(see below for some of our field trips)
I mentioned before that we've homeschooled now for several years-well, since 2000, if that tells you anything. I am in no way an authority in the homeschooling world. But I can tell you what worked for us and how we viewed the programs we used, and maybe it will help you in making the curriculum choice or maybe you're just considering homeschooling.
First, the choice to homeschool or not. I know homeschooling is not for everyone. With this day and age of dual household incomes sometimes it's just not 'doable' but I do know several families that have parents who both work outside the home and still make homeschooling work. I would also like to suggest babysitting as an option if you can stay home and your husband still works, but you need just a little extra money to make ends meet. Babysitting has helped us alot over the past couple years and we've enjoyed watching the little ones grow up.
Homeschooling has been a blessing for us. I'm not gonna tell you every day has been easy because the truth is, it hasn't. Like anything else that's worthwhile in life, you have ups and downs, good days where everyone is ready to study and understands it all, and then you have days where maybe the kids don't feel like studying or have a hard time understanding something or you're stressed out...But when the end of the day comes around and you can look back and remember the good parts of the day: when this child mastered a concept, another child learned this and YOU got to be there and help him/her...it's so worth it! Plus you get the added benefit of just being with your children!
In case you're wondering how sheltered our children are, (I get this alot) our kids have friends at church, they have friends that go to our public schools, etc. Sarah played violin with our local public school system till her Sr. year. She had a set time every day that we had to get her there, and pick her up. She, Nate and Hannah have also been involved over the years with "Project Extra Mile", a program where adults and teens interact to help cut down on the community issue of underage drinking. In fact, Sarah won an award for a campaign idea she had! Nate has played city baseball and football over the years, and only stopped playing due to health reasons, which I will elaborate on later. Hannah and Nate have both taken piano lessons and Hannah took guitar lessons as well. Sarah and Nate both had jobs from the time they were 16, and Hannah just turned 16 so we haven't let her get a regular job yet, but it's coming. Until now, she's babysat for several families (including helping me with the little ones I babysit) and works MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) every other Friday. So you see, none of our kids knows a stranger, and they're very concerned with the spiritual condition of their friends and people in our community and are very involved with our church.
We've tried several curriculums over the years; some we've bought, and some we've borrowed from friends. When the kids were much younger, we used Rod and Staff and BJU Press for some subjects. They were very good, but we moved on to A Beka at one point, and it's a very good, thorough curriculum. The only problem I had with it, is we had three different kids, with three different grade levels and we had Teacher's books, text books, quiz and test books, quiz and test answer books, and so much more, per subject, per child. I enjoyed the work they did, but I spent literal whole weekends planning ahead for the coming week and grading papers. I finally broke down in tears and told my wonderful husband that I couldn't do it anymore. I needed help. You may think that since I'm home most of the time, it shouldn't be a big deal to spend my weekends this way, but believe me, I wanted to do more than just teach my kids, I wanted to have some fun with them on the weekends, too and with my hubby.
That is when we discovered SOS (Switched on Schoolhouse). It's an awesome program, all on computer. The kids do get to do research and other things away from the computer, but the things we loved about it were: the daily/weekly lessons are right there for the child, as he/she logs into his side (the student side) of the program each day. Plus their tests and quizzes automatically come up for them, and they can see ahead of time that they have one coming up. The program does all the grading except for essays and certain questions the kids may not understand. If they come across something like that though, and say you're busy, they can send you a message on the teacher's side, letting you know they skipped it and why. Then, when you have time, you can sit with him/her and help and they can proceed with answering the question. The parent has control of the program, to a big extent. But alot of it is automatic-no more planning and grading papers all weekend.
Sarah graduated with SOS in 2008. Nate graduated with SOS last year (2010). Hannah has a hard time being on the computer alot, so she likes a mixture of curriculum. This year, we're using the Paces from School of Tomorrow. So far, we love it. We've heard good things about the program, and our Sarah is actually using Paces now, to homeschool her little sister-in-law. So, if I have any questions, I know who to go to! :)
Saxon math is another program we've used and it's a very good one. We like it because it teaches through repetition. A student learns a new concept but during that same lesson, will have equations from previous lessons as well, to keep the student reviewing.
If you're just starting out, with a pre-k child, I would highly recommend getting "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". It's a phonics-based reading program and is very good. I didn't have it to use with Sarah, but even though Nate was in public school for a couple of grades, I used it with him before k and he was ahead of most of his peers. I used it also, successfully with Hannah and she tested when she was younger, at a reading level of about 2 years ahead. It's completely scripted, telling you what to say to your child, to get the desired response. They recommend using it at least 20 minutes a day, but we sometimes went every other day. By the end of the book, they were reading paragraphs at the age of 5!
I hope to add more as time allows, about our own homeschooling experience. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions about it. I'll certainly try to help.
Note: As I've stated on my About Me page, our kids are all older now, and two have graduated. When they were younger though, shortly after we started homeschooling in fact, my dear hubby, Brian gave me a website that he started in geocities for me to work on for our homeschooling. I edited it for years, and then as the kids grew up and moved on to new interests, and such, I kind of quit keeping up with it. So, when geocities did their thing, making the websites no longer free, I let it go. I did however find a cached copy of it and want to share some things we did when they were smaller. I will also try to post some pictures of the graduations we've had already, when I can.
Our Trip to PioneerVillage, in Minden, Nebraska:
We went to the Harold Warp Pioneer Village in March of 2001. It was still cold then, and some of the outbuildings weren't open, but we had a fantastic time.
This is Hannah (our youngest) with Lois Nelson from Pioneer Village, as Lois showed us the Spinning Wheel.
She just loved this lady. Hannah had just turned 6 in January of this year.
Lois asked Hannah "Aren't we lucky we don't live in Pioneer Days? They had to sheer the sheep and then spin the wool into yarn and thread. Then, they had to weave it on a loom to make cloth! Of course, then, they had to make the dresses! It's no wonder that back then, women and girls only had a few nice dresses!"
This is a picture of all three-Sarah 13, Nate 10, and Hannah 6, in front of an old-fashioned horse-drawn milk truck. Don't ya wish we still had those? I do, somedays! The kids couldn't believe people used to have milk delivered to their homes!
Brian and the kids are standing in front of some antique cars just as you come into Pioneer Village. Brian, is trying to dodge the camera as usual. lol. Pioneer Village has over 100 antique cars arranged in order of their development. It was sure interesting at this time (2001) to compare our stationwagon with the stationwagon of yesteryear. Now, I'm glad we have a nice minivan! LOL!
I loved this old-fashioned schoolhouse! Lois, the lady from the spinning wheel picture, said she'd grown up going to school in a room much like this one. When we told her we were homeschooling our children, she said that she imagined that would be much like school was in the one-room schoolhouses, since they had kids of all ages and grade levels in one room.
If you live in Nebraska and are wondering how hard it is to get started, let me assure you that at least for now, it's not that hard. You do have to contact the Nebraska Dept. of Education and get some paperwork to fill out. You can either visit the website or call them and request the Rule 12 forms if you are homeschooling for purely academic reasons. You'll need to ask for Rule 13 forms if you're homeschooling also for religious reasons. Once you receive your forms, fill them out as completely as you can. Some pages need to be notarized and just about any bank has someone that will do it for free. Once you've submitted your forms, you'll get a letter in the mail stating that they have accepted your paperwork to become an exempt school.
This paperwork needs to be filled out and turned in about a month before you plan to start homeschooling, and then you'll receive the same paperwork yearly after that, and it needs to be turned in no later than August 1st of that school year.
The fun part of it is, you get to name your school. We named ours Liberty Baptist Academy, or LBA for short. We've even chosen blue and gold as our school colors. I guess you could say our pets are our mascots. lol! My husband is our "Principal"and I am the "Teacher or Monitor".
Several cities have their own homeschool network of families and they get together regularly for things like field trips, PE, music, etc. You can also contact the Nebraska Chistian Home Educators Association (NCHEA) for group information and homeschooling questions in general.