Within the world of homeschooling, there are many different ways to approach our children’s learning. Should we go with a classical method or perhaps a more unschooled approach? Do we use only textbooks or do we use unit studies? There are so many decisions to be made and so many areas to choose from, it can sometimes be overwhelming and daunting to even think about it.
When we first began to homeschool, I made sure I had a long talk with my husband about what he expected to see in our children’s education. I knew if we were together on what they were learning and if the Lord was at the center of it all, I couldn’t go wrong. I would have the peace of knowing the two most important men in my life were behind me 100%. When we talked about what we wanted from our children’s education is came down to three basic things:
Reading – If our children could read well, there was no end to the possibilities of what they could learn. Now when I say reading, it is not as simple as reading words on a page. Reading well, meant they would not only be able to pronounce the words on the page, but understand them. In order to do this, we started our children reading at a very young age, about 3 years old. We would sit daily, for short periods of time, teaching them to read basic words and then advancing them at their own pace. As they began to read on their own, we made sure they knew where the Dictionary and Thesaurus were. They were taught to look up words for themselves and learn their meanings. We also steered them toward books that would increase their vocabulary and advance them in their comprehension. After a book was read, would we talk about it. Did they understand the book? Did they understand the message the author was trying to get across?
‘Riting- Good writing skills go far beyond penmanship and the ability to write several paragraphs. We wanted our children to be able to write in such a way, that they not only could get their point across but make it interesting and compelling while doing so. In order to help them learn to write better, we not only give them lessons in grammar and penmanship, we also have creative writing exercises which force them to look at common, every objects in a new light. Previous topics have included trees, cats, birds, the art of cards, and more. Our children have been encouraged to take these basic topics and find a way to make them interesting. They are free to explore all topics at any angle they choose. Cats have been explained not only as household pets with factual information about them, but instead as emotional creatures seeking to give comfort and perhaps at times being snobbish and aloof. Trees are not simply deciduous or evergreen, but as symbols of life and death. If they can learn to make even the most common items appealing and interesting, writing more in-depth papers will be much easier.
Reasoning – I am sure you were all thinking that I was going to write, ‘Rithmetic; weren’t you? Nope! To us, reasoning is the other – and perhaps the most important – skill we wanted our children to learn. All of their education would be for naught, if they didn’t know how to use their minds to think things through and come to logical conclusions about life. Our worldview is not only important to us, but is essential. It is why we do what we do! Our children need to know why they believe what they believe. They need to understand other people’s worldviews and how to break down arguments to their basic principles. They need to be able to assess a situation, make a wise decision, and then know how to act upon it. There are many ways to teach our children how to reason well. We have chosen to teach our children logic, apologetics, and, yes, arithmetic. Logic will teach them to think well, Apologetics to know why they believe what they believe, and Arithmetic to work through basic day-to-day life. Each has a functional purpose and is a necessity. Think logic and apologetics need to wait until high school? Think again! There are great ways to start teaching these now! A couple of great resources are Kids4Truth and Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door. These resources can be used for kids as young as six and seven.
The truth is every education will have “gaps”. There is always going to be a subject that wasn’t covered perfectly or thoroughly. While I am sure there are a number of ways to approach home education, we felt that if these basic areas were taught and taught well, our children would be prepared for life. If our children can read, write and think well; they would be fully capable of doing whatever the Lord called them to. The rest is just details.
“Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.”
~ Proverbs 4:13
Your Turn!: What is your family’s main focus in learning?