Simplicity in Homeschooling

Gwen Miller

Simplicity has been our key for successful homeschooling.

Each year as I prayerfully assess the academic needs of my children and what God would have me emphasize with each child, I am consistently challenged to keep it simple. Having had eight years' experience teaching in public and private schools, I know that much of what is included in school curriculum is extraneous. My goal is that my children are strong in the basics of reading, writing and mathematics. All other areas of education can be linked to the three basics.

Someone once said, "Whatever you do daily is what you will do well." So after I determine what areas we need to focus on each year in homeschooling I make our daily plans fit together to achieve these goals. Since organization isn't my strong suit I work at being organized in our homeschool. In doing so I hope that my children will have an affinity for order and structure. Our daily routine is in keeping with our goal of simplicity but also allows for individual creativity and productivity.

Our command center is the dining room table. Each morning we gather between 8:00 and 8:30 for breakfast. Though I love the smell of homemade biscuits and bacon wafting through the house, most mornings my children come downstairs and make their own breakfast of cold cereal or toast with peanut butter. While they are eating breakfast I make each an individual assignment and chore list for the day. This checklist enables each child to be self-governed and accountable for his/her duties. Unfinished lists result in receiving additional tasks.

kidswatchingdeerThe Checklist System and Other Tools

For my family the checklist system works wonderfully. Though each child routinely has his regular reading, writing and math assignments, there are other things on their lists that are unique to their natural bent. My oldest son and my daughter are taking music lessons, so routine practice time is included on their lists. Three out of four of my children participate in a monthly Bible Quiz league so they have memorization assignments for quiz team.

I assign each child 15 to 45 minutes of personal reading time each day depending on their age. I know if my children are avid readers and read on a variety of subjects they will be strong students. So we make frequent visits to the local library. We leave with an assortment of books on every subject imaginable and of interest to the children. On a recent visit to the library my 11-year-old son made the same request he had made for the past year upon our visits to the library. "Mom, can you help me find books on the history of Rome and ancient Greece?" I agreed, but to my surprise as we perused the familiar bookshelves on ancient history we realized Heath had read every available book in our library on Rome and ancient Greece. I encouraged my voracious young reader by telling him we could request specific book titles on ancient history to be transferred to our library from other libraries in our large metropolitan area.

Copying passages teaches grammar along with readingIn first through fifth grades I assign copy work for daily writing practice. By copying excerpts of books by gifted authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder, my children are learning the basics of sentence structure, punctuation and spelling. So we choose a passage to copy from a book I am reading aloud or that they are reading personally. The passage is copied for three days and on the fourth day I dictate the familiar passage. I'm continually amazed at the knowledge my children have gained in language from simply practicing copy work and dictation.

Beyond fifth grade I have used a language arts program called Total Language Plus. It is a literature based language arts program. I read aloud daily to the kids so this program fits what we already do daily. There are applied student assignments based on the day's reading.

Further Studies in the Home and Beyond

Math is one area in which we use a curriculum. Each of my children has a math book on their grade level. They each do their daily textbook assignment. I find it is easy for us to include games for learning math skills. Several days a week each child takes a turn playing computer math games. We also play geo- shapes, Monopoly and other mathematical games.

Once my children finish their school related assignments they have a list of several chores to do. Homeschooling allows ample time for them to daily practice life skills. These include cleaning, cooking, organizing closets and doing minor repairs. Recently my 9-year-old son's dresser drawer came apart. I gave him a few instructions and some wood glue and he repaired the drawer quite satisfactorily.

We participate in a weekly homeschool co-op.

Here my children are able to take drama, music classes, and sports. Last summer I enrolled my 7th grader in a summer writing camp. We periodically enjoy visiting the art and science museums in our area. So, I am always on the lookout for educational opportunities. But, in all we do I am deliberate about keeping things simple. I want my children to read on a variety of topics. I want them to be able to express themselves creatively both verbally and in writing. I want them to be confident math students who are able to apply their math skills whenever necessary. By embracing simplicity I am able to maintain my focus, be more effective and avoid burnout.