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My youngest child finished middle school and will begin public high school in the fall.  One day recently it hit me that I am no longer a homeschool mom, at least in the official sense.  On one hand, I feel happy and relieved that I will have more free time.  On the other hand, I think I will really miss some parts of homeschool—sitting on the couch doing read alouds with my kids and just laughing and laughing together at the funny parts, the rabbit trail philosophical discussions about life that somehow happened in the middle of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic lessons, and of course my years of being a curriculum junkie.  

Looking back, I am especially glad that we pursued a rigorous approach to homeschooling in grades K-8.  I know about the popular movement in the other direction which is often promoted in both public school and homeschool circles, but I am glad we swam against the current. During the vast majority of our homeschool days, my kids worked hard and didn’t always have a lot of fun. However, once they reached high school, they really took off.  It has been a great joy for me to watch them pursue lofty goals during their teenage years and achieve them.  The rigor in our K-8 program gave them a tremendous academic foundation and confidence so that they can dream big dreams, and the goals they aspire to are within their reach. The joy my kids have experienced in high school (and now in college where our oldest is) has overflowed to me.

Why am I writing this?  I am not sure, except I don’t want to start another argument about rigor. I suppose I am writing it to encourage the young mothers out there who are just beginning to homeschool, and also to the moms who are in the middle of their homeschool years—to encourage you to press on, work hard every day, and finish the course.  There is a great reward in the future for a job well done. 

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I'm with you.  We took an approach of "slow but steady pressure" with the kids.  The oldest, who struggled the most with executive functioning and tasks like spelling and languages, absolutely excelled in high school, and is a person now who sets goals and steadily achieves them.  He's pretty well known at his workplaces for being a person who gets sh!t done.

The youngest is entering his last year at home this year.  I don't worry about his ability at all to integrate into classes and do exceedingly well.  His education may not have looked like the WTM vision, but honestly, it doesn't much matter.  I pulled out the elements that were important to us and worked them into an education plan that worked for my kids:

  • attention to detail
  • concentration on work
  • different expectations for different stages
  • a large focus on being able to retell and pull out main ideas/subpoints
  • steady climb from one skill to the next
  • exposure to great writing, art, music
  • vocabulary study based on Latin
  • logical thought and methodical work
  • steady workload/structure to the day


It looked very bouncy and only had short lessons in the early years.  The youngest's entering the middle school years now and it looks a lot different.  More books, a few less games.  More discussion based, less explicit teaching.  He will absolutely have no issues in high school, though.  Part of this is that we always expected something to be "mastered" before moving on.  I don't go strictly by the age/grade recommendations.  My oldest struggled with grammar stage skills through 6th grade, and it finally clicked.  By 8th he was firmly in logic stage.  If I had started logic stage work in 5th with him he would have been miserable. 7th was more doable for him.

Anyhow, oldest kid is 22.  He has thanked me for teaching him-which says a lot because he did try out both options, home and school.  Even through our tears and frustrations, it was a better option than the public school because he was getting the gentle rigor he needed.  If he had stayed in school he would not have gotten the scaffold he needed to develop those underlying executive function skills that affect everything.  When he was ready to go back in high school, he had everything in place and was ready.

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Congratulations for graduating from homeschool mom. 🙂

I agree! It definitely is worth every minute.  The rewards of sticking it out to the end (for me, the end is high school graduation) are witnessing our adult children achieve their long-term goals. 

The beauty of homeschooling is that we get to determine the what's that we want to cover and the how's in how subjects are mastered.  Mrs. Twain and I fall on opposite ends of the spectrum on how to approach elementary/middle school ed, yet we both have had the same objective-educating our children and encouraging them to reach their full potential.  There is more than one path forward in succeeding in that objective.  Thankfully, we get to decide which path we want to take.  It is commitment to mastery that lies behind successful pedagogies.

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Thank you for sharing this.  Our oldest and only graduate has stumbled a bit, and though everyone else seems to be thriving, the task before me now seems so daunting.  With 15 years down and potentially 17 to go, I needed to hear some positive stories.

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19 hours ago, Mrs Twain said:

The rigor in our K-8 program gave them a tremendous academic foundation and confidence so that they can dream big dreams, and the goals they aspire to are within their reach.

@Mrs Twain, I love these words of yours.  Thank you very much for them.  I'm in the middle years of homeschooling (we just finished our seventh year), and we're just happily moving along on our WTM-inspired education.  Your words inspire me to keep on the path.

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6 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

What an encouraging thread!!

What did rigor look like for you in the earlier years? My oldest is only going into grade 4, but she’s no longer a baby, either 🙂 . So I’ve been pondering what to change and what to keep…

Good question!  If you ask twenty people, you may get twenty different answers, but I will type out my personal strategy.  If you are interested in specific curricula choices, I listed my favorites under my profile.  Like I said, though, there is more than one way to skin a cat, so you could just as well use other programs to accomplish the same purpose.

I structured my program into three tiers, with Tier One subjects being essential and Tier Three being extras that we could skip if needed on days when we got into a jam.  

Tier One:  The Three R's (reading, writing, and arithmetic).  I spent a significant amount of time researching to find out what the objectives were for these subjects each year, and then choosing programs which achieved the objectives. I tried to find good quality curricula which taught the subjects systematically.  Unless something really wasn't working, I tried to continue with my programs consistently year after year rather than jump around to different programs every time a new fad came along. I made sure these subjects were done every day and were done well.

Tier Two:  History/Geography/Civics and Science.  In K-8 grades, these are generally content subjects. There was no way on earth that I could teach my children everything there was to learn about history and science by eighth grade.  Therefore, my goal was exposure.  The more background information I could help my kids absorb, the easier high school would be for them.  However, if there were some gaps in their knowledge of these subjects, it would end up okay because they would cover those areas in their high school courses.  The rigor in this area mostly involves science.  I tried to find science classes which were simple to implement in order to make sure it got done.  History is usually a pretty fun and popular homeschool subject, but a lot of people find science more difficult to teach and then skip it when they run out of time at the end of the day.  DON'T SKIP SCIENCE.

Tier Three:  Extras.  This is where we really got to have fun and take advantage of our opportunities as homeschoolers.  My husband and I studied our children and tried to figure out what their individual talents and interests were.  Then we crafted specific subjects to help them explore their passions.  One of my kids did extra work in writing, argumentation, and history.  Another one did extra classes in computer programming and website and app design.  Another child did economics and business courses taught by my husband (who runs his own business). In addition to these, I threw in some other things to round out their education or build certain important skills, such as memorization, public speaking, and logical reasoning.  Options for this category could also include things like foreign language, music, and physical fitness.  I didn't do all of these things every year, but I would choose a few of them to work on at a time.  

Is that sort of what you were asking?  I hope that helps.  :)

 

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32 minutes ago, Mrs Twain said:

Good question!  If you ask twenty people, you may get twenty different answers, but I will type out my personal strategy.  If you are interested in specific curricula choices, I listed my favorites under my profile.  Like I said, though, there is more than one way to skin a cat, so you could just as well use other programs to accomplish the same purpose.

I structured my program into three tiers, with Tier One subjects being essential and Tier Three being extras that we could skip if needed on days when we got into a jam.  

Tier One:  The Three R's (reading, writing, and arithmetic).  I spent a significant amount of time researching to find out what the objectives were for these subjects each year, and then choosing programs which achieved the objectives. I tried to find good quality curricula which taught the subjects systematically.  Unless something really wasn't working, I tried to continue with my programs consistently year after year rather than jump around to different programs every time a new fad came along. I made sure these subjects were done every day and were done well.

Tier Two:  History/Geography/Civics and Science.  In K-8 grades, these are generally content subjects. There was no way on earth that I could teach my children everything there was to learn about history and science by eighth grade.  Therefore, my goal was exposure.  The more background information I could help my kids absorb, the easier high school would be for them.  However, if there were some gaps in their knowledge of these subjects, it would end up okay because they would cover those areas in their high school courses.  The rigor in this area mostly involves science.  I tried to find science classes which were simple to implement in order to make sure it got done.  History is usually a pretty fun and popular homeschool subject, but a lot of people find science more difficult to teach and then skip it when they run out of time at the end of the day.  DON'T SKIP SCIENCE.

Tier Three:  Extras.  This is where we really got to have fun and take advantage of our opportunities as homeschoolers.  My husband and I studied our children and tried to figure out what their individual talents and interests were.  Then we crafted specific subjects to help them explore their passions.  One of my kids did extra work in writing, argumentation, and history.  Another one did extra classes in computer programming and website and app design.  Another child did economics and business courses taught by my husband (who runs his own business). In addition to these, I threw in some other things to round out their education or build certain important skills, such as memorization, public speaking, and logical reasoning.  Options for this category could also include things like foreign language, music, and physical fitness.  I didn't do all of these things every year, but I would choose a few of them to work on at a time.  

Is that sort of what you were asking?  I hope that helps.  🙂

Thank you! Yes, that's very helpful 🙂 . 

Right now, we focus on the 3R's, music, and a foreign language 🙂 . We've been going for history and science exposure, but we haven't been doing anything serious for them. And I try to give DD8 (almost 9) space to figure out what she truly loves to do. 

I'm a math and science nerd and so is DD8, so honestly, science gets done easier than history around here, lol. DD8 is not all that interested in history... 

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10 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Right now, we focus on the 3R's, music, and a foreign language 🙂 .

Those were our non-negotiables, too.  I actually looked up our 4th grade routine to remember what it looked like:

8:30: French.  Usually about 20 minutes, alternating between Nallenart and Telefrancais

Then

Morning memorization (working on one of 5 pieces learned that year) 5 minutes

Math (45m-1h): hands on followed by a more independent worksheet with 5-10 problems

Handwriting/spelling: one row of well done letters and one passage from dictation

Reading (either a short reader or a literature book), discussion

Grammar/writing lesson 30min

Reading (the other option), discussion

Latin (we weren't happy with the program this year so I won't recommend it or the approach)

LUNCH

History (alternating days activity and reading) 30min-1h

Science (alternating days activity and reading) 30min-1h

Extra: (pone of these: paper sloyd, art, art study) 15-20 min

Violin 20min

P.E. (group p.e. once a week, sports 2-3 days a week) 2h

 

It's a long day for a kid, but that's how ds thrives.  Even if I don't create a routine he will create one anyway.  On short days, I focused on writing, violin, French, memorization.  Ds insisted on math and grammar because he really likes those two subjects.

This year, 6th, our non-negotiables are going to be science, violin, French, typing, physical exercise, scout time. We are at a near plateau for math, writing, and Latin, where there is a good amount of time to continue honing skills and exploring without going much deeper.  It's a do-the-next-thing kind of year.  History is less activity centered and he loves his books this year, so I won't have to encourage that subject.

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17 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

Those were our non-negotiables, too.  I actually looked up our 4th grade routine to remember what it looked like:

8:30: French.  Usually about 20 minutes, alternating between Nallenart and Telefrancais

Then

Morning memorization (working on one of 5 pieces learned that year) 5 minutes

Math (45m-1h): hands on followed by a more independent worksheet with 5-10 problems

Handwriting/spelling: one row of well done letters and one passage from dictation

Reading (either a short reader or a literature book), discussion

Grammar/writing lesson 30min

Reading (the other option), discussion

Latin (we weren't happy with the program this year so I won't recommend it or the approach)

LUNCH

History (alternating days activity and reading) 30min-1h

Science (alternating days activity and reading) 30min-1h

Extra: (pone of these: paper sloyd, art, art study) 15-20 min

Violin 20min

P.E. (group p.e. once a week, sports 2-3 days a week) 2h

 

It's a long day for a kid, but that's how ds thrives.  Even if I don't create a routine he will create one anyway.  On short days, I focused on writing, violin, French, memorization.  Ds insisted on math and grammar because he really likes those two subjects.

This year, 6th, our non-negotiables are going to be science, violin, French, typing, physical exercise, scout time. We are at a near plateau for math, writing, and Latin, where there is a good amount of time to continue honing skills and exploring without going much deeper.  It's a do-the-next-thing kind of year.  History is less activity centered and he loves his books this year, so I won't have to encourage that subject.

I’ve been starting our days early (at 7:45 after a short breakfast) in order to try to be done before lunch. They seem to prefer that… I’ve been pondering whether I should add some stuff in the afternoon or not. (They do piano in the evening with DH, so I’m not counting that.) I may have to some days, since I signed up for online classes in some our pre-lunch slots. 

I like the idea of alternating science reading with a demo! I think I’ll try to do that next year. We’ve been having trouble fitting both in.

Remind me what you did for grammar? We haven’t yet done any kind of formal grammar, although we think about it informally a lot in the context of Russian.

I should also maybe add some required reading at some point. DD8 is a voracious reader, so I doubt I’ll have to schedule it, but perhaps some required books are a good idea.

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39 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I’ve been starting our days early (at 7:45 after a short breakfast) in order to try to be done before lunch. They seem to prefer that… I’ve been pondering whether I should add some stuff in the afternoon or not. (They do piano in the evening with DH, so I’m not counting that.) I may have to some days, since I signed up for online classes in some our pre-lunch slots. 

I like the idea of alternating science reading with a demo! I think I’ll try to do that next year. We’ve been having trouble fitting both in.

Remind me what you did for grammar? We haven’t yet done any kind of formal grammar, although we think about it informally a lot in the context of Russian.

I should also maybe add some required reading at some point. DD8 is a voracious reader, so I doubt I’ll have to schedule it, but perhaps some required books are a good idea.

Our days now mostly start at 8am.  Ds is usually up by 7 and has a routine of chores, sit for a few minutes and do nothing, and then eat right before we get started.  We stop around 11, break until 1.

For grammar, we started with Grammar Land in 1st grade.  I made cute little figures and worksheets to go with, things he could do without much writing (like adding the paper symbols to the words or drawing).  Then we did English Lessons Through Literature for 2nd, 4th, and 5th.  This year, since I'm integrating literature with history, ds asked for me to write a program where he uses sentences from his Elson reader for diagramming and word study.  We have enough grammar books on our shelves for him to use for reference, and I made him a reference guide for everything he learned up through last year with the ELTL books.

I honestly don't schedule much literature.  Since we've done it separately, I didn't integrate many outside readers into other subjects.  DS really likes the Elson books because there's such a variety and nothing takes him long, but I did start turning over our literature books to independent reading in 4th.  Before that, I read most of them out loud.

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I think the biggest difference you will see @Not_a_Number is probably not the list of subjects but in how the subjects are covered and length of day.  FWIW, my under 5th grade crowd rarely spend time after lunch doing school except perhaps music practice (which is completely dependent on the child wanting to learn an instrument in our household....so for them it is more pleasure than anything related to school.)

Edited by 8filltheheart
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2 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:We haven’t yet done any kind of formal grammar, although we think about it informally a lot in the context of Russian.

I am so glad I did a formal grammar program with my kids. Knowing grammar gave them great help with their high school English classes, general writing ability (formal papers and informal emails), college essays, SAT verbal section, and foreign language classes. Many of their high school peers who had little formal grammar instruction struggled in those areas.  
(I used Rod and Staff English from grades 2-8.)

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1 hour ago, 8filltheheart said:

I think the biggest difference you will see @Not_a_Number is probably not the list of subjects but in how the subjects are covered and length of day.  FWIW, my under 5th grade crowd rarely spend time after lunch doing school except perhaps music practice (which is completely dependent on the child wanting to learn an instrument in our household....so for them it is more pleasure than anything related to school.)

Yes, length day is the big thing I'm debating around here 🙂 . 

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Yes, length day is the big thing I'm debating around here 🙂 . 

Somebody on this forum (8? Was that you?) once said their general rule for number of hours to spend doing formal school work was equal to the child‘s grade. So a fourth grader would do about four hours of academic work per school day. I found that extremely helpful as a general guideline, and it worked well for us.  Five to six hours per day was about our limit in middle school years. 

Edited by Mrs Twain
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25 minutes ago, Mrs Twain said:

I am so glad I did a formal grammar program with my kids. Knowing grammar gave them great help with their high school English classes, general writing ability (formal papers and informal emails), college essays, SAT verbal section, and foreign language classes. Many of their high school peers who had little formal grammar instruction struggled in those areas.  
(I used Rod and Staff English from grades 2-8.)

We use Rod and Staff, too. It’s paid off on perfect writing section ( not essay—the mc part) scores here. I will never regret that choice. We use it 5-8. 

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1 minute ago, freesia said:

We use Rod and Staff, too. It’s paid off on perfect writing section ( not essay—the mc part) scores here. I will never regret that choice. We use it 5-8. 

Which concepts do you think it helped most with? 

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4 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Which concepts do you think it helped most with? 

Ugh. I typed up a super long reply that just disappeared!  Basically, I haven't completely analyzed it.  When ds2, my STEM kid, got the same results when he got his SATs this week, it became more clear that that was one of the common factors (my other 2 are very verbal word people.)  The other factors are reading, listening to books read aloud and memorizing poetry.  What R&S brings to the table, I believe is detailed analysis.  I love the way diagramming makes my kids think.  If they don't like it, I think they need it more.  Not only are you labeling the job of the words in the sentence, but you kind of take the sentence apart and construct it in a way that shows that you understand how it all works together.  I think it leads to a very strong understanding of why a sentence is correct or not.

The other thing I had in the long reply was the caveat that I should have said that, of my three in high school and above, all studied grammar 5-8th grade, but none did all of the R&S 5-8 books.  They all did them in seventh and eighth grade, though.  So they did books 6-8, 5-7 and 6-7.  So, those of you reading this who like formulas, it doesn't have to be everyone of the books.  🙂 

Also, my youngest two just were not ready for R&S in fifth grade so we did other things.  Some kids, no matter how smart, just aren't ready yet and I see no point in pushing a formal study early for any reason.  Obviously it made no difference what so ever.  My older 3 have all ended up with strong grammar skills.  Steady work is the key.

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I always wondered if the kids would be better off taking the lack-of-education approach of the public schools, sitting around all day, having some busy work, not learning a whole lot, goofing off and socializing (and bullying). But reading your post makes me feel better about actually educating my children.

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On 7/17/2021 at 11:53 PM, Mrs Twain said:

Looking back, I am especially glad that we pursued a rigorous approach to homeschooling in grades K-8.

 

I know about the popular movement in the other direction which is often promoted in both public school and homeschool circles, but I am glad we swam against the current.

Yes! I second this!

We've got a few months of 8th grade left, so it's little premature for me to chime in, but each year The Boys, really do reap the (compounding) benefits of the foundational skills that were laid early.

On 7/17/2021 at 11:53 PM, Mrs Twain said:

During the vast majority of our homeschool days, my kids worked hard and didn’t always have a lot of fun. However, once they reached high school, they really took off.  It has been a great joy for me to watch them pursue lofty goals during their teenage years and achieve them.

Obviously, I don't have high school students yet, but it was around 5th grad/10.5 that things "clicked" and they seemed to take off with their ability to want something and to take off after it.

On 7/17/2021 at 11:53 PM, Mrs Twain said:

 The rigor in our K-8 program gave them a tremendous academic foundation and confidence so that they can dream big dreams, and the goals they aspire to are within their reach.

YES! The Boys don't balk at anything being "too hard". I love that they are confident that they can tackle anything if they want too.

 

The main thing that I wish was that I'd managed to do a better job with the time, component. We're not quite where I would like them to be with endurance/concentration, but they've still got a lot of growing to do.

Edited by Gil
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