How does one come up with their own educational approach? Shouldn’t that be in place before you even attempt to homeschool?
When homeschooling mothers ask me these questions, I always suggest that they just jump in and do something—don’t try to decide on an approach or a curricula at first. When you make the decision to move to a new area, you don’t have to buy the house the day you arrive. You can rent or stay in a motel for awhile and check things out and you will make a better decision that way. You don’t have to make decisions on what type of stroller, crib and college education before the baby is born and you see what the actual need is.
The same goes for homeschooling. Just start a daily time together doing whatever comes to your mind. You may want to pledge allegiance to the flag, sing a song, read a story aloud to them (or, better yet, a few stories), chart the weather, play a math game, or take a nature walk. You could do some art, some science experiences. Mostly, enjoy being together. As you get a little routine going, you will be able to study out what works best with your children, what they enjoy, what they don’t like, and your educational approach will be in the making!
“First we have a relationship, and then we have an educational method” is one of my favorite homeschool quotes. Work on that relationship by becoming the teacher in their eyes (plus foremost, their beloved mother). Make a chart and stick it on the wall so that they can see you are in charge and are going to dependably make this wonderful thing happen. I am just going to invent one quickly here for young children, but you do it anyway you like:
“Our Happy Homeschool”
-9:00 Begin (come dressed, chores done)
-Pledge, Song, Prayer
-Exercise (jumping jacks, windmills, run once around the house)
-Chart the weather
-Phonics (games preferably)
-Subject of the day (Mon: Science, Tues: History, Wed: Art, etc.)
-Walk or play outside (30 min)
-Math (hands on is best, teach the concepts with toys, beans, whatever you have on hand)
12:00 Cooking (kids help make lunch)
As you consistently stick with your schedule, you can begin to explore curriculum options based on how your children are responding. For example, perhaps your child finds a lizard outside and shows a lot of interest. Try using library books and finding books on different kinds of lizards, or the anatomy of lizards. Get a documentary or science movie at the library on lizards. Go to a museum or pet shop and see lizards. Explore the topic thoroughly. As you do, you will find what approach works best for your kids (and works for you as a teacher and mother). You will be able to decide how to teach science most effectively. Will the children enjoy the foundation gained through using a textbook? Will they do better on library books with a theme each week? Would keeping a nature sketchbook that they draw in be exciting to them? Is there a hands-on science program that will work for you? This is how you grow into your educational approach.
Some kids love workbooks and keep things neat and orderly. Others must be doing, moving, handling something to really learn it. I have had children who just wanted to be left alone with their math book and emerged later with nice, neat papers and few mistakes. I have a daughter right now who is so deadened by a math textbook that I have found the best approach with her is for me to take the math book and read over the concept myself and then sit at the kitchen table with her and use whatever is on hand (crayons, paper clips, buttons, etc.) to show her how the concept works and have her handle and do it herself before ever writing down a number. Then, when we do transfer the concept to numbers, I write just one problem in big numbers with markers on a whole piece of paper. After a few of these single problem pages, she grasps it and retains it! This is her learning style and it works very well for her. It did take us quite awhile to arrive at it. But now that we know what works for her, math is interesting, like a puzzle solved. She retains the info, she can do the rest of the problems herself, and we avoid the tears that used to accompany learning math.
So, when it comes to planning the new school year, please don’t pour any concrete yet. Set up your schedule with an ever willing-to-adjust attitude. It takes being flexible and observant to meet our kids needs and make learning a wonderful experience. And as you yield to their learning styles, you will come up with your own unique educational approach!