The more I read, the more I come across moms who wish they discovered this secret: home school is NOT school at home! Your own reasoning prompted you to keep your children out of public schools, so why would you want to bring that very school system into your home? Such is done in the method of Virtual Schooling, to the detriment of students, parents, and the home schooling community. However, virtual schools are not the topic I wish to discuss. What I'm talking about is bringing the classroom methodology, scheduling and general mentality into your home schooling approach. This may be a natural first tendency, especially if you were public/private schooled, or you've been a school teacher. It is what you know... what you're familiar with. But... it is not the ideal for helping your children reach their learning potential, nor for inspiring a life-long love of learning.
Textbooks & Workbooks
Textbooks and workbooks are not the only way to teach a child. Nor are they generally the most effective. They were developed for a classroom setting, and largely only cater to visual learners. They stress the "read, review, regurgitate" mentality, and often fail to inspire a deeper curiosity or love of the subject. Creativity is also minimized, causing such a disservice to children as it is their pathway into the highest level of learning.
Testing & Grades
Do you want to grade your child based upon the number of facts he can recall, or actually give him real, usable knowledge? By working one-on-one with your child, you can accomplish more then a teacher with a classroom full of students could ever hope to. You can read your child's face and find out if they're following along with what you're teaching or if you need to try something different. Likewise, you can find out how deeply they're connecting with the subject through a simple conversation. Children may need to learn how to take written tests, but don't underestimate the power of a focused discussion. If you know the right questions to ask, you can find out more in talking to you child then through a series of quizzes. Add to that a focused channel for their creativity, such as notebooking or lapbooking, and your child will not only show you how much they've learned but they will retain it better too, and even enjoy the process! If you want something to "show" their progress, notebooks and lapbooks both provide a tangible product for grading, but may also be saved in the child's yearly portfolio. Learn more about assessing your child's learning in a meaningful way here.
Just because all your children's learning isn't "on paper" doesn't mean it doesn't count! You'll likely enrich your children's learning opportunities in ways they never would have experienced "in the system." Don't feel like you have to complete so many workbook pages or quizzes in order to "keep up" with public schools. Real life learning surpasses its paper counterpart any day of the week! If you spend endless amounts of time grading papers and writing scores in miniature boxes you'll find yourself overwhelmed and too busy to teach them meaningfully and directly.
Proponents of the Monetssori Method insist on maintaining an ideal learning environment. I find it interesting to note that they strive to mimic the "home" environment as much as possible, believing it to be ideal. Charlotte Mason also wanted children to "absorb" the home environment as well. How lucky for us! This is where we teach from anyway. To attempt to re-create the institutional setting is artificial and unnatural. Brainstorm creative ideas to implement in your teaching space, as you take a peek in to some different families' school rooms.
The school system schedules its teaching in compartmentalized, timed segments for each separate subject. Your subjects can be interconnected, and don't have to strictly stay within their alloted time slots. Set your schedule, but be flexible with it. Learning opportunities pop up in unexpected places, so go with the flow & take advantage of them!
Your school day will likely be shorter then the typical public school day simply because it's so much more efficient. You have a small student-teacher ratio, which makes your teaching more effective and meaningful. You teach what your child needs, not a broad program for an entire classroom.
So much time is wasted in public school with busy work, administrative paperwork, attendance taking, transition time between subjects, time-fillers here and there, herding the kids from one place to another, re-settling down, and group discipline. If you google school time-fillers or busy work, you'll find all sorts of ideas for teachers to use to keep kids "busy." It's been estimated that school children only spend 20% of their time at school "on task."
If you focus hard-core on school from 8:00 to 3:00, your kids will get burned out and so will you. It's just unnecessary. Many home schoolers are done after half a day (or a bit after lunch for the older grades). Whenever you're through for the day, let your children enjoy their free-time to just be a kid! Don't try to "fill up" the rest of the day for them.
The school system isolates subjects, teaching each one separately. Bible history, World history and American history, for example, aren't three different subjects! Connect not only your studies in history, but history to scientific discoveries, art, music, and literature of the time or region as well. Suddenly, a purposeful framework forms and the light bulb turns on... children may begin to grasp the bigger picture!
Remember that you're not a school... you're a family!
"Many of the tools for school (worksheets, multiple choice tests, true/false tests) are effective ways of working with a large group of unrelated people within a constrained amount of time to get them through the same amount of material in nine months or less. Using their tools to home school is like using a chainsaw to butter your bread. They are dealing with kids whose parents didn't come home last night, kids who got off to school with a smack and a curse, kids who have been brought up in an environment as stimulating as a piece of white bread. They are dealing with 20-30 kids with varying interests, abilities, and backgrounds. They are dealing with a climate of suspicion making it impossible for them to kiss a child, give out an tylenol, or defuse a tense moment with a group prayer.
You don't have most of these issues to deal with. Even those of us with adopted children from difficult backgrounds have fewer than 20 of them, and we have them 24 and 7. You can curl up on the couch with a good history book and your sweet children and read together and talk about it and you will have covered as much ground in literature, critical thinking, vocabulary, and history in half an hour as a public schooled child does in a week. You may not have pen and paper work to show for it, but the work of the mind happens in the mind, and it is what happens in the mind and heart that constitutes education." (quoted from "An Educated Mind")