When Jackie and her husband pulled their oldest out of public school they became a one-income family. Jackie learned that homeschooling on a dime took a bit of extra work but could be done. She learned how to use the library, free museum days and area events, and even managed to graduate her oldest son who has ADHD.
Briefly tell us about you and your family. Where do you live? How many children do you have and what ages?
My husband, Scott, and I have two boys, ages 19 and 15. Logan is a homeschool graduate. We live with our dog, Cookie, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, in what’s known as the South Hills. My husband is the Facilities Manager for our large downtown church and I’m a retired software engineer.
How long have you been homeschooling?
I just finished up my 13th year of being a homeschool mom. We took Logan out of public school halfway through his first grade year. Jordan has always been a homeschooled kid.
Tell us briefly about your homeschooling approach. What does homeschooling on a dime look like?
I started with E.D. Hirsch’s “What Your (enter grade here) Should Know” books. I liked that there were plenty of free lesson plans online, most of the books at the library were geared towards their sequence and scope, and many of the free online interactive games did, too. I used them as a road map and checklist.
If there was something a boy was really interested in I would go to Half Price books and buy just about every single book they had about that topic. We would borrow even more from the library. I taught them how to use Google and YouTube. The local museums and parks always have free or low cost events for homeschoolers and we would incorporate that into their studies.
Living on one income can be very difficult so it was up to me to make what money we did have to go very far. I think the most I have spent on curriculum for a year, for both boys, was a hundred bucks and that included swimming lessons.
Year-round homeschooling or traditional calendar homeschooling?
We tend to follow the public school schedule. The boys would be able to go outside and play with the neighborhood kids that way. Summer means picking a topic and going in-depth with it on their own. Both boys have used that time to work on special projects. Every December we take the entire month off and bake cookies, decorate, prepare our church for the holiday, and to do charity work.
Tell us about your homeschooling routine.
When Masek Academy had two students the boys would get up at 10’ish and have breakfast while I read the Bible to them. When one was taking a shower and get dressed the other would do TimezAttack. Then they would switch. We would do Shurley Grammar together, then science, and then history. Then it would be time for lunch. After lunch, Jordan would do his MathUSee by himself while I worked with Logan. I would have him do more in-depth work for Language Arts, Science, and History because he was older. Wednesdays usually meant “Daddy has the day off” and we would go explore a museum or letterboxing.
Logan has ADHD so needed way more time to complete things and a lot of one-on-one work with me. Now that it’s just Jordan he does most everything on his own. We have a pow-wow in the morning to go over what needs to be done, if he has any questions, and go over yesterday’s work. The rest of the day he is on his own but right by me in the same room.
Complete the sentence: Our homeschooling happens mostly at (fill in the blank).
Our motto is “Have a clipboard, will travel”. When the boys were younger as long as they had a clipboard or a lap desk they could learn anywhere at any time. I do keep them to the Pomodoro timeline so they can stay on task.
What have you picked for curriculum next year?
Jordan will be a “10th grader” this coming school year. My goal is to have him complete all the state requirements to be able to graduate by this June. I am still looking over how to best accomplish that. He already has done the science requirements. We will be using MathUSee’s math series.We will continue the Compass Classroom’s Visual Latin class. He really despises reading literature and discussing it so I think we will do a technical writing course through Saylor.org. We are considering how to incorporate Saylor.org’s computer classes. This summer he will be interning in the IT department at Allegheny Health Network through a program at our church. We expect that they will give him goals to complete the remainder of his high school years. My goal is always finding the best bang for my money and continuing to homeschool on a dime.
List 3 books about homeschooling that really impacted you.
Our pediatrician told me about a book called “How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On to Learning”. Carol Barnier opened my eyes the possibility of teaching my son at home. Cathy Duffy, of homeschool reviews fame, wrote a book called “Government Nannies”. A friend gave me “Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School” by Rebecca Rupp. After looking at the scope and sequence of just about every homeschool provider out there I understood that it doesn’t matter when you teach a kid something as long as you get it all in by grade 12 you’re OK. Of course, I borrowed all of these from the library!
Your family is going on an unplanned trip, not much time to pack, you must homeschool the kids while traveling and you can only take 5 of your homeschooling resources/books with you. What would you take?
I have done this a couple of times. Homeschooling on a dime means traveling light. These days with a laptop or an iPad, maybe even a smart phone, you really don’t need any books. We used Khan Academy for math, science and art history. I made a few playlists on our YouTube channel for MESH (Math, English, Science, and History). The boys each had a Nintendo DS with Scribblenauts, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, and Big Brain Academy among others. They used the Google maps app on their smart phones to follow our journey and to see if there were any museums or historical markers. That’s how we were able to see the George Washington Carver museum, the secret way into the free part of the Grand Canyon, and the St. Louis Arch. The boys were able to see a lot of this great country of ours that way.
If you had the chance to start homeschooling all over again today with the knowledge and experience you have now, what would you do differently?
I would keep a daily journal of the fun things the boys said or did. I got so caught up in fulfilling requirements that the little things get overlooked. Logan’s school day were pure torture sometimes. Looking back, they went by so fast. Now we are able to relax and joke about the fun things. Whereas when we were in the thick of it I just wanted to leave him on top of the refrigerator. The things that he remembers the most are the things he learned on his own. He knows more about World War II fighter jets than a college professor friend of mine. I tell new moms to find a way to incorporate a child’s interests into the standards they have to complete. Do it for your own sanity and to keep the kid interested in exploring his world. You didn’t move the school into your house, you moved learning into your home.