Have you ever listened to someone scratch his fingernails down a chalkboard? Did it make you shudder and wish you hadn’t heard it? This is the reflex I have when I listen to mothers and fathers talk about “covering” their homeschool lessons. I have the same response to teachers discussing their methods for “covering” material in their classrooms.
I want to challenge you to think about why you are homeschooling. Even if you’re keeping your kids home to keep them away from bad influences or the like, you’re schooling them because you want them to be knowledgeable in the basic subjects. Do you know what you want your child to learn? How did you pick your school materials? Was it based on faith that your publisher knew exactly the right information to provide to your child?
If you answered ‘yes’ to this question, you’re in danger of assuming that every page needs to be done and every word read so that your child will not miss anything. You are in danger of “covering” homeschooling rather than embracing this great opportunity to teach your child at home!
Whether you are on the prepackaged or piecemeal curriculum journey, you have pages of materials, instructions, practice pages, and tests that your wee ones must accomplish for the year. When you’re focused on what your child needs to learn, however, it should be easier for you to avoid the waste of time that people call “covering” everything.
Here’s how to make sure that you accomplish your educational goals for the year.
Look at the scope and sequence of each subject. If you don’t have this because didn’t purchase a curriculum, there are countless websites that list a range of “standards” the average child should learn per grade level. This should be a baseline for you.
Write out a list of the math skills your book explains, the time period your history lessons explore, the science content, and the English rules, etc. Use this list as your guide for the whole year. When I do this, I type out my list and include 4 squares to check off, as in this example:
- I check the first box when I have introduced the skill.
- I check the second box when my child has practiced using the skill.
- I check the third box when my child doesn’t need my help—even if he is making some errors.
- I check the fourth box when my child can work with the skill on his own and either gets every problem correct or can successfully teach another student the skill.
When using this checklist as my schooling guide, I no longer worry about “covering” all the pages of a curriculum. I use the pages provided to help my child practice his skills. But since I’m keeping track on my own checklist, I’m not a slave to doing all the pages of the curriculum. I know exactly how my child is progressing on learning the skill and whether he needs more practice or not.
I may even find that my child needs more practice than the book provides. If this happens, I either make my own worksheets or find some from various free sites online.
Focusing on your child’s academic advancement is easiest when you have a chart to look at for quick reference. Although making a chart will take you some time, it’s worth it in the time you save not pushing your child to complete every worksheet in your curriculum.
Remember, your list is geared toward mastery rather than simply “covering.”
Here are some notes on individual subjects.
With regard to history, remember that the sky is the limit. There is much history that kids could learn about each era. As long as you are reading books about the time period, discussing details, or time-lining the events you discover, you can’t go wrong. Kids forget dates after the test is over. But they can look at and build upon timelines as they study future time periods.
Interest-driven learning is the best way to master history. Make it fun, and your kids will remember. If you find books about people and places that interest them, they will retain facts and want to discuss them. And don’t forget to talk about the facts they find. Your talks will likely be better remembered and more deeply understood than covering workbook and textbook pages.
Science is similar. While you will probably want to stick with the scope and sequence of your curriculum, try to provide games and real life scenarios to keep your children craving information and observing science all around them. This past week, I read a book about clouds and have been pointing out stratus clouds and frozen cirrus clouds at every opportunity.
Simple comments and pointing fingers have my kids looking up and studying the sky. They want to know what to call every type of cloud. When I don’t know a scientific name, my kids look it up. No text book was required for this lesson. But it was in the scope and sequence of my son’s text book. The difference is that identifying real clouds and talking about them on the way to the grocery store or barn is more relevant than looking at pictures and answering questions at the end of the chapter.
At the end of the day, all I pull out my checklist and begin checking off the facts that my son has learned.
We skipped the entire chapter in his text book. No “covering” necessary!
Teaching our children is an amazing and wonderful job. I urge you to make the experience as rich as you can. Don’t simply “cover” a topic for the sake of time or completion of a text.
Who knows, you might even make up your own scope and sequence for the next year and forgo the purchase of curriculum altogether!
Lisa Blauvelt (with her family and three dogs, two cats, a horse, pony, donkey, two red eared turtles, a fluctuating number of tadpoles and baby fish, and various other creatures collected by her adventurous boys) puts her education degrees to work at her home in the Deep South. There she teaches not only her own children, but others who come to her home to learn. Her decade long experience in teaching children to read will soon be published as a 476 page guide for parents.