Let me start by saying, I never wanted to homeschool. Pay attention to the keywords there…“never wanted” it was my choice! A decision I made based on all the other things I wanted to be doing and lack of margin I created in my own life! I run a photography business, a non-profit magazine for military spouses, and a little online shop, and I LOVE all three of those things. See- no margin. Also, I have a very strong-willed kiddo who seems to be saintly for everyone but me, full Mom-factor in full force with that kid. No thank you to battling his will everyday.
But God was bringing so many things to a head.. both my boys are behind in reading and Math, both don’t really love school or reading for that matter and truly haven’t had the best experiences in public school. All of this was really hard for me to relate to….I loved public school and all my social experiences; it was definitely breaking my heart to see them really not excel. But friends, we are in different times.
When Covid caused our miltary based schools to go virtual in April that was the camel that broke the straws back for us. The virtual experience was particularly bad for us, but most importantly woke me up to the mediocre curriculum they were receiving. My 7th grader was stuck with reading Edgar Allen Poe for our entire quarantine virtual school and my 3rd grader got Brothers grim. Which perfectly sums up how I felt about those literature choices-grim plus other words like dreadful and depressing. One thing was quickly becoming true there was no way we could return to a virtual format for my boys, they weren’t learning and we were all miserable. Thus began my search for homeschool curriculums, somethng I never thought I’d do, never say never.
Typically I love researching, but searching through hundreds of homeschool curriculums was overwhelming. I had some requirements though that helped nail down options:
- open & go,
- not online (we already struggle with too much screen time)
- inspiring (pretty graphics)
If I was gonna be teaching, I needed to stay inspired and encouraged by the curriculum as well. Also, I recommend taking a homeschooling quiz to figure out your priorities and lifestyle preferences. The only curriculum checking all these boxes was Gather Round Homeschool. It’s a unit based curriculum, each unit lasting 4-5 weeks focusing on a specific topic/theme like Earth Science, Oceans, North America, etc… Every unit includes all subjects like history, science, language arts, geography, and bible intertwined into each chapter, all except Math. You can purchase digital or already printed units. You teach 20 minute lessons from the teacher manual ( I summarize alot of this as some of the language is over their heads) then the kids work in their individual grade level notebooks. The creator of Gather Round, Rebecca Spooner recommends going in a certain order of units if you have new readers, if not you can pick and choose based on insterest. My boys picked Earth Science first because they love Minecraft, which proved to be a perfect fit. We just completed Earth Science which took us 5 weeks and I enjoyed it so much, truly. They learned so much and stayed engaged, I supplemented with lots of youtube videos per lesson since we are all visual learners and added quite a few books to accompany the topics. Books like, Journey to the center of Earth, Holes, The lion, witch and the wardrobe, and Because of Winn dixie. This was really our trial month, but WHOA. SOLD. Hook. Line. and Sinker. Next month, I will add an online Math program and possibly some watercolor art for our next unit, Oceans!
A few other tips and things I got wrong
1// It’s not like regular school- the further I got from my mental picture of a classroom the better it got for us. I started day one- kinda stiff and strict and realized that’s not really me and they weren’t as into it. Then I relaxed and made things more conversational, asking them lots of questions and was shocked at how many educational rabbit holes we went down led by them! The beauty and freedom of homeschool is just that- FREEDOM. Now I’m using that as the advantage it is and it’s been so fun-we are loving to learn- this girl is excited about rocks in Earth Science, 2020 gets weirder and weirder. ⠀
⠀2// It’s more gratifying that I thought. I’m an instant gratification kinda gal. I like seeing results quick and with parenting- it’s typically just not that way- gotta have those long term visions for your kids and stay the course! With homeschooling, I cannot believe how much they are discussing and bringing up the topics throughout the day- makes me feel so good- I want to cry. They are getting it & retaining it. In case you’re wondering, my strong-willed kid still gives me push back, but we push through together and now I can speciifcally help him with tools towards his attitude and strong will. Not easy, but worth it, adding Gather Round’s bible study for kids, More than words deals with character building and its been great for him.
⠀3// The Gather Round Homeschool curriculum is the only way I felt this was possible for me. When you get tired of a topic it’s time to switch- working well for my own attention deficit, changing things up each month. One notebook per kid, so simple. No stacks of books or ping ponging from kid to kid. Also I mirror cast the teacher lesson from my phone to the Tv so we all can see and that’s making a big difference too! This gather round method is really bonding us together too. Additionally, there are also mini units like US government (we will do in October) that would work beautifully along side virtual school breaking up computer time if you are doing virtual shool. Let me know if I can answer any questions, all opinions are mine, this is not sponsored and I am not an affiliate.
Free Printables for Earth Science