A Few Things I’ve Learned As A Homeschool Newbie

things we've already learned from homeschooling

We’re finding our homeschool groove these last couple of weeks.  We’ve eased into this new routine, and it’s a good fit so far. They are learning. I’m learning. Most of all, we’re in this together as a family.


Here’s a Few Observations and Lessons We’ve Learned from Homeschooling Thus Far:

There is no classroom for learning. The kitchen table, the computer, at the creek bed, the zoo. I love the flexibility and possibilities.

There are about 14 thousand (give or take a few thousand) methods and models of home education.  I like to think of ours as the ClassicalCharlotteMason-Traditional-SometimesCurriculumFollowing-HandsOn-YetToBeDetermined Model.

You can spend more money on homeschool curriculum than an Ivy League tuition.  We, however, are not.

What are we using, you ask?  Handwriting Without Tears, this for Reading and Phonics, this math book for concepts and ideas, Bob Books for beginning readers, a few dozen workbooks from Target Dollar Spot and Walmart, and TONS of library books!  During their private study, they’ll study Science, History, Grammar, Geography, Art, Music, etc. so they will have curriculum carried over at home from their studies there also. (I’m open to other suggestions but I feel like this is a good start, and I’m trying to keep things SIMPLIFIED.)

A few other helps include some of these supplies:

Oh yeah, and we LOVE the Harry Kindergarten YouTube Channel for math, phonics, and general Kindergarten skills.

first time homeschooling lesson plans

Genuine enthusiasm is contagious. Vice versa, if I treat sight words as a total bore, they’re not likely to be excited about practicing them.

Boys need rowdy time in the school day.  As soon as we stop homeschooling for the day, a sports game/rough play/or other noisy commotion commences.  It’s how they function, and I’m learning to embrace it.  We take breaks and try to keep the lessons long enough to stretch their attention span, but short enough to encourage their physical activeness.

A good pencil sharpener is hard to come by.  I think I’ve been through approximately 5 already. Any recommendations?

homeschool curriculum for kindergarten

There are a billion FREE resources on the web.  Some of my favorite finds include 1+1=1, Confessions of a Homeschooler, Homeschool Creations, Impress Your Kids, and Simple Homeschool. I love collecting practical ideas on my “Learning at Home” Pinterest board, as well. Don’t reinvent the wheel if it’s already done for you!

At the same time, use these resources as a help, not as a hindrance.  Don’t let the perfection of the pictures intimidate, overwhelm, or discourage.

Page protectors keep you from buying/printing 4x the worksheets or allow you to repeat the exercise again for review.

things I've learned homeschooling

Homeschooling isn’t going to be perfect. Therefore, we all need grace.I’m not going to be perfect. They are not going to be perfect. There is no perfect curriculum. No schedule is perfect. PERFECT isn’t our goal.  We’re going to give this our best effort, but we all have to balance this with a huge helping of grace.

Phewww. We are just a few short weeks in, and that’s quite a bit to process.  Obviously, we have LOTS to learn, and we’ve only just begun. It’s a trial year, and there are bound to be bumps and bruises along the way. I’m open to your advice, resource recommendations, and let’s be honest encouragement along the way. 😉

40 thoughts on "A Few Things I’ve Learned As A Homeschool Newbie"

  1. You are such an amazing mom!

    My daughter is in first grade and when I start to feel the urge to push her to learn, or feel anxiety about her schooling, I remember, “It is only first grade.”. What’s the most important for me, in these first years, is not that she learn specifics, but that I instill a love of learning. A love of learning will last for her lifetime. She has plenty of time to learn vowels and spelling and all those specifics. But, her attitude toward learning? That’s being formed and molded in these early years. That is what’s important to me – that she love school and learning.

    We have this sharpener – great amazon reviews and we love it! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0014CI10E/ref=wms_ohs_product

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Kelly, the encouragement means so much! Thanks so much for the reality check, and super thanks for the pencil sharpener recommendation! =)

  2. Crystal says:

    You’re doing great. Just like anything else worth doing, homeschooling takes time and practice and isn’t an exact science. My parents had the same manual pencil sharpener for all of us for about 15 years — I wonder what brand it was???

    And good news: your boys are going to be featured in Clubhouse, Jr! More details to come.

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Crystal, I think the longer we “practice” the easier it will get. I’m thankful for the routine and the opportunity to watch them be sponges!
      And YAY!!!! Excited to hear the details!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I’m not sure I have ever commented on your blog before, but I just wanted to say blessings on the year ahead of you! It’s a fun journey you’re starting on!

    As for a pencil sharpener, when my mom was homeschooling me and my siblings back in the ’80s and ’90s, we had an old-fashioned one that mounted on the wall with a few screws and you cranked it with your hand. It was a classic, we got it used, and it never failed on us! Not sure if they sell them anymore? My mom’s favorite part of it was that it wasn’t electric and she didn’t have to worry about little fingers poking inside and getting hurt by mistake.

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Elizabeth. And yes, I’m all about finding an old fashioned reliable one!

  4. This homeschooling boys thing is just another world, is it not?! I love your thoughts on attention span and activeness – it is such a delicate balance! And our “classroom” is all over the place as well!

    You are doing a GREAT job so far! Way to go mama!

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Oh how thankful I am that there are mamas like YOU doing this too, with BOYS Galore! Thankful for your encouragement!

  5. Sounds like you’ve found a good groove! My advice is to keep it simple – don’t try to cram in too many “subjects” in the early years – stick with the basics to build a foundation for later. Also, read lots of good books – books have opened the doors to so many unit studies for us {and cover a number of subjects without having to “formally teach” them}!

    1. P.S. Here’s a manual pencil sharpener with a 10 year warranty on it! http://amzn.to/RMgWm1

    2. QuatroMama says:

      Simple. I can do simple. Thanks so much, Ashley!

  6. We started using mechanical pencils with the kids cause I tired of the pencil sharpener breaking! Ha, ha! I can’t imagine how it is to homeschool four at once, all of the sudden. But, I’m sure that your life is full of those moments! Enjoy – and I love seeing all your new moments!

    Becky B.
    Organizing Made Fun

    1. QuatroMama says:

      I like the mechanical pencil idea, but I can’t seem to get them from clicking and breaking/wasting all the led. =) Who knew pencils would be the hardest part of homeschooling? HA! Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. Kathy W. says:

    About two years ago I had to replace my manual pencil sharpener which I’d had for 20 years — the metal post finally snapped from the base. I replaced it with a Boston KS manual pencil sharpener — good, but the base/post are made of plastic. Jury is still out on whether it will last 20 years. 🙂
    Pencils — Dixon Ticonderoga #2
    Pencil grip — proper pencil hold goes a long way in helping with fine motor skills. http://www.amazon.com/Stetro-Pencil-Grips-Assorted-Colors/dp/B000KIEJKE These were recommended by an OT (although I also had the triangle shaped kind.)

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Great resources! Thank you for passing these along!

  8. Cyndi Spivey says:

    Such blessed boys to have you homeschooling them! I can’t believe how much they’ve grown.
    Blessings friend,

    1. QuatroMama says:

      So BLESSED to have you in my life, Friend!

  9. Tamara says:

    Great job so far! They are so blessed to have a mommy that cares so much! I think that that is the first thing you are doing right….is trying and caring;-) I think that that it’s a blessing that you are homeschooling them. Think of how much more they get out the lessons when there is one teacher(you) for the four of them. You can give them so much more one-on-one then traditional school. Anyways…u know all this…Just wanted to say I am impressed and proud of the way you are teaching them;-)

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Tamara, your comment was such an encouragement to me this week. Thanks for taking the time to be a blessing!

  10. I too went through many pencil sharpeners!!! I am so glad to hear I am not the only one. I finally broke down and spent $20 on an electric model and I love it! The best part is because it has to be plugged in it is always in the same spot and never lost. Ours is XACTO brand and has been working hard for our family for over 2 or perhaps even 3 years now. Oh and yes boys (and even very high energy little girls like mine) needs lots of breaks. I finally broke down and let my one boy stand and write instead of using a chair, it really helped him to focus, and I let my girl sit on a exercise ball and do her computer work since it seems to help her focus too! Sounds like you are learning fast! enjoy!

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Great ideas on the attention/movement techniques! And I’ll have to check out the sharpener you recommended. Thanks, Victoria!

  11. Theresa Bruno says:

    I’m so glad you allow your children to be rowdy after they’re finished! Kids need a chance just to be kids!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. QuatroMama says:

      It’s in them – can’t suppress it! =)

  12. brittany says:

    I think it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good start. I would say that, at this age, reading, writing, and numbers should be your biggest focus. They are the basis for all of the other learning thta they do now and will do later. Sue Benzing was a wonderful wonderful support and drilled that into my head so many times when I would stress about whether or not I was doing enough in the younger years. She was so right!

    Also, she told me that she would read a book to her 3 older kids and that Anna would be flipping around the room, standing on her head, and all kinds of things and yet was still learning and had great comprehension, because she needed to be moving. I learned from that to cut my kids some slack and let them be kids, when they needed to, yet still staying on task.

    Something I’ve also found helpful is that when I see focus is starting to go elsewhere, I would stop work right then. I would send them outside and tell them to either run around the yard (We have a large back yard.) 10 times or jump 100 times on the trampoline, or jump rope 40 times. (Adapt to what works for your guys.) It really helped break the routine and the wiggles and they were able to focus again.

    Enjoy this! Time goes so fast! We LOVE homeschooling. Lauren is now in her 8th year of homeschooling and is now a Freshman. I think I blinked once or twice… 🙁

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Brittany, I’m taking all of these suggestions to heart. Thank you so much for taking the time to share. I truly value your input!

  13. Jennyble says:

    Jen – We were homeschooled and we LOVED it. I think one of the reasons is because it is so flexible, and you can tailor it to each of your sons’ learning styles. Jaime was an early riser, and would often be done with her work before I even started my day (I’ve always been a late night person). Some days we wore pj’s. Our “desk” was the dining room table, or the sofa, or our bed, or the floor, or the car. We got to do lots of field trips. And mom made things like math fun (and practical), b/c she’d have us make a recipe and halve it, double it, etc. There are so many ways to learn, and so many ways to make it fun for each one. Sounds like you’re off to a great start. Don’t give up! One of the best “side” benefits: a close family. My sisters are still my best friends.

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Your relationship with your sisters was such a beautiful thing to watch. Some days, I desperately wanted to be a Westcomb! Thanks for the great encouragement, Friend!

  14. Sherry says:

    Jen- My first home schooler just graduated. Never in a million years would I have imagined the blessings that have filled these past 12 years. Each day won’t be perfect, but it will be rich, with memories and lessons learned, of learning to walk in grace and being able to be thankful in all things. Enjoy it.

    1. QuatroMama says:

      What a great blessing, Sherry! Congratulations on 12 years of accomplishments and memories!

    2. Beverly says:

      Did you run into any difficulties with college acceptance of homeschooling.
      Did your home schooler get into the college of their choice?

  15. Susan McCurdy says:

    I think it’s worth it to purchase a “Boston” pencil sharpener. I’ve had the same one for 20 years…..It is louder now than it was and could probably use a tune up but it still works!

    Also, thanks for the Apron pack of 12 suggestion. That is a good deal! Also liked the youtube channel suggestion for the Kindergartener’s.

  16. Mariah says:

    Two of my favorite resource websites when I taught kindergarten were jmeacham.com and littlegiraffes.com. If you can get a membership to readinga-z.com, it is awesome.

  17. I laughed about the pencil sharpener because I feel the same way. We’ve found a few good sharpeners, but by the time I know they’re good, I can’t remember where I bought them! LOL

    Sounds like you’re got a good year planned. My advice for you (as a veteran homeschooler of eight years) is to pace yourself. Make sure to get the three R’s then just read to them. Science, art, all the other stuff can come later. Read wonderful books like Five in a Row or Sonlight recommends and they’ll learn so much just from listening to you read.

  18. Carole says:

    I teach in a public school and I have NEVER found a pencil sharpener that holds up to being used about 50 times a day! About 3 years ago (I’ve been teaching 8) I finally requested mechanical pencils on our supply list for that very reason! Glad to see some suggestions – you’ll have to let us know what works! 🙂 Have fun!!!

  19. Carol says:

    Homeschooled / unschooled my daughters for several years (now 26 and 24) and have to say that they have been very successful academically as well as socially. I believe your philosophy is more important than the methodology or curriculum. There is a quote I found most helpful although I disremember the exact wording….”the value of a teacher lies not in filling heads with knowledge but instilling in the student the love of knowledge and its pursuit.” Good luck and don’t forget to savor the experience.

  20. Sarah Ronk says:

    Sounds like we are doing almost the.exact.same.thing. 🙂 You guys are a tad ahead of me so I don’t have any awesome tips or tricks 🙂 we are totally on board with reading a TON and page protectors (love dry erase here!!) and not spending much money or recreating the wheel!

    I think it’s your second picture… Where do you print handwriting /tracing pages like that?!! I’ve been looking for somewhere to do just that!

    1. QuatroMama says:

      Sarah, this is the one I’ve used the most for name practice…
      Now we’re working through Handwriting Without Tears and they use boxes instead of lines for practicing at this stage. I’ve heard they now have an app too, but I haven’t checked it out yet.

      It is soooooo soooo nice to hear when other people are on the same page. Sometimes I feel like I’m not fancy enough for homeschooling…

  21. Sounds like things are going really well for your first year! (Just found this post on my sis-in-law’s Pinterest page, so I know I’m a little late commenting 🙂 ). We also homeschool. This is our fourth year. One girl, three boys, one girl on the way. I’ll have to check out your more recent posts. Hope it’s still going well!!!

  22. Courtney says:

    Thought of you when I saw Oriental Trading Company advertising plastic sleeves that can “turn any worksheet into a dry erase worksheet”. I’ll bet your page protectors work just as well though and are probably cheaper! 🙂

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