Friday, July 15, 2011

Planning Your Homeschool Part 3:

WHO are you teaching? Evaluate each child's strengths and weaknesses. How do they learn? What are their interests, what are their dislikes? What about you, as the teacher? Ask yourself these same questions. Do you want to create your own schedule and lesson plans or would you rather those be built into the curriculum you choose? Do you want to spend more time teaching or having the children work independently? Considering these variables is crucial to deciding which resources to use {and how}. A significant amount of the homeschool journey is comprised of trial and error, but much frustration can be avoided with a little prayerful planning.

You've often heard it said that it does not matter what you know but rather, who you know. Allow me to suggest further that the key lies in what you know about who you know. Historically, mothers have possessed more knowledge about their children than did any other figure, at least in the child's formative years, until the role is usurped by the child's spouse. Sadly, in today's society, moms often lay down this duty as soon as a child enters school to find a bevy of peers eager to be bffs. This is ldoes not have the be the reality in homeschooling families, Baruch HaShem, where mothers (and fathers!) can remain essential and primary influences in their sons' and daughters' lives. Education can then take the form of discipleship, with the parents adding to their titles that of teacher. Older siblings act as mentors while younger children provide opportunities to practice leadership.

One of the greatest advantages {and dare I say reward?} to homeschooling is that it affords each child an individualized curriculum. Mothers, through intuition or time, come to understand their childrens' needs, interests, strengths {and weaknesses} and learning styles. This is a great blessing, and a wise mother will take advantage of this in all areas of childrearing. Perhaps schoolteachers have such information recorded for their students as well, but ultimately rigid standards and the charge of a whole classroom of children limit their ability to tailor instruction to each student. And even the most attentive teacher would likely place the greatest emphasis on academics, for ultimately the duty of nurturing and character training belongs to the parents. The modern educational system serves mainly to output a uniform and unified working class. Complacency and compliance remain the unspoken goals leaving no place for the remarkably gifted or challenged. After all, both Albert Einstein and Helen Keller learned at home.

Scripture tells us, as would any discerning mother, that the most effective instruction is discipleship. This also happens to be the most natural. Such is God's grand design and, as such, it breeds the most fertile environment for inspired learning. Children are whole beings like the adults who teach them; they experience their world naturally, not in the disconnected manner of the present school system. Without a solid constitution, and, as the Psalmist noted, fear of God, knowledge is futile. Quality education does not a moral man make, but with a foundation of uprightness (and the essential virtue of humility), a man will find that knowledge far more attainable. Likewise, would not a child who is given compassionate committed instruction—rather than the hurried and agitated expression in today's schools—be given the greatest chance to grow in spirit as well as in wisdom? We must glean from “two long-standing historical truths: that parents are natural educators and that family life is crucial to educational success.” (Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Gutterson, 1992 p.115)

span style="font-size:medium;">My heart's intention is to nurture all facets of my children's being, their relationships (with self, others and the Lord), their responsibilities, and their physical health and wellbeing. Only with attention to these can I hope to foster a well-adjusted view of the world. Accordingly, academics follow in priority to character training and knowledge of God's Word. This is not to say that I fly by the seat of my pants when teaching the traditional school subjects, but I do my best to keep things in perspective. A helpful resource I have found for organizing my thoughts about the needs of my boys throughout the year is this article from Lifestyle Homeschool. Per my nature, I turned it into something concrete and useable—an outline. I intend to figure out how to create a revisable pdf so you all can tweak my forms to your liking, but that is for another day. Until then you are welcome to use mine how it is or as a reference.

Goals Planner

A little note on boys:

As any experienced {or frustrated novice} teacher will tell you, instructing boys is dramatically different than teaching girls. In spite of raising three boys during the last twelve years, this truth came as a shocking and unwelcome revelation to me. I had entertained dreams of workbooks and paperwork and calm, quiet work completion. I had experienced success learning from workbooks and texts, quietly and on my own, so I expected the same methods to be effective with my boys. But after numerous expressions of displeasure by my sons—from locations far from the chairs in which I had instructed them to sit—that “ALL this writing is soooooo boring!” and that they would “rather do anything in the whole world” than be subjected to this torture, I was compelled to accept that the joy I found in filling out forms, and even sitting still, was not shared by everyone—especially those of the masculine persuasion. If you cannot take my word for it, stop by for a visit to our classroom. You will never hear the utterance of anything remotely resembling, “More work please!” (That is, unless food is involved.) And every session is inevitably marked with some sort of foul noise or smell. But I assure you that, for all the rambunctiousness, learning does in fact occur.

Now boys may not have the politesse of their female counterparts, but I believe that difference should not be counted against them. They simply understand and retain more through active learning. This is often true with girls as well, but evidence shows they are more adaptable to being sedentary for extended periods of time. My sons' energy, when properly {and often repeatedly} directed, can enliven even the most mundane subject matter, with a passion I oftentimes can not muster on my own; this just rarely happens sitting down. So, remember to add breaks, hands-on activities and laughter to the mix, and be open to learning a thing or two from your sons. :)

my oldest son, Christian and I in 1999


Shalom! Check back soon for the next article in this series. To start from the beginning of this series, read the introduction first.


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