Podcast Round-Up: Classical Charlotte Mason Education Edition

Here we are back at last with the second post in my Podcast Round-up series! If you are a podcast addict like me, you are always looking for new listening material. And if you are anywhere on the classical homeschooling spectrum, you are going to love this list!

If you missed the first post in my Podcast Round-up series, it was focussed on some of my favorite podcasts for homeschool mom encouragement. This time around, I am narrowing that focus even more to podcasts specifically geared toward the subject of Classical, Charlotte Mason style home education. Some of these are more for the purpose of the mother’s education (I’m looking at you, Close Reads and Scholé Sisters!), while others are a bit more in the vein of how to actually teach using a classical or Charlotte Mason approach. In the end, though, that’s all educational for the homeschooling mom, no? I highly encourage you to give these folks a listen and let me know which ones are your favorites!

 
Circe Institute Podcast: Close Reads with David Kern, Angelina Stanford and Tim MacIntosh

The Classical Homeschool with Jennifer Dow and Ashley Woleben
The Delectable Education Podcast with Emily Kaiser, Nicole Williams, Liz Cotrill
The Simply Convivial Audio Blog with Mystie Winkler
AfterCast, an AfterThoughts audio blog with Brandy Vencel
Scholé Sisters with Brandy Vencel, Pam Barnhill and Mystie Winkler

It’s your turn! What are your podcast recommendations for mother’s education or classical Charlotte Mason homeschool helps? Did I miss any? Please leave me a comment and let me know!

Homeschool Basics Series, Pt. 4: Homeschooling on a Budget

Welcome to Part 4 of my Homeschool Basics series! Missed the previous posts in this series? No worries! Part 1: Why We Homeschool is here, Part 2: How We Homeschool is here, and Part 3:Year-Round Schooling is here.

If you are thinking about homeschooling your child(ren), one of the things you will need to consider is the cost. Most families choosing to home educate are living on one full-time income, although I am hearing of a growing number of families in which both parents work full-time and still find ways to homeschool! Either way, you need to have a budget for your homeschool. If you are coming from a public school mindset, then the idea of paying extra for education may be a bit of a burden to you. But if you consider how much private school tuition generally costs, then you will likely be relieved! Homeschooling costs fall somewhere in the middle, and how you choose to home educate determines how much you will spend.

If you are anything like me, you need to cut costs and get the most bang for your buck in every area of your budget, homeschool included! Here are some ways that our family has drastically reduced our education expenses while still giving our children a fantastic learning experience.

  1. Use a free or inexpensive base curriculum. As I mentioned in previous posts, we use a free Charlotte Mason style curriculum available from AmblesideOnline.org. The booklists, reading schedules, parent resources and support, etc., are all completely free of charge! All you have to buy are the books, although even many of those can be found online for free (see next point). If you are not interested in a Charlotte Mason style education, I have heard many homeschool moms use and like the free curriculum from Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. If you know of other free or low-cost curriculum choices, I would love for you to leave a link to it in the comments!
  2. Get free books via Kindle, Gutenberg and Librivox. One of the things I love about AmblesideOnline is that the moms who created it were very careful to choose books that were widely available at a reasonable cost while still being high quality classics. This means that many of their choices are books that are old enough to be in the public domain. The AO booklists link to any book that has been converted into electronic format and is available for free online, whether via Gutenberg.org, Amazon Kindle, or in audio format on Librivox. I used these resources heavily when I was pre-reading for AO Year 1 before deciding to purchase in print books. Some people who have either serious space or budget limitations use these free e-books almost exclusively. This is a great way to have a great living books education without spending a lot on building a large home library.
  3. Make use of the library. Speaking of libraries, if you homeschool, you need to make your librarian your friend! No matter what style of homeschooling you choose, you can probably find most of the books, magazines, dvd’s and more that you need right there at your public library! Just be sure to return things on time so you don’t end up spending a fortune in overdue book fines!
  4. Shop for used books cheaper at thrift stores, library sales or online. Because I have 2 students that will be using the same books eventually, I decided that it was worth the cost for us to go ahead and purchase as many physical books as we can from the AO lists. However, I am rarely willing to pay full price for a new book unless I cannot find it cheaper used somewhere. I never stop in my local thrift stores without going over the book shelves pretty thoroughly. I have found some real gems for only $.50-$1! Another great place to find inexpensive used books is your local library’s book sales. Most libraries have these once or twice a year, and you can often find great titles at a fraction of the price you would pay elsewhere. If you prefer to shop online, I have had great success with finding used books via sellers on both Amazon and AbeBooks. You do need to check shipping prices and reviews, however.
  5. Use free reading and math curricula, at least for lower grades. If you do a little research, you will find a plethora of free or low-cost options for teaching basic phonics and reading skills, as well as math and handwriting. If I had known about these options my first year homeschooling, I probably would have saved a lot of money! Although I did not make use of a free reading curriculum, I have had a great experience using MEP math, a complete free math program from the UK. Amy Tuttle’s Discover Reading is a good, inexpensive guide to a Charlotte Mason method of teaching your child to read.
  6. Free or low-cost supplementary materials.  If you are going to do composer study, find free versions of the songs you will use on Youtube. Again, AmblesideOnline has links to videos of their chosen pieces for each term. Another choice, if you already have an Amazon Prime membership is to use the Amazon Prime Music app to find the songs for your composer and create a playlist for use in your homeschool. We will be trying this out in the coming year. For our artist study, we started out using the computer, but I soon decided I would prefer having physical prints for us to look at without staring at a screen. Instead I used document printing from our local Staples to get 8×11 prints of all our artwork and spent only $13 for the whole year. The same can be done at Office Depot.
  7. Cheap school supplies on clearance or at Dollar Tree. Of course, you will need some basic school supplies for the year, and the best time to buy these is when they are on clearance in the fall. You can also find some inexpensive school supplies at the Dollar Tree. Some of my favorite things to buy there for school are actually their little workbooks and flashcards that my toddler can play with and feel like she is “doing school” with her brother.
  8. Repurpose and reuse. When it comes to consumables, some things will just need replaced every year, like used up spiral notebooks and worn out folders. But if you can reuse more costly supplies like binders, page protectors, etc., do it! Most kids really don’t need completely brand new school supplies like pencils and crayons every single year. But when you do know your supplies are getting worn out or running low, try to plan ahead and buy when they are on clearance.
  9. Simplify. Even though there are some really wonderful options out there, you truly don’t need fancy curriculum to have a great education for your children. I know a lot of people like to decorate their school rooms and fill up their shelves with fun manipulatives, games and activities; but the fact of the matter is, you don’t need to do that. Read well-written, living books. Practice reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Go explore outside in nature. Listen to good music. Look at beautiful art. Teach your children how to cook and clean. Love on your kids and give them space to use their imaginations. Do these things, and your children will have a rich education. All the money in the world can’t buy what your children need most–your love and guidance.

 

Homeschool Basics Series, Pt. 3: Year-Round Schooling

Welcome to Part 3 of my Homeschool Basics series! Missed the previous posts in this series? No worries! Part 1: Why We Homeschool is here, and Part 2: How We Homeschool is here

It is July, which means many homeschool families here in the United States are knee deep in planning for the coming school year! A lot of families have actually already started school, too. Some start in July because it gives them more time off for the winter holiday season. Others because the area in which they live is just so stinking hot in the middle of summer that they might as well stay inside and so some schooling! Then they take a longer break in the fall when the weather cools off again. One big advantage of homeschooling is that you really do not have to stick to the traditional school year if you do not want to!

Since my husband works in academia, the traditional school calendar actually would work well for our family, but we also have a fall birthday to work around. Because we are currently using Ambleside Online as our curriculum, we really wanted to wait to start his Year 1 work until after his 6th birthday. We also had been doing some more traditional school at home before I discovered Charlotte Mason, and we needed some extra time to relax and refresh our family rhythms after finding that too stressful.

Enter, Year-Round schooling with a January start! Sounds strange if you haven’t heard of it before, but it is pretty simple, actually. We start our school year in January, and every 6 weeks, we take a week break. I think I first heard about the 6 weeks on, 1 week off schedule from Mystie Winkler of Simply Convivial. I plan for about 5 weeks for summer break, and we also take a break from Thanksgiving through New Years. I got this idea from Dawn Garrett, who blogs as LadyDusk, who calls this long winter break their Yuletide Session. Setting up our school year in this way allows us a good amount of rest times throughout the year in which we can enjoy the weather when it is good and enjoy the holidays without the added stress of trying to push through schoolwork. It also gives me time to plan when it is cold and dreary outside instead of when it is prime outdoor playtime in the summer.

This year, however, we do have the added problem of being in the middle of a move that is not on a schedule. We had planned on going ahead with school and just stopping when the actual moving date got near, but once we were a few weeks into our summer school session, it was clear that this was not going well. Being in transition for a long period of time has taken its toll on all of us, and we just needed to back off from the “we have to do this!” mindset and focus on relationships for a while. Our winter break might get shortened, but that is ok. We are never really “behind” because we home educate, and we are learning every day, even if it does not involve sitting at a table and doing math worksheets!

How about you? What sort of schedule do you use for your homeschool year? What do you do when “life happens” and your schedule needs to change? Leave me a comment below!

This post is part of the Homeschool Nook Link-up Party.

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

Homeschool Basics Series, Pt. 1: Why We Homeschool

Welcome to Part 1 of the Homeschool Basics Series! In this first post I will discuss why we chose to homeschool our children. I hope you will join in the discussion!

According to an article published at CNSnews.com on May 19, 2015, the number of homeschooled children in the United States had risen nearly 62% between 2003-2012. No doubt about it, that is a HUGE increase in parents choosing to educate their children at home! As the popularity of homeschooling rises, so do the varied reasons that parents cite for choosing home education over public or private school settings. Kyle Greenwalt discusses this change in his 2016 article for TheConversation.com, saying that although the initial catalyst homeschool movement of the 1980s was primarily religion-based, research on the recent trends shows that is no longer the case. The current homeschooling community is actually about as diverse as the nation’s population itself.

Since every family has its own unique reasons for homeschooling, we really can’t make assumptions or generalizations about the reasons that friends and acquaintances are keeping their children home. What led your family to make this decision may be entirely different than the catalyst for mine. So why do WE homeschool?

I think that the above quote from The Liberal Arts Tradition sums up our reason for home educating better than anything I could say.

Education is more than the transference of knowledge; it is the transmission of values, culture, and the proper ordering of loves.

As a parent, I feel that it is my responsibility to be the primary influence over my children’s education, and not just in the academic arena. Academics were certainly a big reason we chose to homeschool, especially since my husband works in higher ed himself! But an even stronger driving force in our decision to homeschool was the desire to foster a different culture in our home than what is prevalent in America today. We truly are interested in passing on our values and loves to our children, and the best way for us to do that at this time is to keep them home for their schooling. Even though the idea of being solely responsible for educating my children was very intimidating at first (and still is when I think about later years), I came to recognize that this was actually God’s calling for me as a mother, to disciple my children.

There are certainly a lot of perks to homeschooling. I don’t have to rush my children out the door every morning and then bring them home late in the afternoon to do homework all evening. I can create an individualized education plan for each of my children based on their own needs and interests. I can more adequately and easily provide for our family’s dietary needs and restrictions without the hassle of sending special food and notes to school each day. My kids have time and space to be kids and pursue their individual interests. We can choose curricula that supports our beliefs and ideals as a family. I can easily adjust our schedule to work around vacations, appointments, illness or whatever else comes up. But all these advantages are not the main reason we chose homeschooling.

Perhaps the best way to sum up our main motivation for home education is the command God gave to Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-7:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

For me, homeschool is about discipling my children. It is about having the time together to really know my kids and how they tick so that I can better prepare the soil of their hearts to receive the seed of the Gospel. It is about passing on our family values and traditions that make up our unique family culture. And on hard days when it seems like we just need to get through the next handwriting worksheet or math lesson without a meltdown, I need to remind myself of these things. It is not just about the “three R’s”. It is about the Relationships.

How about you? Have you considered educating your children at home? If you do homeschool, what was the driving force behind your decision? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Read Part 2 of this series, How We Homeschool, here. Read More