Our first year homeschooling, which seems like a million years ago now, was our hardest. I did what we all do–I made it much more difficult than it had to be. Even though we had fun, and it cemented our decision to do this thing, my stress level was through the roof.
Littles was entering 1st grade and Middle was entering 3rd. And I had purchased E.D. Hirsch’s What Your First Grader Needs to Know and What Your Third Grader Needs to Know, and I was empowered with the tools to make sure the Littles knew everything they could learn. Which meant while Middle did science I was teaching Littlest history and while Littlest did spelling I was teaching Middle vocabulary and so on and so on. I was exhausted by the end of the day. The only subject we did together as a family was reading.
Do you have any idea how time-consuming it was to plan two different history lessons and two different science lessons and two different English lessons and…
You get the picture. Of course, it had to be done. Because Littlest was in the very early learning stages of the English language and Middle had the basics down, so that class, at least, had to be separate. And you know by now that I have never purchased a homeschool curriculum. Rather, I do all the planning and legwork myself. Can you say migraine?
The next year, I wised up a little. We did history together. It was so. much. easier. On all of us. The school day flowed better, I got rid of the headache, and the Littles got to actually enjoy each others’ company during school.
By the third year, I realized we could also do science together. I realize I’m lucky that my boys are not quite 2 years apart in age. Once they both had the basics covered, I could combine their classes a little at a time and neither of them suffered for it. I have always tried to teach them above the public school level anyway, so Middle wasn’t learning in ways that were too juvenile for him and Littlest wasn’t being too challenged.
Why we homeschool together
Fast-forward several years. Middle is in 8th grade and Littlest is in 6th. Though technically you could say they are both in the 8th grade. Because these days we do every. single. class. together.
And it is so much more fun for all of us.
This will be our first year doing math together. It is the one class I’ve held sacred as separate because Middle is more advanced than Littlest for a couple reasons. One, Middle excels at math where Littlest has an easier time writing (like his mama). Two, just by the process of learning math through Saxon math books, Middle’s knowledge is more advanced. But I’ve been working recently with a new homeschooling mama who has decided to give her high-schooler a consumer math class to prepare him for the future and that got me thinking. I Want my boys to have a consumer math class, to know how to balance a budget, write a check, and all the financial things we grown-ups have to do. So I decided to put together a consumer math class for our homeschool and let the boys do math together.
Of course, Middle asked if he could continue his algebra studies on his own. Which gave me a brilliant idea–one independent elective for each of them. Middle will do algebra. Littlest has chosen to give himself a survival class. We already have The Dangerous Book for Boys, which will be a good text for him to follow. I also ordered The Boy’s Book of Survival for him. Flipping through it I saw that there are lessons I can give him to make each chapter stick, so I’m down. I thought it was a really cool elective to choose in any case. He will be soooo prepared for the zombie apocalypse.
Especially if you’re planning your homeschool year all by yourself (but even if you purchase curriculum), when you homeschool together, you make it easy. But that’s not the real benefit we get from this thing. Rabbit trails, led by either boy, have become a regular part of our school day. Laughter and encouragement are constant. When one doesn’t understand something, the other jumps in and explains, often before I get the chance. As I’ve watched my Littles settle in to a groove of learning together, I have watched them both blossom in ways that first separate year didn’t hold a candle to. They are closer. They have realized they can rely on each other. They are quick to help each other deal with weaknesses and to encourage strengths.
Honestly. I think they could almost do this thing on their own. I’m feeling a little obsolete.
And that’s okay. As they enter the high school years, they will probably decide more and more often that their interests lie in different areas and they will separate again. While knowing they each have the other’s back.
Lucky for me, they’ll be old enough to do so independently, so I won’t have so much work to do. Because whew. I’m old and tired.