Education, whether done at home or in a school, is multifaceted and can follow many different formulas. Unschooling, Charlotte Manson, Waldorf, eclectic, school at home, Robinson are just a few methods. It will be different family to family, child to child, subject to subject. However, there is at least one uniting idea shared by homeschoolers — engagement in life is the best teacher.
Remember back to your public schools day — stuck in the same room with the same people listening to the same teacher drone on about things that may or may not have interested you. You probably heard about lots of ideas but didn’t experience them (unless you rode on the Magic School Bus with Ms Frizzle). I don’t want that for my children. I want to teach them about air pressure, do simple experiments with them, demonstrate how we tame scientific knowledge and use it in ways to benefit us like pressurizing tires, air plane cabins, etc. I want to teach them knowledge isn’t categorized. While we may learn about air pressure in physics, doctors use that knowledge to drive medicine like in treating a collapsed lung.
So here is how I do it:
Birth to 4 years— Everything is school! Learning to walk, talk, obey, hand eye coordination, and imaginative play are school. No formal lessons. We use games, videos, stories, art, and talking to introduce important concepts like pre writing skills, shapes, colors, numbers, vocabulary, science, social studies, and math. We use experience to reinforce these skills! For example, putting toys away teaches organization, grouping, possibly counting, colors, etc. A trip to the grocery store can turn into a color, shape, number, or letter hunt. We can name fruits pand veggies or talk about where our meat and eggs comes from. A trip to the post office can turn into a social studies lesson real quick.
We also be sure to use strong character words like honest, dignity, obedience, responsibility etc so they can get used to hearing them and begin to gain a basal understanding of the words. However, little brains are not capable of much self control or regulation of emotions until after 3.5 years so most behavior regulation is my job. I firmly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so I work hard to ensure my kids are well rested, fed nutritious food at regular intervals, and have very limited access to drinks like juice and soda. It has been my experience that kids who lug a sippy of juice everywhere don’t eat as much since their caloric needs are satisfied by the juice.
Starting on their 4th birthday, they get daily formal lessons. When young (from 4-7 of so), we focus on reading, writing/typing, and math. These lessons are kept short and sweet to fit almost nonexistent attention spans. We also work on skills like calendar, clock, money, and logic skills. These lessons are always reinforced by real experiences like using money to buy something all by themselves so the children can see the usefulness of what they are learning.
During this time, we also start character training. We create our own definitions of character traits, define their opposites, show their relations to other character traits, and draw up construction paper poster for our wall!
Around 8 or whenever the are strong independent readers, we add in science, social studies, cooking, and anything else they are interested in. Connor has dabbled in Spanish and computer programming.
However, these are not always taught as separate subjects. We may combine subjects or work on a project that incorporates several. For instance, we may choose to answer “why do evergreens not lose their leaves?” Well, we start by asking what do we know? Brainstorming a few things on paper shows we know more than what we first realize (writing). Then we READ about it. We may also watch videos or seek out graphics to understand better, strengthening our research skills and logic. Then we would WRITE and revise (spelling, grammar, vocabulary) an essay. We practiced several skills while working on one project which reinforces the idea that knowledge doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Each skill set is important in all aspects of life; never do you only use grammar or reading when working so I hesitate to only teach one subject at a time.
That’s as far as we are now. We try to be flexible and follow the child’s interest. But as our children get older, we will try new ideas and methods, I am sure. We are also open to sending them to school once they reach a certain age and maturity level if they want. So far, it hasn’t really been an issue.