Whats the first thing that you think of when I say the word “Education”? Perhaps it was “school” “teachers” “certificates” or maybe just a shudder and a groan as you remember your own school days? When you picture your child being educated, do you think about him or her sitting at a desk while a teacher is imparting knowledge onto your child ” filling up the empty bucket that is your childs mind with loads of useful and essential facts and calculations?

If you are thinking to yourself that there must be a better, more fun way for children to learn, there is! Dont think of education or learning as a bucket with a finite capacity to hold information, where the excess will simply overflow (causing a big mess on somebodys floor). Think of it as a smorgasbord ” the child can fill up their plate with whatever looks appealing, finishing it off in their own good time, perhaps leaving some of it until later when they feel ready. In the meantime they can come back for more as often as they want, and youre always there to help them cut it down to more manageable portions!

Whether you choose to educate your child yourself, or to outsource that responsibility to a school, there are so many ways you can help your child to expand their taste buds and to fill up their plate. Here are some ideas to get you started (although youre probably doing quite a lot of these already anyway):

 

  • Teach younger children nursery rhymes, counting and alphabet songs, and how to use their voice as an instrument. As they grow, move into phonics and geography songs, times tables renditions and have them set historical events to music. There are quite a few good tapes and CDs out these days that help with this, and memory verses on quite a few things (just ask on homeschooling e-lists and theres bound to be somebody who can recommend some for you).
  • Handwriting practice is much more fun when it is done with a purpose in mind ” writing a letter to grandma, helping to write the shopping list, entering a competition, and compiling a family newsletter. If your child is very creative but is frustrated by slow handwriting, write or type their stories up for them, and they can help illustrate them ” you can help their reading skills by pointing out the words as you read them together.
  • Fun things to do in the car ” we all know how to count cars, or play “I spy”. But what about “Name that tune” or “Who is it?” (use relatives, TV personalities, historical heroines or characters from books). Play 20 questions, “Name an animal (plant, object, body part, etc) that starts with A, B, C, D??.”. Older children can practice geography skills by following your progress on the road map, giving you directions and working out whether you are headed in a southerly/easterly, etc direction.
  • Outdoor and indoor exercise can be targeted for ability level as well. My children love making obstacle courses (especially inside where they can use cushions and bean bags), and each child will do what they are capable of. You could easily create your own course in your backyard, and practice balancing, climbing, crawling, and jumping skills. Running races with handicaps and beating their own personal best time will make it more challenging, and with a bit of planning you could incorporate a math lesson through the use of a stopwatch. (See John Holts “What do I do Monday” for more details on this.)
  • Music lessons are great for all children ” homemade instruments are part of every school curriculum, obtain some sheet music (check the internet for free downloads) and encourage the children to write their own music and songs. And best of all, mathematical concepts and reading skills are involved in this as well. Dont forget to finish it off with a recital for Dad (and the toddlers can perform the dance).
  • Interview relatives or close friends about what it was like to live in your home town 20 or 50 years ago, what sort of things they did before and after school, the price of milk and eggs, or other things your children may be interested in. Older children can compile this in a report or project, along with some fact finding expeditions in the library, the internet, or local historical society. This will not only give your children more of an interest in the world around them, but also help them to understand differences between people and places and how things change over time.

For those of us who have more than one child, it can quite often be difficult to find some uninterrupted time to do some schoolwork. Some things you could try to help amuse other children and still teach your school age child:

  • Adapt reading time to suit all listeners. Ask your children questions on every page of the book, suited to their age and understanding level. Younger children can answer “where is??” questions, or make appropriate animal noises. Beginner readers can read a certain word or words (such as “my” or “dog). Older children can be asked, “Can you show me a mammal on this page” or “Which animal can you see that has very good night vision, and can jump very high?” (And dont forget that often there can be more than one answer!). We have also used this approach with learning a foreign language -the younger child was asked to point to the animal that purrs, and the older child was asked “Wo ist die Katze?”.
  • Play a board game with your child, and practice math skills at the same time. Young children can learn to count the dots on one or two dice, and older children could add, subtract, multiply or divide them. Or you could ask them a question, give them a mathematical question card to pick from the stack, or use two multi-sided dice that each go up to twelve. The same principle can be adapted for geography or history questions (I know of one homeschooling family who ended up making a commercial Australian Trivial Pursuit set of cards as a result of this fun family past-time).
  • During baby care tasks, talk to your child about topics that interest them. Listen to books on tape, or put on a music tape and watch them interpret a dance to it. Have them read you a story, or watch an educational program together (dont forget that educational means something different to all of us). Play verbal games, tell stories ” taking turns in adding on the next part of the story. Be the audience for their recital, puppet show, and musical performance.

So the next time somebody says the word “Education” hopefully your thoughts will be more about laughter, fun, loving togetherness and discovering new things. Happy Learning!