What I Wish I Believed When I First Began Homeschooling...
4. Reading widely covers a multitude of educational “gaps.”
Don't read only one type of book. Fantasy, classic literature, fairy tales, myths, tall tales, historical fiction, science, history, biography, animal/nature stories, real-life people stories (Laura Ingalls, etc.) all have really great value. Your children will learn while they read living books in a way they will not learn by reading only textbooks. Living books make learning come alive. Read all types of books with and to your children. Discuss them and ask your children questions about what they have learned, and how this book compares to another on the same subject. Engage them and they will learn by sharing with you.
Some books suggest you read and tie it to your history cycle, but this is not always possible to do with great success. There are only so many books on Ancient Egypt a young child can handle! (Unless they are completely fascinated by Egypt of course!) Reading widely and frequently, will enlarge their knowledge base and will help them develop other interests.
It is sometimes funny things that will interest them, but just roll with it. You never know where it will take them! Whether it be someone with their same first name, a penchant for owls, or a fascination with all things medieval, there are so many books out there to read and enjoy--both fiction and non-fiction. By reading widely they are learning and growing on their own. I do like the suggestion of one homeschool author of choosing a biography, a science book, and a reading book from the library each time you go. We are not exactly like that, but we do read plenty of all of these and the children can discuss all sorts of interesting facts that they picked up just from reading. What do your children like? Capture that!
3. “Academics” are only a small portion of your child's whole life education.
This is NOT an anti-education/anti-intellectual post. However, I cannot tell you how sad it makes me when I read that mothers are “not finding the time for play” in their busy school day–and this for very young learners! I honestly find it appalling that play is not viewed by parents as just as important for a developing child as academic learning. Will these children look back at their early homeschool lives with happiness and joy at all the math and grammar they were forced to do for hours and hours? I have read of mothers schooling their children from 9 until 4–and we are talking 1-3 grades! I am not saying that academics are not important for I believe they are.
Balance work, service to others, and play with your academics. Let there be balance in all of life and do not view the “down time” as a negative. We all need to rejuvenate and we all need to recharge. Our children need that time too. Remember that play time *is* education and that your children are learning all the time.
Consider some of the ideas that have come from Charlotte Mason:
“Time outdoors, with little to no intervention from an adult, provided what Mason felt were educational necessities: use of the child's senses, play, learning from “things,” and the opportunity for keen observation of nature.”
“To sum up this first key idea, the importance of the child's early “atmosphere of environment,” Mason wrote:”
“..my object is to show that the chief function of the child- his business in the world during the first six or seven years of life- is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in his way; and that…the endeavor of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects; that, in fact, the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power..and the wisdom of the educator is to follow the lead of Nature in the evolution of the complete human being” (Mason 1886: 96-97).” (Source.)
It is my opinion that we not neglect the physical and spiritual in pursuit of the mental. Make sure they have time to create, to laugh, to build, to climb, to play in the sun. Make sure they have time to be children.