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Those who do not teach their own children often suppose that home educators have more time to accomplish daily tasks. Oddly enough, the benefit of having more time to spend with your children actually creates its own time-management problem: how do you teach two or three or more grade levels at once--and go grocery shopping? And clean house?
Time-management advice for the conventional teacher finds little application to the home school. Because the teacher-student ratio is usually one-to-one and the students advance more quickly, the home school parent often cannot use an hour-by-hour schedule suited for a conventional classroom.
Not only the uniqueness of home education but also the individuality of families themselves make imposing a "one-size-fits-all" approach to scheduling unfeasible. Your job(s), your children's ages and abilities, and your own abilities as teachers will affect your schedule. But regardless of your situation, you can incorporate five basic guidelines--regulate, integrate, rotate, delegate, and emulate--to help you manage your teaching time at home. Three of these principles will be discussed in this issue.
At first you may think of negative connotations connected with the idea of regulating your home school, but what is meant here is simply planning--doing things in order as the Lord has commanded (I Cor. 14:40). It may seem that you have more "freedom" when you "teach as you go," but this method limits the educational experience to the materials and knowledge available at the moment and eventually will stunt educational growth.
But planning involves more than ordering your teacher's manuals early enough to read them through and making visual aids ahead of time. Home school planning must include meals, chores, and all other household activities as well as teaching. This requires not so much making out a schedule as it does having a family rule: everyone must take time out of his day for both homework and housework. The necessity of one does not excuse the lack of the other. In fact, one often provides a convenient break from the other.
You must also make time for rest. Other obligations permitting, a nap is one of the best lubrications for a smooth-running day, both for you and for your children.
Combining various disciplines together, as well as combining home life and school life, accomplishes two goals: It eliminates needless repetition (e.g., reading through the Constitution for both government class and U.S. History class), and it discourages pigeonholing (e.g., ignoring the facts of the Flood learned in Bible class while studying fossils in science class). Integration is probably the chief educational advantage of home schooling.
You can integrate subjects with other subjects by reviewing the entire day's activities beforehand and finding out what ideas overlap. You can the "teach two subjects at once"--for example, combine a Bible lesson with a Heritage Studies lesson when the two teach the same principle. Or you can use one subject to teach another--for example, have the children write a creative story problem (using English skills) to explain a math principle.
You can also integrate school life and home life (which for centuries were never separate anyway) by reviewing the various Bible lessons during family devotions, for example. In fact, going on outings, doing gardening, running a business, playing games, attending cultural events or virtually anything the family does together can be used to teach practical, subject-related lessons. Even a well-planned family vacation can become a field trip. The beauty of home education is that you can give your children tailor-made educational experiences that they cannot get in a conventional school. Rather than sending then to the encyclopedia to learn about rockets, take them to Cape Canaveral to see a shuttle lift off--or to Huntsville, Houston, Pasadena, or wherever your nearest source of space program information is. There are hundreds of cities--probably several in your own state--that offer educational opportunities waiting to be visited.
If variety is the spice of life, then rotation is the key to variety. A well-organized schedule does not have to strait-jacket you into days with identical sequences. Try teaching science one day for a half-hour and then Heritage Studies the next day during that same time. There's no rush to teach 180 lessons in 180 school days--in fact, the goal of any teacher should never be simply to "cover the book." It is more important that your children understand what you teach and enjoy the process of learning.
You should rotate not only subject matter but also activities, method, and modality. Work one-on-one with some children while others do independent work. Use lecture, but don't neglect question-and-answer, storytelling, discussion, object lesson, and any other viable teaching method you can think of. And let your children learn through other senses besides sight and sound. Let them taste what unleavened bread in the Bible must have been like, or have them identify by touch the various cleavages of minerals.
Read Part 2
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