Curriculum alone does not educate a student at his/her full potential. Often times I am perplexed at why one of my students has learned something so easily while others are blank behind the eyes concerning some concepts. Desiring for my students to love learning just for learning’s sake, I am careful to contemplate ways to teach them using real life events. If you anticipate teaching at all times, learning can merely be incorporated in everyday life.
Curriculum is excellent for keeping me on track with each student and to prepare my thoughts for lessons that need to be learned. I do have my favorite curriculum for each age/grade that I will discuss in a later post. Certainly curriculum has its necessary place in education, but is just one tool useful for a well rounded education. One of the advantages to home educating my students is that I know everything that they are learning and can correspond our daily activities with those lessons. This is true for the first grader and the twelfth grader alike.
I am writing in the car as we are traveling and Scott is talking to the kids about a cargo plane that is flying. The children naturally ask questions and therefore teach themselves through their own curiosity. The dialogue between Scott and the kids encompasses many different subjects such as history (when do they use these planes?), military strategy, mechanics, aviation, transportation,and science. I am amazed at how much my children know because they have questions and they find the answers to those questions. They are not merely learning for a test, but to learn for learning sake.
It is far more important to place good books and resources before them and to teach them how to find answers to their many questions. I have found that each student teaches the others at the dinner table what fascinating fact they have learned during the day, thereby reiterating it to themselves and teaching with a passion to the other kids through natural conversation. I encourage each person to learn a fact that they can share at the dinner table each night. If only one child did this a night, that is 365 new facts a year. Multiply that by how many children you have and that can be an enormous amount of facts. These facts spur more curiosity which encourages more learning.
Small children learn best, in my opinion, through games.
These games do not have to be well thought out with lots of rules, but just spur of the moment games. For example, I taught the children my learning version of hopscotch whereby in his/her turn the child throws the a bean bag to a block in the hopscotch chain. If they make it in the block, they are asked a challenging question based on what they have been learning. If they answer correctly, they are allowed to hop to the landing spot of the bag. The first person who finishes the chain is the winner. This works well with different ages. Mix up math, science, history, and spelling questions. If the adult plays that is even better. The older kids can ask some rather challenging questions and the kids learn from that as well. I was asked “who was the 15th president of the United States?” I guessed the answer and had to go look it up. Now the kids playing will never forget that the 15th President was James Buchanan and that mom missed that question!
As my boys got older I notice around the age of 12, they seemed to need a passion for something industrious and useful to do. Now that I understand this I have begun praying that they would have a passion in some area where they could contribute to the family and society. My oldest son, age 18, became engrossed in learning everything about botany.
I could see an excitement in his eyes as he relayed information to us that he was learning or upon a new discovery while tromping with the family through the woods. It really doesn’t matter what their interests are so long as they can develop them and contribute something to society. I turned this passion into research for me and had him write papers and blogs about his discoveries. He is now a biology major in college and has been very successful in higher education.
My second oldest, age 16, loves trapping. He understands that this is a large part of land management. He has researched the advantages and disadvantages of trapping as well as researched studies from college professors, foresters, and wildlife managers informing on the destruction of too many predators in our woodlands. He has learned to write fantastic papers giving others understanding of his findings. This is not an area I would have chosen for him, but this is his bent and his interest. He blogs about his discoveries as well and his “paper” has been shared with large outdoor corporations.
I think that every family that educates their children at home feels that there are gaps that they do not know how to fill. Even though I had the boys write about their interests, I still felt that they needed a deeper understanding of documenting their articles correctly. I believe that there are many answers to these situations that we cannot imagine. As I waited for this answer, my professor from law school, Dr. John Eidsmoe, called me and asked if my sons would be interested in cite checking a few chapters of his 3 volume set of books, Historical and Theological Foundations of Law.
My answer was a resounding “YES”! This was my answer. This is only one of the many very “real” ways my kids have been able to learn some of the tedious “boring” parts of school. I could never dream of the solutions to some of my concerns. Through prayer and looking for opportunities, many of your concerns will be easily answered.
I feel that one of the most important parts of educating children is helping them to be useful in their studies. If kids and adults alike, for the matter, have something to contribute, learning becomes fun and necessary. If they are learning merely for a test, where is the fun and usefulness in that? Give them the tools, books, and resources that they need to learn about their interests and require them to spend time studying it with the end result being to inform others of their discoveries and they will gravitate to learning efficiently.
They will be filled with joy. Set the example by continuing to learn about things that interest you. Use real life events to teach and your children will learn. Relax and use curriculum as a guide and tool, but let it be just that. Live life with joy and excitement for learning and you will experience education.