Little ones learn in nature. Photo by Lena Helfinger on Pixabay
Help, my kids are struggling with online learning during the pandemic! I need options. But how can I home school my child? I don’t know where to start.
I’m not a trained teacher, and they’ll have gaps in their learning. Don’t you have to be super creative, organized, and patient to home school? What about social interaction? Plus I’m so busy just trying to run the farm, work from home, and make sure we’re prepared with food during this crazy time. How can I take this on?
Do you recognize yourself yet, or your fears? There is good news. With God’s gracious help, you can indeed joyfully homeschool your children. And you’ll find it easier than you think and more rewarding than you imagine.
Let’s look at each phase of a child’s growth and where schooling at home fits in. I know you’re worried about your kids who are already in school and struggling with our current forced online learning options, but let’s start at the beginning so you’ll see the full picture and realize how much you already know about home schooling.
In the Beginning
Your first baby comes along and, to be honest, you aren’t even thinking about teaching them. You just wish you could get a little more sleep. Yet your infant is learning all the time. They are learning who loves them, who feeds them and keeps them dry, and who smiles at them. Soon they are learning that some things are hot, that cat’s scratch when you pull their tails, that naps are non-negotiable, and that food can be chewed instead of flung.
Sooner or later your toddler puts names to people and objects. They copy the words you say and figure out that words bring them what they want while random sounds confuse grownups. Through imaginative play, they begin to manipulate their world. Splashing in puddles and squishing mud between their toes brings them into contact with nature. They count the ants that file across a log: “1...2...3...4”.
The Early Years
This has to be the most difficult age to be stuck in online learning. Elementary aged children need to be active and to be in touch with nature rather than stuck behind a computer screen. So what’s a budding home school parent to do? Start with their interest-of-the-moment:
Assign real-life jobs. Photo by Phicht Wongsunthi on Pixabay
Do they enjoy nature?
- Take lots of exploratory walks
- Teach them how to press flowers – yes, there are flowers out even in the winter
- Visit zoos and aquariums, whether in person or online
- Plant a garden together – start now by planning one and ordering seeds
- Order baby chicks, learn about raising them, and start having farm-fresh eggs
Do they tear things apart and try to reinvent them?
- Set up a work area for them with real tools sized down for their hands
- Give them broken appliances to take apart or scrap wood to build things
- Work beside them on the farm or in your house and solicit their ideas for improvements
Do they like to work with you?
- Incorporate math and language arts into your conversation as you do things together
- Find real work for them to do with your animals, train them in safety, and give them both responsibility and your trust
- Give them daily and weekly farm and house chores
- Give them a love of learning by showing them its practical application in your daily work
Snuggle up together and read lots of books! Have them draw pictures and then dictate their stories to you. Have them keep a journal. Spend lots of time singing, dancing, cooking, cleaning, planting, harvesting, raising animals, and exploring.
The Middle Years
Ease you children slowly into more self-directed learning. When possible, stay nearby as you work around the house so they sense your presence even though you aren’t working directly with them all the time.
Learning together. Photo by Andrea Piacquillio on Pexels
During the middle school years you’ll need to be more intentional about the subjects you are covering as you prepare your child for high school and, possibly, college. Keep talking with them about what they enjoy and what talents God has given them. Begin thinking about how to tailor their high school curriculum to their interests. Consider helping them to start a small business or to spend time interviewing people from various careers.
Let your child pursue their interests with outside classes or tutors in music, art, foreign language, or sports. Many private tutors and sports groups have figured out how to safely navigate meetings during this uncertain time. However, don’t fill up every minute of their day with activities. All children need alone time to dream, think, and engage with nature on their own.
The Teen Years
These are the years during which your child can explore business endeavors, creative abilities, and begin to exercise leadership skills with friends. Consider involving them with debate team, political volunteering, or compassion ministries.
Start a market garden together. Photo by Zen Ching on Pexels
Most teens are ready to do a lot of self-directed learning. Buy curriculum written for home schoolers as it is adapted to this approach. Now is the time you might add a limited amount of online or video learning for any subjects you aren’t comfortable teaching yourself.
Don’t let curriculum rule your child’s life. Remember that it is a tool and part of the joy of home schooling is that you can take things at your own pace and in your own order. These are important years to continue discussions about God and how he is at work in your child’s life. Have your child seek out mentors within your child’s fields of interest. Help them to be discerning in who they ask to mentor them.
You really can home school your children. Photo by White77 on Pixabay
Let your child take more responsibility for their learning, and give them room to have things not work out. Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." According to the Edison Innovation Foundation, he operated on four simple principles, taught to him by his loving mother:
- Never get discouraged if you fail. Learn from it. Keep trying.
- Learn with both your head and hands.
- Not everything of value in life comes from books- experience the world.
- Never stop learning. Read the entire panorama of literature.
There are immense benefits to be found in home schooling. You are intimately involved in your children’s education and daily activities filling the roles of parent and companion. Foster an environment of open communication and be willing to listen and discuss what your children are learning and thinking about. With God’s abundant grace you can home school your children and, in the process, gain their friendship as they reach early adulthood.
Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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