We’ve been homeschooling for a decade. Well, okay, one year(2007) the big ones went to public school and I did preschool at home with the younger ones. Still, I started trying to teach my children in an intentional, organized fashion in 2002. Back then I had a stack of The Mailbox magazines my mom gave me, bought a copy of Alpha Theme-A-Saurus, and a 3 and 4 year old I was determined to teach.
Pretty soon I was fully committed, having spent $20 or so on Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (it’s even cheaper now!) I had to order it online, because it wasn’t available off the shelf. I didn’t know anyone who homeschooled in real life; though I had a friend in high school years earlier who was homeschooled.
I came by it in a strange way, a combination of reading the Catholic Homeschooling, by Mary Kay Clark (founder of the Seton curriculum) and our unusual circumstances. My husband was building industrial plants and one year, we moved five times across three states. It’s hard to have a kid in kindergarten when you move every quarter!
That was then. Isolated, alone, traveling to the library to log onto the internet in hopes of finding my way. Yep, at the time we didn’t even own a computer.
Homeschooling is practically mainstream. At one point last year, there were three homeschooling families on my street. I know more than a few women who were full time teachers in the public school system who have decided to teach their children at home. Homeschooling isn’t weird anymore, it’s intriguing.
Other huge changes:
Chain stores- Barnes and Noble is my go-to curriculum source, and Mardel’s is my backup. Barnes and Noble has a huge section devoted to homeschool curriculum, books, resources, and kits. Books that I previously could only find online or through a used book swap are now available over the counter throughout most modern cities. Mardels sells the homeschool special equipment- the lesson planners, the math manipulatives and science equipment. Even WalMart sells “complete curriculum” workbooks for preschool, kindergarten, and 1st graders. Office Depot, Barnes and Noble, Half Price Books, and many other chains offer teacher discounts for homeschoolers.
Internet – The biggest influencer ushering in the era of modern homeschooling is the internet. Homeschoolers hop on the web for an instant, enormous network of support, ideas, and friends. I can find mentors to help, guides to encourage, and groups of like minded home school parents struggling with the same issues I am. There are niches within niches, and I can find “my people” any time, day or night. No longer am I – and other homeschool parents- marginalized and isolated.
I used to plan my school year on paper; now I can use brainstorming apps, Evernote, Pinterest (more on that later!), and OpenOffice docs. We used to have reference books that were falling apart; now websites are my go to sites for identifying birds and spiders.
Virtual School- This is basically public school, but at home. We’re embarking on virtual school for the first time this year. R will be homeschooled, but I won’t be his teacher. This is a great way to solve our problem of my needing to be his mother- only his mother- but him needing to be out of an unsafe and demoralizing public school environment.
Free Stuff- Free worksheets, educational programs, ebooks, and lesson plans. I can scour the web for free admissions to local field trip destinations and fill out contact forms for free posters from government divisions. When we moved beyond Montessori based methods and I was interested in Charlotte Mason, I found all of her writings online plus sites with booklists and suggestions. I kicked around the idea of workboxes, drinking in pros and cons and tons of websites filled with tips and ideas. I basically can go to a homeschool conference just using Google search! I also use free worksheet generators to teach old fashioned cursive handwriting. Ironic, huh?
Blogs blogs BLOGS! I read blogs of Catholic homeschoolers, eclectic homeschoolers, special needs homeschoolers, gentle homeschoolers, homeschoolers of boys, Texas homeschoolers, and real food homeschoolers. Then I read more blogs of kindergarten teachers, art teachers, and teachers who find deals at Target. Even though I teach in my home, I am surrounded by my peers at the click of a button.
Tablets – we added a Kindle Fire to the mix at Christmas last year, and suddenly my daughter loves to read classic children’s literature. I love that I can download it for free and I don’t have to worry about questionable content or inappropriately adult situations. She’s gone beyond the children’s literature basics, reading not just The Secret Garden but also Rackety-Packety House, by the same author- a book I’ve never seen on shelves. We can also take YouTube videos (and there are tons of educational ones) with us wherever we go- in the kitchen for a science experiment or outside to practice moves for Phys Ed. And I haven’t even touched on the creative art or educational games available. We’ve basically replaced our whiteboard with a handheld tablet, too.
Social Connection- I’m in a few homeschool related Facebook groups, and I can instantly connect with other homeschoolers on Twitter. In fact, I have a whole list just of homeschoolers I follow, or I can just use hashtags such as #hsbloggers or #hiphomeschool and have a quick chat with other homeschool moms.
Pinterest – this is a new change for us just this year. I have more than one Pinterest board dedicated to homeschool topics- Homeschool Lesson Plans and Ideas, Homeschool Organization, and special boards for subjects I struggle to find ideas for. I can click over anytime to my stream for instant inspiration or do a quick search when my kids seem bored, and find a hundred new projects for Columbus, or Antarctica, or ways to simplify long division.
I still have the Alphabet Theme-A-Saurus on my shelf. Some things stay the same!