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AshWillieTrishasMama December 5th, 2013 06:34 AM

Opinions please
We are looking into homeschooling starting the 2014-2015 school year. I am doing lots of resurch and curious about some things. The major one being opinions on an online home school program vs. just making own curriculum. I know the state I am in has an online home school program that is free since it is considered a public home school but I also want to incorporate a faith based curriculum. There are some Christian online home school programs I have found that are accredited but not sure if they are worth the money vs just doing our own curriculum. Any opinions are advice is very much appreciated. Tia.

Frackel December 5th, 2013 11:47 AM

Re: Opinions please
We are currently doing our own thing, of sorts. It's a bit hard to explain.
However I've done the online school thing too. A lot of people that give an opinion about online schools only go by what they've heard, or think they know. They're also, often wrong.
K12 is a great curriculum, and usually the one many people use, even if through their home state(through what's considered an "umbrella" school). More often than not, with those kinds of programs, everything is set up for you. You'll have everything scheduled out for you, will likely have a "teacher" assigned to you(who will check in at whatever sort of interval they set up), you'll have to "report attendance"(aka, mark what you did, how long, etc..). Your child will actually still be a public school student. All of that is usually done though the site, except for the contact with a "teacher"-which is often done both by site and by phone. Different online programs work differently, and use different curriculum, but that is the base of most of them. Most of the programs for online school are secular. Very few are faith based, and the ones that are, aren't usually considered public school at all. While the secular ones, are.

If having a set structure and being required to check in, at a frequency you may not get to decide, is not your cup of tea, most online schools won't be your cup of tea either. They are pretty structured and while you ahve some wiggle room, it's not always a whole lot. Even if you love their curriculum. Most aren't too very forgiving, you can't take off as much time here and there (if needed) like you could if you were simply doing your own thing. That's part of our problem. We tend to work too fast for most programs to accept, and I tend to work off book and supplement a lot. There are some cons, like that. That said, I do think most are very fine programs. It's more a matter of finding one that fits you, your style, your family and MOST importantly, your child. Ultimately, if the child doesn't like it, it's likely going to be a bad experience no matter what. I'm not one into forcing a kid into a learning style or program they don't like, lol.

Personally, I allow my kids a lot more freedom when it comes to their education than most. I am not saying that is ideal for all, or even the "right" way to do things, lol. But it works very well for us. I figure, if they enjoy themselves, they're far more receptive. I spent the better part of the last year, almost year and a half now, putting together this year's curriculum entirely free. I did it for a project, and research purposes primarily, but also because we really wanted to test the waters. I wanted to get a really good hold on just what my kids need AND want, for their own education. By allowing them more freedom, more choice and a true say in everything, I think they appreciate their education a little bit more than just knowing they're getting a good education. If that makes any sense. Again, totally not saying anyone else is doing anything wrong, their kids aren't getting a good education, or they don't value it. This is just what works best for my bunch, your mileage may vary.

I don't see in your post which grade you're starting with but I can assume either Kindergarten or First grade, based on the age of Ash in your sig. Might I offer a few suggestions on starting out with younger children?
Don't focus so much on the curriculum itself. Don't worry about having an all in one program. Don't worry about having all subjects covered. Don't worry about structure, scheduling and making sure each and every topic is covered at the precise moment someone else says it should.
When children are younger, even those who need structure, they need to be given the chance to have a passion for learning. You can't really instill that in them. It's there in all children, whether or not it ever comes to light, is the question. Make learning fun, not just school. Make sure they enjoy what they're doing and aren't just doing it because you said they had to. Of course you'll have moments when "because mommy said you have to" will come into play, lol. All children have moments like that. All children have stubborn days, bad days, downright nasty days sometimes. It is perfectly ok for both of you to break down crying if need be, when something isn't working. That's natural. You're going to be learning right alongside your child and you need to know that being perfect should NEVER be a goal anyone wants to achieve. It's impossible, and will only set you up to feel like a failure should something go awry. And sometimes, lots of things go awry, it happens.

Learning through play is important in the younger years. Even with children who prefer workbooks and sit down at the table sort of work, it's important they still have time to learn through play. Social studies at age 5, is not important. While it may be included in curriculum, it's not a core(if you're even concerned with such things) and really isn't important. It can be taught, sure, but it's not as important as other things. The core subjects I would stick with for younger children would be Math and Language Arts(letter recognition, phonics, reading, literature, handwriting, etc..). You will have enough with those two subjects to cover a LOT of ground. Work in the other subjects when you've got a good hold on those two and a good idea what it is you want.
Don't go right out and get any curriculum just because someone else said it's good. If you can't really try it before you get it, to see if it's a good fit, it might not be worth the money. This is why I hate the fact that so many cost so very much, and in the end a lot of people find it's not ideal for them. Sure you can resell, at least some, but it's not likely you'll ever recoup all your money spent. Most families today can't afford that kind of expense. I know we can't.
I would honestly start out before you intend to start school and see what sort of learning style your child has(and don't be surprised if it changes over the years, that's normal too). Start off small, simple, with basic concepts. Then decide if a full curriculum will really be worth your while.

I know many people who homeschool don't bother with any kind of actual curriculum until around grade 2 or 3. This gives them the chance to figure out just what their child needs, without the added expense of something that isn't going to fit, yet still keeps them teaching and the child learning. There are thousands and thousands of free resources on the net. Those really are, imo, an awesome option for people with younger children. There are quite a few posts on this forum with tons of links. I would start there.

There is a faith based free online curriculum that might suit your needs too. It's called Easy Peasy. Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool | A complete, free online Christian homeschool for your family and mine
It's a very awesome setup and might at least give you a good idea for a starting off point. The way it is done you can see what subjects and lessons are done on a daily basis. So it sort of gives you a real peek, behind the scenes, so to speak. Not many curriculum programs offer a good enough look, behind the scenes, to really get a feel for them. Some do though. So if you're looking for a full set, I'd recommend only going with one you can get a true feel for, beforehand.

AshWillieTrishasMama December 5th, 2013 05:12 PM

Re: Opinions please
Thank you so much for the info and input. She is currently in Kindergarten so she will be starting first grade when we start home school. I will then be homeschooling my son when he hits kindergarten and so on. The Christian online program I have been looking at focuses the curriculum on the child's level over age in relation to grade but I am going to look into that one that you suggested too. We still have a few months before a decision needs to be made but we are 100% set on homeschooling next year. She is having too many problems with socializing over doing school work and her teacher says she is very smart and does good in small groups or one on one but does not do good in big groups. We truly believe that a home school atmosphere would do her some good and would allow us to include the faith based study we want our kids to have.

Spider123 December 5th, 2013 07:17 PM

Re: Opinions please
There is also this:

An Old Fashioned Education

which is Christian and free, but I don't have any first hand experience using it.

and this:

A Homeschool Curriculum for Preschool and Kindergarten

I've heard good things about Easy Peasy and bad things about K12. My kindergartener uses a combo of his older siblings' hand-me-downs, free resources from the internet, and some modern resources that are inexpensive and pre-owned.

Kindy is not mandatory in my state, so technically I'm not even a homeschooler yet/any more. dd2 is a homeschool grad and ds1 started public school for the first time in 9th grade.

My thoughts on public charter schools are more appropriate for the debate board than here, lol, but I don't really have time for that right now and you should be able to dig up the info you need with a good search engine and a bit of common sense.

Since you're doing your research for next year, you also have plenty of time to use Interlibrary Loan. There is absolutely nothing wrong with borrowing a text or workbook from the library to make sure that it is right for your child before you buy it. Even if it only costs $10 or $15, it's a lot easier on the ego to take the book back to the library and put your credit card back in your pocket than to admit to yourself that you made a mistake, package it back up, and pay for the shipping to get what's left of your money back. ;)

Sassalota December 6th, 2013 01:37 PM

Re: Opinions please
I don't have anything to add to your question as I just wanted to say that I also would like to know the same thing you have asked. It is so confusing.

My question to add to that and it is probably pretty obvious and depends on the state but how do you do your record keeping with the curriculum you do on your own? Do you have grades? What if your child wants to go back into an online school after doing a year of your own program? Would he have a transcript? I know the online school have the same transcripts as regular but it just confuses me how you do it if you use your own curriculum. Would your child have to rely on placement testing to enter school?

Spider123 December 6th, 2013 02:34 PM

Re: Opinions please
You can find out what recordkeeping is required in your state or country here:

A-Z Home's Cool laws and legalities page

I totally overdid record keeping. It's kind of nice to have all the notebooks and word documents so that I could see what dd2 was doing when she was ds1's age and what the middles were doing when they were the ds2's age and I'm sure I'll get all sentimental about them someday the same way elderly people do about any sort of scrapbook or diary, but so not worth the time it took.

All ds1's school wanted was the names of the "courses", i.e., English Grammar, World Geography, Algebra I, Geometry, American History, etc. and how many "credits", which roughly translated into how many hours he spent studying a particular subject in an average week, and whether he "passed", which roughly translated into whether the materials were a good fit or did we scrap them and move on to something else.

They didn't even look at the years and years of spreadsheets and comments and notes and reading lists I brought in.

Frackel December 7th, 2013 05:31 AM

Re: Opinions please

Originally Posted by Sassalota (Post 27841542)
I don't have anything to add to your question as I just wanted to say that I also would like to know the same thing you have asked. It is so confusing.

My question to add to that and it is probably pretty obvious and depends on the state but how do you do your record keeping with the curriculum you do on your own? Do you have grades? What if your child wants to go back into an online school after doing a year of your own program? Would he have a transcript? I know the online school have the same transcripts as regular but it just confuses me how you do it if you use your own curriculum. Would your child have to rely on placement testing to enter school?

I can answer that part :D

I keep all of my own records. The work the kids do tends to go into a binder. We don't necessarily keep everything(in the same way you wouldn't keep every single paper you ever got from any school, lol). But we do keep a lot of it. I keep every school year together until we're finished. Then they get put into folders and boxed up.
I keep a, I guess you'd call it a list, or schedule, of everything we're doing. It's not necessarily too specific, but it does break things down by subject and then topic. Like for example I might have written down Literature-and under that, what literature we cover. For Math I'd have Math-and then further break it down by subject from there. It's more of a checklist, I suppose. I don't keep it necessarily for record keeping sake, more or less to keep us on track, so I know we've covered everything we wanted to cover. Most curriculum programs have it all spelled out for you pretty well. You go from the beginning, to the end, all lessons (for the most part) figured out, all subjects "in order"..things like that. If that makes any sense.
When putting together your own curriculum, however, you won't likely have that organization if you use multiple sources, so you have to create it yourself. I honestly think it took me longer to do that part, than it took me to figure out what we planned on covering for the year, lol. Sometimes organization isn't my favorite thing in the world. I prefer organized chaos. We understand it, but it's not likely anyone else ever will, haha.
I don't give letter grades, if that is what you mean, but then again most schools don't offer them anymore either. At least not in the traditional sense. They've changed how they grade over the years, well it's ever changing, but even more in the last few years.
I do give them percentages though, at least on some things. Mostly that's just for big tests though. For the most part it's just me grading their work, letting them know what they got wrong, why they got it wrong, and in some cases them re-doing the work if needed. As long as they understand the subject, and we're both comfy going on from there, it works for us. If I can see they're struggling with something, we'll focus on it a bit longer. That's one bonus of some online schools. They can tell by your child's answers whether or not they need to perhaps do a little more work in that area. Unfortunately in a brick and mortar school, for the most part, wrong is just wrong. There's not a whole lot of room for going back over something, fixing it, or trying a different method until the child actually understands it. There's just not enough time in the day for that kind of thing.(add in 20+ other students, and that's exactly why there isn't enough time in the day, lol)

But, this kind of record keeping can, and will help, if needed, should one of my kiddos decide at some point they want to return to either a brick and mortar or even an online school. Sadly, most online schools don't require much in the way of placement. Then again, neither do brick and mortar. It's more or less based on age, or assumed grade level. If a child shows that grade level is far too difficult, or easy, then they'll address a new placement. Until that point, it's mostly based on assumptions though. I say sadly because some parent do truly know what grade level a child is at, whether or not a school(any school, of any sort) agrees. Sometimes parents don't get much of a say. I think that happens more with brick and mortar schools, but really it can happen with any. I had that issue with our online school. My children were working at a much faster pace than they anticipated them being able to. While we were able to go grades ahead on some things, we weren't on others. It turned into a big disappointment in some areas, which can be problematic. Just as with any children stuck in an environment they feel is, educationally speaking, behind them....the kids tend to goof off, not do the work and generally not have the bets attitude when they're stuck doing something they really don't need to be doing. Again, that may not make sense anywhere but my own head, lol.
At least when I do it myself, even if I weren't completely piece parting everything together and using a full curriculum from one source, I can still cater to their exact needs. Some online schools will only allow so much wiggle room. That was what we ran into. Wiggle room here and there was ok, but if we tried to create too much wiggle room, it became a problem. I realized that halfway through our first year doing it, but decided to try and go for a second anyway. A good experience overall, but not ideal for us, at least not now.

Some schools, brick and mortar are more known for this, will allow testing for placement. Not all will though. That is totally dependent on the school itself. There is no all across the board answer. Most schools don't need transcripts at all and even if they ask for them, rarely get them. Even between different public schools, actually getting a full transcript record isn't all that common(it should be, but it's not).
You can keep your own transcripts if you want though, it's not hard to do. Even if you choose not to do letter grades for the most part, you can still do letter grades(or percentage, or whatever other grading system you want to use) for the nine weeks/semester/year(or however else you break it down). For instance, if I had been doing letter grades for our first year, my son would have gone through the first nine weeks with approx a C in language arts, because he was playing an awful lot of catch up at the time. I would have put that in my records, but I would have also had files in my records to show why/how that grade came to be. Not quite the same as a traditional transcript, because they don't tend to back up the actual grades with physical proof of them. They're simply a letter, or percentage, in some computer program. That's part of why I don't like transcripts. They give the absolute most minimal look at a child's education possible. I would never let a school use a transcript alone to place one of my children, should they ever decide to go to one again. Because of the simple fact that, they're minimal and say very little, if anything, useful. Actual work in hand, more in-depth records, could easily tell a completely different story.

I apologize for the length, I talk too much :P

EMS2005 December 7th, 2013 07:50 PM

Re: Opinions please
I'm a huge fan of Dr. Mary Hood's writing. I kind of freaked out at the beginning of my DD's first grade year (last fall). For one thing, I thought homeschooling was some secret society where there were rights and wrongs and tacit agreements. And for another, I was afraid that if I didn't "look" like were were home"schooling," then one of the many public education employees in my church might report me. And on top of those, I worried over whether puzzles *really* counted as math for a 6 year old and did that count toward the state's attendance requirements?

Note: how *I* personally think is totally different than all the above concerns. I just let fear of what *everyone else* MIGHT think completely crowd out my own thoughts and inclinations. Our state changed its reporting laws this year, thankfully. And I discovered that the people at church really aren't much interested in what we do. And there is no secret homeschool handshake or certain way of thinking or doing anything. What is most important really is simply what I (and DH!!) think and what my family needs. I don't know if that's nagging at all, but I had to share, just in case it helps someone else avoid all that horrible stress.

I have a personal aversion to external oversight, especially governmental. So I was never tempted to do their program. To me it's like telling them I won't send my kid to their school, but they can visit my living room whenever they want. Other people don't mind that and the curriculum works for them and that's great! But for me, I just don't want anything to do with the public school system.

Packaged curricula aren't an option for us, so we pretty much "wing it." I had a neo-classical education spell and intend to keep the history/science cycle as a guide to loosely follow. I require phonics, writing, and math (all bare bones, low cost, skill targeted). I offer chronological history and the corresponding science subject, but otherwise, let them explore and ask questions and follow their interests. Our materials are a mix of life, books we own, library books, and internet resources (I prescreen these, especially Youtube stuff).

My very pragmatic, free solution to a Christian curriculum is the Bible. It took some training to eradicate the wiggles and I read over breakfast so they're a captive audience, but all in all, they do well. We read 1-3 chapters a day and for the most part, they enjoy it. They prefer the narratives to the epistles and wisdom writings, but the point is exposure and I'm sure they'll live.

I don't know if any of that helped at all, but I hope it did! Either way, I hope you find what suits you and your family with very little stress. :)

Sassalota December 13th, 2013 10:14 AM

Re: Opinions please

Originally Posted by ZZ0607 (Post 27843335)
I'm a huge fan of Dr. Mary Hood's writing. )

Can you give me a title of a book that you like? I would love to check her out.

Your post really helped me too because I think we are the same. I am a very private person and I don't want people telling me what to do and I think I would be overly anal about the records. I think that is why "unschooling" would never work for me. I think it is a good idea but I would be plagued with guilt like we are having too much fun and not enough structure. LOL

KMH January 6th, 2014 02:17 PM

Re: Opinions please

Originally Posted by ZZ0607 (Post 27843335)
I just let fear of what *everyone else* MIGHT think completely crowd out my own thoughts and inclinations.

I have a personal aversion to external oversight, especially governmental.

Thanks you for saying these things...I feel the same on both and it is nice to know I'm not alone in this.

KMH January 6th, 2014 02:35 PM

Re: Opinions please

Originally Posted by Frackel (Post 27839215)
I would honestly start out before you intend to start school and see what sort of learning style your child has(and don't be surprised if it changes over the years, that's normal too). Start off small, simple, with basic concepts. Then decide if a full curriculum will really be worth your while.

Michelle always has such wise things to say, but this really resonates with me. We will be homeschooling our kids, and I have started slowly with some preschool this past year. It takes some experimenting to figure out what works for you as far as learning styles, scheduling (or not), type of curriculum, etc. and to find out what your child is passionate about. Don't be in too much of a rush to have it all figured out...this is very much a journey. I don't think I'll ever have it all figured out, and I'm learning that that's okay, too :)

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