Thoughtful Thursday Week 31 – Homeschool 101

A new school year is upon us. So many more people are considering homeschooling these days. I see questions on homeschool support Facebook groups or Yahoo groups all the time. Where do I start? Which curriculum should I get? What do you recommend for my fifth grader? What do I DO?

If you are just starting out and not sure which questions to even ask, click here for a 10-step process to divide and conquer homeschooling.

Homeschooling 101

As we started our third year homeschooling, I felt my own tension and apprehension and let-us-get-it-done spirit take over. What adds to my trepidation is that I have to figure out how to do school with two now. They are only in second grade and kindergarten, which means they need me to hover over them as they learn. By middle school, I hope to work toward more independent work, but until then I have to be there to teach them the 3Rs. 

Not only is my second now officially a homeschooler, she also started piano and violin lessons, which adds to our daily calendar. I have vowed to myself that I will not pay for music lessons unless I am willing to enforce daily practice. Lessons without practice are useless. So here I go again, something else for me to do: motivate a five-year-old into practicing her violin and piano and keep her going.

Thankfully, she likes music and playing instruments, most of the time. She asked for the lessons in the first place. I would have been fine with starting her a bit later, but she has been sitting through a few too many lessons of her brother’s. She was ready to be taught herself. She has already made visible progress. In one month of violin lessons and practice, she learned Twinkle Twinkle, the Suzuki Method anthem song. She also learned Beautiful Skies, another beginner song.

I continue to be amazed by how much skill even five minutes a day of practice can give a child. But it has to be daily. Five minutes daily for a month and the child knows two songs already. Granted, on some days she practiced for more than five minutes, but on the average it has been less than 10 minutes.

The same goes for piano. One day, she sat down and worked through 16 pages in the Theory Book, with my help. I kept saying, “This is the last page” and she kept wanting more. No matter how much we practice songs, she always says, “Now I want to study from THAT book” and points to the Theory Book.

Again, only one month of piano lessons and practice and she knows she must curve her fingers, she knows the seven notes on the piano, and can play several songs by looking at the book. Shockingly efficient.

Sure, she has days when she is so engrossed in her play that I have to coax her into practicing. And it does happen that a day goes by and she only practices piano and not violin or viceversa or neither. On such days, I remind myself I should not insist. She is only five after all. She needs to play more than she needs to practice an instrument. So I let it go.

Many homeschoolers have learned the difference between a schedule and a routine. We have meals that must happen. We also have certain appointments outside the home. Then, we have skill subjects (math, reading, writing, spelling) and they, too, must happen every day before privileges (screen time) are earned. I wrote above about daily practice. We schedule that for the afternoons, around 3pm to be exact. Sometimes dinner time comes and we have not got around to it, but we still do it before going to bed. And then another day is over. History and science and art do not have to happen every day.

For more information, here are some tips about schedules, curricula and learning styles.

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