“Can I ask you some questions about homeschooling?”

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Playing Pandemic at the beginning of Covid-19 stay-at-home orders.

I’ve been contacted by a few people this past week that are considering homeschooling their children for a short season because of Covid-19. I thought I could share what we do in our home to help answer basic questions. This is geared for those that just aren’t sure what to do and are exploring their options. The schooling situation seems impossible for those families that have two full time working parents, especially those that are currently school teachers with young children or single parents. I am extremely sympathetic to those that feel stuck in their options or lack of options for their children.

I’ve been hearing various parents talking about creating pods of families to accomplish homeschooling for a temporary time period. I think the concept could be brilliant but would require a lot of parental cooperation. It could allow parents to still work and kids to be cared for. I’m not sure how all of that would look and I don’t really have an answer to the giant question of how does one safely educate children during a pandemic. However for those of you that are truly considering homeschooling for the next few months or years, here you go.

What kind of homeschooler are you? The parent has to be cautious with this quiz though because it reflects the parents desires and not necessarily the learning style that would best suit the child.  These are my results, which may show my biases in what I would choose for curriculum.

http://eclectic-homeschool.com/homeschool-philosophies-quiz/  

My Results:

Score for Charlotte Mason: 0
Score for Classical Education: 8
Score for Montessori Education: 3
Score for Project-Based Learning: 8
Score for Reggio-Inspired:6
Score for Thomas Jefferson Education: 3
Score for Traditional Education: -6
Score for Unit Studies Approach: 11
Score for Unschooling Approach: 12
Score for Waldorf Education: 8  

 

Another thing to consider is what kind of learner is your child.: https://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/how-to-homeschool-determine-your-childs/

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Umbrella Schools:
In Tennessee, we choose to use an umbrella school to report our grades and attendance. They do not provide us with a curriculum. but allow us to direct our homeschool in the way that we see fit for our children. We choose to use The Farm Satellite School for this purpose, but know others that use HomeLife Academy. You could also register with your local county as a homeschooler. I don’t have experience doing this, but that is another option.
Facebook Page for The Farm School: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TFSSCP/
Even though my results above show that I would lean more towards an unschooling approach, I view our schooling approach as eclectic.  We choose to use some formal curriculum for certain topics, have a more relaxed approach for others, utilize online resources and outsource to a drop-off tutorial for others.
Homeschooling isn’t going to look the same this year due to Covid-19, and many other homeschoolers feel the same way. Our weekdays last year involved being away from the home at least two days a week, with music lessons 30 minutes away and speech therapy once a week. Most of our activities will be done online in the upcoming semester and while it is nice not to drive, it is different for us.
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What about a homeschool co-op or tutorial?
A tutorial is a fee-for-service class. Most tutorials are a drop off where a teacher teaches your child a certain subject.
However co-ops and tutorials are having the same safety concerns during this pandemic. Some are planning hybrid schedules with in-person and online classes. Some are having alternative plans in case their state goes back to phase 1. Most are having to look into the same options that public schools are considering, masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizers, social distancing, etc. It won’t look the same this year for co-ops and tutorials. Some may even opt to not meet depending on what happens in the future.
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Our family’s way of homeschooling may not be the right way for your family. That’s okay. This is just to give anyone a base for the many questions that they are having.
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Mathematics: We use Math Mammoth. We’ve used it for the last six years and it has worked well for our three oldest children. It is geared for those that are in 1-7th grade. It is a pdf format and I found last year that printing out the whole grade worked the best for my kids. It made for a giant binder of math, but the kids were able to complete 2-3 pages per day and got through almost the whole curriculum.
We also use board games to teach math, like Yahtzee and Dragonwood. We’ve also used an app called DragonBox that is pretty awesome, although more expensive than I like to spend on an app. Teaches algebra in a whole new way that a young kid can grasp.
Other online resources for math would be Khan Academy.
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Language Arts: This year we are going back to Bravewriter for my son going into 3rd grade and daughter going into kindergarten.
We are going to start with My Side of the Mountain as a read aloud and purchase one of their single issue Arrows for grammar, copywork and literature based work. We will choose a few more throughout the year, but I’m starting with this one.
The facebook group associated with Bravewriter:
Bravewriter Discussion Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BraveScopes/
My daughter (kindergarten)  will also use Reading Eggs: https://readingeggs.com/
My older two are taking writing/English classes from a local tutorial. They will be assigned various books to read with projects.
Nashville Middle School Secular Tutorial: https://www.webtutorialnashville.com/
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Science: This year the older two will be taking a General Science class (5th grader) and a Biology class (7th grade) from our local tutorial.
The younger two I plan to go back to our Magic School Science Experiments subscription, utilizing our Usborne Science Encyclopedia, Crash Course on Youtube, Steve Spangler videos, cooking science, and probably some other resources. Here is a listing of secular homeschool science options to look into: https://homeschoolgameschool.com/giant-list-of-free-secular-homeschool-science-curriculum/
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History: I’m still brainstorming what we will use this year, but I have The Story of the World books, A Little History of the World, The Greatest Stories Never Told, Lies my Teacher Told Me, History of the World, Don’t Know Much About History, A Child’s History of the World, The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, Maus, Maus II,  and this epic list of social justice books: https://socialjusticebooks.org/booklists/?fbclid=IwAR2dslQmO8Xbglos5Du7eeU1Db6FDHfCITXZA4sLD8mimb_sFLJlavgA38Q.
We also love the YouTube videos, OverSimplified: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNIuvl7V8zACPpTmmNIqP2A
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Music: Violin lessons through Vanderbilt Blair School of Music. For my kindergartner and 3rd grader we will keep working on playing around with the ukeleles, mandolins and electric keyboard.
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Handwriting:
We’ve used Handwriting without Tears and I’m looking into Zaner-Bloser. I like to have the kids do one or two pages a day, and it helps me to have one of them doing this while I help the other on a different topic.
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Foreign Language: 
My kids all want to learn a different language this year, the oldest Latin, the 2nd oldest Spanish, the 3rd oldest, Japanese and the youngest says she doesn’t want to learn any other language at the moment.
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Coding:
My kids love video games and they enjoy creating some very basic stuff on Code.org.
We might even consider some classes from GameEdAcademy. We’ve done a Minecraft class with them a few years ago. http://gamedacademy.com/
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Art:
We will probably just opt to do various crafts this year. The kids have taken oil painting classes in years past and general art classes.
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Nature Studies: 
We have all of these books but I haven’t read them with my youngest two. We will probably re-introduce the Herb Fairy books to them.
Local Library Resources:
Make sure to check out your local libraries. We pay to be a part of the Nashville, Davidson County library system since we are out of county. They are a fantastic resource and they even have these awesome curriculum kits you can check out for 6 weeks at a time.
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If you choose to home school, remember that you don’t have to recreate public school at home. Public school does a great job at educating a larger group of kids at one time. Home school can be more specialized for each individual kid. In Tennessee, the requirements are 180 days of school logged (at minimum) at 4 hours in each day. Now, I don’t meticulously monitor the number of minutes my kid logs each day. We typically have a set amount of work planned and if they get it done before that four hour time slot, then great. If not, then we have the option to take a break and come back to it the next day or even the next week.
Kids learn all of the time and you really have the ability to log 365 days of school if you want to make it easier on yourself. For myself, we do take a real break in the summer and a decent time off in the winter. We often will start our official school work slightly earlier than our public school friends because it is hot outside in July and August in Tennessee and we would rather enjoy more freedom to be outside in the fall. I often feel burnt out by mid-November, so having the flexibility in our school schedule is really nice.
I’ve homeschooled my children for the last seven years. I’m definitely not an expert. I have my homeschooling mentors that I will seek out when I’m struggling. Know that if you choose to home school, there will probably be a moment or many moments where you feel like you’re failing your kids in a huge way. That is completely normal and it will pass.  There will be good days, struggle bus days and days where you sit there in total awe that your kid figured something out that they’ve been struggling with for a while. You get to see the learning process up close and you will gain the utmost respect for our public school teachers, managing different learning styles and personalities all with smiles on their faces.
I hope this helps anyone that isn’t sure what to do during our current pandemic situation.  Reach out to your homeschooling friends, and know that we all have our own way of doing it. Each person may be able to give you encouragement, ideas and inspiration.

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