Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘history’

How we home school: keeping it really simple

Our “school” does not use a curriculum. This is because I haven’t found one yet that, a) I can easily afford AND that, b) actually suits our family. In other places on this blog I’ve discussed the various talents, challenges and learning styles that make us who we are, so I won’t go into all of that here.

Instead, what I’ve chosen to do is to distill the essence of what I believe the girls need to get from education – and their preparation for adulthood.

That “essence”, for our family, can be summarised thus:

  • I believe my children need to love learning, and have the ability to learn by themselves.
  • I believe that the ability to read is paramount. No door to knowledge is ever closed when once you’re able to read.
  • I believe that a strong foundation in Maths is key to success. Maths is everything and everywhere.
  • I believe that a sense of where we fit in time (history) and space (geography) gives us an indispensable sense of perspective, and the tools we need to make wise decisions.
  • Above all, I believe a thorough knowledge of the Bible underscores all truth, wisdom, hope, meaning and comfort.

These five simple values form the bedrock of our home school experience, and we flesh them out as follows:

Every morning, we start with a devotion. We love Keys for Kids, so the girls read the passage given (in their King James Bibles – good English starts young!), then I read the story. We discuss it, and then we pray about what we’ve read, and for the day ahead. Theoretically, we also have memory verse time, but since I’ve been sick (which is its own post), we’ve slacked a bit on learning our verses. I’m very pleased to say that they still know the fifty-odd verses we’ve learnt already this year, so that’s a start.

After Bible time, we take a brief look at the day before’s reading, and identify the parts of speech. Sometimes we do this as a game instead: “I say a noun, you say an adjective to go with it, then it’s your turn to find a noun”. Or else, identify four verbs you can see around you right now. Enchanted Learning’s Parts of Speech Wheel has been an invaluable aid in this part of our day.

Next up, we usually have French. This is just because we’re all snuggled up together on the couch anyway, so we may as well do all the “together” bits right away. We either work through the French flip cards on Brainrush, or we watch an episode of the JeFrench channel on YouTube. (After school, I listen to 20 – 30 minutes of native French speech to get my ear in, and that has been very useful).

Finally, while we’re still together, we often watch something fascinating online. recently we’ve been watching the Pale Blue Dot series, by Carl Sagan, the Crash Course in History series, or the Creature Feature on National Geographic.

All of this takes about an hour and a half. After that, I sit with the girls individually and work through 4 – 5 exercises on Khan Academy while the daughter I’m not working with reads a book (Goldilocks is working through “Breverton’s Encyclopedia of Inventions“, and “Red Riding Hood” is about a third of the way through the first “Harry Potter“. We’re also all big fans of “Information is Beautiful“).  Then we switch.

Before school, beds are made, dishes washed, and the house is cleaned and tidied, and after school, the girls help with cleaning up their school stuff and hanging out the laundry.

By this time, it’s usually about 09:30, and Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood are more than ready to go and play. They’re allowed to play computer games between the end of school and 1PM, and often that includes self-taight (and very good) graphic design, spreadsheet manipulation, and updating their blogs. I catch up on work until 11:30, when we all make salad together. While we eat, I read stories. Three days a week, I read a history story (we’re busy with An Island Story right now). On the other three days we read what the girls call a “STORY story”. At the moment, we’re reading “The Princess and Curdie“, “The Swiss Family Robinson“, and “The Blue Fairy Book“.

Every afternoon (since the doctor told me to), we go for a walk. On the way, we talk about everything. We discuss philosophy, religion and morals. We talk about driving and walking and cycling and sustainable transport. We discuss the plant life we see, and keep a sharp eye out for animals and birds. (This week we were lucky to have a decomposing blue snake to walk past a couple of times, and watching the process was fascinating). Often, we stop halfway and the girls will draw or dance or chat – or all three. We talk about which way we’re walking and from which direction the wind is blowing. We discuss the seasons, the weather, the sun, moon and stars. Then we go home.

Most afternoons include a playdate with friends, and that is when I get most of my work done. Red Riding Hood loves to design and build dams and irrigation systems at the moment, so she’s often completely brown by the end of an afternoon. Goldilocks is more interested in architecture and inventions, and a lot of her free time is spent on those subjects. Theoretically, the girls help with supper and the dishes, though often I let them have a relaxing bath while I cook. While we eat, we talk about health and food and friendship and work and school and faith and anything else that comes up. Officially, we encourage questions, but in our house that simply means “being in the same room”. Questions are never far when the girls are around. Sometimes during dinner we’ll watch a movie (usually something rollicking and full of moral gravitas and adventurous fun), or we’ll play a board game. After supper it’s story time, and then they’re off to sleep.

Reading it like this makes it sound like a lot, but it really and truly isn’t. The bulk of the more “formal schooling” is done before 10AM, we do a bit around lunch time, a splash in the middle of the afternoon, and some evening stuff, which I am sure is what every family does. We certainly always did the evening stuff we do now before we started home school.

How do you home school? Do you follow a set curriculum, or do you work around a set of core values? If you use a curriculum, which one do you use? And do you prefer any specific philosophy of education, or is yours (like ours) more of a “Philosophy Stew”, mixing the best of a number of views in proportions that suit your families tastes and needs best? I’d love to hear from you, so drop me a line in the comments below.

Read about the benefits to this approach in tomorrow’s post.


Storms, calms, highs, lows, deep breaths and stepping back.

After my last post, I took a little time for reflection. It seems necessary in this life to step back and gain some perspective, and some of us need to do this more often than others.

The very next day, we sat down, zoomed through all our school work with no hassles of any kind, and the girls spent the rest of the day exploring their best friend’s wonderful new house and riding bicycles. It was idyllic for them and gave me a chance to evaluate things. I realised that I had expected far too much: we’d already done 30 minutes of maths when we had our altercation, and that was after reading, language, writing and Bible studies. Without a break. No one can be expected to stay focused for that long, especially when the work at hand is boring and repetitive.

I don’t think I was wrong to reiterate the value and importance of focus and concentration, but I do think I pushed too hard. I’m grateful for gracious daughters who forgive and understand (as much as they can) that their parents are human.

We all know the idiom “Calm before the Storm”, but I’d like to introduce (or revisit) “the Low after the High”. This weekend and the few weeks leading up to it have been full of energy and achievement. We’ve had wonderful family devotions, learnt valuable lessons, applied those lessons and seen the fruit of our labours. We have been deeply aware of God’s blessing in our lives on every level, and the activity seemed to culminate in DH preaching one of his most successful sermons on Sunday.

Since then, not so much. There seems to be a slump hanging over the whole family. Moods are low, health is quivering and tempers are short. I was listening to a sermon on the radio recently where the pastor described this very scenario. He gave some Biblical examples of it, too: Peter acknowledges Christ’s deity and messiahship, then denies Him three times! Elijah defeats and destroys 450 prophets of Baal in one of the Bible’s coolest demonstrations of divine power, then runs and hides in the desert from a single (albeit powerful) woman.

It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in these experiences. Even heroes from the Hall of Faith share them with us, and received their due reward.

It was also interesting to be reminded of Elijah’s trials, since we’re studying this prophet’s life in Konos at the moment. In fact, we’ve just covered that very bit about the prophets of Baal being destroyed and we’re heading towards Elijah’s flight to the desert. When all the messages from all the channels say the same thing, you can be sure God’s got a lesson in there for you. What is this one? Well, I suppose it’s trust.

As I was trying to get through the appropriate amount of educational material today, while juggling some perilously late deadlines, I began to spin into my panic-mode: we’re only studying Elijah. We’re not doing any contemporary history, geography, science … I’m not giving my kids what they need! I’m a terrible mother – and everything else. AAaarrghh!

I took a step back.

I returned to the Konos resource material and saw that we’re about to start a unit full of geography, history and science. I remembered that this week the girls presented some of their own parables: allegories for Christian living today. The metaphors were rich, detailed, accurate and full of scripture. What a blessing! Who really even needs history or geography when you have a living relationship with the One who made and owns the mountains, who was there for all the history?

When I have a chance, I’ll transcribe and share their beautiful parables, but just for today I take comfort in the fact that they are getting what they need: they’re getting Life.

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