Friday, July 30, 2021

Quick Start Guide to Homeschooling in Arkansas

Before we even start, let me say how proud I am of you for exploring options for you child's education! You are about to embark on one of the hardest, yet most rewarding and life changing journeys of your life."Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire." ~W.B. Yates. Let's get that fire going!


Currently the only thing you need to do in Arkansas is file what is called a Notice of Intent. It can be done online in a matter of minutes. You have to do this every year by August 15th. Right now, Arkansas does not require assessments, state mandated subjects, or teacher qualifications, so it is a pretty easy state to homeschool in. However, I am not a legal expert, so please seek the help of an attorney or legal advisor if you have any questions. These requirements could also change. Here are some websites to familiarize yourself with and stay up to date with the latest requirements. 

Arkansas Department of Education

Arkansas Education Alliance

Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)


Ponder these two quotes:

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." ~Albert Einstein

"Teaching is a function, not a profession. Anyone with something to offer can teach." ~John Taylor Gatto

You know your child better than anyone else. You know his or her strengths and weaknesses. You know what motivates your child and what he or she is passionate about. You can do this! Plus, we live in a day and age when there is literally a world of help at your fingertips. You will also be amazed at how much YOU will learn! Some days I wonder what I did in history class at school growing up, because I feel like I am learning much of it for the very first time! 


Arkansas has no requirements for what must be taught, so you are literally free to use whatever you want. The downside to that is that there are so many different subjects and curriculums that it can be very overwhelming for a new homeschooler to decide what to use. Here are some questions to ask as you evaluate your different choices:

What is my child interested in learning?

What do I want my child to learn?

What does my child need to learn to go into his/her desired profession?

What are my child's strengths? (If reading is not one of them, do not choose a curriculum that is heavy on reading unless there are audiobook versions)

What are my child's interests? What are they passionate about? How can I use that to help my child learn? (Did you know that there are entire courses designed around Minecraft, legos, and board games?)

What are my child's weaknesses? Will the curriculum help your child overcome weaknesses without exacerbating and frustrating him or her?

Is the curriculum visually appealing? Is the font big enough (but not too big)? Is there enough color or pictures throughout the book (but not so much that is is distracting)?

How hands on or independent do you want to be in your child's education?

What kind of learner (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) is your child?

What is the cost? 

Here are a couple of things to remember:

1.If you try something, and it doesn't work for you or your child, you can always change it and try something else. You can see how our homeschool curriculum changed and evolved over the years: (2021-2022), (2020-2021), and (2018-2019).

2. Remember, homeschooling does not have to be public school at home. There is so much more to an education! Ponder this quote: "Do not let schooling interfere with your education." ~Mark Twain


Congratulations! I do too! And I can tell you that homeschooling is hands down the best thing I ever did for our children. You not only see their "disabilities", but you also see their abilities. You see how incredible your child is. You know what motivates your child. You know how to get that fire burning in your child. You can move at the pace that your child needs. Homeschooling does not mean that you have to do everything on your own. Over the years we have had an incredible team of speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, Orton-Gillingham tutors (for dyslexia), counselors, and psychologists. As I learned more about my children and how to help them, I took on some of the interventions myself. We also still use some specialists. Over the years I have also learned to redefine "normal". Our children are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, I want them to become all that God designed them to be and help them be the best version of them that they can be, but I also understand that they are all individuals, designed by God to be different. Our one son has been very delayed in all areas and has a long list of learning disabilities, but he is absolutely brilliant when it comes to engineering. He sees things in a completely different way than others. His ability to problem solve is mind blowing to me. He would not do very well in a public school system (we actually tried when he was little for about two days because I bought into the lie that he would be best off there). However, here at home he is thriving, learning, growing, and we are finding ways to let him shine with his strengths. As a homeschooler he has the opportunity to attend homeschool programs at the local Construction and Trades academy. I am confident that because of homeschooling he will be far more prepared for adulthood.


In Arkansas, there are no tax breaks or state funded programs to help homeschoolers (and that's a good thing because it also means less government oversight). So, how much does it cost to homeschool? Well, that is completely up to you. If you are choosing to do a lot of co-ops, online courses, enrichment classes, field trips, tutoring, music lessons, art lessons, sports, and everything else out there, then it can cost you a whole bunch. Some curriculums cost a whole lot more than others. On a budget? Me too! Here are some helpful tips for homeschool on a budget.

1. Shop used whenever you can! I literally stalk our thrift stores all summer long. Check facebook marketplace. Go to used curriculum sales. I buy as much as I can secondhand.

2. If you buy new, see if you qualify for any discounts (teacher, military, missionary, etc.). You can get a Home Educator Card  to use for teacher discounts. See if you can find coupon codes from other homeschool bloggers (Like my $5 off Not Consumed). Not only do these coupons save you money, but they also help out another homeschooling mom. Also, see if there is a rewards program offered through the curriculum. With Masterbooks and Not Consumed I can earn points on my purchases and for things like leaving a review that can be cashed in to save on my next order. 

3. What can you get for free? What books would it be ok to borrow from the library? Take advantage of YouTube and other free online programs. Our daughter loves art, but she already is involved in gymnastics and plays several musical instruments. She can find lots of art classes online for free. Someday we may make the decision for her to take art classes, but for now this is an option that is allowing her to continue to learn and advance while keeping us on budget. We also use Treasure Hunt Reading, a free online reading program. There are numerous free resources like this online.

4. Shop around and take advantage of sales. You'll start learning the rhythm of different retailers and when their sales are.

5. Is what you are buying consumable or reusable? Will you be able to either sell the curriculum at the end of the year to help you out with next's years curriculum, or will you be able to save and use it for another child?

6. Be creative! You don't need the latest and greatest and fanciest. One year we chose not to get all the math manipulatives and counters. We used a lot of beans, rocks, sticks, and lego men. Guess what? They probably had more fun and were more engaged (thus learned more) than they would have with the plastic counters. Before I buy anything I always ask myself, "Do I really need this?" You may be surprised at how often the answer to that question is "No."


Unless you live way out in the country and never leave your home, there are probably hundreds of opportunities for socialization. Are co-ops and play dates a good thing? They absolutely can be! But so can a trip to the grocery store. Teach your child to hold the door for an elderly person. To show sympathy to the mom there with a small, screaming child. To thank and make small talk with the cashier. To be able to respond to the comments of "wow, you have your hands full" and "shouldn't they be in school right now". To grab a cold fruit punch to share with the homeless man on the corner and share the love of God with him. If you pay attention you will soon realize that socialization is the least of your concerns as a homeschooler, and your child will learn to interact not only with children their own age, but also the young and the old. 


Absolutely! Isn't there always more to learn? Isn't cultivating a love of life-long learning one of the great advantages of homeschooling? Life-long... that's the key. It's ok to not know everything right now. I am 9 years in and still learning more everyday. You know enough to get started. You've got this! August 15th is fast approaching so get that NOI filed today and dive in. You've got this momma! Check out my Homeschooling Tab for more resources, give me on a follow on Instagram, and check in to let me know how your homeschool year is going!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Diving into another Homeschool Year

It is hard to believe that I am already entering our 9th year of homeschooling. This year we will have a preschooler, 1st grader, 2nd grader, 4th grader, 6th grader, and 7th grader. In case you lost count, that is SIX children that I will be guiding through their education this year. Oh, and we will have a toddler at home. 

I admit that I may be a little crazy, but I am so excited about this year. I am also not going at it alone this year. I have Jesus and coffee 🤣

Plus we decided to outsource some things this year. Our preschooler to a Mother's Day Out program two days a week, which will help him break out of his shell, give him some age appropriate opportunities for play, and allow me to focus on the older children. We will also be participating in a homeschool co-op for some extracurriculars, and our older two will be utilizing some video/virtual classes.

(Not all school takes place in a “classroom”. We love Roadschooling and a lot of our learning takes place out in nature).

 The number one question I get asked as a homeschooling mom is, “What curriculum do you use to teach all those kids?” I will share with you what “boxed” curriculum we use, but it’s important to know that our homeschool does not fit inside any box. I don’t even teach neatly inside one particular methodology. We fall someone between Charlotte Mason and unschooling with a strong pull towards wild and free. We have two goals for our children. The first is that they grow in their knowledge and understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ. The second is that they develop a life long desire to learn. In everything we do I try to connect it back to God and also to experiences. The curriculum books we use are simply a springboard. A typical day starts in our textbooks, which may lead to a “living book”, which may then lead to some imaginative play in the woods, which could lead to a discovery, which then leads to a YouTube video, which leads to a journal entry, which perhaps leads to an art, which inspires and leads to a music, and so on. The textbooks we use to jumpstart our learning have changed some over the years (you can see what we used in the 2018-2019 school year and 2020-2021 school year and check out my Homeschooling page), but here is what we have planned for the upcoming school year.

HISTORY: Everyone (yes, our preschooler all the way through our 7th grader) will be doing World Cultures. I decided to go with MasterBooks' Passport to the World as the backbone. Because we have so many ages I have had to put some work into expanding this curriculum to engage all ages, but I'm really happy with the Teacher's Guide and accompanying books. I have been scouring the thrift stores on a weekly basis for picture books on the countries. We received Little Passports for a couple of years, so I consulted with those guides and other homeschool blogs to find supplemental activities. I planned a lot of crafts, sensory bins, recipes, composer studies, missionary spotlights, and more! We will also be starting our mornings with World Watch News. Be sure to follow us on Instagram because this is sure to be a fun year!

(One of my thrift store hauls… everything here totaled only $6.50!!!)

Anatomy & Physiology

SCIENCE: I was first introduced to Apologia science a few years ago when I was teaching Physical Science and Physics at a co-op. I fell in love with the curriculum and we have been using Apologia for science ever since. This year we are studying Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology as a family. Again, I have been hitting up the thrift stores on a daily basis to add some picture books to engage our little learners. I am also putting together a sensory bin that I am pretty excited about, and added these cool finds from Amazon.

General Science

Our 7th grader will be doubling up on sciences this year. Human Anatomy is the one Young Explorers textbook that she never went through. She thinks she wants to go to college for Physical Therapy or Sports Medicine so she doesn't want to miss out on this course, but she also wants to stay on track and take General Science. While I absolutely love the sciences, I do not have the time to prepare lessons for two sciences and we are trying to increase independence, so we decided the best route for her would be to use the Video on Demand General Science Homeschool Course offered by Apologia. She got a head start this summer since she knows she will have a heavy load this school year, and so far she has been very happy with the videos and the course.

MATH: We are still using Math for a Living Education by Masterbooks with each child in their own level (with the exception of our 6th and 7th grader whom will be doing virtual math with my sister). The stories at the start of each chapter help our children see the real world connection, plus I love how it has character training and other subjects interwoven. A great place to teach math is in the kitchen, and boy are there some yummy recipes in the book! I'm sure we will be using some of these recipes as we travel through our World Cultures studies. 

ENGLISH: We are also still using English for a Living Education for our 1st through 4th grader. Again, I love how it incorporates bible study and character training. 

We will continue with daily writing prompts, as these were a huge hit in our homeschool last year. We fell into a rhythm last year of Imagination Monday (creative writing), Tea Time Tuesday (poetry prompt), Wacky Wednesday (silly prompt), Think It Thursday (problem solving prompt), and Free Write Friday. 

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to grab your FREE Ants Writing Prompts. While you are there be sure to click "Follow Me". More fun resources to come!

READING: We have a few children with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and working memory dysfunction. They were receiving tutoring until the COVID shutdown. During the shutdown we discovered Treasure Hunt Reading, which is a free program by Prenda Learn (we did buy the workbook, but you can print yourself). Their website describes it as following “an Orton-Gillingham, multi-sensory, systematic approach to literacy to support learners of all levels and abilities.” Two of our boys will be working through the remainder of this program. We supplement with lots of other hands on activities, games, and early readers. As they near the end of Treasure Hunt Reading I add in the Abeka Readers, and our elementary aged children will continue working through the Abeka Reading program at their own page. 

 I have a fun CVC Treehouse Climb in my Teacher's Pay Teachers store that is a fun way to get lots of practice. You can even use an army man or other figurine to climb the ladder.

Our 6th grader will be doing To Every Nation 2 by Not Consumed, which will use the 12 books from the Christian Heroes Then and Now series to tie together history, geography, language arts, and character study. (Save $5 off your order at Not Consumed with this link).

Our 7th grader will be taking English Literature: Exploring Biblical Principles through Literature. It will be her first live, online class through Apologia. Our little extrovert is very excited about having "classmates".

TYPING: Also designed with dyslexics in mind, we will continue with TTRS (Touch Type Read Spell). It is a no frills typing program but I absolutely love that I can customize and add in their reading lists, science vocabulary words, history facts, and more. It really helps to reinforce all of our other subjects while also teaching them to type, which we believe is a valuable life skill. 

EXTRACURRICULARS: The girls are involved in competitive gymnastics and the boys do BMX racing. Music is a big part of their education. They five oldest take piano lessons, and they also have started learning ukulele, guitar, violin, and most recently added mandolin. It’s not uncommon for me to say, “Why don’t you write a song about that.” Whether it is a history lesson, science lesson, bible memorization, or even math facts, we have found that putting it to music helps us learn. Our 7th grader will also be learning calligraphy and our 6th grader will focus on drawing and possibly add some watercolors this year. Which brings me to another aspect of our homeschool -  entrepreneurship and financial literacy. They are never too young to learn how to make and manage money. I love seeing the creative business plans they come up with. Check out their online Etsy shop to see their latest projects for sale. 

That about sums up our homeschool! Are you a veteran homeschooler, new homeschooler, or considering homeschooling? I’d love to connect with you on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures

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