How to Homeschool
There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. Before beginning, I always advise families to read as much as they can to familiarize themselves with the popular homeschool philosophies. I used the Charlotte Mason approach.
I like the Charlotte Mason approach, because it is gentle and well-rounded. It's inexpensive and doesn't take a lot of preparation. I feel it keeps education in perspective, remembering the true purpose of education, which is to develop character and prepare one for their life's mission and eternity. I like that it's a balanced approach, leaving time for other important activities such as service, hobbies, chores, handicrafts, music lessons, work, and other interests. Students learn independence and an appreciation for all that is virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy. It works well whether your family is large or small, and encourages family unity.
Many of those who are new to the idea of homeschooling wonder how they could possibly do it all! That is why I thought I would share how I was able to keep homeschooling simple and not overwhelming for Mom. If you have several children homeschooling and perhaps some preschoolers as well, it will be even more beneficial to you to have as little daily preparation as possible and to help your students to be as independent as possible. This method is ideal for you!
Once a year, during the early summer, I set aside one entire day to plan out our homeschool goals for the coming year. I decided the topics that I would like to focus on for that year. For instance, when my youngest was about 10 we started studying world history. We started at the beginning and studied civilizations in chronological order. We spent months on each of the big civilizations like Egypt, Greece, and Rome—it took us almost two years to get from the beginning through medieval times. Instead of textbooks, we used original sources, biographies, historical fiction, field trips, websites, and TV or films.
Once I decided what we are going to study, I look around the house to see what materials we already have available. After I had homeschooled for years, I had a nice home library. If you are new to homeschooling, you will need to buy a few things and/or visit the library frequently. Be selective in what you purchase. Many families that are new to homeschooling spend a lot of money on things they never use! In fact, I recommend not spending a lot of time browsing catalogs because they inevitably make everything look essential. Remember that the creators of the catalog make their living on what you buy so they want to make everything look appealing. (See also Choosing Curriculum).
I put the books we plan to use for the entire year on our homeschool shelf. It consists of a math textbook for each child, a few "composition" notebooks, and the topical study books we will be using this year. These include biographies, historical documents, historical fiction, literature, non-fiction books and tapes, movies, etc. Keeping everything in one place will help you remember the items you have and your children won't have to look around to find what they need.
All year I keep my eyes open for websites, PBS programs, field trips and anything related to the subjects we are studying. I have created for her a list of websites which she can use during school hours. They include math drills, virtual field trips, geography games, vocabulary sites, and so on. All of the links can be found on the curriculum helps links on the menu at the top of the page. Sometimes we play the educational games together. If you have several children, you can let one do online activities while you are helping another.
I don't spend a lot of time planning out lessons. Instead I use a student planner that I created myself (using Word). It has spaces for each subject we are currently studying, plus Young Women Personal Progress goals my daughter is working on (my son had Scouting goals), and household chores. I take about 15 minutes each weekend to fill in the next week's assignments which mostly consists of reading X number of pages and writing a narration (she may have several of these each day for various subjects), watching a certain video, doing a certain math lesson, and so on. I go over the lesson from the math book with my child and leave her to do it alone. I check it later and we do corrections together. For handwriting practice, we do copywork which I prepare once a week (and send it out by email for others who want to use it too). I assign different chores each day. She decides on the Personal Progress goals and fills it in. My daughter knows her daily routine and does almost all of her work independently and checks off what she has done in the planner.
Experiences are part of a liberal education. I took my children to dozens of museums and historical sites from the time they were very young. We've chosen to live in an area that has many wonderful cultural resources, and consider ourselves fortunate to have that choice. We frequently go to concerts, museums, nature centers, historical sites, zoos, and other educational places. This makes learning more fun and makes it real. We also love to watch travel shows! You can learn geography, art, history, music, current events, language and more from them.
Vacations are also wonderful learning opportunities. When my children were young, we had the fortunate opportunity to live overseas for 5 years. We were able to include many European museums in our vacation plans. When we had only 3 days in Paris, I was determined to visit the Louvre although my oldest child was only four years old. To accomplish this, I prepared my children ahead of time by showing them pictures of some of the art I thought we would see. When we got to the Louvre, I looked at the museum map and found the 8 pieces of art I had to see. I told my children it was like a scavenger hunt. They were to tell me when they saw each sculpture or painting we had seen at home. Unfortunately the Raphael gallery was closed so we only got to see 6 of the 8 pieces, but my little ones recognized all 6 famous works of art. You should have seen the stares we got when my 2 year old began screaming "There's the Mona Lisa!" when we walked into the room with the Mona Lisa! (By the way, she is 25 now and still loves great art.)
Before we visited Italy, I read The Agony and the Ecstasy, so I had to see all the works by Michelangelo in the country! I showed my children pictures of many of his great works including paintings, sculpture and architecture. Then we went to the Uffizi and the Academia, and other places to see specific pieces. We visited several old churches that held some of Michelangelo's most beautiful pieces. We went to the Vatican Museums, but we couldn't go alone as we usually did—they required everyone take the guided tour which took several hours. Amazingly, they let us bring a box of crackers and the children sat in their stroller and ate them during much of the tour! But again they were very excited to see the "Judgment Day" by Michelangelo on the wall, and of course, the beautiful Sistine ceiling because they were familiar with those from our study at home.
Most homeschoolers are also involved in outside enrichment activities that can be considered part of "school." These can be music lessons, sports, theater, scouting, dance, art, and so on. For our family, these activities change often, but have included many outside classes including pottery, swimming, volleyball, tennis, kickboxing, dance, musical theater, voice, chess, cartooning, drawing, and more. One daughter learned to make raffia baskets from the Internet. All of my children had piano lessons and one was in a performing vocal group. Two of my children were on competitive swim teams. We also belonged to a local homeschool support group that had educational field trips including such things as docent led hikes, museums, plays and concerts, roller skating, bowling, visits to local businesses, tide pools, vessels, historical sites, and so on. Visiting local sites like these and discussing them is part of our education without lesson plans.
I don't think my way is the "one true way" to homeschool. There is no "one size fits all!" But I do believe that many homeschoolers go overboard and thus get burned out, wasting a lot of time and money in the process. It pays to take time to plan and study various methods and philosophies before you start. Keeping the schedule simple and depending on the Lord for divine guidance will make your homeschooling adventure successful!
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