Friday, July 22, 2011

Homeschooling on a Budget

One of the challenges that comes with any kind of teaching is managing the cost.  With so many great books and resources available, it would be easy to spend the equivalent of school tuition on fun materials.  While there are some things I did splurge on, many of the materials I will be using are available at little or no cost.
The first place I looked when I started preparing my scope and sequence was in my bookshelves.  In addition to owning a frighteningly large collection of children’s and young adult books, I also have the textbooks from Miss N’s and Mr. B’s year at home as well as some other textbooks that have found their way into my library.  In addition, my Kindle provides access to many free books (particularly classics). These resources provided a starting point for planning my curriculum.
The second place I looked for needed books and resources was the public library.  Knowing that there were certain books that they would have read this year if they had continued in their old school, I decided to include some of those books in our plan for the year at home.  A few minutes on the city library’s website confirmed that these books are in circulation, and I need only make sure that I check on a regular basis to ensure that the books are available when needed.
My next resource for finding teaching materials was the internet.  Teaching and planning aids are readily available from many websites devoted to teachers and homeschoolers alike.  Lessonpathways.com is one resource that provides a full curriculum for elementary grades.  I prefer to develop my own scope and sequence, but with so many pathways (or thematic units) available, I have found this site to be a treasure.  There are also great interactive programs that provide practice and assessment for skills.  PeakSmart is a math program that I intend to use for skills practice for Miss C. and Mr. D.  Currently, they only offer Pre-K through third grade, but they plan to add additional grades in the future.
So, what have I bought?  I bought a large world map for the wall of the schoolroom, a handwriting worktext for Miss C., and some activities for Mr. D., who will need to be occupied while we are working.  I will purchase a subscription to Looney Tunes Phonics for Miss C. to reinforce her phonics skills and to SmartTutor Reading and Math for skills practice for Miss J.  I’m sure there will be other purchases, but for now, I’m grateful to have such a wealth of educational resources available at little cost.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homeschooling Again!

When I had the opportunity to homeschool my oldest children two years ago, I was nervous, excited, and well...nervous.  How could I put together full curricula for a junior high student and a high school student in all subjects in such a short time?  So, with my husband's encouragement, I checked into TTUISD and enrolled them both for the year.  It was a good program; it was structured, provided all of the materials that we needed, and gave them their introduction to final exams (which I believe should be experienced at least once before college).  But I was a little disappointed to not have a say in which books they read, and there was so much to do that providing significant enrichment was difficult to fit into the schedule.

In the end, both kids missed being with friends, and so our local university model school was a good option for them when their year at home ended.  I still got them two days a week, and they were involved in whatever activities the school provided.  It was a good solution for our younger daughters, too, who got to spend three days a week with me.

But this summer has brought changes in priorities and interests.  My oldest wants to take an online math course, and stay at school for the rest of the day.  My other teenager wants me to teach her history and English classes, but will attend the morning classes and science class at school.  Our youngest will attend pre-K for half a day.  We signed up the little girls for half day as well.

Then the younger of the two asked if I could homeschool her all day.  I asked her if she could try half days for a week or two and see if she liked it.  She asked again.  I reminded her that she only had to try it.  Then her older sister asked if she could homeschool.  I wavered.  After all, it would save a lot of money.  I could spend a lot more time with the girls, who often didn't see much of me when the older kids had football games, basketball games, or track meets.  And I would get to design my own curriculum.

I love curriculum.  I love diving into a book and pulling concepts, words, and ideas for activities out of it.  I love looking for ways to take facts and make them relevant.  This is something that a homemaker isn't often called on to do.  When I thought about it, I really wanted to homeschool.  After all, that is why I had a scope and sequence for the history and English class I was preparing to teach all three girls (modifying for each child so that the material is on the appropriate level, of course) pretty much done by the end of June.  I'm excited about reading books with them, doing hands-on-math, and guiding their learning. 

And that's why, two days after we made the decision, I already have the first three weeks of school planned.  I can hardly wait to get started!