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Basic Academics By: Sarah

Sarah does a math quiz.

Sarah does a math quiz.

Our school schedule is somewhat different from a "normal" school year, because of all the gardening we do. The school year begins for us after harvest (and a month of rest!) in January, and ends around planting time sometime in June. It took us a while to refine this method to meet our needs, but now, with a little give or take, this is the typical school year for us. In order to still get all our classes in we have to work long hours in the months between gardening season. We start at six and, with a small break in the afternoon, often don't finish until about bedtime. Of course, for different ages the school time varies considerably. Like the other areas we’ve looked at, an academic education starts with the little ones. In some ways, that’s more because you have to occupy them during school time, than because they’ll learn much.

Cheryl teaches grammar.

Cheryl teaches grammar.

But even so, they benefit from spending concentrated time on specific lessons, focusing on new concepts and paying attention. One by one, required classes are added to the schedule. Once any one of us has gone through a number of years of school, we can take over several classes on our own. Some of our curriculum, like Math, can easily be done without a teacher. Several children who are close in age can easily be grouped together for a class and given assignments that vary depending on the capabilities. As Mom sees that we are capable, she entrust us with teaching the younger ones classes that we have already learned. With nine children to teach it’s important for Mom to be able to lighten her load in several ways so as to get everyone taught every class every day! Through about the age of 12, classes consist predominantly of essentials necessary for every child. As they grow older, individual interests and personal desires begin gradually to direct their course of studies. Little by little each young adult branches out into new areas on his own. This will be covered later on
Hannah prepare a map.

Hannah prepare a map.

by Jeremiah in “Specialized/Self-directed Studies”. In order to keep everything running smoothly, we must make schedules that ensure that the right people can attend the right classes and that there’s no conflict with two people needing something at the same time. At the start of the school year Mom works with us to get us each a schedule that blends with everyone else’s. That takes a bit of coordination but it’s absolutely essential to getting school done. Even with a schedule it’s a lot of work, but I think Mom does a very good job of it!

Nathanael learns his shapes.

Nathanael learns his shapes.

While They’re Young by Zechariah

There are not a whole lot of actual classes that really young children can do. So to incorporate the little children into our school year we schedule time into each of our schedules for us to spend time doing something with them. This may be reading a book, playing a game or playing with toys. As they get older, we teach them classes such as math, phonics, penmanship, art and/or music. Sometimes we are able to incorporate them into some of the classes just by having them color or play quietly in the room as we have class. Although they do not understand all that is read and talked about they still pick up some, and it makes them feel good to be in on some of our classes.

Nathanael & Caleb

Nathanael & Caleb

We also have them entertain each other when possible, such as having a child who has just learned to read, read to his younger siblings. This not only gives the younger ones something to do (listen to a story) but it gives the older child an opportunity to increase his oral reading skills. An added benefit is that the littler child gets more practice in sitting still. When possible, we schedule the free time of our younger children to coincide with one another so that they can play together because this tends to keep them much more contented.

Zechariah researches a report.

Zechariah researches a report.

Required Studies by Sarah

There are numerous classes that we feel to be essential for our young people to master before their basic education is complete. Between the years of about 6-12 these classes are the primary content of the school day. The years following will be used to complete any of these classes as yet unfinished and to diversify academically in further ways that will be addressed in another section. Reading, penmanship and basic math are fundamental to all other classes, so we focus here at first. While learning these three, children require a lot of supervision and instruction from either Mom or older siblings.

Craig teaches science.

Craig teaches science.

Once these are mastered there is increasingly more work that can be assigned to the child and which he can accomplish with less and less help as he matures, such as writing assignments and math problems. Encouraging him to begin working on little assignments by himself begins the necessary process of learning to teach oneself, which we feel to be absolutely essential to a well educated child. Gradually, more work can be done by the children and thus relieve Mom from having to teach every single class and help with every assignment. Mom teaches many of the fundamental classes because they are new concepts that require a teacher to present and explain. These include grammar, writing, World and American history and geography. Dad teaches the sciences and some specific math classes in the evenings.
Hannah works on her math lesson.

Hannah works on her math lesson.

Dad and Mom usually teach their classes to groups of anywhere from two to six of us children. This saves time and we benefit from one another’s insights and studies. As an example, in all these years Mom has only taught World History twice and will probably only have to do it once more! Classes like math, typing and logic can eventually be carried on by the individual when they have mastered enough of the concepts to be able to go on alone. Some classes we also sometimes do in groups of several children learning together without Mom. Once a course is mastered that child can then teach the class to a younger sibling. This not only helps Mom out, but, by teaching a class you learn much more than when you were struggling to grasp it at the first.

Cheryl explains graph coordinates.

Cheryl explains graph coordinates.

Mom has tried many different curriculums for specific classes, hoping to find one that meets our needs in each area, and over the years we have gradually gathered several favorites that work for us. These include; the writing course – Institute for Excellence in Writing, Math-U-See, Winston Grammar, Body By Design, Patty Paper Geometry, and Blueprints In Geometry, Draw Today, and So You Thought You Couldn’t Draw, mapping with our history classes, an anatomy class; Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, hands-on science experiments and creation science. On other classes we still mix and match and keep an eye out for other potential options.

Nathanael takes an exam.

Nathanael takes an exam.

All in all, the winter and spring months are almost entirely devoted to our lessons and by the time we are 12 years old most of the essential classes are behind us. Ahead of us lie new areas of learning, but our foundations have been well prepared. Most importantly, during these early years we have learned to take on courses on our own and teach ourselves. In the years to come this will prove invaluable as our interests begin to lead us along new routes that we must forge for ourselves.

Teaching classes by Jeremiah

Caleb explains a logic problem to Nathanael.

Caleb explains a logic problem to Nathanael.

From our earliest classes we were encouraged to participate. I still remember the beginning question: “Were you listening?” Inevitably the answer was always yes, even if we struggled with the following questions put to us (you not only have to listen but also understand). As the years passed the questions became deeper and required more thought in expressing our ideas and the concepts we had gleaned. As our ability to think through the subjects we were learning increased we were able to take over the responsibility of teaching ourselves some of our classes. Once we reached that point, I can remember Mom assigning some classes to us to teach. Some classes are easier to teach, especially if you have a textbook. Everyone’s style is different. Mom usually had us teach our favorite subjects.

Julia & Caleb

Julia & Caleb

Teaching Younger Siblings by Sarah

We give our young people the responsibility of spending time with and teaching the little ones. At first this may just be playing games with them that teach colors and shapes, teaching them to sing a song, reading a book to them or helping them do exercises. As both the teacher and the learner mature they are capable of more complex instructions. School classes can really only be taught by a child after they have mastered the course themselves, at least to the extent that they will be teaching. For example, addition can only be taught by a child after he has learned it himself but he can teach it before he knows advanced mathematics. Common classes for our young people to teach are; phonics, basic math and logic.

Mom reads to Caleb.

Mom reads to Caleb.

By teaching classes ourselves we get a double dose of it and tend to learn a lot of the little details that we missed when we were struggling to learn it the first time through. We also learn to appreciate more what Mom has had to go through teaching all of us, and we are better prepared to teach our own children some day. There are also some cases when one of the older children teaches a class to others of us older children, such as when Jeremiah taught an advanced logic class (Mom joined us learners) and when Nathanael led a class on goal setting. In both instances the classes were extras that that individual was interested in and we all joined together to learn that subject with him. Having specific time set aside to spend with our siblings is a great blessing since school days often get busy and we don’t spend much time with one another other than the time spent on school work. It is important to enjoy one another’s presence even when the days are busy.

In Conclusion

Joanna enjoys a book.

Joanna enjoys a book.

It is a major task to undertake the education of your children, yet it is the God-given responsibility of all parents. As home educators we can choose what worldview we raise our children to accept. We can train them up to evaluate every area of life from a Biblical point of view and teach them to use their skills and knowledge to God’s glory. With a foundation formed upon the truths of God’s laws, His creation and His hand in history our children will be better prepared to face the circumstances of life and the lies that will bombard them in the secular world. We must make full use of this wonderful opportunity God has entrusted to us to prepare the next generation to face life and succeed.


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