So far in this series, I’ve covered long-term goal setting, breaking that down into homeschool subject matter, and creating a routine and rhythm for our days. Now I can begin thinking about what will comprise our academic work time in the mornings, and which of the subjects I’ve brainstormed earlier can better, or will primarily, be served in our lives outside of that time.
First I think it is important to make a distinction between skill training and the more esoteric work of education, which mostly consists of informing their tastes. Skill training is important and has its place in the framework of education, but it really works in service of becoming fluent in the means to understand and communicate their ideas. I think when people think about “homeschooling” they are mostly envisioning this type of skill training, what is often referred to as the “three Rs” (is there any more annoying misnomer than this? I ask you). In the middle grade years, I am thinking grades 3 through 8 or so, this is the main daily academic work. Learning how to read and write fluently, becoming familiar with arithmetic.
I personally feel that pushing skill training too early is not necessary or useful; third grade is a good time to begin the meaty work of this, though clearly in the course of living full lives at home they are getting exposure to the concepts of reading, writing, and math all the time! You cannot avoid it, because these are the tools that we all use to communicate and connect with one another, to move about in the world. In my experience, the longer that children are allowed to move freely and joyfully through the world as partakers of this great interconnectedness, the more easily and more beautiful their academic work will come later, their own contribution to the world of ideas.
So, skill training takes a priority for my third and fifth grader. I use a variety of simple games, problems, and, yes, worksheets for math. I am primarily concerned with creating speed and ease in the four operations; we go over time, money, measurement, simple geometry, and spatial geometry, casually and circumstantially. I love math and find it enjoyable to interest them in all the ways we use math, all the time! For a few resources I use you can check my homeschool resources page (this is always a work in progress, so check back periodically!). I try to keep things very simple, and work intuitively to fill gaps in their knowledge or work more closely on things that challenge them. I don’t plan, nor do I use one particular curriculum, but rather use common sense to shift and do things that will be useful to them at the time. Lesson time is kept short, because it can be intense work on their part, even as it is enjoyable. This is something we usually do early on in the day when they are freshest.
As far as skill training in language arts goes, we have used, and are still using, and enjoying, Emma Serl’s Primary and Intermediate Language Lessons, but we also have fun with language, have discussions about forms of language, write codes, they write stories of their own and letters to friends, we do copywork of beautiful and edifying pieces, we recite poetry and read immense amounts, the list goes on. I find that work in language arts comes very easily because as people, we are all interested in communicating with one another, telling stories, being understood! Again, I think it’s important to keep things simple and to rely on your own common sense. You don’t really need a curriculum to accomplish the end goal of having children who are varied, clear, and interesting communicators.
Having the end goals in mind allows peace, common sense, and simplicity to rule our homeschool days, instead of me constantly worrying that one curriculum is better than another, and maybe I should buy this or that new thing if I want my kids to be Learning Enough or Getting Smart. I am finally reaching the point in my homeschool teaching years that I can see the big picture and not be constantly grabbing at the shiny and new, or the reassurance of something pre-assembled, whether ideology or curriculum (which I would always alter to suit my tastes anyway!).
What about the other portion of their education? All of the other subjects I’ve brainstormed? What about the influencing of tastes, the parent’s work of acculturation and education? I’ll address that in the next post. I also wanted to let you know if you’ve left me a question on any of the posts in this series, I will do a Q&A post at the end and answer your questions, so fire away. And thank you for all the support you’ve shown both here and on Instagram! My greatest hope is that you find something in these posts to give you a little bit of peace and joy in your lives.