Our Homeschool

Next week I’ll be sharing some Back to Homeschool tips that help get my kids off to a great year at home. For my non-homeschooling readers, some of these ideas will work for public school too, so check back next week! This Thursday, I’ll be sharing with you my homeschool curriculum for the 2010-2011 school year. I have done this in years past and it seems to be a reader favorite.

As I have been preparing my curriculum over the last few weeks I have had some things on my heart regarding my homeschool curriculum post that I wanted to share with you, my readers and friends.

This is the curriculum that works best for my family.

Every child is different and every family is different. There is no one perfect way to homeschool your kids. Feel free to get ideas from my list and email me about my choices, but don’t feel like what is best for our family is the only way.

I’m all about eclectic learning.

Classical, Charlotte Mason, Principle, Unschooling, Montessori, Unit Studies, Textbooks, Lapbooks, Workbooks, Workboxes, Co-ops, Online Classes…. I embrace it all. I like a little bit of everything, so we do a little of everything. I don’t follow a particular method for every subject. If it works for our family we use it, labels are for public schools. 🙂


I have a large homeschool budget (and a large family).

My homeschool budget is around $2500 for six school aged kids.  My most expensive student this year is my 11th grader. I spent about $800 on her curriculum, that is outrageous- but I know it will last through several kids. I realize many families do not have such a large budget for their curriculum. I feel fortunate that I am able to purchase things for my children this school year that I would not have been able to purchase five years ago. You can homeschool for less, I still use all of the tips I wrote about in that post, and even though this year I will spend close to the $2500 budget, next year I will not spend nearly as much.

There will be gaps.

Just as there are gaps in education for public and private schooled children, there will be gaps for homeschooled kids as well. There are many awesome choices out there for homeschoolers but you can’t do it all. The quicker you learn this the better off you will be as a homeschool teacher and mom.

I don’t do grade levels.

In our homeschool, we work at things until they truly “get it,” not pass a silly multiple choice test or finish the book. If it takes two months or two years it doesn’t matter to me. One of my children could not read well until they were almost 11. Does that mean they needed to stay in the first grade until they are wearing deodorant? Of course not! They moved ahead in some subjects and we continued to work on reading until it clicked.

I don’t do tests until they are at least 10.

Since all my children are one of one in their class I don’t see the point. Tests and grades are used to measure yourself against others. If you get a C- on the test and that just happens to be the highest score in the class, that is a pretty good score. If the teacher is grading on a curve you will end up with an A, but did you truly know the material? I check work for completion, effort, and competency. If I notice that a child continually struggles with a certain skill we go back and review it. The only reason I give tests at all is because that is what society uses to measure knowledge and I need to prepare my students for the life outside of our home.

It’s really all about character, isn’t it?

Sometimes, most of the time, I believe this. But a really great person who can’t read or balance a checkbook is going to have some problems in life. It is my hope to raise hard working, smart kids who are of strong character. I have seen many families focus way to hard on one or the other. I think you need to find a balance.

Different strokes for different folks.

We have never built a life-sized replica of the Mayflower, slept outside for a week surviving only on roots and berries, traveled the United States in an RV getting real life lessons in geography, or memorized an entire book of the bible. It is really hard not to compare yourself to other homeschoolers, especially in this day and age where message boards, blogs, and Facebook allow homeschoolers around the world to connect with each other. Just because the homeschooling family down the street has all eight of their kids in violin lessons and play concerts around town doesn’t mean they are giving their kids a better homeschool experience. Do what works best for your family!

Learning and living go hand and hand.

I often time think we, as homeschoolers, spend way too much time using curriculum when our children our little. I truly believe you don’t need to purchase a thing for your younger students. Children learn best by doing and they can learn so much from you! Read books, play games, cook, clean, take walks, live life!

Bottom line: One of the best things about homeschooling is that it isn’t a one size fits all approach!

Isn’t that the reason many of us started homeschooling to begin with?

  • Perhaps we wanted our children’s education to have a religious foundation
  • A child with learning disabilities is able to avoid labels and can thrive in loving home environment
  • Homeschooling affords a child who excels at gymnastics, tennis, or other activities the flexibility to develop that ability
  • Maybe dad travels frequently and homeschooling allows the whole family to travel together

As we begin another school year, my encouragement would be to spend some time contemplating what works best for your family. Try and sift through all the outside noise and focus on your children’s abilities and giftings. Just because everyone else is using a specific curriculum doesn’t mean you have to do it too. Isn’t that one of the biggest lessons we try to teach our children in life? Sometimes as parents we need a gentle reminder that the same principle applies to us too.

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  1. Really great piece, Toni! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and could see our family throughout so many of the things you said. I’ll be sure to link to this in my links this week. 🙂

  2. This is my first year to homeschool. I must say that I am a little nervous. My oldest 12 yr. old (boy)is going into middle school and I am homeschooling my 10 yr. old (boy). He has reading issues and is behind. My goal is to help him realize that learning is fun. I have done lots of research and I looked at your curriculum to get some ideas. I think I have chosen things that will be of intrest to him and hopefully change his mind about learning. I am looking forward to your ideas. I also have at home a three yr old (girl) and a 10 month old (boy). Have a great homeschooling year. Love reading your blog. Tracy

    • Pam in Colorado says:

      Just wanted to pop in and perhaps help you think a different way on “He has reading issues and is behind”. Who is he behind? In life we are always “ahead” or “behind” someone else. I prefer to focus on the fact that “he is just where he is” and know that as he matures and his brain continues in its connecting and maturing, he will be somewhere else down the road a bit. This allows both you and he to relax and work where he is without pressure of thinking that that place is not “okay” to be in. It is the best place for him to be today. Now that he is not sitting in a room where it is hard not to compare to everyone else in the room, you may find him relaxing and enjoying the process of learning. I wish you much joy on this journey.

      • I have to agree. That is why he is at home. He has relaxed so much. He is learning willingly, I never thought he would. I truly thought he would fight me everyday. He is doing so much better and I am very proud of him. My 12 yr old (still attending school) has even noticed a change. Thanks for your comment, another’s opinion is always welcome.

  3. How wonderfully written! I’ve been homeschooling for 12 years and my oldest just graduated! Your tips and reminders are just wonderful things that so many homeschool moms need to be periodically reminded of! Beautifully done! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thank you for this post! I truly needed this reminder 🙂

  5. As a veteran homeschooler who thinks that “maybe this year” we can “do it all!”…thanks for this timely reminder! Wise words 🙂

  6. This is so true! I love that as a homeschool family we can truly do what works for us, just as you have described. You are a wonderful example to many who are just starting out on this journey!

  7. That has to be the best post on homeschooling I’ve ever read. It captures so many of the reasons homeschooling families do what they do. Thanks for a great, inspiring article.

    Keep up the great work!


  8. Yes, to everything you wrote! Yes, yes, and yes again! We start our 3rd year of homeschool next week and we do what works for us. Indy is a well mannered (most of the time) highly intelligent little boy who loves to learn and hsing has been the best thing in the world for all of us.

  9. Paul (aka Mr. Mommysnacks) says:

    Great post about homeschooling-you want a couple more students? I honestly do not know how you do this and keep up with your blog. You must have a very structured day.

    Even though we do not homeschool I look forward to reading your future post to get ideas to help my boys at home with areas they may be lagging in.

  10. ……. ah yes, thank you I just let out a big exhale. As I was preparing to do my post for the blog hop, I was trying to think of how I was going to organize all our choices as I don’t really claim a grade and when I do it’s only because church needs to know what class to put them in. my oldest in almost 9 and his subjects levels are all over the place but I don’t let him know that because it would make him feel “dumb” and he is anything but!!!!!! So I had just decided I was going to do our picks by age and I just threw away any guilt of making two changes right before school starts as my 6 year old has just made some developmental changes and I think he would enjoy some langauge arts as where my 8 year wasn’t ready at that age. I am reminded and well rooted in our goal again, it IS all about what is best for them AND works for me as the teacher as well. Thanks, I was looking forward to the HOP as a way to get some encouragement and focus. I now I remember why I like to read your blog!!!

  11. Hey! I’m coming over from Hip Homeschool Hop. Thanks for linking up with us today. Dont forget a new linkup and giveaways are posted each Tuesday. I cannot wait to get to know you/your blog better!


  12. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this encouraging post! We have a 4.5 year old, a 2 year old and a baby on the way, so we are just now exploring homeschooling for our 4.5 year old. I have been overwhelmed by the number of different homeschooling approaches/styles and curricula available, but your post put things in perspective.

    This may be off topic, but in terms of frugality, I would really love to know where you find the best deals on bulk art supplies, like the paints your children are using in the photos. My kids and I love to paint and we use lots of paint. I’ve only been able to find the smallest containers in the chain stores near us, and the local art supply stores that cater to professionals and college students are very pricey. Is there an online site where you have found good deals on art supplies that are safe for kids (i.e. non-toxic and washable)? Thank you!

  13. Thank you for sharing what you do. What a great encouragement to new (er) homeschooling moms (like me). I am in the fourth year of HS’ing my son and I still feel like a newbie every year.

  14. Thanks for this very encouraging post! We have used all different types of homeschooling “methods” and don’t like to be cubby-holed. In our opinion, home school is real life education, that happens to include some lesson plans. 😉

  15. well said…we homeschool the exact same way.

    i spent my afternoon at the beach yesterday putting together this years curriculum for an 8, 10 and 13 year old. my 15 year old….{{gulp}}…is going to high school! YIKES!!

    thank you for sharing!

    lisa @thebeadgirl

  16. Wow!! What an encourgaing post. We are just setting out on our first year of homeschooling, so I am not quite as confident about my choices as you are yet, but I am definitely getting there!!!

    Thanks so much for the post!!!

  17. I am forwarding this to my husband (who is currently TDY) as it encompasses so much of what I have been reading and musing upon as I do my own research in anticipation of homeschooling my children after we PCS at the end of the year. (Whew!)

    Your general philosophy seems to mirror my own, and to confirm my convictions about homeschooling the more I read and the more I research! For when I’m not feeling completely daunted and overwhelmed, that is. 😉

    I’m hoping to be able to pick your brain some more in the weeks to come! Especially regarding record keeping, and high school requirements and transcripts. Erin told me you wouldn’t mind…? (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)

    One specific question: you mentioned your daughter is an eleventh grader, but you don’t do grade levels? Is this b/c her curriculum this year is based on that grade level? Is she also one who’s doing an online course?

    Looking forward to Thursday’s post! I love learning from you guys. 🙂

  18. Great ideas! Very encouraging. Unfortunately, I live in one of the states with the strictest regulations, which does limit some of what we can do. ):
    Glad to know that someone else out there is eclectic, as I LOVE doing a little bit of this method…and a little bit of that method. LOL.
    Thanks for your post…great stuff!!!

  19. I have to say I am not a homeschooling mama. But up until mine reach prek or school age I do a form of home schooling. I also believe that children learn by seeing and doing. I have found public schools put a lot of stress on our children. Also thru out the school year and summer we do a form of non teaching and learning. We go to libraries , parks and just enjoy our break. I do have a few questions about your 11th grader. How do you determine grade levels? Will you always homeschool. How will your daughter go to college will she go the tradtional route or online college? I am the mom of 6 boys and commend you on taking on such a large task. I thiink if I would have homeschooled from the beginning my kids would have enjoyed it. Thanks for the great tips

  20. thanks for sharing!! It’s wonderful to hear other’s experiences! I need to find some homeschoolers that would like to be penpals with my homeschoolers, so if you know of a group or whatnot, let me know!!

  21. These tips are so wonderful. Not comparing ourselves to each other is so important. What a blessing that we can all do things differently.

    Thank you for joining the Hip Homeschool Hop today!

    The Homeschool Chick

  22. Thanks for the reminder. I remember a few years back that I belonged to a co-op. The “it” thing to do that year was Curriculum X (don’t want to give the curriculum a bad name. Lets just say it is one of the all-in-one types). While it is a great curriculum and works for a lot of people I knew it would not be a fit for my family (atleast not at that time). Well talk about “peer pressure” (yes, it can even occur in the homeschool community). I had 10 families around me all doing this curriculum and here I was out of the loop. I pressed on and held to my guns and did NOT do the curriculum.

    It was interesting to see how it all played out. One by one I watched as my friends became frustrated and stopped using it. By the end of co-op, not one of the new families that started using it that year had finished.

    Talk about being thankful that not only did I save money by not using this curriculum but also time.

  23. Love this post… It actually came at the perfect moment. As I am getting ready to “Officially” Homeschool the first year with my 8yr old. He excels in most subjects and gets bored very easily in school, and had many issues with behavior last year due to being bored. I think this is the right solution for us, but as you put it “outside noise” thinks otherwise.. Sometimes its hard to know the right thing to do with all that. Plus I’m nervous, because we can’t afford a big budget… so we are going to kind of wing this year.. I’m hoping it all works out. I have a bit more faith after reading this post. SO, again I thank you!

  24. I found this a really interesting article, especially since I am about to start a teaching position in a public school. I hope that you have a great school year.

  25. What a wonderful article. You did a great job expressing your thoughts and ideas on all of this.
    We’ve homeschooled all the way through and loved it the whole way.
    It’s not for everyone , but for us, it’s been a huge blessing

  26. I love this! I found you on the Hip Homeschool Hop. I will certainly check your blog out more. I was really encouraged by some things you said and challenged in others. Thanks 🙂

  27. I really enjoyed reading about your homeschool.
    Thanks for sharing!

  28. I really enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Thank you soo much for such an encouraging piece. This will be my first year homeschooling my five year old daughter and I tend to panic and want to do everything. Looking forward to reading more of your advise.

  30. Ashley Shulski says:

    hey there Toni,

    First of all, I miss you. Second, great reading on how you and your family do homeschooling. I can see some of it working for my family as well..thank you. Will you be putting up the actual curricula you are using this coming year for each of your children? It really helps me with my kids who are close in age/levels to all of your kids.

    Take care,

  31. I came over from the Homeschool Hop. I adore this post! I hope you have a great year.

  32. Oh, how I needed this! We are ‘starting’ our second year of homeschooling (we decided to do year round) and I needed this boost of confidence/TRUTH to motivate me that I can DO IT! Thank you so much!

  33. Thanks so much for sharing. I love reading your blog; you are a great inspiration to me! I agree with so much of what you wrote. While for all intents and purposes I do have my kids’ grades listed… they do much of the same work only at their own pace. It doesn’t matter when they get it… it just matters that they do get it. If we have to go over something 1000 times before it clicks, then that’s what we do. I just love having the opportunity to be with them, day in and day out. God has truly blessed me with that ability!

  34. Well said. Thank you for writing this!

  35. Love your post! We agree on so many points…yes, there will be gaps, waiting to do tests, learning and living go hand in hand! Have a great school year.

  36. This is an excellent and encouraging post!! :o) As a mom of 2 homeschool graduates with 2 more to go I applaud you. :o) I am copying this link to share on my blog to hopefully encourage other homescool moms.

  37. thanks Toni! It is because of your compassion for Ray, that we are now starting year number six at home! I miss you dearly, my friend, and thank you for your words of encouragement!

  38. Hi!

    I love this piece! I just started homeschooling and there are tonnes of resourses out there and yes, it can get quite confusing…Thanks for making me not feel that I need to get everything!

  39. What a great post of encouragement!! Thanks for reigning me back in!! This will be my first year teaching 2 of my kids (9 & 4 1/2) & I’ve found myself being caught up in wanting this curriculum & that & have now realized I have about 5 math programs for 3rd grade!! OCD much?? lol. Anyway, thank you for reiterating what I already knew, but tend to forget…it’s about the time we spend with them, not what curriculum we use.

    First & foremost (for our family), it’s about pouring God’s love into them. Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ” If we as Christian homeschooling parents keep our eyes focused on Him & do what we have been called by Him to do, He will fill our children with all the knowledge they will need. Blessings to each of you!!

  40. Chandra says:

    Thanks for sharing! I often feel (know) our days of homeschooling are very dysfunctional and find it very hard to get up in the morning. Two of the three we still have at home are poor spellers. My almost 9 year old is a very poor reader and would much rather be read to than ever tell you what any word is!

    Thanks for reminding me it doesn’t matter how long it takes them to learn something as long as they learn it!

    Have a great summer!


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