If you are anything like me, you might be wondering “Am I qualified to homeschool my children?”. How was I to be sure I was teaching them what they needed, when they needed it and in the way they needed it? Sure, I could just use a typical school program and go about the year as usual. The trouble was that I saw that system fail more times then not on the most basic level in the educational system. I worried about teaching chemistry, or worse yet, physics! I found myself torn because of a lack of confidence and a lack of knowledge. I wondered if this whole homeschool thing was for me. Still, I really felt like God was leading my family to jump into this new way of learning.
What God began to show me is that I had been trained to see the public school system as the superior if not only means of giving a child a quality education. The public education system was a type of idol to me that I felt I needed to emulate. But that isn’t what I was called to do. I was called to be more like Christ and help my child do the same. I wasn’t called to teach my child how to answer questions on a test. I was called to create an environment where he would love to learn – in his way, in his timing. I am called to encourage my child to find and nurture his strengths, find his calling, and strengthen his areas of weakens. Once that was settled in my heart I was free to move forward.
What about my weaknesses? The great news is that I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t need a PhD, and I don’t need to teach every subject! Yes, I can get out of physics! A little research revealed that there are options for children who need outside help for certain subject areas. From curriculum that comes complete with lab kits so that even I could teach – I mean, learn – chemistry, to cooperative classes, and online classes, there are hundreds of possibilities.
Once you find a local homeschool support system, you may find another parent that excels in the area you struggle with and they might even be willing to help you out. There are tutors, older homeschoolers and homeschool graduates plus internet resources for just about anything you can imagine.
With a little support, we can be completely successful in educating our children. However educating and training are not exactly the same thing. Education and training are two separate yet interweaving aspects of child rearing. I can provide my child with the most elaborate and extensive education and still not train him to succeed in life. Homeschooling on the other hand allows us the opportunity to train and educate towards life and callings.
What qualifies me, and you, to homeschool our children? Our love for our children and God. You see, God calls us to train up our children. Because of this I know that all that is needed is provided by God. We need only be obedient to His leadings. He never gives us more than He can handle. You, as your child’s parents, are the strongest force, aside from God, in his life. With God’s guidance and your love for your child, you are completely capable of taking on this calling. When distractions and discouragement try to steal your peace, remember that you were made for this. The waves are just temporary and God provides the best surf boards.
Nature journals provide a one on one experience with nature. No matter what time of year, it has the ability to provide hands-on learning opportunities we are not soon to forget. These journals can be in any form you choose. They can be the starting point or inspiration for a lesson, or it can be a lesson in and of itself. There is no limit to what you can do.
Journals provide you with an opportunity to get to know your subject on a personal basis. Because you get to know your subject matter and not just be told about it, you are more likely to understand the concepts and retain the information. You experience nature with all your senses and hopefully develop a healthy respect for it.
It is always a perfect time to begin keeping a nature journal. Spring and autumn present us with a more instant gratification as the environments change quickly. Plus, they tend to have more pleasant weather which encourages being out of doors. Summer has the vibrancy of the changing flower blooms from week to week. While winter brings us full circle to prepare for renewal.
Nature journals come in all shapes, sizes and forms. They can be as simple as taking a sketch book along on a picnic. The type and purpose can be as individualized as it’s creator. From a few pieces of folded paper to notebooks and sketch pads and everything in between, nature journals can be made to suit your needs. Pencils, crayons, charcoals and water paints are all great supplies to have on hand as is a good field guide for your area.
Nature journals do not have to be formal. It is collecting leaves, seeds or pine cones. Taking advantage of a teachable moment as it presents itself and then recording a history of it to look back on. They can be a stand alone subject, they can accent an existing lesson plan, or they can do both.
Among other things, journals can be used to spark interest. Let’s imagine your child has found a tree and has made an impression of its bark. He has collected some of its leaves to press and has written about how the branches hang and the shade of green the leaves are. But there is more. You see that a certain insect seems to like this type of tree. Then your child wonders, “What type of insect is it?”, “What type of tree is it?” and a plethora of other questions fill his mind. So you and your child look into it and find that it is your state tree. You find what type of seed it has and how long it takes to grow. You also find that this insect living on the tree is actually good because it eats another insect which is harmful to the tree’s well being. You begin to see how it fits into the whole environment and the role it plays in the ecosystem. Your child may not even realize it, but through all this fun he was having, he was learning.
* Don’t worry if your child is not an artist. Drawings do not have to be perfect. By letting your child have the freedom to draw it as he experiences it, it will have more meaning to him.
* Use charcoals, pencils or watercolors to create drawings of your surroundings.
* Try setting it up as you would a scrapbook with photos, drawings and notations about what you see, hear and smell.
* Use photographs
* Close your eyes and draw what you *feel*
* Add anecdotes to spark memories.
* Write the lyrics/words to a song or poem that reminds you of your adventure or use the lyrics/words to inspire a whole new topic.
* Having a field guide for your area can offer considerable assistance in determining the plants you are looking at.
* Use it to track the development of a particular location over the course of a month, season, year or more.
* Record what you find while on a nature hike.
* Use pressed flowers and leaves.
* Compare landscapes either within your own town or while taking a road trip.
* Note if a particular plant or animal tends to be found in similar surroundings or if they develop habitats over many types of environments.
* Keep track of your own garden (even if it is a potted garden).
* Track how the weather influences nature.
Nature Journals have the ability to give us a sense of awe and wonderment of our world and it’s Creator.
We begin to realize how diverse the world is, we begin to take time and look beyond the surface and we see how we can impact nature in tiny, yet meaningful ways.
Enjoy exploring and making your journals. They are sure to become keepsakes your family will enjoy for years.
A unit study is an approach that focuses on a main theme or topic, incorporating as many aspects and subject areas as possible. I’ve heard it referred to as a ‘whole language’ approach, but I feel it is more a ‘whole child’ approach. The actual unit study may last anywhere from one day to three months or even longer.
What topics can unit studies cover?
One of the great things about unit studies is the flexibility. You can cover anything at all.
Some ideas are:
Events: First Moon Walk, Revolutionary War, Holidays
People: Artists, Mathematicians, Presidents, Authors
Books: Any Book, Story, Poetry
Places: History of your State, a Country, a Monument
Things: How Computers were Invented, the First Toothbrush, A Song
Topics are only limited to your imagination and resources.
How does it work?
Let’s say we are going to make a unit study on Ancient Egypt. The first area we would study is the history of the time period. Since Ancient Egypt is considered to have been for about 3000 years, we may want to narrow it down. For the sake of this example, we are focusing on the 4th Dynasty when the pyramids of Giza were built. We would discuss how the people of that time lived, their culture, speech, writings, food, homes and work. We look into more than just what they did and try to figure out why.
To tie it into science we might go into what metals, plants and other materials were available to them. We learn that Egyptians probably invented chemistry. The name chemistry is derived from the ancient name for Egypt, Alchemy. We also learn why flooding was so important to the people and the land.
From here we discuss papyrus and make our own homemade paper. We discover how the Egyptians wrote. We can play with hieroglyphics and make our own cartouches. Maybe we could make a model pyramid and decorate the tombs. We would even read a few books, maybe about King Kufu.
We picked up some great vocabulary words, like cartouche, pyramid, papyrus, pharaoh, mummify and hieroglyphics. For geography we learn about the land, the Nile River and the desert. We made our own map of the area and placed images of key places on it. Then we would find Egypt on the globe.
After a hard day working on the pyramids, the Egyptians were bound to be hungry. So we would make some unleavened bread just as they would have eaten. Of course, they cooked their food in holes in rocks. We will have to settle for a cooking stone in the barbecue grill. We also learn about how the average home was run, that woman could hold jobs, people kept their food in holes in the ground and that most of the time, they slept on their roofs. This would help us cover health studies.
We discover how many tons the pyramids weigh and how many buses that would equal. We also learn about the use of decimals since the Egyptians used special symbols for numbers and decimals. So we would practice what we learn by playing a hieroglyphic math game. The Egyptians also used Pi but their value was 3.16.
For fun one night, we will play Mancala since we know the Egyptians invented it. We will also play some Egyptian music and learned some dances and explain the religious significance it had to them.
When it is all done, we might write a story about what it might have been like to live back then.
There are many other concepts we could add in depending upon the age and ability of the student. This is just a basic idea so you get the feel for unit based studies.
While you may choose to use unit studies to cover one or two subject areas, it can also used to cover as many subject areas as you desire to. Other materials can easily be substituted for whatever you feel is lacking.
What are the disadvantages to using unit studies?
The biggest criticism of unit studies is that it may not offer enough concrete skills in the basic 3R’s. (reading, writing and arithmetic). If you find this to be the case, these skills can easily be enhanced with additions to your lessons.
Another disadvantage is that it can be time consuming to create and plan the lessons. You will also need to track down resources such as books. However, many companies now sell pre-made unit studies. All you need to do is to borrow books from your library.
What are the advantages to using unit studies?
The greatest advantage is the ability to tailor the lessons to your child (ren). Because of the nature of the unit study, you can also teach the same concepts to a variety of ages and simply offer different assignments based upon age and/or ability. Subjects can be added to meet your needs as well. For example, my son loves woodworking. We can add a project which reflects our theme. Another child may play the piano and learn how to play a song.
You also have the ability to make your lessons based upon any criteria you choose. There may be a relative visiting who is a photographer. Your children can study all about the history of photography in time to hold their own in a conversation. Or maybe you passed by a local festival and your child wants to learn more.
Another bonus is that because unit studies attempt to totally encompass your child, he is more likely to retain what he has learned.
Still not sure?
If you are not sure this is the right method for your family, you might try making a mini unit study which only lasts a few days. Try a simple topic you know well. Maybe a small story could be your basis.
Unit studies can also be use s part of a combination of teaching methods. These could be by subject area or just for certain themes. Don’t feel limited by a method. Expand and create something that works for your family.
“reason, intelligence, logic, knowledge are not synonymous…,” Howard Gardner
One of the main advantages of home schooling is your ability to tailor your child’s lessons towards his/her specific needs. There seems to be an endless amount of information pertaining to how a child learns.
From Piaget to Glasser to Vygotsky, there is much debate as to how many learning styles there actually are. While preparing my article, I found that since my college days, Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences has grown. He has added three more potential learning styles/intelligences, only one of which we will cover here in any detail.
Gardner’s “Theory of Multiple Intelligences” is a fairly well-known and usually respected theory. I tend to use this method since it seems to incorporate both new & traditional theories of education and still remain fairly comprehensive. You will find that your child has a little of each style to varying degrees. You will also see how these styles rely upon each other in developing a well-rounded education.
What is “Intelligence”?
Gardner’s definition is “the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting”.
Each person has his/her own unique style. According to Gardner, these intelligences do not work alone. Instead, they build upon each other in a unique way for each person. What this means is that a person with very strong musical & linguistic intelligence skills may very well be a poet or songwriter. On the other hand, a person with a weak bodily-kinesthetic intelligence won’t likely be a ballerina no matter how strong her musical intelligence is. It is also important to note that these intelligences are not a grading system. You don’t have to be strong in a particular intelligence to be smart. On the contrary, the whole point of this theory is that there is more than one way to measure, obtain and enhance intelligence.
“…a human intellectual competence must entail a set of skills for problem solving….enabling the individual to resolve genuine problems or difficulties that he or she encounters and, when appropriate, to create an effective product…and must also entail the potential for finding or creating problems…thereby laying the groundwork for the acquisition of new knowledge… the ideal of what is valued will differ markedly across human cultures.”
-Gardner, “Frames of Mind”.
The following is a simple description to help you determine which learning styles your children has strengths and weaknesses in. From here you can research each theory more thoroughly by looking for Gardner’s books in your local library or on the Internet. I think it is important to reiterate that each of us possess all these intelligences to various degrees. It is also a good idea to nurture the “weaker” intelligences so that you can educate and stimulate the whole child in order to facilitate a well-rounded individual.
1. Kinesthetic Intelligence (also called bodily-kinesthetic) :
He is always busy doing something. He fidgets when staying in one place. He has to touch everything and he then takes it apart and puts it back together. These are our dancers, sports players and athletes.
This child will best learn by hands on experimentation.
2. Interpersonal Intelligence :
She has charisma and people flock to her. She is the social butterfly. This child learns best when she works in a group. She may also be the class peacemaker.
She remembers events and relates them to people and vice versa.
3. Intrapersonal Intelligence :
This is the child who is very self-aware. He is very introspective and really thinks about himself. This child very likely has a high self-confidence. He has a tendency to be sensitive to his environment. He is very independent and private. He is likely to make decisions that go against the mainstream because he knows what is best for him.
He learns best when he teaches himself.
4. Linguistic Intelligence :
This is a child who is a good at spelling and has excellent reading comprehension skills. She may be excellent in debate and have a way with words. She may have spoken early on and has maintained an above average language/vocabulary.
She learns best when she reads & writes her information.
5. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence :
This child is good at seeing patterns. He is usually very good with numbers and excels in science as well. He will most likely do well in school, as this is the type of intelligence schools were designed for. He is always asking questions (which may not go over well in all school settings). He loves strategy games such as chess.
He does well with “book based studies”.
6. Musical Intelligence :
She has a knack at remembering the words to her favorite songs. She can hold a tune better than most famous rock stars. She may need music on in the background when she studies. She usually sings or hums to herself. She probably plays an instrument, can sing and can imitate other’s voices. Many, but not all of the components of this intelligence require the ability to hear. (An understanding of rhythm can be observed even in the deaf).
She learns well when the information is set to music.
7. Spatial Intelligence :
He has a photographic memory. He may be a daydreamer. He not only likes the pictures in books, but may learn more from the picture then from the text. He loves movies. This child uses mental imagery to solve problems.
He learns best when he has something concrete to look at. He may benefit greatly from educational videos or from stories that allow him to use his imagination. Gardner also makes note that even those who are blind develop this intelligence.
The following 3 are the latest additions to Gardner’s theory. He also believes that there could be other intelligences but it may be difficult to discern if he is not aware that he possess them.*
8. Natural Intelligence :
She is aware of her environment and can spot changes instantly. She can tell you the classification of a dinosaur with just a glance. She probably likes to collect natural items such as rock and plant samples and organizes them by a classification system. She may love astronomy. She probably loves all animals and would have a zoo in her room if you would only allow it.
She learns best when she can apply the information in a natural setting.
9. & 10. Spiritual Intelligence and Existential Intelligence :
To the best of my knowledge, Gardner is still debating whether these two intelligences are valid based upon his own criteria.
For more information:
Gardner, H. “Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century”
Gardner, H. “Are there additional intelligences? The case for naturalist, spiritual, and existential intelligences” In J. Kane (Ed.), Education, information, and transformation.
Gardner, H. “Reflections on multiple intelligences”
Gardner, H. “Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice”
Gardner, H. “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences”
* “Intelligence Reframed : Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century” by Howard Gardner
A step by step guide to home schooling
More and more people are deciding to take the education of their children into their own hands. Home schooling potentially gives each child the opportunity to learn using the methods and pace which best suits his/her needs. As parents, we are our children’s first and most important teachers. Why not continue on that path for the rest of their education? I know at first all this seemed so complicated, at least it did to me. I had a school telling me it wasn’t legal for me to homeschool and another school telling me I had to sign up through them. I had to figure my own way around for the first year or so and my hope is that with just a little time and energy on your part, this list will spare you from a long drawn out process.