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KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.

How Do You Homeschool?

In a few weeks, I am going to be hosting a seminar on homeschooling.  I’m super-excited for the opportunity (on the one hand, it makes me feel like a bit of an expert; on the other hand, it makes me afraid I am anything BUT an expert).  I have been keeping notes for months now on what I want to speak about.  I think I’ll mostly be talking to people who are considering homeschool, have recently begun to homeschool, and maybe even some people who just want to know more about it.  I want to tell them everything I can that will help them see the benefits of homeschool, the way homeschool has changed over the decades, and how to go about providing this amazing service to their children.

monthly homeschool schedule

It’s had me thinking a LOT about scheduling and how different families approach homeschooling.  We have friends who do it many different ways.  Our closest homeschooling neighbors order from curriculum providers such a A Beka, throwing some unit studies and hands-on stuff in.  The next closest family uses a Waldorf approach and attends a local co-op on a regular basis.  Most of the people I know personally who homeschool do something similar to those families.  I follow the blogs of some moms who take things one subject at a time–for instance, doing science for 6 weeks, then history, then literature, etc.  Some people unschool.  Some people are crazy enough to do something like I do. hehe  Certifiable.

If you’ve read my ‘About’ page, you know I have history in library and education.  In fact, I was working at one of the local elementary schools when I decided to homeschool.  I went to public school.  My experience with school is scheduled with many subjects thrown in.  Just like any ol’ public school.  So I schedule, schedule, schedule.  It’s a blast, but since I tend to write my own curricula and study guides and unit studies, I am always working.  I’ve talked about my schedule a few times here, but I thought it might help me get things straight for the seminar to explain the way I homeschool.

I’m a firm believer that some type of English and math must be practiced every day.  It doesn’t have to be difficult, just practicing and building on what has been learned before.  For math, I believe there is no better way to learn, which (since math is as far away from my strong point as I am from the Himalayas) is why I stick with Saxon books.  The boys do a chapter every day.  Math is as easy for them as constructing a sentence is for me, so it works.  Right now for writing we are working from a wonderful ebook by Sharon Watson on compare-and-contrast writing that is teaching the boys how to make persuasive arguments through comparisons.  We used a grammar book last semester to go over the basics and now are doing worksheets every morning to practice the rules.  The free everyday edit worksheets at  Education World are super for practicing all types of grammar.  We do one of those a day, every day.  They’re so fun–kind of like looking for the mistakes in a picture, but with words.  The rest of our schedule looks like this:

8:00-8:30 English Math English Math English
8:30-9:00 Math English Math English Math
9:00-10:00 Reading Reading Reading Reading Reading
10:00-10:30 Writing Chemistry Writing Art History Writing
10:30- Geography Chemistry Geography Art History Spanish
12:00 Geography Chemistry Geography Art History Music

Usually, school lasts till closer to 1.  I have a schedule to follow, but it’s more to make sure we’re doing everything I want to accomplish than trying to hurry through the material.  We have a tendency, even during math, to hop onto paths that lead to politics or world issues and follow them until we’re talked out.  Some chapters in reading take longer than others, and some activities in our long classes make us run over.  This is the first year I’ve tried doing longer classes on alternate days.  Last year we did every class every day, just like a public middle or high school.  I’ve said all along that if (God forbid) my Littles ever have to go back to public school, they will be a grade or two ahead if I can help it and they won’t suffer too much shock at the schedules.

But the truth is, I am envious of those moms brave enough to tackle one class per six weeks.  I am envious of unschoolers who follow their kids’ leads.  I am even a little envious of moms who let some other curriculum writer do some of the work.  Slowly but surely I have been adding some of these elements to my eclectic way of doing things, but I have an abject fear of going off schedule.  Don’t ask me why.  I can’t explain it.  And when one of my peers calls and says, “Oh, we just couldn’t do it today.  We had such a busy weekend and were too exhausted for school,” or something like that, my mind starts literally gibbering with fear at the idea of Ever letting that happen.

Having said that, I would love to hear how you homeschool.  Or if your kids go to public school, how do you help them with homework?

By the time I become an expert at this, my Littles will be graduated.  But don’t tell the folks at the seminar.

Love wins,

KT

My Other Obsession

Have I ever told you about my complete enthrallment with binders?  For any type of paper organization, I am a binder girl.  With the help of a good three-hole punch, nothing ever gets lost.  I keep track of my blog with a binder.  I keep track of my diet with a binder.  I keep track of my bills in a binder.

As a homeschooling mama, I utilize binders in lots of ways.  It can get expensive, but I’ve found that in this instance, garage sales are my friend.  I can usually find them for about 25 cents.  I once picked up a whole box of binders (had about 20 in it) for $2.  That’s the cost of One in the store!  I can’t tell you how I happy-danced back to the car.  Here’s why:

chemistry binder front chemistry binder inside

   We use binders to keep track of our worksheets, to do notebooking and lapbooking, to write vocabulary words and take notes, for everything from science to writing to reading to history.  It’s like having the whole class in one convenient place.

When we begin each class, the Littles just pull out their binders and turn to the next blank page or worksheet.  They don’t lose any information to the bottomless pits that can become of their book boxes.  If we have to refer back to something for some reason, we can easily find it.  If I decide to test their memories with a quiz, they know where to look to study.

twist binder front

This is a pic of our Oliver Twist study guide binder.  The book is long and there is a lot to be gleaned from it, so the study guide is over 200 pages.  It’s packed with vocab and study questions and directions for activities, such as crafts, art projects, geography studies, and even some health and social studies projects.  It’s wonderful to just be able to open it to the next chapter and have it sitting in front of them while they read the book.

little twist binderOf course, we finished Oliver Twist today (a little early; we read three chapters.  None of us could wait till next week to read the end!), so this binder will be filed away with the others we’ve filled over the years, on a shelf in their bedroom where all that knowledge is at their fingertips and in their own handwriting!  That’s my favorite part about using a binder–once you’re done, everything you’ve learned stays protected in one ‘handy-dandy notebook.’ (A Blue’s Clues reference they are still somehow young enough to appreciate! haha)

I can’t sing the praises of binders for homeschool families enough.  If you’re like me and you love the use of worksheets AND notebooking AND lapbooking, you can keep it all in one convenient place.  We hole-punch construction paper for lapbooking and just add it to the binder.  A little different from the file folders we started out in, but actually neater, too.

If you can’t afford binders, or have a class that just doesn’t require all that space, the next best thing is a 3-prong folder.

art history binder insideYou know, those folders you can get at Walmart for 15 cents during the back-to-school sales.  We’re using this one for art history this year.  As you can see, we even use lapbook elements in the middle of our notes sometimes.

It took me about a year to realize I could incorporate my binder obsession into our homeschool, and another year until it became the way I keep Everything organized.  Even my school calendars and curriculum plans.  The only thing we don’t use binders for these days is math, which we do in plain old notebooks.  I wish I would have used binders sooner.  So I’m hoping you’ll like the idea and use it as well.  Because if I can help make things easier for you, then I’m a happy binder-lady.

Do you have a tool that seems obvious but that most people might not think about implementing?  If so, share it with me.  I like my life to be made easier too!

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  If you’re wondering about the little scraps of paper on the binders in the pics, well, they’re covering up a name of course!  They come off for school work. 🙂

Forgive My Rant

I debated whether or not to post this.  In the end, I decided that even though it’s been written and discussed a million times or more, I need the solidarity of knowing once more that I’m not alone in this struggle.  So here goes.

I had another instance over the weekend of someone saying, “I just think public school is better than homeschool. For the social interaction.”

Usually, after four years of doing this, I am able to let comments like that roll off my back. I know what I know about homeschooling, and those people are speaking from a place of true ignorance. But this one came from a little too close to home, from someone the Littles might actually listen to. In fact, I heard Littlest say within 24 hours of the comment, “If everybody homeschooled, no one would have any friends.”

I had to bite my tongue to keep from taking it out on him. After several deep, cleansing (ragged) breaths, I was ready to respond.

“Who is Will?” I asked.

“My friend.”

“Who is Seth?”

“My friend.”

Sam? Anna? Caitlin? Robert? Oh, I could have listed them for a very long time. “Baby,” I said to my boy who is no longer a baby, but on the cusp of pre-pubescence, “if everyone homeschooled, they would still find ways to make friends.”

It confused him. But it confuses a lot of people. As a society we tend to think of the public school experience as the number one way to make and have friends. We forget all the other ways kids meet people. Church. The park down the street. Family gatherings. The local pool or the YMCA. Karate or gymnastics class.

Homeschool kids, though, they have even more opportunities. Co-ops are great places not only to let your child learn something you may be unable to teach but to let them interact with other kids. Within 5 minutes of us, even in this rural area, are 3 homeschooling families. We get together regularly as a group to share classes or just hang out. Our local forestry offers a weekly nature class all year except for the very coldest months. We’ve attended classes there when more than 20 families showed up. Several of the museums in the nearby city offer monthly activities for homeschool families.  The regional zoos offer outings for homeschoolers. Even one of the small local theaters does a play every couple of months featuring only child actors. Every time we attend one of these functions, my Littles are interacting—not just with other kids but with other adults. They have friends. Lots of friends. Of all ages.

Here’s what my precious Littles do not have. They don’t have bullies making them scared to walk down the street or stealing their lunch money so that they’re starving every day. They don’t have to worry about which clique they fit into, so they can just grow up being themselves, without the pressure to be ‘as good as’ someone else. We are all as good as the next person. Money, smarts, athletic ability—those things do not put one of us above another, and my Littles know that. They don’t have to wait till after high school to realize it. They do not have to live through that middle school experience where suddenly 90% of your friends turn on you for some unfathomable reason. Some of my friends with public-schooled kids are suffering the agony of watching their kids go through that right now, and my heart aches for them. Whenever I hear another horror story, I just go hug my Littles and feel immense gratitude that they are not enduring that cruelty.

There is no lack of social interaction for the homeschooled child. Saying it feels like beating my head against a brick wall for the billionth time. It hurts my heart that my kids have to hear people to whom they are close assume that they live backwards, imprisoned, lonely lives just because they don’t go to public school. I mean, yeah, that’s not what was said but let’s face it, every time someone says homeschool doesn’t provide socialization that is what is implied.

I’ve been on both sides of this fence as a mother. I can’t tear out my hair every time someone makes an asinine assumption, and I can’t punch them in the face. All I can do is remind my Littles of what is good in their lives and why such comments are to be ignored or at least taken much more lightly than I was able to do this time around. And maybe use my blog as a place to vent so they don’t see me reacting in a negative way!

And you know what? I don’t hang out with anyone I went to public school with. I’ve made all my friends in other places over the years.

Have you ever had someone make assumptions about your kids’ lifestyle without really knowing anything about it? How did you handle it? Better yet, if you homeschool, list me some ways your kids make friends.

Going to take a few more ragged breaths….

Love wins (every time),

KT

Bedtime Stories

I have a secret.  And fortunately my beautiful husband doesn’t read my blog, so I can tell my secret to you, my curious reader.

When all my boys were little, from the womb in fact, I read them bedtime stories.  I have very fond memories of my dad or my brother reading me stories at bedtime, and later of climbing into bed with a book I chose myself, watching those lines and squiggles on the pages become a world in my mind, taking me places and on adventures I may never get to have.  In fact, those adventures went a long way toward turning me from a city slicker to a farm girl without ever looking back.  There is still nothing cozier to me than burrowing into the covers at night with a book or my Kindle and reading until my eyes drift shut.  I do it every night.

You know that my Littles and I read a chapter aloud together every day in class, and I have mentioned (over and over again) that I think engendering a love of reading is the biggest educational gift you can give your little ones.  I haven’t written much about extracurricular reading, but I enforce it.  The boys are required to read at least one book every four weeks.  I developed a book report-starter worksheet that lays out everything I expect in a report in question format, and the Littles have to fill one out for every book, writing two full reports from those worksheets per semester.  This is to ensure they are really reading on their own.

That’s not my secret.

My husband is a firm believer in ‘bedtime is bedtime,’ and when you go to bed, you turn out the lights and go to sleep.  But when the Littles came to me one night and whispered, “Mommy, can we read our books in bed?”  I didn’t hesitate.  With a wicked grin I whispered back, “Oh, please do.”  They’ve gotten caught a couple times.  Their sweet father reminded them that if they want to read they should go to bed earlier.  Behind his back, I slowly winked and shook my head.

Read, my beautiful boys.  Whenever you want to, especially at bedtime, let those adventures and strange places and interesting characters lull you into pleasant (or even outrageous) dreams.  Read while you’re brushing your teeth, while you’re riding in the car, while you’re waiting for your brother to finish his chores.  Never, never believe anyone who says, “Now is not the time to read.”

Just don’t tell Daddy.

Love wins,

KT