My favorite subjects to teach are music and history! What fun we have had exploring these subjects over the years. But I have found that it is important to "major on the majors" and "minor on the minors."
There are subjects and then there are tools and skills that are needed to learn all subjects. When we give our children the tools of learning, they can explore every subject to their heart's content.
After homeschooling for 21 years with a sixth, eighth, and eleventh grader still being educated at home, I have found that there are seven things (7 R's) that make a big difference in the success of our family's homeschool. From Kindergarten through twelfth grade, I try to keep these things predominant in my homeschooling: relationships, rhetoric, reading, (w)riting, (a)rithmetic, research, and right living. I weave them in to all that I teach or that our family explores through unit studies. These are not the only subjects in our homeschool curriculum, but they are the ones that get priority.
Lives are changed in the context of relationships! People, including your children, hunger and seek to be loved and understood. The security that comes with healthy relationships allows people to learn and grow, reaching their full potential and destiny.
The most important relationship that your child will ever have is his/her relationship with the Lord. Let your little ones see how much you love the Lord, especially by setting aside time each day to spend in prayer and Bible reading. Be committed to church, tithing, obedience, and serving because you love Jesus with all your heart. Teach your children to have a relationship with Him too!
Children (and adults too!) want to model people they admire and trust, especially if they believe those people have their best interest at heart. When your child enjoys a healthy relationship with you, he/she is more likely to try to imitate your life, as well as attempt to please you! This desire to please parents is present in almost all children, but ebbs away in teenage years if the relationship does not remain strong.
Rhetoric (verbal communication)
Rhetoric refers to communication both written and oral, but I'll use it to refer to verbal communication from casual conversations to formal speeches.
Casual conversation, questions, and answers are the beginning of education for young children. "Why is the sky blue," your toddler asks you and prattles on with more questions. From the time your little ones can talk, engage them in conversation. "Did you like the pretty pictures in the book?" you might ask after you finish reading them a book. "What was your favorite part of our day," you query as you and your toddler set the table. Don't shoo children away--talk to them about everything! Speaking requires thought processes that stimulate intellectual growth! Ask questions and answer them! Put down what you're doing if you need to and give your child undivided attention. But learn to talk with your child as you wash dishes, run errands, and cook dinner.
Before formal speeches, give your children plenty of practice reading the Bible, stories, and poetry aloud. Encourage expression, inflection, and enthusiasm in the presentation. It is a great idea for older siblings to read to younger siblings, especially for the three years after they've learned to read.
Eventually you will graduate to speaking in front of people to formal speeches to debate.
Listening to well-written beautifully illustrated story books make toddlers and pre-schoolers look forward to the day that they will read for themselves. As Christians, what joy there is in reading and obeying the Word of God! No matter what career they choose or lifestyle they live, we all want our children to be Bible readers, understanding everything the Lord has to teach them. Reading is a necessary skill for growing in your walk with the Lord!
Phonics is the method I have used to teach all my children to read (Sing, Spell, Read, and Write) and they have all learned in about a year's time. The goal was to get them reading! My son was less enthusiastic about reading then all his older sisters, so I had to "make him read." I had to search for books he liked. The "Three Cousins Detective" series and "Childhood of Famous Americans" were both series that he enjoyed, so I bought every book I could find in the series.
To foster a love for reading, I allow the children to choose the books the want to read within parameters. I have book lists for various ages (feel free to download these lists: http://joyfulandsuccessfulhomeschooling.com/readinglists.aspx ) that are based on my actual bookshelves.
Reading aloud is fun to do together as a family or with only one child at a time. We love reading aloud and snuggling. Reading and speaking lay the foundation for writing.
Writing concretely, concisely, and graciously is the goal of Understanding Writing, the writing curriculum I have used through the years. Written by a homeschool mom, she stresses writing to glorify God. We have added poetry, stories, journalizing, and other fun writing assignment to our writing lessons over the years.
Reading good writing and expressing yourself clearly through speaking set children up to write well. You need both to lay the foundation a writer needs.
Start with sentences. A sentence has five things. (noun, verb, complete thought, begins with a capital letter, and ends with a period, question mark, or exclamation point) Teach your children to examine their sentences for these five things. Once that is down, help them to write clearly. Teach them to use adjectives and adverbs to express themselves and to avoid clutter words such as very, a lot, and really.
The next step is paragraphs. My children write a paragraph once a week from second grade until sixth grade. Sometimes they write longer papers, but they always at least write a paragraph, I correct it, and then they rewrite it. Re-writing should be part 2 of every writing assignment. A good writer always rewrites! Don't be negative about it, though. Praise their papers and then move on to the next part of the assignment--making their paper better!
Children should do math each morning, Monday through Friday. I say "morning" because math is like a workout for the brain. It's a great way to start the school day.
Find a curriculum that works for your child (remember each of your children is different!) and use it. First, you understand the concept (it takes using the concept a little bit to thoroughly understand it) and second, you are proficient at applying the concept to math problems without errors. Sometimes my children understand HOW to do a problem, but they make all kinds of mistakes because they forget a step or are rushing through to finish. If a math problem is wrong, it is wrong.
Children should get to 90% proficiency in a mathematical skill before you consider them knowing the skill. Remember that mathematics is sequential. You have to know one skill well to learn the next one. Think of a building with a faulty foundation. In math, you are constantly laying a foundation for the next level. One year, I redid an entire year of mathematics with another textbook because my daughter was struggling to grasp important concepts.
Math helps children to think logically and sequentially. Logic and sequentially make me think of research, another R.
It might be natural to you, when you are interested in a topic, to go to the library and check out books. In our house, that comes right after "googling" it. And that raises a question, "With the Wide World Web around, do we even need to teach our children to research? All they have to do is Google."
Good question! I am not comfortable with everything I see on the Internet. Anyone can post a site, even posing as someone else. We have to be careful about information we find on the Internet. While I have discovered wonderful things on-line, I don't ever want the Internet to be my only source of information. Take your children to the library and show them around the reference department. Better yet, ask for a tour from the Reference Librarian. Give them some simple assignments to look up things in an encyclopedia, handbook, directory, almanac, or periodical.
Research begins with curiosity. Then the collection of data begins. Beside the reference materials already mentioned, data can be gathered from interviews, experiments, and observation. Taking notes is the skill children use to store their research, which is then interpreted and presented. Children can present research through essays, reports, presentations, projects, speeches, or application in daily life.
Research is not a separate subject, but should be used in other subjects. Research works well in history, science, and geography. Children enjoy science experiments, science fair projects, writing country reports, or working on a history project. Look at your school plan this year, and see if you have any research planned. It's easy to add. Keep it simple and fun!
Woven throughout all of life, is our desire to please God, to make Jesus happy. We do this by living obedient lives, seeking His Kingdom first, and keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Right living flows out of our relationship with Jesus. As we read His Word, we know how to live. As we get closer to Him, yielding more and more to the Holy Spirit, righteousness flows out into our behavior, character, and speech. We become more and more like Jesus. Right living depends on our relationship with Jesus and the habits we build into our life.
Model good habits such as Quiet Times, healthy living, reading, kind communication, quiet conflict resolution, scheduling, clutter control, staying on a budget, family mealtimes, and honoring your own parents with weekly phone calls or visits. Build habits into your children.
Purity is a big part of right living. urity should characterize what we say, do, listen to, and watch. If I wouldn't say it, why should I listen to it? If I wouldn't do it, why should I watch it? hese two questions give much wisdom in discerning what to watch on TV, listen to on the radio, or read. f we guard our hearts and minds from exposure to sin, we are ahead in the battle for our children's purity!
Another aspect of right living is treating one another with respect and kindness (we're back to relationships here!) because most of obedience to God is concerned about how we treat one another!
Build on the Foundation
As we make our lesson plans for the years ahead, let's make sure we are thoroughly covering the 7 R's. You can add writing, reading and research assignments to other subjects to increase your child's abilities. Maybe one well-written paragraph at the end of each chapter instead of the review questions in a textbook. Maybe your child can stand up and share about an historical fiction book he read during your history lesson (rhetoric!).
Be creative and keep things simple. Assignments don't have to be elaborate. The important thing is that your children read, write, speak, research and do math while they are living right and enjoying healthy relationships with Jesus, your husband, their siblings, and one another. Once you have laid this foundation of the 7 R's in your homeschooling from kindergarten to their senior year in high school, your homeschool graduate is ready to embrace anything he/she wants to choose as a calling or career. Every subject in the whole world can be learned with these learning tools!
To learn more about the Seven R's of Homeschooling, order my book at Amazon.
An E-book version of Seven R's of Homeschooling is also available at our store, PowerlineProd and Currclick.
Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!
Merey (Meredith Ludwig Curtis)