There is no “one way” to homeschool nor one way to school in general. If you’ve been doing it at any length of time, you already know this. So the best way to process any homeschool post, is to take away from it what will benefit you and your family and leave the rest.
After many years of research and many years of having my children work through the many different curricula, I have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect nor even close to perfect curriculum. I have been disappointed time and time again.
Another challenge is educating multiple children of all different ages. The majority of curricula is tailored for one year of use for one child. This means if you have five children working on five different subjects with about two books per subject, you have fifty books! This many workbooks/textbooks is impractical and completely unnecessary.
The way I homeschool now has been inspired by my faith, my minimalist lifestyle, the one-room schoolhouse and the importance of my family’s overall health and happiness. Many of the resources we use are faith-based which I know will not appeal to everyone and why I wanted to let you know in case this is something you would not be interested in reading. Also, homeschooling is a constant learning process and so my book list may change in the future as needed.
BIRTH TO 4 YEARS OLD
This is such a brief time in their childhood and I want to leave them with fond memories of natural learning. I didn’t do this in the beginning of my homeschooling journey and instead began formally teaching my oldest child at just four-years-old with a rigid curriculum which I regret. Natural learning in our family includes reading to them, praying with them, attempting to speak to them in more than one language, introducing the letters and numbers and exposing them to nature. This naturally encourages questions from them, with answers that will stick with them for a lifetime. They also listen to their older sibings’ oral lessons which allows them to absorb even more information.
The following is a list of books I read to my youngest children. They’re a mix of books on faith, manners, science, reproduction, body safety and the Italian language. I’ve had most of these for many years and my children have always loved them. But keep in mind, homeschooling is not just about these books. Our family gardens, raises chickens, plays together, prays together and experiences every day life together that often teaches more than any book.
- Children’s Bible •
- Baltimore Catechism No. 1 •
- God’s Alphabet by M.H. Ruane •
- A Child’s Rule of Life by Robert Hugh Benson •
- An Alphabet of Saints by Robert Hugh Benson •
- Where Do Babies Come From by DK Children •
- My Body’s Mine by Kayla J.W. Marnach • (body safety)
- God Is Good Series (covers topics on science)
- Little Jewel Books Series (covers topics on manners)
- First Hundred Words in Italian by Mairi Mackinnon •
- Drawing Notepad, Pencils and Crayons (purchased locally)
We begin our homeschool day in a group as a family, reading about and discussing history and our faith. My youngest are welcome to listen too or play quietly waiting their turn to “do school.” Every day looks a little different.
- READING – Pronunciation Guide / Little Angel Readers
- WRITING – Printing Guide / Composition Book •
- ARITHMETIC – Number Guide / Wooden Abacus • / Tiny Polka Dot •
All children learn to read at different ages so don’t worry if your child is seven or eight, and still isn’t reading. To encourage reading, make available a pronunciation guide, simple readers and ask them on occasion if they would like to try reading. If you are already reading to your child on a daily basis, the natural progression will be an interest in reading. But even after they take an interest, they may still have trouble learning the parts to whole of reading. Don’t let this discourage you or your child. There are so many other fascinating subjects and skills to learn while you wait for the reading skill to develop. And it will! 😁
“Everything your child learns increases his vocabulary and develops his thinking skills.
Pre-reading instruction is wider than the whole world.” -Dr. Beechick
Once my child shows an interest in learning to read, we review the sounds of the letters on the pronunciation chart and then practice reading from one of the Little Angel Readers or the God is Good series. While reading, we keep the chart close by to reference the sounds. Then we move on to the number chart and practice counting and skip counting on the abacus. Then they grab their printing chart for reference, open their notebook and copy from whatever book they choose. Afterwards we play counting games with manipulatives to solidify concepts. And learning doesn’t end here. At this age they’re like sponges and absorb all that is going on around them throughout the day.
In our homeschool, we follow the natural method of learning. The principle of this method is that children develop their intelligence and skills at different ages utilizing different resources. Not everyone learns to read at five, subtract at six and write at seven. Subjects are also studied interchangeably throughout the day and not in isolation. The focus is not on completing pages of workbooks or on test scores but rather on fostering a natural love for learning.
“The natural method leads to higher levels of creativity.” -Dr. Beechick
Using the natural method when learning to write, intertwines reading, penmanship, grammar, composition, spelling, vocabulary, history and literature. My children write one page of copywork in their notebooks daily from the book of their choice. They select among history books, science, fiction, non-fiction, vocabulary lists and many others. After they finish their copywork, they read to me what they wrote while I check for grammar and spelling errors. They also use this collection of books as resources and inspiration for writing reports, essays or just for reading enjoyment. Then once a week we visit our local library.
- Baltimore Catechism No. 2 • (religion)
- The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need • (grammar)
- The Grammar School Speller and Definer • (vocabulary)
- Thorndike Barnhard Dictionary 1971 • (definitions)
- Christ And The Americas • (American history)
- Christ The King, Lord Of History • (world history)
- Saints Lives Series by Mary Fabyan Windeatt • (20 book set)
- The Little House Series by Laura Wilder • (9 book set)
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis • (7 book set)
- The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Batson • (3 book set)
Count your chickens before their hatched… and after! 😁 Children between the ages of about six to about thirteen, grow through two modes of thinking about arithmetic. These are called the manipulative mode (outside the head) and the mental image mode (inside the head). Dr. Beechick wrote that children need to be proficient in the manipulative mode as a preparation for other modes to follow. Failure to do this is one of the main reasons children have a difficult time with arithmetic.
Graded-level math books too often introduce concepts that are better tackled at an older age, when the brain is more developed, or attempt to explain abstract symbols without a strong foundation in manipulatives. After many years of going back and forth between math curricula, our family is now focusing on using manipulatives, board games, card games, working with money and planning investments to not only develop math skills but to learn about how to build an income for the future.
- Wooden blocks made from a 2x4x8 (measuring)
- Money Bags Board Game • (money)
- Cashflow For Kids Board Game • (investing)
- Play Check Set • (banking)
- Money Set for Kids • (banking)
MUSIC AND ART
My children have access to many instruments (ukulele, piano, guitar, etc.) and drawing books which they use on a daily basis. However I believe placing a structured curriculum over their artistic capabilities takes the enjoyment out of learning the fine arts. So rather than workbooks, drills and testing, they actually sing, play beautiful music and draw. If one of them wants it to be more structured or wants to dive deeper into the history of fine arts, I then provide them with the necessary books or online class.
HEALTH AND SCIENCE
With heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and other related diseases growing at alarming rates, our health and science lessons are not confined to just one book nor are they set for a specific time of the day. Mankind subsists on more processed and chemically-laden ingredients now than it has ever before in history and why I think it’s very important to educate our children on what ingredients are actually in the packaged food at the grocery store and it’s damaging effects. We also have depleted soil around the world and why it’s important to learn about permaculture design in order to replenish it and begin the practice of living a more sustainable and healthier life.
- Human Anatomy in Full Color •
- Eating in the Dark * (about GMO)
- Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices • (nutrition)
- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration • (health)
- Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening •
- Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist •
- Chicken Tractor: The Permaculture Guide to Healthy Hens •
Then there are times when we get a call from my husband and he wants to have lunch with all of us, or we unexpectedly run out of something and have to run to the store, or someone needs a little more attention from me, or any number of other things that may come up and we don’t complete the day exactly as planned. But everything we do throughout the day is a learning experience and just one of the many reasons why I appreciate homeschooling.
HIGH SCHOOL YEARS / unschooling
This age is such an important time in their lives and why I believe in encouraging them to choose their own interest of study rather than have them trudge through a subject of no interest to them. Not everyone may want a career which requires you to sit at a desk eight to twelve hours a day and why for some, it can be stifling to study these subjects.
For example, at 14-years-old my oldest daughter was interested in Euclidean geometry so she enrolled in an online college math class and really enjoyed it. Another one may want to apprentice with an electrician and want to take a class on electrical wiring. And another may be interested in agricultural ecosystems and spend the semester visiting farms working toward self-sustainability. The options are endless!
Along with their own interests, my husband and I encourage our children to prepare financially for the future. In the typical educational system, children are taught parts of speech, long division, extracurricular activities, how to apply for a college loan and so many other skills, but they’re never taught how to make money. Even though making money is what the majority of people do for most of their adult life, not one class during their twelve years of education is devoted to this task. Instead students are encouraged to enroll in college and in turn, go into debt.
Beginning around the age of twelve, we talk to our children about getting a part-time job. This can be anything from dog-walking, to babysitting, to lawn mowing, to tutoring a school subject or music lesson or any other skill they may want to offer. While they will spend some of their money, we encourage them to save most of it for future investments.
The following is a list of resources for both money management and college-prep options.
MONEY MANAGEMENT RESOURCES
- Bigger Pockets • FREE investment videos & podcasts
- Rich Dad Poor Dad • by Robert Kiyosaki
- The Book On Rental Property Investing • by Brandon Turner
- The Millionaire Real Estate Investor • by Gary Keller
- Religion – The Catechism Explained •
- English – Writing the Five-Paragraph Essay •
- Vocabulary – Vocabulary.com
- Math – Khan Academy High School Math
- History – A History of Christendom Series • (6 volume set)
- Science – The 101 Series (biology, chemistry, physics)
- Foreign Language – Duolingo.com
- Typing – Typing.com
Home education doesn’t stop once the books are put away but rather every moment of the day is an opportunity we take for learning. Throughout the day we are also raising and taking care of chickens, gardening, composting, cooking, we have building projects and so much more. Conventional education is limited where home education is limitless!
Thank you for reading and as I said in the beginning, I hope you are able to take something away from this post whether negative or positive, to enhance your own homeschooling experience.
last updated 03.10.18
I am so happy you are blogging again! What are the illustrations like in Young Catholic’s Illustrated Speller * (book 1)? Do illustrations appear on every page?
I bet you’ve learned so much over the years teaching your children. Do you co op for learning with other families for certain projects? I know a family whose children learn latin from their local priest…
There are only a handful of illustrations so no, not every page and the book was published in 1884 so the images are of children from years gone by. I labeled it book 1 because it’s geared toward the younger ones but they’re not a series. No, we’ve never been in a co-op. I homeschool so that I can actually homeschool. 😊
Thanks so much for this post!! I would love to know at what age you start to use the science and history books you mentioned? I know that you said between 1st and 8th, but I was just wondering if you could explain that a bit more?
Right from the beginning because even though some of those books are meant for high school, it doesn’t mean younger ones can’t understand it. I’m either reading it to them in a group, they’re reading it by themselves (older ones) or they’re watching a video together. The younger ones may not understand everything but they’re fascinated by it all.
This was a very interesting read. I was homeschooled myself 5-12th and am now studying education in college. I’m glad that you take a relaxed approach and let them study what they are interested in. Your family is very inspiring!!! Thank you for opening up your home and sharing your story
Thank you Hannah! Glad you like it!
Grazie! Danke! As a homeschooling of two I really loved this article. I am a wannabe minimalist. Do you have any advice on writing. I love Andrew Pudewa and IEW but keep keep getting stuck after certain points. Do you have your children write book reports or essays and how often? Do you edit their papers and have them rewrite? This us my least favorite subject to teach. My background is more in the sciences and yet I know that writing forces one to think so I really want to work in this area yet not make it a dreaded subject.
I absolutely LOVE writing. I come from a family of grammarians so if you catch a mistake in my writing, don’t tell them. 😊 My children compose in three different ways. They write essays as often as it comes up in their grammar and composition text, they complete book reports orally and write one-page daily in their journals. I edit their papers but only require them to rewrite their essays, not their journal entries.
After purchasing, perusing and returning several writing programs over the years, I don’t believe it’s necessary to buy a separate writing curriculum if it’s already included in your English text. When I first started homeschooling, there weren’t any of these writing programs and homeschoolers still excelled. Just food for thought! And thank you for your comment!
Love this! I don’t have kids yet but I know I want to homeschool when I do. I will be coming back to this page then 🙂
Hi! My girls are 7, 5 and 1.5 years old. Would you still recommend doing grammar/English from the 10th grade book for my readers? Maybe if I could see it in front of me I could understand it better. I just wanted to have that clarified. Thanks!
Welcome! The only readers I have are from the phonics program I use (Little Angel Readers). Once they’re done with that program, I have them go right into storybooks along with the Warriner’s book. So during English I have them either working in their phonics OR grammar, not both. If your 7yo is a fluent reader, then he/she will be fine in the grammar book. I just did a google search and found some sample pages from Warriner’s complete course (12th grade). It’s not the exact same book but it will give you an idea of what to expect. Would you like me to post some images from my Warriner’s book?
Darci, this is my style. The more children I have to homeschool, the more I need to simplify. I’m going to pull out my high school Warners and look it over! Thanks for the idea! How do you use the Speller and Grammar book listed for 1-8? It sounds fabulous! I do love workbooks so that there is some independent work going on, but this post has given me ideas to simplify more, yet in other ways raise the bar for the children! Btw, love the Robert Hugh Benson books! I used to work at The Neumann Press before TAN bought it. I’m also going to use Warren Carroll’s books for HS History! He was a great man! For grade school we are loving TANs Story of Civilization. Awesome and non mom intensive! Just discovered your blog and YouTube vlogs! Thoroughly enjoying! Highly entertaining! God bless!
An additional question: how do you use the two spelling books in grade school? Does one cover certain grades and the other cover the rest? I am completely sold on the idea of one or two books for all grades. We not only need to economize, but simplify.
In your vlog, you say you go somewhere to do school work. May I ask where you guys go? The library? Thank you for sharing your day, you are such an inspiration!
We were going to the library but my daughter got a job working during those hours. My children really enjoyed it so I would like to get back to doing that again in the future.
Hey there! Wannabe minimalist mama of soon-to-be 7, All under ten-years-old here. I love your YouTube channel and have watched some of the videos multiple times. Especially the schedules one. Which leads to my question. On the video you say you’re going to link to the chore schedules on your blog in the description, but I can’t find it. And I need help with my chore/life scheduling SO BAD. Is it up somewhere and I’m missing it or is it not up yet? Thanks so much! Again, your videos are inspiring.
Thank you for your posts, both here and on YouTube. We are homeschooling six out of our nine children at the moment. So I can learn a lot from you. Just having a newborn baby, I’d just wish you could still show that season of your life to learn from as well 😋.
A question I have about toys and homeschool materials: do you use puzzles and that kind of learning ‘games’ for preschoolers and even the bit older ones? We mostly try to avoid toys, but I have a whole cupboard of such ‘games’; especially for occupying little ones during school time. But I HATE the way pieces etc get away and are constantly flying around.
Again great information in this post.
It is hard to let go of not fitting inside any grade box that the institutions have established.
Everybody wants to show us how wrong we are to homeschool but when they see how happy we are together and that kids as young as 9 or 7 have the chance to dig deep in their passion, they finally leave us alone !!!!
One thing I am learning from you is to lighten up and really take time to smell the roses !!!! And we get so much more done when everybody is happy !!!!
Thanks again from Guatemala !!!
You are so inspiring.
As a cradle Catholic, I had never read the Baltimore Catechism. I was going to purchase a used copy after your recommendation, but holy cow. It is expensive. Major bummer.
Love your videos. Love your blog. Thank you so much for being such a good influence on this mom of 3 teens.
I’m not sure how much the used one was but you can purchase it new for $7.95 here: http://amzn.to/2wBrIvr. That’s a link to #2 which is for all ages.
Fantastic! Thank you for your videos and posts. This is exactly what I have been searching for as a Catholic, wanna-be minimalist mother of three children ages 2, 5 and 7 from the Pacific Northwest. So thankful I found you.
I love watching your videos. My dream is to live the way you and your family are living. So simple and traditional. I’m trying to figure out which math curriculum to purchase… it’s between saxon and rod and staff. I love, love, love rod and staff english so I figure I might feel the same about their math. One deciding factor… Can Rod and staff be used independently? I’m following the Robinson method and need something hands off that’s also thorough.
Thanks in advance!
I am curious why you stopped using Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition.
I am interested in my daughter taking online college courses, but navigating this area is overwhelming. What school did your daughter use?
Also, is there a reason you moved away from Warriner’s Grammar?
Darci, I love your blog and you tube channel! Thank you for taking the time to share your ideas and thought for us. I currently have 5 children 12 and under and struggle to get all their school work done plus house work and farm life…. This article opens my mind toa whole new way of life! Thank you again.
Darci,I have graduated several of my homeschool children and am looking at downsizing my overwhelmingly large collection of homeschool materials. What supplies (other than books) have you found essential to keep? I have bins and buckets os manipulatives and school supplies!
Do you teach the letter names first (capital and lowercase letters)? Or do you teach the sounds from the beginning? I’m guessing since you mentioned about the pronunciation guide, you teach the sounds, is that right? I’m wondering how to begin with my 2 1/2 year old.