Our First Year Homeschooling and What I learned Along the Way

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We made it! I’m so excited.  The end of the school year is here.  Our son just completed his first year homeschooling and oh what a year it has been.

Pre-School Homeschooling

We had been thinking of homeschooling the kids for quite a while and there were many determining factors that helped us in our decision.  I hope to expound on this subject in future posts. We also have a lot of support within the community for homeschooling families and several programs that I as able to take advantage of when our son was very young. For example, before it unfortunately shut down, we had a local science center that allowed children beginning at the age of 2 to sign up for an age appropriate science class held once a week for 45 minutes. It was the sweetest little thing I have ever seen.  The teacher was good at her job.  She knew the learning capacity of our little ones and wanted to spark that love of learning early on. I must say, she succeeded.

At two years old, Mr. T was learning about electricity and participating in child friendly labs.  It was completely hands on, and the parents were able to stay for the duration of class to assist with the little ones. Danny and I both enjoyed going with him.

The local Botanical Gardens has a similar class in place for very young children as well as homeschool classes for kids ages 5 and up. Not only was the class fun and educational, but we both loved the gorgeous surroundings and strolling through the gardens on good weather days.

The abc’s of early learning

Educational Games for 2-8 Year Olds

It was also around this time that we started an ABCmouse.com Early Learning Academy subscription.  ABCmouse.com is a fun subscription-based digital education program for children ages 2–8. Children can access learning activities on the ABCmouse.com website or mobile app. Subjects covered include reading, math, science, social studies, music, and art. It has always been a favorite of Mr T’s. This is no longer his main curriculum since beginning kindergarten, but we’ve started Baby Girl on it and allow her big brother to use it as a supplement. He is still very much a fan. If you have any little ones in your life, they will probably enjoy it too. Click here and try it free for 30 days. One thing that made the online learning experience much better for our kids was purchasing a kiddie sized mouse that is perfect for tiny hands like the Clevy Kids Mouse seen below.

 

Mr. T’s Space Place

In addition to those classes, I purchased a family membership to Mr. T’s favorite place, The U.S. Space and Rocket Center. It is part of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Travel Passport program. As a member of a science center or museum participating in the ASTC Travel Passport Program, you are eligible for benefits such as free general admission when you travel outside of your local area. There are some exclusions, so make sure you double check the guidelines the list of all of the participating museums and science centers in each state and around the world! I’ve used this provision before, and plan on using it many more times in the future.

Deciding to Oficially Homeschool Mr.T

I realize that homeschooling isn’t for every family, but this is something I really wanted to do. I’ve been fortunate throughout the process. Several of my friends homeschool their children and we frequently get together for classes, field trips, and play dates. My oldest sister has successfully homeschooled one child to graduation, has another that will be a senior next school year, and one more still in elementary school. Seeing her success gave me the confidence to jump right in.  Last August Danny and I decided to go ahead and just do it.  Like most other children his age, Mr. T.  is a fun loving ball of energy who is more than eager to learn.  At the time, he was only four years old…but we chose to go ahead and start schooling him anyway. I know, I know… that is early, but if I had enrolled him in accordance with the local school system, I would have had to wait until this coming school year to start him in kindergarten.  Why wait? He already knew his ABC’s, he could count up to 100 and beyond, I had been teaching him how to read, and he was beginning basic math.  He is obsessed with all things about space and was VOLUNTARILY watching NASA documentaries at the age of 2!!! Oh, when Netflix stopped carrying his favorite documentary, When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions, I instantly knew I’d have to search Amazon and see if I could buy it there. Phew! Fortunately they had the entire 4 disc set, and reasonably priced too!  I finally realized that we had been essentially “homeschooling all along. Why should I wait an entire year when I am just going to continue to teach and build on the skills he is already learning?

Picking the Right Homeschool Curriculum

As far as curricula go, I’ve tried different ones this past year. Since we are starting out early,  we’ve been able to pace ourselves and really work on getting in the groove of things.  It has been our trial year, I guess you can say.  That’s the best part about kindergarten, a rigid structure is not required. I experimented with several homeschool resources and a couple of different curriculums. I needed to figure out how Mr. T learns best and adjust my teaching methods accordingly. Two curricula we tried were Acellus Academy and  Time4Learning.

It’s Time For Learning

Time4Learning is by far his favorite.  It makes learning fun so much so that he is genuinely excited about his school work and ASKS ME to do it.  Time4Learning’s curriculum is made up of thousands of learning activities, lessons, and assessments which provide a standards-based education program for preschool through high school. Children are presented with an ongoing sequence of lessons that provide a much more valuable educational experience than the isolated lessons that learning games provide. Even if your children are not home schooled, Time4Learning  is a great supplemental tool that can be used throughout the school year or during the summer months when school is out.  Click here to visit their site and give the free demos a try. Plus, did I mention that Time4Learning offers a 14 day money back guarantee? What do you have to lose?

While I chose to focus mainly on online learning this past year, I believe he’s ready for a little more book work now.  This school year we will be starting the West Brooke Curriculum. I still plan on keeping my membership for Time4Learning . He absolutely LOVES it and It will be used as supplemental material during the summer and throughout the rest of the school year. It is also nice to have a backup in place for moments when our daughter, “Baby K” requires a little extra attention.

My Take on Being A New Homeschool Mom

So, what’s my takeaway from this past year?

  1. BE FLEXIBLE! While it is good to set a schedule, don’t forget that life happens. Depending on the method and the curriculum, rolling with the punches won’t be that difficult and cause you to get too far behind.  After all, that was one of my reasons for doing this in the first place…I LOVE the flexibility and freedom it affords our family.
  2. DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF. Especially if this is your first year.  It’s going to take some getting used to and you will definitely have to gradually find your rhythm.
  3. DON’T BE TOO HARD ON THE KIDS. Whether it’s their actual first year of schooling period, or their first year schooling at home, this is a new experience for our children too.  It may take time for them to get the hang of it just like us..maybe even more so.
  4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SWITCH IT UP.   If a certain method or curriculum isn’t working for your child, it’s ok to research all of your options and make a change if you can.  You may find that you and your child both end up enjoying yourselves more.
  5. ENJOY YOUR KIDS. Having the chance to educate our children is not something to be taken for granted.  Now, I’m not saying every day is going to be sunshine and rainbows…but even on the hard days, I have to remind myself that this will one day be a thing of the past and I have to enjoy the journey as a whole and focus on the good times I am able to have with T and Baby K. Are there any other homeschooling mamas out there? How did your school year turn out? Anyone else interested in trying to homeschool? Stay tuned…I’ll definitely be writing more about this.

For a list of the recommended educational courses mentioned in this article, please visit Big Little Mommy’s “Recommendations” page.


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10 thoughts on “Our First Year Homeschooling and What I learned Along the Way

  1. Amber says:

    Congratulations on making it the first year! My mom homeschooled me K-12 and it was a great adventure.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Keep up the good work, mama! 🙂

  2. Envelle says:

    Congratulations on finishing your first year homeschooling! I’m starting to look into homeschooling now and I love the tips you shared in this post. Thanks!

    • Ashley says:

      Thank you! Overall, it really has been a good year. I wish you the best. If you do decide to homeschool…enjoy it.

  3. Nay says:

    Thank you so much for making this post. It answered a lot of questions I had about homeschooling. What I love the most about this post are all the tools that you offer so that I can have a place to start. I also loved your take on being a new homeschooling mom. An inspirational post for anyone who is thinking of homeschooling.

    • Ashley says:

      You’re very welcome. I hope it can help others. Getting started can be the hard part…once you get going, you just go with the flow. I appreciate all of the help others have given me. I’m glad you will be able to use this info. too.

    • Ashley says:

      Thank you. It really has been nice. Challenging at times no doubt, but I’m glad we gave it a try. Having a support system definitely helps.

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