The following is excerpted and adapted with permission from A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational Ideas.
Over the years, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had newbie homeschooling moms cry on my shoulder about all the myriads of choices available for home education curriculum and supplies.
“We’re just a struggling single income family! We can’t afford all this awesome sounding stuff! But I want to give my children a rich and wonderful educational experience! What do I do?” :::sniff:::
Yep. I’ve cried those same tears, myself, a long long time ago … especially when my kiddos were little and we were just starting down this lifestyle path.
When our children were first starting to be homeschooled, money was super tight in our family and I had to weigh very carefully every purchase I made for our homeschooling. I learned a lot through those difficult financial times, one of the most important being that you don’t need to spend much money at all to have a quality home educational experience for your family. Honestly, I think it’s not just a quality education — I believe it’s actually a superior education in many ways. But I digress. 🙂
If I were at rock bottom financially and only had ten dollars to spend on curriculum for grades K-2, I would buy this book, The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick (it’s a combination of what used to be three individual booklets).
When my kids were little, this simple little resource truly functioned as our core curriculum.
We also did relaxed nature study. And kept casual nature notebooks … a stack of printer paper and some staples isn’t as beautiful as an actual artist sketchbook, but hey, it’ll work in a pinch. And we sometimes kept personal journals, too.
But basically we sat around for hours and hours and would read and read and read … and then we’d look at bugs and leaves and clouds … and we played in the sun for hours … and splashed in puddles … and built snowmen … and went to the free days at the art museums. And got to know the squirrels at the local park. And watched the leaves change through the seasons. And saw kittens being born. And made friends. And brought meals to sick neighbors. And lived our lives — which was our homeschool. We never did “school at home” … our home was our school. Does that make sense at all?
Life was simple … and inexpensive … and WONDERFUL!
So please don’t cry, overwhelmed mom! You don’t have to over schedule yourself … or over plan your curriculum … or make sure everything’s absolutely perfect … or spend hundreds of dollars on books, supplies, teacher’s manuals, etc.
If I were a new mom just starting out with little ones and just beginning this homeschooling journey on a limited budget, I’d buy Beechick’s book mentioned earlier, and I’d read For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay for some Charlotte Mason inspiration. And also the older book, Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax as a reminder about how simple homeschooling can be and how educational real life actually is.
Other than that, I’d make sure the kiddos had pencils, crayons, pens, markers, lots of paper, maybe a little tape and glue … and I’d call it good. Seriously, there’s plenty of time for hardcore academics and lesson plans and planned-out-curriculum and homeschool co-ops and all the other bells and whistles the well-meaning homeschool world will tell you that you need to do and buy and use to have a good educational experience in your home.
But you know what I think about all of that? Poppycock. (Yep, you read that right. I said poppycock.) 🙂
Here’s what you need: One little book for curriculum. One or two for inspiration. Time, attention, fun, nature, and a library card. And really — take it from this mama who knows — that’s all you really need for the Second Grade and younger set! Seriously.
Don’t let anyone (including me!) guilt you into buying something you can’t afford and probably don’t even really need after all.
Seriously, you can get all of this from the library … I just recommend buying The Three R’s because you’ll be using it for several years … and I personally recommend buying a copy of For the Children’s Sake because I’ve reread that particular book nearly every year for probably 20+ years to keep my vision for our homeschool fresh and clear. My original copy got so worn, I needed to buy a new one recently. 🙂
UPDATE: If you still feel like you just HAVE to do school with your under-eight-year’s-old kiddos, PLEASE read the older book Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Do not pass go … do not spend any money on curriculum … but DO read this book as soon as possible!
It’s important to really get your mind around the fact that what we’ve been taught about when to start academics by the compulsory school systems is just plain wrong! This book is based on research and not hearsay or somebody’s thoughts about what would be nice or fun for kids. 🙂
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough is a long-time homeschooling mother of three (now adult) children, holds a Master of FIne Arts in Creative Writing and Poetics (University of Washington), as well as being a freelance writer and the author of a number of books including the bestselling Frozen Assets cookbook series and Frugal Living for Dummies. Visit Debi on Facebook.
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