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Homeschool Help for Beginners

Someone asked me this week for some tips for beginners.  "What will help?" is such a broad question!  Here are my suggestions.

First, you can work together with your kids, either by grouping them together in close age groups, or by studying the same content but at different levels.  In other words, you can use Sonlight Curriculum and group them together, younger kids doing world history for elementary school, and older kids doing world history for junior high and high school.  Although some curricula say they are multi-age, there are no LAWS about age and curriculum, so really ANY curricula is multi-age.  The only things you really need to keep separate are:

  1. math

  2. spelling, vocabulary, etc.

  3. expectations.


Mom and Family



You can give your kids the same assignment and expect your older child to produce a 1 page paper, your elementary student a paragraph, and your youngest may copy a sentence about the topic.  See how that works?

My second tip is my most favorite.  I love to recommend the book "Managers of Their Homes" by Teri Maxwell.  It made a HUGE difference in my life and homeschool.  In fact, that book is the reason why I have been (mostly) consistent with my quiet time, because she really focuses on putting God first and everything else will fall into place.  She is not as academic as I am, but I found that to be a nice balance, because I tend to do too much at time.

Finally, for beginners I often recommend Sonlight curriculum.  Check it out, and see if it would be a good fit for your children.  Because it comes with a nice schedule, it's perfect for beginners who don't have a real sense of "how much and how".   The easiest starting place might be Sonlight Core 100.

Have fun learning how to love learning!

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Comments 5

Guest - Janet on Thursday, 17 September 2009 14:25

@JW -- I hear you! My kids can't school together either, despite being close in age, they are far apart academically. The older one is gifted, and the younger one is visually impaired and competitive. Anything she does with her sister results in huge frustration because (a) she can't read long without fatiguing and (b) anything she can't do better than her big sister leaves her in tears.

My older one is doing a couple of co-op classes this year to ease my workload. (The younger one also goes, but just takes fun stuff like PE.) I've also been researching online and other options as well.

@JW -- I hear you! My kids can't school together either, despite being close in age, they are far apart academically. The older one is gifted, and the younger one is visually impaired and competitive. Anything she does with her sister results in huge frustration because (a) she can't read long without fatiguing and (b) anything she can't do better than her big sister leaves her in tears. My older one is doing a couple of co-op classes this year to ease my workload. (The younger one also goes, but just takes fun stuff like PE.) I've also been researching online and other options as well.
Guest - Robin E. on Thursday, 17 September 2009 06:28

A lovely post, and surprisingly similar to the advice I give new homeschoolers at times. Combining children into the same subject matter isn't about graduating them at the same time; it's about the family studying the same thing each on his own level, fostering family togetherness. My 7th and 5th graders are doing the wonderful Sonlight Core 5, the Eastern Hemisphere geography Core, and worked together on researching specific details of Japan's history yesterday using an encyclopedia CDrom. My 1st grader and preschooler listened while I read about a Japanese boy from the book Children Just Like Me. Then we all got together while I read a chapter book aloud about Japanese puppeteers, the Banraku art form, and while I did that they all did origami and practiced using chop sticks. THAT is what it's all about.

As they grow there will come a separating, I know that. Even now the older two are working separately and independently in Science. But I still have a couple years left of everyone together, before the oldest will quietly move into his own thing in all areas, probably sometime in the 9th or 10th grade.

Lastly, I mostly posted to address the idea that vocabulary doesn't have to be separate. Yesterday my 7th and 5th graders both learned monologue and dialogue, with special attention paid to the meaning of the prefixes. Does it matter that they learned these words at two different ages, as long as they both learned them? Our vocabulary studies are a natural outflowing of the literature we read together, so I cannot imagine having them separated in it. Of course, I am mostly referring to my children that are close in grade, not the ones that are 4 or more years different.

A lovely post, and surprisingly similar to the advice I give new homeschoolers at times. Combining children into the same subject matter isn't about graduating them at the same time; it's about the family studying the same thing each on his own level, fostering family togetherness. My 7th and 5th graders are doing the wonderful Sonlight Core 5, the Eastern Hemisphere geography Core, and worked together on researching specific details of Japan's history yesterday using an encyclopedia CDrom. My 1st grader and preschooler listened while I read about a Japanese boy from the book Children Just Like Me. Then we all got together while I read a chapter book aloud about Japanese puppeteers, the Banraku art form, and while I did that they all did origami and practiced using chop sticks. THAT is what it's all about. As they grow there will come a separating, I know that. Even now the older two are working separately and independently in Science. But I still have a couple years left of everyone together, before the oldest will quietly move into his own thing in all areas, probably sometime in the 9th or 10th grade. Lastly, I mostly posted to address the idea that vocabulary doesn't have to be separate. Yesterday my 7th and 5th graders both learned monologue and dialogue, with special attention paid to the meaning of the prefixes. Does it matter that they learned these words at two different ages, as long as they both learned them? Our vocabulary studies are a natural outflowing of the literature we read together, so I cannot imagine having them separated in it. Of course, I am mostly referring to my children that are close in grade, not the ones that are 4 or more years different.
Guest - Kristine (website) on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 20:07

Great post, Lee. I often run across new hsing moms at work, and I can use this post as a referral. It IS hard to suggest to others where to begin, particularly when their kids are older. You give great advice, a good starting point and encouragement.

Great post, Lee. I often run across new hsing moms at work, and I can use this post as a referral. It IS hard to suggest to others where to begin, particularly when their kids are older. You give great advice, a good starting point and encouragement.
Guest - J W on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 20:01

There might also come a time when one has to admit that schooling one's children together is not going to happen. Every homeschool mom told me when my children were toddler and baby, "Oh, they're only 2 years apart in age, you can school them together!" Nowadays, I estimate a six year academic gap between them in most subjects. Not only that, I cannot hand down my older child's curriculum (Sonlight). I love Sonlight, but with my younger child, I have to use a curriculum that drives me absolutely nuts. However, the other curriculum works for that child. I thank God every day that my older child is an independent worker (she loves having me out of her hair - believe me). The only subjects I can have my children study together are French and Geography because all three of us (yes, that means me) started studying together. That's it.

It was very hard giving up the dream of two children chitchatting away about their history lesson over lunch. I won't be graduating them at the same time, like some families can. My working hours begin earlier and end later in the day than many homeschool families. Not to mention it's a hassle (and a bit of a wrench, really) selling the older child's school books in order to partially finance the younger child's curriculum. These are hard truths that I've come to accept, and even in a way embrace because both children are thriving. Every day is a triumph.

There might also come a time when one has to admit that schooling one's children together is not going to happen. Every homeschool mom told me when my children were toddler and baby, "Oh, they're only 2 years apart in age, you can school them together!" Nowadays, I estimate a six year academic gap between them in most subjects. Not only that, I cannot hand down my older child's curriculum (Sonlight). I love Sonlight, but with my younger child, I have to use a curriculum that drives me absolutely nuts. However, the other curriculum works for that child. I thank God every day that my older child is an independent worker (she loves having me out of her hair - believe me). The only subjects I can have my children study together are French and Geography because all three of us (yes, that means me) started studying together. That's it. It was very hard giving up the dream of two children chitchatting away about their history lesson over lunch. I won't be graduating them at the same time, like some families can. My working hours begin earlier and end later in the day than many homeschool families. Not to mention it's a hassle (and a bit of a wrench, really) selling the older child's school books in order to partially finance the younger child's curriculum. These are hard truths that I've come to accept, and even in a way embrace because both children are thriving. Every day is a triumph.
Guest - christall (website) on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 08:44

Lee,

I needed to read this today. It's only the middle of September and I already feel "behind". I just brought home my second daughter from Ethiopia and am now tasked with educating two 8-year-old girls who are at very different places. We are using Sonlight which will make things easier - but I'm still worried about where to start, how to start, and let's face it - when to start (I'm so tired from the travel/time changes LOL).

Thanks for this positive message. It came at the perfect time.

Christall Murphy

Lee, I needed to read this today. It's only the middle of September and I already feel "behind". I just brought home my second daughter from Ethiopia and am now tasked with educating two 8-year-old girls who are at very different places. We are using Sonlight which will make things easier - but I'm still worried about where to start, how to start, and let's face it - when to start (I'm so tired from the travel/time changes LOL). Thanks for this positive message. It came at the perfect time. Christall Murphy
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Lee has three core beliefs about homeschooling: homeschooling provides the best possible learning environment; every child deserves a college-prep education whether or not they choose to go to college, and parents are capable of providing a superior education to their children. Lee does not judge your homeschool or evaluate your children. Instead, she comes alongside to help and encourage parents homeschooling high school.

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