There can be no proper schooling without home schooling. Education must not only begin at home, but it must be rooted there. Parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children. Many of the breakdowns in our public system of education are a result of that responsibility being transferred to the school. There are several reasons for this having happened. Parents, school districts, State and Federal government can all share in the blame. Blame aside, exclusively homebased education has taken on many mainstream supporters and participants in the last several years. It has become a legitimate option.
The fundamental strength of homeschooling is parent participation. As a full time homeschooling father of four, I am well aware of the tremendous commitment involved. Preparation is key. It requires staying one, sometimes two, steps ahead of the student. Scheduling is crucial to maintaining order and ensuring progress. Lesson plans must be planned out, preferable months in advance. Assignments must be prepared, completed and corrected. While I do note grades for my own records, they are not a driving force. The question for measuring success is: ‘what do you know?’
Measuring knowledge of a subject goes far beyond grades and testing. A ‘C’ student who learns from correcting her mistakes may have just as good a grasp of a topic as her classmate making all ‘A’s, perhaps better. Simply doing work and being graded is not education. This applies to all students in all settings. Individual work and progress must be addressed. Here is where home reenters schooling. Parents, siblings and extended family can have a huge impact on the success of the student.
Stay abreast of curriculum, grades, associates, extra-curricular activities; strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Do some research on a subject of interest. Find resources to bolster a trouble spot. Know their teachers. Encourage them to correct and review mistakes in homework assignments and tests. Follow up. Be actively involved. This can be difficult and time consuming but is invaluable to the child.
Whether attending school, public or private, or as a full time homeschooler, the key to education is found in the home. All parents should consider themselves homeschoolers even if only part time. The eighteen years can pass rather quickly. What do they really know?
For fulltime homeschoolers, there are a couple of crucial practices that I find indispensable. These two principles involve a delicate balance between disciplined consistency and freedom to develop. Learning cannot be left to a secondary status. One must be disciplined in the use of time and consistent in seeing the work gets done.
Most children would rather play around than do copywork or math worksheets. They must become accustomed to putting concentrated effort into the task at hand with regularity. It is vital that they see the importance of education and it must be seen by example. It need not take six or seven hours everyday at exactly the same time, but it does need to be a great priority. Housework, yardwork, oil changes and grocery shopping, as important as those things are, cannot interfere with learning.
On the other hand, a learner centered approach to education and training is very important as well. This requires consideration of the individual learner. Evaluation of learning style and ability means allowing children to use the most efficient sense to solidify the subject in their mind. Reading, writing, speaking, listening, touching and in some cases even tasting and smelling are all important. Some will respond best to more ‘conventional’ processes, while others may take rather untraditional stimulation to get the idea.
I have considerable amount of material from several different curricula. Some I paid quite a bit for and do care for them much. Others were freely available and are an invaluable part of my overall plan. Children, even from the same family, are distinct individuals in their personality and abilities. This often requires a great deal of flexibility in presentation of material. My focus in these early years has been on the classic trivium: Grammar – the mechanics of language (in our case English, Latin, Spanish and French), Logic – the process of thought and analysis, and Rhetoric – the expression of thoughts to others. To the classic trivium I have added a very practical approach to life based mathematics, using home and garden, banking, restaurant menus, company catalogs, etc, as guides.
With these as my target, the actual subject matter is not nearly as vital. Whether it be current events, ancient Egypt or flora of the Yucatan, the technique is the same. 1) Research, read, listen, see, do. 2) Consider it, understand it. 3)Discuss it. 4)Write about it. Make an oral presentation.
Using these methods I am able to evaluate and correct grammar, spelling, composition, analytical skill and speaking ability. More importantly, after all of this, it is plain to see what has been learned.
I do have an overall set of topics set out weeks and even months in advance. I have also learned that flexibility on my part is important. I have begun to encourage individual tangents to wherever the imagination leads. Interests are varied and pursuit of interests is promoted.