Homeschooling · How to

How To Start Your Homeschool

I still owe a lot of you this post and I couldn’t be more excited to share with you another story on how to practically start homeschooling. Ever since I posted a photo of my DIY activity for my 3 year old son, I had a lot of moms messaging me asking how I do it and what materials I use to teach my kids.

But before we continue, I just want to give those who might be new here a little background of myself and my family:

I am a hands-on, stay-at-home mom of two adorable kids; my daughter RyRy is 8 and my son Miguel is 3 years old. I don’t have a nanny or a helper. I also don’t drive yet and we live in a small townhouse in this concrete jungle called Metro Manila. This piece of information should give you an idea that I have a lot of limitations: limited funds, limited time, limited field trips, limited space, and most of the time very limited patience! Ha ha! But one thing is for sure: my imagination is unlimited!

We can also agree that this can be the perfect timing to stumble upon an article that further defines homeschooling as most parents are starting to gear up for school year 2018. And as a bonus, if you want to learn about the basics of homeschooling, my previous blog, Basics of Homeschool is such a steal!

Let me begin with this Mark Twain quote,

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

I honestly never pictured myself as a homeschooling mom. Nope. When I was pregnant with my eldest, I knew in my heart that I needed to send her to a good school that would cultivate not just her intelligence but her character as well. Back then, I had zero knowledge on homeschooling until God had placed us in a discipleship group where I was mentored about it. I can still remember the room where my husband and I sat down to listen to our DGroup leader’s presentation of the whys and hows of home study. Right there and then we were sold to the idea and wasted no time as I started teaching my then 4 year old daughter only to realize it was not an easy process!

Yes, homeschool is a process. Just like applying for a passport, you have to go to several windows to finish all the steps. Although with this one, a lot of understanding is required and heavy emotions may be involved. First timers may expect that they could get their children to sit for an hour and come out reading for the first week. If you must know, I was that first timer. I forced my daughter, worse, I stressed myself which totally defeated the purpose of homeschooling.

Starting your homeschool.

How do you know when your child is ready?

My 3 year old son surprised me on this one. Earlier last year, I made a conclusion that I don’t think I’ll be starting him off with lessons. But come August, he showed signs of readiness like a sudden interest on pens and papers then he started doodling. Not long after he started singing along the A-B-C song with her sister!

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He just surprises me!

Now this is something that I regret doing with RyRy. I did not consider maturity at that time. All I was thinking was that “she’s 4 now and I don’t want to delay any longer.” This taught me the most important lesson about homeschooling or generally in life: Never rush a child who is not ready to learn. I could’ve saved time and tears and probably made it more enjoyable for her.

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Waiting for my daughter to be ready for our lesson.

Where do you start?

If you must notice, holding a pencil comes naturally to kids and by age 3, your kid probably has mastered all the shapes and colors (thanks to the grandparents!). What you might want to teach your kids first is phonics and I personally support the idea of strengthening the child’s ability to read before introducing them to another subject.

Teaching phonics to children who belong to bilingual families can be tricky. For ours, as much as we wanted our kids to fluently speak our mother tongue, which is Tagalog, my husband and I decided to introduce to them the English language first. There are pros and cons to this. I know Filipinos love their country so much and we are taught to be Makabayan but we should also consider the fact that most subjects and materials are written in English. Thus, having pros like easily navigating other lessons like Math, Science, and History. You can choose to delay teaching another language until the child is reading well in English but just be cautious not to wait too long for you might lose that small window of interest of the child when it comes to learning your mother tongue.

Moreover, for Filipino homeschoolers, it is mandated by the Department of Education for every student to include Filipino and Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies) in their curriculum whether enrolled under a provider or homeschooling independently. And from the information that I have gathered, Filipino is one of the hardest subjects and where most homeschooled kids struggle.

You can find the complete K-12 curriculum guide here: K-12 Basic Education Curriculum

It also helps to keep in mind to focus on core subjects such as Reading and Math more because we need our kids to build a strong foundation in this area. This two subjects can be done everyday and the other ones once or twice a week.

How do you teach phonics?

First of all let us define what phonics is. Phonics is the relationship between sounds and written symbols or in plain English: the alphabet and how you say each letter. For people like me who did not major in linguistics, this was such an epiphany. If not for homeschooling, I would have taught my kids the wrong way and rely on standard flashcards and YouTube videos when it came to the proper way of teaching them to read. Some of my discoveries are: 1. Teaching phonics is a progression that requires mastery of each lesson before moving forward. Again, do not rush. If you have to improvise materials to aid your student in mastering a lesson, do not hesitate. 2. Phonemic awareness is important. Keeping in mind of short and long vowels, while some consonants have different sounds too like the letter Cc as in Cat and Cc as in Cycle. But since we want a progressive approach, you should first teach them simple, one syllable words with short vowels like ant, bed, pig, mop, fun. We should also note that when introducing letter X we say it as ‘ks’ as in box, fax, mix because sometimes it steals another letter sound like the z sound or it says the letter name as in X-ray so we want to avoid confusion. 3. Kid friendly fonts are also important! Would you believe that this is one of the reasons why children get discouraged in reading? My daughter used to cry every time I would ask her to read something that was printed in rather smaller fonts or written in a more artistic style. This would make her feel discouraged at times and it became traumatic instead of enjoyable. Start them off with easy to read fonts and in print so it would not confuse them later on. (Try using Century Gothic font).

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This placemat is part of the SSRW combo kit.

Since phonics also involve written symbols, reading would always go along with writing. Some materials teach a child first how to do different strokes before writing a letter, but this did not work for my eldest! For some reason, she got bored and instead, she wrote letters without having to trace the strokes. I am also pleased with the curriculum we used because it taught me an approach with that uses descriptive phrases like, “In writing the big letter A, you should start from the ceiling all the way down to the floor as if drawing a triangle, then lift your pencil up and go back to the ceiling and make another slant ling going down to the floor, then finally let’s connect the two lines with a bridge.” So somehow the child felt my guidance during the process of learning giving her a boost in confidence.

What do you do when it gets overwhelming?

As I have mentioned earlier, I am a hands-on mom without any helper at home I could totally relate to most homeschool parents who go through the same experiences as I do. There are also a lot of times that I envy moms who are visions of perfection when it comes to well-organized lessons, a room solely dedicated to homeschooling, or their kids having all sorts of extra curricular activities but I am always reminded that homeschooling isn’t about all that. Homeschool is an extension of parenting where we train our children not just to be good in academics but most importantly, to have an excellent character.

When it gets overwhelming, always remember to be creative in teaching. If you will look carefully at the curriculum guide our government has provided, you will definitely lose your mind! How in the world will you teach 10 subjects a day for 5 days in one school year? Well, you really don’t have to do it one by one but you can always incorporate. The best thing about homeschooling is that you can alter your learning based on your lifestyle. Some people would think that a child needs a devoted time on each subjects when in fact you can do both reading and Bible time at once. This is the part where home study doesn’t need to be technical and we should give ourselves some slack and enjoy every bit of it.

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There will be times that we won’t not have classes because I need to run some errands, and since I bring my kids anywhere I go, I have to always be prepared to pull something out of my pocket and consider it as our lesson for the day. For example, there’s this famous restaurant in Manila where they encourage customers to write about their experience and they would put it under the glass of each table. It so happens that my daughter loves the idea so she would go around the place and look at empty tables to read the letters and voila! I count it as our reading practice for the day. How about science lessons? There was this time while in the car on our way home, we both discovered static electricity and that’s Chemistry already. We also have moments where I would just let my kids run or ride their bikes in the park and that would already fall under Physical Education.

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Their favorite activity during weekends.

There are actually so many ways for a child to learn not just by sitting on a chair, holding a book, or listening to a 1-hour lecture about nouns and verbs. We just really have to think of ways to be creative and make learning more natural.

Where can you get materials?

One of the things that excites me about homeschooling is that it feels a lot like I am the one who’s going to school again although this time, I can decide what we need or which colors of pens we can use, whether it has glitter or scented, no one’s going to get angry!

For starters, the internet will be your best friend and, no, you should not abuse it but rather take advantage of all the information that can easily be accessed online. The internet comes in handy every time my daughter and I would encounter unfamiliar words/phrases. Of course, as our children’s teacher, we can’t just ignore them or make up answers!

One important investment is a quality printer. There are hundreds of online curriculum that you can download for free and we can all agree that having a printer at home will really help us cut down on expenses.

But of course we shouldn’t expect to see everything online and depending on our chosen approach of homeschooling, there are a lot of times it’ll pay to visit the bookstore. So what do you use then if you can’t find any online resources?

Here are my top rated, tried and tested, kids-approved materials:

1.Sing, Spell, Read and Write (SSRW) by Sue Dickson

This is a very good starter kit, although a little bit expensive plus it’s only available in the U.S. It has, however, actually been proven effective in teaching children phonics and phonemic awareness. I love that it’s a complete material which can be used from Kinder to Grade 1 but in our case, since I have a child who likes to take her time in learning, we extended it’s use up to Grade 2. When I say complete, I meant it has everything you need from teacher’s manual, workbooks, games and activities, prizes, pencils, audio and video disks that contain songs and instructions. All you have to buy is a pad paper for spelling exercises. My only concern is that the illustrations included in the story books are a bit old school and don’t seem to get the attention of children today. But overall, I highly recommend SSRW especially if you’re just starting with homeschooling. I even learned myself!

Get Sing, Spell, Read and Write $274.95 here.

2. Five In A Row (FIAR) by Jane C. Lambert

This is a literature-based curriculum that houses the best children’s stories ever written! I think I love this more than my kids do. Amazing how you can incorporate all core subjects by just reading one story book a day for 5 days in a row. Each day focuses on one subject like Language Arts, Math, Science, Art, and Social Studies. Although it doesn’t specifically teaches a child to read, you can always choose to supplement FIAR with other materials for phonics and Math. The difficult part in using this material is finding the story books that you need. Some books can be a little pricey and some are already out of print. But I can assure you that in using FIAR, your child will grow up loving reading.

Get brand new FIAR Vol 1 Manual $35 here or join the local Facebook group for 2nd hand deals.

3. Math-U-See (MUS) by Demme Learning

I would usually shy away from anything that is related to math because, well, it’s math! But when we started using this curriculum for my daughter, I realized math is not scary at all! Just like SSRW, Math-U-See comes in a set of Teacher’s manual, workbooks, manipulative blocks, DVD lessons, and an audio CD with sing-along songs. My husband and I love MUS because it already teaches young children to practice their logic skills plus it also has an app that you can download on your tablet!

Check their website for more information such as international distributors here Math-U-See

4. DIY Flashcards and Cutout Photos

Supplement if you must! Sometimes, even if we have the best curriculum on hand, kids will not always get it in a single try. This is the part where you need to be creative and find ways to help your student thrive. Again, my daughter loves to take her time and to avoid exhaustion, I made her these simple flashcards to help her in reading.

With my son, since he’s too young to start formal lessons with, I printed out these alphabet flashcards and I cut photos from old books/magazines that will associate with our letter of the week. This activity is actually an introduction to phonics.

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Our DIY letter recognition activity includes photos of things, emotions, and descriptions: award, army, archery, accordion, apples, arrow, astronaut, ant, animals, art, angry, acrobats, actor, architecture.

5. Bible Lessons c/o Church

Moms like me don’t need to drain themselves in worrying too much about materials because sometimes they’re right in front of us! Luckily, our church provides a weekly Bible journal for the kids and this is such a relief as I don’t have to prepare additional lessons instead, we just follow the journal and answer it daily.

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Reading and copy writing her memory verse from Kids’ Church.

For other subjects like Science, Filipino and Social Studies, you’ll be surprised that our local bookstores carry a lot of good and affordable reference and workbooks but my favorite go-to place is Education.com. I came across the website through the homeschooling groups I follow online and I wasted no time searching for lessons and fun activities that we can use at home or on-the-go. As a bonus, I have partnered with Education.com to give you, my readers a free Easter themed worksheet and answer key attached below…

matching list with images_easter

matching list with images_easter_answers

Give your little chickadee this fun matching list worksheet. Then scurry over to Education.com for other reading worksheets, activities, and more!

I hope you found this worth your time and helpful in starting your very own homeschool. Remember to start slow and don’t forget to enjoy every moment with your child. God bless your journey!

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