I belong to several online homeschooling support groups—one that’s statewide, one for my county, and one for the St. Louis metro area. It never fails that several times throughout the year a newbie will post that she’s thinking about schooling her kids at home (or has already pulled them from school) and asks what should she do now? I’m always on the lookout for practical helps for the new homeschooling mom (and I’m looking for my own help as I adapt to working part-time outside the home as we begin the second half of our homeschool journey), so I was pleased to be able to review the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course. This 26 week course, delivered via email, is the brainchild of Stephanie Walmsley- founder of Successful Homeschooling Made Easy. For the sake of being able to cover a lot in this review, I was given access to the first three weekly lessons and a bonus lesson on math ideas before settling into the week to week delivery system.
The first lesson suggests printing out all the material and keeping it in a binder for quick reference. Because I am not “starting from scratch” I read the PDF lessons on my Kindle and printed out only those pages necessarily for my homework—yes sometimes the teacher has homework too. In this case I was often required to think about aspects of our home-life and put them in writing: what time do we get up, what are our weekly commitments, do we function better in the morning or afternoon; my educational goals: what books did I want my son to read in the next month, what things do I want him to be able to accomplish; and prepare a very simplistic schedule.
I’m guessing that Mrs. Walmsley follows the Charlotte Mason program based on the school in the morning/afternoons for activities, emphasis on reading, and including music in school suggestions. She does spend a lesson discussing the other approaches to homeschooling (classical, unit study, etc.) and encourages you to follow what works for your family.
The idea of taking everything in small weekly steps appealed to me a) because I have plenty of commitments that need my time and attention already and b) I think a newbie would be intimidated by a 26 chapter book handed to them all at once. Even if this were an emergency situation (the “I just pulled my kid out yesterday—now what do I do?” scenario), my first advice would be to give the kids some time to break from the school mindset. While they’re reading books on their interests from the library you’ll have time to read Lesson One on creating a simple schedule and Lesson Two on Math made Easy (usually the subject that scares moms the most). In fact, why not hold off till you’ve read Lesson Three, which is specifically on advice after you’ve brought kids home from public school. The lessons I’ve received so far are:
- Start Homeschooling Today
- Math Made Easy
- Welcome Home
- Fireproof your Homeschool
- Three Key Ingredients for Success
- Fulfill Your Dreams
- Why Curriculum Doesn’t Matter
- Let Go of the Good Things
- Housework and Homeschool
I thought the lesson I was going to need most was Housework and Homeschool (or putting dinner on the table every night if that one is still coming), but it turns out that God led me to this review for lesson 6. You see, for several years I’ve been planning on my son joining Frontiersman Camping Fellowship when he was old enough and had earned the required Royal Ranger merits. Rugged camping, learning to start fires with flint and steel, Dutch oven cooking, what wasn’t to love? But the day his commander asked my Schnickelfritz if he was ready to turn in the application Fritz said “No.” It turns out camping and especially this more primitive camping was my dream and not my sons. At first I was furious that he’d turned down the opportunity (which only opens once per year), but that very week one of my homework questions was “what am I giving my child which is what I want or wanted as a child?” It turns out I was still viewing my almost-a-teenager as a child for whom I still made all the decisions academically and with “extra-curricular activities” but he’s reached the age where I need to start letting go. So now my son is going to basketball camp this summer—pursuing his interest, and I am learning to start fires with the flint and steel. So even though this material is targeted to newbie, we veterans can pick up a tip or two.
At the same time, I would not be will to call Successful Homeschooling Made Easy an “all you need to know” course. To date I’ve seen nothing about homeschool law or record keeping. I don’t know if that will be addressed in future lessons or if Mrs. Walmsley is purposefully avoiding those subjects since they really have to be handled on a state by state (or country) basis.