This is for new homeschoolers or those of you who may have friends just beginning the wonderful journey of homeschooling…
First off, there are many out there who know more than me, but I just wanted to offer some suggestions that I’ve shared with other homeschoolers who have said it was helpful.
1. The MOST important thing you can do for your child(ren) during the first 6 or 7 years is to develop their character. This includes training them to obey, helping them learn to respect their siblings and others, showing them lots of love and modeling good behavior for them. Here is why: If you train them to obey, homeschooling will be a much more pleasant experience for all involved. If you help them respect their siblings and others, yours will be a much more peaceful household. If you show them lots of love, you will be following Christ’s command to us to love one another AND you will reap the rewards of a more loving household. And, if you model good behavior, your children are going to be more likely to learn good habits themselves. (This may all sound silly to point out, but our society is so “accomplishment” driven that we forget it’s more important to say “please” and “thank you” than to make sure your child can read by the age of 6 or even have a higher SAT score at the age of 16.)
2. The second most important thing you can do during the first 6 or 7 years is to read aloud to your children A LOT. Of course you hear this all the time, but it is so true. Children who are read aloud to are more likely to become readers. Not only does this make your homeschooling job easier, but it opens the world of knowledge to them. When you read aloud to your children, they learn vocabulary, discover other continents, hear about the adventures of explorers and the trials of missionaries, learn from the mistakes of others, experience heartache with characters in pain, and rejoice when good triumphs over evil – all in the safety of your own home!
3. The last thing I recommend to others that you work on for the first 6 or 7 years is training your child in housekeeping tasks. A two-year-old needs to learn that if she gets blocks out, she has to put them up. Children can put their clothes in their drawers, help put away dishes, take out the trash, and even clean the bathrooms. There are so many chores children can do and usually it’s parents who prevent them from doing them because they aren’t done well enough. (In our house, everything doesn’t look perfect, but the kids do a lot of the cleaning. I love to clean, but I think it’s important for them to learn the skills so they help with all the chores.)
To sum all this up, just remember … You can always teach a child math, science, language arts, foreign language, music, whatever else it is that you feel compelled to teach him or her, after the age of six. However, if you have NOT taught your child by the age of six to love and respect others, obey you, and that he/she is a special creation who deserves love and respect him/herself, you’re very unlikely to be able to “catch up” and do that later.
Your child is also more likely to have a LOVE for learning, an inquisitive mind, and a heart that listens to his/her true calling if you don’t box the child in a corner with workbooks or things YOU think he/she needs to learn. Work on your child’s character i the early years, teach them academics after that, and pray fervently that God will show you both what your youngster’s calling is so you can focus on those skills throughout the academic years.
Now, in the event that my ideas are totally stressful to you and you just HAVE to buy something anyway, here are some suggestions.
– Story Hour tapes/cds – These are terrific dramatized history stories that kids of all ages just love (most are appropriate for kindergarten age).
– Kumon books (available at Barnes & Noble) – These are expensive and my kids could get through one of these in a couple of hours, but they have some really neat books that teach targeted skills (mazes, etc.)
– Bob Jones kindergarten workbooks Great workbooks, price is a little higher than Kumon books, BUT these will last you for a full year. Try to stick with math. You can do Bible stories with your child, discuss the facts and do memorization. Language arts (in my opinion) is silly for a child that age (reading aloud provides the same benefits – what verb is appropriate, etc.).
– Sonlight is a terrific curriculum. For moms who absolutely feel like they need a “guide” there for them, then I would recommend the teacher’s manuals. There are many helpful tips, etc. in the teacher’s manuals. It says on the Sonlight website NOT to purchase the books separately as you’ll spend more money, but I disagree with this. Actually, you can get most of the books (especially for Sonlight K – 4) at your local library. That’s the best thing to do as far as being economical.
– Charlotte Mason is another good curriculum, but my caution on this would be to make sure you have time to read her philosophy so that you’ll understand what you’re doing. (It’s great reading.) OR, here is a more practical idea for many… Join a Charlotte Mason support group. There are some on the Internet, but there is a good one locally done by Camille Burwell. You can get ideas, share books, and find out more about this method.
– Five in a Row – This is a curriculum based on reading aloud and doing activities with your preschool/early school age child. You read the same book for five days and do activities related to the book for five days. Some of the books are out of print and hard to find, but when we were doing FIAR, what we would do is simply do the activities and stuff for the books we could find and it was sooo much fun. If you want all the activities, then purchase the FIAR teacher book (you can check out many of the reading books from the library). Or, you can get the list of recommended books from the website and then make up your own activities related to the books listed.
– For great reading recommendations, you could also try The Homeschooler’s Book of Lists. Of course it is by no means meant to be a curriculum, but it is a resource that any homeschool family could benefit from. How I would recommend that homeschoolers with younger children use it is simply to use the recommended reading lists in the back of the book to get books at the library and meanwhile, just browse the other information yourself and enjoy learning something new!