Seven years ago, I began homeschooling. I had rather high ideals in the beginning. I envisioned a highly disciplined home environment, with children who were like thirsty sponges, eagerly learning whatever was presented to them. Most importantly, homeschooling would be exciting. I would eliminate all tedious, boring teaching methods, in favor of child-friendly, fun activities.
Over the years, some of my goals in homeschooling my four children have changed or been tweaked. Others remain firmly intact. I still try to include high-interest, fun activities in our schooling. The basis, or foundation, of our homeschool is good books. I know if my children have a love for gaining knowledge, it will propel them to learn on their own. We go to the library a couple of times a month, and we leave with sacks full of reading material. The children choose their own books to read, or they tell me their interests, and I choose for them, while they play computer games.
Reading aloud to my kids is the most loved activity we do together. My oldest son still asks me to read aloud. Routinely, I eat lunch while I'm preparing it, so that while my children are eating, I can read to them. We have read such classics as The Chronicles of Narnia and Lassie. We've read several missionary biographies and historical novels, and many books of the Bible.
I have found that children are easily motivated by games and hands-on activities. Math is the easiest subject in which to integrate games. When teaching about money, we set up a store. When learning about measurement, we get out the measuring utensils and make pudding or bake cookies. One game we play over and over again is Quizmo. It is a lot like bingo, except math facts are called out. We use this game for adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing. We've even come up with our own homemade version of bingo by drawing our own tic-tac-toe grid on blank paper. It's a fun way to learn fractions, math facts, phonic sounds, or spelling words.
I began playing games with the kids at an early age. I didn't even tell them it was school. But I knew they were learning reading and math skills, while they were having fun. I remember my son Heath, at three years old, asking, "Can we do sumping togedder?" It was his way of asking me to play games with him. He is now ten years old and still loves it when we play games.
I try to schedule field trips at least twice during the school year. Last year, we visited a chicken farm and went to the Fort Worth stock show. This year, we visited our local art museum. I am currently planning a trip to the planetarium, to go along with our space study.
Sometimes I must assign activities that the kids don't like. For example, I routinely check their progress through writing assignments and math worksheets.
In fourth grade, I periodically assign specific reading selections. When the complaining starts, I remind myself and my children that part of preparing for life is self-discipline and diligence. Ultimately, I want my children to have a well-rounded education and a love for learning and life.
By Gwen Miller