How We Homeschool
A stranger on the internet noted that I had “homeschool mom” posted in my bio and messaged me for more information. It is was asked privately, but I thought my response might be helpful to more out there.
I think the best I can do is describe what we do and have tried and what has worked. My educational philosophy is Charlotte Mason method. I don’t know what you are familiar with, so I will describe it. The core ideas of CM are living books, short lessons, and wide variety. It has some elements in common with Classical method, but the approach is different. It suits special needs kids well, with modification for accommodation. We use real books for all our core subjects. The through-story line keeps the mind engaged and on topic. It ties one lesson to the next week. The magic is in the narration. Each lesson is narrated by the child restating what he has heard or read from the book. In the beginning, you might need to stop frequently as the child adjusts his attention span and develops skill in narration. Or if it is a particularly tough reading. This improves over time.
The living books are necessary, because what you get in a textbook is already the editor’s narration of a topic. It just doesn’t have enough interest, scope or style to offer material for narration. The act of narrating actually moves the material from the active mind to the longterm memory of the child. That is why this works so well for Special Needs. My LD daughter has trouble moving her knowledge from short- to longterm memory. So making sure she narrates is vital. These core subject readings are kept short so that the child does not lose interest in the middle of the lesson and his mind is stimulated to continue thinking about his readings…what might come next, can I act this out in my play, etc. With a typical 10 year old, you’d aim for 20-30 minutes. With a struggling learner, less.
Between core subjects, we also study the “riches” art, music, foreign languages, copywork, recitation, mapwork, etc. We pack a lot in a day, but everything is very short. Some of these are on daily rotation, some weekly. Some are group work, but most are independent. They usually only take 5 or 10 minutes, but offer a break for the brain to switch gears and use a different part.
So our day goes something like — Prayer, singing (we have a folk and hymn and then I incorporate memorization songs for math or whatever), Bible (about 30 min for all three combined), Math (30 min), one of our group subjects (30 min), a poem, copywork (maybe 10 min for both), core subject reading (20 min), select something from riches list (10 min), and basically alternate the last two items until complete for the day. We have a movement break in the middle. We start at 9 and the youngest is done by 12 or 12:30. The older ones, by 2.
We use Ambleside Online as the starting point for our choices, but I tailor it to meet our needs. It is rigorous. All my kids are placed a year behind. If my LD daughter wasn’t a twin, I would have placed her two years behind. She does some of her work with her younger brother, who is three years behind her. I believe he also is dyslexic.
To address our special needs, I used Dianne Craft’s Brain Integration Therapy last year. It has made a world of difference! I was lucky enough to get it from my sister, but it is unfortunately pricey. I also have her reading materials, but didn’t have the time to really learn how to use it. We were also given All About Reading, which I used level 2 and 3 with my two youngest last year. It’s a bit pricey, too, but breaks down phonograms with techniques to understand why words behave the way they do. These two programs combined have helped to get my daughter over her hump and reading more fluently. She says the letters stopped moving around on her. This year I am using Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, because I have it. That will get us through the letter combos we haven’t gotten yet.
For Math, most of my kids are using Life of Fred. There isn’t enough repetition in that for my LD daughter, who needs constant repetition to move her learning to longterm memory, so she was using Saxon. We’ve taken a bit of a break to really solidify her math facts for the past few weeks though. She really can’t understand the concepts if she has to use all her mental energy on her facts. We use https://arithmetic.zetamac.com/ and https://home.xtramath.org/ for fact practice. If you need paper there is https://www.math-drills.com/.
For foreign language, my sister discovered we can get access to some online tools for that through our public library. So you don’t have to know a language to teach a language. My kids do about 5 min a day in French every other day. The alternate days they do Latin with Lingua Latina. You learn naturally, by using the include maps and diagrams to figure out the English equivalent. My kids love it, because it is like a puzzle. Youngest doesn’t do that yet, but even my LD daughter gets it with a little help.
Our first year of homeschooling, we used https://www.goodandbeautiful.com/ for Language Arts and History. It’s really open and go. CM inspired. But not exactly wholly CM and lessons can be on the long side (especially History), so I changed over to AO. It’s high quality, though I didn’t like the way the history bounced around. It felt disjointed.
A lot of people use https://allinonehomeschool.com/, which is free. If you are budget-conscious that might work well, for you, too. We’ve used parts. I have my twins doing the Grammar parts of their LA as part of their ‘riches’ assignments. I believe it is meant to be more self-directed, but adjust it to suit your needs.
The AO that we use is distributed freely, but you must acquire the books you choose to use with your child. Many are public domain, on https://gutenberg.org/ or other similar sites. A lot of other families use the library. I use https://www.abebooks.com/ and ebay to find used books. I used most of our inflation-causing stimulus money last year to buy several years worth. I have a list I take to estate sales and thrift stores, too. Many of our books I’ve gotten for $1-2. It’s probably comparable or cheaper than textbook type curriculums you might purchase.
If you are using a Gutenberg book, you can have your child read along using https://librivox.org/. Reading along is preferable to just listening. I read most of my daughter’s books to her, because she just isn’t up to reading level yet. As she progresses, I have her read to me or read on her own what I think she can handle. Last year, she had access to https://learningally.org/ through the public school (long story there). This service provides audiobook access even to newer titles and often has some on-screen follow along reading combined.
Finally, as you investigate different curricula, I have found https://cathyduffyreviews.com/# to be really helpful to know what to expect from a resource, and to compare between different things. Ambleside also has forums to help figure it out, including a special needs forum, but you need to request special access to that one. It isn’t public. Now that you are completely overwhelmed, feel free to ask any questions!