There is so much good stuff to teach our kids or to get them involved with – we really need to know what our priorities are: what is important for our family, and what is important for each individual child. And that will be different for each family. As I come to the end of our 20 years of homeschooling, I am reflecting on lots of different aspects and sharing in a series called: 20 Years of Homeschooling Experience – Reflecting on our Story. Today I’m sharing the best homeschool lessons I taught my kids.
The Best Homeschool Lessons I Taught my Kids
–The ability to learn from books
reading good books is not enough – we have to actually learn from them. I taught my kids that reading a book was like having a conversation with either the characters or the author (depending on the type of book you were reading). When we talk with someone, when we are engaged with their story or expertise even though we are attentive and listening carefully, we also formulate questions to dig deeper. We can do that with reading a book too.
Learning from a book is more than a comprehension skill – it is about
- asking questions
- connecting the dots with other experiences and knowledge
- thinking about what is being said
I am a touch typist – and so this started as an obvious skill to pass onto my children. But in hindsight it has had many benefits. It has helped my child with learning difficulties and muscle tone issues be able to write – he could write his thoughts and assignments far better typing than holding a pen. And it has helped my son in University as he was able to adapt to longer assignments quickly as he was already a fast touch typist. He claims this is one of the best things I taught him.
I had a few guidelines that I followed:
- limited keyboard use until they were touch typing (they used a mouse but rarely a keyboard)
- as soon as they were familiar with reading they learnt to type (around 6yo)
- learning to type was a repetative, drill like skill – it didn’t have to be fun
- they had to learn the correct position of fingers and sitting in a chair properly
I used a CD Rom to teach my kids – these days there are free programmes online. Make sure any programme you choose teaches the kids the correct finger positions – as this is the key! 10 minutes a day and they’ll soon have it and only get faster.
–Love of learning
This is a benchmark for many homeschool families – and it can get tossed around without us really knowing what we are talking about. To me, I wanted my kids to be aware of the world around them, to want to grow in knowledge and skills, to have the skills to learn whatever they wanted or needed. I wanted them to enjoy their ‘school’ years – not to just have fun but to be engaged with information and knowledge.
The biggest tip I can give to encourage a love of learning in your kids is to not be prescribed about what they have to learn and how they have to learn it. By letting your kids learn things that they are interested in, by discovering their learning styles takes away a lot of the resistance to learning. That being said, as a responsible parent, there was something that my kids had to learn – but these less interesting or engaging subjects didn’t fill their day or overshadow the things they enjoyed.
One of the hardest things we faced in our homeschooling was letting go of an ideal of learning all together. I wanted us to read the same books and peel off to do different activities or assignments to consolidate our learning. But it wasn’t working. My oldest was gifted and my youngest had learning difficulties so working on the same work was very tricky. I had an opportunity to talk to Sally Clarkson at a conference and she said: Let him go – he has to move on (talking about Josh, our oldest). That was a turning point for us.
We still did some things together – but for the majority of the time Josh studied independently. and there came a time when each of my children needed to pursue their studies independently.
The skills they needed and grew in to be able to study / learn independently were:
- read and comprehend non fiction
- write a reflection (what I learnt, what I remembered, what was important)
- ask questions
- research (to find answers)
- manage time and to-do lists
- stay focused and motivated
I wanted our kids to know that God had something to say about every area of life; He wasn’t a God that created and let the creation be – He was, and He wanted to be involved. I really enjoyed Ruth Beechick’s writing as she talked about homeschooling and the Bible in this light too.
We had 1-2 hours of Bible study each day (4 days a week – in Primary school). If you think that is a lot of time – then think about Sunday School: how often do Sunday School teachers wish they had more time!! We had that time. We read the Bible, we discussed truths and how they applied to us – and then we did something to help us remember the lesson. We called this notebooking – and it incorporated our language arts (English: reading, writing, speaking). If the kids were young, they would draw a picture, if they were older, they would write a research paragraph or summary, or report on the topic at hand.
–To think, write, speak
I’ve already alluded to the skills of thinking, writing and speaking but I want to list this as a separate good thing I taught my kids.
A quote i found early on in our homeschool years was:
Reading maketh a full man,
Conference a ready man,
Writing an exact man.
This is one of the quotes that shaped the tools we used to learn. We read, we talked, we wrote.
As our children grew older – and moved into more independent learning – one of the tools we started to use more was to talk about what they were learning around the dinner table. This way others could either learn from what was being said, or maybe someone could contribute something they knew and benefit us all.
When we saw reading – speaking – writing as a core learning tool it meant learning could happen anywhere about anything at anytime.
20 years of Homeschooling Experience – Reflecting on our Story
This is part of a series of homeschooling reflections that I am writing in celebration of the end of our homeschool journey. After 20 years all four of our children are finished their 12 years of school – and are moving onto either adult learning situations or work.
Why we Started Homeschooling and Why we Kept Going: After 20 years of homeschooling I reflect back on why did we started homeschooling and why we kept going.
Benefits of Homeschooling: The benefits of homeshooling are as diverse as the reasons you would homeschool – this is my top list after 20 years of experience.