Never in a million years did I think I would homeschool my children. Growing up, we had neighbors that homeschooled. They were considered a little strange by my family. Didn’t they know their kids would never get the kind of socialization needed to be well-rounded adults? Don’t even mention the educational aspect. I mean, really, how in the world would they get into college?
And then one day, we were faced with the question of where our preschoolers would go when the time came. We looked around and quickly decided not this school, nor that one. But where, oh where is that idyllic school, where our children will be inspired and encouraged and admonished with the love of the Lord? No need to worry. We had faith that He would place them exactly where they needed to be. You see, we still had several years before our children were considered school aged, and we knew God could perform miracles. We were trusting, that if He had laid this burden on our hearts, it was for a very good reason. So we waited.
Slowly we began to realize that maybe His plan wasn’t to build an affordable state of the art Christian school in our rural town. That’s when I got serious about studying everything from educational philosophies to the ideal length of time outdoors. Before long, I had read the likes of Charlotte Mason, John Taylor Gatto, Susan Wise Bauer, Ruth Beechick, Raymond and Dorothy Moore and many others. My head was spinning. Mason’s idea that there isn’t a separation between intellectual and spiritual life was intriguing. Every educational belief I held was shaken to the core.
We are finishing our fourth year of homeschooling our daughters Belle, second grade, and Ru, third grade. We love educating our children at home. God does perform miracles! I almost laugh out loud looking back at how naive I was to believe that “the perfect school and the funds to attend” would just show up. It was God’s grace that He led us slowly to this blessed endeavor, or more aptly, this calling. Yes, I said calling. I realize that homeschooling may not be considered a calling by everyone but that is what it has become for us.
Maybe that is why we have confidently bucked the trend of packaged curriculum and workbooks in favor of unabridged living books. We use everything from Pilgrim’s Progress to A Door in the Wall for our second grader and Shakespeare to Johnny Tremain for our third grader. We borrow heavily from Ambleside Online, Charlotte Mason Help, and Memoria Press. Our children are receiving a rigorous education while delighting in highly inspiring classics.
We begin each day with time in the Word of God. We don’t follow a curriculum, instead, preferring to chronologically read the Bible during breakfast. We then take turns narrating and discussing the passage.
Memory work is memorized bit by bit each day right after breakfast. Each child has a section in a three ring binder devoted to all memory work, past and present, for the current school year. Each day they review a new piece, reading or reciting it once or twice. Then they move on to a piece that has been memorized previously and read or recall it from memory. In this way, they have been able to memorize noble, beautiful pieces and retain the works previously memorized. It only takes about five minutes a day. We keep it fun and low key with no pressure. Children are often able to memorize a great amount. Charlotte Mason reminds us that it matters not how much they memorize; rather, how much it feeds their soul.
We study World History, U. S. History and geography simultaneously and in chronological order. Before each reading we recap what was previously read and discussed. I point out new locations or vocabulary that might not be understood in context. After every reading, the child has a time of narration. For fun, they check out historical fiction and biographies from the library to supplement what they are learning.
Most weeks we touch on science daily. It might involve dissecting bullfrogs collected from nearby ponds in an effort to learn what they eat, and how non-native species can overtake other native frogs. It might be noting in a journal the new bird spotted at the feeder located a few feet from the dining room table. In addition to these hands-on activities, each child reads from Christian Liberty Nature Readers and other living books, followed by a detailed narration. Our children have started a nature blog. It’s a great way for them to share their knowledge and learn how to articulate an idea clearly to an audience. We are currently working through R. E. A. L. Science Odyssey Life with each child maintaining their own science notebook.
For math, we use RightStart Mathematics. In the early years, you won’t see a lot of worksheets or flashcards. It incorporates manipulatives and games to replace worksheets. In addition to this, each child uses a free math website to work on quickly recalling math facts.
Occaisionally, I pick up a language arts curriculum because I am sure that I will ruin my children if they can’t diagram a sentence. It doesn’t take long to realize that it is the surest way to kill their enthusiasm. So we read and then read some more. They journal daily about anything they want. I don’t correct the journal, because at this young age, I just want them to get into the habit of getting their thoughts on paper.
Latin is introduced slowly and touched on daily using Prima Latina. One poet is studied over a twelve week period with a single poem read every morning for a week. In this way, they often memorize the poem without even trying and become familiar with the poet before moving on to the next. This has instilled a love and appreciation for poetry more than any pre-packaged program could. We don’t analyze or dissect poetry. We enjoy it.
Copywork consists of the student daily copying a couple of sentences from their readings. Choosing the passage herself, the student rotates between literature, science, and history. She learns naturally, good sentence structure, punctuation and capitalization rules.
For Fine Arts, we rotate through a new composer and artist every twelve weeks. A brief biography is read and selected music is played throughout the day, while six copies of the artist’s finest works are studied and enjoyed over a twelve week period. They attend music lessons weekly and practice music daily.
I hope this encourages you to incorporate more living books into your school, and to remind you to carefully listen to God’s plans for your school.
“Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yay, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” – Isaiah 41:10
Copyright 2014, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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