If you’re a new parent to the world of homeschooling, you may find yourself completely overwhelmed. There are thousands of websites, hundreds of books, dozens of options for philosophies of education, conferences, and curriculum. As a five year homeschooling mom and former classroom teacher who has tried many things to make a successful homeschool, I have found a system that works well for me. My goal is to do the four plus one to homeschool confidently each day.
(Disclaimer: Though this is my kiddo, my kids do not sit at a circa 1900 school desk and write on a slate-ha! This was taken at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio)
The Four Things We Always Get Done
The first thing we do as part of our day for the to be confident in our homeschool is to set the tone. I call all of our children together and we pray. This doesn’t usually take more than a couple of minutes, but it turns our minds and our focus away from all the other things we might have been doing before, and turns us towards our priorities. If you’re not religious, you could do some other type of centering or focused activity. You could each talk about goals for the day or sit in silence for one minute. You could play the same calming music each day as a signal to brains and bodies that it’s time to focus on school work.
Now that I have everyone gathered everyone in one place and we’ve set the tone for the day, I read aloud from a novel. My kids are way spaced out in age-my oldest is 11 years older than the youngest, but I have found that even toddlers can tolerate at least a few pages if I give them a quiet activity like play-doh or special toys that I save just for read-aloud time. Sometimes we read like….one page. But sometimes we read a few chapters. I try to not get frustrated if we don’t get through very much. Some reading is better than no reading. I find this podcast really inspiring when I’m looking for new read-alouds. They hear beautiful language and fluent reading, new vocabulary words, they learn history, or science, and all sorts of things from these read-alouds. Most importantly, they learn to love reading.
Next we do math. For me, making sure my kids don’t get behind in math should I decide to send them back to traditional school, is a key part of my four plus one system for homeschooling confidently. You really don’t need to spend hours on this every day. Elementary aged kids need to do some kind of math facts/memorization and learn and practice math concepts each day. Most homeschool books really support the parent to try to make this as easy on the parent as possible. For math, I like Saxon Math or Abeka.
The fourth thing we always do as part of our four plus one to homeschool confidently is to write something. You can use a writing curriculum or you can just keep it simple and have kids do some kind of journaling or letter writing. You can have young children do a little bit of copying from a poem or a story (copying is GREAT for little kids to see proper writing, punctuation, and grammar modeled for them). For third grade and up, I like The Institute for Excellence in Writing.
The Rest of the Day
So what do we do the rest of the day? Do we never do spelling, science, or social studies? The answer is yes-of course we do! But they don’t all need to be done every day. One of the things I’ve found is that you can weave a lot of social studies, science, and spelling into the other subjects. Just today in my daughter’s math book there was a picture of a bat-eared fox, which we knew nothing about, so we looked it up and learned about it. Also, usually by the time I do the big 4, I have good momentum and we get some other school work done.
The “Plus One” Part of the Four Plus One to Homeschool Confidently
So, what’s the “plus one,” part of the four plus one system to homeschool confidently?
Well, the plus one, is you.
That is you, the parent, being really focused and present with your child while you do school together. The teacher matters. And in this case, the teacher is you. There is no substitute for a teacher….no computer program, app, workbook, or educational game. Those are all nice things that support a good teacher.
For me this is the hard part because sometimes I want to clean, or scroll my phone, or answer emails. But this is where the magic of homeschool happens. And this is the reason that I had to learn to keep homeschooling simple and focus on the 4+1.
Let me tell you that you really can do it. You once did third grade math, and if you sit down daily with your child while they do their math, you’ll be able to help them. But if you hand them a workbook or a computer program at the beginning of the school year and they get stuck when they are on lesson 43, you might be stuck too, because you haven’t been keeping up with where they were in the book or program (ask me how I know). If you’re working alongside your child, you are checking their work in real time, so they get immediate feedback if they forgot to capitalize the first word in a sentence, or they did a math fact incorrectly.