I am a slow learner. God always has to take me on the long, bumpy route to lessons. It seems I try to embrace the new, interesting, up-and-coming, latest, greatest, award-winning answer/ solution than to look to the simple answers.
We visited friends this weekend on their AL homestead where they school their 8 children, from 3-18 on God's worldview of living life.
What a blessing God is doing in the lives of many homeschool families that have been trying to live up to the traditional past 100 year school model of education! He is releasing us to a freedom to educate our children at home the natural way.
The natural way of education does not mean we toss out all the books, curriculum, binders, paper, president charts, maps, dictionaries and timetables. It also doesn't mean there are no study spots or desks in the house. And it certainly doesn't mean there are no academic lessons to be taught. Let's face it my high schooler is not going to learn algebra by making muffins in the kitchen or building himself a wooden shield.
I don't run around speaking Latin, naturally, or another "foreign" language. There is order to learning how a sentence is structured and a essay well-written. Some common knowledge just must be learned and taught from informative books, website or other sources. So, I am not saying I am throwing any curriculum out of the window yet. The fact is I like the order of some curriculum, to make sure I don't drift endlessly in wide circles.
The sign pointing the way into our guesthouse this weekend at our freinds' home read - "Welcome to the Simple Life". That is what I think will be my slogan for the rest of this school year, Welcome to the Simple Life of Homeschooling! I like the sound of it, and it certainly takes a load of pressure to conform and imitate off my mind and shoulders.
So this is my plan
- Set the Basic/ Must, Core Courses
- Make available websites, books, activities, dvds, tv programming, magazines
- Listen to My children and let them learn deeply about their passions, natural bent
- Live life with and around my children at home and in the community, State, Country, World.
So what do each of these look like and mean in a practical sense -
Set Basic Core Courses
Every child at every stage has some core knowledge courses. Math is probably the most basic. Math curriculum and frequent lessons are a must. Sure math application happens throughout life but the core elements of multiplication tables, division, fractions and simplifying a mathematical sentence just doesn't 'happen'. It is a subject that builds daily increasing or adding information and skills as the child grows.
English Language Arts-
Reading and Writing is also core at every age. While formal reading is taught in as many varieties as their are children. The basics of phonetic sounds, spelling rules, parts of speech, and writing structure must be taught. Some children just learn to read by being read to or hearing another child learning while they are hanging around "playing". Other children struggle at how to even see the words (letters) instead of the spaces and patterns on the page.
I am certain that different children have different ways of thinking, seeing, hearing and learning. I have seen it in my own children's life, as well as thousands of others. In my 'simple life' homeschooling model, grammar beyond 5th/6th grade is meaningless unless a child is going to be an English/Journalism major. Being able to read, hear, think and organize information into an intelligent way to communicate it to others is the core lesson of all Language Arts (K-12).
History and Science-
History begins and ends with God and the Bible. The core historical and science Book for any family is the Bible. If a child knows the history and science given by God, they will be well-educated through elementary/middle grades. Truth is essential to any history and science taught. Every parent must be careful in to use the Bible as the standard bearer (of absolute truth) to every other book, website, class, TV program that they allow their children for reading and learning history and science.
These are the two subject most re-created in the past 50 years to align with humanistic (man can accomplish it) worldview. The two basic worldviews are the Biblical Worldview and the Secular/ Humanistic Worldview. One has God as the source, center and authoritative voice on all truth. The other has man's thoughts, assumptions, conclusions, and accomplishments as the authoritative voice on truth.
This is a critical turning point in any learning environment. What is the worldview that underlines all information given by the author? You must discern this quickly and choose carefully to fill your children's life with truthful sources of science and history. A basic test - If it contradicts the Word of God, it is not truth. Also, if it contradicts original letters, documents, sources, it is not truth. For example, you can not teach American History and deny the facts of the letters, documents, books of the men who founded America. History and Science are based on facts. Be careful of these fields of study that are full of revisionist, humanistic lessons and books.
Another basic understanding in teaching these subjects is to begin at the beginning. History has a beginning and so does science - they both begin with the God and His Bible. Use the Bible and spring out in direction from it. There are wonderful science and history programs that follow the timeline of the Bible to present day. These are hands-down the very purest, truthful and best to use.
Make Available -
Your home should be a treasure grove of learning. Make books, puzzles, art supplies, DVD, videos, board games, music as available as you can. Allow your children access to websites (with supervision) for learning and exploring. Let your children spend hours outdoors... God's outdoor nature education is one of the finest available to all children at any age. And wisely select activities to go to or lessons to be taken out of the home.
I say wisely, because you want to be at home as much as possible. Busy-ness is the number one stressor and destroyer of natural learning. Falling quickly behind are numbing computer gaming systems and mindless TV. Computer, gaming and TV are not evil.... but the excess of and love of them are. So let God dictate to you and your family what the appropriate level is to be set for lessons, gaming, and TV. Give this a try.... take one week and turn off all electronic entertainment in the home... you will be happily amazed at what results from this simple experiment in home life. Every time we do this challenge, the results are so statisfying and eye-opening.
Listen to your Children about their Passions and Bent
Every person is created by God with passions/a certain bent. Listen to your child's dreams, questions, and interests. My daughter yesterday was asking to learn how to draw people. My son was amazed by the electronic telescope pictures on http://www.slooth.com/ and wanted to join so he could explore the skies. Another son plays a drum rhythm on anything and everything. My daughter sits for hours in her room listening to music and making up melodies and lyrics for her own songs, and she teaches her dolls/stuffed toys all kinds of "school lessons" from years past workbooks. My son, also, loves deep-level strategy game, like civilization, along the line of chess, but chess to the 10 degree! He can play this board game by himself/ against himself (few people have the mental depth or patience to even try to learn it) for days.
Interest and passion come and go - try to let your children butterfly-learn in this area. By butterfly-learn, I mean allow them to flitter, and visit as many different interest as possible and to come and go between them as they grow/mature.
One of my most basic phrases regarding homeschooling and life in general is that 'life happens'. I think it comes from the God-viewpoint that He is in control and I am not. I must be able to go with the flow He sends my way. Life is to be lived! That seems like an oxymoronic statement, but many of us try to live by a set schedule, plan or formula... and don't embrace interruptions however big or little. The events that happen in life from a skinned knee to a death in the family needs to be embraced as the life God has given us. We can learn great character and God-size lessons everyday if we are open to times when situations collide with our plans.
I want to end by saying....if you haven't yet, lighten up. Converse with God moment by moment and be obedient to Him. He will keep you on the 'light-and-easy-yoke' homeschool program. Enjoy your children, your spouse, your time and your home... cherish your blessings. And in the beginning and the end, trust God to educate your children to be who He created them to be and for the purpose He created them. God will get it right!