To start homeschooling, you need homeschool curriculum. But how do you choose?
In this part of the world we are blessed with an abundance of homeschooling resources. There is a wealth of free information online and with the click of a button you can have homeschool curriculum shipped to your door the next day. But with so much available, many mothers feel overwhelmed.
When you’re learning how to start homeschooling, it is difficult to decide which one to go for. How do you choose between them all? They all look so good! Right?
In episode 26 of the Raising Mums podcast, I talk LIVE on Facebook and Instagram about what you need to think about when you start homeschool curriculum shopping. I also teach you the three things you need to think about before you buy anything!
If you want to know which homeschool curriculum to chose for your children,
Launch your Homeschoolis an online course designed to help Muslim families who want to start homeschooling. It will guide you as you navigate and design your own path home-education. Built upon a foundation of Islamic values, and the framework of the Charlotte Mason Philosophy, I’ll be there supporting you step-by-step!
I strongly believe that there is no one-size-fits-all curriculum for homeschooling. So in this program, I give you the tools you need to find your own way, based upon your values, your unique children, and your family dynamics.
A large part of learning how to start homeschooling is the planning. That’s why I’ve dedicated several modules in the course to Homeschool planning and time management; so that you can begin your homeschooling journey positively and with confidence.
I also go into detail about common mistakes homeschoolers make in their first year so you can avoid them!
The aim is for everyone who enrols in the Launch Your Homeschool course to go from feeling overwhelmed, unsure and confused; to confident, excited and well prepared for coming homeschool year.
Sign up for our FREE Resources Library!
You’ll get access to HUNDREDS of FREE Educational Resources to use with your family!
I know first hand how little time mothers have to study when their children are young. For this reason I have kept the lessons short, around 20 minutes, but packed with value, so that you can watch them during nap-time or while you have your morning coffee. Everything is pre-recorded, and you have lifetime access, so you can go back and rewatch any of the lessons whenever you want.
In addition to video lessons, you’ll get access to a buzzing private student community on Facebook, all the homeschool planning material you’ll need to plan out your year AND 4 LIVE Q&A sessions with me!
Enrolment closes TODAY! Sunday 19th July 2020, at 11.59pm GMT.
Homeschooling with a baby brings with it many challenges. I often hear from women who are struggling to homeschool their children, whilst also caring for a small baby. They are overridden with guilt and with feelings of failure. They want to be a good mum, to all their children, but they just don’t know what the right thing to do is.
If you have a baby or a small child at home, you’ll want to watch this video!
This blogpost includes affiliate links. Please see Disclaimer for more information.
This is a recording of a LIVE broadcast from Facebook where I spoke about homeschooling with a baby.
We talked about:
What are the most important things to focus on during this time
Alternatives to what learning can look like for your children
Encouraging independence and the value of experience
This week I was LIVE on Facebook and Instagram talking about some of the ways you can ensure you’ll be homeschooling for many more years to come insha’Allah.
I’m speaking to the mum who wants to homeschool, and is planning and preparing for this new adventure.
I’m talking to mum who homeschools now, but feels disheartened. Who feels that it’s not going the way she thought it would, and she feels like she’s failing.
I’m talking to everyone who homeschools sharing my nuggets of wisdom as to how you can continue to homeschool for many years. There are things we can do in our lives, to make homeschooling a sustainable, longterm experience for us.
Picture study is one of the easiest components of a Charlotte Mason education to incorporate into your homeschool curriculum. You do not need to know anything yourself about art, or art history. I repeat …You do NOT need to know ANYTHING about art or art history to begin. All you need is knowledge of the method and a few worthy resources.
Why is Picture Study important?
In today’s society, the importance of the arts has been superseded by STEM and the other sciences. We have lost touch with the great artistic masters of past. Now, the masses only see fragments, distorted reproductions of the original genius of these men and women. For most of us, the only exposure we get to great art might be a coffee shop using the Mona Lisa in it’s logo, or a travel advert for Japan using a work of art by Hokusai.
Many of us will have heard of Leonardo Da Vinci, or Claude Monet, and will have seen their art used in advertisements on billboards and the TV, but have little to draw upon from our own education.
Just as the great works of literature give us glimpses in the the mighty thoughts of the world’s great authors, so too picture study can give us insight into the ideas and minds of those artists. It puts children in touch with worthy ideas and inspires them with something more than modern life can offer.
” We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at a single picture.” – Charlotte Mason
Picture study offers our children a store of images in their mind, to balance out the media’s influence and attempt to monopolize their senses.
Picture study also:
Improves a child’s power of observation
Develop a sense of beauty
Connects them with an artist of a piece of art
Helps them to form opinion about art and their own taste in it
Encourages them to draw and be creative themselves
How to do Picture Study
From the ages of 6 to 15 Charlotte Mason recommended that children become acquainted with at least thirty of the world’s most famous artists.
I have filmed a short video, showing glimpses into our own Picture study lesson, in the hope that it will make what is written here clearer.
WATCH THIS VIDEO!
First begin by choosing the artist you wish them to study. In our first year, we began with Leonardo Da Vinci as it was easy to find the resources we needed, and I was slightly familiar with his work.
However, please remember, you do not need to know ANYTHING about the artist before you begin. In fact, it will only add to your enjoyment of this subject, as you find yourself learning alongside the children.
Examples of artists to study include:
Leonardo Da Vinci
The next step is to find six works of art by that artist for that school term, and studying three different artists per year.
Display one of those pieces in front of your children, and ask them to look at it closely, in silence. Allow them plenty of time to, not only absorb it, but to think and ponder over it. Then, when they are finished, hide the art from them and ask them to describe it.
Try your best not to prompt them with leading questions, like “What colour was her dress?” or “What was the weather like?” Just simply say, ” Tell me about it.” They will almost certainly not remember everything, but they don’t need to. By narrating in this way, they are performing a much higher thought process; of observing, processing, recalling and articulating those thoughts in their own words.
If you prompt too much, you are in danger of having your children become dependent on your questions, like we often see in school comprehension worksheets and multiple choice questions. Allow your children to think for themselves.
If your child is not used to narration, and is struggling to recall it or articulate his thoughts, then let him see the painting as he narrates. It is difficult skill to develop, so take it slow and try to keep the atmosphere joyful.
For older children, you can allow them to sketch from memory what they saw if they would like to.
The next step is to display that piece of art somewhere in your home so that the children can see it frequently through out their day.
The following week, repeat the process with the SAME piece of art. You will hopefully find that your children have more to say!
It can be helpful to tell the children a little about the artist or the painting before you begin. If the painting is about a story, it can be helpful to tell your children this story before you begin the picture study. Likewise, knowing a little more about the artist they are studying, will help them to form connections with him/her. Knowing more about the mind behind the art will encourage your children to look more closely at the work itself.
After 2 weeks, switch to another piece art by that same artist. In so doing, your child will some to know at least 6 of the artist’s works each term. That’s an incredible achievement!
Picture Study Resources
For the art prints themselves, I would always recommend getting the largest prints you can find and display easily.
Postcards and images in art textbooks are often too small for multiple children to see at once, and inevitably loose the finer details.
We personally use wall calendars of a specific artist. These tend to be much cheaper than books, the prints are a good size, and they are easy to display on our kitchen wall. Here are a few examples of some we have used:
Children’s artist biographies can also be found at the library, but I would strongly recommend pre-reading these so you can omit the less-wholesome parts of the artist’s lives that young children do not need to know about. However, it may be worthwhile older children knowing the full picture, as these parts of their lives will have inevitably influenced their art, and will make for meaningful discussions with you.
Here are a few artist biographies, in the form of living books, that we have enjoyed with our young children:
From the age of fourteen, art history is incorporated into the Charlotte Mason curriculum, where children learn how the artist worldview would have influenced their art.
The picture study lessons will take no more that 10-15 minutes a week, but the influence that they have will be lifelong. To be able to store “a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of [their] imagination” is a worthy endeavor.
The power of words, their ability to turn hearts and move men should never be underestimated.
In fact, it has become one of the few truths that I stand by: that words can change the world.
One of the greatest proofs of this are the scriptures of the Abrahamic religions. Muslims, along with Jews and Christians, are called the “people of the book” and it is through the Divine words of revelation that God chose to guide us; words that forever changed the world.
“It is He Who sent down to thee, in truth, the Book (Quran), confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (Quran) (of judgment between right and wrong).” – Holy Quran 3:3
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Words, in their ever varied and beautiful forms, also make up the backbone of our literature-based homeschool. It is by the craftsmanship of the many great authors we read, that my children gain knowledge and are inspired to learn.
Through the words of others, they are taught what it means to be human; the good, the bad and everything in between.
The beauty of well crafted words sometimes catches me off guard, as if placed in my path for a reason; to remind me, teach me or just to make me smile when I need it the most.
One such occasion was when we were visiting a local park. Despite having been to the same park for years, it was only on this visit that I noticed a small second-hand bookshop hidden above the ice-cream parlour. After the ice-creams were enjoyed, we all ventured up the narrow wooden staircase in the lofted roof. Tucked up under the eaves were hundreds of second-hand books, neatly arranged on old mismatched bookcases. The delight of finding this “secret” treasure-trove was not lost on my children, who quickly set about scouring the shelves looking for “the” book for them.
In addition to these, my youngest son carried home a hardback copy of Stories from Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milneas though it was the most precious thing in the world.
Back home, over a cup of tea, I opened the poetry book and the first poem that met my eyes made my heart flutter. I can’t make out if it was a pang of recollection from a distant childhood memory, or simply the power of the poem’s vivid imagery.
This is the poem I read,
The Way Through the Woods
They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.
By Rudyard Kipling
I read it over and over again, and it made me smile.
Words can do that; they can bring joy and delight when before there was none.
Then I read it to my kids. With their eyes closed and the room quiet, they felt it too. They told me about, “The lost road,” and “The horses hooves,” and they talked together about how roads were different in the olden days. They got it. They saw it in the minds and they felt the words.
Together we enjoyed those words, written many years ago by a man we never knew. Those words brought us closer. That poem is now something we share, like an inside joke or a happy memory.
By exposing my children to these great authors and poets, who are masters of their craft, I hope that my children will one day be able to yield the power found within words and use it for a noble purpose insha’Allah.
One day, when they are grown, and they hear the words of that poem again, it will trigger something within them and make their hearts flutter as they remember; and then perhaps they will pass these words onto their children.
Words connect us, they move us, and so too can they shape us. That is why I raise my children upon the best of them.
This FREE student planner has been created to help homeschooled students to plan, or keep a record of, their daily work. It’s also a fantastic way to help older students take responsibility for their independent work.
We created this FREE planner to help children stay motivated, and encourage punctuality, diligence, order and attentiveness in their education.
The checklist covers every subject that the student is required to do every day in a Charlotte Mason homeschool, i.e. their daily instruction, along with how long each lesson should take, and the time frame within which all “daily instruction” must be completed.
“In the first place, there is a time-table, written out fairly, so that the child knows what he has to do and how long each lesson is to last. This idea of definitive work to be finished in a given time is valuable to the child, not only in training him in habits of order, but in diligence; he learns that one time is not “as good as another”; that there is no right time left for what is not done in its own time; and this knowledge alone does a great deal to secure the child’s attention to his work.” – Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 p.142
The planner has “Time Frame” written across the top of the page, so you can set out for your child when “school-time” is for that day. If the work is not completed within the time set-out in my home, then there are consequences for my son. This teaches him to focus and be attentive to his work during those “school-hours”.
Charlotte Mason strongly recommends that lesson are kept short for young children,
“…the lessons are short, seldom more than twenty minutes in length for children under eight…” – Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 p. 142
and so we have included a space for you to fill in how long each lesson takes. Timings will vary depending on your child’s age and personality.
We are using this planner/checklist ourselves alongside Year 2 of the Ambleside online curriculum, which adheres to the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy.
If you would like to see how we have adapted the Ambleside online curriculum to suit our family’s needs, CLICK HERE.
Memorization & Recitation (In our home that means memorisation and recitation of Quran. In your home it may mean poetry, prose, Scripture or something else.)
The planner also includes a “Narration” extension page for students whose narrations are longer, and need more space than is given on the first page. These extension pages can be printed onto the back on the first page for more lengthy narrations. These pages also have a “date” marked on the top giving you the flexibility to use them separately if you wish, and not with the planner itself.
In addition to their “Daily Instruction”, your children may also have other lessons to complete. These subjects typically vary from day-to-day and are often subjects done as a family, such as history, nature study, artist study etc. In addition to our “Daily Instruction” planner I would recommend your students are given a simple spreadsheet of their timetable for these other important subjects,
In my own home, I have found this checklist to be an excellent way to motivate my son to complete his work diligently and finish within the time allowance set for him. The earlier he can complete his daily work, the more free time he has!
How often do we look back on something and think, “If wish I could have done that differently.”?
Not often are we given the gift of parenting, or homeschooling, with hindsight. But with almost an 11 year gap between my two oldest kids, alhamdulilah, I’m given at least a peek into how my homeschooling decisions have played out over time.
I hope my hindsight can be of use to you as well, as I reflect back over the last 8 years of homeschooling, now that my oldest is, mashaAllah, graduating high school.
Academic rigor is secondary
So often we spend hours upon hours trying to find the perfect book. It’ll have all the right information, with all the best activities, and thorough tests and quizzes to make sure they don’t miss a thing.
But what about the atmosphere in our home? What about nurturing that love of learning that comes naturally to children? How long do we spend thinking about that?
I wish I would have given my daughter more time to be a kid. More time to explore and learn at her leisure, and not during some scheduled hour-long exploratory time. You can’t schedule curiosity.
Don’t let others dictate your homeschool
If you’re just starting with homeschooling and you don’t have much support around you, it’s tempting to fill up your curriculum list with impressive books and resources to try to sway them that you’re not ruining your child.
Let me tell you something – a book list is not going to change many people’s minds.
Pick the resources you feel are best, for your child. How many school teachers do you think are making curriculum decisions based on what their parents or neighbors think? They choose books they think will be the most effective. Period.
Get acquainted with various homeschooling methods
Most of us have gone through the public school system. It’s all we know. Then when we start homeschooling, we dream of bulletin boards, and an in box for assignments.
Sometimes we have to jump into homeschooling because traditional school isn’t working, so we might not have a lot of time to read up on the various methodologies. Even if that’s the case, start reading the core book on each topic and see what speaks to you.
Think of yourself as an educator or mentor, not only an administrator
An administrator simply makes education more accessible. They order books, organize lesson plans, and grade work. An educator or mentor understands how students learn, how their environment affects their learning, and has some basic understanding of psychology.
Be the educator. Treat homeschooling as your career, not a task. That means reading and studying about your chosen career.
Less semester-long classes
The semester long classes were great, and I love that she made some friends in those arenas, but I think we did too many, which made it hard to take part in anything else. We barely went on field trips that related to her lessons because our schedule was so jam packed with classes.
As I’m faced with the temptation of signing up for all the interesting classes again with my younger kids, I remind myself that childhood is not the only time to learn. We can, and should, learn as adults as well. If they miss out on a class about sewing, or woodworking, or reptiles, there will be opportunities for them to learn about that as an adult as well, if they so choose.
Ask help from the community
In the six years we were exclusively homeschooling my oldest (she spent the last two years at a local college finishing her high school diploma), I had three more children and we moved twice. To say I was a bit distracted would be an understatement.
Alhamdulilah, we made do, but it would have been easier if I reached out to community members to organize study groups while she was reading classic books since I did not have the time to read them along with her. If you find someone who is passionate about a subject, they are usually happy to help the young generation to explore that passion.
Grades and deadlines
We are pretty relaxed in the early years of homeschooling, but I do suggest to start grading and giving deadlines one year before you’ll be keeping specific records. In the US (though each state is different), you don’t have to keep records until the student is in high school.
It is a disservice to your child to first experience real deadlines and grades when it will be on their permanent record.
Less is more
Okay, we don’t want to take this to an extreme and ignore educating our kids, but hear me out, especially in regards to graded assignments.
The fewer number of graded assignments you give, the more weight each one has, which means they learn to give their best time and attention to each assignment. They can’t just slop something together and know that something that was easier for them, and therefore they got a good grade on, will even out the poor assignment they just turned in.
Less formal assignments, more time to sit and think about them independently.
Never, ever stop learning
Show your child what it means to be a lifelong learner. Sign up for classes, read books, watch documentaries. Even if they scoff at your boring choices for how you use your time, they will be noticing that you didn’t stop learning when you graduated. And neither should they.
Last, but not least, don’t forget that striving to provide opportunities for a great education is in your hands, but the end result ultimately is not. Allah has a plan for all of us, and sometimes it may look like it’s not going your way. That’s okay, too. Patience is what we do have control over. In sha Allah be patient.
Shannen is an American Muslim convert, homeschooling mother to 4 daughters and mediocre housewife. She enjoys blogging, knitting, quilting, and avoiding housework. Read more on her blog about their Islamic homeschool, green(ish) living, and the ups and downs of parenting. You can connect with Shannen on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
It is that wonderful time of the year! Surrounded by a mountain of home-education books and homeschool curriculum, I get to plan next year’s homeschool… and I love it!
I think all homeschool mums out there can understand the excitement of new curriculum and new plans with “This year is going to be different,” ringing in our ears.
However before I jump in and get too excited, I realised it was important to really reflect on last year before I make the same mistakes again.
To reflect on what went well….and what did not!
I would advise every homeschool mum to do this.
Don’t get carried away and start planning next year, no matter how tempting, until you have evaluated last year.
I would recommend you get the kids involved too. Ask them what did they enjoyed learning about, and what did they dislike.
I have learnt so much from this little exercise; not just about my homeschool, but also about the way my children learn and about the way I function too. What is important to me and my happiness?
Here is my reflection and evaluation of last year:
Evaluation of our Homeschool 2015/2016
In 2015/2016 I was homeschooling two boys: a 5-6year old (K5 in U.S. or Year 1 in the U.K.) and a 3-4years-old (Preschool). This blog-post will focus on my elder son, as the youngest did very little structured schooling this year.
Child’s Learning Style
I realised that my eldest son is highly self-motivated and my interference in his learning can actually hinder his progress! He only needs to be given the resources and gentle prompts , and he will learn on his own. He learns and retains the most from his own reading.The best thing about this self-directed approach is that it encourages his love of learning and allows him to take control of his own education.
However…he is only 6! So I have to find a balance next year, allowing him more time and control in his education, whilst at the same time making sure he has a firm foundation in the basics.
Facts, facts, facts
He LOVES facts and figures, and has recently developed an interest in science. So this coming year I need to encourage this interest and develop a really engaging sciecne curriculum for him, that will cover things he is interested in, as well as introduce him to new concepts.
As we are starting history this year, I need to find a way to utilise his love of facts, in our history lessons.
Need for structure
Although he enjoys learning independantly, he also benefits from having routine and structure in the day. It is important to him to know what to expect that day, and what is coming the next. This coming year, I have bought him his own academic diary, in which I will write out the lesson plans briefly, so he knows what is coming.
I struggled this year in establishing consistent routines. This is something that I NEED to address this year for his sake. insha’Allah.
Needs fun and silly too!
Because of his personality, it is easy for me to forget that he is only 6 years-old and enjoys doing silly things too! This coming year, I want to incorporate more fun activities and experiments into his curriculum.
It is also important for him to blow off steam! He needs to run, jump, do ‘kung-fu’ moves, just like any little boy! So this year, I have to schedule in outdoor/free time every day….without fail!
My recent discovery of the Charlotte-Mason approach to homeschooling had me trying shorter lessons with my son.
These worked very effectively as he knew that he had only a short amount of time to learn/do the material and he really focused during this time. In my head, because of my experience at mainstream schools, I thought that a lesson ‘needed’ to be around 40 minutes long….but why should it be! Who says it has to be!
When you are working one-on-one, shorter lessons are actually very effective. This coming year, I will be shortening lesson times in all areas.
This last year has been massive for me, in terms of self-knowledge and feelings of self-worth! One of the things that I realised about myself, is the need to be creative!
This coming year, I hope to utilise my creativity to create an awesome science curriculum for my son, and well as doing some great crafts to go along with out history and Islamic studies.
I’ve also realised that I am a control-freak! I need to relinquish this control over my son’s learning, and allow him to dictate the pace and content of at least some areas of study. It’s going to be hard!
Part of being a homeschool mum…nay….part of being a mother period, is that we worry and we fill our thoughts with guilt. “What if I hadn’t done that…” or “Maybe I should have done it like so-and-so”. I realised that I shouldn’t compare my child, my home or my homeschooling to anyone else. It does nothing but fill you with guilt or helplessness.
Allah does not judge you by other people’s standards. He only asks you to do your best with the tools he has given you.
Alhumdulillah we are doing well, and I pray it continues.
There is often a feeling amongst some home-educators that if you are using a tutor or sending your child to classes, your not really homeschooling “properly”! Of course, this is nonsense. There is no “proper” way to homeschool.
My son seems to really enjoy the variety that external teachers brings to his education. He attends a number of co-op classes, which he seems to be doing very well in. I have also found private tutors to help with languages (not my strength), and he loves those classes. So my feelings are that perhaps I should continue with these classes, and perhaps even find classes outside the home.
So you see, this short exercise in reflection, that took only 10 minutes to think through, has brought me so much clarity for next year’s plan, and stopping me from repeating the same mistakes. If you are homeschooling your children, I would highly recommend that you do this too!
Are you starting to plan your next year of home-education? How do you start the planning process? What worked well for you last year, and what changes will you be making this coming year?
Id love to hear from you! Please share with me in the comments below 🙂 In Part 2 (COMING SOON), I will go into details about how I plan out our school year, and the books and resources I use, as well as my planner and all that ‘good stuff’!!!
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Of all the Youtube homeschoolers, Erica Arndt is probably the most famous. Her blog is packed full of incredible resources, and is well worth checking out! On Youtube, she talks about homeschool curriculum, organisation, amongst many other things.
From the inspirational Ameera Rahim, the Youtube channel Habeebee Homeschooling talks about home education from an Islamic perspective. There are only a few videos, but they are full of insight mashAllah.
Those were my favourite Youtube homeschool channels.