Y’all! I have loved every stage my children have gone through. Truly… I don’t know that I have a favorite age or stage as far as parenting goes. But as far as homeschooling… elementary school is my favorite. It is just the best! There is so much room for creativity and child- led learning. It is a beautiful time to get to know your kids… to explore their interests. To try new things. You can find your homeschooling groove during these years without fear of failing.
These are the years your child will take off with reading. I liken teaching reading to a light switch. It will turn on… but the timing may be different depending on the child. Once that light turns on, it is amazing. A child who struggled and struggled to sound out words and read full sentences will suddenly be checking out chapter books from the library and reading through them … and retaining the information. It is a little bit magical. I have watched this happen with all of my children. I have one child, who through circumstances beyond her control has learning issues, gain the confidence to read and loves it now. Her light switch was more like a dimmer switch… the light would go on and off and have different levels of brightness… but eventually it clicked and she reads like a champ! Trust me… it will come. I have a friend who once said the greatest thing she could do for her child is teach them to read. Once you do that, they can take more ownership of their education and learning. It opens the world to them!
So… How in the world do you get started homeschooling elementary school??? With so many great curriculum options, programs, online courses, books… where do you start???
Two things to consider… What kind of homeschooler are you? And what kind of student is your child?
Do you want a box curriculum to tell you what to do? Do you enjoy piecing together your own curriculum? Are you a schedule person? A morning person? Do you prefer a more traditional approach to school? Is your child a tactile learner (they have to touch everything)? A kinesthetic learner (they move all day long)? An audio learner (they learn through listening and get distracted by visuals)? A visual learner (they need to see all the things)?
You need to know yourself and know your child as you move into homeschooling. The elementary years are the best time (in my opinion) to figure all this out. Let me share a little of my personal story and then I will give you some resources to help you out!
When my oldest was five, I figured it was time to get serious about homeschooling and look into curriculum choices. I went to a homeschool conference. I highly, highly recommend you find a conference in your area to attend. Unfortunately, most of the conferences this year were canceled due to COVID-19. Hopefully next year will be different. Conferences are great because you become immersed with people who are speaking the language of homeschool. You get to see and touch the curriculum and books. You can ask questions of the vendors and really gather information to make informed choices… or you can be like me and buy all the shiny, lovely things that have that new book smell… only to bring them home, put them on the shelf, and leave them there, abandoned with the lingering hopes of being used.
ANYWAY. I went to a conference. I settled on My Father’s World first grade curriculum. We loved it. For me, I was deep in the throes of young motherhood. At that time, I had a five year old, a three year old, and a one year old. The days were busy and the nights were not filled with the sleep I needed. My husband was in the midst of getting his Masters in Counseling. I needed a curriculum that was laid out for me. I needed a schedule and boxes to check off. I needed someone else to tell me what to do. My Father’s World was great. We went on to use it for the next 3 years. We used the First Grade, Adventures in U.S. History, and Exploring Countries and Cultures.
Fast forward three years from the beginning of all this. Another child has been added to the crew. My husband graduated from his Masters program and we moved to Western North Carolina. We have settled in and even completed a year with of a co op with other families. We all did Exploring Countries and Cultures together. It was awesome! One of my favorite years. We were together with three other families. We would meet once a week and do the fun stuff… the cooking and science and art. My older two remember that year fondly.
Well… I ordered the next level of My Father’s World… Creation to the Greeks. Another solidly put together curriculum. But as I sat there looking at it, I realized my heart wasn’t in it. I was not excited about using it and I knew my kids wouldn’t be either. I ended up making a bold and scary choice. I sold the curriculum. I called my older two (then 8 and 5) to the table and gave them each a piece of paper. I asked them to write down what they wanted to learn about. Now… I kept my math curriculum… because I know my strengths and weaknesses. Math is a weakness and I know that without a solid math curriculum for my kids, it could mean disaster for them.
My oldest wrote that he wanted to learn about “how things work” and the next oldest wrote that she wanted to learn about “pandas.” By the way… this is the method that I have implemented every year since and for at least three years, she wrote she wanted to learn about pandas. So… if you ever need to know about pandas… I’ ve got you covered. I took the things they wrote down and started gathering materials. I utilized Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, the library, YouTube… I gathered materials to help meet the desires of my kids. We read books and wrote reports (language arts), we made models using legos, cardboard boxes, Hot Wheels Cars (STEM- Science), we did virtual tours of zoos, watched documentaries, and learned about China (Social Studies and History), and we painted and drew pictures (Art). Once we exhausted all we could about “how things work” and “pandas,” I asked them what was next and we did it all again.
Y’all… they LOVED that year in school. I would hear them in their room in the mornings talking about how they were so excited to “do school.” It was a really fun year and I learned a lot through the experience of letting go and trusting the process.
Resources for Homeschooling Elementary School
Curriculum Options (There are so many out there. These are just a few)
My Father’s World– Christian Worldview, Literature Heavy. $$
Sonlight– Christian Worldview, Literature Heavy. $$$
Book Shark– Secular Worldview, Literature Heavy. $$$
Abeka– More Traditional, Christian Worldview- Online and Offline Options $$
Simply Charlotte Mason– Charlotte Mason Based Studies $
Moving Beyond the Page– Secular Worldview, Hands On for Creative and Gifted Learners $$$
Time 4 Learning– Secular Worldview- Online $$
Easy Peasy– Christian Worldview- Online and Offline- FREE
These are a Few of My Favorite Things
Christian Hero Then and Now Biographies– We used these as the spine of our year once. We would read the books and talk about the people, places, and things.
Drawing Notebooks– I cannot stand having thousands of pieces of paper around my house filled with my children’s most amazing artwork. So… I buy them sketch pads. The art is contained and the temptation to chuck it in the trash is decreased. Drawing notebooks can also make great Nature Journals.
Legos! Oh my word… there is so much you can do with Legos! You can have free build. You can create challenges (Check out these building challenge cards in My Teachers Pay Teachers Shop), you can learn about a city and then have your kid build it with Legos. They can play quietly with Legos while you read aloud. The open ended options are endless!!
The Young Peacemaker Book– These are great years to work on character development. This book is a great resource for teaching your children about character and how to interact with others.
Two things that I think are CRUCIAL for your elementary age student… PLAY and READ! Read, read, read… and read some more. You read to them. Have them read to you. Play… allow time and space for play- directed and free. Let your child be bored. Boredom leads to creativity. Play is important. Don’t buy into the lie that your child is wasting time when they are playing. They are learning. Their brains are building. At the end of the day… if they have played and spent some time in a book… it has been a good day!
As far as how your day should look when you are homeschooling an elementary age student:
- Elementary age students can complete their daily work in an hour… maybe 1-2 hours for upper elementary. Focused academics does not need to take much time.
- Children thrive on schedules. Make sure your student is aware of your expectations. Your day doesn’t need to be scheduled to the minute, but have consistent rhythms. Maybe have book work time in the morning, free reading after lunch, chores, screen time, etc. Maybe make Tuesdays a library day and Fridays a field day.
- If something is frustrating to your child, take a break and step back to see where you might need to slow down or speed up.
Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:
- The Law
- Socialization/ Homeschool Community
- Choosing Curriculum
- Establishing Routines and Schedules
- Homeschooling Preschool
- Homeschooling Middle School
- Homeschooling High School
- Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers