From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two)

Once we made the decision to bring our oldest home it was time to get down to the business of really schooling her.

We took a couple of months to “deschool” (I had read somewhere to give your child a month for every year they had been in traditional school - so we needed about 3 months to get public school out of our system). I needed this time as well to get my ducks in a row.

I began researching curriculum and methods and reading anything I could get my hands on. I ordered a full curriculum kit from Sonlight and we began!

Everyone remarked about my qualifications to homeschoolL

“Your children will do just fine being homeschooled because of your background in education; I have no idea how you could do it without a teaching degree.”

I would soon come to learn, however, that training as a public school teacher was actually a HINDRANCE to homeschooling. The most important qualifications for a homeschooling parent were a love for their children, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to their child’s individuality.

From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two) — our journey to #homeschool

The Classroom Mentality

I began homeschool with the classroom mentality. This involved:

  • a strict schedule

  • worksheets

  • grading

  • what children “should” know

  • a physical space where learning occurred

Even though we had the beautiful curriculum guide and all of the gorgeous books from Sonlight, I still tried to recreate school at home.

Homeschool Mom Fail #1 (the first of so many!)

I purchased the popular books about what children need to know at each grade level. I tried to supplement Sonlight with some of that knowledge.I followed the Sonlight curriculum guide to the letter.

I made sure all of our written work was complete before we had any rewards like reading for pleasure, playing outside, or taking field trips. (I’m sure this is NOT the purpose of Sonlight - I was just a slave to the curriculum.)

I purchased a gradebook program and began keeping grades.

We said the pledge first thing every morning and sang songs about the weather. (I turned a space in our upstairs family room into our school area - and would make the kids sit and listen to me as I went through our beginning of the day litany - the one I had been used to in public school!)

It was ridiculous.

Thank goodness it only took me approximately 6 months to realize (after reading many blogs and meeting a few wonderful local homeschool moms) I was doing it all wrong.

My child was basically getting a one-on-one classroom education at home. That wasn’t what I desired for her, and over the course of the next year we made many adjustments.

*I still am a huge proponent of the Sonlight box curriculum. I’m just giving you an example of how I wasn’t willing to trust the homeschool process and know that between their resources and what my OWN child needed we would have had a more than sufficient homeschool education for her.

Homeschooling Wasn’t My Plan

Because homeschooling my children hadn’t been part of our thought process for very long we were still adjusting.

I knew I wouldn’t be going back to work full time. I also knew I wouldn’t have any “free time” while both of the kids were in school.

To be honest, it felt a bit like a death of something I had been working towards for 8 years - getting of my children into school so I could do my own thing again. I’m ashamed to admit this. Homeschooling has caused me to die to self again and again, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that blessing. Our lives changed in a few marked ways:

  • Priorities shifted

  • Dependence on God deepened.

  • Friends were lost - and gained.

  • Certain members of our family drifted from us - others supported us 110%.

  • The relationship with my children became oh so sweet - they were (and still are) my buddies day in and day out!

Looking back I realize those first six months of homeschooling were a training ground and deschooling time for all of us. By the time my youngest was ready for Kindergarten I was confident in the decision to homeschool. As we entered the Fall of 2010 I was homeschooling a 5 and 9 year old full time.

I had an extremely eager five year old! I was so thankful to be homeschooling him because he just SOARED! I cannot imagine how stifling a traditional learning environment would have been for him.

From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two) #homeschool

Things That Worked

I was obsessed.

Homeschooling offered so many advantages. We kept our own schedule, imparted what WE deemed important to our children, and spent time on things that truly interested them. I could see my children thriving.

A wise friend advised me that as long as I was covering reading and math I could follow my children’s leads and do a lot of interest led learning with them. She encouraged me to cultivate the wonder in their lives. This was probably the best homeschooling advice I’ve ever received. We didn’t truly “buckle down” until 7th grade with my oldest and it was just fine!

I decided to piece together curriculum for my children and follow their lead. If I’m being honest this was the most fun time in our homeschool journey!

I was beginning to see the true beauty in customizing their education. Certain resources and activities just clicked with my kids.

We joined a local homeschool co-op that met one afternoon a week. This gave the kids a chance to take fun classes and make friends. Through the co-op we learned about a homeschool literature fair (that we participated in for several years) … all of the wonderful homeschooling opportunities simply snowballed.

From School to Home: Our Story (Part Two) #homeschool

I was beginning to realize I COULD homeschool my children. The naysayers had been wrong. Imagine that.

When It’s Not All Roses

Please don’t get the impression that homeschooling was all roses. It wasn’t.

We definitely had many beautiful days, but there were hard days, too. It’s the same way now.

Some of the things we battled in the early years…

  • Attitude (from mom and kids)

  • Friendships - it took us a while to find our “tribe”

  • Opposition - from family and friends

  • Isolation - My husband worked an hour away and was gone for long hours - I felt isolated and had trouble finding like minded friends the first few years.

  • Relationships - my kids needed to learn how to be with each other full time - and I needed to learn to be with them full time, too.

These things got better over the years, but it was definitely an adjustment for all of us. Our lifestyle was changing, and I now see that we were actually going through the process of building a better life for ourselves, but it was going to take time and patience.

And then, just when I thought I was getting the hang of things, something happened… middle school!

In Part Three of this series I’ll address homeschooling big kids and how I (reluctantly) adjusted to that transition.

I’d love to hear about your homeschool journey - have you always homeschooled, or did you stumble into it reluctantly?

Leave me a comment below!

Did you miss Part I of the series? Find it here!

Eighth Grade Homeschool Plans

Weren't we just building LEGO landmarks and pretending to be westward explorers

Here it is - eighth grade - and while it's hard to believe - it is HERE and we are READY! 

I'll say it over again and again... I'm so thankful we abandoned traditional school to homeschool our children. We have created an abundance of memories and children who love to learn and love being with their family.

Through homeschooling, we can address our children's particular talents and desires. I'm seeing my son is a math and science kid, and he also has a humorous, compassionate side, too. I can't wait to see where God leads him!

Eighth grade is full of many of good things.

Eighth Grade Homeschool Plans

A Word About Eighth Grade

Because I've been down this road before, I know the importance of looking ahead to high school (and yes -- maybe even college) in the eighth grade.

A few things we are doing in that regard:

  • Math - Think about where your child needs to end up in math - for math minded, college bound kids this is generally Calculus. If this is your child's goal, then they should be taking Algebra I in the 8th grade. Some children may just need Algebra I, II, Geometry and Pre-Calculus.
  • Science - Science minded kids they will probably want to take Physics in their senior year.  If this is the case, then Physical Science is probably a good idea for 8th grade. Some children will not take Physics and that is OK! 
  • Will your child want to dual enroll? Maybe they can get some high school credits out of the way in 8th grade. Perhaps they can take a foreign language for credit or an elective of high school quality.

Every child is different, and our goal as homeschoolers is to MASTER the subject matter, not to be slaves to a curriculum.  

Also, please remember to STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE. Your child is your child and you cannot compare the education you are giving them to anyone else's. (end of lecture)

How We Begin Our Days

We have a "Morning Time" of sorts each day.

Spending nearly an hour each morning eating breakfast, having devotions, and reading aloud, helps our days get started on the right foot. It lets us ease into the day, and it also connects us to each other first thing.

I love that.

Grant's Challenge group is studying Proverbs this year, so we read a chapter of Proverbs each week and discuss. We will also be doing memorization for his confirmation studies at our church.

Then, there is our read-aloud time - a favorite for both of us!  I shared our picks in Favorite Read-Alouds for Teen Boys.

Classical Conversations Challenge B

My son has participated in Classical Conversations since the third grade. He is now in Challenge B with a wonderful group of young people.

CC Challenge B


He attends "school" one day each week and is led through six separate subjects (strands) by a parent/tutor. We have a guide for his work and complete the rest at home. This format has worked well for him so far. 

We take homeschooling one year at a time, so I can't say if he will move along to Challenge I next year or not - we'll cross that bridge when we get there!

We are following the entire Challenge B curriculum (which I am listing below) with the exception of math.  We also add in an elective (music appreciation this year) and some physical education.


We made a switch this year to Shormann Math Algebra I. 

We had always been loyal to Saxon with my son, but the spiraling and repetitiveness was driving him a bit nuts. After a lot of research, I learned the Saxon homeschool edition is a bit lacking in some concepts and standardized test preparation. 

Shormann has courses through Calculus, which was a requirement. It also keeps grades for you, and the parent can be almost 100% hands-off, which is what I need for math at this stage of the game. 

So far it is going VERY WELL. It is video-based, with math terms presented at the beginning of each lesson, lecture (with note-taking encouraged), practice problems, and then video solutions. It is also God-centered and fits the Classical model quite well. 

(Try it for free and see if you like it - we did, so we purchased it.)


Latin B

Grant is continuing with Henle Latin this year.  There is something about the puzzle pieces of Latin he enjoys, so this subject is fun for him! 



Continuing from last year with The Lost Tools of Writing to hone writing skills, the kids dive into a few pieces of literature this year - and then into short stories and eventually writing their own short stories.


Current Events and Mock Trial

In my opinion, this is one of the greatest benefits of Challenge B - confronting hard topics, learning how to argue both sides of an issue, and honing mock trial skills. 

In the first semester, we're researching difficult topics (we started with Euthanasia) and are learning to think and reason through them well. The second semester brings a mock trial case, which culminates in "competing" against another Challenge B class in a real courtroom with a real judge presiding.  

Good stuff.


History of Astronomy & Origins

One of the advantages of the Challenge program is learning how to RESEARCH and WRITE. 

Children who have been in CC since Foundations have a firm grasp on the timeline of the world, so the science strand allows them to write their own history of science and see how that coincides with other events in history. 

If we know anything it is this: Subjects are NEVER isolated in history. Everything is interconnected, and God is in the middle of it all! 

We give students guidelines on research so that they can write their own history of astronomy, instead of just reading a textbook. This method allows students to take ownership of their study of astronomy while applying discipline to complete their projects on time and present in community. Students retain the great moments in scientific achievement in the context of history, which forms a good foundation for more intensive science studies that will follow.
— Classical Conversations

Informal & Formal Logic

This is a challenging logic curriculum. 

My son reads the text, watches the video lesson, reads the text AGAIN, and then completes the exercises. 

It's beautiful to watch how the art of logic ties into debate, science, and all of the other strands. 



There are still some things that we want to add to our son's education. If learned anything going through Challenge with my daughter, it is that we can't rely on one curriculum or program to be our everything. 

We cannot lose the wonder in high school.

We homeschool for a reason - and for us, that is to individually tailor our child's education to their strengths and desires. As my daughter progressed through her high school career her education changed, and I fully expect the same to happen with my son.


Music Appreciation & Piano

We're using SQUILT LIVE! this year for music appreciation (it helps when your mom is the teacher!). 

Grant uses the daily listening calendar to learn about all different types of music from all eras. He also attends the live lessons each month to dive deeper into specific pieces. 

He has also been taking piano lessons for several years and will continue that this year. 

It's one of those non-negotiables in our homeschool - and I happen to think he really enjoys it, too!



I don't think you can school a teenage boy without a physical outlet! 

Grant works out at the YMCA, but he will also be playing basketball with a local Christian school this year. He's been attending basketball camps and drills on Saturdays to keep his skills up to par until the season begins. 

He played flag football last year in a local league and may do so again this year. 

(I have some thoughts about organized sports at this age - good and bad - but I'll have to save that for another post!)

Have to keep a homeschool teenage boy ACTIVE!


Those are the plans for 8th grade. 

I'm looking forward to what the year holds, because I know it will go quickly and then we will be in high school.


Are you homeschooling an eighth grader this year?

You might also like:

Homeschooling the Middle School Boy

Engaging Book Series for Middle School Boys