Home Learning

How We Homeschool

When my oldest children were little I spent a great deal of time reading about homeschooling philosophies and methods. Some of the things I read made sense for my family, but quite a lot of it didn't. I learned about Rudolf Steiner, Charlotte Mason, John Holt, Maria Montessori, the Colfaxs, the Guttermans, Mary Hood, etc., etc. It didn't take me long to realize that there are many ways to teach and learn, and each expert believes that his way is best for all children. Homeschooling allows families the freedom to learn and grow together using whatever approaches work to that end. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are different families. 

My family's approach to homeschooling does not fit neatly into any one philosophy or method. We live and learn (that's the philosophy) doing whatever works (that's the method). The size of my family (I have five children) has influenced the materials we use and how we use them. The age range of my children (there are thirteen years between the youngest and the oldest) influences the kinds of activities we participate in together.

If someone were to ask me to list the bare essentials for the way we learn I would tell them:  a library card, conversation, paper, pencils and crayons, lots of time outdoors, the newspaper, prayer and joy.

We keep a simple schedule: wake, breakfast, prayer, table work.  Table work consists of formal lessons and practice. For the youngest child this takes an hour. For the older children it takes about three hours. The rest of the day is for self-directed pursuits :- )  Evenings are for reading aloud and watching t.v.

Early childhood learning is centered on making and doing: growing a garden, cooking and baking, cutting and pasting, catching bugs, dancing and singing, etc. It's all very organic, unplanned, and unhurried. I don't worry about reading and writing until my children are at least six (unless they pick it up on their own--which one of them did).

At six or seven years old I sit with my child for an hour or so each day learning letters and sounds, numbers and math concepts. It's fun and simple. There are a few workbooks that have worked very well for us over the years. I will list them at the end of this page.

By ten years my children are completing their tablework independently.

Writing, at our house, begins with copywork in the early years, and slowly develops to expressive writing. We use our study of history as the basis for learning how to write. We take turns reading aloud a chapter from a history book, then everyone writes a descriptive summary (or sometimes a short story based on the historical subject). The younger children copy a short model paragraph that I write out for them. The older children write their own pieces. Afterward, we illustrate them. These illustrated notebooks are lovely to look through.

Science is learned primarily through nature study, close observation, and good books on interesting subjects. After nearly twenty years of homeschooling, I have not yet found a science book that I like. (I would love any recommendations!) I have tried quite a few over the years but find they take a tremendously fascinating subject and make it dry as dust. National Geographic Magazine is a good resource.  A lot of Christian homeschoolers really like Apologia Science texts--we do not.

A Short List of My Family's Favorites

Learning to Read: 
Get Ready for the Code (by Educators Publishing Services)
The Reading Lesson, by Dr. Michael Levin
Pathway Readers  (inexpensive, wholesome stories, absolutely the best primers through 3rd grade).

Wordly Wise 3000 
Vocabulary Vine

Easy Grammar, by Wanda Philips

Key to Curriculum
Algebra Survival Guide

A Child's History of the World, by V.M  Hilyer
The Human Odyssey Volumes 1, 2, and 3  (published by K12)
A History of US, by Joy Hakim (10 volume set)

Social Studies:
A Life Like Mine, by DK for UNICEF
Children Just Like Me, by DK for UNICEF

Maps, Charts, and Graphs (Modern Curriculum Press) for Elementary grades
World Physical Geography, by Runkle (for high school students)

Various field guides
National Geographic Magazine
The Big Backyard Magazine and Ranger Rick, by the World Wildlife Federation
Encyclopedia of Science and Encyclopedia of Science Projects, by Shooting Star Press (these are really good, but not widely available)

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