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I’ve been homeschooling my kids for the last two decades. The years gathered around our homeschool table have been some of the most enriching and memorable times.
After two decades as a homeschool parent, I could write volumes about homeschool life.
It’s a daunting task, but doable and rewarding.
Fostering an atmosphere of learning is much like cultivating a lifestyle of healthy living.
A soulful education feeds the mind of what is good so that students can use knowledge to serve in noble and righteous ways.
Whereas the practice of soulful healthy living nourishes and strengthens the body to serve God, and others form a place of health and wholeness.
Perhaps you are reading this article because you suddenly find yourself thrust into the position of educating your child at home.
It’s okay to admit that you never intended to join the ranks of millions of parents across the nation who teach their kids at home. Parents homeschool for a myriad of reasons.
A sick child, a cross country move mid-year, natural disaster, spiritual conviction, the list of reasons are long.
How you arrived at the homeschooling doorstep does not matter.
It doesn’t matter how long you plan to keep your kids at home. Congratulations for trying it out and welcome to the world of homeschooling.
Let’s make your homeschool experience, however long it may be, uncomplicated, purposeful, and soulful.
Through this homeschool endeavor, you are cultivating a lifestyle of learning that doesn’t stop when the school day ends.
“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life—is perhaps the most complete and adequate definition of education we possess.”Charlotte Mason, Educator
You don’t have to order a boxed curriculum, at least not at this point, or spend a ton of money on textbooks. Right now, the important matter is to develop a daily rhythm that flows with your family.
Before we go any further, let’s dispel a few myths about homeschooling.
You are the expert when it comes to your child.
You do not need a degree in education to educate your kids successfully at home. Without realizing it, most parents have already dipped their toe in the puddle of home education.
If you check your child’s essays for clarity and grammar, discuss his history assignment during dinner, or drill math facts, you are educating your child at home.
You will not create a social misfit.
Now it is time to roll up your sleeves and get started with the job in front of you.
The key is to create an educational environment where learning takes place all of the time. For now, it will help immensely to have a blueprint to follow.
Notice how I said blueprint, not curriculum. Until you decide to wade waist-high in the homeschool life, keep it simple, intentional, and soulful.
A blueprint leaves room for changes. As you navigate this unchartered territory, you will discover the freedom to modify the learning plan that suits your child’s needs and interests.
Design a simple and soulful blueprint for homeschooling.
Your blueprint will contain some areas that rarely change. Then other areas will alter according to your child’s age, learning style, or family schedule.
For learning to take place, it doesn’t have to include a worksheet. Often, worksheets confine and constrict the imagination and inhibit questioning.
Create a space for learning.
Claim a central learning space, most likely the kitchen or dining room table. Learning can take place on the couch, but you will want a place where kids can spread out.
Surrender a part of your day for school.
For every homeschool parent, this is the most difficult part of the journey. A huge chunk of your day no longer belongs to just you. At first, it will feel like a gaping wound.
Watching your family design a new rhythm that includes unhurried time together to laugh and talk heals the wound of lost personal time.
Prepare to spend a chunk of the day involved in homeschooling, which means your housework will suffer.
Crayons and construction paper will litter your floors. Dishes and laundry may pile up. You will find playdough in cracks and crevices you never thought possible.
It’s okay because you are living in the moment with the people you love.
How to get started homeschooling
Compile a portfolio for each subject.
You may be the only person to view this notebook, but it serves as a visual showcase of the education that takes place at home.
One way to organize the portfolio is to use a 3-ring binder for each subject.
Spiritual training begins at breakfast.
My experience is that starting the day with family devotions anchors the day.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a simple yet meaningful practice to start at any age.
It instills the importance of starting your day off with God at the center.
Mastering math at home.
The goal for interim or reluctant homeschool parents is to continue to build a strong mathematical foundation.
Once you move beyond the memorization of math facts, you can individualize math time. It’s fun to do math facts together. But when you home educate multiple kids that are at varying skill levels, it can get tricky doing en masse.
Numerous companies provide comprehensive math programs. Saxon, Math-U-See, Singapore Math, A Beka, Teaching Textbooks, are just a few that I’ve either used or reviewed.
All of these companies offer a free placement test, so take advantage of that benefit. Also, if your homeschooling is a temporary situation, some of these companies offer free printable worksheets.
Get to know the scientists.
There’s no shortage of boring basic science textbooks. Too often, the stilted writing extinguishes any hope of igniting interest in the subject.
For younger students, reading well-written and engaging books about scientists, the animal kingdom, plant kingdom, human body, the universe whets the appetite of a budding scientist.
After reading about a science topic, students can draw a picture of what you read then answer open-ended questions like “Does the animal have a backbone?” “Where does the animal live?” “Describe the habitat.”
You may find that a particular topic sparks an interest, and if that happens, then go deeper into your reading. Find other books about the subject.
Again, if you are home educating various grades, then middle school and high school would require more rigorous materials. You could still avoid mundane textbooks by reading original works by great scientists.
Pioneer homeschooling parent Jessie Wise and writer-homeschooling parent Susan Wise Bauer provide a comprehensive list of scientists in their book The Well-Trained Mind
Read through history, geography, and literature.
Are you wondering where to begin on the timeline? Start at the beginning and work your way forward. By selecting the right books, yes, you can cover three subjects exhaustively.
The idea is to select books on the timeline that tell a story about historical events in the world. Assuming that you start in the beginning with Creation and Ancient Civilizations, your task is to locate historical fiction books within that period of time.
After spending some time reading a book, ask your student the four basic questions engaged readers ask, according to Mortimer and Van Doren’s How to Read a Book:
- What is the book (passage) about as a whole? Discover the theme, and how the author develops this theme.
- What is being said in detail, and how? Main ideas, details that outline the theme.
- Is this book true, in whole or part?
- What of it? Why does the author think it is important to know these things?
Of course, these questions are only to get you started. You can relax and just read aloud. It’s been my experience that captivating books arouse curiosity which leads to students asking questions.
At the same time, your student can design a timeline to coincide with your reading.
Consider nature Journaling.
Nature journaling helps kids to understand better and appreciate the world in which they live. Listening to the hum of bees or observing the patterns in the clouds nurture a child’s curiosity about the natural world.
Nature journaling encourages kids to record their observations, questions, and reflections into a sketchbook.
American naturalist-writer, John Hay says “The naturalist wanders with an inquiring eye, pauses, ponders, notes the bloom of a prairie flower.”
Nature walks evoke a desire to observe and identify the myriad of awe-inspiring life-forms that conjures up gratitude for God’s beautiful handiwork.
The only supplies you need for nature journaling are a blank bound journal and a handful of colored pencils.
Even though my days as a homeschool mom are almost finished, I will continue to nature journal long after our last child graduates.
Get cooking and do other home arts.
As a culture, we like to watch food shows but how much of the baking and browning do we bring from the couch into the kitchen?
Cooking takes courage. Mistakes are inevitable. Messes expected.
Treat cooking as art by creating dishes that your great grandmother would prepare. It’s time well spent in the kitchen with your kids.
Foster a love for fine arts.
The easiest way to foster the love of art is to study great artists. A simple way to add artwork to your school is through picture study and basic art techniques/elements.
Picture study requires the student to observe intently at a painting, or drawing by a master artist.
Then ask open-ended questions about the painting. “What colors are dominant in the painting?” “Does the painting say anything about the time period?”
Depending upon the age of your child, you can record their responses or they can write them down.
There are wonderful resources for parents to teach art techniques and elements (color, texture, etc.)
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., provides free online classes for students.
Studying the great composers introduces students to classical music. It’s a great beginning. Choose a composer, spend some time listening to his music, and explore his life.
There are stacks of biographies about composers written for students. Every time that you spend time reading or listening about a composer, have your student write down what she learned.
Now it’s your turn.
Learning from home doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective. After all, most classrooms rarely function on a level of perfection.
Classical education headmaster David Hicks says, “the teacher’s true competence is not his mastery of a subject, but his ability to provoke the right questions and [in his] peculiar eagerness to explore new subjects and new ideas with his student.”
Here’s Something From Me.
Try these free homeschool printable book report templates to get you started on your homeschool journey.