Swanson Family Homeschool Updates, Fall 2022
Remember me? I used to write blog posts. A lot of them. And oh how I miss it. If I didn’t need to do certain other things (like sleep) I would absolutely be blogging every day. I actually have so many blog post ideas (it’s like a habit after soooo many years of blogging regularly!) I have recipe ideas, and parenting posts…I have random silly things (my favorite perhaps?) and spiritual encouragement…
But alas. I’ve begun writing books and hosting a podcast…
And there went (regular) blogging.
Anyways, I did make a promise that I would do a homeschool update post, so I will at the very least follow through on that. I also collected a couple QUESTIONS from Instagram for a short homeschool Q & A! So, grab your #2 pencil and Peechee (raise your hand if you remember those!?) and let’s dive in!
HOMESCHOOL UPDATE TIME…
For those of you who are newer around here, here is a brief introduction: Hi! I’m Monica. 🙂 I live on the North Shore of Oahu,and I’m married to Dr./Farmer Dave. I am a mom to four sons, and as of last spring THREE of them have graduated high school. (One even graduated college! What?!) I still have a 12-year-old son (Levi) at home, so he’s who I’ll be updating about here. You can find quite a few updates from previous years when I was homeschooling all of them as well as podcasts and other posts related to homeschooling on THIS PAGE.
I started homeschooling when my oldest was in 2nd grade and the others have been homeschooled from the beginning. (except Preschool — they all went to preschool for a little bit.) We are big fans of homeschooling. Big fans, as in — all of my sons tell me they hope to homeschool their own kids one day! (that’s the best kind of endorsement!) There is a LOT I could say about our homeschool journey — and if you have questions about any of it, I hope you’ll use comments below to ask. Since I know that more and more families are considering homeschooling (for good reason!) I would love to offer more support and encouragement on this topic… But for today, I share a simple update, specifically on the curriculums we have used/will be using…
In the early years we tried a number of homeschool curriculums, but when the older boys hit high school we mostly narrowed things down to doing Abeka videos + books, DIVE for math and science, IEW for writing, and a few other scattered subjects.
Since we’ve used those for so many years I’ll share a few words about each of them, then I’ll share updates on what I’m doing with Levi this year!
We’ve used Abeka as our core curriculum for much of my boys’ homeschooling. I think it’s a great balance between kids learning in a pseudo-classroom environment (students watch a video of a teacher in front of a class, so they get to see a full lecture as if they are in the classroom) with seat work done at home. I don’t have to “teach” but I do correct and grade their papers, quizzes and tests. I feel super confident that they are getting a very thorough, college-prep. education, from a conservative, Biblical perspective.
* DIVE CURRICULUM: My boys have loved using the DIVE curriculum for everything from Earth Science (Luke started in 8th grade) to AP Calculus and AP Physics (Josiah and Jonah senior years.) DIVE is growing in popularity all over the world, and you’ll find a lot more information on their website. Some DIVE classes have live options and others are web-based, and self-paced. DIVE is the most affordable curriculum we have used, and even in the higher level classes (Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus and Calculus) my boys have been able to take the classes completely independently because Dr. Shormann’s teaching is so good. (Which is really nice since asking their Mom questions about Calculus would not be very helpful. 😉 ) If you’re looking for Math or Science curriculums, I highly recommend DIVE! (Be sure to follow them on Facebook, and Instagram.)
*a few more fun facts: The creator of the DIVE curriculum , David Shormann, is our good friend, and he lives here on the North Shore. Dr. Shormann and his family are originally from Texas, but have been living here in Hawaii for a few years. We have so much respect for Dr. Shormann! Each of the boys have worked with him on his research projects, and they spend as much time fishing and boating with him as possible. Jonah has actually spent this summer working as a proofreader for Dr. Shormann’s Calculus II curriculum, and he is currently on a trip to Alaska with Dr. Shormann and a group of friends!
**IEW.com (Institute for Excellence in Writing.) We’ve used the Institute for IEW for years, beginning when Josiah was in about 3rd or 4th grade. We have not been super consistent with it, but I am convinced that the time the older boys spent doing IEW was a game changer. Andrew Pudewa is such an engaging, funny, and super-smart teacher, and the kids love him! Writing can be challenging for boys, and finding a good curriculum is so helpful. I am convinced that my older boys’ early experiences with IEW inspired their love of writing, and prepared them well for great essay writing, which helped them earn college scholarships. We are big fans of IEW!
UPDATE FOR 2022:
I’m really excited to be doing things a little different with Levi this school year. As much as we love Abeka, I have not loved the realization that Levi has spent a lot of his “school” life watching teachers on video. ugh. Levi is also the least eager to do school of all of my boys, and I feel like it’s time to mix things up for him. So, we are taking a year off of Abeka, and this is our current plan:
- IEW.com for writing along with their “Fix-it Grammar” program. I really want Levi to develop his writing skills! I love the look of the grammar and with his solid background now (thanks to Abeka), I think it will be great! (and they are short lessons! 👍🏻)
- Saxon 7/6 math with Shormann (DIVE) videos. These are time-tested and so good.
- Still deciding on history/literature/Bible. But leaning toward a Sonlight all-in-one for these. My older boys used Sonlight in their early elementary school and I loved it. I am looking at the Eastern World History program for Levi. I want him to learn about the 10/40 window, so many incredible missionaries, and places we often sweep over in World history — like India, China, Russia, and etc.
(The other curriculum I am considering for history/Bible is Master Books, part I of III, World History.).
Either way, he also does simple devotions in the morning and we work on memory verses.
- Music! All my older boys started taking piano lessons in elementary school and somehow we skipped that with Levi. We are still
arguing aboutdiscussing if he’ll do piano, guitar, or ukulele, but by golly that kid is going to do a musical instrument this year. (please hold me accountable to this!😉)
- Science. Still not sure!! There are so many good science curriculums. Feel free to share your favorite. I’ll most likely keep science really simple and (hopefully!) make if fun. Maybe I’ll make Dave take that one on!
- Latin? I’m not sure. My older boys took a bit of Latin in a homeschool coop, and I do think it’s a great foundation for language. I just don’t know how many battles I’m ready to face this year. haha.
- What am I missing? He’ll surf and skate and golf for PE. I would like to add more art to his life. But the bulk of his education will be reading/writing, and simple stuff with little-to-no videos. hurray. So, as you can see I am not fully decided on all of his subjects, but we have some time. Rather than diving in at the very first of August like I usually feel pressure to do, we are going to start a little at a time, mid-August. (math first,) and by September I hope to be doing full days. But MAYBE just 4 days a week? I haven’t decided yet. I might make that an “earned privilege” (if he works hard and has a good attitude Monday- Thursday, Fridays are free? Or something.)
- Of course now that we are raising chickens and a million fruits, there is always a lot to do on our property, and I love that my homeschooled kids get to be a part of that.
I am hoping to get him to a food distribution outreach twice a month, and I’d love to find more service projects for him as well.
Now, I want to answer a couple questions that were sent in, and the first one is actually relevant to what Levi is doing…
- Q: “What are your thoughts on moving a child up or holding them back a grade level?”
A: I loved this question, because I just decided to hold Levi back this year! He just finished 6th grade, and he actually did well. But because I am somewhat revamping his curriculum this year, I decided to have a fresh start at 6th grade. His birthday is in May and he just turned 12. I felt like by holding him back, he’ll graduate high school right around turning 19, and I honestly like boys being a bit older when they graduate. (My older 2 did a gap year so they started college at 19. That was pretty ideal in my opinion!) Interestingly, my older boys had at some point skipped a grade because they seemed so ready, but then in the end that afforded them the opportunity to do a gap year. So, to answer the question: I say, go for it! Hold them back. Move them up. Do what works for you and makes sense. There is so much freedom in homeschooling. In general, I think boys take longer to mature and starting college a bit older can be helpful, but there is not one right way. You’ve got this!
- Q: “How much time do you homeschool each day?”
A: Anywhere from 3-14 hours, haha. Honestly, Levi used to drag out his Abeka curriculum to take WAY LONGER than it should, and that drove me crazy. That is part of the reason why I want a fresh start this year. I think he was just so burnt out on lectures and the longer days. But really: I believe a homeschool day in Elementary school can easily be done in 3 hours. Middle school 4. High school 5-7 if they are serious about academics and taking college prep classes. Keep in mind, those are total hours — with NO homework. If you want a shorter day, then you can always give an hour of homework later. It’s up to you when you homeschool!
- Q: “Do you have any tips for homeschooling multiple kids?”
A: This can be challenging, for sure. But some of my favorite parts of homeschooling are the bonds made between kids, so this is NOT a reason not to homeschool! When my first three were young, we used Sonlight and grouped the boys together for many of their classes. (Check the Sonlight website to see how they suggest grouping up to 3 grade levels together.) Then they did math and grammar individually. As kids get older they can often be pretty independent, so the stress of multiple kids doesn’t last forever! At times I have also hired helpers to come in and help with Levi’s school so I can help the older boys (and get work done.) A great way to do this is to hire a homeschooled high schooler who loves children! There are a lot of creative ways things can be done, but some families rotate with the older kids “teaching” the younger…Mom spending individual time with each child throughout the day, etc. It can be done. It will not be easy. But do your best to have fun with the crazy! You’ll never regret it!
- Q: “How do you keep kids focused and motivated during the school day?”
A: Oh…I feel this one. Especially with Levi, this has been a challenge! I think the key here is to know your kids’ currencies. What motivates them? Then, set some goals and use them to your advantage. Now that Levi is an avid golfer, I tell him he needs to finish school and chores by a certain time if he wants to go golfing. You can do the same with sports or toys or even screen time. It absolutely will help to have a curriculum that is interesting and engaging. But even then, some kids will just have a bad attitude. Don’t be surprised or caught off guard by that. Don’t think it means you failed or you should not be homeschooling. If anything, it means “Thank God you are homeschooling!” — > Just think how that would look in a crowded classroom…where they could quietly disengage and space out, or get into trouble. They are JUST WHERE THEY NEED TO BE. I find that having a check list is super helpful for Levi to see what needs to be done and motivated to do it.Sometimes you need to send them out for some fresh air. Make them a cup of hot cocoa or have a 2-minute dance party. Sometimes you need to drop the books and go to the park or the library. I recommend talking to your child about what needs to be done, and together, set goals. Be realistic. Expect resistance. Maintain your standards but work with your kid. Eventually they are likely to discover some things they love and it will be the most wonderful moment. But don’t stress. Just keep on keeping on!
There is so much I’d love to say and share. I know I haven’t talked a lot about our homeschool journey but I am always here for you, cheering you on, and I hope to dive more into the homeschool topic in the days ahead. Let me know what you need most!
Big hugs and blessings,
Als always, thank you so much for sharing! It all gets to be overwhelming at times. As they grow older there is certainly a challenge, and I like to hearing what you’ve done or are doing. Keep them coming if you can!
I lived in Hawaii for my highschool years!!! Went to Hawaii Preparatory Academy from 1988-1991! I can relate to the SPAM jokes!!! I loved it! Still do, but my children don’t! Lol 😂
Loving the articles!! I live in Louisiana now with my husband of 23 years we have a 21 year old son, a 19 year old daughter and my baby, a 14 year old daughter!
Enjoyed reading these so much!!
Aloha and Mahalo from a Hawaii proud/Louisiana born momma who loves The Lord, her Husband and Children!!! 😃🌺⚜️
Thank you so much for sharing! You have been such a blessing to my family with all of your information!!! I was hoping you could comment on what you are using for transcripts (to graduate high schoolers) now that CEI is no longer functioning in Hawaii. (We live on the Big Island and am just starting high school boys, but not sure how to set things up to make sure they can get a high school diploma). Do you think Westmont (and other colleges) would have accepted a “home-made” transcipt? 🙂
Thank you for sharing this!
May I recommend Foundation Worldview as a Bible Curriculum https://foundationworldview.com
I am excited to start using this with my children:)
Thank you for laying out your plans like that! We’ve been considering homeschooling now for a few years. God has opened a door for us to go to a private school that we absolutely love the last 2 years, but it is very likely that we will start homeschooling in the next year or two.
I get overwhelmed at the number of options there are! I am excited about homeschooling my oldest because I can see he already picks up in math skills quickly and I’d love to see how I can take him further that a class setting could!
Did your graduated homeschool boys have gaps they were able to fill in? There is just so much to cover and never enough time/attention to do it. I feel like we cover the main subjects but all the “extra” (typing, cursive, geography, foreign language, additional life skills, nature studies, etc.) that sound fun/interesting never happen. It’s a constant struggle to have that balance of covering everything, giving them free time, and busyness of activities. I’m always wanting to add in more but then we never get to it.
It sounds like you’re pretty set on sonlight but I encourage you to look at Heart of Dakota! Reading books and doing activities!! We’ve been using it for 11 years. They incorporate different science kits & curriculum so maybe that could help you narrow down your science choicrs!
oh cool! Yes, I’ve looked into Heart of Dakota. I haven’t ordered anything yet, so thanks for the tip. 🙂
Yes, we liked Heart of Dakota, but have switched primarily to Masterbooks these days. If their World history is written like the American history it should be good!
Will definitely have to check out DIVE. I did well and enjoyed those higher level math classes but to teach….😵💫
Any recommendations for just starting out. We will start Kinder this year and he did go to preschool 3 days a week last year. I’m mostly dreading how to get on a schedule with a kid who wants to just wake up hang out in his undies and play play play all day! I know play is so important, but I need him to do school stuff too. He is so stubborn, so extra thank you for your words on this being normal and to keep in going!
Awesome Sarah! Yes, play play play is pretty good for Kindergarten, but I’m sure you can find a creative way to add a “School” element to the day as well. You’ve got this!