After 45 years of homeschooling and/or watching others homeschool, I have come to the lofty conviction that it is easier to homeschool the more kids you have. Children and teens have a way of bouncing off one another, keeping everyone motivated, stimulated, and yes, irritated. When one is young they have enough energy in their system that all the good and the bad helps trim down the monotony and keeps them focused. Alas, having one or two children can be a problem due to sheer boredom. Boredom can lead to bad habits, bad thoughts, and even rebellion. Most parents take the easy road and use electronics to ward off boredom, but this just puts a band-aid over things; plus, it introduces evil. We did use educational videos when teaching our children and found them to be a great help.
We had 5 kids spread out over 10 years. It was a workable number, but it still required a lot of extra ideas from me, trying to help keep their minds and bodies busy and creative. Dad was quite amazing in all the antics he was able to supply, although he often caused me moments of terror getting the kids to climb, jump, ski, wrestle, etc. etc. etc. He still keeps the grandkids entertained with fishing, art, throwing sharp things, and other exciting activities.
The thing mamas need to understand is that homeschooling is so much more than academics. And child training is so much more than training and discipline. Life is to be lived, and a child’s life has a whole lot more living left in it than we have in ours. They need constant challenges, never-ending entertainment, and a steady stream of creativity to grow their minds and spirits. Here are a few of the things we did that turned out to be good ideas.
You start by selecting a project; say we decide to study the lives of reptiles. First, include a half-day trip to the library. Allow each child to hunt for books in his age level. You will need to help when asked. Encourage them to sit and read until they are sure they have what they will need to do their project. After studying the books for a day or two, get together and let them decide what each kid will do to create his own project. The older boy could hand carve a wooden alligator, the next child could create a jungle with some plastic reptiles, and the younger children could use playdough and mold creatures or draw pictures. Everyone should have a story to tell (older children should write) about their choice of reptiles. Getting other families involved will really step up the fun. You could meet for a picnic at the park and let each kid show and tell of their learning experience.
We did homeschooling projects for years. Looking back, these activities proved much more important and effective than any school book. The projects often created a very messy house. It often kept me from doing stuff that seemed more important, but, oh dear young mama, nowadays I spend time looking back, and I can clearly see projects were not only productive, but they were a necessary part of life. I have an old audio called "My Favorite Homeschooling Ideas" that tells about some of the projects we covered. One of the longest-running projects we did was herbs. This particular project greatly shaped our family’s interests and even income. We did several projects on the ocean and all that grows in it. We also studied how tides effect the atmosphere, which shapes the weather, etc. I let their interests decide the direction we went.
I am a getter-done-now type of person, so if it had been my choice, I would not have invited other families to be a part of our homeschooling projects. There were times that I felt like I was dragging a lackluster mama around and doing her job (shame on me!). Looking back, I can see having the other children involved really stimulated my children to focus and do their best.
We had some music in our homeschooling protocol, but not much. This was a big mistake. If I were starting over, this would be one area I would greatly promote. Traditional music expands the brain like nothing else and fMRIs prove it. Get simple musical instruments for your children to drive you crazy practicing. Someday you will look back a say, Wow, I am glad I did that.
Outside exercise is critical for good health and restoring for the soul. Every child needs to be outside jumping up and down, running, and having a wild time for at least a few hours each day. In Tennessee, we have woods and creeks and all things made for kid-fun, so this was easy for us. But most children are growing up with sickly bodies due to the lack of exercise and sunshine. What effects the body will affect the brain. What effects the body and brain will affect the mental health. Your kids, your choice. Choose wisely.
One Spring, we were speaking near the US/Canada border. It is the land of COLD. Everything was covered with 3 feet of snow and it was really cold. The family we stayed with had a pile of children. Every day the young children would eat breakfast as fast as possible and then rush into the coat room. Fifteen minutes later, they would rush out to tend to their own horse (which had no shelter). The kids had made trails through the snow, dividing the whole area into these deep ruts. I thought they would be coming back into the house within minutes, but not so. The mom had to call them back in 2 hours later to start homeschool classes.
The kids’ dad was a doctor, and he took outside time very seriously. He explained to me how important sunshine was to the child’s body and mind. At the time there was little information on how vitamin D3 stimulated the immune system and promoted emotional well-being. He also said his children had a great degree of satisfaction taking care of their own horse. They helped generate some of the money (working for others) used to purchase special feed for their horse and extra trappings such as blankets, halters, and saddles. He taught me a lot, and I came home to green gardens, rejoicing that I lived in the South. I also came home knowing there is no excuse for any child to sit in front of a screen for hours when they could be out in the sunshine building strong muscles and sound minds.