I received this email and I believe it touches the questions that many mums ask as they start out thinking about homeschooling.

Question – Hi Belinda, my wife said that she believes that it is important that a child should go to school and get the foundations of Reception first, before we consider home schooling our 5 year old son, what do you think? and what foundational stuff is she talking about? I think she would love a check list of all the things you need get thru in a year of say reception and simply do them and then tickem off. Is it that easy?

blessings CY, South Australia

My Answer:
I understand your wife’s mindset that there are set things that our children need to know at set times – this is how the institutions work, and since we all went through institutionalised education, that is how we think. But, we can look at it another way. I believe that each child is created unique, with unique wiring; unique giftings and abilities. When we lock everyone in one block, according to age (as in school classes or check lists) we often get developmental frustration – a child has mastered a particular skill, but isn’t allowed to do it just yet, or move on because no-one else is, which results in frustration for the child. Or a child is seen to be not achieving because he is not doing exactly what everyone else is doing, which results in frustration as well. So though I may use developmental lists as a guide, I do not follow them strictly.

There are such lists available. I personally would recommend Robyn Sampson’s What Your Child needs to Know When, from Heart of Wisdom, but I would use it with discernment and flexibility always understanding your whole child.

Foundational skills vary according to school, state, or country so they are not really as set in stone as we are made to feel. The question isn’t really is there such a list, and what is on it – the real question is “Can parents teach those things?” I believe that you can. You can encourage your child’s hand-eye co-ordination, their gross and fine motor skills, how to write their name and memorise a Bible verse. You can teach them to recognise letters, to speak in whole sentences and ask proper questions. You can teach them to know their colours, their shapes, and their numbers. You can teach them to observe the world around them and wonder at God’s creation. I would even hazard a guess that your 5yo can do these things already – who taught him?

When writing learning schedules for my children I prefer to look at the whole child and see that these ‘academic’ goals in terms of the whole, bigger picture. Relationship skills (both with God and man), responsibility skills (chores) and personal development (manners, grooming, confidence in public etc) in my mind, are more important, and provide the framework for any math, language arts and science in years to come.

You can read more about the Scope and Sequence for Discipleship Homeschool for an Discipleship Homeschool.

As you will see in the developmental chart that the first stage is Relationships and Character. I believe that moral training is the foundation for all further learning so it is important that these things are well established in our children’s lives. Though this chart is progressive there is also an overlapping aspect as well. Children do not grow according to my lists! The purpose of this chart is more to guide the parent’s heart – when we find ourselves in a situation where we have to choose between a season of obedience training (for example) and science lessons we can be assured that character needs to come first. This is the season for character building – science will come later!

And as for your last question – is it as easy as ticking off a list? No, it is never that easy! Our children learn these foundational skills as they build relationships with everyday life and activities. The parent needs to be aware of what things they want to teach but rarely do we teach only one thing at a time. I have found that as I focus on one thing (planned lesson), at the end of the season of lessons I stand back and I see that they have developed in other areas as well. For example, as we work on understanding and using maps, I see that they have increased not only in geography, but also in some math and drawing skills. As we focus on the character trait of diligence we find we have also covered obedience and attentiveness. Learning is never linear.

Relational Based Activities is an article that sets out clearly the types of family based activities where these foundational skills are easily learnt, with or without set curriculum. There are resources out there to help parents teach these foundational skills though I would recommend this article, 10 Things to do with your Children before the Age of 10 by Laurie Bluedorn as a starting point, I have referred back to this article many times over the years.

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