Anyone who has tried it will tell you,
Homesteading (I mean serious homesteading) and homeschooling at the same time can be very challenging. Especially when you have multiple children.
Often I think back to the pioneer days and I envy the mothers who could send their children off to a little one room schoolhouse for a few hours a day. I realize that it would have been near impossible for her to get all of her work done and educate the children adequately without outside help. There was simply too much to do.
Fast forward to modern times. Throw in running an online business (or several businesses) and trying to keep up with social media demands and you’re lucky to see the pillow at night.
Without hiring a small army of assistants there’s no way to get it all done in a day. Forget about it.
You do the best you can do, but the kids have to be a priority.
Multiple Children. Multiple Learning Styles.
I have four kids, all at different grade levels and all with different personalities and learning styles.
Our oldest, Jada, is 13 now. She has always been an eager learner. She was reading small words at two years old. By eight she was reading at a high school level. She devours books and soaks up information like a sponge. Her education is very self driven. She studies on her own, outside of her assignments, and writes papers on her personal research.
Our oldest son, Titus, is 10. He’s a very hands-on learner. He can read well, but he doesn’t enjoy it. Reading comprehension is still a struggle. He does well in math though, and is very mechanically minded. He’d much rather be building bikes or forts or helping his Daddy with a project than doing book work. He gets overwhelmed easily when I give him his assignments, and is discouraged when he doesn’t do well. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy learning, it just has to be something he’s interested in. (Which is how most of us learn best.)
Our youngest daughter, Xia, is almost 8. She has the attention span of a… well… let’s just say she’s very easily distracted. She has a very creative mind which often leads down many roads when approached with a topic. She’s very engaged, but totally unfocused.
An example of what a reading lesson with Xia is like…
Me: Xia, will you please read these sentences?
Xia: Sure! (begins reading) The black dog was walking in the park. (stops reading) Oh! We have a black dog! I love her. She’s the best dog ever. We have black kittens, too! The kittens are sooo cute! (squealing in delight)
Me: (smiling) Yes baby. We do have a black dog and kittens. Okay, keep reading.
Xia: Okay! (begins reading) The girl and the dog went to the pond. (stops reading) Hey, we have a pond! I love going down to the pond! There are lots of frogs down there. I love to catch frogs. They’re so funny. I caught a frog yesterday and made a little house for it…
Me: (laughing) Okay, honey, that’s nice. Let’s keep reading.
And on and on it goes throughout the entire reading section. It takes us forever to get through a paragraph! It’s like every little thing she reads sparks an idea in her head that excites her. It can be very difficult to get very far with her in a short amount of time.
She has a strong desire to please though, and will often pull her workbooks down without being asked and will do several pages on her own so that she can proudly present them to me. She’s also easily discouraged if it doesn’t come easily to her. She’s doing well with reading, but math is a tough one right now.
Our youngest son, Elias, just turned 6. He finds great satisfaction in doing well in his workbooks, but he’s also over it very quickly and is eager to get on with his play. He seems to be picking up a lot from just listening to what his older brother and sisters are learning. He loves for me to read to him.
Each child is so different. Each requiring a slightly different approach to education. I’ve tried a lot of things to do my best to make it work. Our homeschooling routine is constantly evolving as life’s path twists and turns and as the children grow.
I’ll share with you what materials and books we’ve used for our kids pre-K through 8th grade so far. Check them out if you’re interested and see if they might be a good fit for your family.
Homeschooling Year Round
I have found that for us it works better to go through the school year slower and longer rather than trying to cram hours and hours of work into every week day and taking 2-3 months off to do nothing during the summer. Schooling year-round gives us more flexibility with our time, and it keeps the kids engaged without too much downtime to forget what they’d been learning.
Since our schedule is so inconsistent right now with Jerry and I taking care of my grandfather full time, our school time varies depending on who is with the kids. If I’m at home with them, I school in the mornings. If Jerry is with them at home, I school them in the evenings when we all get together for dinner at my grandfather’s house. We work school time into our life. We don’t try to arrange life around school time.
Materials I Use
I love to use library books and manipulatives as often as possible. By combining text and pictures with actual hands-on learning, children have a much easier time grasping concepts and retaining them. When learning is fun, it comes naturally.
For little ones I used a lot of flash cards, puzzles, music, books, educational games, magnets, videos, and arts/crafts… anything that taught basic numbers, shapes, colors, letters, phonics, etc. in an entertaining way.
There are plenty of manipulatives for elementary and older students as well.
When my son got to the simple and complex machines section of his 4th grade curriculum, I purchased a K’NEX Simple and Compound Machines Building Set. It was pricey, but I knew that simply reading about levers, pulleys, gears, etc. wasn’t going to be enough to cement the concepts in my son’s mind. He had to have a working knowledge of how these machines actually function.
I probably could have come up with a few projects using stuff we had laying around the house, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting nor as comprehensive. He LOVED that I supplemented his book work with hands on activities. And he eagerly showed me just how each of the 16 simple and complex machines worked once he completed them.
Educational videos, board games and visuals, such as posters and educational magnets for the whiteboard are also great. (I actually just purchased a Magnetic Human Body for the kids to put on the board to learn to identify organs, which they were all fascinated by.)
Since Jada is getting into coding and robotics, I’m going to be ordering an Arduino Starter Kit for her. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Arduino, so I’m excited to surprise her with a set to get started with.
These are just a few examples of ways you can supplement a curriculum with hands-on learning.
Regardless of age, whatever your kids are learning or are interested in at the moment, find creative ways to encourage them to pursue their curiosities. If that means field trips, or manipulatives, or TED talks on YouTube, or books from the library, do whatever you can to foster an environment where learning is enjoyable.
Workbooks and Online Courses
Workbooks, of course, play an important part in a comprehensive homeschool curriculum. There’s so much for me to share on the subject that I think I’ll continue my thoughts in a second post.
If you’re interested in which text and workbooks we’ve used and which ones I’d recommend, as well as online curriculums, stay tuned for Part Two!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on homesteading and homeschooling. How do you make it work?