Combining Methods & Materials
The different teaching approaches used by home educators (Educational Approaches and Methods, above) overlap in philosophy, methods, and content. Parents can select elements of several approaches, adapting and blending them to serve their family's changing needs.
You can give preschool children a good start on an excellent education in many informal ways.
These include real-life experiences such as working with parents, creating useful or decorative items, gardening, walking or driving in various environments, visiting different places and people, and conversing with parents and others.
Listen to children's ideas and questions, and give appropriate explanations of what they see and experience.
Add to this a regular program of reading aloud to your children. Choose good books in all areas of knowledge.
Children vary immensely in their development. Some may be ready at age 2 to 4 for a few minutes of phonics or numbers drill in the form of playing with flash cards and manipulatives every day.
Actual reading and math skills will develop quickly when your child is ready for them. A wide background of experience and general knowledge will enable your child to understand what he reads and to grasp arithmetic concepts easily, providing motivation to perfect these skills.
It is wise to take advantage of a young child's ability and desire to memorize. Through oral reading you can expose him to detailed information such as the names and characteristics of animals and plants as recommended in the classical approach for the Grammar phase.
This is also the time to establish habits, routines, and character through example, teaching, and discipline.
Special needs children with mental or physical limitations can benefit from basically the same program as described above.
Extra activities may need to be designed to correct or compensate for problems. These activities are ideally carried out or participated in by the parents as much as possible. Examples are speech therapy, vision training exercises, or muscle coordination "patterning."
When your child finds a concept difficult to grasp or a fact hard to remember, patiently repeat it until he knows it, however long it takes. Look for ways to restate, illustrate, and apply new information.
Many times, through trial and error, parents stumble onto an idea that works for them. Their love and commitment to their child is his most valuable asset and cannot be replaced by professional expertise. (Back Issue: July/Aug. '94)
By the time children are about 7 to 12, they should be actively involved in some form of planned curriculum, whether formal or informal, for academic study.
By this time individual learning styles and rates should be noticeable to observant parents. For example, your child may learn best by seeing, hearing, doing, or touching and may need more or less review than another child.
Natural strengths in learning styles may be fully utilized and weaknesses corrected by the choice of methods inherent in specific approaches or curricula.
You may want to use your child's favorite learning style to encourage him in his least favorite subjects. You can also expand his skills in his less-preferred learning style by incorporating its methods into the study of his favorite subject.
For example: Your child loves workbooks and drill, math and geography, but dislikes creative activities and science. Use workbooks and drill for teaching science and include some creative projects related to math and geography.
Whichever curriculum or approach you choose, you can incorporate other methods into it.
For example, you may use a unit study curriculum supplemented with traditional science and history texts as reference books and library books for reading.
You might use worktexts for math and language and have your children keep "principle approach" notebooks for science, history, and literature.
You may emphasize the appropriate stage of the classical trivium for each child in his individual assignments.
You can rearrange the order of the units in your curriculum to conform to your children's current interests or stimulate interest in upcoming units with a story or trip.
Reading aloud and discussing subject texts and/or a variety of informative or enriching literature can complete or supplement any curriculum.
There are other possible combinations of methods and materials. You are the best qualified to choose a mix that will be right for you and your children.
(Back Issue: Feb./March '98)