Home education is not just about the development of the child, but of the parent.
You may recognize some of the fears and struggles I've expressed as a parent who once felt overwhelmed by the perceived weight of the task at hand, and searched diligently for a ‘magic bullet’.
When someone asks me what homeschool method we use, I usually say 'eclectic', but I sometimes describe us as library schoolers, because we use the local library extensively as a resource for our studies. We have also built a home library of books and materials from garage sales and discount bookstores, as well as low-cost and freebies we've found online. I often end up purchasing a book we had borrowed from the library because of how much we enjoyed it, or because I wanted to highlight and write in it.
However, it is only fair to warn you to be cautious of the lure of "free" homeschooling. As with most things offered for free, there is a catch, and the catch is elbow grease. You must have a plan as well as the discipline and dedication to implement it. Few things are accomplished successfully without some forethought and invested effort. This method depends on making educated choices about resources and being able to acquire materials from a variety of sources as fits your budget.
Fortunately, no one today has to spend all the time and effort I did creating a Scope and Sequence. Readily available online for free is the Core Knowledge Sequence for Grades K-8. It can serve as an overall plan for the elementary to middle school years. It is a 285 page .pdf that contains very detailed information about concept and content goals for each grade, as well as four Appendices, such as “Why Listening and Learning are Critical to Reading Comprehension” and “Grade-By-Grade Resource Recommendations”. On this website you will also find other helpful resources, such as Teaching Kids to Read, a few classic literature study guides, and an extensive book list arranged by age and related subject.
Each section of the Core Knowledge Sequence outlines the subjects and topics covered in an Overview section. Then each of these are further broken down into an outline of specific concepts. For example, under Grammar and Usage, part of the outline reads:
- Understand what a complete sentence is
- Identify subject and predicate in single-clause sentences
- Distinguish complete sentences from fragments
- Identify and correct run-on sentences
- Identify subject and verb in a sentence and understand that they must agree
- Identify and use different sentence types: declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory
- Know the following parts of speech and how they are used: nouns, pronouns, verbs (action verbs and auxiliary verbs), adjectives (including articles), adverbs, conjunctions (and, but, or), interjections.
A homeschool parent can use this as an assessment checklist, even if they use a variety of resources with more relaxed or delight-directed methods.
At our library, some grammar resources I found using the online search feature were:
- The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage / Mark Lester and Larry Beason
- Painless Grammar / Rebecca Elliott
- The Grammar Bible : everything you always wanted to know about grammar but didn't know whom to ask / Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas
- Essential Grammar in Use with Answers: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book for Elementary Students of English by Raymond Murphy
Skill by skill, concept by concept, you can teach grammar using the library, low-cost books found on Amazon.com, or a local discount bookstore. The Core Sequence covers Language Arts, History & Geography, Visual Arts, Music, Mathematics, and Science. One only has to do a Google search to find a multitude of websites that will fit the requirements for any of these subjects.
However - if you are trying to fit the square peg of traditional schooling into the round hole of homeschooling, especially if you plan to use free materials from a variety of sources, you are in for a lot more work than you've bargained for. The idea here is to use something like the Core Knowledge Sequence or World Book's Typical Course of Study as an organizing tool, an outline, a checklist.
The only exception we've made when choosing resources is math curriculum. We purchase non-consummable textbooks or subscribe to online programs that fit each child's needs and preferences. There are areas of education where I want someone or something else to do the heavy lifting, and I also want to kids to work on their own, and at their own pace with math. So we've used Saxon, Math-U-See, and ALEKS.com over the years.
The flexibility of library schooling is a huge plus. We are not committed to any particular curriculum, and can use whatever methods we prefer for each subject:
- notebooking to cover eras in history
- research-based projects in science
- unit studies for language arts and literature
- free exploration of music and art
all the while using our Scope and Sequence as our map to keep us grounded and on track.
For some, the idea of just using the library and the internet to homeschool sounds like a big risk. For others, purchasing curriculum without feeling sure about what will work best is also a possible waste of time and money.
If you need time to incorporate homeschooling into your family life, library schooling may sound like a life raft in a sea of an ever increasing number of homeschooling resources. It gives you the freedom you need to deschool and find your family's homeschool groove.