Our Homeschool Journey

A sister asked the following question in a local Facebook group:

Hey moms! I’m in search of affordable & free resources that will help me teach my nearly 4 year old character development and the major subjects. I am really interested in history (including people of color). Yes, he’s only 3 but I want to have stuff I can use as he grows.

I have a five-year-old daughter, Pooh Bear, and I just started doing a more formalized homeschool this past school year. Many people ask what I’ve used with her over the years. I’ve done a variety of things, which I’ll list below. Feel free to post other resources in the comments of this post!

Bible/Character: Before naptime/bedtime, we do reading time. I have some books, which she sometimes chooses (as long as they’re not too long!), and I make sure we include a Bible-based book or two. My husband and I have been doing this in some form since infancy. She no longer naps regularly (*GASP*), but we still incorporate this in her nighttime routine, and sometimes I will do it at breakfast.

Our first book purchase for her was from the Really Woolly series by Dayspring (before she was born!). We read it to her so much that she had the poems and scriptures memorized from cover to cover! Another resource I used early on was Baby’s Hug-A-Bible (a GREAT shower gift from a co-worker before I left the workforce).

I’m currently using My 1st Books, a combination of catechism, Christian values, theology, etc. (it’s a compilation of several smaller pamphlets that are sold separately), as a devotional book. We also have been through The Bible App for Kids several times. I typically stay with the same story until she’s memorized it, then move on to the next. It also has an app that she loves! Now, we are going through The Jesus Storybook Bible. It’s more age appropriate (she’s now five, and reads very well) and more culturally sensitive.

Side note: There are VERY few culturally sensitive, inclusive, Christ-centered resources available from mainstream publishers, which reflects the lack of embracing of people of color on the whole in white evangelical circles (that is a whoooole ‘notha topic for a whoooole ‘notha post). Several of the resources I’ve mentioned are only minimally inclusive—and many do not have imaging that includes boys/men of color. We really need to write and illustrate theologically robust materials for our own contexts.

History: Much of the history I’ve seen in Christian circles is largely from a colonized, Eurocentric perspective—I wouldn’t dare teach it to my kid. And when you dig into some Afrocentric curricula, you may find that some materials veer in a direction that isn’t conducive to Christ-centeredness. So I try to pull resources together that tell the truth about God’s superintending of human history in age-appropriate ways, even if they aren’t .

I have used board books to begin telling the story of MLK, Coretta Scott King, and Rosa Parks. I’ve introduced her to basic geography to lay the foundation for discussing the triangle trade and America’s history of slavery and racism in the future. We did a field trip in the fall to the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and I plan to take her to the NMAAHC in DC several times in the future, should the Lord tarry.

– Reading/Math: Pooh Bear got the *best* gift from one of her “aunties” when she turned two: a set of 10 DVDs from Preschool Prep Company (look for a deal on Groupon/LivingSocial). The content included shapes, colors, letters, numbers (1-10), letter sounds, sight words (3 DVDs), blends, and diagraphs. She imbibed them! By two, she already knew her colors, letters, and numbers (at least up to 20, if I remember correctly). So those videos were good reinforcement. But they also gave her a really solid foundation with the building blocks for reading. I believe God used them to give her a great head start on her literacy journey. My goal was to focus first on literacy in hopes of helping her be more self-sufficient and self-directed.

We are also regulars at our local library! I typically read to her at breakfast, naptime, and dinner. I check out multiple books for her to choose from each day, and store them in her workboxes. (They go back in the drawers after reading time so we don’t get them mixed up with the ones we own.)

We try to attend weekly storytime as well (when it works for our schedule). Our children’s librarian is the BEST–she knows our daughter (and all the other kids!) by name and always has a great selection of diverse books on display for us to choose from.

– Pretend Play: When I started homeschooling, I had all these grand plans for how I was going to teach our daughter to master one million subjects by age 5 (*insert eye roll here*). But all she wanted to do was play–and that’s all she really needed! So I got a bunch of costume pieces from Dollar Tree for her to play dress-up: fairy wings & wand, plastic jewelry (a tiara is a MUST), cowgirl hat, chef’s hat & apron, and ladybug antennae & wings. I also kept her Wonder Woman costume from Halloween for her to defend our home from evil villains when the need arises. All those items serve to open her mind to new possibilities as she’s playing with her toys.

Curricula: I have not done an all-in-one curriculum buy–mostly because of the lack of cultural inclusivity and representation. So I participate in a curriculum co-op that does group buy-ins for PDF downloads, online access to software resources, and a few online class opportunities.

Without doing buy-ins, there are loads of other resources you can access:

  1. There are many workbooks available at Dollar Tree, Five and Below, and Aldi (which I love so much, I should own stock!) that cover the basics/supplemental practice for pre-K through second grade.
  2. I found a deal on Groupon/Living Social for a BrainQuest workbook/question book.
  3. We have a variety of flash cards, toys, lacing boards, coloring books, puzzles, and arts & crafts from Dollar Tree (another place I should own stock!).
  4. Library books can supplement the subjects you want your child to know. We’ve gotten African-American poetry, Black history, biographies, science, and geography books, plus level 1 & 2 fiction & nonfiction readers.
  5. Our library also has digital access to e-books (using sites/apps like Hoopla & Overdrive) and software like Mango Languages.
  6. Our library also has memberships to local museums that serve as great free field trip opportunities.
  7. Our library sells the books, movies, and audiobooks that they take out of circulation. Children’s books are $0.20/each–can’t beat that!

Can you tell how much of an advocate I am for local public libraries?! If the library had a stock purchase option, I might be tempted to buy in.

Co-op: We participate in a half-day weekly enrichment co-op for gym, art, music, and storytime. It’s close to home, and gives our only child an opportunity to be around kids her age. It’s also important to us that she’s influenced in a community with other parents and teachers who share our Christ-centered worldview. I served in the nursery this past year to (1) keep me from being a helicopter parent, and (2) get my fill of babies and toddlers who I get to send back to their parents. 😏😉

This is a basic list of things I’ve done with my daughter over the past year or so. I hope you find it helpful on your homeschool journey!

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Eleven.

Eleven years ago today, I moved from Dallas to Philadelphia.

I got on a plane with a one-way ticket from beautiful friends who believed God enough to support me on my journey–even so far as to drive my car halfway across the country.

I embarked on an adventure of trusting God to do more than I could do on my own.

I left the familiar comforts of knowing when, where, and how to do things. Simple things, like how to get to the grocery store, how to get my car inspected, how to pay for tolls on the highway. I never expected to be so profoundly disoriented in my own country simply by moving to a new city and state.

On this journey, I’ve questioned God’s goodness and sovereignty. He has been so patient with my wrestling. More than I deserve.

I’ve experienced emotional pinnacles and waded through some of life’s nadirs.

I’ve done things I never knew I’d do: made disciples, led a ministry, been jobless, taught high school, attended graduate school, worked as an administrative assistant, helped people get married, gotten married myself, watched a child being born, birthed my own, recorded an album, taught workshops, lost my last surviving parent, lost friends, made new ones.

I wish I’d trusted God more, and more quickly.

I wish I’d rested in Him more.

I wish I’d been wiser with my tongue, saying the things that should have been said and keeping my mouth shut at the right times.

I wish I hadn’t been timid when a moment called for boldness.

Overall, I’m grateful for the journey and hopeful for the future. I hope I’ve learned from what my mother called the shoulda-woulda-couldas.

I hope my daughter learns from mine, too.

Giving The Gift of Motherhood

I’ve spent more of my life as a single woman (38 years) than as a married one (almost 5 years). My only child is about to turn 3 in less than a week (*gasp*). And I have spent 20 Mother’s Day celebrations without my own mother. So I have a sensitivity to women who have not had children of their own (whether through singleness or infertility). I’ve felt the sting of being motherless most often around her birthday (early December) and the date of her passing (three days before Christmas). Any memory or milestone can trigger feelings of loss or emptiness, even two decades after my mother’s death.

I say all that to say…I understand the wound. I have felt the wound. I still feel it sometimes.

So if that’s you–if you’re feeling the wound this Mother’s Day–you’re not alone.

The enemy of your soul would love for you to feel like you are.

He’d love for you to isolate yourself, to sulk, to play patty cake at your own pity party.

He’d love to steal your joy and peace by trading in the truth for his lies.

So here’s the truth:

You can still be fully feminine (even if your womb is empty) and fully loved (even if you’ve never been a wife) and can be fully parented by God (even if you are still reeling from the ache of losing your mother).

Here’s one way I have learned to experience joy in the face of dreams deferred and tangible loss:

Give what you don’t have.

That sounds super crazy, doesn’t it? How do you give what you don’t have?

You have to have access to a bigger storehouse than yourself.

If I’m doing this well, I’m acknowledging my hope/loss, and looking to God Himself as my chief Comforter. He becomes my storehouse of joy. And I’m able to celebrate others rather than solely soaking in my own tears/regrets/griefs.

I could send a text to all my mom friends celebrating the fact that they’re doing the hard work of mothering.

I could give a hug to an empty nester who’s missing her kids who might be around my age.

I could mentor a younger single woman who’s having trouble finding her way.

I could tutor a child who might be struggling with a subject in which God has given me proficiency.

I could find ways within my circle of influence to affirm motherhood and participate in it: encouraging words, babysitting, disciple making, volunteering, etc.

There are a million and one ways to give the gift of motherhood–the very thing you may feel has been withheld from you. Just look around you! And as you’re giving it away, you’ll marvel to see how God fills you with joy and peace as He becomes your greatest joy.

Running well

I ran one track race my freshman year of high school. The 800m run. Two laps around the track.

My first and last race. One and done.

I always wanted to run the 100m dash. Those ladies were *real* athletes. They could run faster than anybody else. Whether they were long and lean, or short and powerful, they got the job done.

I wanted to be like that. So I figured what worked for them would work for me.

Just run, right? If I run faster than anybody else, I’ll win right?

>>Athletes, insert hearty, knowing chuckle here<<

I had no strategic advice for how to run the 800. I just trained with the team and thought I’d figured it out well enough.

At the start of the race, I set my feet in place. Every muscle was engaged. I put my game face on. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest with the anticipation & hope of a win. I wasn't going to be Flo-Jo. I was Flo-Jo.

The starting gun went off. I sprung into action.

At the end of the first lap, I was in the lead. “Flo-Jo” saw visions of Olympic glory dancing in her head.

And then…

The spirit of tiredness was upon me. All my energy was zapped.

And I still had another lap to run.

Suddenly, all the people who were behind me started to overtake me. One by one, I was getting sucked up by everybody I’d thought I’d passed for good. My best friend was the last one to zoom by, encouraging me to finish. (Let’s not even talk about how she had enough energy to both run AND talk while my lungs were burning and imploding inside my chest. All I could hear was Charlie Brown’s teacher as she spoke: “Wanh wanhhhh, wanh wanh wanh wanhhhh.”)

I came in dead last.

Suffice it to say that what I didn’t know, hurt me.

But that story has carried some helpful “life nuggets” for me along the way:

1. Life is a marathon–not a sprint.

2. Plan. Strategize. Then execute.

3. A good coach can make all the difference. (Another post on that is forthcoming.)

4. Encouragement is helpful, even needed, but at the end of the day, you still have to do the running. The beauty of this is that Jesus Christ has done the heaviest of the heavy lifting for us. So we are finishing in His unlimited strength, not our own finite ability.

5. Finishing the race set before me was better than quitting altogether.

So…what about you? What “life nuggets” have you picked up along the way? Please comment below and share them!