Most of you probably know by now that we are a homeschool family. For any parent with school age kids you know that each new year brings fresh excitement and new challenges. Since we’ve been on this homeschool “journey” as a family we have been blessed to have great support and success with our kids, which we don’t take for granted.
We started homeschooling when my oldest was 4. We had her enrolled in Kumon and she was a quick learner, eager to read and sharp at math. I was working limited hours as a physician assistant so I could have more time at home with my still nursing baby girl and we were already considering what we would do with our oldest for kindergarden education. We had a couple very good private schools in our area (we lived in MD then) but, we began to consider homeschool as a viable option for her early education. We found ourselves connecting with different homeschool families all around us (my mommy buddy at the girls ballet studio, my husband’s coworkers, parents from our church community) and we decided to do a trial run of home education for a year. We received curriculum recommendations and chose a kindergarten curriculum for our daughter, thinking that it would be challenging for her and if it was a disaster then we’d just go on to enroll her in traditional school when she turned 5 like all her friends.
Well, that year at home with her worked wonderfully! Thanks to the comprehensive curriculum I used (My Father’s World) both my daughter and I learned a lot over that year and fell into a comfortable routine, developing a confidence that this could be a great option for our child’s future education.
Later that year we ended up moving to Florida (pleasant surprise and a wonderful decision) and we ran into some challenges with the local private schools regarding what grade she would enter that year. She was 5 but had completed her kindergarden year as a homeschooler (I had kept her portfolio). I met with one of the private schools in the area and they were hesitant to place her in 1 st grade based on her age; they wouldn’t even test her for competency. It was late in the summer and I didn’t feel like fighting with school systems and pushing for that school year so I we decided to continue her home education for first grade!
By her second grade year we were able to find a private school that offered state approved umbrella coverage for homeschoolers; by providing her records for her completed kindergarten year and by maintaining current portfolios for her new year, she was accepted as a student of the school (bypassing my need to report to FL Dept of Education). She was allowed to participate in all extracurricular sports at the school and music classes etc. She even was included in the biannual standardized testing for her grade level which was important to me.
Even though we love the uniquely tailored education that homeschooling provides, we want our children to be able to move smoothly into the traditional setting at any time if we need to make a change. We also understand that our current education and professional culture is very “test based”. And even if we homeschool her through high school, she would still need test taking skills to excel on college entry exams and other professional exams in her future.
By her third grade year (last year) we were able to find a newer umbrella school that offered more options for her. Circle Christian School offers multiple study tracks for their elementary grade levels (most are literature based, creating art, social studies, history and language arts studies from a variety children’s books). This school offers an easy reporting system online ( I submit grades monthly and even keep track of her learning in comparison to the state benchmarks for her grade) and they also provide online standardized testing for every grade. Families have the choice of using the curricula provided by the school or any program of their choosing; our first year at Circle we created our own study plan by using different programs for each subject.
This year I have both girls enrolled at Circle and we are using Abeka Academy online as our own curriculum. One day a week they are in class with their peers where they have a blast; every quarter there are presentation days in which the students present class projects/programs for parents (developing valuable presentation/public speaking skills). After school they have a choice of participating is organized sports (even competing with local christian schools), drama, science labs and music classes. This school has truly been a blessing to me and my family on our homeschool journey. We also love Abeka though we are still in the growing phase with that program; I’ll have to write about that separately…
I am by no means an expert at homeschooling. I’m sure there are a lot of other mothers out there who have it all figured out but I’m learning as I go. I am happy we have found a system that works well for us and that our girls truly enjoy. For those of you who homeschool, do you have any tips to share that make homeschooling work for your family?