How to Homeschool – Be Informed About Laws

How to Homeschool – Be Informed About Laws

In my previous “How to Homeschool” post, I shared with you the importance of:

  • celebrating your family’s uniqueness
  • customizing your homeschool to fit the members of your family and your current season of life.

I also promised you that I will help you to customize your homeschool with three key steps to take before doing anything else. Today, I’m sharing with you the first step. Honestly, it’s the most boring step, but it’s still critical.

How to Homeschool – Step #1: Learn Your Local Homeschool Laws

Connect with HSLDA

First and foremost, learn your local (state) homeschool laws. If you live in the United States, you can learn about your state’s or territory’s laws from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) is also a good resource for Texas residents.

There are a lot of differences between the states about what is required to homeschool, so this is a critical step. Your state may require a certain number of school days a year, or a certain number of hours a day of schoolwork. It may require standardized testing, meeting with a local representative, or making a portfolio of work. Even what subjects are required varies from state to state. And if you currently have kids in the school system, you’ll also need to learn about the withdrawal process. It’s up to you to find out.

Find out your local laws before doing anything else! Before watching curriculum videos, before reading books about homeschool methodologies, before anything. Print out your local laws and put them in a binder or glue them into a notebook or laminate them. Whatever works for you. Just keep them ever-present as you’re making your plans.

Connect on Social Media

Connect to HSLDA on social media. I personally follow them on Facebook, along with THSC. Both organizations keep followers in-the-know regarding legislation involving homeschooling and parental rights. They also share stories about specific homeschool families that they have helped. While those aren’t the most fun posts to see in my news feed (show me all the cute and funny babies and pets!), I’ve found their posts to be helpful and eye-opening.

Get Legal Protection

You’ll notice a link to join the organization on the HSLDA website (or THSC or whomever). I highly recommend that you join! The small fee is worth the peace of mind of knowing that you have legal protection should the need arise.

When I connected to these legal organizations on social media, I started seeing the stories they shared of cases where attorneys needed to get involved in protecting specific homeschool families. What surprised me was that, often, those families hadn’t done anything wrong. There were times where the local school district didn’t know or follow the law, or simply made mistakes and lost records. I shudder to think what might have happened if those families hadn’t had legal protection.

Other Reasons to Learn Your Local Laws

Minimum Homeschooling

Homeschooling is a huge lifestyle change, especially if you’re withdrawing kids from public school. When you first start homeschooling, you may want to do the minimum while your family is adapting to this new lifestyle. And by minimum, I mean the legal minimum for your state (see above).

When I first started homeschooling, I didn’t understand how much homeschool laws varied from state to state. So I piled us up with a lot of work that we really didn’t need to do. During the year, I did end up letting a couple of things go so that we could manage our time better. Looking back, I wish I’d taken a “minimum homeschooling” approach while I got my sea legs, so to speak.

(Disclaimer: If you’ll be homeschooling kids in high school that may attend college, you’ll need to consider college entrance requirements and maybe even explore dual-enrollment at a local community college. Candice from Homeschool on the Hill created a video about homeschooling high school that you may find helpful.)

Resist Imitation

When you watch YouTube videos about homeschooling, or read blog posts, or peruse Instagram, you’re going to get a front row seat to how families from other states incorporate homeschooling into their lives. They may be doing things that aren’t required in your state. Or maybe they’re not covering a subject that is required in your state. At the least, you’ll be confused. At the most, you could get yourself into some trouble if you’re not doing the minimum for your state.

This is the reason that I ended up overloading our schedule during our first year of homeschooling. I searched the web for curriculum videos and blog posts, not understanding that the homeschool parents that created that content were working to satisfy a different set of requirements.

So don’t be like me. Enter the research phase of homeschool preparation (after the next two steps!) armed with the very important information of the legal requirements for homeschooling in your state.

REAL TALK: Don’t waste time complaining about laws.

The homeschool laws in your state or territory may irritate you. You may think that they’re ridiculous or require too much oversight or are just unfair. But focusing on these negatives is not productive.

Certainly join organizations that support and protect homeschoolers (like HSLDA and THSC), both directly and by working with legislative bodies in regards to parental rights. Those organizations may even suggest ways that you can make a difference in how homeschooling is addressed in your state.

But if you don’t like your state laws and don’t want to follow them, please reconsider your decision to homeschool. Breaking the law by doing your own thing is putting your family at risk, and frankly setting a terrible example for your kids.

So instead of looking at your local laws with angst and frustration, see them as a helpful framework for ensuring that your kids get a good education.

How to Homeschool

How to Homeschool – Introduction –>

How to Homeschool Step #2 – Determine Learning Preferences –>

How to Homeschool Step #3 – Difficulties, Dislikes, and Delights –>

How to Homeschool – Introduction

How to Homeschool – Introduction

So you’re thinking about homeschooling…or maybe you’ve already started homeschooling and are struggling. The decision to homeschool is a big undertaking, and sometimes anxiety-inducing. But I want to help you!

Celebrate Uniqueness

So how can I help? By giving you a framework for your research that will give you confidence in your decisions. The reason for this framework is uniqueness.

Why is uniqueness important?

Every child is unique. Like no one else. They each have a unique combination of gifts, abilities, struggles, interests, and quirks.

Every unique child also has parents with their own uniqueness – their own gifts, abilities, struggles, interests, and quirks.

Put all of these unique individuals into a family, and you have a unique family with layers of uniqueness and complexity. Those layers of complexity increase when you look at that family through the lens of a specific season of life, both for each individual and the family as a whole.

FREE DOWNLOAD!

Since each family is unique, what works for one family may not work for another. This is especially true for homeschooling, which is pervasive in the way it affects the lives of every member of your family.

In a day when so many people are interested in personality types (including me!), this shouldn’t come as a surprise. (If you’re curious, I’m an INTJ, enneagram type 5.) But somehow, when it comes to children and their education, we tend to default to a one-size-fits-all philosophy. Even homeschoolers, and especially within families.

A Customized Education

The uniqueness of individuals and families can complicate the homeschool decision-making process. We look at how other families homeschool, and it all looks so fun and peaceful and magical. So we think, “I want to homeschool like that!” Or we look at other families with children that are so accomplished and knowledgeable and respectful and we think, “That is how I’ll homeschool!” And it goes on and on.

Add to that the conflicting advice we see

Do lots of crafts! But memorize tons! And spend hours outside! And more hours reading! But don’t let any of it feel like school!

and the homeschooling quotes and memes

Play is the work of childhood! But you also need to train the mind! But wonder is more important! And homeschooled kids are “socialized” just fine! But it’s better not to fit in!

and it all starts getting overwhelming and confusing.

I would love to help you out of that confusion! (Also, don’t take parenting advice from memes. 🙂 )

Types of Homeschool Advice

A lot of homeschool advice falls into two different camps: “Just relax!” or “Do it my way!”

“Just relax!”

If you’ve been researching homeschooling for any length of time, you’ve probably come across the idea to just relax! Because it’ll be ok! It’ll all work out!

This type of advice about homeschooling reminds me of comments I’ve received from older moms while exhausted with a new baby, or struggling with a toddler, or just generally weary from parenting challenges: “Enjoy this time! You’ll miss it when it’s gone! You’ll wish you could come back to this!”

Yes, I recognize that one day I will miss the charm of toddlers and the joy of childhood. One day I may be sad that my walls are not covered with toothpaste splatters and that my table and counters (and floor and refrigerator and, again, the walls) aren’t smeared with food. But that’s not what I need to hear when I’m struggling. At the very least, I need to hear, “You’re doing great!” Even better is genuine interest in my parenting experience, with maybe some practical advice.

So you won’t hear, “Just relax!” from me. Quite the opposite – do NOT relax. That sense of urgency can be a gift. It motivates us to be extra-vigilant when scoping out new terrain. It reminds us that we have some work to do. It encourages us to get our ducks in a row. That’s the responsible reaction to a decision that will have both personal and legal implications for your family. Once you’ve (somewhat) got those ducks in a row, with the help of the steps I’ll present to you (practical advice!) and further research, then you can relax.

“Do it my way!”

The “Do it my way!” advice is different from the “Just relax!” advice in that you actually do get some practical advice. Unfortunately, since your family is unique, that advice may not work for your family.

Yes, there are homeschool moms that have been homeschooling dozens of kids for decades, and have a ton of experience and knowledge from which to draw. They are experts…in educating their own children. Not yours.

And yes, there’s that author that “everyone” loves, that blogger, that YouTuber that you absolutely must follow and imitate. But just because an author or influencer is popular doesn’t mean that you should model your family after theirs.

Middle Ground – “Find what works for you!”

The homeschool moms that I have appreciated the most have been those that share their own experiences, but acknowledge that something that works for them may not work for everyone.

So I’m not going to tell you what curricula to use. Or what co-op to join. Or whether or not you should use workbooks, or have a schoolroom, or grade your kids’ assignments.

If your family is unique, how could anyone, especially a stranger, be qualified to tell you how to educate your kids? No, I don’t want to tell you what to do. I do want to give you some ideas and tools for understanding your family’s uniqueness so that you can make insightful, lo, even WISE choices for your family. So that you can adjust when things don’t go as planned. Or when life changes. Or when you get to know your family better.

The first three tools I’ll give you should be the first three things that you do, in order, as you work to customize your family’s homeschool (or as you work through the decision-making process of whether or not to homeschool).

After the first three steps, we’ll tackle subjects like educational philosophies, curricula, planning, organization, co-ops, etc. Be sure to join my mailing list so that you’ll be notified when I update this website!

You can do this!

You really can do this! Your educational background, personality type, and work history will not determine your success as a homeschool parent. Your dedication to getting to know your children and determination to make wise choices are much greater contributors to success.

How to Homeschool Step #1 – Be Informed About Laws –>

How to Homeschool Step #2 – Determine Learning Preferences –>

How to Homeschool Step #3 – Difficulties, Dislikes, and Delights –>

 How to Homeschool - To Do List
Do you need binders?
How to Homeschool
How to Homeschool

** This post contains affiliate links.

How to Create an Unschooling Learning Plan

How to Create an Unschooling Learning Plan

Unschooling Learning Plan

I’ve become interested in exploring “unschooling” as a way for my kids to delve more into their interests. The definition I’m using for unschooling is using an interest-led and child-directed approach to learning, rather than using a purchased curriculum or parent-created unit study. I think that unschooling may be a good way to teach my kids how to learn in a way that will serve them for the rest of their lives, and another step toward fully independent learning.

At the moment, I’m trying out unschooling with my oldest for his science studies. Since he’s only 9, I felt that I needed to give him a bit of structure as I guide him in this learning experiment. So I created a printable to facilitate this learning process.

Begin with Questions

Any good science exploration begins with questions, and the printable reflects that idea. After choosing a general topic, specific questions help my son to focus and direct his learning.

Learning Ideas

The printable then shows him different ways to learn about that topic, and gives him ideas for each of these learning categories.

  • Watch – My kids watch a lot of science-related educational programming on PBS Kids, so I had that in mind for this category. They also love the Magic School Bus and the newer version of that show, The Magic School Bus Rides Again (both on Netflix). There’s a wiki for both shows that tell you the scientific focus of each episode, which is really helpful for when you’re looking for something specific. I’ve also found helpful short videos on scientific topics on YouTube. Documentaries are also a good option, if you can find one to hold your child’s attention.
  • Read – Fiction and non-fiction are possibilities here, even fun reference books targeted to children (like a children’s encyclopedia).
  • Play – Games, kits, puzzles, experiments, apps, even Minecraft are possibilities here. We also have a subscription to Minecraft Homeschool, which has courses on many topics.
  • Create – My thought with this category was for my child to find a way to be creative with the things that he’s learning. So he could create a model, drawing, a Scratch program…even charts and diagrams could be fun creative outlets.
  • Write – This could be as simple as having him write three sentences in his science notebook for each activity he does. For a child that loves to write, this could be report or even a story.
  • Teach – I’ve been entranced by the leadership benefits for older children in a one-room schoolhouse as they help younger children to learn, so I was hoping to explore that idea in this context. Possibilities could include him creating/running an experiment for his younger siblings, giving them a short lecture about an interesting aspect of his learning, or even designing a lapbook or notebooking page for them to use.

This isn’t meant to be a strict plan. These are just ideas. For our first shot at this, after choosing a topic and writing down a couple of questions, my son and I explored learning activities in the Watch, Read, Play, and Create categories. He wrote down the ones that interested him. We’ll revisit these ideas, adding and subtracting as we go. When he’s ready to close down this topic, I’ll encourage him to share with his brothers an aspect of what he’s learned (the Teach category).

Implementing the Unschooling Learning Plan

So what does day-to-day learning look like when unschooling? Possibilities range from the very relaxed (“What science activity do you want to do today?”) to the very structured (transferring all ideas your child has decided upon to a lesson planner).

In our case, we’re somewhere between relaxed and structured. We keep a copy of this printable in my son’s science binder. I’ve highlighted the activities that are ready to go (we have the book, or the show, or the supplies) for him to choose from on a day that we’re doing science. If an activity requires a lot of help from me, or for someone else to be involved (ex. my husband, a grandparent), I’ll take the opportunity to teach my son to respect the time of others by getting him to schedule a specific day and time for it.

Tracking Learning and Getting Ready for the Future

Besides the learning ideas page, I also created a form for my son to keep track of his learning activities, as well as a form for him to keep track of any new questions he comes up with during his learning process. These new questions will be helpful as we consider a new science topic to explore once he closes out the current topic. My son keeps all of these forms in his science binder.

Are you ready to take a different approach to learning?

Download these learning plan printables today!

Save this page and pin an image below!

Unschooling Learning Plan
Unschooling Learning Plan
Unschooling Learning Plan

** This post contains affiliate links.

Homeschool Science – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool Science – Mid-Year Update

I started off the school year wanting to take a different approach to science. I felt the need to streamline and minimize a bit this year, doing more of what we like and less of what we don’t. In years past, it sometimes felt like science wanted to take over our homeschool, with all the fun projects and activities and experiments. But it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been, partly because it was all too much. So this year, I thought the answer would be to “unschool” science rather than using a traditional homeschool science curriculum. I thought that a child-led, child-directed approach would allow my kids to delve more into their interests while putting less of a burden on me.

So did that work? Welllll…..yes and no. Instead of “unschooling,” we ended up falling into unit studies that I created by supplementing Little Passports Science Expeditions boxes. And it was fun. For the most part, the Science Expeditions learning activities were high quality and well-thought-out. It was nice to not have to hunt down supplies for experiments. And it wasn’t hard to find supplemental activities so that all three of my kids could participate.

But it wasn’t what I wanted. I really did want my kids to explore their interests more, but that wasn’t happening because I was letting Little Passports choose the science focus. And it really wasn’t any less work for me. It was actually more work because, instead of planning way ahead like I usually do, I had to do last minute planning when I would learn the focus of the next box. (If you plan to use Little Passports Science Expeditions for science, I would suggest beginning your subscription a few months before you need them so you can plan ahead.)

Plan to Unschool Homeschool Science

The first decision I made was to forego treating science as a group subject. I found that “child led” and “group work” really didn’t go hand in hand because group work requires agreements and compromise. While those are skills that I want my children to learn, I don’t want to use science to teach it to them.

Preschooler – Science Tag-a-long

My preschooler will participate in activities with his older brothers if appropriate and if he’s interested.

First Grader – Traditional Science Curriculum

For my first grader, I determined that unschooling really isn’t the answer. At his age, so much is new and fascinating to him that really any science topic will do. And there is foundational scientific knowledge that I’d like him to learn. So I decided to go back to notebooking with him, using Carson-Dellosa Interactive Notebooks. He gets a thrill out of putting together the notebooking pages, and we both enjoy the recommendations for furthering learning so that he can process what he’s learned in a simple, creative way. (I explain more about this in the video, so please watch it if you’re interested. 🙂 )

My first grader will likely also participate in some of his older brother’s scientific activities if appropriate and if he’s interested.

Fourth Grader – Pursuing Unschooling

I considered going the notebooking route with my fourth grader, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try unschooling with him. The main reason is that I think that this is a good opportunity to teach him how to learn in a way that will serve him for the rest of his life. I also think that this could be another step toward fully independent learning for him.

Since he’s only 9, and since this is our first time trying this, I felt that I needed to give him a bit of structure as I guide him in this learning experiment. So I created a printable to facilitate this learning process.

Encouraging Curiosity

Any good science exploration begins with a question, and the printable reflects that idea. My son quickly chose a topic (electronics), and I encouraged him to write a couple of questions he has about that topic.

Learning Ideas

The printable then shows him different ways to learn about that topic, and gives him ideas for each of these learning categories.

  • Watch – My kids watch a lot of science-related educational programming on PBS Kids, so I had that in mind for this category. They also love the Magic School Bus and the newer version of that show, The Magic School Bus Rides Again (both on Netflix). There’s a wiki for both shows that tell you the scientific focus of each episode, which is really helpful for when you’re looking for something specific. I’ve also found helpful short videos on scientific topics on YouTube. Documentaries are also a good option, if you can find one to hold your child’s attention.
  • Read – Fiction and non-fiction are possibilities here, even fun reference books targeted to children (like a children’s encyclopedia).
  • Play – Games, kits, puzzles, experiments, apps, even Minecraft are possibilities here. For my son’s focus on electronics, we needed to look no further than our shelves. He knew right away that he wanted to dig into Snap Circuits again, and we have several kits that he can put together and experiment with. We also have a subscription to Minecraft Homeschool, which has courses on many topics.
  • Create – My thought with this category was for my child to find a way to be creative with the things that he’s learning. So he could create a model, drawing, a Scratch program…even charts and diagrams could be fun creative outlets.
  • Write – This could be as simple as having him write three sentences in his science notebook for each activity he does. For a child that loves to write, this could be report or even a story.
  • Teach – I’ve been entranced by the leadership benefits for older children in a one-room schoolhouse as they help younger children to learn, so I was hoping to explore that idea in this context. Possibilities could include him creating/running an experiment for his younger siblings, giving them a short lecture about an interesting aspect of his learning, or even designing a lapbook or notebooking page for them to use.

This isn’t meant to be a strict plan. These are just ideas. For his electronics topic, I sat with my son and explored learning activities in the Watch, Read, Play, and Create categories. He wrote down the ones that interested him. We’ll revisit these ideas, adding and subtracting as we go. When he’s ready to close down this topic, I’ll encourage him to share with his brothers an aspect of what he’s learned (the Teach category).

Not a Magic Bullet

I should point out that this isn’t a magic bullet for learning. I child that is naturally more academic will eat this up. Otherwise, there might be some resistance. In our situation, my son vacillated between the excitement he feels over the freedom of choosing learning activities in his area of interest, and angst over it still being “work.” Laying out his options (“You can either choose your activities and do them with a good attitude, or Mommy can purchase a science textbook and workbook for you.”) went a long way toward getting buy-in. 😉

Implementing the Learning

Once we had some ideas in place, I needed to decide how we were going to actually implement them. Possibilities range from the very relaxed (“What science activity do you want to do today?”) to the very structured (transferring all these ideas to a lesson planner). I can see myself doing both, depending on the topic and the season of life we’re in. But for the most part, we’ll probably lay somewhere in the middle.

In our case, we’ll keep a copy of this printable in my son’s science binder. I’ll highlight any activities that are ready to go (we have the book, or the show, or the supplies) for him to choose from on a day that we’re doing science. If an activity requires a lot of help from me, or for someone else to be involved (ex. my husband, a grandparent), we’ll schedule a specific day and time for it. I think that this is a great opportunity to teach him the need to respect other people’s time (a social skill that is sometimes hard to come by!).

Keeping Track of Learning and More Questions

Besides the learning ideas page, I created forms for my son to keep track of any new questions he comes up with during his learning process (possibilities for future learning!), as well as a form for him to keep track of his learning activities. I’ll also add his activities into our online lesson planner for my records, but I like the idea of my son learning to track his own work. He’ll keep all of these forms in his science binder.

What homeschool science curriculum or approach have you loved?

So now that you’ve had a peek into how we’ve approached science this past year, and what we’re planning for the future, I’d love to hear about your family! What homeschool science curriculum or approach has your family loved and why?

You may also be interested in:

Homeschool Mid-Year Update – Homeschool History Curriculum

Homeschool 4th Grade Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool First Grade Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool Pre-K Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Video you may find helpful:

Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2018-2019

** This post contains affiliate links.

Homeschool Mid-Year Update – Homeschool History Curriculum

Homeschool Mid-Year Update – Homeschool History Curriculum

If you’ve seen my current Homeschool Curriculum Choices video, you already know that I’ve struggled with my choice for homeschool history curriculum this year. We began the year in experimental mode, trying a couple of things to see what sticks, but generally hoping that we could study American History as a group (with kids in 4th grade, 1st grade, and pre-k) in a low-pressure and enjoyable way.

We’ve had some successes and a couple of…well, not exactly failures, but things that were not as successful as I’d hoped. The thing that surprised me the most was how emotional I’ve been over the study of history. But I’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s look at some specifics.

Homeschooling with Minecraft

My boys love Minecraft, and my oldest has been begging me to work Minecraft more into homeschooling, so I decided to give Minecraft Homeschool a go via Skrafty.

Skrafty for Homeschool History

Skrafty has a number of areas available for study, but we decided to focus on just the U.S. History portion. I planned for my son to work through the lessons once a week, and expected it to be pretty hands-off for me. I was hoping that it would work well as a supplemental learning activity.

In general, I was pretty impressed. Each unit had six or so lessons, with a written portion and a video. The students completed quizzes (sometimes for each lesson) and were given a Minecraft build assignment for each lesson, as well.

Struggles with Skrafty

And here’s where we get to my struggles with the website. My son usually needed some sort of reference picture to create his builds. I don’t let my kids Google (that’s a whole other issue), and we didn’t have a lot of reference books (something I hope to rectify in the future). So he needed help from me to find the reference pictures. I’m more than happy to help him, but didn’t love that it was last-minute help since there was no way (that I know of) for me to see what topic each lesson would cover in advance. So he would read/watch the lesson, then needed me to get started on the build, interrupting whatever I was doing. Not the hands-off experience that I’d hoped for.

Another problem I had with the builds was that not all assignments were a great fit for a Minecraft build. For example, building an Iroquois village is pretty straight-forward and doable. But some assignments, like showcasing events in an explorers life, were, I felt, too ambiguous for a younger child. And even some of the suggestions, like building a statue of an explorer, were too difficult and advanced for even my very knowledgeable Minecraft builder.

The bottom line is that some assignments just really weren’t fun. Since we were doing this specifically for fun, I decided to forego the U.S. History portion of Minecraft Homeschool for the time being. It probably would have been better-used by an older, more independent student, or as the ONLY history (not a supplement).

Our Other History Resources

When I’m putting together a learning unit for my kids, I try to get a variety of resources that cover the same general information. I find that covering the same information in different ways helps the learning to stick better with my kids.

History Planning

Because I have a love affair with spreadsheets, I put together a handy-dandy spreadsheet to keep track of resources I come across. In my spreadsheet, I have columns for videos, reference resources, read-alouds, independent or guided reading, and a miscellaneous column for fun activities (activity books, lapbooks, Minecraft, etc). I enter items into the spreadsheet if they’re a possibility for us, but we won’t end up doing everything.

Homeschool History Curriculum

Favorite Resources So Far

Some of our favorite resources so far have been:

  • What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know (and others in this series) – I’m using the American History portions of these books for their historical summaries. The summaries are written perfectly for children, so I like to read from these books as we enter a new topic.
  • Sticker Fun History – My kids LOVE this book. It’s cute and funny and very informative. We used pages from the explorers portion of this book this year.
  • Encounter (Jane Yolen) – This picture book shook me up. It looks at Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World through the eyes of a Taino boy. As someone that most likely has Taino blood, I really wanted to share this other point of view with my children.
  • A Lion to Guard Us (Clyde Robert Bulla) – I love his books. They’re appropriate for children without being cartoonish or dumbing down truth.
  • The Dreadful, Smelly Colonies: The Disgusting Details About Life in Colonial America (Raum, Elizabeth) – This was assigned reading for my fourth grader. I love that it’s so different than how we usually teach history to kids!
  • The Voyage of the Mayflower (Graphic History) – My fourth grader is loving all of these Graphic History books.
  • Pilgrim Cat (Peacock, Carol) – A fun picture book about a fictional stray cat’s participation in events on the Mayflower and beyond.
  • William’s House (Howard, Ginger) – We loved this picture book that shows, in story form, how a new environment affected architecture in the New World.
  • Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims (Bulla, Clyde Robert) – This book made me go online and read more about Squanto! So good.
  • Finding Providence (Avi) – It was so interesting to me to see that, even as people were fleeing to the New World for religious freedom, human nature took over and those that were fleeing persecution were making the same mistakes as their persecutors.
  • If You Lived in Colonial Times (McGovern, Ann) with Living in the Colonial Times Notebooking Pages – I read this book to the kids a couple of years ago, but this year I had my oldest read it independently and work through a lot of the notebooking pages.
  • The Sign of the Beaver (Speare, Elizabeth George) – This has been such an interesting book, both about the way of life back then, and the responsibilities that even a 12-year-old boy had. We did have discussions about terms that were used back then (“Indian” and “savage”) and why those terms are incorrect. To be clear, I didn’t feel that the book was disrespectful at all, but I just wanted to be sure that my kids understood.

Using History Read-Alouds

For read-alouds, I’m using both picture books and novels. When I’m reading from a novel, I’ve found that I need to keep the kids’ hands busy as they’re listening. (If you follow me on Instagram, you know that the struggle is real.) I generally let my preschooler run in and out during the reading if he’s especially antsy. But in an effort to quell the chaos, I’ve collected a list of activities for us to try…and I’m sharing it with you because I care. 🙂 Just click the image below and you can download it for free!

Free Download!

Struggles with Homeschool History Curriculum

And now we’ve arrived at the emotional part of my experience with teaching history this year.

When I first started researching curriculum possibilities for early American History, my main concern was the dumbing down and even altering of facts in order to make history lessons appropriate for children.

For example, historical figures like Benjamin Franklin tend to be presented as harmless, bumbling geniuses. The truth is that he was probably a dirty old man! And how about Pocahontas? After doing my own reading about that poor young woman’s life and the ways that she was used and abused, I was LIVID that there is any other narrative.

And no, I don’t want to share all of that with my kids just yet. Young children are not emotionally equipped to hear all the negative things, some of the really worsts truths out there. So I’m not saying that all that should be presented to children. But do we have to stray so far from the truth? I was determined to study history with my children in a way that would preserve truth while presenting only age-appropriate information.

And as a Christian – not a cultural Christian, not a social Christian, but a born-again, Jesus-loving, Bible-believing Christian – I was also interested in teaching history from a Christian world view. But even that desire had its problems.

The biggest issue I see is that some sources interpret history by claiming to know the mind of God. Specifically, there’s a theory that God intended for the “New World” to be “discovered” at that exact moment in history, specifically by Christopher Columbus. Much is made about the name “Christopher” meaning “Christ-bearer.” He’s portrayed as a hero that was brave enough to follow God’s will and bring the message of Christ across the world.

I question all of this.

How do we know that it wasn’t within God’s will for the “New World” to be populated by people (other than those that we now call Native Americans) at an earlier point in history, or even later? I suppose it depends on an individual’s view of free will, but I personally believe that God gives us free will and freedom in exploration. Regardless, I can’t know for sure because I can’t fully know the mind of God.

But even if I accept the premise that God determined exactly when Europeans would “discover” the “New World” and determined that Christopher Columbus would be the man to do it, does it also follow that he deserves hero worship? The answer is an emphatic no! Even if Columbus was God’s chosen instrument, that does not mean that Columbus was a perfect man or that we should gloss over the terrible things he did or the greed that motivated him.

I think that one of the best reasons to study history is to allow the lessons of the past to inform our current and future decisions, as well as the way we see current events, both individually and corporately. In order to do that, we need to recognize that people are complicated, a mixture of good and bad. Consequently, nobody makes the right decision all of the time. Sometimes people make bad decisions, learn from them, and make better decisions. And sometimes good decisions are made by people living out some negative things.

I also want my children to understand that imperfect people can have a great impact on millions of people in the present and the future.

That is a message of both hope and caution to my children.

The hopeful message is that the decisions they make and the service they do can have a great, positive impact.

The cautionary message is that doing something good and impactful doesn’t excuse or wipe away poor choices. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about forgiveness. Yes, we should forgive and hope for forgiveness from other people. But the end does not justify the means. Choices have consequences that are not reversed just because we have a change of heart or did something “good.”

I believe that presenting historical figures in a nation’s history in a more honest way makes them, and their choices (good or bad), more relevant to our children.

Phew! Like I said, I had a lot of emotions, as well as thoughts and ponderings, on this subject. I’m feeling very “extra” right now! I hope that this review of our hits and misses so far this year was helpful! And please be on the lookout for more updates of our year…

You may also be interested in:

Homeschool Science – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool 4th Grade Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool First Grade Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool Pre-K Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Video you may find helpful:

Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2018-2019

** This post contains affiliate links.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial