This week I’m going to talk about beginning homeschooling. Most likely those who need this advice (those whose children are all under 5 or 6) are not ready to hear it. That’s fine, but if you’re ready to hear this, here is your permission to relax, enjoy and step into homeschooling slowly.
One of the things that I consider a big success of our homeschooling is that our children LOVE to learn, they LOVE “school work” and (don’t tell them this) much of what they choose to do in their free time many people would consider “educational”.
Every day when I ask the children to get the books out for school (we read aloud a LOT) the little ones jump up and down, cheer, clap and run to get the books. During the first trimester of this pregnancy when I was too sick to even think about school, all of our children continued doing their independent assignments on their own. Nearly everyday when we get to the end of our read aloud time, the children beg for me to read more.
I attribute much of this to our method of homeschooling.
We do very little textbook/workbook/busy work teaching. We do lots of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (when you rise up, walk by the way, lie down) teaching.
We do very little “go to the table and work on this by yourself” teaching. We do lots of “lets sit down together and read and discuss this” teaching.
We provide very little entertainment (TV, video games, silly board games, books or toys, etc.) in our home. We encourage lots of production (reading, cooking, music, sewing, wood carving, furniture/fort/tree house building, journaling, etc.) in our home.
Since our children are usually all studying the same topics during “school time”, when our children are playing outside they enjoy reenacting what we’re learning. (The Battle of Tours, the digging of the Panama Canal, the War Between the States, etc. have all been reenacted in our backyard.)
Since I was homeschooled as a child and have been closely watching parents homeschool their children since then, I KNEW a lot about what I wanted and didn’t want when it came to educating my own children.
Mark and I also had lots of discussions about how to make our children’s education to be most closely aligned with the patterns for education laid out in the Bible.
So here are my thoughts on homeschooling when your oldest turns 5.
One of the most common mistakes that moms make when they begin homeschooling is to start too much, too early and too structured. When your child turns 5 he/she is officially “in school” and so you order the K5 homeschooling set from a popular homeschooling provider. When you do this your child will have textbooks and workbooks that teach all of these subjects:
- Heritage studies (history)
- Oral composition
- Reading comprehension
All of this complete with worksheets and activities that the child must complete to prove to you he’s actually learning. And since he’s “officially in school” and you have all of these assignments and worksheets you feel compelled to do everything or else you’ll get to the end of the school year and lament that your child is “behind”.
I know, I know, that’s what they do in the traditional schools all around us. But should that be our standard? Are their results the results we want for our children? (Why Kid’s Hate School – about 1 in 7 adults in the U.S can’t read ~U.S. Education Department – 70-88% of American youth leave the church)
There is nothing magical about age 5. Hopefully when your child turns 5 you will simply continue what you’ve been doing with the possibility of adding some reading or phonics if your child is ready.
Well before our children turn 5 we make a conscious effort to educate them for God’s glory and according to His standards. When they turn 5 we simply continue what we’ve begun.
This education includes character training (not with textbooks and worksheets), Bible reading and discussion, Bible memorization, reading, reading and more reading (we read lots of picture books, but also classic children’s literature like Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, Among the Pond People – and others in this series, Trial and Triumph, etc.), basic, real-life math (again, not workbooks) and nature studies (by catching and keeping critters, identifying plants/animals/tracks, etc.).
Bottom line: The traditional schools don’t hold the secret to a good education. Don’t do what they’re doing just because they’re doing it.
Don’t be a slave to curriculum and/or hands-on activities
Nearly everything a 5 or 6 year old needs to learn can be learned without a formal curriculum. Other than a reading/phonics program (if you desire).
If you want something to give you an idea of how to homeschool naturally from real books check out Five in a Row. It peaks the kid’s curiosity with quality literature and then gives opportunity for them to learn more.
On the other side of the coin, there are loads of ideas out there for “educational” projects and activities. While incorporating some of these into homeschooling is fun and beneficial, even if you don’t officially do this your children will come up with hands-on activities of their own. I’m a big believer in having lots of craft supplies available, giving lots of outside playtime and ensuring that the children have enough free time to benefit from learning on their own.
Bottom line: Don’t feel guilty for not doing what someone else is doing.
Teach to the child not the age
If your child is 4 years old, begging to learn to read and zooming through reading lessons, it is probably a great time to teach them.
If they’re asking to learn to read, but struggle with reading lessons, just wait. You will only cause frustration for both you and your child if you try to teach them something that they are not developmentally ready to learn.
NOT ALL CHILDREN ARE READY TO READ AT AGE 5!
We teach reading when our child shows an interest and makes good progress with reading lessons. We begin to teach handwriting when our child begins to write letters on his own.
Bottom line: Your goal is to teach your individual child academics for the glory of God, not to keep up with kid next door.
Memorize, memorize, memorize
For our family we focus primarily on memorizing Scripture passages, but we’ve also memorized catechisms, poems, states and capitals, countries, presidents, etc.
We begin helping our children memorize as soon as they start saying words and have continued until present day.
Bottom line: Hide God’s Word in your heart.
Teach him to love God and others
Remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. If you or your child reject the truth of God’s Word and accept the lie of man, that somehow we can be “well educated” apart from the centrality of Scripture then,
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Will you skip Bible reading in order to finish up the math lesson? Cut out family worship to make sure they have time to finish their homework assignments? Then perhaps you should examine your priorities.
Bottom line: Uncompromising commitment to the Word of God is God’s definition of LOVE. Sometimes loving others is being willing to stand on the Word of God and lovingly explain that they are wrong.
Everyday is an opportunity to learn for both us and for our children. Read to your child. Open your eyes to the opportunities around you, listen to your child’s questions, engage your child. Don’t spoon feed information but give opportunities to explore and learn about the world around him.
Bottom line: Spend every day teaching your child about God and how we can learn more about Him by learning about the world around us.
I recently posted specifics about what we did and didn’t do when our oldest turned 5 which gives a lot more specifics on this topic.
You may also be interested in:
- Why Don’t Students Like School
- Beginning Homeschooling: What we did and didn’t do when our oldest turned 5
- Our Methods for Education – How we’ve tried to implement a biblical method of teaching our children
- God’s Method for Education
- Family Worship – Bible reading and discussion with your children
- Why Teach Greek?
- By What Standard? – What does it mean to love?
- Before the Beginning – How God used cancer to cause my parents to homeschool my siblings and me.
Be sure to visit the other 4 Moms to read what they have to say about this topic:
For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.