By Sonja Biggs, Educational Counselor
"I don't know if I can do this." "How about time for myself?" "How I can teach all of these subjects?" "How do I know if my child is learning?" I hear this constantly, but let me ask: "Where should you invest your time? How about God's help? Will you bring school home or will you homeschool your children? Do you need an attitude change? A paradigm shift?"
Our view of education determines our success in homeschooling stress-free. If we see home as a learning environment and everyday life as textbooks, we will be less stressed than if we try to "fit everything in." The most important skills to teach our children are: (1) Knowing Jesus as a personal Savior and Friend by spending time with Him everyday. (2) Obedience. (3) How to work responsibly and efficiently. (4) How to unselfishly see and meet the needs of others. (5) How to develop God-given creativity. (6) How to ask questions and discover answers for themselves. (7) How to read, write, and do math. Note what is last. Those will come, but are not our main focus.
PUT GOD FIRST: Set a time and place to meet with God each morning to read God's Word, pray, dedicate your children and plans to Him; then LISTEN to God speak to you. If your children get up, set up a Bible story tape so they can worship just like Mommy.
FAMILY WORSHIP: Your husband (if not already gone to work) or you should read a Bible story, memorize Scripture, pray, sing, teach children how to give their hearts to Jesus and share Him with others, etc. Be creative, but brief. Dedicate each child by name to God and thank Him for them as special gifts. Pray for others you are trying to introduce to Jesus. Then have a "hug time" and express your joy that God gave your children to you.
PREPARE BREAKFAST TOGETHER: Let the little ones stir, set the table, make toast, watch pancakes bubble and tell you when to turn them, choose the cereal, push the buttons on the blender or microwave, etc. When ready, ask who would like to pray. Then express thanks for a beautiful prayer. After breakfast, have children clear the table, rinse and put dishes in the dishwasher, or wash and rinse them by hand.
If you bathe your children in the morning as I do, what a fun time to make letters and write words on the bathtub walls with foam letters that stick! After we get dressed, we make beds together, feed and water the animals, clean cages, vacuum, dust, sweep and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, sort clothes, put in a load of laundry, fold clothes and put them away, and scrub the bathroom.
LUNCH TIME AND WE HAVEN'T DONE SCHOOL! You haven't?!? You taught priorities, starting with Jesus, responsibility and life skills. You even taught some spelling and reading in the bathtub!! You showed that you love and care for them. You taught orderliness, the importance of a clean and healthy home, and how to begin the day feeling good. You taught them problem-solving and thinking skills as we asked, "What can we do to train the bunny to go in his box? How can we get the stain out of this yellow shirt? Why do we separate colors from whites? How can we stop losing socks when we wash? Why does it get so dusty? How does the floor get so dirty?" When they clean, they're more careful.
WHAT ABOUT BAD ATTITUDES? If your child drags his feet and complains, drop all bookwork and concentrate on more home jobs! Also, check your attitude. Are you happy to be working together? You are the model. Show appreciation for help, a job well done and a good attitude. Sing songs. Make the atmosphere cheerful, bright, and sunny. As an occasional treat, make your child's favorite lunch, make cookies, or go on a walk or bike ride.
AFTER LUNCH AND CLEAN UP. We read aloud on our unit study, discuss it, and do activities to incorporate other subject areas. We may play a game outside, do a science experiment, dictate a poem and write it (Braille it, for our older boy), dictate facts learned about our topic, make a shape book, draw pictures, build with clay, paint, go on a field trip, watch a video, etc.
Have your child read a book to you, or play Gameway to Phonics and Reading. For an incentive, together make a tree on the wall for your child to attach an apple with the book's title on it every time he reads a book to you. When he has a certain pre-determined number of apples on the tree, he can have a special privilege with you or his dad-roller blading, going to the park, bike riding, etc. At reading time, I say with a big smile, "Now it's time for you to help earn an apple for your tree!" Brandon gets his book and away we go for no more than 15 minutes. Then we might learn a new concept in math, practice a math page in Math U See, do a practical math activity, practice skip counting, play a math game, or practice math facts using flash cards for no more than 15 minutes. Our boys have blocks of time to pursue their own interests, during which my older son (age 9), who is blind, keeps my younger son (age 5) entertained for pay, since I work part-time out of our home. They find insects, make homes for them and then watch them; play educational computer games; build with Legos; watch an educational or Christian video; build forts with blankets and chairs; build things outside with wood, hammer, and nails; play in the kiddie pool; or experiment with bubbles. Sometimes they will make a book, write stories, or draw pictures, make beaded key chains to sell, etc. They clean up their own messes before Daddy gets home.
DADDY'S HOMECOMING. The boys dash to greet him with whooping and hollering, help carry his things into the house, share happenings of the day, follow him into the bedroom and continue sharing with him while he changes out of his work clothes. Daddy gives mom a big hug and kiss. We chat for 15-30 minutes and he takes over with endless options to do-help mow the lawn, do a science experiment, go to the park, go bike riding, and then, make supper.
AFTER SUPPER. The boys play on their computers upstairs while Daddy plays on his downstairs. Mom is tidying up and preparing for tomorrow.
BEDTIME. Daddy gets the jammies on, helps them brush their teeth, and reads our oldest a story and a Bible story. Mommy tucks in the youngest and reads him a story and Bible story. Then Daddy puts the oldest to bed and prays with both boys. Lights out and Mommy and Daddy have time to be together.
HOMESCHOOLING IS A JOINT VENTURE. The father is the spiritual leader, a loving and active support to his wife in homeschooling. Homecoming should be as described above and include household chores cheerfully done when needed, thereby teaching his children to be cheerful helpers and to treat Mom with respect. If a father is not willing to do this, then he should never have children.
Suggested times for subjects are in The Moore Formula Manual and I urge you to get this wonderful book from The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607 (360) 835-5500. If necessary, set a timer. If an assignment is not complete, put it away until the next day or the next. Don't make your child labor over something where learning has long since ceased, teaching him to hate that subject, school, and learning. Your love of learning is infectious and helps make homeschooling truly successful!
Sonja Biggs, one of Moore Academy's teachers, gives practical examples of how having the right priorities along with the Moore philosophy makes her home a great place to "grow."