Keep your head up high!
As a veteran homeschooler for more than 25 years, I have had the experience of teaching five children at the same time, all doing a different subject, each at their level. It was fun, exciting, at times entertaining but also frustrating, confusing and an awful lot of hard work.
I didn't mind the hard work nor the frustrations. To those who teach their children I would like to say this; Keep your head up high, do the best you can and encourage your children to do their best. Listen to those people who have a comment to make regarding how to improve your teaching ability. Keep an open mind and weigh up what they say.
Advice goes a long way, to listen to it doesn't cost anything, to apply good, sound advice could save you time, money and future heartbreak. To ignore good advice could be detrimental to you and your children.
How do you know if the advice given is good or not?
When we first started homeschool we decided to use a set curriculum. We did the compulsory teaching course, especially designed for parents, learned how to use a green, red and black pen and where to put the X. The set curriculum was OK and our first child learned to read and write beautifully after much perseverance. So did our second child and our third, although she started to buck the system. She had heard it all before, you know the ABC's... because her older sister had gone through it all. When I started the fourth child on her ABC's with the same set curriculum it was a nightmare.
Daily frustrations and tears. There was no fun in this whole teaching business any more. Eventually I picked up the whole stack of workbooks and threw them to the other end of the room. Hundreds of dollars worth went flying across tables and chairs, landing in an ungraceful pile at the other end of the room much to the delight of four children. Hooray... they all shouted, are we going to do something else now! That was good advice!
Are we going to do something else now!
"Yes, we are going to do something else now," was my answer.
We went for a long walk, looked at the tadpoles in the creek, crossed the fence, got stuck on the barbwire, ripped two pairs of good pants and headed for the bush. We found a dead, rather smelly emu, spotted two live kangaroos gaily jumping around and a kookaburra who laughed his head of at us. I was appalled at that... as if I didn't have enough to contend with!
While I sat on a stump thinking, the children decided to sit and do some thinking too. Their stump was excellent... from a child's point of view. Burned out, black as charcoal, delightfully dirty, sooty and ideal for turning their little sister into some black-haired kid rather than her blond curls.
When we finally headed back home I decided that enough was enough and that it was time to have some fun. Learning should be fun, I thought. Then I changed my thinking pattern and said, "Learning is fun."
Learning is fun!
From that day on I have not looked back. Serious discussions between my husband and myself solved a lot of the frustration problems. We picked up odds and ends from supermarkets for our children. Sometimes secondhand stores also have wonderful teaching materials for sale for very little money. The library became a weekly event and when it was advertised that the public libraries were donating their unwanted books to the 'Great Library Sale' we headed straight for it. Hundreds of books were purchased at $0.50, $1,00 or $2,00 each. Some books were $5,00 or more but these were well worth it.
Most of the books purchased were research books about fauna, flora, geography, science, history, medical, atlases, different countries, different language books, technology, art, society and so forth. Some books are written especially for kids, others for adults. It makes no difference! They are all educational and we bought a good variety. We continue to purchase new books to add to our personal library on a regular basis.
Now, when we go for a walk we might take some photos. Wildflowers, scenery, fungi, insects or other interesting things. The children write about where they walked, what they have seen, the weather etc. They are having fun and so am I!
Walking is an excellent exercise, we not only walk, we scramble over logs, climb over rocks, stumble over tree roots, trip over sticks, jump over creeks, fall into mud, run like lightning from swarming insects and generally have our quota of healthy exercise.
Continue teaching the set reading, writing and arithmetic.
Of course I still taught every day the set reading, writing and arithmetic. The children might read about elephants. Then they write an essay about elephants, research where the elephants live, find those countries on an atlas or the world globe. They'll learn what the animals eat, how they fit into modern civilization, the impact these animals have on the environment, the impact the destruction of the environment by humans has on the animals and so on. Drawings are common on the children's work, covering art!
I found since I changed from a set curriculum things have changed. I have changed! The children have changed! They have become more attentive, advanced in problem solving, research skills have sky rocketed, reading skills are advancing at enormous speed, writing skills rocket along and the fun of learning is present every day. I have more work to do but with less stress than I experienced previously.
Don't just buy any Maths book.
Mathematics is essential and I've purchased several books. Because I don't want to promote or defame any particular company I am not going to mention titles or publishing companies (except my own of course :-) I have this advice for you. Don't just buy any maths book. Ensure explanations on how to solve the equations are clearly written for your children and that answers are provided in the back, middle or on a separate attachment. Most of the maths books I purchased sit idle on the shelf gathering dust. Answers in the back are usually wrong, explanations on how to solve problems are simply not there and this type of book is useless to me. Spend time buying the right book!
I've started writing maths worksheets for my children a long time ago. Also interactive maths! They simply sit at the computer and do their maths using our own flashcards. When they don't know the answer they click the help button and it explains how to do it. Effective, timesaving and they gain computer skills at the same time. I realize that not everybody can write worksheets or make interactive stuff for their children therefore I have made some of it available on our web site.
I realize that not everybody is cut out to toss in the set curriculum. Some people really need it. If you are one of those people don't worry. Set curricula has been used for decades and probably will continue to be used for many years to come. With the new curriculum framework adopted in many countries it should make things easier for teachers too, if they apply it correctly, but so many don't know how to!
If you study the Australian Curriculum Framework you will notice that homeschoolers have been using identical and often similar learning strategies for a long time. It is not new! Oh yes, plenty of new words, difficult phrases, you may even begin to wonder if there is something wrong with the comprehension side of your brain. Let me assure you, there is nothing wrong with you! Even teachers are having grave problems understanding the framework, let alone implement it! Take some time to study it if you are interested and would like to know more.
Learn to read and write without a set curriculum, it's possible!
I taught my youngest boy to read and write without a set curriculum. I had the experience of teaching four others which made it easier. We all had fun devising different games each day. The first few months are the hardest but once the letters and letter sounds are learned (I prefer the phonics system) things will fall into place.
Quick hand written flash cards are simple and easy to make, letters, words, phrases, numbers and so forth. It really is unlimited! I was recommended not to hang the alphabet in my child's bedroom as this would cause cheating in reading and writing. Now here is bad advise if ever there was one!
Please, hang a beautiful bright coloured alphabet chart in your child's room. Make sure it displays both lowercase and uppercase letters. If you can't buy one, make one. Use large poster paper or write individual letters on each A4 sheet of paper. Write the letters big so they can be seen from a distance. Do the same with the numbers! One to twenty-four is good to start with.
Talking about counting, I had fun doing this with my child. He wasn't one for sitting still and putting pen to paper. I had him count cupboard doors, knobs, trees, fence posts, bricks, windows, pebbles, feet, fingers, buttons and the list is endless. Once he mastered reading and writing I had him write five or ten things he could see from where he was sitting. Afterwards we would correct the spelling together and he would re-write the words again.
Other times I would just write five different letters on paper. He would think of a word that started with the letter I wrote. Sometimes we reversed this game and he would write a word ending with the letter I wrote.
Another favourite game of ours; I write one word and he writes a word beginning with the letter my word ended with. e.g. dog - grass - sit - top - pan - nose - egg and so forth.
Value for money!
Because our web site http://teachingtreasures.com.au has become so popular our bandwidth has gone through the roof. It costs a lot of money to keep a large web site up and running so we decided to make many of the teaching tools available online under a honour system. We have also placed other advertisers on the site in an effort to help keep the site running as not many institutions to date using our material are very honorable.
If we don't have the financial support from our bulk users I fear that Teaching Treasures will eventually disappear from the World Wide Web. If you have not considered helping out, please consider it! It will help keep this resource available for those who love teaching. To those who have helped we hope you are benefiting from the resources, and thank you for your support.
I hope you enjoy teaching your children as much as I enjoy mine. Enjoy teaching them, enjoy spending time with them and don't get stressed out over silly matters. It really makes no difference if you teach at home or at school, give or take some twenty odd kids.... it's hard work! Take each day as it comes and if you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour like I do, then put your trust in Him. Ask for His guidance and strength and each day will unfold according to His will.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
© 2002 Griggs I. M. - Teaching Treasures Publications Other Articles by Ingrid Griggs