I have four children ages 2-13. Currently my 3 oldest are homeschooling. I've learned a lot over the years about being a mom and homeschooling. I have always homeschooled my children. I was a substitute teacher in public schools until my oldest was born. I knew before I had her that she would be homeschooled. From the things I saw and experienced as a substitute teacher there was no way I would ever send my children to public school. I started teaching my oldest preschool when she was two, kindergarten at four and she tested ready for first grade at five. She learned all of her ABC's at two after hearing them twice & she could read at age four. All without having bought any packaged curriculum. I thought homeschooling was so easy. Turns out she was so easy.I learned a different lesson with my second.
We have tried many different curriculums. With my oldest we started with store bought workbooks then for first and second grades she did ACE worktexts. Third was a mix of curriculums and fourth through sixth was Sonlight. With her I bought what I thought sounded good and she did it. I didn't change programs if she didn't like something or if she complained or cried. Its what we bought for her so that's what she had to do. With Sonlight I did let her skip a book now and then and I added extra materials to subjects I thought deserved more attention.
My second daughter was completely different than my first. Not only did I not start teaching her early but I delayed her. I tried multiple curriculums in the first couple of years only to discover none of it worked. She didn't respond to any of it. I also never made her sit and do schoolwork. She thought of it as a game and we played when she was willing. Eventually I quit trying to make her fit the curriculum and started making the curriculum fit her. I learned a lot from homeschooling her. I learned sometimes education must take a backseat to health. I learned some children don't learn from a curriculum just because I think it sounds good. I learned that book learning is a hard won battle for some children. I learned that child led/interest based learning is an amazing thing.
Now we homeschool 100% interest based. My oldest still absorbs knowledge from thin air. She finds it fun to study the dictionary and takes great pleasure in stumping people by using words no one has ever heard of. She doesn't like math but finds algebra fascinating and fun. My second still has a hard time learning things if it comes through a book and she has no interest in most things curriculum would teach, but she loves animals and learns easily if its tied to animals. She loves to watch documentaries on animals, she loves to listen to stories about animals, loves to interact with animals. She can do math problems in her head and draws like no one I've ever known. And my youngest two? Well, I guess you could say they're along for the ride.
In my 11 years homeschooling I have learned a lot, but the lesson I most value is that my children are more important than any curriculum. They are more important than any scope and sequence that tells me they need to know something at a certain age. I don't care that my oldest started doing algebra a full year before anyone thought she should or that her vocabulary probably rivals a college graduates. I don't care that my eight year old doesn’t want to study American history or that she is 100% focused on animals and protecting the endangered ones. I've also learned that learning is like magic. Put a person (child or adult) in the right environment and they will learn without even trying. I've learned to make my home a rich environment. We have bookshelf after bookshelf of books accessible to anyone that wants to look at them. We have lots of curriculums and textbooks, and worktexts from lots of different companies. On all different age and grade levels. We have educational dvds and audio cds, science kits, and unit study boxes, craft and drawing supplies. They are all always available to anyone (even the toddler) that wishes to use them. We take lots of "field trips". We go to museums, libraries (we like to visit new libraries even if we can't borrow books), zoos, aquariums, Parks, hiking, biking...
I hear questions like "how do you do it" and " why do you do it?" I hear questions about what we will do for college or what about socialization. Questions about what curriculum works best and how do we afford it. The best answer I can give to all these questions and more is that I do it because I love my children. I do it because it makes me happy to see them happy. I do it because I don't want my children exposed to all the pressures of public school. My children are socialized because they live and learn in the real world. We will handle college when we need to. And there is no great curriculum. The best curriculum for a child is the one that works for that child. And we afford it much like you do anything else by buying one book or kit or membership at a time. The best compliment I ever got was when a neighbor whose children are the same ages as mine and go to public school said, "Your kids aren't like other kids. They're happy and they act like kids."
My best advice to anyone is to enjoy your children. They are gifts from God. They will learn way more from an enjoyable afternoon spent with a parent then they will from anything else.