Written by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling.
“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”
When people first find out that I homeschool my children, their first response is inevitably, “Wow — That’s great!” followed closely by, “How do you do it?”
They wonder if there is a set schedule with a set curriculum. To them, “homeschool” translates to “school at home”. They comment on how hard it must be to keep four kids under control or even hint at my brilliance for being able to “teach” them everything they need to know.
Usually, I just shrug it off and say it’s not really anything extraordinary. It’s all we know and very much just a part of our lives. If anything, I find the act of getting kids to and from school and extracurricular activities, in addition to making sure they complete all their homework everyday to be an amazing feat all its own.
For my part, I can’t even take credit for being an excellent teacher, because, I’m not usually teaching anything specifically. After the kids have mastered reading, writing, and basic math, I pretty much leave them to study on their own. My number one subject is independent learning and in this day and age of Google and online content, it is a subject easily mastered.
To this end, I have two main methods: Be an Expert and Learn From an Expert. In the first method, I have the child learn the material, becoming the “expert,” and explaining it to me. In the second, we seek an “expert” and learn together.
Photo by vblibrary
Be an expert
If I want my child to learn about medieval times, for instance, I will grab a stack of high interest books at the library and have him study it and teach it back to me, usually in the form of a written, verbal, or electronic (Power Point) presentation.
More often than not, the information in the books overlap, which helps to reinforce the subject. Within broader subjects, he can choose to focus in on something specific.
In the case of Medieval Times, for instance, he can focus on castles, everyday life, knights, food, or the feudal system. In addition, he can create a model or diagram and point out its significance.
Photo by Zitona
Learn from an expert
I refer on occasion to the standards put out by the department of education. While I don’t believe everyone should be taught the same subjects in specified years, I also don’t dismiss the standards completely. When used as a guide, they are actually quite helpful in assessing what your child knows (and does not know) or might want to know.
The subject of rocks isn’t something my 11-year-old would research on his own. However, while glancing through the Sixth Grade Earth Science standards for our state, the subject of rocks is definitely on there, so I decided to explore it a bit using my top secret tool for researching subjects: actual school teacher’s curriculum.
Not every teacher is great (this is true whether they teach at school or home) but the beauty of the internet is that it gives you plenty of choices to choose from. When you find an excellent source, it’s like having your favorite teacher as adviser.
To get started, search your topic of choice and be specific. For example, a search for “6th grade Earth Science syllabus” will lead you to plenty of teacher sites, filled with activities, handouts, schedules, and interactive links. There should be plenty of ideas to get you well on your way for each subject.
On that particular day, as we visited the different recommended sites, we learned about the differences between igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. We watched videos and my son made a chart of the rock cycle and we tried our hand identifying different rocks, comparing our collection to the photos on screen. At the end of the day, we both completed a unit on Earth Science, and I never really “taught” him anything other than how to find out more.
Both methods are basically lessons in research, presentation, and the joy of discovery. The higher up the academic ladder the child goes, the more independent his research and more content he needs to explain to me (including proper citations).
Be it through a hand drawn picture, a cardboard model, a short movie, or a full out term paper in MLA format, their Show and Tell evolves with each year so that later on, when someone commends me on what a great teacher I must be, I can point to and thank the four best teachers I have had the privilege of learning with.
So, how do you homeschool?
I love this post! What do you use to make sure the internet is “safe”. My son is getting to the age where he will be doing internet searches on his own. Any advice is welcome! Thanks 🙂
I really love the idea of these two ways of doing home schooling! I do have a concern though. How do you know if what your son is presenting about castles is correct? Do you read the books along with him to be sure he is hitting on all of the key subjects and getting all the details correct?
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I use A.C.E., which is a set curriculum. I have come a long way over the years though in that I am alot more flexible now and don’t worry when we aren’t getting as much “school” done as others would say we should.
My focus is far more now on Bible study (we mostly read through a study bible together – the children find it fascinating!), letting the children pursue avenues that interest them, seeking people who are experts in their fields to meet with my children and pass on some of their expertise, and just letting them PLAY!!!
Our homeschooling is really still a work in progress, and I the Lord seems to take us in different ways at different times.
I appreciate you sharing your experience and way of doing things…
God bless you as you abide in Him!
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Great to see this kind of unschooling. Sometimes when I suggest things or decide to read something to the kids that they would not necessarily happen upon themselves, I feel like I’m not unschooling. I really appreciate this post!!!!
You’re right! The older we get, the more independent we become in our education. We shoulder a little more responsibility each year, learning how to digest a larger amount of information into something we can use that’ll make our lives better.
I like the way you frame it for your kids: be an expert and learn from an expert. Very interactive way of doing things. Seems like we’re essentially doing this all the time: seeking advice and presenting advice. It’s a back and forth method – a kind of role reversal we play every day. All of us are experts and amateurs in something. I’ve used a similar method to the way I teach music lessons to kids. I think they soak up the messages more than when they’re sitting there being lectured to.
I like that method. Our oldest are both in fourth grade now, and I think we\’ll give this a shot next semester: letting them pick a topic and teach me about it.
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Rachel at Stitched in Color
Great post! I’ve been trying some project based homeschooling this month, which is kind of like “be the expert”. It’s been really fun!
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While I am a huge fan of independent learning, I have never thought about the methods you talked about. I especially like the idea of having them read about a subject and report it back in some way. I can see my kids enjoying that, especially as the get a little older.
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