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Homeschooling | Homeschool Organization, Curriculum, + Starting Kindergarten 2014

I've spent part of the morning getting some of our homeschool binders ready with free printables that I've collected over the year. Let me just say, i.love.binders. Especially if you print out a lot of FREE printables you find online, like I do. Binders are so inexpensive and they are, best of all, reusable!!!

{At the end of this blog, I'll list a few links with some of my favorite things that help keep me organized during the school year. Please understand that many of these links are affiliate links that help provide for my family, so if you are directed to a specific website to purchase the product, this is the reasoning.}

We probably won't start using these two particular binders (pictured above) until the new school year. We have decided to homeschool every now and then through the summer, but not structured. Basically just revisiting what he's already learned in ways that don't feel like "learning". Or for example, if he wants to watch a tv show, he has to say his alphabet and tell me what each letter says. Or if he wants to get a treat, like a brownie or something, he will have to look at numbers 1-20 and point to the number when I call it out, etc etc. Of course, this isn't every single time he wants or needs something, but sporadically.

We will be doing a bit more structured homeschool this fall. Our school year won't begin until the week of September 8th, so this gives him an extra long summer. It also helps me get into the mindset of "school" rather than starting before the holiday and vacation. We have decided to use Saxon Math and Phonics for the 2014-2015 school year -- Saxon Phonics K and Saxon Math K (you do not need the math "workbooks" for Math K if homeschooling, only the meeting book). We plan to stick with Saxon Phonics and Math through third grade. After third grade, I may switch him over to Abeka for math. It helps to switch on and off -- where Saxon lacks, Abeka excels, and where Abeka lacks, Saxon excels. This makes sure that your child is getting the step by step instruction as well as the hands on visual learning. We will begin A.C.E. in first grade for all other subjects. As always, we will still utilize Easy Peasy All-in-one Homeschool this year and possibly in years to come.

My biggest issue for Kindergarten this fall is that some of the things he's going to be learning in the Saxon curriculum are things that he's already learned this year, so we may be done with our phonics portion of Kindergarten early. It's the same with all of the Kindergarten curricula. But Saxon is better advanced than other curricula, without being too far advanced, like Abeka.

homemade playdough for fun math and art building skills
I often have to remind myself to stop comparing his homeschool learning with the public school learning system. The other day someone asked me what grade he was in, and I couldn't really respond. I explained that he's starting Kindergarten in the fall, and they replied, "oh, so he's just going to be learning the sounds of letters, how to count to 20, sight words, learning how to write, etc?"

Blank stare.

I honestly didn't know how to respond, because he's already doing all of that, with the exception that we've just started sight words. Sight words are our main goal this Summer.

Then the question was asked, "well if he's that far advanced, why don't you go ahead and start him in some first grade things?"

But see, he's not "that far advanced" according to homeschool schedule. He is, in fact, right smack dab on schedule.

It's hard to explain this to friends and family members unless they are teachers or fellow homeschoolers.  It's also hard to get them to understand that we don't just do 'work', we teach simple everyday life skills as well. So I've decided to break it down a bit in the best way I know possible based on being a public school student myself, and also being "homeschooled" in a very small Christian school through the high school grades.
making a bird feeder with a toilet paper roll, peanut butter, and bird seed
{Please note that I love public school teachers and could probably never do their job as well as them. They are incredibly patient and blessed, and I am thankful that they do what they do! This blog post is in NO WAY demeaning or belittling their abilities or talent} 

Here are a few things to consider when comparing public school grade levels to homeschool grade levels.

You can start earlier or later in their lives.
They don't have to start preschool at 2 years old or even 4 years old. They don't have to start kindergarten at 5 years old if they make the "cutoff" birthday limit for public school. They can wait until 6, or they can start as early as 4. Therefore, the age of your child is not what determines when they start their first year of school. The mental capacity of your child does. Because you can start earlier, this means that your 5 year old will most likely  be on a 1st grade and possibly 2nd grade level by the end of the "kindergarten" school year. But not in all things. Your child will excel in what is of interest to them and lack in what is not of interest to them, pay attention and nourish what they love.

You can go as slow or as fast as you want.
With limitations, of course. You don't want your 5 year old doing 4th grade math, nor should you attempt it. However, if your child catches onto something quickly, by all means, run with it. All too often, children get bored by doing repetitious things in Kindergarten. Or sometimes, they are challenged too much, and things such as dyslexia, ADHD, and other issues are often over looked (or promoted) since there is no one-on-one with the child. If your child doesn't understand something in public school, it's "too bad for them" or they are labeled as being "slow". They still go with the flow of the classroom rather than at an individual pace, or they are placed in a "special" class. The same with not being challenged enough, which is where boredom takes front seat and causes laziness. Or in some ways, they are put into excelled classes where they are focused simply on scoring well on tests so that they can go to college or make their parents happy.

Either scenario labels your child in the public school system. Your child isn't stupid, but because it's easier for us to not "deal" with it in such a fast paced setting, we do what's easier for us without ever considering the way it is effecting our students, both educationally, mentally, and emotionally. Do not force your child to race ahead, but don't be too flexible and laid back either. Keep a steady pace, and slow down or speed up where needed.

Your child will never just be in "one grade". 
And you better get used to it right now. There are some things that your kindergartner will do that is actually on the First Grade level in public school, simply because they have excelled quicker in some things and not in others. This goes along with going as fast or as slow as your child's mind allows in reasonable limitations. My sister-in-law could read at the age of 5 because of the one-on-one homeschool that my mother-in-law did with her. However, if she would have had to be taken out of homeschool and put into the public school system, they would quickly find that she probably excelled 3 grades in reading, but lacked in math. Or maybe she excelled one grade in social studies, but was right on target in science. See where I'm going with this? The biggest issue, however, is that a public school student is forced to stay on course with everyone else, whether they are excelling or lacking. They don't have the freedom to learn.

You work at the pace of your children, not with the idea that everyone must finish the same exact studies at the same exact time -- but some students fail and some students excel and that's OK. But it is not OK. This is where, in my opinion, the public school system fails, completely. Because at this point, children are made to feel either superior or stupid. And that's just not the case.

When asked "what grade is your homeschooler in?" I have decided to reply with whatever grade they are mainly in at that time (what grade takes up the bulk of their day?), and adding "with the acceleration of certain subjects, in which he is a grade ahead".

You use a different curriculum than the public school system and can tailor it to your child's needs.
The public school system has its own curriculum and schedule geared towards teaching a classroom, not an individual student. Individual students can learn more at one time than a classroom can. It's not rocket science. In a classroom,  the teacher is not just taking questions from one student, but from 20+ students in one time period. And each of those students is going to have a different strength, weakness, and question about their work. If they don't have questions about their work, then they are not, in fact, learning.

With homeschooling, you are focusing on one student at a time, even if you have 6 or 16 children. Each of those children are going to be excelling in different subjects at different times, and most likely will not be on the same exact grade level or lesson at one time. Therefore, it gives you more time with each child to do their lesson individually, answering individual questions that pertain strictly to them and their lesson, not 20 other children where they can become easily confused. Why would they become easily confused in a classroom?....that brings me to my next point....

Each student, whether public schooled or homeschooled, learns differently.
There are three different types of learning styles. Your student may have one, or may have all of them. Most likely, however, they will only have one or two learning styles. If a teacher in the public school system is teaching students in only one way of learning style (most likely, the way that the teacher learns), then what about the two other groups of students who learn in a different way? For this very reason, questions and responses can be confusing for students in the public school system rather than that one-on-one time during homeschool.

These learning styles are as follows:

Visual --
Does better by watching someone else "do it" rather than being told to or reading how to do something. Does well with graphs, visual objects, pictures, and memorization. Is easily distracted and likes to daydream, which can often be misdiagnosed for hyperactive disorders. Is creative and imaginative.

Auditory --
Retains information through hearing and speaking, being told how to do something. Does well in a lecture type setting. May enjoy having background music played softly as they learn, and may do better by reading things aloud rather than reading things silently. 

Kinesthetic --

Prefers learning "hands on", would rather demonstrate how to do something rather than verbally explain it. Prefers group work more than the other two learning styles. Can become shy and overly disappointed in themselves if not allowed to learn in their particular style. 

Make sure you find out how your child learns if you are homeschooling. One child normally excels in one learning style, however, your child may learn in two learning styles. It is rare for a child to learn in all three ways. This will be very beneficial to the both of you if you discover their learning style now, in early elementary years, versus discovering them in middle school years.

It's a challenge for any parent to teach in a way that they do not learn. But I guarantee that you will find it so much easier to homeschool if you pay attention to the way your child learns, and offer them different routes of learning. Not only does this help them learn in the way that they prefer, but it also teaches them to learn the other styles as well. It keeps their mind fresh and sharp.

And last but not least....

The biggest difference between homeschooling and public school is that when my child is having a bad or "off" day, it's ok. We stop doing what we're doing and say "you know what, we'll pick back up tomorrow". You can then choose alternate ways to teach your child that day, in fun unsuspecting ways. Or I prefer to get them involved around the house. Help them learn how to take care of themselves. Make it a "help around the house" day, or a "learn how to be like mommy and daddy" day. Younger children tend to love it when you show them the "big" responsibilities that mom and dad have. With older children, you may have to make this a "go outside and relax" day, or if your child likes to read... a "curl up in bed and read" day.

The key thing to remember is that your child will not learn if they are having an off day -- whether in public school or homeschool. I would much rather skip a school day and pick back up the next day, rather than waste my time, and my child's time, with a school day that is not beneficial to either of us.

Homeschool can seem a little overwhelming for us as parents. But whether you're a newbie or a pro, don't let it deter you. The more you do it, the easier it gets. It will eventually become second nature. I say this like I'm a pro, but I'm not. I'm simply a girl learning the hard way, because I want to.

Allow your child to experience the everyday life going on around them, not just the worksheets and math equations. Let them experience the simple things that they wouldn't learn in a classroom setting. Even if that means running outside in the middle of the night to show them the cicada's coming up out of the ground -- it's a one in every 17 year experience. Don't ever say "we'll do it another time" on the fun and important moments that last a lifetime, when there may never be "another time".

With that said, I thought I'd share a few things with you that make my homeschooling adventure ten times easier. Without these SIMPLE things, I would be lost. I, personally, am a visual and kinesthetic learner. It helps when you know what kind of learner you are, so that you can better organize your homeschool station. So my homeschool organization is very visual and readily at hand. All of our homeschool books, binders, and other items are right at my fingertips and visible at ALL times.

Yes, you read that right. My homeschool junk is hanging out there for everyone to see!

(forgive the old iphone photo)

This is an old photo of my homeschool corner when I first started putting it together. It's a little more full on the shelves now and less underneath. My kitchen still isn't painted, but we're working on it. The luxury of purchasing a fixer upper. This area will actually be moved into our basement before September, into our actual homeschool ROOM. Which I am so incredibly psyched about. I can't wait to take photos of it once it's done. But for now, the kitchen table will have to do, along with half of a kitchen wall.

Here are some products that help me stay organized and on budget:

And not necessarily these particular ones. I find great deals at Target and Staples after school begins. I stock up then for the following year if I need more. The binders featured above are actually a steal if you have Amazon Prime. We tossed around the idea of subscribing to Amazon Prime so many times, we finally decided to go with it. We order all kinds of beneficial things online now (even flour and sugar!), receive free 2 day shipping and amazing discounted prices. I love it!

I use binders for all kinds of things, but especially printables and workbook sets. If you plan on using your child's workbooks for subsequent children, then copying the pages in the workbooks so that you don't have to buy the workbooks again, is a great choice for you. Simply copy them, hole punch them, and stick them in a binder so that your child has their own workbook.

Also, I normally purchase these binders  and create my own covers and binding. It's just more fun that way!

Hanging File Bins:
You can, by all means, hang files in these, which I do in many of them. However, they are the perfect size to store crafting supplies, extra workbooks, paper, and other necessities. I have one bin full of craft supplies -- that way all I have to do is pull one bin out. I have another bin full of scrap paper and construction paper, and another full of colored pencils, markers, and other art items. The link above is for a 4 pack of these storage bins.

Pocket Folders:
I love my pocket folders. Jr especially loves the kid ones that have scenes or puppies on them. You can just about find any kind of pocket folder, but I enjoy these for my personal use. It allows me to write on the outside of them, or plop a sticker on it and read it quickly rather than search for the sticker through a mural of puppies, dinosaurs, and rainbows.

I use pocket folders to house stickers (mine and his), grade forms, tests, legal information, assessment quizzes, completed work for the week, lap books (or turn them into lap books), and various other things.

Ziploc 2-gallon Storage Bags:
I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I discovered these beauties. I mean seriously, why did someone not tell me about these things a long time ago!?

I use these for trips (if we need to take school stuff with us), to keep all of our flash cards together, for puzzles (especially the huge pieced puzzles), to keep large school projects safe, for "paint" projects (putting painy in the bag and letting them "paint" with their fingers without the mess), and so much more.

These are also great for large vegetables or food items around the kitchen.

Assorted Size Rubber Bands:
A lot of people say duck-tape can fix anything....I'm pretty sure they meant rubber bands. I use these things for e v e r y t h i n g. You can also find these at the dollar store, but they have boring colors.

If there's one thing our private school teachers taught us, it's that teachers always write in red pen, and they hide them. It was like the worst thing to see when they would whip that thing out. But in all honesty, it was a great way to know what your student has already completed and what they have tried to "pull over" on you if they decide to lose their integrity as they get older.

I use a red pen simply because it's bright and colorful, but also because it catches the eye quickly, so that my student knows what needs to be corrected and studied.

You may be thinking, how does this make your job easier? Trust me, it does. Through trial and error I learned that a 4 year old does not hold a pencil the proper way unless they are guided by something. Rather than me constantly moving his fingers about, I bought pencil grips. They were fun for him, and easier for me! He now writes like a pro without it, but while we had them, life was so much easier! These aren't just great for toddlers, however, they are great throughout the entire elementary school year while your child is mastering handwriting.

Hey Mama Homeschool Planner

Last but certainly not least, my Hey mama Homeschool Planner. Or any simple planner, for that matter.

Last year I used a free planner, which you can find tons of on pinterest! And of course, I used a binder with it. However this year I decided to buy a planner, and I am loving it. Between the cost of ink and paper (and time!) to print the free planners out, I probably ended up saving money by purchasing one this year.

Of course, I have a ton of things I love to use, but these are my main go-to's and favorites!

I would love to hear about some of the products that make your homeschool organization easier. Please feel free to comment below or share on my facebook page!

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