We have all stepped out of the traditional school system for varied, yet important reasons. One of our reasons was the desire to include more than academics in the education of our children. Don’t get me wrong: academics are important, and we are required by law to provide for the education of our children, but our concern was to offer more than academics. In addition to intellect and scholarship, our pedagogy would center on the body, soul, and spirit of each child.
In planning for the upcoming school year, consider these tips to help with academics and more.
- Be willing to “think outside the box” about education and what it looks like. Dr. Jane Healey’s books Different Learners, Your Child’s Growing Mind, and Endangered Minds are helpful, as is Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, just to name a few. These books deal mostly with the young child, but older children and young adults (pre-teens and teens) can profit by the knowledge you would gain from them.
- Set aside time to evaluate the previous year. Knowing what your children have mastered and what inspired them, as well as where they experienced weakness or struggles will equip you to wisely plan for the next year.
- Determine to adjust, discard, or set aside for later, any study guide or curriculum that didn’t work last year. If your children are not learning with what you are using, try something else. Don’t keep using ineffective material just because you are familiar with it. Look for creative methods to enhance learning and increase interest, such as games, puppet shows, newscasts, journal writing, map making, or art forms. When choosing books for your children, choose the best. Then let the author of the book teach your children. Be willing to learn alongside your students. You don’t have to “wax eloquently” on every subject. Be a guide, setting up the right atmosphere with the right books and/or activities.
- Plan for “game days.” Even as your children grow into pre-teens and teens, a special “school day” of fun with friends, playing board games that require thinking skills, add life and zest to the routine. We planned for one game day each month. We saw thinking skills developed and improved relationships.
- Plan for “reorganize and regroup days.” I wasn’t the greatest organizer, and it took some time to develop habits of keeping school things together and in order. Taking time to be sure everything is back in order might not be a need for your family, but it was for mine. One day per term may be all that is needed to ensure books and supplies are where they belong when they are needed. We wanted our children to learn organizational skills, and giving them responsibility, with appropriate training, in regard to their own things and our “school” things was a great application for them.
- Plan for service projects or volunteer work as a family. Let your children see that your family identity is connected to serving in your community—a big part of the more than academics.
- Allow for Divine lessons, unplanned by you, but provided by God. Make the most of these experiences and learn to see them not as interruptions, but opportunities. Remember the Holy Spirit is also working in the lives of your children.
- Plan for some lessons to include everyone. If you are schooling multiple children of various ages, I recommend scheduling any lessons involving everyone first thing in the morning. Once separate lessons have begun, .timing is a factor, and it becomes difficult, if not impossible to get everyone together. Relationship building is encouraged when everyone learns together.
- Plan for changes in brain function. To maintain interest and focus, this step is crucial, no matter what the age of the child. Don’t plan for two lessons back-to-back that involve a lot of reading or two lessons requiring extensive writing. Allow for changes in brain function to provide rest for the brain. Mental work is demanding, and children need to be able to rest parts of the brain while other parts are working. (More details here.)
- Allow for movement, especially for young children. Some children need to move to be able to learn. (Learn more here.) One of my daughters studied while jumping rope, sitting on a large fitness ball, or just walking/pacing around the room. She would do handwork while I read to her. I was amazed at how young she was when she learned to knit. It was a quiet activity that kept her hands busy and engaged, while freeing her mind to listen and assimilate. Understanding her need for movement helped her as an adult learner, also.
- Plan for training in habits. If you are not intentional in this aspect of a child’s education, then good and bad habits will be determined by the child himself and what he “catches” by chance at home. Habit training is vital to the education of every child! (The Lost Art of Habit Training will help you plan for and begin habit training with your children.)
- Delegate, delegate, delegate! Allow even your younger children to plan activities for the preschooler or toddler and to have short “special lesson” times when they are in charge. The planned activity will free you to work with older siblings. Older elementary-age children can prepare a simple lunch with minimal training or assistance. The older children can take turns preparing lunch, or planning a relevant activity for and assisting the young readers or budding mathematicians. Sometimes these short lessons will solidify understanding for the older child. Teaching is a great way to learn. Responsibility is an excellent teacher.
- Be flexible. Even the best laid plans don’t always work. You are planning for the education and training of children. Children are persons who have good and bad days just as we do. Help them to be accountable for their assignments and work, but be attentive, flexible, and discerning when frustration, hesitancy, or behavior issues are evidenced in your children.
Education is more than academics.
It is academics plus training in responsibilities, relationships, good habits—the life of the body, the soul, and the spirit of your children. Remember this as you plan.
For more information and step-by-step guidance for homeschool planning, these posts may help: This Process Will Make Your Yearly Homeschool Planning Less Stressful and Could Your Lesson Schedule be Contributing to Your Child’s Misbehavior?