that we don’t read on Math Monday and we can’t write about science on Word Wednesday (or write about science on Science Thursday!), or have a read aloud any day of the week! We do have a priority to complete math work on Monday, science on Thursday, and so on. This isn’t a state mandated lists of subjects that need to be covered or anything I found in a book of must-do subjects. These are the subjects I want my kids to cover. Your list could be different. But starting with subject areas was helpful for me.

Reading for Math: How Much is a Million? by David Schwartz

Most days we start with the subject of the day to make sure that priority is covered. Then we can fill the rest of the day with gameschooling, read alouds, field trips, crafting and art, imaginative play, or taking a deeper dive into something they love.

Create a Story Cards by eeboo

I started the year with a binder system. This served as a complex check list. Every kid has a binder. Each morning I added worksheets and to-do items (including chores). The frequently used tasks had laminated pages that could be used over and over. The binders also have pockets, which allow me to add books to read each day. The kids could choose to read to me, a stuffed animal, or one of the dogs. It sounds so lovely. It was too much to keep up with on a daily basis and the kids would try to complete worksheets before I had the chance to go over a lesson, leaving them frustrated before we even begun. My first homeschool fail. I still think there is something here though, so I may return to it in a different season with some modifications.

I have since read about the rule of 3 task list. Anything else we accomplish is frosting on the cake. Some kids like to have ownership of their task list and check the boxes. But not everyone does. This one was a trial and error for us. I find the daily tasks and check lists helpful for myself, which I now keep in my planner.

Our Homeschool Curriculum

With a daily schedule and subjects decided,  I turned my attention to curriculum (or no curriculum?). I read about all encompassing curriculums by grade, I read about unschooling, I read about using literature to teach subject areas rather than text books or curriculum guides, I read, and I read, and I read some more. In the end, I took my own golden nuggets from my research and these are the curriculum guides and resources we are using.

Math: Beast Academy 2 and 3 (2nd and 3rd Grade), Little Learner Packets Numbers (Preschool)
Around the World: Little Passports (1st Grade and Preschool), Beginner Geography & Maps (2nd and 3rd Grade)
Writing: Draw Write Now (All)
Science: Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, Exploring Nature with Children (All)
Art and Music: Art History Kids, SQUILT (All)

If you follow Cait Curley on My Little Poppies, you will see plenty of crossover. I used her blog as my curriculum mentor, so if you like my ideas, but have different age groups, I would recommend her curriculum blog post with more options to explore.

The curriculum resources serve as my guide. They give me a topic direction for the day and help me feel more organized. They may not fill a day on their own. They will point me in the direction of suggested readings and projects. A good curriculum guide is not a one-stop-shop. Once I know the topic for the day and have reviewed the curriculum guide’s suggestions, I can seek out the supplemental resources needed to fill out the day or just make the topic more interesting for my kids.

Weekly Organizational Resources

In my house the process for organizing the week ahead starts on Friday afternoons. Library books are a huge part of my planning, so Friday planning developed around our small town library’s schedule. I know many homeschoolers plan their week on Sundays. Our library is closed on Sunday and Monday and doesn’t open until 10am on Tuesday. When I tried Sunday as my planning day, I couldn’t pick up books until after 10am on Tuesday. With COVID, we only have “Porch Pick-up” available. I place the order online, wait for the books to be pulled by the library staff, and schedule a pick-up time. At best, I could pick-up Tuesday afternoon and at worst, sometime Wednesday. Word Wednesday is a challenge without our needed books for the week and Around the World Tuesdays were dull without the stories to shape the history and geography lessons. Friday it is.

Friday is my planning day, Sunday may be yours, but I recommend carving out sometime in your weekly schedule to reflect on the past week, wrap your head around where you want to go next, and compile your resources. Bins are a great way to sort your books and resources for each day of the week or even time of the day. I know of some families with 7 bins for each day, a bin for each kid, a bin for each subject, a morning bin and an afternoon bin, or some combination of all of these. The idea is to have something that is portable and organized.

A cart or multiple carts are a similar option. Kara Anderson from Homeschool Sisters Podcast told a story about asking the kids to wait a minute while she went to find a book. When she returned the kids had gone off to play and the process of settling them in for a book started all over again. If it’s not a bin or a cart, just think about where you can grab your resources quickly and easily.

What I like most about Draw Write Now, Building Foundations of Scientific Learning, Exploring Nature with Children, Art History Kids, and SQUILT are the book recommendations included within the curriculum. This is where I start my Friday afternoon planning. I search the book recommendations at our local library and usually find a few to add to the online shopping cart.

We have a small library, so I can’t always find the exact recommendations that are provided in the curriculum. Step two is searching for alternatives on the same topic. For example, Draw Write Now suggested Gentle Giant Octopus by Karen Wallace to go along with the Octopus writing and drawing assignment this week. Unfortunately our library did not have this holding, but they did have Octopus’ Den by Deirdre Langeland and Octopus by Melvin Berger.

I’ll also take time and do a YouTube search for a read aloud of any recommendations I couldn’t find at the library. There are many Story Time and Read Aloud book channels on YouTube and I can often find the book I am seeking there.

YouTube Read Aloud Channels
Storytime Anytime
Storyline Online
Harper Kids
Books Alive
The Storytime Family
It’s Reading Time
The Joyful Bookshelf

Some videos and channels are better quality than others, so it’s a good idea to vet your YouTube options before committing to using them. I save the good ones to a playlist on my Couture Homestead YouTube channel. Depending on the video and the book, the video may be played as an audiobook or I’ll cast it to the living room TV. I use these at snack times, car rides, or as background during hands-on activities like crafting, coloring, or painting. I may not get to them at all, but I have them as a back-up option anytime I see a moment to pop them into our day.

There are a few books that I’ve committed to buying from Amazon, but I usually have plans to use the book for several lessons or I find a great book for a low price (typically in the used book section of Amazon). There are also yard sales, thrift shops, and local used books stores to consider. Those options became tough with COVID this year. Even in a good year, the local used book options are take-what-you-can-get. I have picked up a few boxes of free books over the last year and we have a fairly large children’s book collection now. Going into the Ocean section from Draw Write Now this week I had 5 books I could easily pull from our home library and 2 happened to be from the recommended book list.

I have recently started using the Libib App to keep track of our home library collection. I can now search my own children’s book collection from my phone or computer to see what matches the topic for the day. I’m not as organized as the library, but I at least have an idea of what books to look for rather than flipping through every book on the shelves.

Preschool Resources
I next set my sites on preschool resources for the youngest in my group. You’ll see from my curriculum guide, I include everyone in many of my curriculum choices. This was by design. I didn’t want to buy curriculum for every grade level, have to plan curriculum for every grade level, and figure out how to teach four different lessons. I found that I can have everyone involved, but offer variations of work around the same topic. I’m still refining this skill, but I think of it like a great Yoga instructor who knows how to teach a class using alternative positions for every level. 🙂

In November we studied Fungus with the Exploring Nature with Children curriculum. We all could go on a nature hunt for mushrooms, draw and write in our nature journals, and have a read aloud together with the suggested book list. But identifying the parts of a mushroom and the fungi documentary I found on Curiosity Stream was over my little guy’s head. While the big kids watched the documentary in the living room we made a mushroom from a toilet paper roll and a paper bowl, colored an M is for Mushroom picture, and completed a cut-and-paste activity organizing mushrooms from tallest to shortest. If I have a topic to search, I can usually find an activity or at least a coloring page at the preschool level to keep my little guy learning and engaged. SQUILT and Little Passports are good at including something engaging for the little ones as well as the big kids.

Planning Playtime
Teachers Pay Teachers
Playing Learning
Coloring Bay
Teaching Mama
Preschool Inspirations
Preschool Home Activities

Paper Materials
Some of the curriculum, like Beast Academy, have practice pages included. Photo copies are made. I print the weekly lesson from Art History Kids (hang the art work in the classroom) and print the suggested art work from Exploring Nature with Children (hang for viewing before our nature walk). I’m a big fan of the HP Instant Ink program. My printer/scanner gets a good amount of use.

Hands-on Materials
There are science experiments in Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding, nature activities in Exploring Nature with Children, art projects in Art History Kids, and cooking projects in Little Passports. These wonderful curriculum guides provide so much to choose from! The key is choosing, you can’t do it all. I often look at the materials needed first. Do I already have the materials in the house? Can I alter the project with something else I have and still get the same result? Maybe I can pick-up just a few missing items to make it work? This is another advantage to Friday afternoon planning. Missing materials and ingredients can be picked-up over the weekend.

Videos and Documentaries
As I did with Read Aloud Books above, I search related videos and TV shows that could help with the topic of the day. I find this particularly helpful in math and science. I was a Mathematics major, so I know math, but that doesn’t make me the best math teacher. A video tutorial can sometimes hit home better than I can. Other times a fun TV show like Magic School Bus, StoryBots, or Science Max are a fun and educational way to end the day.

Amazon Prime Video
Bill Nye the Science Guy

Magic School Bus
Who Was Show

Science Max
Homeschool Pop
Khan Academy
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Free School
National Geographic Kids
Peekaboo Kids
Tate Kids
SciShow Kids
Kids Academy

PodCasts for Kids
I’m a fan of podcasts for myself, but I’ve just recently started to delve into the world of podcasts for kids. I have quite a few on my subscription list, but we haven’t had the chance to try them all. Your feedback is welcome on these recommendations:

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
The History Chicks
Stuff You Missed in History Class
Stuff you Should Know
Storynory for Kids
Brains On! Science Podcast for Kids
60 Second Science
Classical Kids Storytime

Home Planner

Finally I review all the notes I’ve been tracking in my planner as I go. I have been using the Home Planner from Passionate Penny Pincher for the last two years, and it is my organizational jam :). If you like what you see, buy it early in the year. They do sell out! They are that good! It keeps me on track with homeschool notes, home cleaning, meal planning, and budget. My homeschool task lists live with everything else in the Couture Homestead to-do list world.

Have a question? Suggestions? Contact me!

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