My child is only three years old; is that too early to get started?
Not at all. Little ones are enthusiastic learners, ready to learn almost anything. Plan to spend about an hour a day with them on reading (or pre-reading), thinking skills, and math. We would often do one reading lesson, a page or two of math, and a few thinking skills pages or challenges, and that's it. If your child loves art or science, by all means do it – you will both have a blast. Still, if you do the basic three you will find that your child is ready to excel at anything!
What about homeschooling a highschooler?
Many parents feel intimidated by the idea of homeschooling a child in the upper grades. However, if you have mastered basic biblical training and are teaching a responsible young adult, then high school may be the most rewarding and hands-off time that you'll have. (If not, set aside all else to do this. Nothing else will bear as much fruit in his life as his character will.) We suggest that you discern with your child his gifts and inclinations, then together pick out a curriculum which will help him towards his goals while emphasizing service. For instance, your future paramedic will benefit from an emphasis on math and science and could begin to supplement his learning by volunteering with your local fire department. Your young construction worker will not only benefit from studying drafting, but this year's big project could be designing and building a fine-tuned chicken coop for the widow in your community. The skills he learns – from research to finishing – will serve him for the rest of his life in a way that traditional schoolwork will not. And what about your computer tech? Buy him the software and tutorials local professionals use, and have him work through the training materials and build your church a top quality web site. Why not invest now in the tools he'll use in the “real world” while also giving him an opportunity to bless your church body?
How do I home school my baby?
As a teaching mom, my first assignment is to study my baby and learn how he learns best. (See Learning Styles.)
Visual babies study the details in the world around them. These are the babies that become the children that seem to teach themselves to read. Our Joy was reading words at sixteen months and loving it! Because we know Pearl is likewise a visual baby, we will work to surround her with lots of visual stimulation. The easiest way for me to do this is through brightly-colored picture books, but other ideas are posters, mirrors, and toys – even a fish tank! My goal is to nourish the visual ability of my baby, to allow her to excel in an area in which God has made her capable.
We have found that our auditory babies are ideal candidates for music training and foreign languages. An environment with good music will begin a lifetime love for music. If we were bilingual we would have capitalized on that skill while they were still infants. Instead we did the next best thing and let them listen in while we played foreign language tapes. A lesson we learned the hard way was to spend as much time as possible talking to our auditory babies, because before we knew it, they were talking, talking, talking... And that will continue throughout their childhood as they sing while they work, chant out their math facts, and yodel for the sheer pleasure of it. If it seems to you that their mouths are always in gear, keep in mind that they truly do need to hear themselves think.
As a kinesthetic baby, Hope needed an environment full of action. Hope was not content to sit and watch the action flow around her. As soon as possible, she hurled herself into that action. Hands-on babies learn by feeling and doing, so give them every opportunity to push, pull, squeeze, squish, dig, and dump. When Hope was a little older and involved in “hard-core academics” like puzzles and coloring, it amused us to no end to notice that she spent entire mornings standing at her child-size table. To ask her to sit to work on a puzzle would have bewildered her. How can you possibly do a puzzle without hopping, wiggling, or at the very least marching in place?! We could have forced her to sit quietly in a chair for schoolwork, but she would have been so engrossed in the labor of sitting still that there would have been no brain power left to solve puzzles. We saved the training of sitting still for when sitting still was the only goal. Keep in mind that God put those wiggles in your baby. When you think you just cannot clean up one more mess, tell yourself that to excel academically your baby needs as much active time as possible. I like to think that the wearier I am, the brighter my hands-on baby is becoming.
Once more, we are not addressing conduct here. We do not think we should abdicate our throne to a fifteen-pound tyrant. We do, however, have the intent of making our baby our course of intense study. What makes him sad; what makes him happy? What challenges him and what does he find boring? The more I know about my baby, the easier and more pleasant my career as a teaching parent will be.
Don't you just love toddlers? They are so enthusiastic, loving, curious, confident, and innocent. However, to a home-educating mom, they are also exhausting, impatient, loud, and unpredictable. But how can we incorporate these tornadoes in with the older children in our education program without making them the center of it? Here are some ideas that have worked for us.
1. Pick up a few school supplies for them. Construction toys (Wedgits), beginning thinking skills books, and even Kumon workbooks are all great choices for toddlers and will let them participate in school alongside their older siblings.
2. Most toddlers will be blissful if you let them participate in your art lessons. If you are using expensive supplies that they will destroy, try buying inexpensive sets that are just for them. They won't know the difference between deluxe and cheap paper, and a set of twenty-four markers for $3.00 will look like more fun to them than the $3.00 per piece art markers! It helps to buy an art bin or caddie to store all their supplies in (markers, glue sticks, scissors, stickers, and so forth). Not only will this encourage orderliness, but toddlers love to sift and sort through their possessions.
3. Involve them in your music or foreign language program, especially if you are studying sign language. Remember that, to them, every language is foreign! When you find their interest is lagging, then that is the moment to give them some individual time, while the older children are being taught by the DVD.
4. Add some inexpensive workbooks to your school supplies. We like to use those with lots of different pictures on each page. For toddlers, we never follow the prescribed instructions; instead, we make up our own very basic directions. For example, we'll say, “Circle with your red marker everything that has eyes. Cross out, or scribble over, with your blue crayon everything that has wheels. Put a sticker on anything that does not make a noise.” Our toddlers have all loved their workbooks, and following verbal directions is an indispensable skill.
5. Our most obvious suggestion: Keep a box or a shelf of items that can only be used during school time. This can include art supplies, workbooks, puzzles, blocks, and other hands-on materials that are only brought out during this time. This distinction will add to their attractiveness and make the “learning hour” something your toddlers will anticipate every day!