(Should I apologize for the sorry title to this post? Nah. My creativity dissipated about noon, and refuses to make a comeback, even for a good cause like you!)
Maybe it's my advanced age, added to the number of loads of laundry I do per day - then multiplied by the pairs of shoes in my mudroom, divided by the maturity level of household inhabitants - but most of my homeschooling tips don't have that warm, fuzzy, can-do feeling I wish they did.
I've thought about adding in a few perfunctory tips about edible play dough or make-your-own jigsaw puzzles (both of which I've made x 11), but I'm a Reality Blogger. I don't sugar-coat. I tell it like it is, sisters. Homeschooling isn't for cream puffs and unfortunately for my blog popularity, neither is this series on Homeschooling Tips.
I guess the truth is I've been at this long enough to know that your children will never grow in wisdom and knowledge until you do, and they will only learn and blossom as they see you daily doing the same. Shucks, huh?
I sure wish I could offer you Ten Easy Steps to an Educated Kiddo, but I don't know any shortcuts. All the paths seem to run straight through the middle of the mother's heart, soul, and adrenal glands. They learn much more from watching you than they ever will from a textbook. They don't tell you that in the Calvert catalog, do they?
I have a new friend who just started homeschooling her three children this year. When we met yesterday, she was so excited to meet a real, live (partially sane) veteran. And then someone mentioned my "series" on homeschooling, and she truly thought she'd hit the jackpot (or did she say crackpot?...) but after about 30 minutes of her rifling me with how-to questions, I had to go ahead and give her the bad news. I told her that teaching several children at home will only be perfected after extensive practice, with plenty of mistakes. My best, most permanent, lessons have been learned through what DIDN'T work. So, I told her to get back with me after she'd failed at a few things. I'm sure she was just so encouraged and empowered by my wise words!
The worst part is that my new friend seems a lot like me - Capable, Enterprising, Decisive - in other words, she's a control freak.
And she's going to find out that if you try to control the show too strongly, you'll not only alienate your children, you'll also miss the whole point of home schooling. (Don't ask me how I know this.)
However, I did lure my friend to my blog with the promise of some can't-miss tips, so I better throw a couple in here so she doesn't hunt me down on the playground for false advertising.
- A normal day for elementary children should consist of two major parts - work in arithmetic and reading for content. Those are the main areas that must be mastered before the child is about 12-13 and ready for middle school. Aim for getting your child to a place where he can read with complete ease most anything put before him, including magazines, newspapers, periodicals or fiction. History and science can be used for reading. His oral reading should be pleasant to listen to.
- If your child struggles with reading aloud, have him read the same passage aloud to you until it sounds perfect. This might need to be done over a few days. Some children have never heard themselves read with proficiency and elocution, but once they've read the same thing over and over, they can read the material without stumbling over words, punctuation, or pacing, and once they surprise even themselves, they are on their way to being a professional audio book reader- or at least being able to read aloud without causing their listeners to grimace and roll their eyes (and claim bathroom emergencies to get out of earshot.)
- The easiest way to teach diligence, which makes everything in school so much easier, is to do school every day. Some days you may need to pare it down to the essentials, but pick the days you plan to be "in class" and then be there. Every day.
- Optimal learning depends on the energy of the students as much as the teacher. In fact, if your students are tired or uninspired, it will weary the teacher very quickly. The remedy for this begins the night before with consistent bedtimes and nightly routines. Even with older children, it's good to have a definitive time when things wind down and the house becomes quiet. Then in the morning, put on some praise music, wake them up, and welcome them to the day you have prepared for them (or at least pretend to be prepared....)
Next time we meet (and it may not be this week...School is taking it's toll on my computer time!), I want to talk to you about Table Time. It's what I use to sneak all kinds of enrichment learning into our day (like art appreciation and poetry and all the stuff that makes your in-laws brag on your kids) - and it's the best way I've found to promote unity between the varying grade levels in our family.
Intrigued? I hope so. And I also hope you'll consider signing up to follow my blog (see sidebar) so you'll be notified when I update. It makes me feel less guilty when I go days (weeks, or months) between posts.