As the fragrance of fall fills the air, schools open for their new year. I watch the children across the street file into the bus at 7:15 in the morning and feel sad knowing they will not return until 4:30 that night. Children grow up so quickly and will be gone all too soon—I wish my neighbor and friend could spend more time with her kids.
This scene contrasts vividly with our home education experience the past twenty years. What great memories! Homeschooling gave us so much time together and brought such joy and satisfaction. Yes, there were hard days, but every moment was worth the time invested.
While teaching your children at home can bring struggles, here are a few things we found that help make the experience more enjoyable, educational, and memorable.
1. Home is Home
First, we found that homeschooling doesn't look like a classroom. Relax and enjoy the comfort of home. Having a desk may be useful, but a kitchen counter or table works well, too. Letting our children read on the couch, in big comfy chairs, or even on the floor created cozy family memories.
2. Life is Educational
Living and learning go together and add enjoyment to the school day. Math books have their place (especially once the kids are out of elementary school), but cutting a pizza (or, better yet, a cherry pie) into fractions is more fun and delicious! Learning about measurements while cooking, building, or sewing adds pleasure to the job. Trips to the store to discover the best deal on a box of detergent or bag of flour teach basic math skills as well as life skills. There are so many ways to teach in everyday life!
3. Reading is Enjoyable
Reading books aloud as a family took us on many adventures without leaving our home. Our family traveled around the world and even to unknown places through the Swiss Family Robinson, The Chronicles of Narnia series, and almost every Lamplighter book!
Our typical day began by reading the Bible together, frequently followed by interesting and intense discussions over different passages. During lunch, l would read poetry or history books that might pique the imagination and instigate great conversations. Every night, we would read a classic book that challenged our own values and character to rise. This nightly event began when our children were toddlers and continued until they left for college.
Independent reading is also valuable. While textbooks can teach facts well, learning from primary sources can be more engaging and memorable. Rather than a history book, we often assigned the kids to read biographies of presidents, inventors, other historical figures, and important events.
4. Travel to Teach
Traveling places was one of our fun and favorite ways to learn about our world. Our family had two destinations: national parks and state capitals. Having family and friends we could visit made it convenient to go many places at less expense. As we traveled to national parks, we discovered that the junior ranger program usually gave excellent educational information. The state capitals are full of American history and famous local heroes. Teaching map skills and geography fit well with this adventure.
5. Write to Write Well
Learning English skills of grammar, punctuation, and spelling can be enjoyable when children are writing to pen pals or entering writing contests. Each of our children had pen pals that motivated them to write frequently. Several local contests offered monetary awards that incentivized our kids to write excellent papers . . . and they indeed did receive some great rewards! Holding a family speech contest or poetry fun night are two other enjoyable writing opportunities that challenge children to do their best.
6. Plan and Do It
While we were an active family, we knew that having a family plan and setting goals were important tools to make significant progress. Our daily plan included completing Bible, music, math, and English in the morning. Other subjects we completed with more flexibility.
Making beautiful family memories doesn't always happen naturally or easily. However, we found that these simple strategies in our cozy home built priceless memories that still bring smiles and joyous laughter to our now-adult children.
I will always be grateful for the gift of time together which homeschooling gave us. What are your favorite ways to make homeschooling fun for your family and create precious memories in the process?