This Is What Homeschooling Looks Like

Wondering how others do the homeschool thing? During the next few months, we’ll feature local families discussing what their homeschooling experience is like – from curriculum choices to how to stay sane.

Alyson lives in the Huntsville area and is homeschooling her two children, ages 8 and 12. She has homeschooled the 8-year-old since Kindergarten. She’s homeschooled the 12-year-old for a total of 3 years.

Why Homeschool?

One of the major reasons Alyson’s family started homeschooling is both children work above grade level and have been identified as gifted along with having ADHD. The family felt these learning differences could be managed better in a one-to-one learning environment. Another reason for homeschooling is the family feels it is important the kids are “able to follow their passions, which aren’t generally in the regular school calendar” such as her older child’s interest and talent in computer programming.

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Learning how to learn is also important to the family: “The kids need to know how to find out the answers to questions they have, they need to understand themselves and how they best learn…and I feel like homeschooling is the best way to do that.”

Curricula and Classes

Curricula and class choices have evolved as Alyson has learned how her kids learn best and where their interests lie. In the beginning, it was “a lot of trial-and-error, figuring out how your kid learns best and how that intersects with your teaching style, and where that leads you as far as the best road to travel.”

Alyson uses a lot of resources to teach her children and considers their approach to be “eclectic with a Charlotte Mason bent.” She is a big advocate of unschooling children until they’re 7 or 8 because “that’s what the best available research in developmental and educational psychology say is most beneficial.” But now that her kids are older, she’s a bit stricter about their structure.

Alyson’s kids also take advantage of technology:

“While it’s not really a ‘category’ homeschoolers use (yet), I might also say we’re ‘tech-schoolers.’ We use a lot of technology, including online classes and iPad apps and computer programs, in our school.”

“It’s all about balance.”

Right now, they use several different subject-based curricula at home:

For the 8-year-old:
• Saxon Math
• Language Arts (Home2Teach.com)
• History Odyssey
• Classical Roots (vocabulary)

For the 12-year-old
• Art of Problem Solving (Algebra)
• Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (Literature)
• Brave Writer
• Time4Learning (History, physics, and economics)

A Typical Day

Alyson says a day without outside-the-home stuff would look kind of like this:

“I let both kids get up on their own unless they’re sleeping in past 11 or so. I believe sleep is super, super important for kids (honestly another factor in choosing homeschool!).

For my 8-year-old, she gets up and starts in first on her math. She then does her vocab — she writes out two words for the day, and composes a sentence for each. She does them on notecards to make studying easier. After that, we do history — usually some reading and writing, maybe an activity. After that, we usually break for a while. In the afternoon, we’ll do some science exploration on the iPad or computer…we usually just work through different topics rather than using a set curriculum for that.

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For my 12-year-old, he usually gets up and does his math first, too. Then he takes a break — usually 30 minutes to an hour, depending on when he got up — and he gets to work on whatever project he wants on the computer. After that he does his science, history, and econ. He then gets another break. After that, he’ll do his writing/lit.”

Other Activities

Both kids take classes at Fantasy Playhouse, and they both take art classes, either through Huntsville Art Museum or Huntsville Art League. The older child does robotics (during FLL season). Her daughter also does Burritt on the Mountain homeschool classes every month — they’re absolutely one of her daughter’s favorite things! She also takes cello lessons weekly.

Keeping Sane

One thing Alyson thinks is really important is to have friends who also homeschool who you can vent to or go to when you’re frustrated or overwhelmed. They’re also “awesome when you have stuff like doctor’s appointments and they’re willing to watch your kids for you.” Once her husband gets home from work, she sometimes just says “I need some quiet time,” and takes a relaxing bath or even just shuts the door to the bedroom and reads or plays around on the internet. Also, her kids do stuff like Minecraft, and she can say “Hey, go have some Minecraft time!” She gets her “me” time, they get to have fun, and everyone is happy. “It’s all about balance.”