Homeschooling for real

Many of you know that I’ve been “homeschooling” Ian for the last couple years. When it comes up in initial conversations with people they say something like, “Oh, wow, that’s so impressive. I don’t know if I could do that. It must be hard.”

I quickly interrupt them to say, “You know, I’m not really a true homeschooling parent. It’s more like a 50/50 thing.”

Then I go on to explain about the Home Education Exchange (HEE) in our school district, which is an amazing resource for us. It’s essentially a school for homeschooled kids, where they can take the messy or hard-to-simulate-at-home classes, and experience community with other students and families. Also, because Ian is a registered public school student, the program provides a variety of options for curriculums in many subjects, as well as support from the teachers and coaches who staff the HEE.

Ian’s kindergarten year we did maybe a half hour of schoolwork at home, a few days a week. I relied heavily on the classes he took at the HEE, which were Science, PE, Art and Lego. I told myself, “This year is no biggie. Besides, in the state of Washington you technically don’t have to start school until second grade to get a high school degree!”

I kept that lackadaisical attitude through first grade, too. Ian took the same classes and he did math and reading at home. He generally picks things up quickly (when he wants to) and he was reading very well. Honestly, if  we got around to schoolwork in a day that was a bonus. If we didn’t, oh well. Life is an education, right?

But, by the end of last school year I began to acknowledge that I couldn’t continue on our course (or lack thereof). Ian wasn’t being challenged. Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of great learning experiences over the year, but our learning wasn’t just lacking in amount, it was also lacking in rigor. Honestly, my agenda for the day or week took precedent over setting aside time to do school, whether it be book work or more exploratory learning.

I knew I needed to kick it up a notch come second grade, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like. I know I like structure and a schedule (something we haven’t had in our school at home), but I didn’t know how to tie various subjects into something more cohesive that we (I) would stick with.

We ended the year early and went to North Carolina in June for the Haggard family reunion. While we were there I learned that my sister-in-law, Tiffany, had decided to homeschool her two younger kids (2nd grade and kindergarten). North Carolina doesn’t offer anything like the HEE, so she had talked with friends and chose to do Sonlight along with some other curriclums to teach her kids.

We happened to still be at Tiffany’s when all her materials showed up in the mail. I was very intrigued. Regardless of the subject, it’s hard to keep me away from a stack of fresh, new books, even if it’s just to flip through and admire them. The smell of print and the feel of pages between my fingers woos me. I feel like a kid in the library or bookstore again.

Tiffany told me a bit about how Sonlight works and she let me look at her catalog (which is very exhaustive and informative). I was fascinated by how the curriculum worked. I was excited by all the books–lists and lists of them–ones I would love to read myself or to my kids. And I was very impressed by the company’s philosophy on how families can learn together.

The downside was the sticker price. It’s not that Sonlight is outrageously pricey, but up until this point almost everything we have done so far has been provided to us for free through our school district or the public library. We’ve had it really good. Spending several hundred dollars seemed like a big commitment, possibly even a waste. [Note: Sonlight is not covered by our district because it contains religious materials.]

Yet, as I imagined how Sonlight could play out at our house, I got pretty excited. The teaching guides are structured, while at the same set up in a way that isn’t rigid. The approach isn’t stuffy or complicated, but simple and based on a love of reading. And because doing it is such a group activity, Imogen and Beatrice could be incorporated into at least part of our learning time.

It is true that you stick with things you are excited about. So I decided that I would pay the money to try Sonlight this year because if I liked it, I would go at it with gusto. And hopefully that enthusiasm would rub off on the kids.

Sonlight says that “box day” (the day when your materials arrive in the mail) is a lot like Christmas. The company is usually referring to the kids’ delight, but since this is our first time doing this, Ian had no idea what I had gotten him into. I, on the other hand, was pulling out each thing in the box as if it were an individual gift.

Usually summer is the time where you take a welcome respite from the demands of school, whether you school your kids at home or they go to school elsewhere. But knowing we had this new thing to look foward to, I was ready to started homeschool–for real.

I think we have a great combination this year:

  1. A couple of years of “sorta” homeschooling under our belt
  2. Ian taking Science, PE and Art at the HEE
  3. Math, spelling, writing, etc., curriculums provided through the HEE as well as a great community
  4. Sonlight’s Bible/Lit/History Core B&C (World History)

We just finished up our first week of school at home. Ian threw a stink on Monday morning at 9am, which was no surprise. But by the end of the week, even he was giving the books and topics we are learning together his stamp of approval (which is no small achievement for Sonlight, tell me tell you!).

I hope to write more about our learning experience as it progresses. . . but for now, here’s to the 2016-2017 school year!

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Note: I would  recommend requesting a Sonlight catalog as a resource–regardless of whether or not you buy, homeschool or don’t. They have awesome books lists and descriptions for various grade levels. It is a gold mine!

If you happen to decide to purchase, please use my Rewards number: EH20435116 at checkout. That means I’ll collect points that somehow benefit me in the future. 🙂

Lastly, if you use Sonlight, I would love to talk with you. This is all new to me, and I’d like to hear how it works for your family.

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5 responses to “Homeschooling for real

  1. Tiffany Hightower

    I’m so excited for you guys. We are still finding a good rhythm for our school day, but it is starting to come together. HEE sounds wonderful. I wish we had something like that available in our area. I’m going to be looking into some co-ops soon. We should chat a bit once you have a few weeks of sonlight under your belt.

  2. Looking forward to seeing how your year unfolds! May the love of learning continue to grow in your whole family as you do Sonlight together [smile]. And yes, there will be rough days! I had a similar first Box Day experience as well: Since the kids hadn’t had any experience with the books, they were unimpressed. …and it took the 3yo a few months to develop a love of the preschool books. But shortly thereafter, both her and her and younger sister would bring me pile after pile of books to read. It’s really cool to see a passion for learning through books grow.

    All the best as you continue into your next week of Sonlight!

    ~Luke

    • Thank you for commenting, Luke. I didn’t recognize your name at first, but I figured out the connection. You are the epitome of a veteran Sonlighter!😉 Thanks for all the work you and others at Sonlight to do help families like us! I particularly like Amy’s daily emails of encouragement.

  3. Hi Friend! I am so glad to see you’ve found something you love! We are using it as well but since we go through a charter school that’s technically public and won’t pay for Christian curriculum, we use their alternate called BookShark. It’s the same minus the bible study portion. I wonder if your program would purchase it for you? Praying this year is wonderful and you find a smooth groove. xo

  4. Hi Steph! I just learned about BookShark recently and our homeschool program will have it for Ian next year. I’m excited 🙂 Hope you are well, I was just thinking about you.

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