Developing the Confidence to Homeschool!

Meet Ethan: My Reason For Homeschooling

Ethan is the youngest of my 5 children.  He is 5 years old.  And he is incredibly gifted.

We knew from the time he was 3 years old that he was different than my other children (but similar to my other son who is also gifted).  At 3 years old, Ethan knew every letter and sound, and he could read Dick & Jane (the big compilation book) cover to cover.  As much as we loved his academic gifts, we knew he had his fair share of challenges as well.

While he was a joyful, exuberant young boy who could make friends instantly with anyone he just met, he struggled emotionally to “keep things together”.  He had attended preschool since he was 3, but often had melt-down after melt-down in the classroom and at home.  His energy level was SO HIGH.  His voice level was SO HIGH.  I constantly asked him to have a “calm body” and a “quiet voice.”

For years, he struggled to fit into a classroom routine.  Regardless of how many times I “partnered” with teachers to improve his behavior, he was in trouble more often than not.  As a mother, I worried endlessly… “Is this what we can expect for the rest of his schooling years?”  I wondered if his gifted brain and his energy-packed body just weren’t cut out for a traditional classroom.

We even contemplated me homeschooling him, but I had no clue where to start, or what to teach him.  On top of that, I was running a full-time business.  “How could I spend all day homeschooling him?” I wondered.

Fast forward to this school year, where at 5 years old, he started public Kindergarten and literally knew everything from day 1 (he performs at a 2nd grade level in Math and Reading).  Despite several requests to his teacher and principal to get him tested, he still received the same curriculum, and we still saw the same poor behaviors.  Every day he would go to school with a smile on his face, ready to have a great day!  And every day he would return home, defeated, with stories of how he had misbehaved.

Again, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was putting my son into a losing situation where he simply COULD NOT be successful, even try as he might.  If students were delayed, they received intervention.  Why wasn’t my son, who was clearly on the other side of the spectrum, not receiving intervention to help him be successful?

Again, I considered homeschooling my son.  I even came across the most perfect curriculum I could imagine.  I often visit Stephanie Nielson’s blog (NieNie Dialogues) and this fall she mentioned she was homeschooling her kids using The Good & The Beautiful curriculum!  I spent the entire day on the curriculum’s website, envisioning how the all-in-one, individualized K-12 curriculum might work for Ethan.  I even told my husband that night that “with THAT curriculum, I could homeschool Ethan!”  He was on board, but we agreed to first see if things could get better with Ethan in public school.

3 months later, they finally tested my son and agreed: He needed different curriculum.  He was acting out because he was bored, so perhaps if they taught him something NEW it would help improve his behavior.  “YES!” I screamed in my head.  “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along!”  However, they would still need time to “develop a plan” for him before giving him new curriculum.

Not even a week later, I got a call from the Principal.  My son had tried to sneak back out to recess, and now he would spend the rest of his recesses that day in the Principal’s Office.  “My son has been in Kindergarten for 3 months and he’s already been sent to the Principal’s Office,” I thought.  “SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE!”

No Halloween: The Beginning of The End

The next day was Halloween.  And because we wanted to make sure our son understood that it was not okay to get sent to the Principal’s Office, we cancelled Halloween for our son.  “Oh the horror!” you’re thinking.  Yes, I know it’s extreme.  But we couldn’t fix what they were doing at school, so we had to try all we could do at home.

As a mom, it hurt me to know he was missing out on all the fun.  As his siblings went Trick or Treating, Ethan and I sat on his bed and had a heart-to-heart.  Inside, I felt like the only choice to help him was to homeschool him.  Below is an abbreviated version of our dialogue that night:

“Ethan, how can I help you have a good day at school?” I asked.

“I don’t want any more consequences.  I’m getting in trouble all the time,” he replied.

“Do you want me to homeschool you Ethan?” I asked.  “So you can learn whatever YOU’RE interested in?  What would you like to learn about?”

“I want to learn about number bonds, and number sentences, and addition, and subtraction…” he quickly said, getting more and more excited as he talked.  “If you homeschool me, I’ll be in a class of only 1, so I won’t distract anyone!  And then I won’t get in trouble anymore!  I can’t be in a class with more than 1 because then I’ll tell everyone the answers!  And that’s cheating!” he said.

To be honest, all of this was overwhelming to hear.  To hear my son tell me he felt he couldn’t be in a class with other children or he would get in trouble was heartbreaking.  To hear him say he didn’t know why he kept getting in trouble.  To hear him talk about all the math he wanted to learn.  What I heard (loud and clear) was my son saying “I need you Mom!  I need you to help me!  Because I’m not getting what I need in my current situation.”

By that time, I was crying, and then I asked, “Are you SURE you want to be homeschooled?  What about your friends?  What about your ‘specials’?”  And he climbed right up into my lap, put his hands onto my cheeks, looked me straight in the eyes, and started crying too.  He said, “It’s okay Mom.  This is what I want to do.”

I was nervous.  I didn’t know if I could do it.  But in the end, I didn’t think I had a choice.  He couldn’t be successful in his current situation, so I needed to help him any way I could.  And with The Good & The Beautiful curriculum, I COULD homeschool him!  So I said, “Alright buddy, tomorrow’s our first day of 1st Grade!”

He looked at me with big eyes and asked, “I’m in 1st Grade now!?!”

I replied, “Yep, you already know everything from Kindergarten, so let’s move on!”

First Week of Homeschooling: Success!

Ethan’s decision to be homeschooled came so suddenly that I wasn’t 100% prepared.  Thankfully, I was surprised at how small the learning curve was!  And because I hope that you can also find confidence to take the leap and finally homeschool your family, I’m going to outline exactly what we did to prepare for and begin homeschooling.

Ethan and I used our first day as a preparation day.  We picked up a few school supplies at Dollar Tree and Walmart (totes, binders, pencils, crayons, markers, colored pencils, colored pens, ruler, calendar, scissors, glue, tape, pencil sharpener, etc.)

At Dollar Tree, we also picked up his “fuzzies” (seen bottom right in picture) and “fuzzy prizes” (his reward system)!

He can earn up to 5 fuzzies each day, then he can redeem them for a prize every Friday at the “Fuzzy Store”!  He earns fuzzies based on how he follows our school rules:

  • Obey the first time
  • Have a calm body
  • Use a quiet, working voice
  • Do your best work
  • Finish all your work

We also created our daily schedule (NOTE: we front-load our “school work” in the morning in case I need to run errands or work outside of the home in the afternoon.)

  • 8 a.m.: School begins after other kids have gone to school
  • 8-9 a.m.: I teach from the Language Arts coursebook, followed by a lesson in either Science or History
  • 9-11 a.m.: He completes his checklist for Math, Phonics, Spelling, Reading, and Writing  (NOTE: he is almost completely independent during these 2 hours which allows me to still get my work done on my business from home.)
  • 11-11:30 a.m.: Recess outside
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.: Lunch
  • 12:00-2:00 p.m.: He actually asks to do “more work” in his room!  We move his school materials into his room where he has more materials and books to extend his learning.
  • 2:00-3:00 p.m.: “Specials” – He can work on several computer programs (Khan Academy, Code.org, Reflex Math, and Epic Books) or invite a friend over to play.
  • 3:00 p.m.: School day is over and other kids come home from school

We also printed the curriculum from The Good & The Beautiful until their physical manuals arrive (I HIGHLY recommend their physical manuals – so easy to use and such high quality!)  We put the entire printed curriculum papers into different binders for each subject (one for Language Arts, History, Science, Handwriting, and Math).  Then, we put about a month’s worth of each subject’s papers into one main 1.5″ binder (the blue “Ethan” binder seen above) separated by tabs for each subject.  This allows Ethan to open up a tab in his binder (in this case, Handwriting), find the pink “Start Here” sticky note, and pull out the 1 or 2 papers he needs to do that day.  I love having all of his curriculum in one place using this method.

Why I LOOOVE The Good & The Beautiful Curriculum!

Because I am simply IN LOVE with The Good & The Beautiful curriculum and I couldn’t imagine homeschooling without it (Seriously – I would never have pulled my son out of school without this curriculum!) I thought I’d write a quick few notes about what I love about it.  (P.S. I know you’ll love it too!)

  • FAITH-BASED: Your children can learn important Bible-based values as they also learn academics!  It’s a non-denominational Christian curriculum so any religion can use it!
  • BOOK LIST: Each year Jenny creates a book list of the best books your children can read without the “junk” so many books have nowadays.  These books are of the highest literary and moral value!  You can actually get a FREE COPY for her BOOK LIST (500+ books!) from Nov. 8-Nov. 11 by clicking here!
  • EASY: I don’t have an Elementary Education degree, but I don’t need to in order to homeschool my kids!  The curriculum tells me EXACTLY what to say!
  • DO YOUR BEST: I love that my son actually spends the time to do his best instead of speeding through his worksheets to be faster than the student next to him.
  • CONVENIENT: You can either download and print your curriculum if you want to get started right away or you can buy the physical manuals and curriculum.  Personally I bought the physical manuals WITH a download!  (P.S.: Look what just showed up on my doorstep TODAY!  Everything I ordered just last week – fast shipping!)
  • AFFORDABLE: This curriculum is unheard of!  First off, she has totally FREE Language Arts downloads (300+ pages each) for grades 1-5 , and everything available for purchase is way more affordable than any other homeschool curriculum.
  • SAMPLES: I LOVE LOVE LOVE that I could “try out” her curriculum before I purchased it.  I actually downloaded almost all of her sample curriculum units because I wanted to see how they would work in my family’s situation.  From the first one I downloaded, I knew I should be using her curriculum!
  • INDIVIDUALIZED CURRICULUM: With my gifted son, I knew I didn’t want a “Kindergarten” curriculum.  With her Language Arts curriculum, you give your children a quick assessment, and that determines their level!
  • ALL-IN-ONE: I don’t know the first place to start with WHAT I should be teaching my children, so I loved that her curriculum had everything I needed!  (Except Math…  but she is working on a math curriculum right now, woohoo!  For Math, I use Math-U-See.)  I just ordered one of everything she had in the right level for my child, and I knew I would give my child a complete education!  DONE!
  • K-12: You can bet I’ll never put my son back into public school!  So I love that her curriculum can take him all the way through high school!
  • INDEPENDENT LEARNING: With my busy schedule, I can’t spend 7 hours teaching my son.  But I CAN teach him in the morning for an hour or two, and be available when he has questions throughout his independent learning time.  This curriculum has checklists of exactly what he needs to do each day!

In short, I was so nervous to take on this challenge, but now that I have, I wish I had done it MONTHS EARLIER.  I am confident that had I homeschooled Ethan (and not put him in public Kindergarten) we would have had an amazing past 3 months.  After all, in just one week of homeschooling, he’s totally mellowed out, and his behavior is back on track.  He loves that he is in control of his own school day (and what he wants to learn!), and he is so proud of what he’s accomplished when I review his work.

A huge THANK YOU to Jenny Phillips and The Good & The Beautiful Curriculum!  Don’t forget to check out her curriculum and get tons of FREE CURRICULUM SAMPLES + a FREE COPY of her BOOK LIST by Nov. 11!

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