I used to worry that I’d mess up my kids by leaving out some really important part of their education. I came to realize, however, that classroom learning, although it can be very beneficial is really just the beginning,
If you teach your kids how to learn and don’t squelch their God-given interest for discovery in the process, you have done your job. Anything they ever need to know they can find out at any time of life.
My general practice was to do academics each day for approximately 2-3 hours per day. That left a lot of day during which time the kids did chores, devotions, reading, and then were free to explore individual interests. This is where the life-long learning took place.
What to do with this time will be as variable as your kids are different from each other. Some of the things my kids did along the way were: actively being involved in political races/parties, writing stories/books, building bookcases, raising chickens, selling eggs, raising rabbits, leather craft, selling leather belts, starting a photography business, volunteering to help overwhelmed moms, taking piano lessons, reading, flying, hunting, cake decorating, gardening, experimenting with plants, building garden ponds, finding new ways to grow things, interviewing World War II veterans, visiting elderly folks, cooking, baking and selling bread, making and selling candy, ministering to others, plus many, many more.
Sometimes their ventures failed and sometimes they succeeded, but they learned from both. Sometimes the things they did became activities they continued to do, while others were passing interests, but that’s what it’s all about. Kids need to be free to explore, build, create, try and fail; our role is to encourage them and supply them with materials or opportunities to try new things. An added benefit is that all your kids will learn from the projects the others are involved in. Sometimes they’ll end up doing projects as a joint effort.
If Dad is self-employed, it’s a great opportunity to teach the boys a skill; even if he’s not, letting them learn alongside while he works on the car, fix the dryer, etc. will expose them to things they might really be gifted in or interested in. I remember when my older boys first went on the drywall job with Dad, they came back and started drawing plans for houses since they’d seen many house designs in their travels.
Learn from those you invite into your home. Find out what they do for a living and how they became interested in it, how they prepared, if they’d do it again if they had it to do over, etc. As you minister to others, widows, widowers, shut-ins, nursing home residents, young moms, families with new babies, families whose dads are out of work, visiting missionaries, etc, take your kids along with you. You’ll be training them to have a servant’s heart and how to be aware of the needs of others.
Academic learning is very important, but it’s not everything. One of the beauties of home education is that it gives your children time and exposure to learn in so many other ways than just sitting in a school room for most of the day! Learning is life experiences, learning from mistakes and successes, trying new things, exploring, observing, and so much more! Don’t be fooled into thinking that your homeschooling needs to follow the same pattern as school in the classroom setting. Instead, enjoy the freedom and opportunities that come with homeschooling by allowing your children to enjoy and savor these formative years by learning in all sorts of ways!
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Thank you for the amazing advise, encouragement, and example. Overwhelmed is an understatement here, and a good day is when I don’t yell, but our kids are the greatest treasure on earth… (mom to give ages 7 months to just 7).
I have often said it was hardest for me when I had 4 little ones all 6 and under. They aren’t old enough to be able to truly help and it’s all on you, 24/7. But, it does get easier each year as the oldest ones get older and you can train them to actually help with the chores. As hard as the stage you are in now is, it has a sweetness of it’s own and often I would like to go back even for just a day! Look for the sweetness. Each season of life has it’s own struggles, but it’s own sweetness. God bless you and remember to find time to enjoy those little guys!
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Did you hold to that 2-3 hours even through high school? Then how did you have enough credits for a transcript and college admission? What did the afternoons of your high school students look like? How much did you let them determine their own activities? My fear is that my 13 and 15yo would just play and not be productively engaged. And having enough “hours of instruction” to meet state requirements.
Dawn- My time with high schoolers was done in 2-3 hours a day. They did have reading to do on their own in the afternoon or evening, depending on what their schedule was like. My oldest boys apprenticed in the drywall trade in the afternoons and would read in the evening. Others did their reading in the afternoon, but they did have time for earning money too. It kind of depends on your student. Search for what they are passionate about and see if you can help them to do something to earn money, start a business, explore skills they will use in future, visit elderly folks, minister to others, etc. They will need direction for how to profitably use that time. Evaluate if “schoolwork” is just a filler or something they really will use and see if you can get beyond it sometime during the week to engage them in ministering to others.
Thank you, Marilyn. I’m in counseling for issues in my teen and college years (26-36 years ago) that have led to an unhealthy drivenness, one could say compulsiveness, in my homeschooling. Also, my marriage isn’t the greatest so I’ve pretty much been on my own homeschooling our four and have been killing myself in the process. My counselor keeps nudging me to switch to public school, which I don’t want to go there except maybe part-time. I know I need to restructure things, perhaps make radical changes, but don’t know how and don’t yet have someone to work with me who is more sympathetic to homeschooling than my counselor. It’s hard with so many voices telling me that more things than are possible to accomplish are all important. I know God can and will guide, but because of my background I’ve been afraid to trust Him even though I’ve been a Christian since 5 years old. By His grace, that’s been changing. So that’s the background for my questions.
First, I recommend that you might want to consider looking for a different counselor. Public school is not the answer to anything.
Of course I don’t know a lot about your family or situation. But I will tell you one thing that I believe with all my heart:
If your kids are competent to read, write, do basic arithmetic and think rationally, they are capable of educating themselves. Add to that a servant’s heart, and you have a better education than 90% of American kids today. Many moms are frantically trying to do everything that can be done in the realm of education. That is impossible and it’s a recipe for discouragement and eventual meltdown.
Your kids will only retain a tiny percentage of the data they memorize in their studies. What they will carry throughout their lives are the attitudes they learn day by day. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d be better off relaxing your academic routine a bit and doing more service projects and independent study adventures. Let them study what they are fascinated by.
My youngest daughter has interviewed a lot of WWII veterans and it has been a life-changing experience. Now, that is real learning. Much better than memorizing stuff and regurgitating it on a test sheet.
Hope this helps.