What brought us to this?
When my first child was about three, I began to panic. There was so much that I wanted to teach him myself. I wanted to teach him to read and write, I wanted to teach him math and history, and science. I wanted to teach him art and music. Most importantly, I wanted to teach him about God and how everything in life revolves around Him. I wanted him to learn from my experiences to know and love God.
Wasn�t that what moms were for? To teach their children? But there was so little time. He was just getting old enough to talk to. I started teaching him to read, but I could see that my best efforts would be to no avail in the long run. In a few short months he would be gone. I would get him up and dress him and feed him and then put him on the bus and not see him again all day! After that would come play time, dinner time, then bath and bedtime. That would be it. If things went well I might be able to squeeze in a bedtime story and devotional, at least until he outgrew that in a few years. Meanwhile someone else would have MY little boy ALL DAY! Someone else would be teaching him all the things I longed to teach him (and maybe a few things I didn�t want him to know). Worse than that, his affections would soon be turned toward his teachers and his friends instead of his parents.
One day my neighbor said to me wistfully, �You lose them when they go to school.� I felt a shiver run up my spine. I did not want to �lose� my little boy, so when I heard about the idea of teaching him myself at home, I was sold in seconds.
Why am I doing
Although I had believed from the beginning that the teaching of godliness was the most important reason I wanted to home school, there is a lot of pressure on homeschoolers to focus primarily on academics, and I felt that pressure. Surely one must learn how to read, right? And do math? And then science, and spelling, and literature, and government, and on and on. I had to teach everything the schools taught, didn�t I? Since I was just an amateur, I would have to work extra hard at all this, I concluded. I wouldn�t want anyone to think I wasn�t doing an adequate job. I wouldn�t want my child to be undereducated, would I? That old competitive spirit, combined with a feeling of inadequacy (not being a �professional�, you know), really made me nervous at first.
Thankfully, after the first year or two, I relaxed and got my priorities back in order: Godliness first, then all this other stuff only if there is extra time available. Now, everything we do or study is evaluated first on the basis of whether or not it is important to God. Does God really care if our kids take soccer lessons? Does he think it is important to teach drama, or art, or science, or even advanced math? Maybe yes, and maybe no. First we tried to eliminate things that we knew were not pleasing to God. Then, when we felt we had determined what things were pleasing to God, we still had to arrange them in order of priority. There isn�t time for everything and there are some subjects God doesn�t want us to learn about at all! Bill Gothard rightly says, "The good becomes the enemy of the best for want of time."
Playing school vs. teaching as you live:
Many home-schooling parents just �play school.� For whatever reason, they try to duplicate, in their own home, exactly what goes on in the classroom. They designate a special room for their studies and furnish it with a chalk board, desks, bookshelves and so on. They plan a very structured and orderly program to adhere to. They begin �classes� promptly, allowing so much time per subject, and are certain to teach five days a week and take all the customary vacations at the customary times. They require the students to study all the usual public school subjects and give them all the same assignments, lectures, homework, quizzes and tests, that institutional schools would. Is this really necessary in the home setting? Is it the best way to accomplish your ultimate goal of godliness? I'm not convinced it
After a few years of experimentation, we settled down to an entirely different way of doing things which works wonderfully for us, and we believe is closer to what God would ideally have in mind. Although we do have quite a bit of structure, we do not have much regimentation. We try to keep our goals in mind, rather than the means by which we reach them.
Question: So Elizabeth, what do you really think about traditional school and what do I do if my husband disagrees with my desire to homeschool? What if I am forced by law to put my children in traditional school?
Answer: I firmly believe that traditional school as a whole, tears families apart. I hope it is not intentional, and I'm sure most teachers are not aiming at this, but nevertheless, that is exactly what happens. The Bible says you can not serve two masters. School is one master and family is the other. When you put your child in school you are forcing them to try to live in two different worlds and serve two different masters and the Bible says they will be enthusiastic about one and despise the other.�
"For neither you nor anyone else can serve two masters. You will hate one and show loyalty to the other, or else the other way around-- you will be enthusiastic about one and despise the other." Luke 16:13
When you think about it, the schools promote themselves and the things they teach. They encourage your child to be devoted to them, to become "involved" in school activities, to embrace their view of education, to join together with them for the purpose of their educational and other goals for your child. Now if you agree with their goals for you child that's fine, but what if you don't?
Then there is the peer problem. When your child is in school for 6 or more hours every day, he is seeking to please his teachers and his peers, not you. Since his teachers and mostly his peers, usually have different values than his family, he has to make a choice. He either has to embrace his family (and be rejected by those he is forced to deal with 6 hours a day), or he has to reject his family and embrace those with whom he spends most of his time, and with whom he has the most "fun", and whom exert the most pressure on him. He can not serve two masters.
Okay, you probably know all of that, but if your husband does not agree, you need to obey him and put your child in school. At that point I can only suggest that you instill in your child the firm belief that no matter what the rules are at school, at home he must obey your rules. No matter how much authority his teachers have, you are his parent and have more. He must always be respectful and obedient to you.
Secondly, if I were forced by law to put my child in school, I would do anything and everything I could think of, to try to get my child to view school as a necessary evil and nothing more. Maybe that is an extreme viewpoint, but I am extremely against what traditional schools so often do to children.�
Question: How do you deal with the isolation of
Answer: I am way too busy to feel "isolated". It seems like my days are full of interruptions from the outside. People are constantly coming and going from our home and we are constantly running errands and going places and doing things. I know there are others who homeschool in a more regimented way than we do, but we choose to teach our children as much as possible AS we live our everyday lives, rather than stopping our everyday lives to teach them, the way the schools do. We do spend a small amount of time daily in seat work, but usually not more then 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The rest of the time we are learning and teaching as we do things, and that can involves plenty of interaction with others if we wish.
I taught all my children to read using the basic principles in the book "How to Teach Your Baby to Read" by Glenn Doman. I would recommend the general principles in the book to anyone. There are several modifications I'd also recommend. I have found that it is not necessary to use red ink as Doman suggests. It is also not necessary to start with the extremely large size cards that he uses. Letters that are about 1 or 2 inches tall and plenty big enough. I also do not agree with his type of "praise", which often amounts to telling your child how "smart" he is all the time. I do praise my children, but I praise them for "trying hard", not for "being smart". I don't want a bunch of little snobs on my hands. I agree with Doman's use of familiar nouns first, but, if possible, I've found it helpful to start with the words of the first "reader" you plan to use. Then when you move away from the flashcards and into the readers, it will be easier, and therefore more rewarding to your child. You many not be able to do this with a very young child as the content may be over their head. In that case you will have to look for simple story books with large print in them.
What exactly do you do?
Okay, first I pick the book or reader series I want to use. I look for a book that my child can understand, and one that has large print. If the child is old enough, I try to start with a reader series, but if I'm starting a very young child, perhaps around age 2, then I have to use some simpler books first.
Next, I make flash cards using the words in the first book I intend to use. I use a black felt marking pen on white poster board, and make the letters about 1 1/2 inch tall. It is very important to use lower case letters. I draw my "a's" and "g's" the same way they appear in the book.�
Next I separate out the nouns and words my child is very familiar with and begin with those, adding the others a little later. Then I begin teaching them to my child at a rate of one or two new words a day. I simply show them the word and tell them what it is. I try to remember to run my finger under the word from left to right as I say the word, to help them to learn to track properly. I make a game of it. I hide the card behind me, then pop it out and try to get them to guess it. I smile and laugh and get excited when they get a word right. I never criticize when they are wrong, in fact, I try not to "quiz" them or make them struggle over a word. If they don't know the word quickly, I tell them the word and go to the next one. I keep it fun and move at the child's pace.�
When the child has learned the majority of the words in the first book, then I get the book out and start them reading from the book. Sometimes, especially with a young child, they may have trouble recognizing the words in a smaller size, so I will first make a set of flashcards with the same words only in a smaller size, and review them for a few days.
Once in the book, I simply sit my child next to me and I point to each word and help him read. If he doesn't recognize the word and say it quickly, then I say it for him and go to the next word. I try to always have a positive encouraging attitude and don't put any pressure on the child. If they need repetition, then I reread the same story a couple days in a row before moving on. As soon as possible I try to get into a reader series because the vocabulary builds on itself and I can just keep going this way, a new story every day or two.�
That's it. That's really all I've done. At least it's the basics anyway. Now, that said, I'd like to share how this method worked with each of my children, and what variations I used as different situations arose.
My children and this method:
I started to teach my first child to read when he was just turning 2. By the time he was 2 1/2 he could read more words than he could speak, and I had to have him point to the correct flash card instead of saying the word aloud. He was a textbook case for this method. He easily learned (and retained) 2 to 4 new words every day. I moved to books once he'd learned about 75 words, and by the time he was 5 he could read a 7th or 8th grade reader with ease. He picked up phonics on his own with virtually no help from me. I did add in the phonics rules later with his spelling lessons.
My second child didn't seem to be able to get the idea as well or as early as my firstborn. We had fun with it, and I did teach her quite a few words before she turned three. She could read a first grade reader somewhat well by then. Then her older brother showed her how to play several story tapes on our little cassette player, and how to follow along in the books that went with them. Within a month, she could read. I mean really read, just from listening and following along in the book. I never had to read with her after that. Of course if I had not already taught her enough words to make following along possible, she could not have done it. This child soon became my best reader and has remained so. She reads, for pleasure, at nearly 750 words per minute. That is twice normal speed. She is also my best speller and has extremely good comprehension. She can quote many passages almost word for word when she is finished reading a book. And she LOVES to read. Again, I never taught her phonics, except the rules that came with the spelling word lists. She picked up the phonics all on her own.
I started most of my other children about age 3 or 4 with the flashcard method, and they all learned steadily, if not as quickly, as the first one had. I started with flash cards made with words from a first grade reader and once they'd learned 30-50 words, I moved them directly to the reader. I just sat with them for 15-30 minutes a day and pointed to the words and told them the words they didn't know. I never scolded or tested. I just pleasantly keep telling them the words. When they'd get to about the middle of the third grade reader, suddenly it would "click" with them and they'd be off and running, and I hardly had to help them at all after that.
I found that some of my children just needed more repetition than others. My second oldest daughter seemed to be having a very hard time remembering the words at first. We went through the first reader several times, but she still had to be told many of the words over and over. Finally, I recorded her reader (it was the Rod & Staff reader covering the 2nd half of the first grade) and let her listen to it everyday, following along in her book. She listened and followed along for 45 minutes every day, and in three weeks she could read right along, and moved easily into the second grade reader with much better retention skills than she had previously had.
I have one child who had difficulty with reading to the extent that I was concerned. I first started him at age 3, but he wasn't getting it, so I waited until 4, then 5. Still he wasn't getting it, but I kept going this time. I finally managed to get him past the flashcards and into a reader, but I was telling him most of the words. I tried the reader tape with him, but he didn't know enough words to follow along. I went over and over the 1st and 2nd grader readers with him myself, but he didn't seem to be improving much at all. I finally bought "Hooked on Phonics" and diligently went through that entire program. Still no success. Finally, I went back to the sight method and just kept plugging away. He is now 11 years old and is reading in an 8th grade reader fairly well. It still has not "clicked" with him. Although he knows all the phonic rules, he can not sound out a word on his own. I realize that an 8th grade reader for an 11 year old seems like he is ahead, but trust me, he is not a good reader and I shudder to think of where he'd be if he were in school and not getting the daily one on one reading practice with me. He does quite well in other subjects, so I don't think this is an "intelligence" issue. Perhaps you'd call it dyslexia or something else, but that's another discussion.
(Note: Another year has passed and now this child can also read respectable well. He can usually figure out new words by himself and no longer needs my help and supervision when reading. I now have him reading several chapters daily from the Bible as well as other materials that are interesting to him. For a little more repetition, he listens to several more chapters of the Bible on CD, and follows along in his own Bible.)
In short, I highly recommend Glenn Doman's method with the above mentioned modifications. I personally see a huge advantage in teaching my children to read early, and no disadvantages. Just make it enjoyable and pressure free.
P.S. I tried Doman's "Teach you baby math" and it flopped big time. Waste of money.
Question: I would appreciate knowing where to get the printed word with an accompanying tape to try with my granddaughter. That worked wonders for your child. It might help my granddaughter.
Answer: With my 4th child, the one I mentioned, I took her reader (It covered the last half of the first grade) and recorded it myself onto a cassette tape. The entire reader filled 1 side of a 90 minute tape (45 minutes). On the other side I recorded a favorite storybook that was written at about a second or third grade level. I told her that she had to listen to the reader side before she could listen to the story side. It worked great with her, she knew enough words to follow along. If you do this, don't pick a book that is too hard for your child.
As far as where to buy tapes already made, I really don't know. I would assume you could find story books with tapes at the local book store (maybe even through an online bookstore like Amazon.com). I got mine at a local Christian book store, but that was years ago, and I have so many books that I haven't been shopping for that kind of thing for ages. It is easy to record it yourself and the kids might even like it better that way. Just turn the tape player on the next time you read your granddaughter her favorite storybook. Try to pick one that is written a little above her reading level. Don't read too fast, but not so slow that it sounds funny.
You could also try "Hooked on Phonics". It is a phonics program with a book and tapes, but you would really have to supervise her. It's not a story, so it won't hold the interest of just any child. I used it with my fifth child, and he still is my worst reader, but it might help another child who does better with phonics.
About reading early:
I did not teach my children to read early because I thought they would be better readers when they were 20 or even 12. I did it because if you can read, you can learn a lot of things that are far more time consuming and difficult to learn if you can't read. It has worked very well for us. By the time my children are starting math and science and history and various other subjects, they already know how to read quite well. Since they are not struggling with reading at the same time, they can focus on these other subjects and can also read supplemental materials. Again, as long as the child is enjoying it, I see only advantages, and no disadvantages, to early reading.
Why don't you teach phonics?
It's not that I "don't teach phonics", it is just the I "don't usually teach reading by the phonics method." Do my children know how to read? Yes, very well. Do my children know how to sound out new words? Yes. Do my children know phonics? Yes, it's just that I didn't teach them to read by that method.�
Because my children were very young when I began teaching them to read, I began with the "Look, Say" method, then added phonics in gradually as we went along. I believe it is very difficult for many young children, say below the age of 5, to understand phonics. On the other hand virtually all small children can begin to recognize words by sight. What I do is start them out learning words by sight. Then, once they've learned enough words to understand the concept of reading, and once they seem able to understand that words are made up of letters which each have their own sound, then I begin pointing out phonetic similarity between words, and other phonics rules and concepts. For example, when I have a child who appears to be having difficulty learning the word "bat", and keeps saying "rat", I simply point to the first letter and explain that a "b" makes a "bbbb" sound, and we practice and go from there. As another example, a couple of my children at first would say "car" for either "car" or "cars". That's when I'd point to the "s" at the end of the word and explain how the "s" sounds, and how it changes the sound and meaning of the word. Of course I do this explaining at the level of the child involved. The older they get, the more I expand this teaching if they have not already picked it up on their own.
That said, most of my children did indeed pick up the vast majority of their phonics education entirely on their own with only a little "boost" from me in the beginning. More complicated phonics rules were taught as needed when they began learning to spell. So, I do teach phonics (or at least my children have all "learned" phonics), but I do it AS I teach reading, rather than starting them out reading by the phonics method alone.
We use mostly Abeka and Saxon math books. In the beginning we also used the "Do it with Dominoes" program and the "Math-it" program. The only other tool we have regularly used are "Wrap-ups".
After reading and math:
After they can read well and have done a couple of grades of math , then I start to add other subjects. I don't add them all at once, and I don't do all the subjects every day. I usually budget 1/2 hour a day for "extra". "Extra" can be any subject: history, science, grammar, etc. I mostly just have them read the textbooks on these subjects, and also any other related books I can find. I don't do any testing. When they finish one book, we pick another. Sometimes we stick with the same subject for awhile and sometimes we switch to something else.
I will admit that my kids don't know their chemistry or biology as well as they might, but if that were important to them then you might focus on that instead of history or whatever. You could go to 2 different subjects a day at 1/2 hour each. I don't try to play school. I try to teach them the subjects that I think they will find most valuable. All my kids must do their Bible reading (or listening to the tapes) everyday. They must keep a "blessing book". This is a sort of journal with their blessing of the day. This can also double as English essay writing, all you have to do is go over it, perhaps one day a week, and have them rewrite and improve their entry for one particular day, correcting their grammar and writing skills. Have them keep rewriting it after each review by you, until it becomes a well written essay (large or small depending on the age of the child). I also teach them, as needed, to write a good business letter, a creative thank-you note, an interesting invitation, etc.�
The more you include your children in your life the more they will learn. For example, teach them to balance the check book and do the taxes when they are old enough. One day a young woman we knew stopped over and got to talking about birds with my 12 year old daughter. She was impressed that my daughter knew the names of many birds and what they looked like, and what their habits were. She said to me, "I just had to learn all that myself in my college teaching class". Well, I had simply pointed out the birds on the bird feeder and told her about the ones I was familiar with, and we looked up the rest! We didn't need to take a class. Above all, answer your children's questions!
With typing, I taught my kids pretty early, as soon as they could read. I didn't use a curriculum, I just said, "If you want to use the computer, you have to ALWAYS use the right keys with the right fingers". I let them do their blessing book on the computer and they all learned to type very fast and well.
You can start a "Blessing Book" with your children whenever you want to after they are old enough to understand, "What's your blessing for the day?" or even, "What did you do today that was nice (or made you happy, or made someone else happy, etc.)? " If you want to, you can start even before they can write, by asking them questions and writing the answers (very simple at first) yourself. As you progress, this record of blessings can become a daily journal written with a positive and grateful outlook. With review and correction and rewriting, you can also use this book to teach grammar and essay writing as I mentioned above. Just don't over do it to the point where the child is focusing more on his English lesson than on recognizing God's blessings in his life. What I'd suggest is not to correct every day's writing, but to occasionally let the child choose a past day's entry to turn into an "essay", Then, spend a few days working on improving it, correcting errors and changing the organization, etc. Be sure the message is not lost, but enhanced.
We also had our children read and or work their way through an official "grammar" program. We used mostly the "Building Christian English" series by Rod & Staff.
I taught my oldest four children piano for 3 years before we hired a "real" teacher. After the first "real" lesson, the teacher appeared impressed, and commented, "Gee, maybe I've been doing it wrong all these years!"�
I do not play piano myself (although I do play violin, so I can at least read the treble clef), so what I did was find some lesson books that I could understand, and used them to teach my children. I chose the Bradley books. I thought they were easy to teach from, and we just did a lesson a week and went through all 9 books in the series in 3 years. After the first year they really taught themselves. We bought an old upright piano to learn on at first (we now have a grand piano and an electronic keyboard) and that served us very well. If you buy a keyboard, remember that it is important to get a "full sized" keyboard, if that's what you are going to learn on. If you buy a real piano, remember that an upright will sound better than a console or spinet, because it has longer strings. We started all our children on piano when they were 5 years old. They practiced 1/2 hour a day for a while, then we bumped it up to 1 hour a day. Both my niece and one of my best friends also taught their children themselves, even though neither of them play piano. (They learned along with their kids.)
As I said, I used "A Piano Method for Kids" by Richard Bradley. I skipped the very beginning one or two books and started with the main 9 book series (3 books for each of 3 years). They also have an "Adult" method book if you want to teach yourself a little faster. I thought the Bradley books were easy for me, as a non-piano player, to understand. If and when you hire a "real" teacher, he or she will likely want to switch to his or her favorite books. I always required that the teacher be teaching my children at least one hymn at all times. The Bradley series is available at
Then there are the stringed instruments. Three of our children play the cello, three play violin and one plays viola. Again, we did not really give them an option in this. We thought learning a stringed instrument would be a good thing, and so we just assigned instruments to make a stringed quartet. Since none of our children knew much about stringed instruments at the time, they didn't have much of an opinion about which instrument they wanted to play, although our oldest requested the cello after noting that cello players get to sit down! Now, after playing for a number of years, each child is still happy with his assigned instrument, and if they wanted to switch to another, that would be fine with us.
We started our children on piano when they were about 5 years old. We didn't give them an option, but we did encourage them to want to play. After that, we handled it much like any other required subject such as math or reading. My theory was that once they knew how to play fairly well (which can take 5 to 10 years), then they would appreciate it. No one ever regrets having taken music lessons even if they didn't enjoy it at times.�
I've never really had to bug them to practice. They know they have to practice every day just like they have to do their math lessons and other school subjects, and of course the more they play the more enjoyable it becomes. We don't force them to overdo it and we make sure they have time to do other things they enjoy, so they don't feel as though they could do this or that if only they didn't have to practice. We tried to be sure they were not bored (a good teacher can help there), and we enjoy music together as a family by going to concerts and listening to CD's, etc. We also host several music recitals at our house every year and the kids get to invite all their friends (most play also) and they enjoy that. We've played for several weddings and other events and enjoyed that too. We don't push them to play in public if they are reluctant, but they really have not been. We want them to enjoy music, not dread it, so we try to read them and go with them, although still directing and leading. The four oldest and myself recently joined a community orchestra and we are enjoying that tremendously.
A little note about spelling. I did give my kids the Abeka spelling lists to memorize, but most of my kids really learned to spell by typing their blessing books on the computer and using the spell checker (don't use the kind that automatically makes corrections for you. You just want it to tell you what words are wrong and perhaps make suggestions or have you look it up in the dictionary). Some kids need extra spelling help and others pick it up very naturally. I do have one child who seems to be having a lot of trouble learning to spell and I am therefore currently looking at different methods of teaching this subject.
Working teaching into your real life:
We started having our children keep a "Blessing Book", in order to teach our kids to recognize God's blessings in their lives, but later I realized that if I went over their blessing book and helped them correct errors and make it better and more interesting, etc, this would double as teaching essay writing. We do this with a lot of things. We try to look at our everyday lives and see what we can elaborate on just a little and call it "homeschooling". When you go on a trip, teach the kids how to read a map, for example, by having them do the navigating. Explain life as you live it. Glenn Doman says: "Kids are always learning, you can't stop them. It's just a matter of what they are learning." Please don't get stressed out about this. We just view it as a natural thing. We are always ready to teach and explain and answer questions. I almost never try to teach something like "map reading" in any formal way, for example. I just explain it as we need it. I once tried to give my girls "sewing lessons". They were bored and unhappy. Then I thought, "What am I doing? Why not just have them help me sew? They'll learn just fine that way." And they did, and enjoyed it a lot more. Same with cooking. I can sit them down and give them books and quizzes and make them do it all, and have a "cooking class", or I can just have them help me in the kitchen. The latter works a lot better, if you ask me. Ask yourself what YOU are doing and how can you include your kids? My little kids, of course, spend a lot of time just playing, but I don't feel they really need to, I just can't think of anything for them to help me with so they end up playing. But as they get older, I have them help me more and more, and in doing so they learn more and more. Talk to them. Explain what you know, and encourage them to find the answers to what you don't know.
Every once in a while we sit down and reevaluate our lives and our home schooling. What are we doing with our time? Are we putting the most important things�good character and love of God�first? Next should be love and care for our family and others. When we reach academics on our list, we must prioritize them as well. We have determined that reading comes first here because it gives us the ability to understand God�s written word. Writing, spelling, and math are the next essentials. History, science, government, etc., although often treated as though they are of equal importance in the public school realm, are lower on our list. Music occupies a rather unusual spot. While we would rank it somewhere below the three R's, and above the others, on a daily basis we almost always regard it first, placing it above any other bookwork. The reason is this: math and reading can easily be made up; but it is much more difficult with music practice. �I usually tell the kids to, "Get your music practice done first, if
The state we live in has no requirements to keep records if you are doing homeschooling "for religious reasons". However, just in case, I keep all the kids' old workbooks and textbooks, and have them write in them the day they completed the book and their name. I also keep a list of "extra" books and who read what, when. And I keep their weekly "school charts". Their weekly school charts look something like this:
English: blessing book/daily journal. Work on essay writing
Spelling: Abeka Gr 5, Lesson 12
Math: Abeka Gr 5 p. 111-131
Penmanship: copy one Bible verse daily, in cursive
Reading: read Genesis 1-21 (three chapters daily)
Extra: Abeka History Gr 5 p........
Piano: practice 1 hour daily
Violin: practice 1 hour daily
(I have boxes to check as they complete each subject each day)