So many things are up in the air right now when it comes to school. Parent's are stressed and don't know what to do, and they also don't know where to turn for information. They want to plan for the up coming school year but with so little information it's hard to know what to decide. This isn't exactly meant to tell you what to do but to give you an understanding of what we do and why we chose to do it that way. Homeschooling is not the same as virtual schooling or even accredited learning. Most virtual learning and accredited schooling is done with lessons on the computer through a dashboard and sent into the academy virtually for grading. Homeschooling can be either parent led or academy led by video. There is homeschooling that is academy led that is typically accredited as well. This type of homeschooling though is done by video dashboards and still obviously results in your child sitting in front of a screen but still involves putting pencil to paper and sending it to academy for grading. It basically takes away any parent freedom over what their children are learning, but it also takes out the guess work for parents who are just getting started and don't maybe know where to start or just don't want the to do curriculum planning, scheduling, and teaching.
When we first started homeschooling my kids were really little. Jellybean was 3 and Littlebean was 2 years old. I made my own curriculum for them. I was a stay at home Mom and I thought I really could be doing more with them while we were at home. Over the years I have realized what works best for us through trial and error. When we first started we stuck to a pretty "strict" schedule for kids their age and we did school for 4 hours every morning. I don't regret necessarily what we did because the boys flourished but looking back I probably didn't need to be as strict with it. It could have been more of a relaxed homeschool variation for that age group. Going forward with future children I probably wouldn't be as strict with a schedule. The boys loved it though and honestly the types of work we were doing for their age was mostly hands on and seemed like games. I started them writing and learning the alphabet early and most people told me I was pushing to hard but if they hadn't been soaking it up and learning so quickly I wouldn't have pushed it. Every child learns differently and that should always be accounted for.
The first year we applied for our declaration of intent with the state of Georgia I did a lot of research. I didn't know where to start. We first looked into accredited school for that reason. I didn't know if I had it in me to jump head first into planning a full curriculum and teaching. What I did know is that the more we looked into accredited learning I hated the fact that it meant my children would be sitting in front of a screen or computer for half the day. We actually went as far as filled out applications and got accepted. We were just waiting on getting ready to submit testing for grade placement. Jellybean was 5 but I wanted him enrolled in 1st grade not kindergarten. He was already advanced and I thought he could handle first grade work. I just couldn't go through with it, I felt so uneasy about it. I sat down with my husband and he agreed but wanted to make sure I researched and had a good alternative. I wanted them to put pencil to paper, to me that was extremely important. Don't get me wrong all children learn differently and some parents and children like it, I just knew for us it wasn't what I wanted. This basically meant I threw myself into research. I added myself to homeschool groups, reached out to other homeschool mom's, and asked all the questions. This was good for arithmetic, that was good for science, this was good for language. It was extremely overwhelming which is why I just decided one full curriculum from one source, and that is when I found Abeka. Abeka is a Christian homeschool curriculum and it seemed to offer everything I was looking for, back then I wasn't aware that Abeka offered an accredited/academy led version. What I did know is they offered full parent led curriculum books that gave me everything laid out with full lesson plans for each day. I thought it was the perfect way to start because this way it took out all the guess work and planning for me and meant the kids wouldn't be sitting in front of a computer or screen most of the day. However after my first year and following along with everything as in the teachers manuals I learned that Abeka is built to be used like a typical school day. If we did everything by the book school took a full day from 8am to 4pm. I loved the curriculum by itself but I hated all the extra seatwork that came with the parent teaching books. I wanted to continue with the course materials but form it to fit our own schedule. After starting out the way we did I felt confident and doing my own parent led curriculum with out the mannuals. I didn't feel like we needed to have full class lessons and extra seat work for tons of repetitive practice. Most of the work sheets already explain new arithmetic processes or language concepts. So we take a few minutes to explain it and then jump right into it. I will add though that we do use arithmetic manipulatives like flash cards and we also use phonic flash cards. These types of things are add-ons to the curriculum and don't come with the student or teacher kits but are good to have on hand for practice and repetitive learning.
Homeschooling has been such a gradual lesson for all of us. Over the last few years we have found what works for us and what doesn't. Getting started can be extremely overwhelming so give yourself some grace. It's a learning process to see what works for your family, because what works for me might not work for you. You might like online or accredited learning for your family and that's ok too.
You don't have to have all the right answers right now getting started. It might sound counter productive but jump in and change it as you go to fit your family. You won't know what works and what doesn't until you try.
Even for us I still am sticking with Abeka because I love their language and arithmetic. We just got all our new books for 3rd grade for Jellybean and Littlebean is starting 1st grade. There are holes in the history, social studies, and science that I plan to fill with other things throughout the year and we also plan on starting to teach a second language this year. Having much more responsibility in their learning was at one point all consuming and seemed like I could never do it. Now I'm so glad I have the freedom to teach them what I want them to know or dig deeper into their interests instead of them just sticking to a basic standard curriculum for all. Fit it, shape it, and make it what you want it to be. It is also so extremely rewarding to see them flourish and know it's all because of you.
As some of you are stressing and worrying about what the new school year will bring just know you aren't alone. If your wondering what will work for your family don't be afraid to follow your gut on what you want for your children, whether it's in person schooling, virtual learning, accredited, or homeschooled. Join the groups, there are plenty of them, and ask all the questions. Reach out and talk to other parents. Research all your options. It can be overwhelming. Your children aren't going to suffer because it took you a few weeks of trial and error to figure out what works best for your family. It's a short time frame, and learning together as you grow into it is where the magic it. Please give yourself some grace during this season, you got this.