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Homeschool Advice

Dear Helping Hand,

What are your suggestions for "tying it all together"? My homeschooler is in first grade and I'm scared that I'll run out of creativity before she runs out of questions. Lastly, I'm trying to incorporate our religious views into our class work- what's the best way to do that if you aren't using a curriculum that's based in your faith? (When we bought the curriculum we were unable to find one in our faith.)


You don't mentioned what type of curriculum you're using, so I'll try to keep my answers broad enough to fit as many possibilities as I can. I will also address your questions one at a time.

What are your suggestions for "tying it all together"?

I think you are in search of general 'tips for the beginner' here, so that's what I'm tossing out -- in no special order.

Relax. Don't try to replicate school in your home, and don't push your daughter beyond her readiness level. If she's getting frustrated, back off.

In following through on the idea of not having school at home, remember how you learn. If you are interested in something new, do you follow a regimented routine as you study it? Probably not. If you're anything like me, you likely 'study' in fits and bursts, turning to your subject for ten minutes today—taking in all you can absorb of what you're currently reading—and two hours tomorrow when interest and understanding march hand in hand. This is the way we handle school in my home. When introducing a new math concept, for instance, we may only work for fifteen minutes, then leave the book behind so that my son has time to mull over what he's learned. Then, on another day, he may work on math for three hours straight as he blows through page after page of concepts he knows or is picking up easily.

Probably one of the most important things I'm saying here is "be flexible." Flexibility is a must at all ages, but especially during the primary years. For this to be the best possible year for both of you, you must be willing to adapt as you discover how your daughter learns.

Be open to following her interests. What if, right in the middle of today's lessons, the two of you discover a beautiful pair of birds building a nest outside your window? Do you ignore the birds, feeling driven to first complete the day's allotment of school? You certainly can, but if she would rather watch the nest grow, you may wish to reconsider. After all, how often does such an opportunity present itself?

I did mention readiness in passing earlier, but I want to reiterate here. Please remember that all children learn at different levels, regardless of what the schools expect. Do not push her if she's not developmentally ready to learn a concept. The most common result of such pushing is mutual frustration. Likewise, don't hold her back when she's ready to move on, even if the curriculum does insist that certain things should wait for a later grade. The freedom to adapt curriculum to the child is one of the many wonderful things about homeschooling.

"Get into it." All children, most particularly younger ones, enjoy ‘doing’ things. Make sure you don't limit yourself to only your curriculum, especially if it is primarily paper and pencil activities. Keep art supplies on hand and use them often. Play lots of games. Watch educational television. Go places—visit museums, businesses, parks, banks, bridges, ethnic restaurants, libraries, fields, your back yard... Remember that learning really does take place all the time; take advantage of the learning situations that offer themselves.

Build a costume trunk (yard sales and resale shops are great for clothing and accessories) and act out scenes from stories you read. Play dress-up with her and she'll likely think you're the coolest mom ever.

Games are a great way to reinforce learning, and making the games yourselves is better still. Take a look at games you already play and use the parts you like best as you design some based on whatever you're studying.

You can see from my suggestions that I firmly believe doing things with your children is one of the most important aspects of parenting and homeschooling. The truth of it is that, as the two of you explore the world side by side, you'll "pull it all together" ...together.

My homeschooler is in first grade and I'm scared that I'll run out of creativity before she runs out of questions.

One thing I've learned about creativity is that it reproduces itself, or perhaps I should say it is a thing hat grows as it is used. Think of creativity as a muscle— the more you exercise it the stronger it gets. I've seen this hold true over and over again as people who did not consider themselves to be particularly creative came up first with one idea...then another...then another and another and another. Relax and trust both your daughter and yourself. Also, listen to what she has to say. Many times some of your very best ideas will be inspired by her questions. She'll ask them, and you'll both take off exploring the answers together.

Lastly, I'm trying to incorporate our religious views into our class work- what's the best way to do that if you aren't using a curriculum that's based in your faith?

You don't specify what your faith is, so I'd best qualify my answer in advance. This is a Christian magazine and I am a Christian, therefore my answers will come from that perspective. However, the principals should apply regardless.

First, I truly believe that the best way to impart anything to your children is the way scripture tells us to teach God's word. "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." (Deuteronomy 6:7, New King James version) Your faith permeates every aspect of your life and, as a result, sharing it with your children is a twenty four hour commitment. We consider the intricacies of God's creation as we walk outside or watch a video about the human body. We discuss what God has to say about government as we track political developments. We study godly character as we work on developing it within ourselves.

In our studies, we try to remember to consider God's perspective. When a character in our current read-aloud does something remarkable (meaning a thing to be remarked upon, good or bad) I try to remember to ask "What would God think of that?" When we encounter something in science, we ask, "What does the Bible have to say about this?" An excellent resource for Christians, by the way, is The Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects, by Dr. Ruth Haycock. It cross references every topic you could possibly use in your studies.

Truly, incorporating your faith into your school studies should be no more difficult than incorporating it into the rest of your life.

Thank you for asking this particular question. It's a reminder to me to look at the way I live. Am I truly teaching them as we walk by the way, or have I been slipping? I appreciate that reminder.

Enjoy your first year. Homeschooling is one of the most wonderful adventures of all.

A Helping Hand

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