I love this question, but it’s not necessarily a quick answer:) You see, most Homeschoolers do not start and end with the same “style.” That’s because we are teaching “unique individuals”–children.
And they are also growing and changing individuals! And we are, hopefully, growing and changing as the Lord Jesus Christ makes us more and more into His image, and as we learn from Him, He shows what to emphasize in our home and teaching, and He eliminates other things that we thought were so important, and He leads us day by day. That is as it should be.
So, every day and every year, we need to be seeking Him for direction in our Homeschool, our families, and be obedient when He moves, to follow.
Having said that, here is a little overview of our story. I have long considered that I need to do a series on How we Started, What we Did, What we would do differently, etc. This, today, is not going to be a comprehensive answer, but bear with me, please.
How We Started
I started my son, Dane, in Kindergarten, as many do, “bringing school home.” We set up a little school desk, I found curriculum, planned a very structured day for him, and was very excited! It did not take long to realize this was not the way to Homeschool! The reason for Homeschooling was not to copy their failed efforts!
My little guy was frustrated, and so was I. During those early days, I read Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s books, (such as “Better Late Than Early”) and though I didn’t agree with everything they said, I liked the learning-as-we-live philosophy. I love learning!
I wanted all of life to be a learning experience. If I/we have done one thing right in our Homeschool, it was to teach our children to love learning and reading, and to know how to go about finding out the answers to their questions, which is the essence of learning.
My Ideal Way To Homeschool
Let me tell you about a time when my son was around 6 and my daughter, 3. We wanted to teach them to be attentive and obedient. These character qualities were at the core of our study, as we looked in Scripture to see what God said we should be attentive to, and what that means.
We read about people and animals that exhibited the quality of attentiveness. We thought about and talked about listening to your parents, and responding right away in obedience!
We read some interesting books about the ear and hearing, which we borrowed from the library (at both the 3 and 6-year-old levels). We looked at the pictures of the human ear. We did an experiment of placing some ping-pong balls on top of our big speakers, and turned the volume way up, and watched what happened to the balls! They bounced all over!
We watched the movie, (also borrowed from the library) “The Miracle Worker” about Helen Keller, and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Helen, as you know, was deaf. A beginning knowledge of sign language was gained.
Make Learning Fun!
We played games like “Simon Says” in which you have to listen very carefully, and do what you’re told. We marched to music, with little “instruments”, like a stick and a piece of wood, and a triangle, beating in time to the music. You have to pay attention if you don’t want to run into the person in front of you!
We had so much fun! This is the method I love the best. It succeeds, and it’s fun! How do I know it succeeded?
1) I still remember this unit study! and
2) One evening my husband came home from work, and at supper, was talking to Dane about his schoolday and what he had learned and he asked him to explain “how the ear hears.” Dane answered with one word, summing it up perfectly: vibration!
“How Did You Do It?”
How did I come up with all these ideas? It must have taken hours–days–weeks! to put together a study like this, right? Well, I happened onto KONOS. (I hesitate to call it “curriculum,” though.)
I still love these books. I went to a workshop at the annual “curriculum fair,” but I didn’t want to go to the extent that they talked about, in using KONOS. For me, it was a resource. Excellent tools and resources stand the test of time. This one was excellent when I was just starting out Homeschooling, and is excellent now!
Basing Learning on Character
Konos is based on character qualities, and gives suggestions (tons) for three different age groups, and categorizes them according to the subject (Science, Math, Bible, Language Arts, etc.).
Important Advantage: You pick the activities that fit your family, your interests, your time constraints! In other words, it’s completely customizable.
In the main book, there is a skeleton lesson plan, which includes the whole family–all ages. For instance, there are some activities/books which everyone would read or do. Then there are others, such as an age-appropriate book on the ear, recommended for each age group. The littlees might then color a picture of an ear, while the middle students write a few sentences, (practicing their handwriting for the finished product), and the older students may write a paper on the ear, or Helen Keller, with footnotes.
Each level builds on the barebones of the study, but everyone in the family is studying the same subject. Book lists are extremely helpful, as well, making it easy to go online and check your library to see which ones are available in your system. The authors rate the titles as to their excellence.
The Whole Family Studying One Thing
What I loved about doing school this way was that everyone was studying the same thing. I could do as little, or as much, as I wanted, depending on my schedule. We could involve Dad in many of our “school” activities. And it was so much fun!
Why I didn’t do more of this: It takes time to plan. (The authors do offer lesson plans, but these will not be tailored to your individual family, removing much of the benefit.) However, this is timeless education. I would still be able to use this book, which is old, for ideas, if I was teaching today. I keep it because I hope to use the ideas with my grandchildren someday. But there are updated versions, as well.
Konos Curriculum Volume 1 With Lesson Plans
Next, I’ll tell you about our Homeschooling style that took place roughly during the years of late elementary to early High School. These were some of the best years of our Homeschooling.
Our History-Based Timeline Approach
As our children entered the late elementary and junior high years, we adapted the Unit Study approach, and built it around our love for History. We made a timeline from a long roll of paper about a foot wide, put it on the wall downstairs, and studied one century at a time of U.S. History.
We put copies of photos on the Timeline of the people we studied, inventions, or favorite books we read. We also included our own “history” with Grandparents’ and Great-grandparents’ photos placed in the appropriate places, as well as our children’s photos.
This was important to their understanding that history is about real people who really lived. This was a fantastic experience for our family, as we looked at the important figures who lived during each time period, read their biographies, wrote papers, studied the historical events that took place, and went off on “bunny trails” when something was especially interesting to us.
Family Field Trips and Educational Vacations OR “Involving Dad in Homeschooling!”
We went on Field Trips: during our study of the 1800’s we visited historic homes, (such as that of railroad tycoon James J. Hill), went to Old Kelley Farm (a working farm from the mid 1800’s where children can do many of the chores from that era and enjoy hands-on activities), and the Folsom House, in which we enjoyed a personal tour due to no other tourists there at the time, and where my children were invited to play the 150-year-old square grand piano!)
Wonderful Memories of What We Studied
Two time periods particularly stand out in my mind. During our study of the 1900’s we were able to find the most interesting books about people who lived during the 1940’s, during WWII, and my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ eras.
“In Grandma’s Day” is the title of a series of books with excellent photos and short descriptive text (which were informative and fun especially when they described something that was still around when I grew up, but that I had forgotten!) telling what everyday life was like during that time!
Each book is written with dialogue from someone who grew up during that time, telling about their experiences, and with the added benefit of pictures to help us understand.
Including Our Christian Faith in Our Schooling
While studying about WWII, we also read the biography of a missionary, Darlene Deibler Rose, called “Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II” which had a profound impact on all our family, because of her faith and witness even in this desperate situation. There is also an interview of her in video format.
As we studied a time period, we would read aloud as a family at night. We enjoyed missionary biographies. We would find out about the geography, customs and so much more through our reading. But all we knew was that we were having a good time reading together.
One of The Greatest Benefits of Homeschooling!
These were extremely special times for us, as we bonded, learned, and our faith was challenged. This is one of the great advantages of Homeschooling! Mostly I was the one to read, while my husband would listen and my daughter and son would do something with their hands, such as drawing, knitting, or organizing a collection which didn’t take a lot of their attention.
When we studied the 1960’s and America’s exploration of “Space”, we learned so much through, especially, the video documentaries which we were able to borrow from the library. We all looked forward to watching these informative, and professional, productions of an exceptional time in our history.
I think watching the astronauts landing on the moon as a family, as though it was happening “right now,” is certainly a favorite memory for all of us!
When we read missionary stories we would study the places in the world that were talked about, and sometimes cook ethnic dishes from the region, or visit a store or museum which expanded our experience.
Though we didn’t use the Unit Study approach throughout all our years of Homeschooling, these are the years which I remember! The learning and bonding stuck. I highly recommend this method, for building families, enjoying each other, and remembering what you’ve learned.
Subjects That Don’t “Fit” Neatly Into A Unit Study
For those subjects which do not fit into a unit study (we had only a few subjects which didn’t fit into our Unit Studies, such as Math), we looked for a good curriculum which was successful, not too expensive, and fit our children’s learning styles.
If you are looking for good advice on what curriculum to buy, Cathy Duffy has been the leader in curriculum review for 20 years–or more!
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