I am always, yet never alone. That’s my life as a homeschool mom in this strange and troubling COVID-19 world. When my governor closed all essential businesses back in the middle of March, my world came to a screeching halt. No more in-person music lessons. No more dropping off my kids at my local gym’s childcare program so I could get my 30 minutes of exercise. We don’t have anymore church fellowships or ministry obligations or homeschool group get-togethers. My husband continued to go to work everyday just as he had before the pandemic, but I suddenly found myself basically confined to my home all day, every day. I was confronted with a deep homeschool loneliness.
Projects, activities, and labs all play an important role in homeschooling. Sometimes we use them to help us assess whether or not our child truly understands a concept. And sometimes we use them to build a deeper understanding about a concept. But homeschool projects can be challenging, because, in order to do them, we have to have the right materials. That means that we have to plan ahead to make sure that I have everything we need. And sometimes getting those materials can be difficult and expensive. If you are like me and have multiple school-aged children, you may be tempted to skip those projects all together. [Read more…] about Resources for Homeschool Projects
On March 16, 2020, both public and private schools in my state were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No longer would the yellow school buses rumble down my street. No longer would I have to dodge school car-lines on my way to an appointment. When my fifth-grade daughter heard the news, her reaction was jubilant: “Now every kid in the state is a homeschooler!” Not exactly. Every child in my state was now being schooled at home. But there are big differences between being schooled at home and being homeschooled. Many are calling the new situation “crisis schooling”—parents simply trying to continue their child’s education during a time of crisis. Most families probably have no long-term plans to continue educating their children this way.
But perhaps you know a family who is—or was—considering homeschooling their children and is now uncertain what homeschooling is all about. Now is the time to share the homeschooling vision with them. Here are some specific things that you may want them to know about the difference between homeschooling and crisis schooling.
Homeschool parents are in charge of their curriculum.
In a crisis schooling situation, the parents are not really in charge of their child’s education. The school is. The school decides what work students complete. It chooses the curriculum. The parents are facilitators.
If the child is enrolled in a public school (or any of the free online public school options), the situation is even worse. The government is in charge. And the curriculum it chooses is not “religiously neutral”—it is often at war with God’s law. This curriculum teaches the children of our nation that God is not Creator, that there is no absolute truth, and that there are no moral absolutes.
One of the great blessings of homeschooling is the fact that I, as the parent, get to be in charge. I get to choose my child’s curriculum. One of the main reasons that my husband and I have continued to use BJU Press Homeschool curriculum is that their curriculum aligns with our values. Every single textbook gives me the tools to shape my child’s worldview according to the Bible.
As a homeschool parent, I also have the freedom to make adjustments to my curriculum to meet the needs of my family and the learning needs of my individual children. We can go at our own pace. We can add or omit assignments. Homeschool parents are not the slaves of the curriculum we choose. We are the masters of it.
Homeschool parents are in charge of their schedule.
Not only do I get to be in charge of my curriculum, but I also get to be in charge of my schedule. Of course I have to meet the attendance requirements of my state, but no one dictates a start date or an end date for me. I can choose to follow a traditional school-year schedule or homeschool year-round. My children can do their lessons in the morning or wait until later in the day. I can even take a two-hour break for music lessons in the middle of the afternoon. The flexibility of homeschooling is wonderful.
Homeschool parents are in charge of their children’s socialization.
One of my crisis-schooling neighbors told me the other day that I was lucky that I was a homeschooler before the COVID-19 crisis. “Not much has changed for you,” he commented.
He was wrong. It’s not normal for me to go weeks on a single tank of gas. I, like most homeschoolers, am not an isolationist. I just like the freedom to choose the company my children keep. My children may not have been surrounded by other children on a school bus or in a classroom all day, but before the current crisis they had plenty of social interaction—with people of differing ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Homeschooling provides wonderful opportunities for relationship-building. We have the time and the freedom to get involved with church ministries and community outreaches. We meet people with shared interests as we pursue our children’s gifts in music, art, sports, and other hobbies. Plus, the homeschooling community itself is a pretty close community. I would be lost without the support of my local homeschool friends.
Homeschooling to me means freedom—the freedom to parent and educate my children according to my values. It is a not a freedom that I take for granted, and I am thankful for those who have worked hard to win me this freedom. I fear that our freedom to homeschool may be challenged in the near future thanks to the confusion between crisis schooling and homeschooling. So be sure to share the vision of homeschooling with others. Help them understand what homeschooling is all about!
A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided to dramatically change our homeschooling routine. We moved from homeschooling using a traditional school year calendar to homeschooling year-round. I wrote about the reasons we chose to move to a year-round schedule in the post “3 Reasons to Homeschool Year Round.”
We have not regretted our choice to homeschool year-round, but the transition was a bit challenging. If you’re considering switching to year-round homeschooling, here are some tips to help you on your way.
Plan Your Calendar
Set Up a Routine
Homeschooling year-round will give you a lot of flexibility with your schedule, but you still need a plan. You still must meet your your required number of days or hours. I do recommend setting up a routine—it will help your child immensely to know what you expect on any given day. Some families choose to homeschool five days a week for a set number of weeks and then take a week or two off. My family has adopted a four-day-a-week schedule, and we try to take the same day off every week.
Plan Time Between School Years
It will also help your family if you plan a multi-week break between school years. I have found that I need time to mentally wrap up our school year, pack away any curriculum I hope to reuse in the future, and give myself a “breather” before starting all over again. I usually plan on a four to five week break between school years. Having that longer break also gives a “freshness” to the new school year that allows me to make changes to old routines more easily.
Communicate Your Homeschool Plan
If you are planning to homeschool year-round, you will want to communicate your plans to any homeschool umbrella organizations that you may be a part of. My family is a part of the Academy of Home Education (AHE), and every year we email AHE a copy of our planned yearly homeschool calendar which we usually create in Excel. Based on our calendar, AHE adjusts our reporting deadlines so that we don’t incur late fees.
Anticipate the Need for Adjustments
Adjust Your Curriculum
You will have to make some adjustments along the way. For example, the BJU Press spelling curriculum is set up for a five-day school week, which did not fit well with our four-day week. In order to avoid the possibility of having to take a spelling test after a three-day break from school, we decided that we needed to do spelling five days a week, even on our “day off.” It was an easy adjustment.
Adjust Your Grade Reporting
We also had to make some adjustments to our grading and reporting. Our quarters are usually 11 to 12 calendar weeks long, which at first glance, doesn’t fit very well with the nine-week grade reporting forms required by our homeschool organization. But this was an easy fix as well—we just ignored the calendar’s weekly divisions and counted every five days as a “week.”
Our family has really been blessed by year-round homeschooling, and I’m sure yours will be as well. I hope that some of these tips will make your transition easier. If you still need help, reach out to one of your local HomeWorks consultants—they are there for you!
Like many of you, I am in the process of figuring out my homeschool curriculum order for our next school year. I’m trying to decide what Distance Learning subjects and textbook kits we want to order, what textbooks and teacher’s materials we can reuse from older children, and what “extras” we need. But there’s something that’s definitely going in my order—the teacher editions for any subjects that I plan to teach myself.
I don’t buy printed teacher editions for every subject. My children use Distance Learning Online for many of their subjects, so I have access to the digital teacher editions for those courses if I ever need them. But I teach Reading 3 to my second daughter and Focus on Fives to my third daughter. I have found the teacher editions for those courses to be invaluable.
Let me walk you through my Reading 3 Teacher Edition to show you why I love it so much.
Like all BJU Press teacher editions, Reading 3 includes a Lesson Plan Overview in the front of each volume. The Lesson Plan Overview gives me a bird’s-eye view of the course. I can see how many lessons we’ll spend on any particular selection and what skills we’ll be focusing on. I use this to help me build my homeschool calendar, but I always end up making adjustments. Sometimes I end up combining lessons or skipping lessons altogether (yes, it’s okay to skip lessons!) based on what else is happening in our homeschool.
Individual Lesson Guides in Teacher Editions
Every lesson in Reading 3 has been carefully thought out. When I open my teacher edition to an individual lesson, I have everything that I need to teach effectively.
A glance at the top of the page tells me what pages we’re going to cover in the student textbook or worktext. The lesson objectives are clearly stated so I know exactly what my daughter needs to know by the end of the lesson. And I can clearly see what materials I need for the lesson and where I can find them.
Each lesson has a routine. We start with going over the vocabulary words that my daughter will need to know in order to understand what she’s reading. Each vocabulary word is presented in context so that my daughter will learn how to use context clues to figure out the meaning of unknown words when she comes across them in her own reading.
Next we move on to our reading focus, which is the literary skill that the lesson is focusing on developing (like recognizing how the setting impacts the story). Here, the teacher edition provides instructions on how to introduce these skills and questions that I can ask my daughter to make sure that she understands the instruction.
Then we jump into the selection itself. The teacher edition provides me with reduced student pages, so I can see exactly what my daughter sees in her student textbook. But I get a few extra features. All the vocabulary words for this particular lesson are underlined in the text so that I can make sure my daughter understands them. I also get some additional notes that help me with biblical worldview shaping and text enrichment.
The biggest help for me is the questions and answers that the teacher edition provides. These questions, as I wrote in a previous post, help me develop and assess my daughter’s reading comprehension, and they also help me lead my daughter to have a deep appreciation for the selection. I know from experience that I would not be able to come up with questions like these on my own. Do I ask every question? No. Some we skip because of time. Some I end up expanding because of my daughter’s interest. Remember that the teacher edition is just a guide—you don’t have to do everything. You don’t even have to ask each question exactly as written. You are in charge. The teacher edition is just there to provide support.
By the time you teach Reading 3, your child should have a good foundation of phonics knowledge. But many third graders (mine included) still need additional phonics practice. So every lesson in Reading 3 includes a review of a phonics principle, and most worktext pages assess that same phonics skill. Don’t feel as if you always have to teach that portion of the lesson. If your child breezes through that portion of the worktext page without mistakes, just move on.
The teacher edition does include reduced student pages of the worktext pages (with answers), but they are very small. A digital copy of the worktext answer key is included on the CD that comes free with the teacher edition and a printed edition is available for separate purchase.
The CD contains a few other grading tools. The most valuable to me is the rubric that helps me assess my daughter’s oral reading.
Other Resources in Teacher Editions
The CD that comes with the teacher edition contains a wealth of other resources such as teaching aids and additional activities. These are particularly helpful for multisensory teaching. Find the ones that are useful for you and your child and ignore the rest.
While we have been focusing on the teacher edition for Reading 3, all BJU Press teacher materials include the same kinds of helpful resources for teaching your children. Some include a resource CD, some offer multiple volumes of teaching material, and some have online resources available. A teacher edition is one of the most valuable tools that you will find in your homeschool toolbox. But don’t feel bound to it. It is designed to help support you, so make it work for you and your homeschool situation.
If you are interested in previewing any of BJU Press’s teacher editions online, just click the Look Inside button at the bottom of the product image.