The top reason for our family, and many others, to homeschool our children was to have the freedom to teach them the principles, precepts, and applied practical living out of our faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord takes our entire lifetime to teach us what He wants to, to mold us into the image of Christ. Our course is not finished in a month or a year, but a lifetime. Daily instruction in any matter is bits and pieces at the time, according to the maturity of the student and the subject matter. Isaiah 28:10 states,
All through any day are opportunities to teach about our faith in God and His word. The main reason for learning to read is to be able to read that word for oneself. The apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy, his younger brother in Christ, states,
Have your children memorise Scripture also. Paul to Timothy again:
Each child is a gift, a reward, an heritage from thrice-holy God, and for Christian parents our duty is to teach those children all that we know about Him from their birth until they leave the nest…and beyond when opportunities arise.
Secondly, there is no teacher on the face of the earth who loves your children as much as you parents do, and who always has their best interests in mind.
Third, at home, there are no foolish peers to influence the heart and mind of your equally foolish child, as there are in school settings. His siblings and parents are who he sees and interacts with most of the time. Through visits to grandparents and other family members, older neighbors, members of your church, interaction with other families with children of all ages, your child learns to be comfortable chatting with people of every generation, and doesn’t have the pack mentality of those who live their lives five days a week, 4-6 hours a day, with their age mates, with very little one-on-one interaction with the classroom teacher. Peer pressure is kept to a minimum.
There will be tons of opportunities for pursuing interests and hobbies. Usually in communities there will be a homeschool group or two to offer support and activities. I just noticed that the Extension Office in my county has 4-H for homeschoolers. My older grandchildren took lessons at their church (which amazingly is comprised of ALL homeschooling families) the last quarter before Summer just once a week in guitar, water colour painting, Spanish, and sign language. Two each. There are music lessons to be taken. Older boys could learn useful skills such as plumbing, carpentry, electrical, animal husbandry, mechanics, etc, etc, from professionals in those fields. The list is endless and varied according to the interests of each child and family. Daddies have skills to pass on to the children and those skills are mostly, though obviously not exclusively, around the home and shop. I would only warn that you don’t overload your “extracurricular schedule” and wear Mother and children down. Too much activity is worse than none at all. And you cannot create a love for home if you’re not at home.
I leave you with a few little quotes on the topic:
“Homeschooling isn't an experiment. People have been learning at home for thousands of years. Government schooling is the experiment, and it's not going well.” - Anon
"Even a parent who is not a superior teacher will excel over a state school, for the secret lies not in the skill of the teacher, but rather in the one on one interaction, the absence of all the state school propaganda, and God's consonantal family blessings." - Gene Long
If you can read, write, and do simple math, you’re all set! Keep it simple to begin with as to book work. You are NOT competing with public or private classroom studies. Three subjects a day to master the basics is fine. A couple of hours in the morning should be sufficient for “bookwork” - less than that for young children. Then they are free to pursue other interests and help with housework or yard work, etc. They need to know that it is a privilege to be homeschooled, and that all the family must work together to keep things organised and running relatively smoothly.
There are tons of materials to aid you if your family has decided to homeschool your children. It has been forty years since we began our journey, and more than 20 since we finished, so I have nothing specific to recommend as far as textbooks are concerned. It was only several years after we started that ABeka or Bob Jones University would make their curriculum available to homeschoolers, and those were the two main offerings for a while. A friend recommends material from the Bluedorns, and here is a link to a little review of some of what they offer. We used Saxon math for several years and really liked it. There are probably hundreds of choices. As I said, and I add a PLEEEEASE... keep it simple.
Let me add that you have many choices of textbooks. You WILL have to make your own decisions about what you think best for each child, and you WILL be disappointed in some of your purchases through the years, but you WILL really like some of your choices.
And be thankful that you have cell phones and the internet to aid in your search!
Your youngest children you can teach simple math to by having them count dried beans or small stones or canning jar lids or whatever you can easily lay your hands on. You can teach the child to write the numbers on a piece of notebook paper as you teach them to add and subtract. Division and fractions? Cut up an apple or orange. When you let your children come along beside you to bake, you can find fractions in the measurements. Measuring cups and spoons are perfect for that. Keep a small white board handy. You’re teaching ALL the time.
Reading good books aloud to your children will naturally increase their vocabulary and interests. You can make a list of spelling words from anywhere you want…the current book you’re reading aloud…recipes…an old letter from an ancestor…the sky’s the limit here, folks! I’m sure there are spelling, phonics, grammar, etc, workbooks to use if you want to.
I’ll touch just a bit here on unit studies. I don’t have a formal definition but if you take ONE subject and expand it into SEVERAL subjects to study, that is a unit study. The first “for instance” from our own experience that comes to my mind is William Tell.
I wanted to formally introduce my little boys, then about six and four, to classical music, so I chose Rossini’s ‘William Tell Overture’ for a beginning. (I can see them now galloping all over the house to the finale! Their enthusiasm knew no bounds! I digress.) What all can you study with this one topic? Well, there’s the story of William Tell himself, a short explanation of folklore vs historical fact, and how God always knows the truth about EVERYTHING even when we don’t! "Where did Mr. Tell live?" brings in geography, using a large world map which you will sooner or later have on a wall somewhere in your house, and/or a globe. And what about the Swiss people and their government and the Alps, and Rossini himself, his country, his history, his gifts and interests from God? Well, my people, the list is limited only by your imagination and creativity. The ripples in the pond keep a’going for a long time!
A second idea involves music also. Another classical piece that introduces children to the different sounds of instruments in an orchestra is ‘Peter and the Wolf’ by Prokofiev. I think our tape (Yes, cassette tape. We’re THAT old!) featured Peter Ustinov as the narrator. We were also blessed in our town to have a good orchestra that once upon a time had a little show and tell of instruments before some of their concerts. At any rate, this is another fun piece of classical music.
And then the unit study mindset kicks in and…Russia…Prokofiev…Ustinov…geography…topography…a bit of history…
This is enough for now. More later Lord willing.
The scope of the subject of homeschooling is so broad that it is hard to know how and where to even begin an article, so I’ll open with how our family’s journey commenced in 1982.
In the Fall of that year our sons, Sean and Finn, were four and two. We had enrolled Sean in a K-4 program at a local Christian school. Three days a week, three hours a day. The year before, he had attended the same school, K-3, two days a week, three hours each day. The earlier, the better, was my husband’s and my way of thinking at that time.
One of those mornings, while Sean was at school, the two-year-old Finn was playing, and I was ironing and listening to Dr. James Dobson’s radio program with his guest Dr. Raymond Moore, of whom I’d never heard, but who was a strong homeschool advocate, author of “Better Late than Early,” “Home Grown Kids,” and several other books on the general topic.
Everything Dr. Moore said made perfect sense, and that day I knew that’s what we needed to do! My husband Big Sean was more cautious, but heard me out, was fine with pulling Sean out of the K-4 program, allowed me to buy the first book mentioned, and six months later he and I went over to Brunswick, Georgia, to hear Dr. Moore speak in person on this homeschooling thing! After that, Big Sean said, only somewhat reluctantly, “OK. You can teach Sean at home for Kindergarten, but that’s all.” It was a one-year-at-a-time thing until the end of Sean’s third year of homeschool, when his daddy saw that it was a very good thing for us all in many ways, and we continued until both boys were through with high school studies.
Big Sean and I were, like our peers, products of local public schools. His parents were college-educated, as were Big Sean and his brothers. His mother taught in a public school until she married. My mother graduated from high school and my daddy went through the 6th grade. Both were readers. I graduated from high school and attended a local college for exactly two quarters, when I thought, “Good grief. I am miserable and this is ridiculous. I do NOT want to be here. I’ll just continue my little office job until I get married.” So I did. That’s all I ever wanted to do, be a wife and mother and keeper at home, which is the highest calling for a woman, according to Scripture.
I had never heard of teaching your children at home, unless it was in the context of what the Amish or Mennonites did. It was not a “thing” in those days. At first I used workbooks from the local dime store for Sean to begin learning to write and do easy arithmetic, etc, but there are dozens of things to learn just around a suburban house and yard. Everything in life can be a learning experience and wisdom and knowledge do not come from “official” textbooks and tablets.
Next article will be some of our reasons for teaching our children at home along with a few practical details regarding books, teachable moments, unit studies, and more.
Part 2 coming soon!
As an avid reader and bibliophile I obviously think books are important. Building a library is a lifelong project, and a long life brings about a problem…where to build more shelves!
In this article I wanted to encourage the giving of well-illustrated books to the children in our lives. Children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, children of friends, etc.
I like books written long ago by our own folk. Preferably before about 1950, though obviously not exclusively. My favourite illustrator is N. C. Wyeth, and there is a host of others to choose from. The three books I use for examples for this article were illustrated by Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, and Maurice and Edward Detmold. These are some that I read to my grandchildren when they’re here at my house. There are hundreds and hundreds of others to be found “out there.”
There’s nothing much like having children cuddled around you, listening to a new-to-them book or an old favourite read by someone who loves them. Illustrated with beautiful, exciting, and sometimes scary ! (in the case of Rackham) artwork. Making lifelong memories. One of my own best memories is reading to my little boys long after they could read on their own, and reaching the end of a chapter, closing the book and saying, “We’ll read some more later on,” and their piping up, “No Ma! Wead! Wead! Pleeeease!” (It took them both a good while to be able to pronounce their “Rs.”) And most times I’d read on.
Just a few easy places from which to order are Amazon, Abebooks, and a new online store highly recommended recently by a friend, Bookteria. Please feel free to share other sources that you know about.
Enjoy the hunt and the giving!
Katie O'Neal is a Georgia native living in the Heart of Dixie. She is a Christian, a widow, a mother, and a grandmother. She was a homeschool mama in the 80s and 90s, and is currently a homeschool grandma. She is rabidly in love with her immediate family, her blood kin, and her Southern folk and their history, culture, and future. She has been a reader from childhood. She is an agrarian-minded homemaker, and more…but this’ll do for now.