This week the 4 Moms are answering the question “How do you teach advanced subjects like trig, dissection or a foreign language in your homeschool?”
First, I’m sure many people would have said that my high school years would NOT have adequately prepared me for college. There was only one ‘class’ I ever took outside of the home. When I was in high school, my parents got a local Christian high school to allow me to come in for a couple of sessions where the biology teacher stepped me through a few dissections, that’s it. Other than that I learned at home with my mom or my dad as my teacher.
Additionally, I was not focused on academics during high school, I was much more interested in gymnastics. I easily spent 40-50 (often more) hours a week at the gym, working out or teaching classes and my studies were firmly in second place.
Second, I did extremely well on the SAT, ACT and other tests and/or college entrance exams. I was offered academic scholarships, received national academic awards and tested out of first year college English and Math (and math has never been a strong suit). When I entered college (at a school that is widely respected for it’s science program) I found the courses simple, even biology and chemistry, received excellent grades and graduated with honors.
Not only did this experience give me confidence as we entered the school years with our children, it also has given our family a unique perspective.
We don’t think that classes outside of the home are necessary!
I know, I know. This is not a popular idea in today’s homeschooling circles, where parents seem to spend more time in the car taking their children to the next activity (educational or not) than they do at home actually teaching their children, but that’s ‘ok’ with us. Having 11 children isn’t a popular idea either and that’s worked out very well for us!
[I'm not saying that classes outside of the home are bad, just that they aren't necessary.]
So how do we teach those advanced subjects?
Seek God’s Kingdom
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ~Matthew 6:33
“all these things” includes higher level academic learning!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge ~Proverbs 1:7a
There is no way around it, if we wish for our children to gain wisdom or knowledge, we must be seeking first the kingdom of God.
Sometimes seeking God’s kingdom may mean that our children will not participate in a specific learning opportunity, sometimes it will mean that they will take time away from school work to serve others and sometimes it means that others may appear more thoroughly “educated” or appear to have more or better opportunities.
Take a deep breath and stand on the promises of God’s Word. We’ve been there, we’ve time and again felt that we were failing our kids because we didn’t think that this or that opportunity that “everyone else” was giving to their kids was a good fit for our family, and yet time and again God has amazed us by blessing our children with knowledge above what they should have, given their opportunities and even better than that we’ve seen God’s blessing our children’s hearts with a love for others.
Teach Kids to Teach Themselves
One of our primary goals as we educate education our children is to teach them to learn on their own. I believe that this is why I excelled in my college classes, it wasn’t that I necessarily knew all of the information, I just knew how to learn. After all, how many of you have learned new information or new skills without any classes? Plus, when you learn as an adult, your children will learn right along with you.
So the primary way that we’ve ‘taught’ advanced subjects is by preparing our children to learn on their own.
I think that perhaps this is one of the most negative influences that the public school system mentality has had on the homeschooling community. We have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the idea that ‘professionals’ are the ones who should teach those ‘difficult’ subjects, but this simply isn’t the case (and nowhere in Scripture do you see a command to make sure to have professionals come in to educate your children).
You can do it! They can do it!
Our older children have been very successful learning math, science and Greek (are there any other ‘advanced’ subject areas?) independently.
Our kids have done high school chemistry and biology, complete with experiments and dissections all on their own.
Algebra 1 and 2 have been completed with very minimal help. (I asked our three children who have taken these classes and they each said that they sat down with their dad on a couple of specific problems (not concepts) and that when they finally figured it out, it was by going back and reading the text more carefully. i.e. the answer was there all the time.)
Our kids are working their way through a college/seminary Greek course on their own. Recently, God has provided a special addition to their Greek learning, which I’ll speak about shortly under the heading of “Christian Community”.
How to Teach your kids to be self-teachers
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, but I think that it’s vitally important for children to have free time. It is my opinion that in many (perhaps most) cases in the U.S., having more free time will be more beneficial for a child than any type of scheduled activity.
Encourage your children to pursue things which interest them. They will learn more than you think and they will thank you for it when they get older.
Choose the right curriculum
Most of the homeschooling curricula and classes available today do not encourage children to be self learners because they spoon feed the children information that ‘someone’ deems important and then ask the children to regurgitate it back. Choose books and resources that encourage both you and your children to think, evaluate and examine.
It shouldn’t be an issue of getting the right answer, but of asking the right questions.
We LOVE “Life of Fred” math starting with 5th or 6th grade. In the front of the book it encourages parents to point their children back to the book when they come with a question because it explains that children need to be able to learn by reading the information.
Apologia also has this mindset. In Biology, it steps the children through the first several dissections and then tells them to do the research and figure out how to do the last dissection on their own.
Encourage your kids to try, even if it means ‘failing’
Our children come to me frequently with, what I consider, crazy ideas. I think that it’s part of my job to encourage them to try (as long as it’s safe and legal) because in that trying they’ll learn and one of the things that they’ll learn is that it’s fine to fail.
A few years ago they built a raft with some scrap lumber that we had left-over from a project. We then helped them transport their raft to a pond and they all took turns navigating around the pond on their raft. Honestly, I never thought they’d get anything that would float and, while there is some relativity in regard to the term ‘float’, they enjoyed the experience and have built several more effecient rafts since that time.
Teach them to secure their own learning resources
Rather than telling them what they need to know or where they should go for help or signing them up for a class, allow them the freedom and opportunity to take responsibility for their learning. Encourage them to figure it out on their own. If they’re new at this and need additional help, offer up some suggestions, but be clear that your list of ideas isn’t exhaustive and encourage them to think of resources on their own.
One of the practical ways we teach this in the younger years is by having a couple of shelves full of science resources and pointing our kids to those shelves when they come inside with any kind of nature question.
One of my frequent questions when the children come tell me about something new they learned is, “How did you learn that?” It’s beautiful to hear my children explain to me the different ways in which they’ve acquired knowledge. Trust me, that skill is much more important than whatever they’ll be taught in a chemistry class.
Mom and Dad
I know this may seem obvious, but you really are your child’s best teachers. You may not know the most about a given subject, but you care the most about your children and their proficiency with any given subject.
We’ve seen the beauty of this frequently with our children. Two of our older children excel at math and science and two are more creative and gifted with words. As they work through different subjects, they will go to each other for help to explain something they don’t fully grasp.
This type of learning is so much more than just understanding a subject; patience, humility, selflessness and simply taking instruction are all valuable tools that we want our young adults to learn.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
This teaching is generally spontaneous, it’s not that we assign one of our children to teach any of our other children, although I have been known to direct a child to one of their siblings when they come to me for Greek help.
Your Christian community should be one of the first places outside of the family that you turn to when your children need additional instruction.
We have recently been blessed by a lady in our community who is taking the same Greek course that our older children are taking. She asked if she could come over and work with our children on their Greek. She provides the blessing of accountability and more thorough explanations.
Not only are there lots of online classes and other educational resources, but there are a plethora of information available for free. Matthew and Carter have learned to skin, prepare and cook both squirrels and chipmunks thanks to youtube videos. The girls and I appreciate knittinghelp.com when/if we run into techniques with which we are unfamiliar. And of course Google is a good friend of all homeschoolers.
You may also be interested in:
- Why Greek?
- Finding time for play - ’cause it’s important
- Curriculum Choices for Big Kids
- Homeschooling schedule
- A Child’s World - what kids will do with free time
- God’s methods for education
- Teaching big kids
- 6 Distinctives of our homeschool
How have you tackled those advanced subjects in your homeschool?
Visit the other moms of many to see what they have to say: