My hope is that these 10 things will encourage you to stick with what you are doing – or if things aren’t working so well for you, then consider one of these ideas and start making some changes. Feel free to email me and talk about any changes you think you might need to make.
If I were to Homeschool today I would still:
This is a principle that is foundational to everything I do. People are important. And whatever we do – whether it is household chores, homeschooling, grocery shopping or going to a homeschool co-op the relationships within our family, and then the relationships outside of the family are more important than any activity or routine. This doesn’t mean that we just live a social life and forget the responsibilities – no, it means that we don’t go about our responsibilities in a way that hurts relationships, and we stop or delay any activity if relationships aren’t right.
This mindset slows me down – because rush and busy puts strain on relationships. It makes me very careful about what I add to my day because relationships need time. It makes me very honest when I have to apologise in order to fix relationships or when I have to cancel or be late because we’ve had to fix a relationship within our home.
But it means we have time and emotional strength to invest in the lives of those we love and live with.
2–Learn the skill and then use the skill to learn
This is an adaption of a Ruth Beechick principle. She taught: Learn to read and then read to learn. She didn’t keep on with teaching the skill for skill sake once it was mastered enough to use it. As you use it you fine tune it and master it so you are learning more – but because it has a practical use not because of formal lessons.
I took this principle and applied to to anything that I wanted to teach my kids that was practical. We learnt to read so we could read to learn.
We learnt to write, so we could communicate our learning.
We learnt to do math, so we could use math in our projects.
We learnt computer skills so we could use the computer.
The other benefit of this teaching principle was that we had time for other subjects. Instead of spending a lot of time on language arts (English) we learnt the basics – and then used it in our Bible study, our history study our science study, our projects. The more we used, the more we learnt.
3–Learn together as a family until they became an independent learner
As a mum of 4 kids, all with their unique strengths and struggles, I had to find a way to give the best education with the resources I had available. And by resources I don’t just mean money to buy books – but my time, energy, focus, enthusiasm. So by keeping everyone together until they could be independent learners reduced how many different ways I was being stretched.
In my ‘Scope and Sequence’ I list the following
- A love of learning
- Study skills
- Independent learner
These four things are sequential: When our children learn character – such as self control, respect, obedience (age appropriately) then they can focus and learn. They can learn about the world around them – and that can develop a love of learning. A love of learning is a desire to know more, a thirst to grow. But without know how to study, they will be limited in how much they can go forward independently. And forthly, being an independent learner isn’t just about being able to study by themselves, but it is about taking ownership and responsibility for what you learn and do with that knowledge.
We studied the first three together and used general knowledge as our context. Once each child could study independently then they started to narrow their study focus to a field that they were more interested in. Josh studied history from a war/political power perspective. Jess studied history from a people perspective. Nomi studied it from a people and in particular arts perspective. Daniel wanted a big picture overview.
By keeping the kids all together, learning together, but at their own level, meant I didn’t have to stretch myself to different curriculum and different lessons. Once they were independent then I became more a supervisor rather than a teacher so it was less demanding.
4–Give plenty of time to pursue interests and talents
Generally speaking our morning was spent studying (Bible study, Character study, 3Rs & Typing, and General knowledge) and the afternoons were spent focused on the kids personal interests and talents. How long they had to focus on a hobby or project changed as they grew older and more able to focus without supervision.
We called this time “Productive Free Time”.
- Productive – they had to be intentional and purposeful.
- Free – it was their choice
- Time – it was for a set length of time
Over the years the children chose a variety of different activities: music, sewing, cricket, model trains, blogging, photography, recycled crafts, painting, pottery, reading, board games, lego, writing, cooking.
Giving them a set time to do these activities gave value to them. This was not just a hobby – this was a part of their education. Each of my children have pursued further education and possibly careers based on the skills and passions that they started to explore in this Productive Free Time.
5–Focus on Character education
I define character as the quality of our response to people or circumstances (based on our moral values). As a parent we need to teach our children moral values, and what they look like in life. This is character education. Every month we would have a particular character trait that we would learn about – we would learn what it meant and what it looked life in our family life. We spent a month focusing on one trait because I find it takes that long to get something from our head to our hearts to our hands – and character isn’t a head knowledge thing, it is our actions.
Read more: How to Teach Character to your kids
6–Spend a significant amount of time in Bible study with my kids
The first few hours of our homeschool morning was spent studying the Bible together. We would read a portion of the Bible (mostly in a narrated chronological Bible) and then we would discuss the story and the heart lesson to be learnt. Then each student would be required to record the lesson in some way.
Recording a lesson – recording what you’ve learnt could be done in any number of ways.
- Sunday School worksheets/paper craft type of activities.
- Oral narrations and copywriting (Charlotte Mason style).
- Written narrations, as well as reflective journals, or opinion pieces
- Researched paragraphs, or essays or blogs
- Pieces of art
How the children communicated what they learnt wasn’t as important as the fact that they had engaged with God’s word.
I often felt overwhelmed by the things other homeschoolers were doing that we were just not getting to but I had to realise that spending this solid 1-2 hours on learning God’s word meant that that time couldn’t be spent on other things. I had to be at peace that and stop comparing!
People often ask how we spent that much time – with young kids – but it wasn’t like an adult Bible study – it was more like Sunday school every day – it was interactive and engaging.
7–Teach them to type and use computers
In my blog post, Best Homeschool Lessons I taught my Kids – Joshua said that typing was one of his top 5 things I taught. And I would have to agree with him!!
Mobile devices are giving our kids a text-type thumb action, some are even fast at it. And I will admit it is a life skill that will help kids communicate today. But – in the workplace the keyboard still is the tool to be able to use.
Unless your child is into programming (and programming basics is becoming a norm that I would probably teach if my kids were in primary school now), but unless your child wants to pursue that more specifically, the computer skills that kids need today are:
- Word processing
- Presentation software
- Video making (nothing flash – just the basics)
- Internet savvy
Computers and the internet are here to stay and our kids need to be comfortable with both by the time they leave school (if not before).
Our kids learnt to type as soon as they could read (and to be honest, Daniel was touch typing before he was reading fluently). They had to create one computer generated written piece a week (at least) and by middle highschool most of their final work was done on a computer.
This has prepared them well for adult learning and the workplace.
8–Use books – lots of books, lots of living books
Though all my children aren’t avid readers books played a big part of their education. Early in our homeschool journey I discovered Five in a Row – a literature based unit study approach to general knowledge. It didn’t take long for me to start seeing lessons in any book we read – picture book or chapter book. Charlotte Mason talks about Living Books – books that reflect real life.
9–Talk about life and learning around the table
As I reflect back on the many experiences and activities the helped educate our kids I think the highlight for me is our dinner time conversations. These were times we connected with each other, shared what we were learning, and learnt from each other. We would discuss anything and everything from issues of faith, to current affairs, to childhood memories and stories of the kids as babies, to poetry or warfare. Some conversations were serious and some were just rediculously fun – some were heart focused – some about head knowledge – some were prompted by me intentionally bringing a topic to the table, other times conversation just flowed because we enjoyed each other’s company.
Talking around the table had to be something more than – ‘How was school today?’ because we spent all day together, often learning the same things as each other. Dinner conversation was a time where we would learn conversation skills and manners, we would learn from each other, and we would have fun together.
10–Take 30 minutes a day for rest and recreation (self care)
To be honest – when my kids were little, I took 1 hour!! It was a bit tricky to find the time when there was a baby or toddler in the house as their nap times didn’t always match the older kids, but as soon as feasible I worked towards everyone having 1 hour nap or quiet time at the same time – and this was my time to rest and recharge. I cannot say how important this was.
I generally used this time for reading or craft. Never for housework. It was a time where I could just relax.
Of course I didn’t get to have this 100% without a fail – but our family routine was characterised by giving me this break. I encourage all mums to teach and train their kids to have room time – it is good for the kids, they learn to focus and play without distraction, but it is very good for mum as she gets the emotional and physical break that will restore her too.
Read: Mothers – Make your Time Out Happen