This is my second week joining in on the Homeschool Blog Cruise. Last week I posted my thoughts on socialization HERE. The topic this Tuesday is:
“How do you know what to teach?”
This is a question I have heard from time to time. A related question is:
“How will you make sure you do not miss something and have gaps in the children’s education?”
In the beginning, I did not need someone to tell me what to teach. Preschool is basic, or should be. I try to teach my preschoolers scripture stories first of all. We learn to recognize colors, shapes, letters, and the sounds letters make. We count to 10, then 20. We learn about animals, plants, vehicles, and things they are interested in. We read a lot of stories.
When my oldest finished kindergarten I did some research to see what my state department of education planned to teach in each grade. This list comes under many names, including scope and sequence (there is a free one by World Book Encyclopedia HERE). In Ohio this list is the Academic Content Standards, and it was free to download online.
I read my state’s plans for each elementary grade, by subject. Then I shook my head in disgust. Each year a pathetic amount of material was covered, in unrelated, disorganized bits. History was shallow and did not cover more than holidays and ‘my community’ for the first 3 years(K-2nd). In the entire 13 year plan world history received no more than 2 years of study. Our nation has only been around for a little over 200 years and you are going to study it nearly exclusively for 11 years?
Each year in science was a collection of random topics studied in a shallow way before moving on. For example in 2nd grade students are to learn that there are more stars than we can count; that sun and moon move across the sky; that weather can be different each day; that animals need air, water, and food; that plants change each season; and that some things make sounds. Those things could be covered completely in just a few weeks.
At that point I realized that anything I taught my children was going to be a deeper, more thorough education than the public schools were offering. We do not want our children to have knowledge a mile wide but only an inch deep. We want to follow their interests as deep as they go whenever they are ready to learn. Our goal is to teach them how to learn and then hold on for the ride.
For example, when my oldest looked through a science catalog at the end of 1st grade she decided she wanted to learn about animals. That is nothing unusual. However her interest lay in seeing how they are physically made – she wanted to spend the next year doing dissections! So we did. We dissected animals that had been preserved, just like in my high school biology class, as well as a rabbit we found (you can see photos of that one HERE). Makayla and her siblings learned a lot that year about God’s wonderful creations, how they are similar – and different. They did not have to wait until high school to learn about what was interesting to them.
So, to get back to the questions at the beginning of this post, here is how I know what to teach. I liken it to a trip to the ocean.
- Get in the water - Follow my children’s interests through unit studies. Give them some say in what we study.
- Take them to a new part of the ocean - Introduce them to topics, people, and events that I think may interest them. Sure, the water was great in the first part of the ocean, but we can meet new creatures if we try a different spot.
- Get some scuba gear ready and dive in deep! - Follow the rabbit trails that come up as we read. Questions are not a distraction, they are the compass in our learning adventure.
As for gaps in our learning, everyone has gaps in their learning! I cannot remember a single year of public school where we actually finished the textbook in any subject. I want to teach my children how to learn, how to find out information when they want to know something. Then they will be able to fill in any gaps that they find.
When my children reach high school I do not suspect things will change much. By that point my children will have taken the reins for guiding their own education. They will pick the beach, get in the water, and probably invest in a submarine to get even deeper than we went when they were young. They will set goals and work to meet them, including career and life goals. I will then be the facilitator, simply there to help them find the resources they need, and to provide a
scuba dive study partner.
I am just one mom, and I have one opinion(which I like, because it is mine). I can only tell you what I have done, and what I plan to do in the future. Check out other responses to this question at the Blog Cruise on Tuesday HERE.