The best way to begin home schooling is to activate the five-letter word START. So often, parents who truly desire to teach their children at home say, "I am not trained. I am not smart enough. I will ruin my children!" If God places a burden on a person’s heart, He will provide the means to accomplish that burden. The same God who provided manna and quail for the Israelites in the desert will surely provide parents with the skills, knowledge, direction, and yes, even patience to teach their own children, if they desire.
Once parents trust, where do they begin?
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Most parents begin by attending a book fair to shop for curriculum. This is akin to grocery shopping for the entire year without a list or a menu plan. Instead of standing at a vendor’s table asking how much a particular curriculum costs, parents would be better served sitting at home talking about each child, setting individual goals and objectives for them. Public and private school teachers face a classroom of twenty to thirty students, making it very difficult to individualize. Since most home-schooling families are slightly smaller than that, it is possible to tailor each child’s curriculum to him.
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Every year, my husband and I set goals in four areas for each of our children. They are academic skills, physical skills, work skills, and character/spiritual development goals. Home school allows the whole child to be taught in every aspect of his life, not purely academically. The people who love the child the very most (the parents) plot a game plan for their child based on what the state requires a class to cover collectively. The scope and sequence is the state’s 12-year game plan for what will be taught (scope) and when it will be taught (sequence) to students. Public and private schools must follow the scope and sequence exactly, because students are constantly changing teachers.
Adapt Academic Scope
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In home school, there is a single teacher who can certainly keep track of what each child has covered. This allows greater flexibility with the sequence. Why wait until 7th grade to teach Texas history if you are going on a family trip around Texas? I have successfully taught Texas history to a 4th grader, a 7th grader, and a 9th grader. Flexible sequencing takes advantage of all life’s events.
Home-school parents should first set goals, second recognize the scope, and finally choose curriculum. Parents often remark of their own education, that although they made good grades, they actually remember little. How sad to have spent all that time covering material, yet not learning. Most parents’ education consisted of reading the chapter and answering questions at the end. When choosing curriculum, parents should consider which methods foster better learning.
Consider Curriculum Methods
One need not be an educational expert to recognize that multi-sensory, hands-on curriculum bombards the child with information through all his senses, thereby increasing retention. However, if a child needs drill with spelling or math facts, parents should select workbooks that give ample opportunity to practice until perfect. Parents should never use a whole workbook; rather, they should assign only those pages the child needs and toss the rest of the workbook. Tailoring curriculum adheres to the child’s needs, not the next workbook page.
Consider Curriculum Content
Equally important as curriculum methods is curriculum content. Most home schoolers want curriculum taught from a Christian worldview, yet they are unsure what that entails. Many curricula tout a Christian worldview, because they have sprinkled Bible verses here and there, or they have included the life of Christ in their history. However, a Christian worldview involves training children in the process of sifting all of life’s learning and decisions through a Christian worldview sieve. The worldview sieve is constructed from sound Biblical teaching designed to train students in "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Curriculum that follows the Hebrew model of training the heart instead of the Greek model of training the head formulates such a sieve.
Consider Curriculum That Mentors
Finally, parents need to select a curriculum that involves them as a mentor/teacher who dialogues with their child rather than simply grades his papers. This dialogue process not only builds critical thinkers, but also builds the ultimate goal of home schooling - a lifetime relationship between parent and child.
Jessica Hulcy, co-author of KONOS Character Curriculum, has home schooled her four boys, with her husband Wade, for the last 20 years. Jessica writes curriculum, contributes magazine articles, and speaks nationally. Information about KONOS is available at P.O. Box 250, Anna, Texas 75409, at (972) 924-2712, or at www.konos.com. Jessica's e-mail address is jessica@KONOS.com.