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Friday, May 30, 2014

Homeschooling help

A reader named Ben left a comment that I wanted everyone to see and to which they can respond. Ben writes:

I really like your blog and your views on home schooling. My wife and I are really interested in home schooling our sons down here in Southern California but we're not sure where to start with choosing a curriculum, etc. Any resources or advice you or your other readers could give would be really appreciated. Thank you for all you do!

Ben, I would like to address your attention to two blog posts which you may find helpful:

Homeschooling on One Income

Our Homeschooling Resources

Be sure to read the comments, since that's where a lot of valuable reader input can be found.

And now, dear readers, without knowing the ages of Ben's sons (hopefully he'll chime in and let us know), let's give him a hand and offer him some general advice. The more homeschoolers, the merrier!


  1. My first and most important piece of advice is do NOT do school at home!!! It bores the children and it bores the parent! Begin to foster a love for learning and make your whole life an education for your whole family. We have accomplished this by using the Charlotte Mason method for the past 6 years. We did school at home for the first 7 years and it almost burned us out!!! CM is a gentle way of learning with tons and tons of Living books - No Twaddle allowed!! Blessing on your decision to HS Ben - May God bless your decision immensely!!!!!!

  2. We live just North of Southern CA and homeschool our daughter. There are several homeschooling families in our area. Knowing the ages of the children would help. If they are younger than my daughter I have books we have used and could possibly help.
    Stuck In CA

    1. SLOCo refugee here, cheering you on and wishing you the best.

  3. We have also instituted a lot of Charlotte Mason's philosophies. One thing that sealed the deal for me is that Mason instructs us to put God first in everything. Especially education. "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

    I believe it is Carole Joy Seid that said all you need to homeschool is the Bible, a library card and a math curriculum.

  4. Ben, go to www.hsc.org (Homeschool Association of California) - they even have an online group list- and click on their Homeschool Help link for information on getting started. It is run by volunteers and their site also has links to homeschool groups that may be in your area or at least close by. As for curriculum, there are many kinds out there and not all of the subject material are as easy to use so I would do a thorough search on the net for reviews of each product. I did not use a structured curriculum package with my children. It is all pretty much piecemeal because what worked for the oldest doesn't work for the next. There are many resources that are on the internet that are free, as are resources in the library. Sometimes you can find curriculum at thrift stores and samples available online from some distributors. But do check out HSC's website and best wishes on your homeschooling adventure!

  5. Good for you for making the change! If you want a LOT of information all at once, be able to see different curriculum choices, and the opportunity to meet families just like yours, I'd suggest going to a homeschool convention. There happens to be one in the LA area June 12-14, Great Homeschool Conventions, but there are others also. If a convention isn't possible, find other home school families and ask if they are part of a local group or co-op. These groups can offer as much information as a convention (without an a convention fee!). I'm fairly confident that if you find a local group that aligns with your beliefs, you will also find another family who is further along in the homeschool journey that would be a willing mentor for you.

  6. The CHEA convention is tomorrow (Sat. 6/1/14) at the Disneyland Hotel. Everything you will want and need will be there. They helped me get started 17 years ago. Here is the link: http://www.cheaofca.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewPage&pageID=1245&nodeID=1
    Blessings, DWLee3

    1. Oops! It's Today (Sat. 5/31/14)! I got a little off on my date. Sorry. DWLee formerly from SoCal.

  7. I agree, don't do school at home. My son is a teen. We sat down and made a list together of all the things he wanted to learn. Some of it was traditional book knowledge, like calculus, but some of it was skill based, keeping bees. I took the list and started searching the internet for books, resources, clubs etc. that could help. I'd suggest not spendint a ton of money on the most expensive sources, at least not at first. I've purchased expensive materials that turned out not to be what we really wanted. they were good, just not a good fit. Wait to get really comfortable with home school before making big purchases. Give yourself time to settle in and find your groove.

  8. No matter which route you choose, join the Home School Legal Defense Association immediately.


    1. I agree, wholeheartedly! Step one.

      I also recommend Charlotte Mason type teaching and a library card. I know many families that out of fear of "not teaching" will spend hundreds of dollars, per child each year for stuff. Some children may need a different approach, but just think back to when you were in school and the teacher read aloud a book that the whole class loved, and it led to another book on the topic, a history lesson, a science lesson, an art project. You, too, can do this.
      Just today, I am shipping a collection of Magic Tree House books to my granddaughter (we bought them because the waiting list at the library was statewide and long). Each one of them can be used as the basis for lessons in science, history.
      Best Wishes to you on this endeavor should you choose to follow through, and blessings to your family.

  9. do not spend money on curricula unless you get rod and staff [and i've heard that christian light is good].
    daughter is through college so it has been a while.
    go to internet for khan academy--absolutely free-- and for advanced courses go to udacity and coursera. also free.
    got all books at library sales or borrowed from library. use interlibrary loan.
    do NOT ring bells between classes. don't have classes. just learn enjoyably.
    if one is a math whiz and other kid a poet go with it. don't expect them to be identical twins--unless they are?
    instead of 'textbooks' read the entire unedited books.
    those 'collections' are incomplete and irritating.
    wasted very hard to come by money on a massive english curriculum that was useless and made english so complicated i'm surprised any of us can speak it!
    i gave it away. several months of grocery money out the window.
    remember, people have discovered that there's money to be made from homeschoolers so will try to sell you a passel of books and services where none are really necessary.
    look at all the approaches-as one writer said they love charlotte mason- whatever blossoms your kids is the way to go.
    i remember my mom sent books for kids from a Bible publisher. had to explain the original and context often while reading to daughter who finally said, 'why don't you just read the Bible to me?'. good idea!! so that is what we did. cut out the middle man!
    God bless you!!
    have fun!!
    deb h.

    1. FYI...Khan academy is aligned to Common Core, and it was convoluted - so you could never "complete" a level of math. We went back to Math-U-See and are at peace again. DWLee3

  10. I always love your site, Patrice, but it's days like today and posts like this one of yours and most especially the responses to follow that gladden the heart and promote hope.

    Hugs all around.

    A. McSp

  11. Search on pinterest, by grade (ex., homeschool 3rd grade), by subject, by freebies. Search "free homeschool 4th grade", or just "free homeschool". I am amazed at all the lesson plans and pages and video compilations amd web pages that are available for a free education.

    And collect books. Search rescue missions, goodwill, yard sales, library sales--that's where we get the vast majority of ours. Homeschool groups also have end of school yr used curriculum sales--find people who homeschool in your area, and ask when and where these may be!! Also, I'm a part of 3 different HS fb pages, all local, and people are always offering books for sale on them! Curriculum and reading and useful books...it's such a blessing (and a delight!). There are stores which sell used HS books, too! And any used bookstore has tons you can wade thru. OH--free ebooks and free audiobooks!! Old books on the public domain are free! There are sites where you can dowload the book in a variety of formats, kindle, pdf, etc. Tje pdf ones can be printed, too, if you wanted to do a chapter, with notes taken on the side. Old textbooks are included in these books. I think Project Gutenberg is one site like this, google it for the link! Old history books, math books, grammar....

    We don't use just textbooks to learn, I keep a good library of learning books on hand, as well as a 2nd library of reading books. For reading, I prefer the old 1960's and earlier books, as they are more adventure, and less teeny-bopper romance. For learning, I collect all kinds...biographies, books on animals, humans, people groups, history, etc. Every week, I pull out a couple books and leave them on the coffee table. My kids come in from outside, grab one, and plop in a rocking chair to read, lol. I don't assign them pages, or even tell them to read these books....I just make them available. (Btw, no tv in the house....it's a small house, and we had room for the piano and the bookshelves. Amazing how much reading gets done w/o them wanting to watch a show. We DO watch stuff on the computer, via youtube and netflix, but it's not something available for the kids to click on.) Every afternoon we have "naptime". My kids don't always need a nap, but for 2 hrs they can sleep or read, depending on their day and what is needed. They devour books during this time.

    1. Yes! I agree with the pre-1960s books :) there are some awesome books out there for boys from what I hear - George Henty in particular. I think digital copies available for free through project gutenberg.

  12. Don't feel like you have to jump in right away. Give yourself a few months "off" to figure out what you want to do. Let your kids do their own thing while you research homeschool methodologies and curriculum. I was terrified my kids would fall behind, so I jumped in head first and made a lot of expensive mistakes.

  13. I know that you all are going to hate me for this, but here goes.
    When I started homeschooling my daughter I had some very
    close friends that were college proffessors. He could tell which
    kids had learned how to digram a sentence and which kids had
    not learned it.And a lot of you do not know if college is for your
    kids or not. My daughter went and just graduated with honors.
    And another thing and this was years ago. I was at a tire place
    getting new tires and I asked them, beside being a machine,what
    else did they look for on job applications. They said very good math skills and very good Englsh and writing skills. So make sure
    your English and math are excellent.B

    1. I refused to diagram sentences when I was in school during the 60's through the 70's. In some instances, I am sure that this "deficit" is obvious. However, I won several creative writing awards throughout my junior high and high school years and this was before the anything-goes teaching of language arts. I went to the state academic contest in writing earning a Level I award (math, geography and chemistry, as well).
      I CLEP'd out of English in college, and in the business writing class, I earned an A from the instructor that everyone hated. When I returned to college in my 30's, it became necessary for me to take language samples, of which the analysis required me to diagram sentences. The professor gave the class some reference materials to refresh our skills, or for those such as myself, to acquire the skills. Thus, I learned to diagram, as it was necessary for my future work and it made sense in this regard.
      I homeschool my son. I use diagramming only to correct grammar, not in and of itself. My daughter taught English in a Christian school and persecuted her students for semesters at a time with diagramming, insisting that they could not possibly write anything of value without knowing how to diagram. Perhaps my attitude is bad when it comes to diagramming, but I am of the opinion that it is more effective at correcting sentence structure than as a subject to cover in and of itself.
      A child exposed to a variety of reading material that grows increasingly complex and challenging as the child's reading level increases, will develop proper writing skills without the dreaded "diagramming".

    2. I agree. I was a voracious reader from the time I was 11. I never learned diagramming, nor did I ever really learn much except the basic eight parts of speech while in school.

      The constant reading taught me to punctuate naturally, gave me a great vocabulary, and taught me to spell with ease.

      Oh, after a dismal failure as a public high school student, I got an almost perfect score on my SAT English Language portion of the test.

      Get your kids to READ.

  14. "My first and most important piece of advice is do NOT do school at home!!!"

    Hear, hear!

    We just learned this last year with our 3 kids (16, 12, 9). It has made all the difference in the world.

    Teach them at home, don't school them at home.

  15. Diagram a sentence? Oh NO! If you really want to have fun with grammar and sentence diagramming, look here:


    Be sure to have fun learning with your kids. We started when overseas and continued when we returned to the states. At that time, we were living in Colorado and it was easy to visit places in the history books. It was easy to go to the museums for art lessons or to look at dinosaur bones and such. When we started there was little published for the homeschooler but by the time our kids graduated from high school there were huge homeschool support groups and great resources available without huge costs.


  16. Research the home school requirements in California. If your kids are older, decide if you want an accredited program that gives out a diploma accepted at any university. Find out how your district handles home schoolers. Remember you are not required to do ANYTHING that California law does not require.

    Get involved with a local home school coop. Keep your kids in local sporting programs, scouting, clubs, etc. Spend time each day on life skills. The freedom of home schooling comes from the fact that you can do the academics in a few hours, and the rest of your day can be spent with your kids learning how to DO all sorts of things.

    I home schooled my boys for in PA and used an accredited program from Seton Home Study. It was good, but I have learned by using it what I DON'T want to do from now on, and what works best for my kids.

    If you pick a program that is structured for the first year, it may give you a comfort level as you start out. Often these programs come with lesson plans, tests, teacher's planners, etc.

    After you get your feet wet, the next year you can move on and create your own curriculum that meets your family's needs.

    Most of all..ENJOY! You will become closer as a family and really discover your kids personal genius and their learning strengths and weaknesses.

  17. Lots of good advice here already. I'm all the way over in Australia but I have started my children on Math U See which I am really impressed by. I have also learnt a fair bit from Andrew Pudewa at the Institute for Excellence in Writing, who is really encouraging of poetry and reading aloud to your children (even for confident readers). We have bought the Trivium Persuit too and follow that for a classical approach. Good on you, God bless your home edu journey. Everything should come from a state of rest & peacefulness, you are creating a love for learning - try not to compare to schools and their expectations for learning milestones. :) oh and take life in seasons, we usually have a season of bare-bones after welcoming a new baby, family life is all a part of the life learning journey :)

  18. Oh...and let them read, read, read. Vocabulary, spelling and grammar skills come naturally when kids read a lot.

    Saxon Math or Singapore math.

  19. When my Grand Daughter came to live with me at age 4, I started researching homeschooling ideas. Went to Homeschool store, looked at stuff, talked to people, got some info on different styles and parent meetings. I also bought a few Discover God's World science books for lil kids, with printables. I went online to see what the public school expectations were for first grade. You can find out for each grade. This helps because around these parts, you can homeschool, but kids have to take tests to see that they meet certain year end requirements. You also have to register with the District as a Homeschooler. (They were not friendly). You can also find tons of free resources online. Library is great, but beware of "Penny Penquine's 2 Dads" and new things that might run afoul of your family values. I went to the parent meetings, was welcomed by all, and encouraged to participate in group field days and park play days. The we started having a blast. Grand Daughter will be 10 in June, is way above public school grade level, sweet, happy as can be,well mannered, modest,curious as all get out, and best of all, is a God Girl. Best Blessings to you, and do.....have an absolute blast!

  20. Do not be afraid to change curriculum if what you start with doesn't work for your kids, or you. Math-U-See worked great for my oldest for 5 years, but then she requested to learn math on the computer, so we switched to Teaching Textbooks. That worked well for two years, but the third year not so much. That's okay. We'll find something new this summer and try it in the fall. Don't be afraid to do that.


  21. We lived in Southern California some years ago (Dana Point) and the best thing we did was to join CHEA. Christian Homeschool Education Assoc. of California and find a local group to be a part of. California is not a bad place to homeschool and there is alot of support that will help you with your journey. Also joining Homeschool Legal Defense Assoc. is another good membership, they both have a wealth of information and will get you started in the right direction for a successful experience. We have homeschooled our 5 children all over the US and overseas and feel that our start in California was what gave us the confidence to keep going along with loving it anyway! :) We just graduated our 3 child from college and feel you just cannot go wrong with homeschooling! There are so many more opportunities out there than you will ever find in government schooling. God Bless you and your family and your homeschool journey.

  22. Hey it is me again. I was at the gas station last week and the girl
    their said hat her 14 year old stepson could not cursive write.
    This of course was not taught in our public schools. But that was
    one one child. I would like to ask around in the future if there are
    more kids like that out in the world, Or more than I think there are.
    do you all remember the trey van marten case. His girlfriend could
    not read cursive and they call her illite(sp) Think about that in
    homeschooling, what ever one uses.
    blessings again

    1. If you are going to take the time to write (sp) after a word you believe you misspelled, why not open another tab, pull up a dictionary, and find the correct spelling. It only takes a few seconds AND you will learn to spell the word correctly. : )

    2. Cursive writing is not taught in the Sheridan Wyoming school district. My son began cursive writing in first grade, with beautiful penmanship. I taught him at home when he began asking me to do so. His first grade teacher was quite miffed and I asked her why. She told me that the other kids would not be able to read anything he wrote on his papers. Gee...that's their problem!
      Yesterday, at our garage sale, a former classmate of DS (since he's now homeschooled) told me that he wished he could write cursive like my son does.
      Schools are too busy teaching promiscuity, diversity via acceptance of sinful sexual behaviors and that white, heterosexual males have not contributed anything of value to society to have time to teach cursive penmanship.
      just my two cents.

    3. "there" not "their". "cursive writing" not "cursive write". "Trayvon Martin" not "trey van marten". "called" not "call". "Illiterate" not "illite". Mistakes like those are the things I would rather teachers spend their time on. Cursive writing is not nearly as important.

  23. Thank you so much for the comments and support! I have three sons, the oldest is just finishing kindergarten in a public school so we are just getting started. The other two are not far behind him so we want to get on the right track.

    1. If you would like to email me privately, I believe Patrice has my email, I have some books you may have. Our daughter just finished 5th grade.

      We have Christian Science books K-3 and Pathway Readers, I believe starting at 2nd grade.
      You may have these.

      I am a public school teacher that started in 1985 in a small rural town. Back then we educated children and I loved my job. Things changed with NCLB. Against the advice of my colleagues we pulled our youngest from the public school and started homeschooling her. Public education became more focus on data mining and indoctrinating. We didn't want our child in that environment. I a have been an out spoken opponent of the changes and have suffered the consequences in my job. Finally, I am 1 yr from retiring. I encourage all parents to help put an end to public education and homeschool their children. If giving you books will help you do this I happy to help.
      Stuck In CA