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When we first started to homeschool I was quite sure what our “schooling” would look like or even what I should have been looking for in a curriculum for the kids. I knew that I wanted it to be fun and colorful but beyond that, I had no clue what I was looking for. I am often asked what we use at home for schooling and I’m quick to share why we love Masterbooks.

It wasn’t as though things just landed in our lap, it was through a series of trials and errors but it all started when we attended the big homeschool convention in Orlando.  My mind was completely blown by how many vendors and different programs and book companies were out there to choose from. I was drawn to the biggest booth int he front of the convention hall and met a lovely woman who took what felt like my entire afternoon explaining their approach and books and making it seem like I’d found exactly what I was looking for.

I paid, we hugged and I left feeling like I’d just won the homeschool lottery.
Fast forward about 2 months and it’s the big day when our books are set to arrive by courier. I anxiously await the end of the day and hear the doorbell and know it’s the books. When I answered the door, there was the UPS man standing there with a DOLLY FULL OF BOXES!! There were 4 large boxes and he was ready to roll it right into the front door.

Surely this must be a mistake, I couldn’t possibly have ordered so much?!

I grabbed the scissors and began cutting into the boxes and realized that these were in fact ALL the books that I had ordered. The kids’ books, the test books, the review books, the teacher guide, the activities for each subject … it was endless. I tried to remain excited and not get overwhelmed but as I was stacking them next to me and the piles were growing taller and taller, it was hard to not feel like I was drowning in books.

homeschool overloadI think more than me being overwhelmed the look on both the kid’s faces was pretty telling too. Are we suppose to learn ALL this stuff?

What became obvious to us after just a few short weeks of using the new books was that it was super colorful, very organized but really really heavy in the workload. It was taking us hours to get through a few subjects and that was not at all what we had planned. I wanted to spend a few hours each day focused on work but allowing them to have time to explore things that sparked their curiosity and then use the rest of the time to spend it outside or allowing the kids to just be free for activities outside.

I called my friend and long time fellow homeschooler and shared my feelings. Without hesitation, she said, “Send it back”.

I couldn’t possibly send back this much stuff, I bought it and I need to see it through. Against her advice, we kept the books and made it about 2 months into the school year and then I realized it was going to be the death of me or possibly my children. We were all miserable and not because the books were bad but simply because it just wasn’t for us.

What I realized and of course what my dear friend had said from the beginning was that you will know when you find the right program for the kids. They may not even connect with the same program, one may use a completely different method or books and that’s okay. The beauty of homeschooling is just that, so each of your unique children can connect and learn in their own styles. You don’t have to have dozens of books and heavy schedules to enrich their minds.

We, needless to say, had to break for a little to catch our breathe and hit the reset button on our schooling. I needed to find a suitable replacement. I started reaching out to our homeschool group and they all had their recommendations of what they liked and why it worked so well. The one that I continued to hear quite a bit was Masterbooks.

I went online and immediately liked what I saw, it was colorful and engaging and best of all AFFORDABLE. The first purchase I made at the convention with the above-mentioned books was (I hope you’re sitting) $1600!! It was roughly $900 per student. The new program Masterbooks had pricetags of $40-$60 per textbook. What was lacking or would I need to supplement the subjects with other books?

My first order arrived within a few days and I ripped open the box and there it was, colorful vibrant books filled with so much information, I just wanted to sit and turn each page reading as I went along. This book was everything I had hoped for, it was independent work at the appropriate level and best of all it was LIFE-based learning or what they call “Lessons for a Living Education”. Basically that means each lesson focuses on how it applies to everyday life, each chapter begins with a story about the two characters of the Masterbooks collection and it talks about how they would use or need that upcoming lesson for a real-life situation. If you are familiar with the Charlotte Mason approach, then you will love Masterbooks.

One of the things that I disliked about the original curriculum we purchased was that it was heavy on the planning, so I had to prepare a lesson plan for each day and teach the kids the lesson. Don’t get me wrong my goal is not to ignore my kids and their learning but to encourage them to be independent and problem solve on their own as much as possible. I love that Masterbooks holds them accountable for their own daily schedules. They are clearly marked Day 1, Day 2… and so on. The kids can work ahead or if they are caught up on something and miss a day they can catch up and all the while learning about time management and deadlines. I have to assist with some topics or subjects but for the most part, they dive in and get to work and enjoy marking off in their planners what they accomplished for the day.

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Like most homeschool curriculums they offer an online evaluation so that you can find where your child should start. We started back one level for math so that the kids could get used to the type of learning and lessons. It never hurts to review concepts so no harm done there. Of course, they both immediately thought they were being held back but once I explained my logic, they settled down – HA!

I encourage you to explore the program and give it a try if you are looking for something new. I couldn’t be happier with the kids and their progress.

Note: We don’t test the kids as I don’t believe at this age there is a need for it. I have read many comments from other families who use Masterbooks that when their child tested, they were on level or ahead in grade level using Masterbooks. It’s a solid program that offers a strong foundation of learning.

 

I want to start off by saying that I don’t have anything against the teachers or administration with the exception of my kids last school they attended. The teachers were great and were only listening to the administration and as our friend, neighbor and former teacher at the school quickly found out when you don’t agree with the admin, you get fired. But in general I believe that educators, the real ones in the classrooms each day are under paid, controlled and stripped of their creativity and ultimately that leads to a poor overall experience for the kids and certainly not why the teacher chose the profession in the first place.

So back to the teacher who lives down the street, he wasn’t trying to show the students anything inappropriate, he didn’t use foul language in the classroom, he wasn’t impatient with the kids… none of that. He simply wanted to instill in them a love of reading and choose some classic novels that we all read as children in school at that same age and wanted to do it as a class discussion. Yep, that’s it.

According to the administration at the school, there is no time for this sort of thing in the classroom. They need to be practicing cold, short reads for their upcoming FSA (state testing). Anything outside of the practice tests and quizzes is a complete waste of valuable time.

You know what else is apparently a waste of time these days in school? Recess, socializing with friends on the playground or at lunch time, arts, music, drama, library visits … the list is long and it seems to get longer each year.

I can’t entirely say these were all the reason we decided to homeschool the kids because the truth is that we tried to homeschool our oldest many years ago when we lived in Costa Rica but she had been in the school system just a little too long and wasn’t open to the idea. Of course now many years later as a second year university student (straight A’s too) she says that if she could go back in time she would definitely want to be homeschooled.

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The kids at a homeschool class held at Kennedy Space Center (NASA).
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Emma during her guitar lessons.

Another big factor in our decision was that we barely got to see the kids. We would hurry them out the door in the morning to make it to school on time for 7am and then not pick them up until 3pm and with after school activities and dinner it was bed time before we knew it. I felt like it was a big flash and it was blazing past us. We are fortunate in that we work from home so homeschooling was an option without much adjust of the schedules, it just required a little more organization and communication between John and I.

I thought being a homeschool family would raise some questions in the community or among people we would encounter during our day while other kids were in school but we are given so much positive feedback and compliments that it’s so encouraging to continue down this path. Other parents don’t ask the same questions they did years ago…”aren’t you worried about socialization?” …. we are now asked “What curriculum are you guys using?”

I have met more homeschool family just out and around town during normal errand running than I ever realized were in my neighborhood.

So if I had to sum up our “why’s” on our choice to homeschool the top of the list would probably be the ability to spend the most time possible with our children, to teach them the morals and values we believe will shape and mold them into productive, compassionate, confident human beings that will one day contribute and make a difference in their own unique ways.

We’re not perfect and we don’t expect this journey to be either, I know there will be good days and bad days but i’m ready to take it on and watch the kids blossom and grow each day.