Piedmont Home Educators Association

Practical Tips

Practical Tips


We discovered this article from the LaCelle Family Ministries many years ago, and we've been passing on their advice ever since.

By LaCelle Family Ministries

Over the years I have prayed that the Lord would reveal to me ideas that would make homeschooling easier, more fun and practical. Here are some ideas that I have used or have been shared with me. They really open up so many new and adventurous avenues in educating our children. Isn't it such a blessing that we have the ability to weave into our families educational lives so much more?

TIME: The only way we will have time to home educate our children is to be home. Limit the activities you do. It is fine to only be involved in one activity outside the home a week. For our family we try to choose activities that we all can participate in. Guard your family time like it is a valuable treasure - because it is! In homeschooling you need long days with lots of hours to be able to work with your child. The only way your child will develop creativity is if they have long stretches of TIME to explore, to bake & cook, sew, build, read and be read to, draw and delve into learning. The only way you will have success in educating your children and training them is if you have TIME to do it in. Unfortunately, child training isn't one of those tasks that fit neatly into the "Quality Time" that experts talk about. Training our children will take all of our time!!! LIMIT OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES!! More is not Better!!!

BEING REALISTIC: The time I have with my children is fast passing, yet, they are not containers to dump education into. It's important to be realistic and realize that we have more than just this year to gain education. It's okay to spread learning out over several years. Don't take on too much. We are mothers & fathers of a household of duties - it's important not to overdo.

CHORES: Children need them and parents need their children to do them. Education is a waste if our children do not become parts of the working household. From a young age children can fold clothes, make beds, pick up toys, and help in many areas. As children get older they can take over dish washing, laundry and meal preparations. Someday our children will have to run their own homes - we need to take the time to teach them how to run a household. This is more important than book learning.

PHONE: Do not answer the telephone. Determine if you are just bored and seeking a diversion or if your time on the phone is necessary. If you must know who is calling invest in an answering machine or caller ID. Think of homeschooling as your job and the King of Heaven is watching. Be serious about this commitment to your children and DON'T let the Phone become a problem.

MEALS: Create a menu of simple meals and have the kids help prepare them. Soups and salads are easy. Crockpot meals are a lifesaver. Use meal time preparation as time to teach your children how to cook and clean. It is also a great time to listen to tapes or just talk about what you are studying or reading or thinking about.

ROUTINE: Routine is a must. Set times for getting up, devotions, family worship, meals and basic study are a must. By creating routine - you will have time to do the things your family wants and needs. Routine isn't rigid - it's structure that is somewhat flexible without breaking.

THE BASICS: Strip Homeschooling to Basics academically. Figure out what is most important and foundational. Subjects like Math, Writing, Reading and English are foundational basic subjects. These are subjects that can be incorporated in Unit Studies, but they are your basics. Seek to do a little in each BASIC subject daily.

AUDIOS: I love audio tapes. As a family we have been regular consumers of this type of learning. It is what I term effortless learning. You can be traveling (locally or long distance), cooking, cleaning or washing dishes and learning at the same time. We have loved the audio stories of historical figures or character building stories. We must have listened to Pilgrim's Progress nearly a dozen times. But music tapes are a blessing too. You can choose from hymns, scripture songs, spiritually uplifting music and classics. The audio tape that came with Considering God's Creation is a favorite with the kids - what a great way to learn systems of the body, the planets, creation and more. There are many audio tapes available to choose from now. There are tapes for learning foreign languages, Bible on Tape, history, science themes, Bird songs & calls, sermons and talks, music, devotionals and more. You can even learn math, science, history and other facts to music. Create your own audio tapes too. You can read stories onto cassettes for your children. We cannot always spend every minute with our children, but by reading some of their favorite stories or sharing other information with them, they can always have the material available to them. You can make up your own songs to learn math by. Your children can create their own "Story Hour" tapes - by dramatizing the parts of books they have read.

VIDEOS: One of the easiest ways to learn about something is to find a good video. Through our library system we can take out videos both locally and through interlibrary loan. Yes, you have to be choosy. Take care to choose educational quality videos not just "movie junk". But you can find videos on just about any country or state in the world - what a neat way to spice up your geography unit. Videos can be secured on most science and nature subjects. History documentaries are wonderful too. Some children just learn better by visually seeing something. By having a video it broadens their ability to learn. No, videos are not a necessity, yet, I have found them a great motivation and a way to learn a bit more effortlessly. There are some video themes you can't find in your library. These will be mostly religious or creation-based in nature. Those we try to save and purchase for our own library. Our Reformation video series has been a blessing to watch. It has helped us understand the historical period better. A dear friend purchased for us a set of videos on gardening. These were done by a christian who is also into organic gardening and super nutrition gardening. These will be something that we will watch over and over again. It helps to be able to visualize what is being talked about. There is no end to the subject areas that can be covered using Audio and Visual means.

READING: Reading is a must!!!! And Family Reading is more than a must!!! Through Family reading - we have read through portions of the Bible, many, many, many good religious & missionary stories, Pilgrim's Progress, Hinds Feet in High Places, Tip Lewis and His Lamp, Tiger and Tom, and many many many character reprints and other good books. Family reading binds the family - as you talk about what you are reading. And you can read things along the line of your study themes too. On their own, our children have read through many of the Childhood of Famous Americans, Landmark history series, Signature series and other older historical stories of real people. Reading your way through history is the easiest way to understand this subject. Science, too, can be "read" through. We have enjoyed many books on animals and other science themes.

GAMES: Games can be a wonderful way to learn many things. We have enjoyed Dominoes, Pick up sticks, Chutes and Ladders, Boggle, Scrabble, UpWords, Pilgrim's Progress, Egypt to Canaan, Life of Christ, Memory and others. Some of the nicest games are those you make yourself. Games can be a fun way to learn math and language arts skills. You can also learn Bible Facts and Scriptures along with science and history bits. Peggy Kaye has written several books on games for learning. Most libraries carry her books. Learning through this medium can help give a little zest to education. Many times in the evening we will play games together as a family. This helps bind us together and it's fun - we don't think about the fact we are "learning" - we are just enjoying the time together.

LIBRARY: Using the library is something we all can do. It's easy and can put you in touch with any subject you desire. We try to go to the library once a week. We each find something different that we are studying whether it be Java Script, gardening, learning calligraphy or crafts, herbs or flowers, toy making or fixing a car. It is amazing what you can access at the library.

STUDYING IN THEMES or UNIT STUDIES: We have four children. I have found it is just plain easier to pick themes to study as a family for a period of a few weeks. Because we are all learning the same theme - we can join together in our research, reading and planning. The older boys will do more and get more out of the study than our younger children. That is fine. We might choose to study herbs or the Civil War. It doesn't matter what we are studying, we just all study that together. We don't make a huge production of it. Sometimes our unit studies have lead us to do a lot of projects and writing and other times we have just read through some good books. The point is that we joined together and did it as a family and learned something. I watch to see what the children are interested in learning. By keeping an eye on their interests I can plan to help them find more information or form a simple study on the subject as a family. We have studied through so many different themes. And there are so many more left. It's exciting! Take the time to learn about the stars & planets, geography, tornadoes, gardening, birdwatching, beekeeping, pets, and a host of other areas. You can't exhaust it - but you can sure delve in and enjoy it.

FAMILY WORSHIP: This has been an indispensable time for the best of learning. During this time we sing and work on scripture memorization. We also read the Bible and other good spiritual books. We study Bible passages and themes. Right now we are studying Righteousness by Faith. Some of our favorite books for family worship reading are: Desire of Ages or Christ our Savior, Christ Object Lessons, Tucker's Nature Quest Devotional, Hive of Busy Bees, The Arthur Maxwell Bible Story set, Pilgrim's Progress, Paula the Waldensian, and many others. It's amazing how many Bible books and other good spiritual books can be covered in a relatively short period of time just through systematic Family Worship reading time. We have just finished a series on John Huss and the Hussites of Bohemia. Now we are starting another by J. A. Wylie on Martin Luther. It's so fascinating!!! This can be a great time to learn Scripture Songs. Listen to one song on a scripture tape and then sing it a few times until you can sing it without "help" from the tape. Keep doing this till you learn many.

SCIENCE KITS: Many times you can create your own science learning kit just by purchasing the needed materials to do science experiments. However, sometimes it is just easier to buy a kit with what you need. Through kits we have put together a model of a human skeleton, taken apart owl pellets, learned to do science/chemistry experiments, made volcanoes, put together airplanes and other flying contraptions and many other things. You can make your own science type kits and activities. And easy one is take butcher paper and trace your child's body onto it. Then daily make and cut out the body organs and have your child color and paste them onto their body. It's a simple way to learn about the body. You can do this with science books, too. The Usborne and DK books are great. Take a science book - like magnets and locate all the materials necessary to do the projects in the book - then give it to your child for them to do "science" with. You can create "kits" like this for sewing and simple crafts too. Put the book or instruction in a box with the materials and allow your child the time to explore and learn. We have done this and it's something our children love. My brother in law is a fantastic mechanic. He brings motors and motor parts up when they visit and teaches the boys a little about how they work and then helps them take it all apart and put it back together. This is valuable learning!!!

COLLECTIONS: Kids love to collect things. Allow your children to collect rocks, shells, leaves, flowers, stamps, stickers, and other things. Help them label their collections and keep them neat. Purchase guides that will help them to identify the objects that they are collecting.

NOTEBOOKS & JOURNALS: I have written in depth about this at other times. But there really isn't an easier way to document what your child is reading and studying in science and history than creating notebooks on those themes. You can also use your notebooks to keep your Bible Study notes in. They are so freeing and valuable. And the advantage is you always will have a portfolio of written work by your child about what they are doing and learning! We have a booklet available on making Homeschool Notebooks and Journals that give more details!

FELTS: Many children like to play with Felts. For younger children they may love to have their Bible Stories told to them with felts - then they can "practice" telling the story themselves. This is wonderful for reading comprehension and helps them to learn story sequencing. Felts can also be great visual aid tools for learning the Sanctuary, The Human Body, Nature, and other areas too.

MAPS & OTHER AIDS: Maps are vital. Our boys have maps on the walls in their bedroom. When we read about a certain area, we can go in their room and locate exactly where the area is. We are constantly showing our boys where someone lives, where someone is traveling too, where something took place and how to use the maps. Along the outside of our maps are flags of all the US states and flags of all the countries. Our six year old spent days making and coloring flags of different places. Some other fun visual aids are placemats. You can find placemats with all manner of educational material on them. You can learn about the human body, the United States, letters, numbers, math facts and more. You can make your own placemats too. I have read of families who put all types of educational information on their dining room table and cover it with clear plastic. That material is visible to glean from during meals and other times. What a neat idea!

ARTS & CRAFTS: Keep a box with paper (construction, drawing and tracing paper) at easy access to your children. Another box can house crayons, markers, colored pencils, scissors and glue. You can keep boxes of other crafty things available for your children to use. By having boxes of materials available to your children - your helping them have the freedom to create and draw.

SPARE MOMENTS: When we are traveling and running errands we can use the time to talk with our children. We can also discuss what we are learning. We can drill them on math facts and spelling. Younger children can practice reading by noting verbally the signs we pass. Talk with your children as you would an adult friend. Talk about what you and they would like for dinner over the next week, talk about their friends, the church, the family, your goals, God's plan for their life. Take advantage of those seemingly lost moments and pray for wisdom on how to best use them.

CURRICULUM: Obviously there is a certain amount of curriculum you will want to purchase. I try to focus on the above items first What I cannot accomplish through them, I will purchase in a text. Math is one subject that I use strict curriculum in. Yes, I play math learning games with the children, but the textbook just helps me keep on track. Though I know of families that do just fine creating their own math games and unit studies. Each family has to decide what curriculum they need. But choose curriculum that is child friendly, interesting and progressive.

When you take the time to rethink education, there is so much you do with your children that is fun and valuable learning. The time we have with our children is fleeting. It never ceases to amaze me the number of distractions that Satan can place in my pathway so that I get off track and don't take advantage of these precious, passing years. Someday I will stand before the Lord to answer for what I did with the time I had with my children. He won't ask me if my children learned Trigonometry at age 12. But He will ask me if I gave myself to them. He will search my children's hearts to see if their hearts are trained toward Him.

It is my prayer that God will keep me focused on the task at hand. There is nothing I desire more than to someday see Jesus place the crown of Eternal Life on each of my children's heads and know that they are safe with Him. We certainly need to keep our focus in the right place!!!

LaCelle Family Ministries
 9199 Howd Road, Camden, NY 13316
EMAIL: lacelle@earthlink.net