Home School

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Photo by Jeramey Jannene

One of the myths that many new homeschooling families fall prey to is that you have to spend money to educate your children. When you are just starting out, I suggest that you hide your credit cards. One wise mom advised new homeschoolers to leave their wallets in the car when visiting curriculum fairs. If a purchase is not worth the trip back out to the car, it is probably unnecessary. For elementary students, there is not much you need beyond a library card, some paper and pencils. If you have a computer and a printer, you have a fully functioning school. Everything else is extra or can be found around the house or cheaply at thrift stores or dollar stores. Let me show you how.

The Library


Guess what? I never taught my children how to read. Instead, we read and read and read. By the time they were five years old, they all instinctively knew how to read, having been read to since birth. Have you considered using real books in your homeschooling? Textbooks are often dry and boring to read. Living books, on the other hand, are full of inspiration and are fascinating to young minds. My kids learned more about frontier life from Laura Ingalls Wilder than from any history text. We read stories, picture books, books about frogs, books on the civil war, biographies, myths – the variety is endless. Our elementary science program has largely consisted of library finds. Books we can’t buy, we check out. This has saved us lots of money and lots of shelf space. When we find a book that we check out again and again, we know that it’s worth spending a bit to own. Then we scour used book dealers before heading to Amazon.

Find out all you can about your local library. Make friends with all of the librarians. Know your checkout limit. We are lucky enough to have a wonderful library system. Our checkout limit (sometimes unknown by the newer librarians) is 999. This is probably unusual, but even if your library limits you to 5 books, you can choose books for 5 subjects. Many libraries now have online renewal capabilities, so fines are more easily avoided. I also suggest that you designate a shelf, box or bag to keep your library materials safe and accounted for.

The Printer is Your Friend


Do yourself a favor and invest in a good printer. This does not mean that you must rush to your local big box store and buy the latest printer with all the bells and whistles. I just bought a lovely Dell laser printer for well under $100. A laser printer is nice because you may be printing a lot. Lasers have the advantage of being faster and the toner lasts longer, too, despite being more expensive. I’ve gone through several printers, mostly used and free, and the laser was the best by far. We get many public books online and print out copies for everyone. You can take them to your local copy store to get it spiral bound, or invest in your own binding machine from the office supply store. I would not be able to homeschool if I had to purchase all my books.

I use my printer in many other ways. I make labels for time lines, print out paper dolls to use for story narrations, create assignment sheets and handwriting paper, and print out maps for the kids to color. The possibilities are endless.

The Computer/Internet


If you have a computer with internet access, the world is literally at your fingertips. There are art museums, music libraries, and readings on every topic imaginable. Some curriculum, such as the Ambleside Online Curriculum, are available for free online. With a computer, you have access to homeschooling tools, such as planners, assignment sheets, maps, and handwriting resources. Even without internet access, you can create presentations, charts, and other materials.

Don’t forget about open source software, such as OpenOffice, which are free to download and use. The full version includes a writing program, a spreadsheet program, presentation software, a drawing program, a database program and formula software. I now use OpenOffice instead of it’s Microsoft counterparts and am a very happy camper.

When it comes time to plan your year, don’t automatically think that you must grab your credit card or checkbook. See if you can find it free first!

Do you have any money-saving ideas for homeschooling ? Let me know in the comments section.

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Photo by Adrian Gtz

I am almost used to having a boy in school. Almost. If you are homeschooling a special needs child and are thinking of sending your child to public school, I want to send you some words of encouragement. I have been homeschooling my 3 sons for 12 years, Birthday season is almost here, but right now, my boys are 12, 9 and 6.

Until Now…


My eldest has Asperger’s Syndrome. His main issues were sensory(all areas but eating and food), but he also has some auditory processing issues and sequencing issues, plus some day to day issues that just can’t be categorized. Since he has never been to public school, I have always just used his age when telling folks what grade he is in. So, he is in the 7th Grade.

Up until now, homeschool has helped us work through many of these issues. However, this year we decided to put him in public school because our mornings were constantly filled with tears and we weren’t getting any “school” done, only meltdown interventions. We decided to try him in the neighborhood middle school in the middle of 7th grade.

The First Hurdle


At first, I thought this would be horrible. To start with, this school required uniforms. We had never been able to get him to wear anything but t-shirts and jeans. Button downs and slacks were out of the question. He was just as picky about the colors – no white and only dark colors. As for shoes, he had worn the same brand, color and style for 4 years. To my utter amazement, when we told him that it was “the rule”, he cheerfully helped pick out his uniform, a white polo shirt, khaki pants with a belt and black on black shoes. I tried to give him as much control and ownership over the process as I could.

Problems were solved without me


I have to admit, the first week was an emotional one, but mostly for me. His biggest complaint was that he didn’t like waking up early and he didn’t like having to follow a strict schedule. I noticed that learning where his classes were was a challenge, but he got through it. In fact, with the exception of a small meltdown AT HOME during ONE homework assignment, he has been all smiles. He recovered quickly from that meltdown and was able to correctly complete the assignment. His teachers have seen the beginnings of meltdowns but quickly moved in to mitigate the situation. I never heard about them until much later.



All of the issues that I thought would be a problem just weren’t. The crowds, the noise, the smells, having to sit next to strangers (this is a biggie for him) were non-issues. By the second week, he had memorized his schedule, learned where his classes were, and had communicated with his teachers and the administration. By the 3rd or 4th week, he was beginning to talk to other students. I think that now, he actually enjoys public school, though the computer class and the robotics may have something to do with that. He also enjoyed dissecting a frog.

Be Open


I was very up front about my son’s diagnosis with the administration. I told them exactly what his issues and triggers were. He does not yet qualify for Special Ed and he may not. It turned out that his math teacher was a former Special Ed teacher and that his other teachers were more than willing to accommodate his needs. His science teacher moved him closer to the front and all were willing to listen to him and help him navigate public school life. His shop teacher even sat with him at lunch that first day and chatted about how things were going. I just had a mid-year conference with all of his teachers and got glowing reviews from all of them.

In Hindsight


If I could do it over again, I would have enrolled him in 5th grade, where there is less movement from class to class and where he might have an easier time getting used to the public school environment. My son did not use the bathroom the first day because he wasn’t sure when he could do that. I helped him by organizing his binder every night and going over all of his homework. I also still remind him to turn things in. I temporarily suspended all of his chore requirements during the weekdays and often tidy up his room for him. These are small things that I can do that take some of the pressure off him, and make time for his homework.

At Home and At Public School


I still homeschool my neurotypical sons. I do not know if they will want to attend public school. (My middle child will be in the 5th grade next fall.) But I have seen a dramatic change in my eldest. He is all smiles these days. No matter what he learns or doesn’t learn in public school, he is learning the invaluable lessons of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. He is learning to interact with life beyond our front door. The academics are a bonus. I still plan to homeschool in the summer because I do not want kids doing nothing all summer. But we can have a light load and pick up his favorites that he left behind, like Greek, Latin, and some readings.

The Big Picture


While I dearly love homeschooling, with Asperger’s, I have had to look beyond the academics and decide how to best serve my son, who will enter society at large someday. Before, I was really truly worried that my son would never be able to leave home, get a job and live on his own. My doubts are still there, but they are retreating. He is now looking forward to “choice sheet night” this week, when he will choose his classes for 8th grade. I do not know if he will attend public high school. My husband and I have decided to take it one semester at a time, knowing that if things are not working, we can withdraw him at any time to attend our “private school”.

Communication is Key


As for Special Ed, as you know, there are many hoops to jump through. Make sure you start jumping before his first day. And communicate, communicate communicate with the teachers, administrators. Get to know the cafeteria lady and the librarian. (The janitor told my son that “at this school we tuck our shirts in, son.”)They are there to help your child have a positive experience. Ask directly for what you need, but don’t be afraid to let go a little and let your child flourish.

While your child may have other issues, I urge you not to underestimate him. Take it one day at a time and communicate with your child. He will tell you if things are not right. You will know how things are going even if he says nothing. Build strong support at home and there is nothing he can’t do.

My youngest is in the first grade. It’s funny…when one has multiple children, there is a certain Mommy Amnesia that sets in, causing one to forget that one’s other children went through the same stages. R has always had difficulty focusing on and completing his work. (The other two did also at his age.) Lately, I have strayed from the Charlotte Mason model of short lessons and tried to get him to focus for longer than he is really capable. The result is a boy who is very difficult to teach.

Charlotte Mason said in her Original Homeschooling Series, vol 1 pg 142:

…the lessons are short, seldom more than twenty minutes in length for children under eight; and this, for two or three reasons. The sense that there is not much time for his sums or his reading, keeps the child’s wits on the alert and helps to fix his attention; he has time to learn just so much of any one subject as it is good for him to take in at once: and if the lessons be judiciously alternated––sums first, say, while the brain is quite fresh; then writing, or reading––some more or less mechanical exercise, by way of a rest; and so on, the program varying a little from day to day, but the same principle throughout––a ‘thinking’ lesson first, and a ‘painstaking’ lesson to follow,––the child gets through his morning lessons without any sign of weariness.

Without further ado, here is R’s new schedule.

First/Second Grade Schedule

  Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
20 Minutes 8:30 – 8:50 Old Testament New Testament Italics Old Testament New Testament
20 Minutes 8:50 – 9:10 Italics Drawing Reading Reading Reading
10 Minutes 9:10 – 9:20 Repetition – Poem Repetition – Poem Reading Reading Repetition – Poem
10 Minutes 9:20 – 9:30 Latin Artist Study Latin Latin Natural History
20 Minutes 9:30 – 9:50 Math Handcrafts Math Composer Study Math
15 Minutes 9:50 – 10:05 Piano Greek Piano Greek Spelling
15 Minutes 10:05 – 10:20 Science FREE Science FREE Science
30 Minutes 10:20 – 10:50 Reading Math Spelling Health Handcrafts
10 Minutes 10:50 – 11:00 Natural History Reading Geography Math Geography
20 Minutes 11:00 – 11:20 FREE Spelling FREE Spelling FREE

Thanks to Carol Hepburn at Hepburn Family Homepages for providing the inspiration for my new 1st/2nd grade schedule.

FREESpellingFREESpellingFREE11:00 – 11:2020 MinutesGeographyMathHandcraftsHealthScienceFREESpellingGreekMathComposer StudyNatural History LatinRepetition – PoemReadingReading ReadingNew Testament Old Testament FridayThursdayGeographyReadingNatural History 10:50 – 11:0010 MinutesSpellingSciencePiano MathLatinReadingReadingItalics WednesdayMathReading10:20 – 10:5030 Minutes FREEScience10:05 – 10:2015 MinutesGreekPiano9:50 – 10:0515 Minutes HandcraftsArtist StudyRepetition – PoemDrawingNew Testament TuesdayMath9:30 – 9:5020 Minutes Latin9:20 – 9:3010 MinutesRepetition – Poem9:10 – 9:2010 MinutesItalicsOld TestamentMonday8:50 – 9:1020 Minutes8:30 – 8:5020 MinutesTime

When Things Are Not Working, Change and Follow Through

Our lives have recently changed dramatically. My 12 year old has just started public school. It was a fairly quick decision on the surface, but really, it had been on our minds for many months. T has not really been thriving in our home school environment. Since the beginning of this year, he has been tearful and has not been able to complete a full day’s worth of work more for than one day at a time. On most days, he was only able to complete 1 subject. Every now and then, he would surprise me and complete several subjects; but mostly, it was tears and frustration for us both.

At first, I blamed this difficulty on his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome . We have had to work through sensory issues, fine motor problems, emotional issues and processing issues. On the other hand, I had said many times, “If you can’t be successful here at home, you will need to go to the school down the road.” This is the strict parent speaking. I realize that this had been, up until now, an empty threat. I know that such threats are not conducive to learning. I realized that at this point, at 12 years old and in the 7th grade, some thing would have to change soon, as high school and college are growing closer.

A Sudden Transition

Our transition was rather sudden. In a perfect world, I would have gradually gotten him ready for public school in the fall. Starting in the early spring, I would have looked for a good school, gone to the orientation day in the fall, toured the school ahead of time and mentally prepared T for the atmosphere of public school. Of course, this is not what happened. One Monday in November, before Thanksgiving, I decided to put him into 7th grade at the neighborhood middle school. We all put away our studies for the day to get the paperwork from the school office, buy a uniform and supplies, and retrieve his vaccination records from his pediatrician. The next day, he started.

Throughout all the preparation, I could tell by looking into T’s eyes that he was nervous. I was a wreck and tried not to cry a mother’s tears, usually reserved for kindergartners, now flowing for my 6 foot tall adolescent. However, he was cheerful and helpful throughout the entire process. There were so many new things to adjust to, for me and for him. We both had about 10 new people in our lives. T also had the campus map to contend with as well as unfamiliar routines, crowds, bells and other sensory bombardments. But we both survived. We got through it all. The things I thought would bother T were non issues.

I Love the Smiles

T seems to be a very well-adjusted middle-schooler. His first report card is filled with A’s. Academically, I have no real worries, though, as with any child that age, I still have to remind him to turn in his homework. More importantly, the tears are gone. T has started smiling again. Most days, he gets into the van full of tales of the day – and the smiles…I love the smiles.

Our lives are now filled with taking T to and from school, helping him with his homework and washing his uniform. His weekday chores are suspended for now, as he gets used to his new life, and I am sure he’s happy about that. We plan to take things one semester at a time. The younger two are now starting to think about public school in the fall. On the other hand, now that we all have to get up early to get T to school on time, they finish their schoolwork by noon.

Today is a slow day. T did not sleep last night, so I expect him to take a nap. He was the first one started on his school work and is slowly completing his math (or reading the body book for boys).

R is participating in school only minimally. He is up for reading, but not for writing. Right now he is in time out for not doing his work. I wonder how long he’ll sit there.

I’m trying to write for at least 15 minutes every day during school time. Nothing too personal in this journal, as folks could be looking over my shoulder. This means you, D !

Five minutes left. What to write???

D is practicing his Pyon Moo Do techniques. We spoke briefly about his home and school stripes. He did a good job not complaining about writing a 3 – 5 sentence narration. I think I’ll work on getting him up to 10 sentences. Then, have him choose those that are about the same theme and put them together into a paragraph. Or, I could ask for more information and have him expand just one of his sentences. If I choose the latter, I’ll most likely keep the list to 5 – 7 sentences.

R  just tried to get up. I told him to sit until he was ready to complete his work. He’s starting to squirm.

We have almost 4 weeks left of summer. We’ve been slacking this summer, but are starting anew after Labor Day. I have just enough time to order last minute books and get the curriculum charts ready. The 6yo is very excited about starting Year 1 of Ambleside. In addition, his Greek, Latin, and Italics books came in the mail. We have to purge his shelf to make room for his new books.

Though Ambleside has schedules already made up, I find that making a chart helps me keep track easier. I can see at a quick glance where I am in the year and what is lacking for the week. I divide the 36 week schedule into 3 12 week terms. My eldest, who  has Asperger’s Syndrome, works slower than the schedule. I spread the 36 week schedule out, taking 1-2 weeks to every week scheduled. If I let him see the Ambleside schedule, he thinks he is too far behind. In my mind, he is where he is. This year, as encouragement, I plan to award a book from the bookstore for every 12 weeks completed.

Since I’m back from a very long blog vacation, I’ll have to learn how to upload an image, so stay tuned.

The New List

I really don’t have much to report, but didn’t want to neglect this blog for long. I haven’t been writing because, well, we’ve been busy with school and life. Both boys are finished (or will finish in a couple of days) with their current Greek books. I’m starting to compose my supply list/book order.

So far, here’s what I have:

  • Greek for both boys
  • Time line cards
  • Greek flashcards and CD
  • Various Ambleside books
  • A Latin-English Dictionary
  • An up-to-date atlas

All that and a holiday gift or two for each boy. Oy! 

I’m back. We actually started back promptly on September 2 and have not missed a day yet. I’ve revamped our schedule so that we have 5 weeks on and 2 weeks off year round. I felt that there were many things around the house that weren’t getting done and that was frustrating me. I am a true perfectionist and like to try to do more than is humanly possible. T balked a bit upon hearing this, because disruptions really bother him. I told him that he could continue on in the subjects that require minimal Mom time, so that he can keep his schedule. Someday, he’ll make a great project manager, if he, too can let go of that perfectionism. During the weeks off, I will attempt to paint the little boys room and catch up on some household projects that have been nagging on me. We’ll probably do a lot of yard work as well.

School-wise, I’ve finally learned that we don’t have to do it all.  For Ambleside, it seems to be taking T longer than expected, so we’re stretching one year out a bit. He’ll still be keeping up his grade level work in subjects such as Math, Spelling, Dictation, Latin, & Greek. I’m just not packing so many readings in, but spreading them out a bit more.

Here’s what I have scheduled for both T & D (I’m teaching R to read and write and life skills):

Daily Work

  • Math
  • Spelling
  • Italics or Copy work
  • Latin
  • Greek
  • Piano or Typing
  • Ambleside Readings and Narrations (T is working on Year 3 and is also doing written narrations, D is working on Year 1 and only does oral narrations)
  • T does written narrations 1 or 2 times a week and dictation once a week.
  • Science is done as a group read aloud. We also watch various science and nature videos throughout the month.

One thing that I have been lax about is a history time line. T has expressed the need for one. I am not crafty, as evidenced by our untouched time line notebook. My school project for the next month is to find a ready made time line to post or copy one from our book.

Finally, I need to remind myself that with more children, comes the necessity of focusing on the basics of Math, Spelling, Reading and Handwriting. Everything else is icing on the cake. Some things are sprinkles.

UPDATE: I’ve been doing a little research on time lines. I found this and this.  Still looking, but getting closer to a solution.

We’ve been taking a hiatus from our studies lately. We did complete 175 out of 180 scheduled school days. But, I’ve really needed a break. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be planning & purchasing for the next year. Stay tuned… 

We have had school every day this week, though at a reduced pace. I really need a break, but don’t think we can really afford to take a long one. T has been doing most of his work solo, concentrating on math, italics, Latin and his readings. D has been doing math and a little Latin.

It amused T and D yesterday, as I lie in bed with a dehydration-induced migraine (don’t ask), that they were able to get ahead of me in Latin by watching their next class on DVD without me. They also drilled R in the Gloria Patri and the Sanctus . R likes to make a pun on the words, et terra, pretending to tear a piece of paper and giggling! Smart boy!

Finally, it’s so hot here that I want nothing to do but crank down the air conditioning and sit in a cold tub. Alas, due to the recent bill from the utility, that is not to be.  I’ll just have to move slower.

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