Why Use Variety in Homeschooling Resources?

Think about when you really want to learn something…. How do you go about it?

You probably immerse yourself in the writings or videos of people who’ve already mastered the topic.

You may find various books & articles.

You likely start doing or practicing the thing or thinking about it regularly.

The resources probably look a little eclectic. The learning path probably looks less like this:

And a little more like this.

And then you likely never “arrive.” Most things you deem worth mastering will have more depth available if you want to keep learning.

The point of much learning is the process, the exploration, the problem solving.

I took piano lessons for 12 years and studied music in college. I still have so much to learn. Thousands of pieces I’ll probably never get around to playing, techniques and repertoire and advanced theory and on and on.

Sourdough bread… it’s all the rage right now, right? Or is that over? 😉 If you want to make sourdough, you’re going to read a few articles, watch some videos, go get the sourdough cookbook from the library, order all the fancy flours and kitchen tools, and then just start doing it. Your first loaf will look and taste weird. Your 5th loaf will look weird but taste good. But if you stick with it and you love it, it’ll probably become an art.

What if we approached teaching and learning at home like this?

Of course this type of learning would be very hard to replicate in a school setting… you need everyone learning the same thing at the same time and at the same pace.

But at home? I just don’t think we need to replicate school in homeschooling.

Some of your learning at home might look like school. That’s great!

We use flashcards and multiplication practice workbooks, and I make a very curriculum-y looking chart of our history read-alouds for the year with coordinating dates & facts.

Your kids might take a class at a local co-op or online. You probably will have workbooks and notebooks and pencils with no eraser left.

But a lot of your day does not need to look like school, as you remember it.

The curriculum you buy probably comes with pages of schedule and pacing suggestions. Forget them.

You can toss the spreadsheets with specific page numbers to be read at specific times on specific days and… you can just read the book, look up the answers to your kids questions, find the places on the maps.

If people get really excited about a topic, you can follow the rabbit trail of curiosity to more documentaries, books, and projects.

Or not.

You can – gasp – skip the things in the math book your child has already mastered. 🫢 (Or redo the things your child is struggling with at half the pace with extra resources.)

The Script is Boring

If you bought a curriculum that claims to be open and go, it may come with a script.

The script can be very helpful! It might give you suggestions about how to teach a particular concept, or ideas for what questions to ask the child.

But… do not exclusively teach from the script. It’s boring.

Haha! Here is your permission to skip things in the script, reframe them for your children’s style of learning and interests, add activities in that would be more engaging or useful, and toss activities that your kid hates!

Ask a friend or a facebook group for ideas if you need to, but also use your own gut instinct.

I read this question recently in a facebook group regarding math lessons:

“My 6 year old son is starting to hate math. He seems to already have mastered addition and subtraction within 10 and is very interested in multiplication. He keeps asking questions about five 10s and ten 10s. When I open the math book now, he starts crying and seems to be bored and hate the games. But I don’t want to miss anything. What should I do?”

Now, this is a very valid question. And I understand this mom’s concern that by skipping kindergarten math, she might miss something foundational.

BUT – she should skip kindergarten math. Her child obviously has learned the basic ideas that are covered in the kindergarten math book. What a gift to teach him one and one and move him at his own pace. She should move to first grade math and see what happens.

Because if something comes up in 1st grade or 2nd grade that she forgot to cover, guess what?! It’ll be obvious and she can teach it then.

Let’s say, she forgets to teach that a 3 sided shape is called a triangle; it has 3 sides, 3 points, and 3 angles. They get to 2nd grade math and the curriculum wants to teach hexagons and octagons and has a review question about a 3 sided shape. But her child has never heard the word triangle because they skipped kindergarten math. (Now, obviously, her child will have picked up the word triangle from living life….) But, the worst case scenario is she pauses the lesson on hexagons and teaches what a triangle is. Then, she goes back to whatever they were doing next.

Note: She might need to wait a month and just play board games and logic puzzles to reset the child’s newfound hatred of math. You’ll all be miserable if you dig in and trudge through math with a hatred of it for the next 12 years….

What I’m Not Saying

I’m not saying to toss all curriculum out the window and do nothing and eat bon-bons with your feet up.

That describes zero homeschooling moms I know. 😂 Although… I did read another facebook comment that a woman pulled her kids out of school for 2021-2022, spent the year reading, playing outside, and walking through the woods, and sent her kids back to school in 2022-2023 ahead of their peers… So, there’s that. 🤷‍♀️

Here’s the thing.

Curriculum can be an amazing tool! And the amount of wonderfully useful homeschooling curriculum available to us in 2024 is overwhelming! What a gift.

I’ve learned so much alongside my kids just by reading the teacher’s manuals and Cathy Duffy’s curriculum reviews.

I’m not saying scopes and sequences and subject spines are bad. I use all of those tools in our homeschooling.

But they’re tools in the toolbox. They may provide framework, foundation, assistance. They’re not the boss. And rigidly walking through a particular sequence of specific lessons does not guarantee certain learning outcomes.

But What if School is All We Know?

It’s really hard to follow a path we’ve never seen someone go down.

Just the other day, a friend and I were chatting and she was pondering… sort of rhetorically… “But if my kids [ages 3-10] are playing outside all morning, should I pull them in to do a grammar lesson? Or can they just learn about grammar when it’s cold or when they’re 11?”

We might have a fuzzy idea of what homeschooling could look like… Or we see glimpses on social media and blogs and file them away as some sort of arbitrary ideal.

But making it up as you go feels scary sometimes.

For example, I see homeschoolers posting videos on Instagram of their kids traipsing through the woods with captions like, “this is homeschooling.”

That’s fine. I love a good walk in the woods. But we’re probably not going to walk in the woods all day every day.

What I’ve been thinking about the last several years is… If you don’t replicate school at home, what do you do?

Anyone else think about this? Haha or is it just me?

Step 1 – Get a Vision!

“For lack of vision, the people perish,” wrote Solomon in Proverbs 29:18.

The most peaceful, confident homeschooling moms I know have a vision of where the learning journey is going. They have spent time thinking & reading about educating at home – how kids learn generally, what their specific children need during a certain season, what will help their family thrive.

Randomly compiling resources willy-nilly trying to achieve some vague idea of “covering it all,” or “doing enough,” is a surefire way to homeschool out of fear and eventually burn out.

Rather, write out a few foundational principles for your family’s home learning that will influence the specifics of your day-to-day.

You don’t have to have it all figured out at once. Just start reading. I read really widely on the topic of education, including books where I end up disagreeing with most of the ideas. It’s helpful to read things that challenge oour assumptions!

Some books I’ve found helpful specifically in thinking through educating at home & how kids learn (or don’t learn):

I also really enjoy 2 particular podcasts that dive deep into how kids actually learn. The one I listen to every single week is “Arts of Language.”

Again, I’m not saying you need to cling to every single suggestion these speakers make. But listen, think, observe your own children, and figure out what is going to work in your home. This will be so much more productive than fretting about how to “cover everything.”

Shameless Plug – Everyday Homeschool ☝️

This is the type of stuff I’m diving deep into on my new podcast, Everyday Homeschool.

It’s launching March 18. I’m hoping and praying we can discuss everyday homeschooling life in a way that equips and encourages you!

  • What are the foundational principles of teaching & learning?
  • How do kids actually learn?
  • What does normal everyday life look like as a homeschooler?
  • How do you set up your home and resources and rhythms to promote joy & peace, critical thinking & life skills?
  • How do you know when to follow the curriculum and when to toss it?

I don’t have all the answers. Not even by a long shot. But I’ve been reading and researching and thinking about education for 15 yeras now.

And I’ve interviewed some very wise and gracious people who’ve gone before us. People who homeschooled for decades and are sharing their wisdom with those of us in the day to day trenches now.

Step 2 – Start Compiling a Variety of Resources

Thinking outside the curriculum box is incredibly helpful in promoting a love of learning.

Your kids are naturally curious. Humans are wired to enjoy learning.

Not that we enjoy every single task related to studying, but generally speaking, the majority of your schoolwork need not be a drag.

Variety helps with this. You can alternate every other day with two materials.

My older kids do 15 minutes of cursive copywork on Mondays and Wednesdays and IEW lessons/ assignments on Tuesdays & Thursdays. This pattern compliments our weekly schedule well because we spend more time on non-bookwork activities Mondays and Wednesdays anyway.

Or, for math fact review, you might follow a loop schedule of:

  • Card game
  • Workbook page
  • Computer game
  • Workbook page

In loop scheduling, it doesn’t matter if you miss a day, you just pick up right where you left off last time.

But How Do I Find a Good Variety?

Glad you asked!! This is actually something I love doing. I am one of those weird homeschool moms who loves digging through all the resources & reviews to find the gems.

So I wrote a separate post about how to find the gems and what my recommendations are for a variety of subjects and grade levels.

Read That Post Here