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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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