How I Homeschool
I was asked recently to describe what I do to home school my kids. It has taken me a year or so to really refine the things I am teaching and my methods for doing it. But, I have a system now that is working pretty well for everyone. I am concentrating on the most important subjects first. While I can’t be totally sure that what I am doing is correct I have seen the results, and it is clear that, at least compared to other kids their ages, they are doing exceptionally well. We take one day off per week and no breaks during the summer; it’s a trade-off to only spend a few hours a day on lessons and to never take a long break. I think it’s better my way. Here are the subjects that I teach, the materials I use, and a little about how I do it.
Reading: Hooked on Phonics (every day)
I bought the entire Hooked on Phonics set three years ago, everything from Kindergarten to the Master Reader Level. Reading is far and away the most important subject for kids to learn; it needs to be perfect or all other subjects will suffer. I started my boys when they were three, and my 5 year old is in the middle of the second grade level while my 6 year old is about to finish the 3-4th grade levels. Hooked on Phonics divides itself into small sections that make it easy to adjust the length of each lesson. Kids feel like they’ve accomplished something at the end of each lesson whether it’s a short one or not.
Math: Hooked on Math and DK Math Made Easy Workbooks (every day)
We started to use the Hooked on Math series for the boys about a year ago. It’s a good program, but I found that it left some gaps that needed filling. As a result I have supplemented the program with the DK Math Made Easy workbooks. The boys are both working on the second grade levels in math (my younger boy is picking it up quickly). They have learned to read a clock, basic fractions, addition and subtraction of larger number, and the art of estimating. Just this week they started on multiplication.
Languages: Rosetta Stone Spanish and Japanese (3 times a week and everyday conversation)
My wife and I both speak Spanish, but we have never spoken it at home so the boys don’t speak it. They are half Mexican and half of their extended family speaks Spanish, yet we have failed to teach it to them yet. Tisk Tisk. Enter the Rosetta Stone Program. I learned Spanish in school, but my wife is a native speaker. She has taken the responsibility to teach them Spanish. We bought the Rosetta Stone Program because we weren’t sure where to start, and we figured the program would make a nice guide for us as well as for the boys. We have not been disappointed. Each compteted lesson on the computer supplies my wife and I with a topic of conversation; we incorporate what they just learned on the computer into daily conversation with them. I am learning Japanese and the boys have both shown an interest in that as well.
Writing and Art: No Material (every other day)
My wife is excellent at all things art related. She does calligraphy with the boys as well as teaches them art. I collect words from their reading lessons that they had a hard time pronouncing and use them as lessons for penmanship. Not only do they learn the difficult words, but they also learn to write. Bonus! My wife has art lessons with them and is teaching them how to do pencil drawings. It seems that Neil, my older boy, has inherited his mothers aptitude for art.
Science: Museums and Radio Shack (2-3 times a week)
Radio Shack sells learning materials for anybody interested in electronics. I bought a learning circuit board and used it to teach the kids about resistors, capacitors, switches, voltage, ohms, and all sorts of other cool stuff. They understand now how to build a simple circuit that does not short by using resistors and switches. In addition to electronics they learn about sea life from the aquarium, more science from the science museum, and botany from the botanical gardens and nature center. The wonderful thing about museums is that they cost almost nothing for yearly memberships, and the educational opportunites are limitless.
Business: Friends (rarely for now)
They haven’t really started too much in this area, but I am looking forward to them learning the art of making money. We have several friends who have been quite successful in business BlitzLocal LLC and have spent small amounts of their time with the boys, teaching them about finance and economics. As they get older we will emphasize this area more. For now, it can wait a little longer.
I realize that there are other subjects like geography, social studies, and music. I’m just not worried about them yet. I don’t want to overload the boys right now, and I want them to get confidence in a few core subjects before we add anything new. One problem that I see in public schools is that they try to cram too much into kids before it is necessary. Kids carry around huge backpacks containing every imaginable weird quirky subject. They get overloaded with subjects and end up not really learning any of them properly. I’d rather concentrate on just a few and get them perfect than to spread out my time and energy just to get half-assed results.