I always remind myself that many brilliant minds throughout history created and forged many brilliant ideas with simply curiosity and readily available resources. Then, I breathe and smile and determine, if nothing else as a homeschooling family, to focus on the three R’s for my elementary students and the simple resources needed to teach them.
Here is the short version of what I think it takes to homeschool elementary-aged students who can read and write at my house. (Note: I have an 11th grader, 9th grader, 6th grader, and a 1st grader.)
READING: Easy if the library remains open!
I let my kids pick their topics to read. If there’s something I want them to read that they’re not interested in, I will use this as a read aloud and read it to them (poetry, cute science books, fun books on history, etc.).
Being well-read is beyond important, in my mind. Vocabulary. Exploring new experiences. Sticking through to the finish of a book. Heck, even PICKING the book requires lots of decision making! So much learned in simply choosing, reading, and finishing a book. Or listening to a book read aloud. Really helps attention and focus lengthen.)
So…my recommended resource for reading: Student-selected books from the library with supplemental books selected and read aloud periodically by adult. (I usually steer toward poetry, age appropriate history books, age appropriate cultural books, age appropriate science. Just a gamut and not always in any particular order. I HAVE used designed curriculum where the books were shipped to me. Two daughters did not like that. Some books were boring. Some were childish. Some were too advanced. One daughter is so schedule and plan-driven, that she did like it. The others, NO.)
WRITING: Don’t Ruin Them!
Keeping it simple with fun journal prompts, letters, step-wise instructions on how to do something kids know how to do, or writing up summaries of the books being read is a really good idea.
With my first child, I marked her writing up like crazy with suggestions and corrections. Man, was I powerful. BIG mistake. Don’t do it. Just let them write. Let them write. LET THEM WRITE. Let them write.
Sometimes, their writing won’t be long enough; then, I specify the number of words or sentences or paragraphs to get more writing from them. Sometimes they don’t answer a prompt the way you’d want/expect.
One daughter I have is super imaginative and playful. Sometimes, I never know what I’m going to get as a response to a prompt. Which is fun and great, but a little unnerving because I’m like, “This would never fly as an answer to this prompt in school…” Let it go, I tell myself. Work her there eventually. Let her voice shine, and then cultivate it over the next 5-8 years.
(Which is an advantage I have. I KNOW I’m sticking with this homeschooling. I have a long term vision and can slowly move my kids toward the goal. I don’t have to get them writing excellent paragraphs in 4th grade. I can allow their creativity to shine and know that I can work on grammar in 5th, 6th, 7th grade–when they’re more receptive to grammar and more tedious type thought.)
But speaking of grammar…I really like Easy Grammar Daily Grams for simple, concise grammar practice. And then I focus selectively on correcting grammar mistakes in their writing, picking just one topic (maybe capital letters for a couple of weeks or apostrophes for a few weeks), in a kind, less-is-best way to reinforce grammar.
So…my recommended resource for writing: A lined paper notebook (and assigned prompts such as a summary of a book, instructions on something they know how to do, crazy story prompts, serious-to-them prompts, write a poem, etc) and Easy Grammar Daily Grams.
And I didn’t mention HANDwriting. I grab a print/cursive handwriting book that looks fun from Amazon or at a store I’m shopping at. I’ve purchased a few different ones. No preference. But I have them work through this throughout the year. I DO want my kids to learn cursive. It IS important to me.
(Other homeschooling posts I have written detail resources that we use, such as for history or spelling. My homeschooling has relaxed a little throughout the years as I see what is important or not important for each student. However, in general, I still come back to the same resources and incorporate them, I’ve found.)
ARITHMETIC: I only know Saxon Math.
I pretty much stick to the Saxon book and also do lots of timed worksheets for math facts (and lots of flashcards). If I remember right, the curriculum is consumable until about 4th grade; I think there’s a 4th grade book that’s consumable. At Saxon 5/4, it’s not consumable anymore.
We take it as slow as we need to. Or as fast. Usually adjusting to mastery, although sometimes continuing on in elementary school even if a specific topic doesn’t seem to be understood (such as reading a clock). In elementary school, I’ve noticed sometimes kids have HUGE developmental leaps that come in spurts, not incrementally!!!
At the Saxon 5/4 book, it’s like the “big kids” math book. They’ll need to learn how to fold their paper (WHO KNEW!!?? Kids have to be taught to fold papers!!!! 🙂 ), where to write the lesson and date, and how to number down a page and copy math problems to lined paper. That was quite a lot to learn for mine. Much harder than the math. Ha.
So…my resources for math: Saxon Math at appropriate level with extra emphasis on math facts using flashcards.
SUMMARY: I focused on the three R’s.
YES. I had tons of other stuff that I wanted to do and add in: history, art, poetry, spelling, Spanish, music, etc.
But when life was stressful (I’ll speak in past tense as I remember back to the first two children), THIS is what we did (the three R’s) each day. Then, they’d often go off on their own and do art work. Or sewing. Or running and jumping outside. Or practicing their music. Or making their own snack. All the while learning and maturing.
If you can have things to keep you accountable to other subjects, like specific music lessons or a Spanish tutor come once a week, great. Do it. But not necessary.
So…my last recommended resources to keep in house: Find a way to MAKE ACCESSIBLE AND ABLE TO BE USED FREELY WITHOUT YOU AND FEAR OF STAINS/ETC: Paints, scissors, glue, markers, lots of kinds of paper, fun craft stuff like feathers, jewels, etc. Tons of craft stuff with free access.
And tons of books.
Well, I’m prattling on. I told myself if I did the three R’s (and for our family: Spanish was mandatory), then that was what they needed. That and freedom to learn with curiosity. And a warm, happy home. (KEY! Don’t overlook this!!!) We did lots of other school subjects, but I as long as I could get them through the 3 R’s routinely, I relaxed, knowing they’d do okay. And so far, I’m satisfied.
Remember: You CAN make things too hard.