Please introduce yourself and your family to us, and also tell us what country and/or state you are from.
Hello, we are the McCourts: mom and dad; Danika, 8 (third grade); and Eric, 5 (kindergartener) — from Northern California.
How long have you been home schooling?
I started homeschooling in November of 2016. Danikawas in a private Adventist school prior. So, I have been homeschooling for a little over a year but have learned a lot in that time.
Why did you decide to home school?
Lots of our friends homeschool, but I never ever thought I’d do that. My husband attended homeschool get–together at church while I was working, where they read about the imprinting parents do to their kids, especially in early years. We started talking about it. My husband told me he would teach…he had good intentions, but now I’m the teacher 95% of the time. The factors that tipped me over in favor of homeschooling were mundane (I never considered myself capable of homeschooling): I got tired of driving to school each day, lost about two hours in a day in driving. Also, cost would have been significant after my second kid joined. So, I decided to try the first year to see whether I could manage one kid. Now I’m managing two, and kindergarten is 1:1 most of the time.
What style of home schooling does your family follow?
As a first–time homeschooler, I needed structure. I’m foreign born so I had no idea about what a USA curriculum consisted of. We ordered a box curriculum the first year, using the non–SDA Sonlight program. Quickly I realized what works for us, what we like and don’t like. This year we are doing mix–and–match curriculum. I spent a lot of hours researching different subjects, talking to homeschool moms on different forums until I built my own opinion of what would work for us and what we wanted. I don’t always follow recommendations by others. Some recommendations persuade me to try something else. Another plus in California is that we are doing independent study through a charter school. We have to cover state minimums, and we do tests two times a year in math and reading; in return the state provides funds for classes in art, PE, music, etc. Some people may consider that a restriction, but actually so far we have done well, and although tests may be inaccurate and bothersome, eventually in life everyone needs to take some tests so its not that annoying to me. Currently the benefits outweigh the negative, which may change eventually. I‘m not required to use any specific curriculum.
Do you have a philosophy about home schooling?
No. I don’t have any particular philosophy, but my thinking is that we put God first, then we try to know and do the best we can in everything. Daniel is my inspiration. I always tell my kids that when enemies tried to investigate Daniel, they found nothing they could complain about except his worship. He must have been an excellent student in that Babylonian university. I grew up in a communist country, so structure, discipline, and schedule are important to me. Homeschooling is very flexible, but not having goals to achieve, etc. — it‘s not my philosophy. “Unschooled”: I still don’t get that term.
What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to home school, and why?
For my third-grader I use non–SDA Sonlight world history (we started two-year cycle so we continue the spine only this year). We do our own additions, YouTube videos, love Lineage Journey and Truth Unshackled (thank you, ladies, for posting about those). For language arts we use Fix it Grammar, Spelling Phoneric zoo (love it that is independent work – CD with earphone), started slowly IEW composition writing. We use also intermittently workbooks as Wordlywise, Word roots. For geography we color continents and countries. We use Sonlight science (my daughter’s favorite part), but next year we will choose random books as our interests progress; so far my daughter has become an animal expert, and I’m way behind because she does a lot of independent reading. We do Singapore math — like it a lot. We used Reason for Handwriting for her for cursive last year (as her school used that), but this year I just make her do her grammar copy work in cursive as we have no time to do handwriting. She took art and piano last year; she takes piano, sewing, and gymnastics this year (we use that for P.E.; my daughter is not a gymnast type, lol). For the little guy we are focusing on basics only this year. Language arts we do Logic of English, cursive first. He started from not being able to hold his pen in August, to writing cursive capital letters recently. He also started reading. We have been learning phonograms together, rules, etc. I guess there is logic in English (although sometimes I still wonder, lol). He uses Singapore math too, which is very colorful and happy at his level. If he wants to participate in anything else, he can learn with sister; otherwise, he is playing legos as his learning time is way shorter than sister’s is. We do sanctuary study and etiquette studies (we have been slacking on those recently).
Are you the primary “teacher,” or do your spouse or other family members participate with home schooling?
I’m the primary teacher, although the intention originally was for Dad to teach as he is American born and we both work as registered nurses, but it didn’t work out that way. Maybe God worked it that way, because I would have never agreed to homeschool but now I’m doing it. It has been great character building opportunity…my patience has grown, but it needs way more for the “patience of the saints.” (I need to get Dad to participate more.) Occasionally, I will assign something for dad and son to do together, and I go grocery shopping alone. My husband is the person that teaches our kids to bike, ski, swim, motorcycle, etc., from a very early age, so where I’m timid, my husband is not. I just close my eyes and say a prayer – lol.
What does a typical home schooling day look like in your home?
Typical school day: We start together with prayer and studying our Sabbath School lessons. Then I have a board on which I assign for my daughter from four to eight things to do in a particular day. Usual day is maybe something like this: 1: grammar, 2. spelling, 3. piano, 4. color countries in West Africa, 5. math, and 6. read science assignment. Usually 80% or more she can do independently, and I check her work later and correct if needed. While she does independent work, I do school with little guy. We start with violin first; then Logic of English which involves writing and reading, but very playful with lots of games; then we do some math. Once I’m done with him, I can read history or other advanced readings that my daughter is interested in. We may watch a video or do some spiritual insights on history as often they are lacking. Both kids go once a week to music lessons (one violin, the other piano; I’m completely musically illiterate so I struggle in that area), they both take gymnastics for exercise, and my older one takes sewing. In the afternoon I try to get them outside on our property (there is always something to do) if Im not working that day (I work 2:45-11:15pm).
What do you love the most about home schooling, and what do you dislike the most?
The most I like about homeschooling: no daily driving, and the ability to move faster or sloweras needed. We can do work when we are home, and we can go somewhere when people are in school. It‘s not unusual for us to homeshool during Christmas break and be not in school at random times if needed to travel, etc.
Negatives? I worried a lot about my daughter’s social life as she was a school lover and pulling her out of school was very dramatic for her, but as time went by, with events at church, Adventurers club, meeting kids at classes, it hasn’t become the problem I envisioned. Having opportunity to take more classes than we can because of school funding has kept us very busy. Amazingly,she and her brother bonded on a level they have never been when she went to school. They are best friends, which makes me happy.
Is there anything you would like to share about your home school?
So far I love homeschool and never thought I would. Two year ago if someone told me I’ll homeschool, I would have said, “No way!” I still am taking a year at a time and may want to put my kids back in private school in high school, or maybe I’ll change my mind by then. I am hoping Jesus will return by then so I don’t need to decide.