Where do I start!?
Many an overwhelmed Mom has approached me this past month about where to start with home school. It's a difficult question to answer, honestly. I could answer this question about a dozen different ways and still not give you the answer you need, but I'm going to try! How I started may help you pick your starting point. Well, maybe I should tell you where I should have started, not where I did start. See my video on what I'd do differently if today was day one. It will lend some perspective, spoiler: I didn't start well.
The very short version of how to get started is simple. Who, What, When, Where and Why? The 5 W's have helped me in many a study session, but they're going to help us out with home school planning as well. Which kid, what topics, scheduling, a structured school space and what is our why, why are we home schooling! These questions help more than you may even realize. Let's talk it out.
Who? I need personalized curriculum for each kid. Zadok and Uriah aren't going to suddenly be learning the same math curriculum, it's important to remember that having a plan for the year doesn't mean having one plan to fit all three schooled kids. Three different sets of curriculum for three different kids, it is almost too simple to even mention, but when I first got started I really was trying to teach my two and three year old the same stuff. Naturally, Zadok caught on to a little more than Lana did because he had a whole year of life before she came about.
What? What do these kids need to be learning? Again, Uriah's very basic curriculum will have him learning colors, shapes, numbers and letters all through play. For both big kids I use a slightly more complex method. What does Lana need to know when she gets to Kindergarten? What she learns in Pre-k is going to set her up for success in Kindergarten if I reference a specific set of necessary skills for Kinder during Preschool. I do the same for Zadok. What should he know going into first grade? These lists are harder to find, so I don't have a link for you... but you get the idea, right? He should be able to recognize sight words, add single digits, etc. We work on those during Kindergarten to prepare him well for first grade.
This is where normal mom's would chose a set curriculum. I like to make extra work for myself, so I usually create my own. If I'm gifted a curriculum, I will use it. Sometimes I'm gifted teacher work books, but not kid books. Where I can, I make my own work books, but for things like All About Reading, I order work books online. I try to make this whole process as cheap for myself as possible. Spending a few hours creating solid content for the kids is a better option for me than spending excessively on books.
When? Where are we carving out the time in our day to do school? This is where a schedule or a routine would serve you well. We don't do a tied down schedule. Nothing is planned hour by hour in our house except necessary appointments. I've always been a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person, so naturally that has spilled over into my adult life. There is nothing wrong with flying by the seat of your pants, BUT if you have kiddo's who do not thrive in this environment (@ myself) it's your turn to adapt to them. Please don't make your orderly, routine focused child give up their own safe feeling of structured learning. As an adult it's up to you to meet their needs, not the other way around. Make it happen.
For me this means having a routine, even if it drives me insane because Zadok is a routine thriver. Having his day planned out for him is so helpful to him. He feels safe and secure knowing that after the "third eating time" (known to normal humans as dinner), he will be cleaning his playroom and heading to bed. So we have a rough routine mapped out for each day. Nothing has a set number of hours or start time, but we know that after lunch is school and after school is outdoor play time. It helps us a lot and it doesn't restrict me to the point of losing my marbles.
This is also a really good time to mention that not a lot of time needs to be dedicated to direct instruction. If you are using your whole life as a learning tool, learning games, learning shows, learning chats over dinner, you don't need to be sitting at a desk for hours a day. Especially your little, little ones, like mine, only need 20-40 minutes per day of direct instruction. They'll soak up so much in those short periods of time, you'll be shocked!
Where? Where in your home are you doing school? This seems to be the biggest hangup for some mommy's who find themselves suddenly educating their kids at home thanks to COVID. I understand your dilemma, we did not always have space for what we have now! You can do your school space as simply or extravagantly as you want or need. This is another great time to look at your kiddo's needs.
Lana does much better sitting at a table, distraction free with her worksheets. Zadok enjoys being up and jumping around in a loud space for his school time. The jury is still out on Uriah's preferences. Based on my big kids needing such different venues for schooling, we do school separately and in different rooms. Lana will do school at the desk without much direct instruction, she just needs a worksheet explained and she'll work for an hour without much help. Zadok will need constant direction in a loud, open space without any furniture hindering his dancing through his addition quizing. None of this is one size fits all!
This next question is nearest and dearest to me. Why are you home schooling your kids? Without answering this question you are going to get burnt out. Honestly, you will. My answer to this question is very simple: I feel called to educate my kids at home. Some of you are looking around like, "this girl is crazy." You may be right, but when God gave me the gift that is these children, I felt an overwhelming pull to educate them at home. When I can't do it, I ask God to help me through and somehow we always make it.
Maybe you're just COVID-schooling and that is plenty of motivation! Maybe your reasons are less spiritual than mine, and that's great too! The important part of answering this question is to keep you, the adult, from going so insane that you throw your hands up and enroll them immediately. I'm very sure we will all feel this way from time to time. Just bring yourself back to your why over and over again. If home school genuinely isn't working for your kids, or my kids, then re-evaluate. There is no rule book that says you can't change your plans to better fit your child's needs!
The most important thing to remember about all of the advice you receive, whether it be from me or not, is that one size never fits all in home school. Your kids needs above all. My kids have vastly different needs, so we tailor each kids experience a bit differently. Your kids school day may look entirely different than what I've lined out here and that's perfect! What works for you is best for you! If you're overwhelmed about where to start, how to start or even why, sit down and map it all out for yourself. This process has helped me a lot!