Friday, April 5, 2013

Tips for a Newbie Homeschooler

This is based on a post I wrote to a newbie homeschooling mom. Since I have written many like it, I thought I'd post it here rather than rewriting the same tips many times. Then I added some more detail. 


Welcome to the Davis County Yahoo group! This is a great place to ask your questions and find out what's going in in the area.

First Get God's Support and Guidance

My first recommendation is that it's time to get on your knees and plead for guidance about this important career you're about to start as a homeschooling mom. 

  • First, to know if God wants you to do this. 
  • Second, to the philosophies, methods, and curricula that are best for your family. 
  • Third, that He will help you with any obstacles you may face like fear, doubt, money issues, family un-support, how to socialize, etc. I like to write down my specific questions and pray about them, then listen with my journal open and pencil in hand, listening for answers. 

Don't stress about trying to figure it all out at the beginning. It's a big learning curve, and God will help you figure things out as you keep asking Him. I couldn't have started this journey last year if I didn't know God wanted me to do it. That has made AAAAAAALLLLLL the difference for me. Once I know I'm on God's errand I have full confidence in asking, pleading for His help and strength and guidance in that errand. I could never do homeschooling without God's help. 

Local Activities

I recommend you attend some of the group activities, to start making friends with homeschoolers and asking questions. Once you find moms you connect with, ask what works and doesn't work for them. This Yahoo group is a great place to find events like these:
  • swim days
  • park days 
  • PE days
  • field trips 
  • support groups 
  • art classes
  • piano lessons 
  • homeschool choirs
  • Shakespeare groups
  • summer orchestra camp
  • Classic Fun Center or Boondocks day 
  • and other groups. 
  • Sometimes groups get full so they won't be advertising on a Yahoo group, but you can ask around and get put on a waiting list. 
  • Each spring different groups advertise for next year, like LEMI groups, Vanguard, etc. Go here for a blog post about local groups for homeschool youth. 
  • For regular notices of field trips, you can get on "The Field Trip Lady's" email list:
  • It's fun to start your own group too! Last summer three moms and I did a science club each week. The hosting mom would come up with fun science experiments, provide a snack, and then everyone had time to play and visit afterward. It was great! 
My boys and their cousin at our Summer Science Club

My Favorite Homeschool Yahoo Groups 

  • DavisCounty_Homeschool 
  • LDS_Homeschool 

Local Support Groups

There are two homeschool support groups in Davis County: Aurora hosts the monthly meetings in Bountiful.  I don't recall who is in charge of the North Davis group. There is a second No. Davis group possibly starting up soon by Rosalee. (Email me directly for their emails.) There is also a Facebook page called "Davis County Homeschoolers."  

Different Homeschooling Styles

There are many philosophies or models of homeschooling, like Charlotte Mason, Well Trained Mind, classical, Thomas Jefferson (TJED, sometimes called Leadership Education), and others. My philosophy is part TJED and part eclectic. I think many homeschoolers are pretty eclectic -- learning and choosing different things they like for different subjects and different children. 

That's one of the blessings of homeschooling -- you can adapt your school to fit your children's needs, ages, phases, learning styles, interests, and potential life mission, even as those things change. Some homeschool moms try to set up their homeschool just like a public school, which may work for some, but it didn't work for us. 

How many plastic cups can YOU stack in a triangle on your countertop? 

Sites Where I Like To Browse Curricula 

  • Love To Learn is a homeschool store in Utah County.  If you're stressed about what curricula to use, Dianne Hopkins, a veteran homeschooling mom, has put together  curriculum kits for each grade to get you started.  I bought educational toys for my sons from them last Christmas, and they were a hit!  I love this family, so I love supporting them.
  • Christian Book is a wonderful online bookstore with homeschool and other great resources. 
  • Homeschool review sites can be helpful in seeing what's out there, and seeing what moms like and don't like: Homeschool Reviews and Cathy Duffy Reviews are both good.
  • Harmony Education has lists of recommended curriculum. 
  • Another site I have heard great things about is Sonlight.
Me and my three youngest at a field trip to Crandall Printing Press Museum.

Curricula We Have Liked So Far 

  • The Family School curriculum by Latter-day Learning (through American Heritage School) is a wonderful LDS-based curriculum with a one-room-schoolhouse approach. Here is a blog post  about why I like this curriculum and here are tips  of how we've made it work in our homeschool.  This is a six-year rotation.  It's created for kindergarten through 6th grade, and includes all core subjects except math and language arts, because those need to be done on individual levels. Subjects it includes: 
    • history
    • geography
    • science
    • music
    • literature
    • art 
  • Teaching Textbooks is our favorite math curriculum.  This computer-based program has a teacher telling you and showing you how to do math concepts, and as you practice what you just learned, you have little animated "helpers" to encourage you and give you hints if you need them. If you get a problem wrong, you get the opportunity to have that concept taught to you again so you get it before moving forward.  The program also does all the correcting and grading for the parents. 
  • America the Beautiful by Charlene Notgrass is a Christian-based US history curriculum  for grades 5-8. We are using it currently as a class each morning with my 5th grade twins, my 8th grade daughter, and me.  You read together a lesson each day, and then choose from a list of activities at the end to help you internalize what you just learned, like:  
    • a workbook page
    • map work 
    • read a chapter from a story about a period in history (like Sign of the Beaver and Brady)
    • read an original writing (we read a couple original letters from Abraham Lincoln yesterday!)
    • write a paragraph
    • do an activity like making an Iroquois longhouse from toothpicks and gumdrops
  •  The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer is a four-year rotation of world history.  It makes history enjoyable because much of it is told in story form. You can also purchase activity books and audio CDs of the stories.  This is for younger grades, but Bauer has a series for grades 9-12 also. 
  •  Apologia Science is a Christian-based science curriculum series. 
  • For language arts we have used Switched on Schoolhouse (the one the Duggars use), and also Total Language Plus, which is based on classic books like My Side of the Mountain, King of the Wind, and Charlotte's Web.  Honestly we haven't found a language arts curriculum that everyone totally loves yet.  We do a lot of reading, both as a family and individually. 
  • Teaching Writing: Structure and Style by Institute for Excellence in Writing is my favorite writing curriculum. 
  • Read, read, read great books!  We always have a spiritual read-aloud going on, as well as scriptures as a family.  We also encourage lots of personal reading. We live blocks from the library so we can replenish personal reading books often. Reading is the key to a great education!  
  • Williamsburg Academy is a private online high school that emphasized leadership and classics. My 11th grade son is getting a fabulous education there, and Harmony Education is paying for it.  I have at least one who will start their middle school program next year.  The high school program is rigorous, but it's pretty much the education I wish I would have received in high school.  He takes LDS seminary near our local high school. 

My hubbie and twinners on their way to a church meeting to learn some good stuff. 

Ways to Make Homeschooling Affordable

If finances are an issue for you in affording homeschooling supplies, here are a couple suggestions: 

1) I've taken classes from a woman named Becca Evanson (she lives in SL county), who teaches how to homeschool on a shoestring budget. She may be teaching at the UHEA convention again this year. I wanted to attend her August all-day training (I think in her home?) but I had a conflict. Maybe I can this year. Go here for Becca's website.

2) Harmony Education is a so-called "charter school" that helps funnel some of the tax money we pay for public schools to help homeschool families.  I wrote a blog post about it,  as I've had lots of people ask me questions about it. After you read the post, if you still have questions about it, feel free to ask. Harmony has programs at charter schools too (Davinci in Ogden is closest to me) where they offer classes for homeschoolers. 

3) Some homeschoolers use an all-in-one kit like K-12 curriculum which is tuition-free, paid for by the state. 

4) You can save on used homeschool curriculum and books at thrift stores, Amazon, ebay, Homeschool Classifieds, local homeschool yahoo groups or facebook pages. Some communities do an annual curriculum sale or swap. Ask around to see if your area does one. My friend told me about Paperback Swap where you can swap books for free, just for the price of shipping. (I wonder if "Amazon Student" applies to homeschoolers like it does to college students?) 

5) A homeschool mom named Sarah posted some free educational resources. I'm sure there are many others too. You could do a search on google or pinterest.

6)  THE LIBRARY. See if you can get a card with a neighboring county to expand your book borrowing potential. Use interlibrary loan. Go often. Sit long. Repeat. 

Our Vanguard Homeschool Youth Group... I just love these youth!

Homeschool Conferences

My first year I became kind of a homeschool training junkie.  I wanted to do this well, and I needed training!  My husband went to law school for his career, and I needed my own training to do my new career well.  Thank goodness it wasn't as expensive as law school!  There are homeschool conventions several times a year. They are a great way to meet other homeschoolers, learn skills, help build your vision and confidence for your own homeschool, and check out resources like curricula.  If affording a conference is tricky, you can ask about volunteering to get a free ticket. 
  1. June 14-15, 2013 is the annual Utah Home Education Association convention and curriculum fair. It's a great place for a newcomer (or experienced HS mom) to get ideas and training, and associate with other homeschoolers. 
  2. April 26-27, 2013 is an LDS-based homeschool conference. Latter-day Learning Conference is held at American Heritage School, which is an LDS-based private school in American Fork. 
  3. Each spring is a Family Forum in Salt Lake City. The conference was in March, and this link will take you to their page of recordings. 

Camps, Retreats, Indirect Trainings

  1. A good friend of mine, Tammy Ward, puts on wonderful homeschooling camps and retreats. (The photos below are from Tammy's camps last summer.) 
  2. Each August there is a wonderful Mom's Retreat.
  3. This year I attended my first Eagle Forum Convention, which wasn't directly a homeschool training, but indirectly it was. I discovered homeschool teens can volunteer to help at the legislative session with Eagle Forum -- what a great hands-on way to learn how government works! 
  4. My friend and her teens recently attended a Religious Liberty Conference at UVU which I'm sure was a great educational experience. 

Online Homeschool Trainings 

  1. Kathy Mellor teaches webinars about mentoring teens, teaching writing to teens, and public speaking. 
  2. I highly recommend the wonderful Family Builder program by Diann Jeppsen. 
  3. My friend loved her online training at The Ten Boom Institute.  
  4. The Abigail Adams Academy is set up as a book discussion group for mothers. 

God bless you as you embark on this adventure! 

-- Becky Edwards 

I don't recall what Tammy Ward called this one-day outing, but it was held at the
 American West Heritage Center near Logan, Utah. It was a lot of fun! 

Tammy Ward's Future Mothers Camp

Tammy Ward's Boys Day Camp 


Peter Hyde said...

Hi! I am moving to Salt Lake, East Millcreek Area. Do you know of any similar groups there or how I can locate them.

Thank you!

Tracie Hyde

Heidi Whitaker said...

So glad to have found your blog. Thank you for the wonderful resource!!

Adam Baldrick said...

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