Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gearing Up for Not-Back-to-School

This year, like every year, I am faced with the question of how do I get started homeschooling this year.  I kind of look at each school year as a separate adventure, although some of it may be similar from year to year.  I think I finally have a system down for figuring it out now though.
Homeschool central in my living room.  The top shelf pictured contains musical instruments and reference books such as dictionaries.  Next down are wooden puzzles for the younger kids (placed up high to discourage dumping, but it doesn't really work since the kids climb), math manipulatives, and other materials such as bean bags and crayons that can be useful for a variety of activities.  Next down is my son's shelf, which contains a variety of puzzle books, magazines, early readers, a binder for loose worksheets, and workbooks.  The bottom pictured is my daughter's shelf which contains a large box of paper for all the kids to use as they would like (reused paper.  The other side has printing on it already.), some high interest books to look at to stimulate her mind and imagination, her binder for loose worksheets (and coloring pages), and a stack of workbooks and coloring books.  Not pictured is the top of the shelf, which contains supplies such as construction paper, software, and "teacher" stuff and the bottom shelf, which is the toddler's and contains a variety of toys to stimulate his cute little brain.  Next to the shelf, you can see a loveseat, perfect for snuggling while studying or just reading together and an alphabet chart for reference by the kids.  This entire area is right next to the kitchen counter, where we usually do "school".
  • Step 1:  Clean and organize the house.  How do I know what I need if I don't know what I have?  I might think I have something and it turns out it is broken or crucial pieces are missing, if everything isn't in its place when figuring out my plan for the year.
  • Step 2:  Figure out what our objectives are.  My main objective for the school year for my 6 year old is to get him reading proficiently and writing comfortably, so most things for him will gear around this.  My main goal for my 4 year old is for her to master the alphabet, to write her name, and be able to count consistently at least to 10, so her materials and lessons will center around these.  For science, social studies, and other such subjects, I will largely be leaving it to their interests this year, so the specific objectives for those subjects will be developed in...
  • Step 3:  Find out what the kids want to do.  I have a ton of books with craft and activities for kids in them, mostly from, so I plan on sitting down with the older kid and figure out what looks fun.  I'll then use those things as a framework to figure out what we'll learn about.
  • Step 4:  Find out what is going on in the community.  We live near a very homeschool friendly city, so I'll be looking into activities at the museums and other places to see what will fit with what we want to do.  I may also use some of these things, like the homeschool science days as the children's museum to figure out more lesson themes.
  • Step 5:  Decide what we are actually going to do.  Being thrifty as I am, I'm not going to be buying a curriculum, so I'll be putting together a loose curriculum based on the things I mentioned before.
  • Step 6:  Figure out what we need to get.  Shortly before the beginning of each school year, I post a list of the things we want or need for supplies, whether it be normal things like construction paper or unusual things like toilet paper tubes or more toy-like things like puzzles on our local Freecycle group.  I also will let friends and relatives know so they can keep their eyes out for freebies or cheapies at yard sales or whatever.  I also watch for them at yard sales, which is part of why I start thinking no later than the end of July, rather than waiting until the beginning of September when schools start up around here.  As a last resort, I'll buy the things we absolutely need, but if I can hold out until after schools start up, I try to so I can cash in on back-to-school clearance sales, rather than paying full- or even regular sale prices for things!
To keep puzzles organized, I labeled each piece and the puzzle with a number and put the pieces in a plastic bag in a bin out of the reach of the toddler, so he can't just knock the puzzle holder with all its puzzle pieces on the floor for an instant mess.
So there you have it, my thrifty guide to not going back to school.  It is not the only way to do things and I don't claim it is "the best" but it works for my family.  That's one of the best things about homeschooling: we can always do what's best for our family.


  1. I was at walmart yesterday and saw the school supplies out... :) i explained to Bill that even though my kids dont go to school i still LOVE not back to school shopping... :)

  2. We did back to school shopping and all I could think was WHY am I having to buy things like Clorox cleaning wipes for a school im paying taxes for. Dont the janitors do these things anymore?? Free education is a matter of interpretation now. We have thought about home schooling but the 12 year olds smarter then us LOL ;) and the 8 yr old is gaining ground.

  3. @Debra-Dawn, I do too, but prefer to do it on clearance so everything is mega cheap!

    @Simpler Times, I did a post a while back about how homeschooling is actually cheaper than "free education". With a lot of curricula, it doesn't matter if the kid is smarter than the parents, since the curriculum itself or the kid himself does most of the teaching. At 12 years old, some homeschooled kids are even taking college courses at community colleges, so that would be an option for more difficult subjects if you wanted to homeschool too.

  4. I don't homeschool - mainly because my ex shares custody of the children and he doesn't approve of it, and nothing I say or do has changed his mind. Until we have the funds for my husband to formally adopt the children, we have to concede to my ex's whims.

    However, that doesn't stop me from teaching them at just means I teach around the school schedule. Oftentimes we will take whatever the school is teaching them and elaborate on it. For example, if they are studying the Civil War, we will get books on the topic, or pull out my husband's D&D minis and simulate a famous battle on the kitchen table, or watch a documentary on an educational station...anything we can come up with to supplement the school's teachings. Real-world math is emphasized in our house, and of course we teach them things the school doesn't, like gardening, cooking, organizational skills, etc.

    My ex still throws a bit of a fit about it - every summer like clockwork, when he discovers what new topic we are focusing on during the non-school months. But even he grudgingly admits that they seem to learn better this way, and I know for a fact that he goes around proudly bragging about his son's being on honor rolls and at the top of their he doesn't complain TOO much.

  5. The amount of things a classroom needs and the school does not provide for seems to grow every year. I know I use coupons and gain freebies to send with my nieces as tissues, clorox wipes, etc are not plentiful or even available in some schools and make an impact on the classroom experience. I plan on homeschooling any kids I have though, at least through a portion of the school grades. Unless I am blessed with a spectacular school district with amazing teachers.

  6. Go, thrifty mama!!
    I considered homeschooling, but realized we don't have to let only the school teach him. I began with him when he was 18 months old - counting games as we took our daily walk or walked to the market, reading to him several times a day, telling him what all the signs meant as we walked, singing to him, describing things to him, naming everything, simply showing him our world or the river, and all it's animals and the herbs & flowers that grew there was an education boost (he could name & find catnip, lemon balm and mullein by age 3!). Getting him interested in things like counting, letters, writing, reading was very easy. At 4 he was able to name 20 sea creatures thanks to Spongebob :) he impressed the kid's helpers at the Aquarium! Make it fun and they will learn easily. I use whatever the school is working on & expound on it at home. His kindergarten teacher told me he is the brightest in his class and he is advanced in everything. His math skills and love of math is apparent, as is his love of reading and books. So, how I started him out & the continuing learning at home does indeed make the difference. All summer I have had him do half an hour or more of work; math, writing, problem solving games in exchange for half an hour of computer game time....his teacher sent home a stack of things they hadn't gotten to yet & I have an educational activity book. I'll be in trouble though when he starts the higher mathematics in a few years...can we say cyber tutor? Everything else I can handle; history, science, English, Lit, art, critical thinking and analyzing...he will get the FULL story, not just the educational system's version of things :)