There are so many different ways to homeschool that very rarely will you find another family that does things the same way. I am still trying all of those different options on for size but I know from early on that spending hundreds of dollars on a complete curriculum and just following the instructions is not going to work for us. Not only don’t we not have the budget for that, but also I feel the need to have the freedom to adapt to my child’s level and learning style and there isn’t a magic “one size fits all” curriculum for that.
Last year we dipped our toe in the homeschooling pool by just playing with it with no pressure or set plan. Shammy would do about 20 minutes of ABC Mouse several times a week, sometimes we would watch a few minutes of preschool videos from Chalk Preschool Online and the rest of the time we had unstructured learning in the form of reading, activity books, some worksheets and just life activities like cooking, cleaning, chores and observing nature.
I didn’t have very high expectations so I was blown away when in the fall of 2013 Shammy’s reading skills blossomed in an amazing way it’s almost as if he started reading overnight! I nurtured that new skill and by March 2014 I used an assessment tool and learned that he was reading at 2nd grade level without me really trying!
I think that both nature and nurture were at play in this and don’t expect the same results when it’s Zen’s turn to study, as it is Zen is proving to be a bit slower at picking things up than Shammy at that age but he is still making good progress. I am not planning on trying to formally teach anything to Zen until after his 2nd birthday and even then it will be very laid back, casual and child led until he turns 3.
Shammy is turning 4 at the end of this month and he will be eligible to enroll in Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program but it doesn’t look like he will be attending. Not only would it be a logistical nightmare as I don’t have a car to do drop off and pick up for a 5 day/ 3 hour program that charges extra for time above that amount. But I also worry that he will be bored because he long ago mastered all of the skills that they would be teaching.
So instead I get to plan our first “official” homeschooling year. It won’t be official in the eyes of the state because I don’t have to register with the school district as a home schooler until his 6th birthday but it’s official for me because it will be my first test to see if I am capable of successfully educating my child and meet some pre-established learning goals.
I am still trying to settle on the specifics such as school year (public school calendar, my own calendar or year round school, I am leaning towards using the public school calendar to keep me on track), the length of the school day (full day, short day, separate blocks. I am leaning towards 1.5 hours of structured school work, some play time and then informal/unschooling type learning in the afternoon), what curriculum will I use (complete curriculum, partial curriculum, mix and match, lessons from scratch. Right now I am leaning towards workbooks and free lesson plans that I pick and choose from the internet), how will I keep organized (notebook, binder, portfolio or electronically through Evernote), how far advance will I plan (year in advance or a week at a time), etc.
So far it looks like our school year will be very affordable. I have gotten most supplies throughout the year from the Dollar Store and will take advantage of back to school sales for consumables like pencils, crayons, paper, etc. The biggest expense will be printer ink (thank goodness I have a laser printer) and paper. By using dry erase markers and sheet protectors I will be able to reuse most items when it’s Zen’s turn. When I talk to friends whose children are attending public and private schools, even if they don’t pay tuition the fees for materials, field trips and activities can add up to a substantial amount by the end of the year. This way I don’t have the pressure and with the assistance of Pinterest/Facebook I can improvise and work with what I have.
I am blessed to have many local friends that homeschool so there is no shortage for brains to “pick” and they have a very helpful support group on Facebook. When Shammy gets older I can choose to join the local homeschooling co-op for field trips, sports and more.
I had originally figured that I would use Easy Peasy’s all in one free online homeschool but upon closer inspection I probably will have to pick and choose from it and supplement. Since Shammy has excelled in language arts I will be doing Kindergarten level writing and 1st-2nd level reading combined with pre-K/K math. I have a type A/ OCD predisposition that would want to have everything planned out a year in advance and stick to it so it is a conscious effort for me to relax and take a more laid back “play it by ear” approach while finding a happy medium to stay organized.