A Seasoned, yet Confused, Homeschool Mama

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  • Amber Castleberry

    This has been our 7th year homeschooling. I have 3 kiddos, and they have always been taught at home. We love homeschooling, and it is truly a part of who we are.

    YET — I feel like I am going crazy. This is truly not an understatement. Sigh.

    We have tried both eclectic and “boxed” curriculum throughout the years. This past year, I have combined all kiddos together in science, history, art, music, etc. and the atmosphere of our home has been quite pleasant. Yet, I worry that my oldest daughter (who is an extremely advanced 11 yo) has not been challenged to her ability.  I also worry that my 10 year old middle son gets a little “lost” in the mix. He still struggles with reading somewhat and writing/spelling a LOT.

    With a boxed curriculum, we have used Heart of Dakota. While I enjoy most of the choices from HOD, it is very hard on me as the Mama to run 3 separate guides. However, when my children are placed appropriately in their guides, they are most certainly challenged on their appropriate levels.

    I am going crazy trying to determine the best method for us to continue in the future. There is so much independence built into the upper HOD guides that I feel like I don’t even know what my daughter is learning — and I’ll be honest that I don’t have time to read over every single assignment that she has to do each day (typically 11 separate boxes). I just feel really disconnected to her learning, despite the fact that she is perfectly capable of doing it on her own. Writing is built into HOD so seamlessly that my daughter is a great writer and she enjoys the beautiful note booking pages that come with HOD. (Of course, some of that is just her natural bent, she loves school…)  But I’m so worried that if my middle son does not continue with HOD that he will not develop the same writing skills.

    The family learning style appeals to me most because I love for us to “learn and do” together. I enjoy our discussions and the fact that we can actually have discussions because everyone is on the same topic. (If we move back to HOD, my oldest would be in American <i>History, my middle would be in an overview of world history, and my youngest – 6 years old – would be just starting out with history.) </i>In my mind and heart, it makes so much sense to have us ALL doing American history for the next two years together. There are so many great books to read together, so many great field trips, so much great discussion is possible, and so on.

    But I want to give my kiddos the best education possible. While I don’t believe in a “standardized” education, I just want to choose the best option. (I am a perfectionist…which is my downfall probably.) I want to make sure that my kiddos enjoy learning, and that they learn what they need to. How do I make sure to create good writing skills and research skills with a fully CM approach? My daughter was taught great written narration skills through HOD,  but how would I teach those skills on my own?

    And one last thing…since my daughter is going into 7th grade, do I even try to combine them? Does she HAVE to learn separately/independently in high school? If so, should I just separate all kiddos now to prepare for the inevitable? Or is family learning actually possible for more years to come?

    Thank you for your time. I write out of some fear b/c I don’t want to mess up my kiddos’ education or future. I pray about this all the time, but I waffle back and forth on what we should do. Any help/advice is truly appreciated.


    Have you asked your kids what they like? I had lots of opinions myself in middle and HS and loved that Mom let me help plan the year;) OTOH my siblings would rather not think about it;) I talk to my own about what they like even though they are still young.

    One idea would be to have your oldest do Heart of Dakota if she likes it and the rest of you to do history ect at a lower level that ties into her guide. Look at SCM beautiful feet, My Fathers world or make your own. I liked the truthquest guides I did in highschool as another option…

    She should probably split off for science?? But you could do a SCM guide for younger two or I like Science in the Beginning for 1-6 by Dr Wile (berean builders)


    You can continue to do some read alouds together (check for any appropriate from her list and add in some more…) Picture study, nature study, composer study, can all be together. If you do heart of Dakota for her use theirs (if they have them)and modify for youngers or cross off that box and do something together.
    As you know even if you use a box you can modify it to fit you;)
    <p style=”text-align: right;”>Also you could schedule a light enough year for your younger two to spend extra time on reading and spelling. IMHO reading, handwriting, and arithmetic and perhaps spelling (Its really hard to learn to write well if you struggle to read, spell or physically write) need the most attention first. The rest is great and important but if you just did those core subjects with your younger two and read to them out of quality books each day and sent them outside to play they’d be fine.</p>


    I would show your oldest several options, and see what appeals to her.  SCM history books are plenty challenging. My gifted teen likes them.  He does a separate writing program, so it works fine.

    I combine for Bible, fine arts, and history, except my seniors do government and economics alone.

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