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Even though we have eight children and are in our 18th year of homeschooling, the thought of writing a blog about it terrifies me. You would think after this many years, I would be some sort of professional. The truth is, I am easily overwhelmed by the scads of information and choices there are now. Everything from method to curriculum. If I were young again and just starting out or thinking about homeschooling, I’m pretty sure you would find me in a corner somewhere in the fetal position, sucking my thumb!
If you are thinking about homeschooling or just starting out, I encourage you to KEEP THINGS SIMPLE. Don’t overwhelm yourself with information, but pray diligently for God’s leading in schooling your kids. He knows them better than you do, and He will be faithful to show you what’s best for them. Ask God to BRING to you what HE wants for your family. Don’t spend time comparing yourself to others. Your family is unique and has it’s own “culture”. The beauty of home schooling is that we can customize our learning to fit our family’s lifestyle. That means we are NOT modeling the public school classroom.
It is important to nurture your children’s love of learning and that means, especially when they are young, we follow their lead and interests as much as possible. Especially with boys, there often seems to be a need to wait longer to start any formal schooling. It’s a delicate line to walk of encouraging, but not pushing. We have tried to do this so as to foster their love of learning. What has happened at our house is, about age 12-14, instead of being burnt out on learning, they suddenly start to “own” their education. They realize how much they are capable of learning, how many things they are interested in and begin to pursue accordingly, on their own. We have also taught our children to be resourceful: to know how to find out what it is they want to know. My thought has always been that if you nurture their love for learning and teach them to be resourceful, they will be able to do whatever they decide they want to do!
When our kids were little, I had a need to be able to tangibly see their progress, so I used some workbooks, but kept them to a minimum. To learn reading, we started out with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This book teaches to read phonetically and is broken up into short, easy lessons. It is simple enough for your older, reading children to use in teaching the youngers, which is very helpful if you have several children. When the kids were reading somewhat well and able to write their letters, I would start them in an age appropriate math and language book. The plan was to do a couple pages in each book every morning, but with so many little ones, much of the time we were doing well to get 3 days a week done.
My goal is to be as consistent as is humanly possible. But life happens and I am not consistent if we have too much on our plate. We keep our school plan simple so that we have flexibility to let the kids follow some interests on their own. What that looks like for us through the elementary years is to try to make sure that we do the basics each day: math and language arts (including reading, writing, etc). Science and history are something our kids, at this age, explore on their own. I try to listen for the things they seem interested in and have good books around for them to read. We can waste a lot of time at the library trying to find appropriate books, so a good book list resource is important. One of my favorite book lists is, “Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families” by Sarah Clarkson. The books listed are not “twaddle”, but meaningful books, with good illustrations and listed by subject and age appropriateness.
I also love Five in a Row by Jane Lambert. This is more of a unit study that you can use for several age levels at once. You read the suggested books (which were carefully chosen by Jane) as a springboard. Then she does a beautiful job of explaining different activities and conversations for several subjects based on that book. You have the option of doing as little or as much as you want or need for that day. (They have a free complete unit available for download, so it’s really easy to try it out!)
When they get into jr. high, we start to be more intentional in adding science and/or history to the basic mix. Sometimes it works well to combine two subjects. For instance, right now, two of our boys are choosing a time period that they study (with resources they find) and take notes on for 2 weeks. Then they write a report about all that they learned and turn it in to me. By doing this, they cover history, reading, writing (sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, taking good notes, grammar) and meeting a deadline.
This plan worked well for all of our children…except the last one. He has had some learning issues and, in his case, it was important to get an earlier start. Dyslexia, dysgraphia, etc. require early intervention, so if you are suspect that your child might have some learning issues, make sure you get a diagnosis sooner rather than later.
The truth is that our kids will remember more from our example than from what we say. All the practicalities aside, what is our goal? Don’t we want to raise children who love the Lord and carry out His purposes for them? That means that school revolves around home, not home around school. I believe the best way to do that is to live life with our kids. Be authentic, be intentional and most of all, be gospel centered, growing right alongside your children.
You can read more by Durenda on homeschooling by visiting her at Simple Nourishing Home