Homeschoolers. You have to admit, we are a kind of unique breed. On one hand, we dare to buck the system and go our own way. We take control of the educational future of our children and place the responsibility squarely in our own hands.
Yet, on the other hand, there is a little bit of fear and anxiety. Worry that we may mess this up. Concern that we may skip something so monumental our children will never be able to function in society properly.
It’s quite the catch-22.
Thankfully, in our modern society, we are never alone. Even if we are home all day long with our children, we can reach out to other homeschoolers in many ways. One common method is online. Through the power of the internet whole communities are formed that allow homeschool parents to connect, share ideas and experiences, vent frustrations, and of course, ask all the questions… because as we all know, there are a lot of questions.
One question in particular that I keep seeing lately is about foundational items. Things like the memorization of math facts, the best approach to teaching reading, and even teaching cursive handwriting are being commented on and discussed daily.
And these are good discussions to have. Having a group of like-minded and even experienced homeschoolers is critical to succeeding.
My concern though, as these parents wonder about skipping out on some of these things, are the future ramifications. Sure, you may be able to finish up your school day a little early now, but what happens later down the road?
Building Blocks, One Piece At A TimeMuch of early childhood education is about building a foundation. Click To Tweet
Much of early childhood education is about building a foundation. Just like any building out there is only as good as it’s foundation, the same is true of your child’s education.
The problem lies in skipping out on the foundational pieces. The basics. If you don’t start with the basics you can’t add a lot more to it. This is not something you should through, skip, or neglect.
What does this mean for homeschool parents? It means a lot of repetition. A lot of teaching the same idea or skill over and over again, sometimes for several years. My second grader, for example, is learning what a noun is for the third year. Now each year we have studied this concept he had gotten it. Yet by the following year, he cannot recall what a noun is or why it is important.
So each year, since kindergarten, we have learned about nouns. The first year, it was simply what a noun was. The second year we covered what a noun was along with common and proper nouns. This year, we are starting at the basics of what a noun is, then common and proper nouns, and finally, we are starting in on singular and plural nouns.
Why are we doing this? Because each year we are starting with the foundation that was laid in kindergarten and then building onto it. It’s not enough to simply teach him once that a noun is a person, place, or thing. No, each year I need to make sure that foundation is shored up and secure before I can add to it.
And one of these years, we just may not need to go back over what a noun is. One of these years, when we get to parts of speech, he will remember what a noun is because we are working so diligently on that foundation.
Building A Good Math Foundation
Math. You either love it or you hate it, but you have to admit a certain level of math is necessary for each of us. It is typically a subject that many parents cringe at the thought of teaching because either they have horrific memories of math class, or, a complete disdain for the subject.
Sadly, one other issue is popping up as well – even though my high school math teachers said this would never happen – most people tend to carry around a calculator in their pockets in the form of a phone.
And now, many parents are wondering if they should be spending time memorizing the basics of math with their children, especially with those who struggle. The problem with skipping memorization though is that a lot of the items we memorize as our basic facts are the things that we want to come to memory quickly. It’s like saying we want to be a good typist or keyboardist but we don’t want to spend the time memorizing our homeroom keys.
Memorization is not an easy thing to do with your child. As with much of the foundational items, it requires a lot of repetition. The early years of a child’s education are about building a foundation and memorization is a huge part of it. Starting with a good foundation in math is imperative to being able to move on to more advance concepts in the later grades.Each step relies on learning the previous one. Click To Tweet
Think of it this way: You start by teaching your child to count. Then, the ability to count allows you to group the numbers and begin skip counting. Then you move on from skip counting to addition, combining numbers to make them larger. From there, you work on subtraction. At this point, you typically move on to addition with carrying then subtraction with borrowing.
Each step relies on learning the previous one. You can not add with carrying if you first didn’t learn to add.
But you also cannot move on to the harder items such as multiplication or fractions without first working on those basics in the first few years of school. Sure, you may also work on things like colors, grouping, rounding, flat shapes, rounding, and even basic fractions – but the majority of the first two to three year of math is learning how to coun,t add a simple number,s and subtract them.
From there we move onto the middle grades where it’s time to start multiplication and division. For most students, this truly means memorizing the multiplication tables. Not the most enjoyable activity, but one that will pay off handily.
Just like you taught your child to add in their head, rather than on their fingers, encouraging them to memorize their multiplication tables will be super beneficial.
Yet, just the other day I saw a parent ask if she should bother having her child memorize them since we live in an age where calculators are easily accessible. Her thought process was that the child wouldn’t need to memorize sense the answers would be right in their pocket. That might be true but do you really want to pull out a calculator every time you’re trying to figure out 10% off an item or if you’re standing at the checkout trying to quickly add up your purchases? I really don’t think so.
And I can tell you as a parent and homeschooler that there are times I can help my oldest son with his algebra faster than he can open his tablet turn the calculator app on and find the answer. We do it as a joke and it also reinforces the fact that memorizing the basics does make things easier.
For us, one of the best and easiest ways to approach memorization was to turn it into a game. Using both flash cards and “minute math” I encourage my youngest son to beat himself in both number of problems completed and accuracy. It’s a break from the mundane worksheets, and for him it’s fun.
Find a way that works for your children to ensure they have a good math foundation. And if your skills can use a little practice, feel free to join in. It’s never a bad thing to show your children that learning never ends.
Handwriting, To Teach or Not To Teach
I don’t know about you, but I can still remember walking into third grade to see a strange form of letters up above the chalkboard. These letters looked similar to the typical ABC’s of the younger grades but had some slight variations.
Yup. This was the year I was introduced to cursive.
Fast forward to today, and many public school kids never even learn the basics. When I was younger not only did you learn cursive, but by middle school, you were expected to complete most of your work in cursive.
Then computers took the stage and surpassed handwriting as the preferred form of drafting papers and completing assignments. In younger grades, children are urged to learn proper typing habits and as a result, many schools left cursive handwriing by the wayside.
Now, I’m not saying that your child should be writing in full on calligraphy.
And I’d venture to say that early introduction to keyboarding is a necessity in today’s modern education environment.
But I would also urge you to spend some time working on cursive handwriting. Not only can it improve your child’s penmanship, but it will also allow them to learn a proper signature. Historic documents such as the Declaration of Independnece, The U.S. Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address are all written in cursive handwriting.
Find a book, or a workbook, or even some sheets online and start teaching your upper-elementary student cursive. Even if they don’t use it as their primary form of handwriting, and even if they balk at the idea, it will be a great foundational step to their education.
Without A Foundation, It Will Crumble
The fact of the matter is, without the basics, an education has the potential to crumble. And while parents who think of passing on these items are well-meaning, I think it would behoove us all to reconsider what we think of about an education.
There is something to be said for going back to the drawing board and learning from our elders. There is something to be learned from the past. If today’s public education climate tells us anything, it’s that the basics are not being taught and they are more important than ever.
So even if you are covering addition for the one-thousandth time. And even if you are teaching nouns for the third or fourth year. And, yes, even when your child complains at the thought of a cursive Z, remember, this is for their benefit. This is for their future.